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Following on from the massive success of Beyond Misérables in 2015, which saw over $90 000 raised for beyondblue, the cast & crew of the smash hit Kinky Boots, are coming together to present BeyondKinky. Billed as a celebration of music of the the iconic, trailblazing women of rock and pop (and a nod to Kinky Boots Lyricist Cyndi Lauper), the night promises to not only be full of wall to wall hits, a chance to see the Kinky Boots cast showcase their amazing talents, but also a chance to raise much needed awareness and funds for the incredible work beyondblue to support people suffering from mental illness, depression and anxiety.

Theatre People recently spoke to Sophie Wright, who plays Lauren, ensemble cast member Anthony Harkin, and producer Michael Cassel about how BeyondKinky came to be, why nights like this are important and what people can expect from the night.

“When we first started planning the production of Kinky Boots in Australia, a partnership with beyondblue seemed to be a natural fit, especially linking our ‘Just Be’ message that the show celebrates with beyondblue’s initiatives and support services, such as their ‘Stop Think Respect’ campaign.” said Cassel.

Wright continued, “Kinky Boots has such an important message of acceptance and celebrating diversity, it goes so well with beyondblue, who have been so supportive of the cast and are doing so many great campaigns with us. We wanted to create a night to celebrate the organisation and celebrate the fact that everyone can come together, hear some great music and raise some money for such an important organisation”.

Harkin added that they’ve been talking about doing a night like this since the show started, especially given the success of Beyond Misérables, Out from Under, and the increased awareness of the importance of mental health in the performing arts industry.

“A couple of years ago there was a study done into mental illness in our industry (Working in the Entertainment Industry, Victoria University) and the results came back from it were really scary in terms of how prevalent it was, so much higher than any other industry due to the mix of hours, the type of people that do this work, the pressure etc. It had always been in Michael’s field of vision to do another night like this”.

So a core team of cast and creatives were approached about 3 weeks ago by the producers with a mission. They were asked to be the organising committee to stage BeyondKinky, but were very adamant that the show was created by the cast. The instruction was ‘we want it all to come from you guys, we want all the ideas and passion to come from the cast’.

“We talked to the cast the next day, proposed the theme and everyone was on board straight away. The response from everyone has been amazing, not just the cast but all of the crew and the band, the whole company of Kinky Boots from management up, publicity, all the Capitol Theatre staff and obviously everyone at beyondblue” said Harkin.

“There has never been any question about the workload. Doing what we do it’s rare you get the chance to really feel like you are making a difference sometimes.”

We asked both Wright and Harkin if there were any fisticuffs regarding song choice and surprisingly … there was wasn’t.

“Not at all. Everyone has been civil and mature about it!” exclaimed Wright.

“We had to submit our ideas to the creative team, they then collaborated together to ensure the show flows properly.”

Harkin agreed.

“The cast took some time, put in their own suggestions, made suggestions on what they’d like to see other cast members do, it really was an incredible response. We went through all the suggestions, talked about what we thought would be exciting and tailored numbers to people that we thought would suit and give us a great range over the night, ensuring we cover this great catalogue of music.”

“In addition because of the kind of show Kinky Boots is, it takes a particularly special cast to put on this show. A lot of people in our cast have other legitimate careers other than doing this. We have people who are music producers, professional musicians, writers and directors, arrangers, choreographers. I was really adamant that I wanted to show off this extraordinary cast in ways people haven’t seen.” noted Harkin.

Why are nights like BeyondKinky so important for the performing arts community to embrace and for the public to support?

“Sadly, mental health is going to be the epidemic of the 21st century”, said Harkin.

“It doesn’t get talked about enough and I think it’s really important that we can raise money for a great organisation like beyondblue that supports and helps people dealing with depression, anxiety and suicide. It’s so important to start the conversation that hasn’t been started or keeping it alive and encouraging people to talk about it.”

“You go to see a musical like Kinky Boots and yes it is entertainment but you walk away with such an important message. Hopefully BeyondKinky will be the same. People will see a beautiful concert with great songs but we are also going to have speakers talking about beyondblue and the work they do, so the audience can learn more about the work they do. Then if they come across people that need help or need support they know that they can give them beyondblue details.” commented Wright.

Harkin remarked, “I think everyone has had their lives affected in someway by depression, anxiety or suicide in some way – either personally or someone they know. It is essential to be talked about, via robust conversation that helps people be aware that it is something that is out there and that it is okay, it shouldn’t be demonised or have any kind of stigma attached to it, it’s like any illness. If your leg is broken you put a cast on it and you reset it and you talk about it. It’s not a “toughen up” kind of thing. Mental illness is a real thing that needs to be treated the same thing as any other illness or injury. If we can go anyway to breaking down those walls and encouraging people to engage then that is reason in itself.”

For Wright, this is an issue that she noticed extremely early in her career and has since developed her own coaching program for performers (learn more at http://www.sophiewrightcoaching.com/) and is currently studying Psychology.

Sophie Wright Kinky Boots

“I became interested in this field because I know there are sports psychologists – with athletics being as much a mental game as it is physical – I got to thinking, that is the same as performing!” said Wright.

“You go into an audition and we are in a full high adrenaline mode – our body doesn’t realise it is just an audition. Physically our body thinks it is running away from something, it can go into fight-or-flight mode. So I started to take note of what I did in auditions – what helped me calm down before and afterwards, started reading and discovering things myself. I got into meditating and mindfulness and once I knew a bit more about it I realised it really helped my performing, especially in those times I wasn’t working, it helped me become more centred and trusting of my journey. Performers are in and out of work, it isn’t stable, and to have those anchors in your life are important to performers. People started asking me questions, how am I so positive and calm, and I just told them what I was learning and it snowballed from there.”

“I started coaching young performers, got really great feedback and thought if we teach this to our young performers early on, they will get to a point they are become more strong in that positive mindset. Learning how to calm nerves, banish inner critic early on so it doesn’t become a problem whilst they are young is so important.”

So how do Wright and Harkin maintain their mental health?

For Wright it’s all about being mindful, which for her is more about being aware and present in the moment; exercise and healthy eating and simply having fun.

“We all got through these ups and downs and at the end of the day if we are not having fun with it, what’s the point?” commented Wright.

For Harkin it’s all about balance and having friends outside the industry. He said “I try to keep perspective about what I do and perspective about life is a whole. I love that I do this, but I know that each day and each gig is just part of my life and not see things as “this is the be all and end all”. I work hard to keep fit and healthy, and not to let my whole day revolve around going to work.”

In closing, we asked Harkin and Wright what people can expect from BeyondKinky.

“A great night!” exclaimed Wright.

“If they have seen the show a few times they are going to get such a different perspective of the performers. Yes it is pop music, but everyone is doing something different.”

Harkin agreed.

“It’s going to be wall to wall hits! You can expect to hear stuff that is familiar, stuff that is familiar done in unfamiliar ways, you can expect a few little surprises along the way and a few little nods to Kinky Boots.”

Casell also added, “To be able to harness the wonderful talent and energy of our sensational company, and stage a performance that is simply BeyondKinky, I’m so very proud that our cast, crew and orchestra have taken on the organisation of this concert with such flair and commitment.”

Tickets for BeyondKinky are on sale now from Ticketmaster.

To book, visit ticketmaster.com.au or phone 136 100.

BeyondKinky

ONE NIGHT ONLY

Sunday 18 June 2017 at 8pm, Capitol Theatre Sydney

Tickets on sale now

kinkybootsthemusical.com.au | beyondblue.org.au Facebook: @BeyondKinky | #beyondkinky

For information about the Kinky Boots and beyondblue ‘Just Be’ campaign visit: kinkybootsthemusical.com.au/justbe

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