Composer Gianluca Cucchiara talks about newly anticipated musical ‘Vanara’ showing at the Hackney Empire

A decade long creative process, started from the seed of an idea by composer Gianluca Cucchiara, Vanara – The Legend will make its debut at the Hackney Empire from the 22nd to the 31st October. Following a series of workshops and a concept album, West End and international talent will tell the story of a young woman caught between the battle of protecting tradition and pursuing her progressive spirit. Ahead of the production, Gianluca tells us more about the show, and its environmental message.

Hi Gianluca. An ensemble of West End and international talent will launch the world premiere of Vanara – The Legend in late October at the Hackney Empire. How are you feeling ahead of the run?

It is an incredible feeling of excitement– this show has a very long history because it was conceived more than ten years ago in Italy by my father Tony, and we did a workshop there that sowed the seeds of what Vanara is today. When I moved to London, I decided to start working on a new version in English for an international audience, so I asked my friend and award-winning movie and theatre producer Giovanna Romagnoli to be involved with me. She loved the idea and the music, and since then we never stopped working to bring Vanara to a London Theatre. We had the chance to put together an incredible creative team and the most amazing cast and now here we are here and ready to go.

Vanara – The Legend explores the rivalry held by two tribes locked in an age-old battle, the show centring on a young woman who must make a choice between protecting the traditions of her people or challenge everything she has taught. What inspired you to take part in the production and explore this narrative further?

I think we are all asked every day to make choices and every time we will be influenced by our past, our experience, our knowledge but also by a strong wish to move forward, break our own rules and be ourselves to find a better future. This is what Ayla does, she wants to think with her own mind, she is a progressive and she doesn’t want to live a life that is not hers. I strongly believe everyone should fight for who they are and for their aspirations. I want to promote this message and also an environmental message that the show carries.

What has the process for creating the show’s compositions involved?

First of all lots of focus and attention to storytelling which is the essence of every song and composition for Vanara – the Legend. It’s a story full of interesting characters and creating the identity of each one of them trough music has been the goal.

It is a show set in another time on another earth and it has a multicultural cast. The story talks about a struggle to own fire and has a very primal and tribal background.

The music has to create a world, and reflect all these elements, so the process of creating the sound of the show involved lots of research and listening to world music, primal sounds and ethnic instrument palettes. The orchestration that I am doing with the talented Jen Green, is full of these elements: world percussions, ethnic flutes and exotic guitars but the score is very contemporary and also has a strong base of traditional musical theatre. I am also very pleased to have in the team MD Tamara Saringer who is bringing the music to life in a wonderful way.

The premiere follows workshop performances and a concept album released earlier on in the show’s creation. What have you taken away from this part of the process?

When you start with a script and a score you never know when this is going to be finished, it probably never ends. Since we started I changed or removed some songs and we are still writing and re-writing for the Hackney Empire run, but the work we have previously done has given us the spirit, the heart and the basis of what the show is today. We had the chance to experiment with many aspects of the production, choreography, acting, body language, the vocal style, screaming and the primal sounds of the forest.

What are your hopes for the show?

I hope this show is going to be seen by many people and is going to have a long life. Since I started work on the first song with my friend, and excellent lyricist Andrew James Whelan, we realised that we had something that would touch people’s hearts.

From day one, the show has been well received by the audience in readings or workshops, and we all hope this will continue.

What can audiences expect from the show?

Lots of emotion, fun and an amazing script from our book writer Michael Conley, incredible choreography by choreographer and co director Eleesha Drennan. Passion, love, power from the dynamic co direction of Adam Lenson but most of all the excitement to see something new and to be part of the creative process of a show. I believe Vanara has all the ingredients to entertain and wow an audiences.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?

The powerful message that we are all equal, we are all the same, and we all live in the same forest. That’s the meaning of the word Vanara, from the Sanskrit, people belonging to the forest, and that belonging, sharing and supporting each other is the meaning of our show.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Vanara will show from Friday 22nd until Sunday 31st October 2021 at the Hackney Empire. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop