Theatreland’s anonymous cult figure West End Producer makes his Edinburgh Fringe debut this summer with West End Producer (and Guests) – Free Willy!WEP, as he is known in theatrical circles, will be flipping theatre on its head with his first hilarious show as he auditions special guests for his Free Willy musical.
“I’m going there to find my Willy,” he explained. “It’s a fun show where I talk about my time in theatre, I have lots of fun with the audience, teach them the rules of the business, how to act properly. There, you see, the show’s slightly different as the audience are all auditioning. It is an open audition for my Dolphin Ensemble, they are auditioning to be part of my musical!
“They will be getting involved, on stage, as well as my special guest, later on, who I’m auditioning for the coveted role of Killer Whale Willy. So, it involves lots of songs, me showing material from my Free Willy show, talking about theatre, lots of silly little anecdotes that have happened to me throughout the years and getting some of the audience on stage.
“Someone will win some show pants and someone will be my Willy of The Day! Hopefully the special guest will have the talent that I’m looking for to be my whale.”
Whilst WEP has an open mind about who his Willy will be, there are a few essential requirements needed for the role. “I’m looking for an actor who eats exclusively fish, can dive down to depths of at least 2,000 metres, who is black and white and can speak in Welsh. It is essential that they can do all of those things, you see. Ideally, if they can also hold their breath for at least 30 minutes as the show is going to be performed in the first ever giant fish tank housed, permanently, outside The Houses of Parliament.” Well then, that should be easy!
For those of you who may not be familiar with WEP, I asked him for a little background to his time in theatreland.
“I was actually born on the stage during a particularly bloody version of Macbeth, you see. And, if you’re born on stage, that’s the only way to guarantee that you are going to be involved in the entertainment business.
“After that I used to work backstage at my local theatre and went on a national tour, working backstage in a junior position assistant stage managing and playing a tiny little role in one of the shows, My Fair Lady. In this production the woman who played the leading role of Eliza Doolittle couldn’t dance all night, which was a bit of a shame because it didn’t really work with the song I Could Have Danced All Night, so I thought I’ll do my own production, my dear. I did, it toured so well and I’ve been putting the eatre into theatre ever since.
“I’ve also done some talent competitions, Search For A Twitter Star at the Lyric Theatre looking for a talent of tomorrow. We did a few shows at the Soho Theatre, theatrical composers of the future, my dear, which was also marvellous.”
Could it be, then, that a certain Simon Cowell has modelled himself on WEP?
“Oh that’s 100% right. I don’t like to go on about it but, yes, he did! And does!”
Did that extend to wearing one’s trousers high?
“Well, my dear, it depends on how much pasta I’ve eaten, how bloated I am, you see. If I haven’t I can wear the trousers high, if I have then I have to wear them a bit lower.”
WEP’s own talents know no bounds and he is a familiar sight around the West End.
“I go to all the shows and I write a weekly article for The Stage newspaper. I’ve also written two books on theatre and entertainment Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Acting (But Were Too Sloshed To Ask), Dear, and the second about going to the theatre, so I’m heavily involved which is great fun.”
And so, WEP is now looking forward to his debut at the Edinburgh Fringe.
“I am beyond thrilled to be spending the summer in Edinburgh as I search for my perfect Free Willy. I’ve been in Edinburgh many times, my dear, since the sixties, but lots of those stories must remain anonymous… I’ve visited the Fringe many times, seen lots of shows and I just thought I’d do my own this year. Why not? You only live once, don’t you?
“There is always a special atmosphere, it involves vomiting in the streets, lots of people losing their way and losing lots of money. It’s absolutely bloody horrific! It should be good, dear, and the weather should hold out, I’ve had a little look, and we have some lovely venues. I think the show should be rather fun!
“These things are not easy to find and, when you are dealing with the so called talent I tend to be stuck with, it is a terrifically hard job. I will need your help so please do visit me in Edinburgh and together we will find my Willy.”