Interview: The Choir of Man’s Aidan Banyard

Aidan Banyard, who's been with 'The Choir of Man' since it began at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, talks about the show, his audition and touring the country!

Aidan Banyard is touring theatres across America in The Choir of Man, a 90-minute show that is part party, part concert and all fun. The show, which is coming to San Diego’s Civic Theatre this Valentine’s Day, is set in a working pub where the cast sings, dances and and even invite audience members to join them on stage for a pint or two. What’s not to like?

In this interview, Banyard, who’s been with the show since it began at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, talks about the show, his audition, touring the country and more!

How’s the show going?

Aidan Banyard: It’s going really well. Everywhere would been, the crowds have loved it. We’re really enjoying it and seeing a lot of the country. We’re meeting loads people on the way. We’re having a blast.

Tell me about the show and, and your role.

Aidan Banyard: Yes, of course. The show is The Choir of Man, as you know. It’s a show set in a pub and we are a choir within that pub. So, as we say in the show, most pubs have a football team or a darts team, this pub has a choir. We sing covers of songs, we play multiple instruments. We give out free beer during the show. The audiences are encouraged and invited to come up with us on stage and join in. And it’s a big old raucous, pub concept musical.

And then my role within the show is, I am labeled the ‘Joker’. I get to have, I would argue the most fun. I get to mess around with people a lot. I get to joke around a bit and sing really loud songs.

This show originated in the UK?

 Aidan Banyard: Yes. Originally, we did it at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, I think? Yes, 2017 was the first Edinburgh Fringe we did. And back then, it was just this idea our producers had. We got cast in the show and we built the show around our musical tastes, what instruments we could play, what we could say and things like that. And then, we took it to Adelaide Fringe. We’ve toured Australia a bit. We’ve now got a cast on a cruise ship with the show. And yes, it’s getting bigger and bigger.

I think that’s amazing. You guys went from a Fringe Festival show and now you guys are touring all over the world.

Aidan Banyard: Yeah, it’s absolutely crazy. Sometimes we’d have to check ourselves.

How do you like touring America?

Aidan Banyard: Oh, it’s amazing. It can be hard work at times. We’re on sleeper coaches most of the time, so we all quickly got to know each other quite intimately, as you can imagine. But, yeah, we get to see to amazing places and meet some incredible people along the way. And it’s a really life-affirming experience.

How did you become involved in the show? Was it just a basic audition?

Aidan Banyard: Yeah, essentially. They sent the casting calls out. When they sent the casting out, they had done a week of workshops with a different group of guys because they had this concept of doing a show in a pub. And also, our producers also did an a cappella group called, Gobsmacked, and our director created another acapella group, called The Magnus. So, they’re very keen on big, harmony groups.

So yeah, they sent this casting out. I went along, did a vocal audition, did a movement audition for our choreographer. And then yeah, they hired nine of us. A few of the guys that did the workshop also came along to do the actual show.

And then, we just built the show our own personal tastes in music and also built it around our own personalities, so our characters are so of heightened versions of ourselves. It’s really fun to play with.

Doing the show for so long, and with the conditions from moving from place to place, how do you keep your voice in shape?

 Aidan Banyard: There’s nine of us in the cast, so and everyone has their routines and their own things to maintain that. I mean personally, I just, I make sure I got a lot of rest during the day as much as possible and stay hydrated. That personally works for me. And if I’m having a particularly tired day, I might have a little steam or something like that.

And because it’s such a vocally intense show, we always have warm-up so we’re all ready for the show.

But some of the guys have different things. One of our guys, Johnny, he’s a yoga instructor and he does a breathing technique which helps him through his day and vocally prepare. One of our guys has a humidifier, which he carries around with him everywhere. So, we all have our own little things in bits and pieces to keep us going.

What’s been your worst audition ever?

Aidan Banyard: So probably my worst… I’m not a dancer by any means. I can move quite well. I’ve taken dance classes in the past, so give me enough time and I can do a decent movement called in an audition, if I need to.

So, I go to this audition for, I think it was a cruise line a couple of years back. And they say it’s a movement call, which as an actor you go, “That’s fine, I can move a bit.” So, I get to this audition and it’s a full on dance routine. There’s about 30 of us there. And I sort of stumble around in the back, half getting it. I’m a bit phased by the whole thing. And then as, as you may well know, in movement dance calls, they split the group in half and you do the routine again. But then after that, and they break it down into three, so we have to perform at all within groups of three. So, at this point I can’t hide in the back. I’m panicking, now I’m going, “Oh crap, what do I do?” I sort of stumbled through this round of it.

Then, out of nowhere. The choreographer then turns to everyone and says, “We’re going to see everyone individually now, whilst everyone watches.” I panicked. I’ve never experienced this in an audition ever and never again since.

And then there is eight bars at the end where they give us a free movement, so we can do whatever we like to show off. So, we’ve got people coming up doing tricks, flips, back to the back flips. This guy comes up and does some river dancing and I’m like, “Oh God, what do I do?” I’m the last one and stumble through some of the routine. I sort of lose myself halfway through and the choreographer starts doing it with me so I can remember what I’m doing. And then for the eight bars at the end, I started doing the Running Man. I’ve gotten nothing. Everyone’s having a giggle. I’m so embarrassed. There’s no way to finish this in any way stylistically. So, I flipped the bird as best I can, pretend to drop the mike and then walk out the room.

For Tickets and More Info on The Choir of Man: Broadway San Diego

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