Tallulah Brown opens Hightide in Aldeburgh with Songlines concert play

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HighTide opens next week and Suffolk writer and musician Tallulah Brown unveils his new piece Songlines, which combines the joys of the theater with those of a live concert. She talks to arts editor Andrew Clarke


Fanta Barrie as Stevie and Joe Hurst as Stan in Songlines Photo: Helen Maybanks
– Credit: Helen Maybanks

For musician, singer and writer Tallulah Brown, growing up in Suffolk provided him with a rich tapestry of influences and subjects. Last year she staged her first play, Sea Fret, which told the story of rural friendship and coastal erosion. She continues to perform with her band TRILLS, traveling the Atlantic to record music for the film industry in Los Angeles. Now at this year’s HighTide festival she is unveiling her latest piece, Songlines, which takes a look at young love on the Suffolk coast.

Two school friends, who broke up after having a relationship, reconnect at a concert in Norwich. Their eyes meet through a crowded mosh pit and suddenly there is a second chance for love.

For Tallulah Brown, who spent her childhood in Aldeburgh, the rural setting, the difficulty of getting around, and the memories of long bus rides all play a major role in the story and can be seen as additional characters in the drama.


Aldeburgh resident, musician and playwright Tallulah Brown Photo: Tallulah Brown

Aldeburgh resident, musician and playwright Tallulah Brown Photo: Tallulah Brown
– Credit: Archant

The play is funny, tender, moving, dramatic and packed with music written and performed by the group TRILLS from Tallulah. Songlines, which is one of the new flagship works, which opens this year’s HighTide festival in Aldeburgh, is a new form of theater that Tallulah has dubbed concert theater and she hopes it will introduce a new audience to the joys of performing. living.


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How does it feel to you to open your new room in Aldeburgh, which could be considered his spiritual home?


Tallulah Brown and her band TRILLS, who provide the soundtrack for Tallulah's Songlines

Tallulah Brown and her band TRILLS, who provide the soundtrack for Tallulah’s Songlines Photo: TRILLS
– Credit: Archant

“Opening a new room is both exciting and scary. I don’t feel like an owner at all. I think HighTide made a really good team; they are such pros that I can trust them completely with my game. I think as a writer I have been looking at this page for so long that it is time for me to hand it over to someone else. ‘other and they can approach it with new eyes.

“But I’m on point, so if they have any questions, which usually relate to specific lines, then I’m available to answer them. I try not to get too involved in the sound, the lighting and all the extra stuff. I want to be surprised and delighted with what they offer.

“The only thing I’ve been protective of is being honest with the region. True for Suffolk, true for this age group living in Suffolk. Being genuine is very important to me. For example: yesterday I recorded bird sounds from my bedroom window in Aldeburgh because I wanted this particular bird song to be used in the show, because it is my experience. I’ve lived here so I know what will ring true and what won’t.


Joe Hurst as Stan in Songlines Photo: Helen Maybanks

Joe Hurst as Stan in Songlines Photo: Helen Maybanks
– Credit: Helen Maybanks

What is Songlines?

“I call it a wriggling teenage love story. This is a couple who meet at a concert in Norwich. They see themselves watching this group, their eyes meet in a crowded room, and they tell you the story of their first meeting while waiting for the school bus. You are taken back to Reydon near Southwold, where they first met, and you are taken through the ups and downs, trials and tribulations of this all-consuming first love. You always say the wrong thing, you try to be independent from your parents, and the things they can’t say to each other – and the things they would have liked them to say – are addressed to the public. Then we’re back to the gig and they have the opportunity to try to make it work again.

“It’s a bittersweet teenage love story. I hope it’s both funny and sad in equal measure. I did the soundtrack with my band TRILLS and we worked very closely with the lyrics and with the Suffolk folklore because we have a bit of Black Shuck in there, as well as The Green Children of Woolpit.

“One of the scenes takes place in Kessingland. Stan is a bit of a dreamer. He was brought up on a farm. He has lived in Suffolk his entire life – he knows all the stories, he has a clear sense of the heritage – as Stevie has just moved there from London and is not attached to any particular place; and the importance of what Stan teaches him is the importance of being part of a community and knowing where you are from. We reveal that Kessingland was the scene of a large Viking settlement and that there is a joke between them about “being a Viking”. Stevie encourages Stan to live his life rather than dream it. She says he has to get up and live his Viking dream. She gives him permission to live.

Is this a complementary play to your previous Sea Fret play, which was also set in Suffolk?

“Yes, there was also a bus stop at Sea Fret, and I consider this story to be about different children at the same bus stop. When I finished Sea Fret I felt there was more than I wanted to write about my childhood in Suffolk. I knew I wanted to write a love story, so it was really a love story between city mice and field mice; and I was clear from the start that I wanted this to happen in Suffolk and I wanted Stan’s family to be farmers and to feel that sense of responsibility of having to take over running a farm – to have a sense of ownership. line.

How many of you are you in the room?

– Probably less than at Sea Fret. The more I write, the better I manage to hide or, rather, the more you write, the more you see the importance of creating characters who are themselves. I grew up with a lot of music, and music plays a small part in the play. Stevie moves to Suffolk swearing that she’ll never listen to music again because she finds it too emotional and doesn’t want to connect with the world that way.

“I grew up with a lot of music at home. My parents have very different musical tastes and then you find your own music. The whole theme of Songlines is that you can have songs that take you to a specific place or lead you in a certain direction; they form tent poles in your life that remind you of times gone by or appear just at the right time to show you what’s to come – I think that’s the most personal part of it all.

“Teenagers listen to so much music and love songs make love so easy, so I thought if you could show the complications of teenage love and how communication can go so wrong. Then bookmark porch songs, between each scene, that suggest everything can be so simple and polished, but life is shown otherwise.

Was TRILLS still going to be involved?

“HighTide approached me after reading Sea Fret’s staging last year and asked if I could do something that would use my band TRILLS and we had worked so hard on the trailers that it was a natural progression. TRILLS has been so busy over the past couple of years writing music that could be used for movie trailers that I realized we could do it live. There is something very evocative about the fact that we were singing together in harmony and so it became our first order and I made it clear when we applied for funding that I wanted to develop the script alongside the music so that they are two halves of the same project, rather than just an afterthought or an addition.

“So I was working with actors during the day, looking at this awkwardness that teenagers feel, and then the TRILLS would come in at 6 pm and we would spend the evening writing songs. I would just give them a basic premise and we would see where it took us. For example, I said, “In this scene she is trying to take off her top and he is freaking out” and we went from there.

“We borrowed a lot from Suffolk myths and a porch style writing style – all the TRILLS helped me so much with writing music.

How do you see your career evolving? Is it about developing a new theater or do you see your music career with TRILLS working in tandem with your theater career?

‘I do not know; time will tell us. It’s a very exciting opportunity for us to play live again. When you go to this show, it will be a bit like the concerts we used to do where everything was very clean. I am also very curious to see how the public will react to such personal work and which will take place in different spaces. I hope it will be very true. I hope it will be accepted as a concert hall: that you will feel like you are at a TRILLS concert, and then feel like you are taken to these different places in Suffolk and Norwich. I hope there will be more to come, but only time will tell.

Is concert theater the future?

“I think audiences can now watch so much on their phones and computers that the theater has to step up and offer something special, and concert theater is one of them. It should offer something that you can’t stream on your laptop. I love concert theater because it’s so different. It is not musical theater because the music is used differently.

“For some people, traditional theater can seem very formal, very stuffy. Concerts are never like that; you can get lost at a gig so I’m really interested in exploring this area between the two worlds. I hope I will bring in people who go more to concerts than to the theater – that would be great.

Songlines, by Tallulah Brown, is at the HighTide Festival, Pumphouse, Aldeburgh, September 11-16. Box office: 01728 687110 and Hightide.org.uk


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