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Logistics, Love and The Lord of the Rings

Company members Peter Dukes and Sioned Saunders tell us all about rehearsing an epic musical whilst living on site with two small children, and why they couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be in The Lord of the Rings.  

Tell us about your roles in The Lord of the Rings…

Peter: I am playing Boromir. I have been obsessed with this story since I was eleven years old, so this is a dream come true. I love his passion and the grounding he brings especially as he comes into the story from a different place to all the other characters and for me that is really exciting. 

Sioned: I’m the on-stage Musical Director, working alongside Mark Aspinal who is the Musical Supervisor and Orchestrator. My role is to make sure it all runs smoothly musically and sounds great!

Peter: And you play multiple instruments and act and sing… 

Sioned: Yes, I am part of the ensemble as well. I play an Elf called Elránien so I get to speak some Elvish and there is also some Welsh in the show, which is amazing. Elvish has really got that sound of Welsh to it, so I find it quite easy to speak. We are all actors and musicians, but this one is a bit different for me, with a lot of my focus on the Musical Direction. 

What does being in The Lord of the Rings mean to you both?

Sioned: We both saw the musical before we were together, and when we met, we discovered our mutual love for the musical and the incredible score. I wouldn’t say I was a super-fan like Pete…

Peter: I grew up reading the books and listening to the BBC radio play which sparked my obsession with it. I remember listening to that on cassette in the car with my dad. I was at Drama school when the show was in Drury Lane, and it blew my mind.  

Sioned: When we got married, we had Now and for Always from the show played at the wedding.  

Peter: We both love the score so much, soI arranged it for Mandolin, Guitar, Violin and Vocals and it still remains one of my favourite moments of our wedding day. We also went to New Zealand on our honeymoon and visited a lot of the sites from the movies.

Sioned: We found quite a lot of the locations… 

Peter: …including Mount Doom! 

Sioned: Yes, we climbed Tongariro, which was hard, but it was incredible.  

Peter: We started at 4am and saw the sun come up over the volcano. It was extraordinary. It is also one for the reasons we named our daughter Rosie in relation to Sam’s Rosie in the story. 

How have rehearsals been progressing?  

Sioned: The answer to that is chaos because of family logistics.  We have our two young children living here at The Watermill with us. There are so many other things on your mind all the time, which is a challenge for any parents in the industry or working parents in general. However, it’s been really special to be back in a room with like-minded people and playing that score and having fun. How lucky are we to be able to do that and have our children around?! I was worried about being away from Lyra because she is still so small, but unbelievably she is able to be right here with us, a thirty second walk away doing what we absolutely love.

Peter: It is so special that The Watermill have been able to make that possible. To have both parents in this industry and on stage at the same time, in the same show with two young children is just unheard of. That is such a rare opportunity and the theatre needs to be congratulated on that because it just doesn’t happen. They have gone above and beyond for us to give us the opportunity to do our job which sums up how difficult it is being parents in this industry at the moment.

The really special bits for me are what everybody involved has brought to the table.  It is truly an ensemble effort across all departments, and that individual commitment, care and detail from every single person is quite something. The creatives, cast and backstage are really going to have to pull together to create this because it is purely epic. It is an enormous story and an enormous responsibility to put this show on and that is the biggest challenge. To know that we have truly honoured this story, that is so important for me personally and I don’t want to feel like I have not done that for those fans like me out there.

What is it like being back at The Watermill?

Peter: It’s always a treat coming back to work here. Between us, we have probably done over twelve shows at The Watermill.
Sioned: It always feels like coming home.  

Peter: That is why we always end up coming back and I think it is the only theatre in the world that we could have both taken a job and have two small children and the work is so extensively different to anywhere else.  

Sioned: It’s the escapism from everything as well which makes the work become more special.  

Peter:  My first job was Crazy for You in 2016 and I have done six or seven since then including Assassins and Twelfth Night which was probably the best thing I have done in my career, something we were all really proud of.

Sioned: I was here in 2019 doing Amélie when I was pregnant with Rosie.

Peter: Then when she was five weeks old, I did Assassins

Sioned: And then we both did Camelot when she was one…and now we’ve got two!

What can The Watermill audience expect from this production?

Peter: They will never have seen anything quite like it. House & Garden was brilliant when they did the two plays here inside and out and I’ve done other musicals at The Watermill, but nothing on this scale. It sums up what the theatre is all about and regular audience members are going to be quite surprised to see what has been brought to the table. It is such an ingenious piece of programming, because not only is it ambitious and daring but it sums up what The Watermill is all about. A collaboration between all departments to tell a magnificent story and using all the grounds and skills at the theatre’s disposal to bring it to life.