Realms of Glory Interview: The Blitz Musical marks ‘something different for the festive season’

New musical Realms of Glory at 53 Two is offering audiences in Manchester something different for the festive season
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It is set during the Manchester Blitz, so it it has added appeal for anyone who has booked a panto but is also seeking something with a local flavour.

We caught up with Writer, Composer and Director, Ollie Mills (OM), and actors Rebecca McAuley (RM) and Emma Clare Harvey (ECH) to find out more.

How did Realms of Glory come about?

OM: Back in 2019, having had a lot of fun collaborating on previous musical projects, co-writer Rachel Mann and I saw an opportunity to devise something to mark the 80th anniversary of the Manchester Blitz in 2020 – a chance to unearth an interesting corner of local history and package it in a fun, Christmassy setting. The pandemic sadly squandered early production plans, but thanks to our new relationship with 53two, we’re pleased that the collaboration of our two companies will finally bring the story to the stage.

What is the plot in a nutshell?

OM: It’s Christmas in Manchester, 1940, and 5 lively locals are trying to navigate their broken world. We’re introduced to Lizzie and Mavis, two old friends facing heartbreak and working out how to pick up the pieces – but all that will have to wait because the Blitz has arrived in the city. Trapped beneath the rubble, we’re sent whizzing back through time to see how these loveable characters came together and we witness the heartwarming, at times hilarious, escapades that made them who they are today. Somewhere along the way, of course, they may just have to face their own “ghosts” of Christmases past…

During a cost of living crisis, audiences need something warm and upbeat. Is this that show?

ECH: Whilst the Blitz is arguably not the cheeriest of subject matters, it’s a show that captures the community spirit and togetherness that came from such a troubled time, not too different from the feelings we all had during the lockdowns. We’re really lucky to have the remarkable comedy skills of Rebecca (McAuley) and Ben (Kawalec) – they alone are worth the ticket price!

RM: I’m excited to see what Vicky Healy (Choreographer) will bring to the table! There are plenty of catchy tunes and so many upbeat, wholesome moments; it recognises the difficulties of the story and context without getting bogged down in the negative aspects.

OM: This show isn’t an out-and-out comedy, but there are plenty of laughs. We hope we have found a way to tell this dark story in a way that inspires people, through an endearing, Christmassy lens.

Why do you think 53 two is so important for audiences and creatives in Manchester?

RM: 53two is known as a creative hub for so many emerging actors and creatives. As a North-West based performer, I am grateful for the opportunities that 53two, MAP and Simon Naylor have presented for me. Its relaxed nature means it is an inviting space for theatre fans, from all walks of life, to have a safe space to explore theatre in – both as performers/creatives and audiences.

OM: 53two is making waves as an exciting, up-to-date and well-situated city-centre arts hub. It values artistic quality, and is also fiercely supporting inclusivity and equal opportunities for established and early-career artists alike – as well as affordable tickets for theatre-goers.

What do you want audiences to take away from Realms of Glory?

OM: Our run at 53two crosses over with some rather large productions taking over other venues in the local area. I hope we can demonstrate the power of independent, local talent with a memorable night of quality theatre. I hope people fall in love with these characters we’ve taken such care in creating, perhaps shed a tear or two as we follow the harder moments in their stories.

RM: I hope they’ll come away feeling uplifted, with a new-found respect for older generations. I’d also hope they’ll want to see more from Imaginality and seek out more local theatre.

ECH: For me, the most special thing about this show is the connection between the three women. I would hope that audiences warm to them and understand the significance of their role in the war effort, and more broadly the importance of women lifting up, supporting and celebrating other women.

What do you think the show offers both young and old?

OM: A fun, festive alternative to a panto, rooted in local history and characters; a moving story and plenty of Northern charm.

ECH: It’s ultimately a story about love, be that romantic, platonic, familial, easy, difficult or unexpected. That’s something anyone can understand, and I do think that the show has five characters that you can see yourself or your loved ones in.

RM: It’s entertaining and educational – you’ll learn about local history and have a laugh along the way.

Realms of Glory is at 53 two from 14 – 22nd December and can be booked here.

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