Interview: Eden Tredwell, ‘Both comedy and music rely a lot on timing’

The POD, new bespoke theatre space in the heart of the West End, is set to host new musical The Last Nativity. The musical, written by Stiles And Drewe award winner Eden Tredwell, opens tomorrow night as part of Iris Theatre’s inaugural season in the space.

Ahead of opening night we caught up with Eden to discuss the musical, the challenge of being an emerging artist in the musical theatre, and hunting for props in charity shops.

Q&A with Eden Tredwell

Hi Eden, thanks for speaking with us. You’re premièring a new musical The Last Nativity at The POD – how does it feel?

Thank you for having me! I’m tremendously excited about the premiere of ‘The Last Nativity’ – I’ve got a great cast and crew on board, and lovely support from the Iris Theatre. I’m also a big fan of Christmas, so the combination of seasonal goodwill and having my show on is lovely, and I will probably cry at some point.

What can you tell us about The Last Nativity?

The Last Nativity is a comedy musical about Christmas, family and childhood. It follows three adult siblings as they return to the family home for Christmas and decide to recreate the Nativity plays they used to put on in their living room as children. It’s got laughs and songs but also some very poignant moments. It’s also inspired by my own childhood, and the plays I used to do at home with my older siblings, as I’m sure many others did. Though I must strain to add, the characters are NOT very like me or my siblings – we’re all fairly introverted, which doesn’t make for a good play!

How have rehearsals been so far?

Rehearsals have been lovely! We have a great captain in our director Jack Bence, whose high energy keeps everyone going, and I’m also pleased to be working with musical director Amir Shoenfeld again, what a mensch. Our cast is fabulous and have really built their sibling bond. It’s been very nice to have a team I trust, and be able to sit back and release the material to them. The show also involves a lot of props, so I’ve been hunting charity shops and Etsy and Gumtree for everything from a creepy ragdoll to a scooter!

Eden Tredwell in rehearsals for The Last Nativity. Photo: Ryan Watson.

How much has your vision for the musical changed as you’ve gone through the rehearsal process?

The vision hasn’t changed, only grown! It’s stretched and blossomed in a lovely way, the more we explore it. The cast and director have helped me discover things I hadn’t considered in the script, and I have been able to give them my own personal insights into it – this is probably the most personal show I’ve written yet. One thing that’s in the show that I hadn’t planned on, however, is the dinosaur hand puppets. I won’t give too much away.

The Last Nativity is a comedy musical – is it challenging to get the comedy across as part of the compositions?

I actually think they’re very similar! There’s a lot of comedians who are great musicians, and vice versa. I’m a big comedy nerd – I used to watch things like Bill Bailey standup, and Blackadder, and Monty Python on repeat, memorising whole sections. Both comedy and music rely a lot on timing, and method of delivery, and I think that’s something that comes naturally to me, and hopefully comes through in the show. Unless of course, no one laughs, in which case, it was always meant to be a serious drama.

How difficult is it breaking through as an emerging artist in the musical theatre in the current climate?

It’s not easy. It seems like a lot of major producers and companies are less willing than ever to take chances on new writers or unknown stories. But there are a few shining beacons of hope – things like BEAM, the BML workshop, Adam Lenson and his projects, have always championed new work and been incredibly helpful in my own journey. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep working and improving until I end up in the right place at the right time.

You work across both pop and musical theatre – how much do you find your approach differs to each medium?

Musical theatre is definitely a longer game, pop songs can be released a lot quicker than musicals can be staged! I’ve always enjoyed variety and hopping between musical genres, hence I enjoy straddling both fields. I’d say the main difference is in the length – with musicals, you get an entire show to build your story and weave your detail and convince your audience, but it has to be that much more more structurally sound. With a pop song, you have to catch a listener’s attention in 30 seconds, but at least you don’t have to build a whole story around why the song is being sung!

Laura Pigott and Charlie Archer in rehearsals for The Last Nativity. Photo: Ryan Watson

You’ve written Japanese-inspired musicals and been co-funded on Galaxy Train by the Japanese Government. What inspired your interest in Japan?

I sort of fell into it! My first Japanese-inspired musical, ‘Pearl and Dagger’, arose from an assignment in the BML workshop, and I decided to develop it but thought I needed some Japanese collaborators. From that, I sought out many Japanese theatremakers, including Yojiro Ichikawa, the director and founder of Theatre Lapis, and one project led to another. I have been to Tokyo once, and loved it – I hope to visit again soon, ideally with a musical!

What can we expect from you next?

Galaxy Train is currently being workshopped in Tokyo, but I’d love to bring a workshop and/or concert version to the UK, ideally in the next year or so. I have three other musicals of my own on the back burner which I’ll hopefully be able to develop more, as well as some potential commissions in the pipeline – watch this space!

Finally, how would you describe The Last Nativity to someone considering buying a ticket for the show?

If you’re a stagey kid who put on shows in your living room, this will be VERY familiar. If you’ve ever had a family fight at Christmas, you’ll find lots to relate to. And I think there’s a sense of childhood innocence about it that speaks to all of us, it touches on the nostalgia with which we remember Christmas and family and holidays. If you want something funny and Christmassy to see, why not come and spend an hour with us in Covent Garden? It’s hilarious and poignant and got some catchy tunes, if I do say so myself.

The Last Nativity is at The POD from 6-11 December 2021