Frankly, it was all rather astonishing.
Having never done anything of the sort, I was approached by Laurence Peacock, a playwright friend of mine. "You write songs, don't you?" Thusly I was inducted into the whirlwind that became "Boris - the Musical", under the glamorous title of "composer".
Soon after that conversation, in an innocuous little pub near Hallam University, I met our new director Kyle Williams. At this point, we had no songs, no actors, and no budget. We basically had the three of us, half a script, and a dodgy wig. But a flurry of activity ensued. Realising the magnitude of my (then) combined role of composer and musical director, I was feeling a little panicky. Luckily, help arrived in the form of an email from a local musician named Dominic Lo, offering his services as a vocal coach. Looking over his CV, I spied an opportunity. "Let's get him in," I said. "He can be the musical director."
So three became four, and Dominic was everything I'd hoped for and more. Now that we had our crack team assembled, it was time to recruit some actors.
Until this point everything had run so smoothly. Of course, there were bound to be bumps in the road. The audition process was the first one. While around 25 actors had expressed an interest in auditioning, far fewer actually turned up. Luckily, we found our Boris straightaway - the excellent David Burchhardt, a young drama student. Some of the other actors took a little longer to find. But before long, we had four terrific actors on board.
For the house band, we had nearly everyone we needed - myself and Dominic on keyboards, and Laurence on guitar. All we needed was a drummer, and I happened to know a good one - Craig "I hit things" Smith, cracker of truly awful jokes.
For me, this all started at a time of great personal struggle and uncertainty, so having my good friend Craig around was a comfort. In time, the whole of the Boris team became like a little family. Together we worked like demons, we made mistakes, we learned from them, and somehow along the way we created a great little piece of theatre in just a couple of months. It's captured the imaginations of so many people locally, and now we're set to branch out to other areas this year with our tour, starting in Manchester. I can't wait to see where "Boris" takes us next.
The experience of composing and helping to produce "Boris" has certainly expanded my horizons. After studying music at university I had intended to move to London to pursue a career in session singing. That didn't happen, because my other half was offered a job he couldn't refuse here in the North. Lacking another plan, I essentially gave up on music. Although I was still writing and recording songs, I saw that as a labour of love and not something I could hope to make a living from. But working with Laurence has shown me that creating your own opportunities and taking risks can sometimes pay off. I don't think I've ever met anyone with such determination and quiet passion for his work. Hopefully I can learn from his example.
The future of Blowfish Theatre depends on a lot of factors, and the extent to which I'll be involved in future productions remains to be seen - after all, our musical director is an excellent composer too. It's very much the intentional Hollie Morrell way, to simply be grateful for the opportunities that have been given and to have no expectations for the future. But I do have expectations of myself - that I'll learn, grow, and be bolder in my career hopes as a result of this experience.