Sunday, 23 May 2021

COMING HOME: Lewis Cornay, soon to be starring in John & Jen at the Southwark Playhouse

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back! 

Lewis Cornay is someone with fingers in many, many pies (his words, not mine). With a fantastic career in musical theatre, he also works as a writer and photographer. Not long before theatres shut their doors, Lewis was appearing in the West End production of The Book of Mormon and had just left the show in Feb 2020 after a year with the production. He’s also appeared in Just So at the Barn Theatre, was in the UK Tour of Titanic the Musical, played Ryder in Paw Patrol Live and as a child appeared in The King and I, The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. 

We met with Lewis fresh from the announcement that he’ll be starring in John & Jen, the world premiere of the brand new updated musical from Andrew Lippa, Tom Greenwald and Jason Robert Brown. We shot with him at the Southwark Playhouse which is where the show will be running from the 28th July to the 21st August 2021. He’ll be starring opposite musical theatre legend Rachel Tucker and will be under the direction of her partner, Guy Retallack. 

But with opportunities coming his way, Lewis makes a point of being wary of not falling into old habits. The world is getting back to some normality but it's important to take it at your own pace; “I’m like a Duracell Bunny and everything has to be a million miles an hour, which just leads to exhaustion and burnout. I think we need to accept that it’s going to take a bit of time to settle back into the hustle and bustle. There is no shame in taking it slowly, nor is there shame in navigating the world with a different set of behaviours.” 

As a writer, Lewis has accomplished so much including working in collaboration with The Other Palace for the song cycle ‘On Hope’, working with the Soho Writers Lab on his new play ‘Scally’ as well as working on various commissions coming out later this year. Lewis describes himself as a queer writer who “enjoys elevating under-represented voices with dark comedy and a smattering of rage against the patriarchy.” One of his most recent ventures is his new musical, Snowflake, which he is crowdfunding to take into further development. With Lewis writing, Julie Atherton attached to direct and Nick Barstow to develop orchestrations, this is bound to be an incredibly interesting project. 

On top of his writing and upcoming performance at the Southwark Playhouse, he will be performing in his first solo concert at The Crazy Coqs, as part of the reunited series he will be headlining with ‘An Afternoon With Lewis Cornay’  - an afternoon celebrating his original work. Before this Lewis will be sitting down with journalist Edward Seckerson, also at the Crazy Coqs, where he’ll discuss his career and sing some of the music that has shaped him in ‘Comparing Notes with Lewis Cornay’. You’d think with all of this Lewis wouldn’t have any time to do anything else, but you’d be wrong, he’s been building up his creative skills in a slightly different way over the pandemic; “I’ve learnt how to crochet and I’m in love. I’ve made blankets, hats and cardigans for friends. I have also started sewing and trying to alter old clothing, but this is very much a work in progress!” 

Lewis reflected on what this past year has done for theatre and with that points out how we must continue with a strong sense of community, “I think that during the pandemic we’ve really learnt the importance of community. I think there has been a tendency to become a bit insular in this industry and I hope that when we go back we can help each other out more. The more we collaborate, the more we can build theatre that’s urgent and fresh, whilst not at a cost to our mental health! I can’t wait to be with like-minded people again, feeling inspired and creatively charged.”

Going forward Lewis emphasises how he’s learnt to take care of his mental health and he appears to really have much clearer priorities; "I’m realising what I actually enjoy doing, rather than just accepting what other people want me to do. I’m interested to see what this will mean for work going forward. I’m also looking forward to making headway with my writing work and getting it into physical spaces rather than zoom!”

Chatting to him about what show he’d like to see when theatre is back he found it pretty hard to pick but he came to the decision that it would be anything at the national, telling us “I don’t mind the show I just love that place so much and have really missed it.” 

Lewis is an incredible talent that we are bound to see more of on stage and off, his writing is certainly going places and we cannot wait to see him in John & Jen when it opens at the Southwark Playhouse. 

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