Abey Bradbury is a queer and neurodivergent theatre maker, writer, actor/musician and director and a self-described ‘general theatre jack-of-all-trades.’
Born and bred in Manchester, Abey has previously written and helped create music with Lamphouse Theatre (Wild Boy; Musical: The Musical Musical; Alan in Wonderland), Folly & Strings (Elysium), Motley-Minded Cobblers (The Elves & The Shoemaker), Cream-Faced Loons (Midsummer Night’s Dream; King John; The Complete Works Of Shakespeare* *But Just The Deaths (and the gory bits too!)
Abey is also part of Jezebel Folk Trio and can be found running around Manchester with a kazoo and Shakespearean skull most weekdays.
Abey wrote and stars in the new show JULIE: The Musical which after debuting at 53 Two last year is back, but at the Hope Mill Theatre this time and it arrives next month. We caught up with Abey to find out more.
How did you come up with the idea for JULIE: The Musical?
It started how most things do these days, back in the dark days of lockdown, I saw a meme from a historical trivia page (I know, I’m a nerd) about a Bisexual French Opera Singer/Swordswoman/Nun Seducer, and I thought “what a great character for a musical”, and after a year of research and finding out everything I could about this wonderfully chaotic person I thought “Wow, what a great character for a musical!” I wanted to create a show that Julie herself would be proud of, and make a show as chaotic and unapologetic as she is – and thus JULIE: The Musical was born!
What attracted you to this story?
Apart from being a history nerd who loves the messy bits of the past we never get taught about in school, as someone who’s queer there’s something undeniably joyous in Julie’s story – she did live life her way and wouldn’t let herself be defined, and had more heartbreak and love and experiences in her short 30 years than most people could do in 7 lifetimes – I mean, she’s most famous for setting fire to the convent, and she did that when she was only 17! And by that point she’d already had numerous affairs, made a name for herself as a duellist AND been a soloist for the Marseilles Opera…at 17 I was spending most of my time binge-watching Horrible Histories and failing to learn how to drive!
How did you get into performing and writing?
I was a classic theatre kid from a very young age, and was a full West-End wannabe until I realised my pirouettes were less than stellar and I preferred doing things in my own, slightly off-the-wall way. I’ve always loved writing as well, and making music – I don’t do sheet music but love picking up instruments and writing songs – and as I’ve got older I’ve started to write more, and writing the roles and stories I want to see, which is why JULIE is such a special show for me
Is there a teacher that inspired you or motivated you that you want to give a shout-out to?
I’ve been lucky to have a lot of wonderful and supportive teachers and mentors over the years, and I’m always grateful for the ones that let me do my own weird things in my own weird way, and who encouraged me to redefine what ‘doing something the right way’ was for me. I’m also eternally grateful for my Grandad who taught me piano – he started teaching when I was about 6, and in the classic undiagnosed ADHD kid way I never practised any scales or learnt any sheet music, but I did write him a new song every week that he always helped me improve and taught me how to craft a song myself – so though I never made it to the Grade 1 Piano exam, I think he’d be very proud to see I’ve written a whole musical now!
The theatre scene in Manchester is vibrant and varied. What do you like about this city?
I love the fact that there’s something for everyone – if we’re talking theatre there are great commercial shows at The Palace and the Opera House, beautiful things happening at Royal Exchange and HOME, amazing musicals at Hope Mill down to Manchester Fringe which has some of the best new theatre around. And then just as a city – if you’re hankering after a certain kind of quirky cafe, you’ll find it Northern Quarter; Need to go shopping? We’ve got it covered! You want Market Street or Vintage Shops? And of course, the joys of Canal Street!
What would you change about the city?
If I’m being serious about it, I would also be getting very political – like other cities, there’s a massive divide of privilege and overlooked communities that can only be changed through a systematic change from the top down. On the lighter side, I wish they’d replant Piccadilly Gardens back to what it was like in the 1960s (Google it!)
What do you like about the Hope Mill Theatre as a venue?
Have you seen that exposed brickwork in the bar? It’s gorgeous! Also, Hope Mill is such a versatile venue – I’ve seen so many brilliant musicals, plays and everything in between; and I love the community feel at Hope Mill, I’ve met many a friend and collaborator while working and visiting there!
With so many plays and musicals coming our way, why should audiences choose this one?
Twerking Nuns….do I need to say anything else? Plus Tap Dancing, Live Music, Sword Fights, Kazoo Choruses, Stand-Up, Burlesque, Flaming Bisexuals – and a joyously chaotic celebratory Queer original musical with heartbreak and humour by the bucket load!
JULIE: The Musical is at the Hope Mill Theatre from 20th – 24th June and can be booked here and you can view the trailer here.