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If you’re not familiar with my project Quizcats, Quizcats is a 10 piece band and we put on events that combine live-band karaoke with a pub quiz. The nights are themed (films, musicals, 90s etc) and end up superfun in a silly, easy way: dancing, costumes, prizes for best team name and so on. I spend most of my time working on Quizcats – sorting all aspects of the show and promoting it.

Next Sunday we’re doing a Christmas themed show, Quizmas. I am SO excited!! I didn’t think I could get through this month without telling you about it – it’s been my sole focus for so many weeks and I’ve dedicated myself to the project. This show has a few festive surprises – we have a Christmassy photobooth (I’m secretly jealous I can’t get involved with this!) and the rest of the band (the 9 guys in the pictures) will all be dressed in seasonal attire, complete with me in a ridiculous Santa dress. I can’t wait to see what the audience wear!

We get a lot of comments from the audience on how much fun they have and I think it’s genuinely because (as cheesey as it sounds) we, the band, have so much fun on stage. I put in a lot (a LOT) of unpaid hours to the job, but the minute I get into rehearsals with the guys or up on stage with Chris it’s like I’m having the time of my life. The shows are at the forefront of my mind for such a long time, occupying so much stress and toil, but on the night I just basically go on stage and have a ball.I think the place I’m really happiest is performing in front of an audience and the Quizcats boys are just such an awesome bunch, every show we do feels like we’re just hanging out and having a great time. To have an entire audience join in dancing along and cheering with you is indescribably fun!

I’ll definitely share some pictures of the event itself once it’s happened! If you’re London based and want to come then use the code “TapeParade” for 40% off tickets. And let me know so I can come and say hello! #Quizmas :)



Goodbye, Tour


I just got back from a 6 week tour around the south of England with Rhum & Clay, touring a show we first made back in 2012. I thought last time we said goodbye that would be it (as I said at the time) – so you can imagine my surprise when I was contacted about a 2015 tour. A Strange Wild Song was the first show I wrote for professionally (I was still in university at the time) and the subsequent touring accompanied my weird, final year in education when I was also very unhappily living at home.

It was kind of amazing to revisit the show, to redevelop and tour something we’d created so long ago. In the world of independent, original theatre, it’s very rare to be given the opportunity to redevelop a piece and I was so grateful to have the experience. I cringed at my earlier choices in music; who uses 7 different instruments in the same show? The old music was incohesive; I was more than happy to go back and change that (…although it still uses 7 instruments). I had lots of fun getting back to the unique “ramshackle” Rhum & Clay dynamic the guys have, both on and off stage. It was great fun becoming part of the fabric of a show; long rehearsals and a lengthy run where everybody starts to mesh together – I’ve not been part of a cast in a while. And as I said, it was a relief to visit the sea. In a weird way I realised how unhappy I was during previous tours, leaving to return to my difficult Masters and taxing home life. This time I had no worries or doubts from the rest of my life to creep in: when the time came, I was happy to head home and touch base with the rest of my world.

Nelson Mandela said there’s nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. For me, that place that remains the same is apparently not a set place at all, but a rented van crowded with set and costumes; a small stage in a new theatre by the coast; a cold pint in a new pub with old, inside-out friends; a stranger’s spare room and home-cooked breakfast; the stool behind a whole host of pianos that rarely get played.

Thank you everybody involved in the tour and for allowing me this experience to come back to the project.

Once The Musical

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(That last picture is just to show you my hilarious post-show face)

This is a very self-indulgent review! Before I get started I want to mention the wonderful people at Seatwave and their new app Timbre which you should check out – more on that later…


A couple of weeks ago I went with James to see Once: The Musical. I saw the original film back in 2006 and on first hearing of the stage adaptation I thought I could imagine a student production playing in a basement in Edinburgh during Fringe, but was perplexed at the prospect of a dazzling Broadway show. It’s not a film that obviously lends itself to a stage adaptation; long shots, sparse conversation, improvised dialogue and slow-burning, subtle documentation have rarely been hallmarks of theatre. The film has no obvious dramatic rises and falls, little character development aside of the two leads and not even a particular drawn out narrative arc.

A lot of characters have been expanded from one-scene cameos into fullblown comedic sidekicks. I appreciate that the story needed to grow to fill a 3 hour show, and whilst I liked the characters of Billy and Andrei I didn’t appreciate the mother, the banker or the overall genre shift. The two leads differed greatly from the film; the Girl had become a lot more fiesty and perky than in the film. I found Marketa Irglova a little naive and simple in the film but weirdly whilst watching the musical it actually changed my memories; I found myself wishing for her naturalistic and wistful performance rather than the poorly-accented and overly comic one I had on the stage (we had understudy Sophie Reid at our performance).

Glen Hansard is dark, brooding and suitably everyman in the film and whilst the Guy (Daniel Hunter) had managed to retain the dark, broody aspects it was without any sense of the earnest, boyish “can’t believe my luck” that Glen has in the film and ended up coming across as grumpy. I wouldn’t describe Glen in the film as particularly charismatic but I think that’s what the character needs on stage; both James and I would like to see Ronan Keating in the role when he takes over as I think his natural charisma will combat the broodiness of the character. However a lot of the accents were all over the place which is a shame; London is one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world so where are the legitimately Irish and Czech actors?

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The beginning pre-set featured the cast performing as part of an open-mic night; another feature straight out of Edinburgh. The set changes were incredible and I particularly liked the choreography in the flat scene. Musically the show had some impressive moments; the recording scene was a triumph. I’m not a massive fan of the original score and with the exception of “Leave” and “Gold” I don’t think there’s anything that particularly stands out to me and even then I think just love ‘Leave’ because of the vocal lines – Glen’s vocals are incredible and it’s such a heartbreaking song when he performs it. The magic of people joining in mid-song has been proved time and again and it was a nice theme in most of the songs featured.

Ultimately I enjoyed a lot of things about the show without really taking to the show itself. What I really loved is what the show represents for music in a West End theatre. I’ve got a long and varied history of playing music in theatre shows. I first met James during a show we performed about 3 years ago in Edinburgh. Whilst the cast was divided into musicians and actors, we all appeared on stage swapping instruments and performing original folk-pop music during the show (I racked up 8 instruments during the 1 hour show, a record). Whilst back then this was still relatively unique, I feel like now conventions such as: an actor beginning a song and a troupe of musicians joining in, a whole stage singing in 5 or 6 part harmony, melody being recycled during set changes or are now all very common place musical conventions and you could wander into any afternoon show in Edinburgh with “live music” and see a variation on a theme.

What was exciting for me about Once is that these conventions have made it out of the rehearsal room and onto the West End. Actor-musician shows are nothing new (notable examples being 2008 Company and 2009 Sunset Boulevard) but these sort of integrated gig-style shows are. I kept turning around to James during the show and saying “we could do this” – it’s exciting to think the kind of weird, niche thing you’ve spent years doing is reaching a mainstream audience and people are getting to experience music in a new way. The cast should be applauded for acting, singing, dancing and playing throughout. Great production, and as a stand-alone show it’s fine but I still question whether a film like Once can ever translate properly to a stage (and really if it needed to). Have any of you seen Once? I would love to know what you thought!


Thank you so much Seatwave for sending me. Please go and check out Seatwave and their range of concerts – at the moment they’re offering money off for signing up to the newsletter which is pretty rad (also Seatwave have recently launched a new app called Timbre to keep on top of live music which I’ve been using this whole week – speaking as a live music fan, it’s great so gig fans, get on it.) Seatwave are also currently selling The Vamps tickets so get them whilst you’re hot if you’re still mourning McFly like I am (sob)…

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Sequinned Minnie.

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minnie mouse ears
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Minnie Mouse girl sequin
Vest – H&M, £3.99. Jacket – vintage from Fat Faced Cat vintage, £10 (sale). Hot pants – ASOS, £8 (via unwanted gift). Minnie Mouse ears – Mind in Camden (charity shop), 50p.

.I feel like this outfit is textbook Laila. I’m really not into planning outfits and my general “going-out” look (or “going-on-stage” look) is basically put on whatever clothes are nearest, throw on something sparkly, add some novelty headwear and then hope for the best! In these pictures (taken after a show at VAULT) as well as some charity shop ears and my newest sequinned item I’m wearing my trusty studded white boots, and my vest and dance shorts from rehearsals earlier in the day. Add to that my leftover show make-up from that evenings performance (classy) and my black and red camera bag and that’s my whole thrown together after-party vibe!

.These photos are from the week of performances I did at VAULT and I promise this will be my last post on the festival! Essentially every night after our show the whole cast and crew would hang out at the venue (big underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms) and party, so being easy to spot was a good thing amongst all the other people! I’m aware some people save sequins or vintage for special occasions but I’m not like that at all. I don’t want them to just hang on the wall for fear of damaging them; I want them to get a bit frayed from messy piggyback races and end up smelling of smoke and spilt drinks from too much jumping around on a crowded dance floor. Clothes are for living in and not just looking at after all. :) What does your textbook outfit look like?



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Laila and Sarah happy in camel and artichoke pub waterloo
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The last three weeks.

The JabberwockBeware the JabberwockJamesC'est BonWuthering HeightsA new tomorrowWuthering Wuthering WutheringThe JabberwockTeam Captain Spleen during BODY
The last three weeks of my life have been dominated by a week of concerts at VAULT festival by WOLF PACK. WOLF PACK is a performance and music group I set up two years ago. Initially I set it up as a way to get through my horrific postgraduate degree but it quickly became a creative outlet for the ideas I had in my head and a platform where I could create the kind of performances I wanted to be involved in. My favourite events as a teenager were immersive theatre productions, exhibitions of performance art, small, intimate gigs and surreal plays. WOLF PACK is a combination of all those things.

We performed two different shows over the week, BODY and TEXT. For TEXT (above) we all dressed as literary characters (see how many you can guess from the photos) and for BODY (below) we all took on slightly different personas within a gameshow environment; alongside our cheesy gameshow host were two team captains (including me), a doctor, a nurse, a few sports nuts and a naked guy.
We had so many wonderful audience responses and many great nights out at the festival during our time performing there. I’m so grateful to VAULT for inviting us to play at their wonderful festival! If you’re interested you can find out more about the project here and VAULT festival is on for another three weeks so get on down there if you haven’t already…

Hot Body Rub performance PowSeven Nation Army at VAULTPresenting a gameshowCorporelSeven Nation ArmyReaching up for The Danilo

Tour Finale

backstage dressing room selfie yellow orla kiely coatsinks and random stuff backstage props water bottlesoutside the shed with white trainers on outside shed yellow mustard coat oral kiely beretI’ve currently got a kidney infection and today is the first day I’ve been at my laptop, hence the silence over the last week. I’ll spare you the grim details but aside from the obvious problems there have been a lot of annoying side effects. Due to the location of the kidneys, stretching out my back really hurts which makes walking and moving around difficult, and my tablets are making everything taste horrible (even water!).

These photos are from the end of my tour with Rhum & Clay. It brings to a close my two years of working with the company and it was quite weird to be finally saying goodbye. I’m so lucky I got to work with such a brilliant company so early in my career; I’ve learnt an invaluable amount from them and gained so much experience and confidence as a composer.

The last three weeks of the tour were in Exeter and I was back and forth between London for two of those weeks, which meant a lot of hanging around on cold train platforms with my bassoon as you can see. There’s also a few photos of the backstage area – backstage often have to double up as green rooms and dressing rooms and they are invariably messy; lots of shoes, caffeine, remnants of props, bolts of black fabric, LX tape and empty water bottles. My natural environment!

Thank you so much to Rhum & Clay and everybody involved in the tour. I’m so proud to have been a part of it!backstage long mirror selfie random stuff from in the dressing roombassoon dress matching mustard coat

The Wasp Factory


(Picture c/o Royal Opera House website)

This week I was back at home in London following a week off to recover from illness. I tried very hard to schedule in a minimum of work but still seem to be out of the house most days! By far the best thing I have done this week was see the recent production of ‘The Wasp Factory’ at the Royal Opera House and is an adaptation of the book of the same name by the late, wonderful Iain Banks. I’m normally very critical and am rarely “blown away” by anything, whether it’s art, music, theatre, games, books etc. ‘The Wasp Factory’ is one of my favourite books and of the few books that has “blown me away” but given that large amounts of the book are long anecdotes retold by Frank, the unreliable first person narrator, I was skeptical as to how well the book could be adapted for the stage.

However, I thought ‘The Wasp Factory’ was astoundingly good and I can’t remember the last time I felt such an impact from a show. Bold, striking, brave, innovative and extremely powerful, I spent the entire performance entranced and barely able to process what I was seeing. After the show had finished I just felt an overwhelming ache and numb shock; how can I make performances like that? How can I be in that show? Where can I learn to do that? I should have liked to have seen it on an even bigger stage with the orchestra hidden, projected backgrounds and a longer, more violent ending – but it was still completely magical.

It’s very rare for me to feel that kind of kinship with a work. I often think that’s why I create songs and music and concerts; because the ideas I have in my head so rarely exist in the physical world. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot I enjoy, but it’s so rare for me to find something that just chimes with my own ideas and feelings.

Matilda The Musical

Last Wednesday (as mentioned in my previous post) I went to see Matilda The Musical with my Mum. The show has been really well-received in the UK and recently opened to rave reviews on Broadway. I’ve studied musical theatre since I was young, and during university was focused mainly on contemporary musical theatre, especially trends and traditions in musical theatre singing (spot the essay title…).

I can see why Matilda is getting such great reviews. I personally found most of the music functional rather than fantastic (apart from a couple of standout tracks) but the playful, cheeky score does fit the tone of the show even if it’s not especially groundbreaking. I’d be interested in future Tim Minchin scores to see how he progresses as a composer. My favourite aspect was the ingenious set, which was used thematically throughout and really felt as though it had been ingrained in the development of the show. I also really enjoyed the choreography, which showed influences from contemporary ballet and was at times very surreal, something I wasn’t expecting from a commercial West End production. In the linked video to “Naughty” above you can see a brief example of the choreography – the actresses playing Matilda really reminded me of Quentin Blake’s iconic drawings with their jerky little arm movements.