‘Message In A Bottle’ is a sensational new dance-theatre show at Peacock Theatre in Holborn. Healthy Living London was delighted to be invited down to see the creation by the Director and Choreographer Kate Prince MBE, and interview one of the performers and assistant choreographers, Tommy Franzen.
Fusing a spectacular display of dance, athleticism and emotive story-telling, Message In A Bottle, is an uplifting story of humanity and hope. Set to a soundtrack of much-loved songs by Sting, Kate Prince’s newest effort uses hip hop and street dance to tell the story of three siblings who are forced to leave their village, which is under siege, forcing them apart to go on their own extraordinary adventures.
It is an exhilarating display of dance; both expressive and impressive in equal measure. I was absolutely gripped from the moment the performance began. The courageous choreography really brings the music alive. I found myself transfixed in my seat, tapping my feet, bobbing and at times sobbing along to the iconic hits by Sting, including Every Breath You Take, Roxanne, Walking On The Moon, Fields of Gold, Englishman in New York and Shape of My Heart.
The cast are absolutely phenomenal. It’s incredible to think there is no dialogue in this performance, just the lyrics of the songs and the incredible skill of the cast, who guide you through the story beautifully through their dance, movement and expressions, enhanced by some brilliant use of props, visuals and lighting on set, including a giant sand timer!
I was particularly moved by a scene in the story where they are forced to make a perilous and dangerous journey across the sea, like many asylum seekers do every day. The way the cast contorted themselves and in such unison was incredible. It looked just like they were riding through a huge sea, on an inadequate inflatable boat, yet there was no boat, just absolutely magnificent choreography, movement and story telling.
I can absolutely recommend you take in this inspiring performance. An incredible testament to the skill and story-telling that can be achieved through dance, but also the breath-taking displays of sheer skill and athleticism among the dancers. Tickets available here.
Tommy has been dancing with ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company for many years. He was a runner-up on So You Think You Can Dance (2010), has appeared in Mamma Mia! among other musical movies, and has choreographed for Strictly Come Dancing!
1. In your own words, how would you describe this production,
Message in a Bottle?
It’s the most spectacular storytelling told through, dance, visuals and lyrics
in the songs. We are addressing very current and relevant issues of the world and hope to get to our audiences’ hearts. The team behind the
scenes and the performers on stage are all incredible artists.
2. Tell us about your work as a performer and also an assistant
choreographer in the show?
I’m playing one of the siblings Mati, which is one of the stories that we follow in the show. As an assistant choreographer to Kate Prince I’ve been
helping out mainly with my character’s solos and movement but also
generally with a bit of the floor work sections.
3. How does it feel to be involved with this project and how does it compare to other performances you have worked on?
I feel very privileged and grateful to be part of this beautiful production. It’s been incredibly fulfilling, both during the creation period and now performing the piece. The story is very real and we are addressing some real issues out there in the world.
4. What is your favourite part of the show?
That’s difficult to say as I love all the parts. In some of the scenes I get very tired and others I get to enjoy them a bit more. There is a duet I do in the second half that I really enjoy performing to “Shape Of My Heart.”
5. Sting’s music is so iconic – what’s your favourite song in the
All the songs are so epic. I think it might be Brand New Day with Stevie
Wonder playing the harmonica.
6. Where do you get your inspiration from when choreographing
It is different every time. Most often it comes from the music, but it might also be from the story I’m trying to tell.
7. Where did you train as a dancer, and which disciplines or
styles of dance are your favourite to perform?
I initially started dancing in Sweden in some hip hop dance styles, but I also do jazz and tap. In 2000, I got a scholarship to go to The Urdang Academy,
and did a diploma in Performing Arts. Today I enjoy dancing various hip
hop styles and contemporary the most.
8. How many hours a week do you train / dance and what do you
do to keep your body in peak condition?
During rehearsals for a show we’d be dancing more or less seven hours
per day, six days per week. Of course it’s not constant for the whole seven
hours but it’s still a lot of dancing. When I’m not in a dance contract, I go
climbing probably three days per week for about three to four hours at a
time. I also do martial arts classes a few times a week.
9. Are there any particular techniques you use, or a diet you
follow to help you stay healthy and injury free?
The main thing is that my diet is plant-based and I make sure I get all the
nutrients and protein I need for my hard-working body. My shake I make in the morning for breakfast probably contains all the minerals and vitamins I
need for the whole day.
10. Who has been your greatest inspiration in your life and career
to date and why?
I think it’s my first dance teacher I had in Sweden, David Johnson. He is the
reason I started dancing as I loved watching him perform. I think you can
sometimes spot him in my performance still today.
11. What, if any are the greatest challenges you have had to face
or overcome in your career as a dancer?
There are many challenges as a dancer for sure. For me the greatest challenge is probably trying to always become a better performer/dancer
than I was before. Each show I do I strive to do a better job than before.
12. How do you like to spend your days off?
During this show I like to do nothing on my days off. Maybe go for a walk
along the river and watch a good film or series.
13. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Performing for a live audience. I love that feeling of giving them a great experience. I do also really enjoy the creation period for a new show. It’s
very exciting to see the idea forming and coming to life. Lastly, I do enjoy the fact that my career is so varied, so I rarely get bored.
14. What, if anything do you not enjoy about your job?
Injuries! They are the worst and I get mentally affected too when my body can’t do what I want it to do.
15. What advice would you give to those who also dream of
working as a professional dancer?
Be persistent and keep working on your craft. Make sure you are constantly growing. Find an inspiration to keep going such as another dancer, teacher, music artist, show or whatever that will keep your fire going.
Where is it: The Peacock, Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2A 2HT
How to book: Tickets available here
How long does it run for: Running at The Peacock until 21 March, then touring