Matthew Harvey is the creator of British song cycle Now or Never which first debuted as a livestream from the Barn Theatre and is now available on demand until 9th May 2021.
The piece features 7 songs with relatable everyday characters as they each take a defiant act of positivity in the face of adversity on what might be their last week on Earth. The ambitious digital spin presents the work as a non-stop, one-shot, song cycle, with one camera navigating the entire building, featuring 7 characters moving between 7 spaces.
Tickets for the on-demand run can be purchased at barntheatre.org.uk/barn-at-home. Once purchased the customer will gain one-hour access to the production.
Your new song cycle, Now or Never, live streamed from the Barn Theatre, is now available on demand, what can you tell us about it?
Now or Never is a brand new song cycle all about hope in the face of catastrophe, something that I think is really relevant this year. The song cycle tells the stories of 7 people reacting to the news that an impending solar flare has a 50% chance of wiping out all life on earth. Instead of reacting in fear or panic, these 7 people all decide to use what could be their last week doing something they’ve always wanted to do.
What inspired you to write Now or Never?
One of the things that’s been incredible inspiring to me over the course of the pandemic is how the theatrical community have continued to create amazing work; many venues have lost money this year but have put on shows nonetheless. Digital theatre, zoom play readings, quizzes you name it, people have been doing their best to keep people smiling throughout what has been a very bleak time. Now Or Never is basically my love letter to all of those people who have been choosing hope in the face of disaster.
Why did you make a conscious decision not to make this about the pandemic?
Every one of us has been living the pandemic 24-7 for the last year. It was important to me that even though I was technically writing about the pandemic, that the piece didn’t revolve around it. Escapism is so incredibly important when you think about the year all of us have had, so I wanted people to be able to do just that, escape.
It’s been an ambitious project, what appealed to you most about the ‘one shot’ aspect of it?
When Ryan first pitched the idea of filming this all in one shot, I was incredibly apprehensive! We initially had a lot of contingency plans, additional cameras, pre-recorded vocals etc. However, every time he and I would chat about the show, he’d reveal that he’d cut one more of the contingency plans, until finally he admitted we were filming this with one camera, in one shot, completely live.
The Barn have prided themselves on pushing the boundaries of digital theatre with their productions this year such as The Secret Society of Leading Ladies or What A Carve Up. They love to bite off more than they can chew, and then pull it off without a hitch. Which is exactly what they’ve done with Now Or Never. The second I got to The Barn and met the team, all of my doubts about the one-shot approach were put to rest
Tell us about the cast and how they built on what you had written?
I can’t put into words how much I adore this cast. There were 3 songs that I’d written for specific people; myself, my wonderful fiancee Katie and Courtney & Eloise. Ryan really got into the world of the show and said he knew exactly who would complete the cast, and he wasn’t wrong. Lucy, Ahmed and Irvine were just incredible to work with and their interpretations of the songs was more than I could’ve hoped for. If there’s a future life for Now Or Never, there’s no one else I could hear performing this material.
We only had the full cast in the building for the day of the shoot and, due to COVID regulations, we had to keep everyone separate, which was so odd! We basically showed each cast member to their mini-set and gave them complete freedom to interpret the song and space. What this resulted in, I feel, was an incredibly authentic performance from each of the cast members, of how they felt the song should look and feel.
What’s it been like working with the team at The Barn Theatre?
This has been my first professional gig as a composer so I had no preconceptions about how a project is supposed to go. What I fear has happened is that I’ve had such a wonderful time working with The Barn and their team that I won’t ever want to work with anyone else again. I’ve already broke the news to Ryan Carter that I’ll be following him around for the rest of his career.
For what on paper is a small regional theatre, The Barn have been everywhere this year. One unexpected benefit of the lockdown has been that the playing field has been levelled for digital productions, a field where The Barn shines, and they’ve really stepped up to the plate. I’ve adored watching all of their digital work, particularly The Secret Society Of Leading Ladies!
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking an on demand ticket for Now or Never?
One of the nicest things anyone has said about the show is that they miss in-person theatre and have been losing the will to support digital work throughout the pandemic and that watching Now Or Never made them find it again. At just under 40 minutes, it’s a short piece and it’s full of joy. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend the best part of an hour, you’ll love the show. The cast, creative team & production team are all brilliant and I’m so excited for the future of the show, whatever happens next.