Ezme: I had the idea for Bowjangles in 2007. I enlisted the best performers I knew- my old Purcell School friend Bertie Anderson (viola) and Covent Garden busking friend Ed Bruggemeyer (violin), then we held auditions for the final member. Mitch McGugan passed our strange tests with flying colours and in February 2008 Bowjangles was complete!
The original idea was to choreograph music with dance moves to create a visually exciting show. We worked together creating material mostly on our own, sometimes enlisting the help of our dear friend choreographer Kraig 'Pix' Thornber, to create our first full length theatre show 'Revue'. This show was a mish mash of different sketches- a tango, a tap dance piece (with Bertie singing), a mash up of Vivaldi and 'Duelling Banjos', a version of 'Bare Necessities' (with Ed also singing), some Mozart, Bach, Nat King Cole's 'Unforgettable' and some foot stamping Gypsy music mixed in for good measure. In our first year together we travelled extensively performing 'Revue' across the globe, most notably in Australia (Brisbane Festival), Norway (Porsgrunn Festival), various street festivals in Spain, Barbados (Holders Season), closer to home at Glastonbury, Green Man and Henley Festivals, and at many private and corporate functions in the UK and Europe. It was a really fun beginning!
One of the pieces in 'Revue' was a rather unusual version of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik'- arranged by Bertie to be presented as a tennis match. This wasn't quite the choreographed 'dance' style that we were used to performing! But audiences loved it, and it planted the seed of an idea.... In late 2010, we decided to create a new show in time for the 2012 Olympics.. And 'Bowlympics' was born.
'Bowlympics' was new territory for Bowjangles. Up until this moment, we mainly just bopped around to tunes we liked, and strung these together one after the other with no real overarching thread- usually we just scribbled a set list on a scrap of paper 5 minutes before going on stage! With 'Bowlympics' we wanted to create more of a theatre show, where the sketches were linked together with more meaning. And so, the 'BJBC' (Bowjangles Broadcasting Corporation) was born. This proved to be an excellent device for linking the sports we chose to portray: Running, Fencing, Gymnastics, Tennis, Boxing and Synchronised Swimming were interspersed by us acting as TV presenters, using the scrolls of our instruments as microphones and dissecting our own performances.
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It was during 'Bowlympics' that we realised that audiences were finding us funny. Though we never set out to be particularly funny, this became a bonus feature and our shows have continued to make people laugh, prompting some reviewers to describe us as a comedy string quartet.
Bowlympics was performed over 100 times during 2012 and in 2013 we decided it was to create a new show. We really loved the concept of the BJBC and wanted to explore and develop it further, and the idea of portraying a sort of 'day in the life' of the BJBC became 'On The Box!'.
'On The Box!' began with our version of a morning TV show complete with cooking segment, then our very own soap opera 'Bow Street', the news and weather, a 'Strictly' style dance competition, and a late night horror film. We again became TV presenters to link each musical sketch, often slightly out of breath from the sketch immediately before :)
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On The Box ran from 2014- 2016.
At the beginning of 2015 we felt the urge to create a new show. Weirdly we very rarely had work in December so we came up with the idea of doing a Christmas show partly just to fill the month with some gigs! After some tussling of ideas we decided to base the show loosely on the tale of of 'A Christmas Carol'. We also wanted to get some panto in there, so 'A ChristmasH Carol' was born, mashing up Dickens and Dames. It took most of 2015 to create this show, grabbing afternoons here and there throughout spring and summer to play Christmas carols VERY LOUDLY with all the windows and doors open. We also had a tiny baby in our midst for most of this rehearsal period! Bertie gave birth to baby Poppy in June of that year, but barely stopped arranging and rehearsing. I think she took about 3 weeks off, then put Poppy in the sling and got straight back in the studio!
In February 2017 our violinist Ed decided it was time to move on and leave the group. This marked the beginning of a brief tumultuous period in the life of the group, where Bertie Mitch and I set about putting adverts wherever we could think of in the race to find a suitable replacement. We knew it was a very tough call to find someone who had all the talents we required - we needed someone who could play the violin, sing, dance and act all to a high standard, and who wanted to get involved in the creative process. At points it looked worryingly like we were never going to find someone who fit the bill, but on the first day of auditions in London in strode Ollie Izod. We all felt at ease with him immediately, and when he performed a section of his solo show to demonstrate to us what he was capable of and he thwacked his hair into Bertie's face, we knew we had found our fourth member.