Neil Johnson has been busy lately: in addition to working his normal day job, he spends at least three evenings a week and one weekend session at rehearsals with Pirate Productions, a group which has staged English musical theatre productions for nearly 40 years.
He is currently directing “Young Frankenstein”, the performances of which will run 8-11 November 2018 at the Kinneksbond. If that weren’t enough, he is also co-writing a pantomime based on the Melusina legend which will be performed in early 2019. Johnson has been in the theatrical group for over 20 years and stumbled into it after a colleague heard him sing karaoke and encouraged him to take to the stage. “I used to go to the theatre a lot in London, but had only been in a choir until then,” he says.
In his first role with Pirates, Johnson was “the third fan holder from the left in the chorus” in “The Mikado”, a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera. One of the things he enjoys about Pirates is that “you can dip into it as much or as little as you want,” the only prerequisite being that it’s an English-language theatre group, so anyone who wants to perform should have a fairly good level of English.
Nevertheless, “there is plenty to do for those who don’t like to be on stage,” Johnson says, be it lighting, props, costumes, sound, set design, etc. The rehearsals and performances plus the occasional social evenings “foster a real sense of community. It’s a great way to meet a lot of people.” Johnson was a newcomer 27 years ago but recalls after six months having a “really diverse group of friends. London is quite diverse but it’s a huge city, so people tend to stay in their tribe.”
But meeting people also “requires some effort,” he admits, adding: “It helps to be proactive, even join a club.”