I have had a blast performing “Down the Rabbit Hole” on tour. The storybook opera has been brought to life with a fantastic team, and today, I would like to share with you some information about our spectacular cast.
George Todică undertook the role of “Music Director and Collaborative Pianist.”George creates new atmospheres during the opera, highlights key visual moments and develops the story by performing music on the piano, chimes and glockenspiel. George wears many hats in this production (both figuratively and literally!) – he provides a voice-over for the Caterpillar. He appears onstage as the King of Hearts and the Mad Hatter in a black top hat with a curly green wig.
Born in Iasi, Romania, George started his formal musical training at age 6; he completed an Artist Diploma from The Royal College of Music, London, in 2019. Previously graduating with a First Class Bachelor of Music Degree and a Masters of Music in 2017 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is a classical pianist and has won many competitions and performed in prestigious venues around the World. Read more at https://www.georgetodica.com/
Zoë McWhinney undertook the roles of Actor and Collaborator in this production. Once I had written the libretto and sketched out illustrations of the songs and arias, Zoë used her expertise in British Sign Language (BSL) as a native signer and poet to create the translation, which we recorded together on Zoom. During the live performance, Zoë performs several characters: Margaret (Alice’s sister), the White Rabbit, Alice’s Shadow, the Crocodile, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the Queen of Hearts. Zoë masterfully portrays these characters by using different facial expressions, physical mannerisms and specific signs to give each character an individual personality and accent.
Born in London. Zoë McWhinney is a Visual Vernacular performer and a poet in BSL. As a Deaf person and native BSL signer, she works as a freelance theatre maker, consultant and workshop facilitator in BSL storytelling, poetry and Deaf culture. She is an alumnus (‘20) of Ecole Theatrale Universelle, an actress on stages and screens. She also works as an in-vision translator.
Naomi Gray performs the role of Integrated Actor Interpreter. I wanted “Down the Rabbit Hole” accessible to children and families across the hearing spectrum. Naomi provided the BSL translation and voice-over during the scenes to ensure this happens,. Sometimes she would sign/speak on behalf of another character in the space; at other times, she would be a signing character in Wonderland. Naomi also helped ensure that the signing and spoken dialogue worked harmoniously. For example, we would sometimes opt to use Sign Support English (SSE) so that the lip pattern follows the spoken text and, at other times, change the spoken script to follow BSL. Naomi performs several characters: Narrator, Dormouse; Cake; and the Card.
After a decade of working with the London d/Deaf community, Naomi qualified as a BSL/English Interpreter in 2019. Passionate about performing, she recently gained a BA Hons in Acting. She has been involved in various deaf-accessible theatres over recent years, including Robin Hood & The Babes In The Wood, CAST Doncaster. / Mirror Mirror, Red Earth Theatre Co. / Horrible Histories: The Dreadful Deaf, Deafinitely Theatre. NAOMI GRAY (spotlight.com)
Charlotte Hoather, alongside the cast, I perform the role of Alice. I sing, act, sign and speak. I have taken sign language lessons online with a deaf teacher called Alesia at DMCS since May 2021 after taking a basic online course before then. It has been a wonderful challenge to combine BSL with music, and I have loved every minute. I was spurred on to keep exploring this skill after a year five student at Frank Barnes School for Deaf on Wednesday morning signed: “Thank you for making the opera accessible and for using British Sign Language in the creative storytelling. It meant we could get fully involved too.” This feedback and more like it has encouraged me to keep learning BSL and see how I can make music more accessible in the future. Some children have creatively suggested what we could do next as they’d like to see more.
I recently read on the RNID website that there are 12 million adults with hearing loss greater than 25 dBHL. This is equivalent to one in five adults.
Next week, I will discuss the operational and management people behind the scenes who worked out the logistics from booklet delivery to set get-in and get-out, stage timings, costume changes and repairs, cleaning and sanitising all the things that helped to bring the production to life safely.
61 thoughts on “Down The Rabbit Hole – Meet The Cast”
Your cast is a wonderful lineup of very talented people, Charlotte! I’m glad that this production went so well for you and all of those involved. ❤️😊
Thank you John, when I started I hadn’t realised quite the amount of administration, contract law, all sorts of things that I had to learn and quickly as in my enthusiasm I had only given myself three months to get the whole project to rehearsal stage, fortunately my parents have been running small businesses for over 40 years and they helped behind the scenes giving up their weekends off work.
George also was a fantastic help at home, encouraging me, calming me down when things went wrong, rehearsing the music with me and offering his suggestions for improvements. This weekends post will be about the people behind the scenes.
Best wishes and Good Friday to you,
Wow, I’m glad that your family is so supportive! Good people. ☺️🇬🇧☺️
Most impressive, Charlotte!
Such a wonderful collaboration – great effort!!
Congratulations to you all for this amazing production.
Thank you Sheila, Chloe my Stage Manager has typed up all the feedback notes from the children for me, we collected blob trees of the children’s emotions before the show and after the show and I now have to find the time to collate it all for Arts Council England but first George and I are taking are delayed mini-moon for Easter, sadly because of his competition and work commitments we can’t get a full week, he’s just got some final tasks today.
Sounds like a lot of “unfun” paperwork, but it must be done. Such important research on your project!
But enjoy your mini-moon this weekend!
Make good memories!
You have put together a wonderful cast. It’s great you and George can work together to bring music to children, influence young lives, and inspire young people to pursue their dreams and achieve greatness no matter what handicaps they might have. In truth, handicaps only exist in the minds of people who haven’t experienced the difficulties of trying to overcome the barriers they put have put in place against the differently abled. Bless you, George and the cast for working to break down those barriers.
George and I first met working together as a Duo to participate in the Kathleen Ferrier Bursary competition when I was at the start of my second year at the conservatoire and he in the third year of his music (piano) degree, only two duo performers are selected to do this competition from each of the eight conservatoires and we were very excited and won the audience prize.
We have worked a lot together since then although we both concentrate on our solo careers hence not changing my performance name when we got married, although I may rename our lied duo The Todica Duo.
At one of the London schools the children asked how long we’d all known each other and were very excited that we were married and went back and told one of their teachers hehe a little bit of inside gossip.
You are correct it is very important to me now to break down the barriers, I was inspired by a deaf actress who starred in Strictly Come Dancing. I always hid my hearing loss through school, and conservatoire training unless I had to discuss it through disclosure questions on applications or under interview, one interviewer that directly asked me about my hearing loss was one that I didn’t get an offer from. There are very few alterations I have to ask for and the piano is typically sited on the side of my good ear anyway a perfect fit and most operas and productions have live music, plus when I was on tv the sound engineers were fantastic and just adjusted the earpiece technology for me.
Is it still common in the UK for a woman to change her name when she gets married? Our son-in-law changed his name to Price. A lot of women don’t change their names when they get married in the USA now. The divorce rate is high, so why bother right?
Your hearing loss has not held you back and it’s great you choose to use your talents to help others.
I read about Rush Limbaugh’s hearing loss and his cochlear implants some years ago. The one thing that stuck with me from the article is that he said he could recognize any music that he had heard before during his lifetime before the implants, but any music he hadn’t heard before was unrecognizable noise. I found that fascinating because that indicates our brains keep every sound we have ever heard stored away and can process and recall previous sounds heard by are natural ears, but our brains can’t process new sounds that is not in our brain’s sound library through implants. He could understand speech because all the words he had ever heard were in his brain to be recalled and processed instantly, but I assume a new language would have been impossible for his brain to process.
Oh my really! It’s still common in the UK to change your name, my youngest brother Thomas’s wife became Hoather last year. My Mum and Dad have been married 40 years this year, I think its coming up to George’s parents 40th anniversary too, and my Nana and Grandad will celebrate their 60th anniversary in April 2025, my other grandparents made it to 60 years + too. We have good role models.
Thats interesting about Limbaugh. I was never offered a cochlear implant and in a way I’m glad I wasn’t because I’m told it can be a very mechanical sound and often results in tinnitus. The way I hear is the way I’ve heard from birth so the sounds I process are all correct uniquely to me if you know what I mean. I was talking very young so it wasn’t picked up when I was a tiny baby and my hearing is 100% on the other side. I was offered some speech therapy by a lovely opera singer called Yvonne during lockdown and I benefitted from that enormously as it lowered my talking pitch.
Laurie and I will celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary at the end of May. My parents made it over 60 years and Laurie’s parents will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in October.
Thank you for introducing the cast. Of course, only two are relative strangers to most of us who read your blog, still nice to see all four of you.
I am sure what that student signed to you helped make this project even more satisfying. What a wonderful thing to know that you are accomplishing what you set out to do and are touching the kids in a positive way 🙂
Looking forward to meeting the behind the scenes folk.
I have loved making blog friends, especially ones from overseas, over the past ten years. You have always been a great support and encourager to me Trent.
I have loved getting to know Zoe since February 2022 when I first did a week’s research and development with her, she is the first Deaf person I have worked or collaborated with, she is an inspiration to me. George, Zoe and I used the woojer vest technology and spent a week trying out different scenes and activities with the help of two interpreters during the rehearsals, Dee was very helpful giving me tips on what I can do to improve my personal lip reading and signing. I’m even more happy that Arts Council England gave me a ‘develop your creative practise grant’ that allowed me to do this R&D and pay for a course of BSL lessons that allowed me to communicate with Zoe in her own language instead of only through the interpreter although I’ve got a long way to go with that.
I was so happy when I got the funding in the November 2022 and that Zoe signed on for the full project and collaborated with me to get the sign and movements how she would want to watch it. Naomi and Zoe know each other well and when my original integrated interpreter pulled out I was so happy that Naomi signed on for the full project as other people could only do a couple of days here or there. She was absolutely fantastic and in the two weeks rehearsals really got stuck in, offering her ideas for improvements and really bringing her characters to life. Throughout the tour she allowed audiences to participate because she signed and was amazing with the children, really able to think on her feet and get the children warmed up before the show started.
It was nice to learn a bit about the cast members here, Charlotte. Easy to see this was destined to be a successful production!
Thank you Bruce for your confidence in us. I have been reading through the feedback that Chloe my Stage Manager typed up for me and looking through the blog tree feedback pages the children filled in, now I need to compilate all that for the ACE summary report. I was really happy when a couple of our funders one in Winsford and one in London were able to come to one of the shows and were so happy with the results, in fact one gave me a some more money afterwards and the other said it was money very well spent and really enjoyed it.
Such talent assembled for this amazing project! Charlotte, you have secured your place in history with this. Brava!! xoxo
My life is happier having you in it this past ten years. You are such a positive person it brings out the best in me. I have your book ‘Go You’ with me everywhere.
Best wishes and Happy Easter,
I must agree that the quality of my life is far greater since you have been a part of it. May you have such a lovely holiday weekend. Love to you and George. xx
Impressive project, dear Charlotte! Good luck!👍👍👍🥳🥳🥳🌷🌷🌷🎊🎊🎊
Thank you Maria, I would love to take the storybook opera to a larger family audience next as a couple of the schools allowed parents to attend a few with much younger children and I was amazed to see them sit as good as gold for an hour during the show. It was also fabulous to see the parents try out the sign language and join in the educational games too. We got good feedback from them as they were leaving too. 😊
Congrats on your Down the Rabbit Hole performance, Charlotte! What a wonderful cast and a worthy cause too. I’m sure it was a memorable experience for all the children attended.
Thank you Arti, I managed to raise the extra funds with the help of easyfundraiser and friends to get the extra 400 booklets printed so all the children have a storybook of the opera with a colouring in section as a memento and learning aid, we printed 1100 and I only have a few left.
Congratulations to the cast and to you, Charlotte.
Thank you John 😊
Best wishes and Happy Easter
Happy Easter to you a well.
Awesome cast. 👍
Thank you Mart, are you in any shows this Easter Weekend? I hope it stays this sunny all weekend.
Hi Charlotte, no shows this weekend I’m afraid. My first show could be in a couple of weeks if the weather is nice. I have had a few jobs I wanted to get done in the garden this long weekend. But as my wife returned my car like it had been dragged through a swamp with mud over it, I spend all day today cleaning my car as well as hers. 🤦♀️
Hahaha, I took my brother’s dog out in my car so I’ve got a big vac job to do little doggy hairs everywhere. He was very well behaved actually because they were long journeys.
Our little dogs don’t mind the car, it’s just trying to get them in the car in the first place. My dog wants to bark at everything, the wife’s dog will curl up straight away and go to sleep.
How wonderful to meet the cast. It looks as if you all fitted together and what a talent is on display here too. So inspiring to show young people that nothing need hold them back. Congratulations once again.
There was some great synergy, I taught Zoe how to play the glockenspiels and George did magnificently keeping in time with us both, Naomi is such an easy person to work with and gave lots of her own character ideas. Backstage Chloe kept us all in costume change order and curtain/scene timing I’ll be blogging about my back stage crew next week.
You absolutely need that kind of support and easiness to work with from a cast especially on a tour xxxxxx
Such a fine talented group. Nice bios, Charlotte.
Gosh, George began his music training at the age of 6.
Well his big brothers and Dad started him off on the piano at around age three, he liked to sit at the piano while they practised, then they got him a professional teacher at 6 because he was natural and enjoyed it so much. I started dancing, ballet and tap before I was three too the class was called pre-primary I loved it, and I used to sing along to Disney sing-along videos and Barney at home so my Mum and Dad got me Saturday morning club classes dancing, singing and acting hehe my first role was Thumberlina.
Sure different than my early days. Any attempt at art usually got me a crack on the rear. Mom never appreciated my crayon drawings on the wall.
Hahaha my Mums got boxes in her loft with our scribblings in, dont know if i crayoned on walls. I was putting pink food colouring in cake mixture and spilt it all down the new wooden kitchen doors, big trouble for that one!
Oh, you little imp, you.
This is fascinating, especially to read a bit more about George.
Thank you Derrick, he has been so busy since the end of the tour, he whizzed up to Scotland for a solo piano concert, then straight into a trio competition with his Chloe trio (piano, violin and cello), and he was also awarded a grant to put on a festival with his trio that he now has to organise, I think he has reserved a slot for our Duo so we’ll have to prepare a set for that too, exciting.
Thank you for all the cast information, Charlotte. What talented, highly-qualified and caring people you all are. I am so pleased it has been a success and fun too.
Thank you Clare, it has been a truly heart warming tour. At one school in Winsford a blind girl stayed behind after the show to sit with George, she loves Chopin and George played her a nocturne and she put her fingers on his then played a piece for him, it was fantastic and I’m so pleased that she enjoyed the show too.
What a wonderful thing to have happened! xx
A lovely post Charlotte, inviting all of us to meet your cast and to understand how important this kind of project has been. I know how hard you all worked but you especially to organise and bring it all together, so a very well done 👏👏👏👏 here’s to more in the future. 🥰😘
Thanks Gill, thank you for helping to make the hedgehogs I have a few casualties hehe, most school children had made their own and some fantastic hedgehogs we saw too, some of the children gave them names. Now I just have to make time to give all the feedback to ACE.
Thanks for sharing this cast. Si inspiring to show these young people. Congratulations👏 Anita
Thank you I’m glad you enjoyed reading about the cast.
A wonderful cast. Compliments to all…
(Has George completely become a Mad-Hatter? Or is there a Mad-Pianist…😉)
Ooo I like that!
Mad pianist is more fun, plus all the best people are truly bonkers 😝.
(“bonkers”? So utterly British of you… 😉)
Haha! Some people try to turn words like ‘bonkers’ now saying they’re hurtful and offensive but I prefer the meaning as my family used it to apply to me – very fond, enthusiastic, or excitable. She’s bonkers wearing that, or for/about dancing, or singing. He’s bonkers for/about her. A person who just doesn’t do things the same as everyone else, she’s ‘crackers’ is another fond expression. 😊 Is there a french equivalent?
“hurtful and offensive” now covers such a wide range… Alice will be re-written some day… Hurtful to rabbits… 🐰 🤣
Bonkers… Bonkers… Lemme think…
Crazy/mad would be “dingue”, “givré” (Iced up), “chtarbé”, “cinglé”… As you use it? Passionné? BUt you could also say “braque”, “fada” (which would be in the South, Marseille), “loufoque”. The latter would be the closest to your bonkers.
Stay bonkers. Don’t you ever change… 🙏🏻
Yes we had a big debate in the news recently about re-writing Rhoald Dahl, I grew up reading his books so I hope they don’t. I love the nonsense literature genre it suits my imagination 😃 .
Re-writing is just an exercise in Ideology, (the human discipline most devoid of ideas…)
How lovely to see you and your team making music to become more inclusive. And such an inspiration to have you as an example to up and coming people who wish to enter the industry but are wary of how they will fit in. Wishing you a marvelous spring season.
Lovely to hear from you, I hope your travels are still going well and recovered after the covid lockdowns. Thank you for your lovely message.
Very informative sharing of talented people 😊
Thank you for taking the time to pop along to read my post.
You’re welcome 😊
This is a fabulous cast, Charlotte….. Ms. Producer/Director!!!!
You are impressive.
I am thrilled and honoured to know you!