Interview With…Matthew Harvey

We chatted to Matthew Harvey about his new song cycle Now Or Never, streaming on demand through the Barn Theatre.

For those who haven’t caught Now or Never yet – what is it about? 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 seven 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 seven people all decide to use what could be their last week doing something they’ve always wanted to do. 

How did the concept for the song cycle come about? 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 is, 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.

What do you hope that people will take away from Now or Never? If someone were to come away from watching Now Or Never smiling, feeling a little more positive or humming one of the songs I’d be immensely happy. I think now more than ever it’s so important for theatre to enable people to take a small reprieve and enjoy the escapism.

How easy did you find the process of putting it together? I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of collaborators for Now Or Never. I spent about 6 months working with Freddie Tapner on the music and, once we were happy with the songs, spent a week talking to musicians who were all recording remotely to get the tracks all finished. Once I arrived at The Barn it was over to the incredible Ryan Carter to execute his digital vision of the project. When he revealed he wanted to film this all live in one take I was understandably anxious; it’s a massive technological feat. However, the team at The Barn weren’t phased at all, they regularly push the boundaries of what digital theatre can be and, as anyone who’s seen the show can attest, they rose to the challenge effortlessly. Much to my relief! 

It must have been wonderful to be able to use the Barn Theatre in this way? I’ve known Iwan for many years, long before The Barn even existed. It’s been amazing seeing the theatre step into the spotlight and go from strength to strength, particularly with their digital productions. We created seven separate playing spaces within The Barn which just goes to show what a versatile space the theatre is. I can’t speak highly enough of the team who were more than willing to accommodate every crazy idea that Ryan & I threw at them, particularly our camera-operator Ben who had to haul around a giant steady-cam for the entire week!

Have you a favourite moment or character who emerges that you can relate to? I absolutely loved Ahmed Hamad’s portrayal of “More To Miles”. I wrote the song because I was in a similar situation with my job; I was desperate to quit and struggling to find the nerve to do so. We managed to pre-record a Zoom call that plays during the song, something that most of us have become all too familiar with this year. The moment where he yells “I QUIT” is one of my favourite moments in the entire show! 

Why should people give it a watch? One of the nicest things anyone has said about the show is that they have been losing the joy to support digital theatre throughout the pandemic and that watching Now Or Never made them find it again. At just under forty 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 and production team are all brilliant and I’m so excited for the future of the show, whatever happens next.  

By Emma Clarendon

Now Or Never is available to watch on demand until the 9th May.

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