Tori Allen-Martin has Tea With Wilma
For those who may not be familiar with you work, can you tell me about yourself and some of your career highlights?
My name’s Tori Allen-Martin, I’m a Broadway baby through and through, born in New York and grew up in London. and I sing, act, write and produce! I set up Interval Productions in 2009 (and now run it with Sarah Page who joined me in 2011) and we’ve produced lots of cabarets and four musicals. Lots of highlights have come from that. One of the shows, STREETS transferred to Hackney Empire, and I got to sing as part of the band in that, it’s such a beautiful theatre, and the audience reaction was mind blowing, I cried! To have co-written, co-produced and appeared in something that seemed to really touch people and affect them, was beyond words. Another Interval highlight for me was our first show AFTER THE TURN, I fell in love with the piece and was originally just going to produce it but Tim Prottey-Jones (composer) asked me to play the lead, Lauren, of course I leapt at the chance – I adored the show and the character and I worked with the most incredible cast and creative team originating this special piece, the bond we had was so special, those people mean will always mean so much to me. Outside of Interval, it was playing four sold out shows at a ten thousand seater arena called The Ahoy in Gary Lloyd’s production of Hair; it’s one of my favourite shows and I’ve dreamed of playing in an arena since I was tiny, real dream come true moment and very humbling, another was playing the Lincoln Centre in New York at Lance Horne’s show, I also appear on the album which was recorded at Abbey Road studios, I mean, it’s the kind of stuff you never think will happen! Recently I’ve been writing and recording music, that’s been my focus, I’ve got some amazing people behind me, and I’m really excited about what 2014 has to offer, I feel very lucky but I want to continue to work my arse off to make it happen, I believe in creating your own magic, complacency is so dangerous, I don’t ever want to stop dreaming. There’s a lot left to achieve.
Your upcoming show is very unique, merging several shows you have put on recently. Tell me what people can expect from the show and how it came to be?
It’s quite funny actually! It came to be because my co-producers lovely Mum dreamt that we did a show that was little bits of everything we’ve done so far and it was called ‘Interval So Far’, and Sarah and I went – ‘hang on! That’s great’! – and so it came to be! We have never received funding, or guidance, nothing, we’ve achieved it all on our own, banging on doors and putting our own cash in where we could, we don’t pay ourselves, we plough everything back into the company, and it’s at a stage now where we unfortunately can’t give anymore, we need to earn some of the money we’ve put in back now so that we can put it back in again, it’s hard, and it’s a struggle, but we don’t want to quit now. So it’s a big fundraiser but we always want to prove ourselves, we want to show everyone what we’ve achieved in just two years, so that they understand why it’s important for companies like ours to continue. Lots of original cast members are returning, including the full After The Turn cast, even Liam Doyle who’s currently appearing as Fiyero in the UK tour of Wicked, and Steven Webb who is part of the Secret shows at the Lyric Hammersmith, the family is back together again and I’m so excited. We’ve got a few incredible new people joining us as well as our wonderful originals, and everyone is giving their time and talent free of charge and mucking in to help out, we’ve got an amazing network around us and it’s really heart-warming for us to see how much our friends care about the company and about what we’ve all achieved together. It’s going to be a really emotional night, not just for us but for a lot of the audience too who are people who have supported us from the start, a lot of interval supporters have become friends of ours, it’s going to be a really nice moment. I’ve interwoven the script, so it’s not just chunks, it runs together as one big show, interwoven and without giving too much away, characters you wouldn’t expect to meet, might just be connected. Whether you’ve seen some of them, all of them or none of them, it’ll work, it should all make sense. I’m really excited.
If I asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they be?
THAT’S HARD! I DON’T KNOW! Fun, loyal and creative – I hope?! Something like that? That’s a hard question! Maybe indecisive! Ha!
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what musical theatre role would you like to have a go at playing?
I’d want to play Guy in Once I reckon. I loved Once, and I adore the music, and I mean, he’s just a bit fit isn’t he?!
You are a theatre performer and a theatre producer. Do you feel that having produced shows, you now look at performing in a different way? What have you learned?
Yeah, definitely, you can’t not really. I definitely feel like a performer first, I’m not done with that, I produce because I’m passionate about providing opportunities for talented people and because I want to get material out there that I think is right for this generation, I produce the kind of stuff I want to watch and that I know my friends want to watch, so I produce from a performers point of view which is why I think we have a good relationship with our casts because we get it – nearly everyone involved as an interval creative either used to perform or still does, so we understand where our actors are coming from and how they might be feeling. But as a performer I definitely appreciate how hard the people behind the scenes are working now, I make sure I thank every single person I come across, performers are often unaware of how much work goes in before they’ve even hit the stage, and writing has definitely made me aware of how little praise writers get, so much of a great piece is the writing but it’s the last thing mentioned, I never really thought about it before if I’m honest, which is terrible, but that’s a general with creatives, they never get the praise like the performers do, so I think I’m definitely more aware of that and of where the credit’s due, and it’s definitely 50/50. Even little things as well, like getting my headshot in on time and my bio – someone’s got to get that stuff together, you know? You can’t be bothered to send it that second, but someone’s then got to arrange 20 of them. It just makes you think more, and that can’t be a bad thing.
Do you have a favourite Musical Theatre show or song that means a lot to you?
RENT was the first thing I saw that I thought ‘she’s brown with curly hair – I could do that’, I was like 11 so I probably missed that she was also a junkie who was doing a bit of S’n’M style exotic dancing – I mean, we didn’t have that in common – but that role was definitely the first to inspire me! So that show and role will always mean a lot to me. Equally, HAIR is a show I don’t think you can do and not be touched by in some way, that will stay with me and changed me on some level as a person, definitely, and having to battle getting naked on stage every night, which I found incredibly hard, definitely taught me a lot about my own insecurities and hang ups, and as hard as it is to face that, it’s healthy, and our Director Gary (Lloyd) was so sensitive and kind to it, I’m so grateful to him for how he handled that. Then finally, Loose Ends from Witches of Eastwick; that song completely touches me on a personal level, and Dana P. Rowe was really kind to me about a version of it I did at a gig, he said it made him cry tears into his coffee, and he shared it on twitter. That was really special for me, that’s the one song I’ve sung where I’ve genuinely struggled to hold it together.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Falling down the stairs in RENT on to all fours like a dog, during Out Tonight when I’m supposed to be being sexy, I will never forget Ben Astle’s (played Benny) face, he was supposed to help me down the step, it totally wasn’t his fault but he was just stunned, frozen on stage, like ‘was that me’, it was mortifying but looking back it was hilarious. I also couldn’t get my top off one night in the naked protest in HAIR! Weirdly it becomes a race to get it all off because if you are the ONLY person on stage with an item of clothing on – everyone’s going to be looking straight at you, guaranteed. So in a state of embarrassment and shock that I was stuck in my top, I put my leg up on a step, one down on the floor – I mean you can imagine? Then I had to hold this position. Top on, bottoms off, legs akimbo. What a tool, but we did laugh afterwards, only me! – Funniest? Two words. STEVIE WEBB. We did AFTER THE TURN together and hit it off like a house on fire, just two peas in a pod from the first second, inseparable, and we spent most of our time laughing, just looking at him can crack me up. But he’s also incredibly talented, so he would just throw different things in every night, with no warning and I’d be off. It was terrible, I would hide it well by changing my blocking but obviously my directors weren’t dumb, they knew what he’d thrown in and they knew I was standing facing the complete wrong way – so the audience wouldn’t have known but we never got away with it. Yet another note! I used to fear it, some nights I’d tell him’ not tonight’, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to contain it! Funny things happen on stage all the time, it’s what keeps it exciting, and the buzz of having to get on with it is what keeps you strong as a cast too, having each others backs.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
– The pleasure was mine my glorious girl.
Interval – so far, plays at the Cockpit Theatre on Sunday 9th February 2014. Click here for more information and to book tickets.