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Brief Encounter With ... Issy Van Randwyck

Issy Van Randwyck is a singer and actress well known as a long-serving member of three-girl cabaret group Fascinating Aida. Her other stage credits include A Little Night Music at the National, A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Open Air Theatre, Song of Singapore and Two Birds and a Bloke. She has also performed a number of solo shows in the UK and abroad and recorded several albums, including It's Oh So Issy. She's currently starring in the premiere of Alan Balfour's The Hokey Cokey Man at Hampstead's New End theatre.

What's The Hokey Cokey Man 'all about'?
The Hokey Cokey Man is a new play about Al Tabor, who was a popular bandleader, violinist and the man who wrote the song “The Hokey Cokey”. It's written by Tabor's grandson, Alan Balfour.

Why does it make for such an interesting story?

It makes for such an interesting story because Jimmy Kennedy, a renowned song writer and contemporary of Al Tabor, took credit and had the song published under his name, but there was a contract - that Alan Balfour has - which clearly states that Al Tabor wrote the song and Jimmy Kennedy agreed that Campbell Connelly was to publish the music with full publicity for Al and Murray's (a well known nightclub at the time). None of which happened.

On top of this Al Tabor was a rather complicated man with a rather complicated private life and the play focuses on this - the wife, the mistress (played by me), the daughter and of course “The Hokey Cokey”.

Presumably the infamous song is performed in the show?
Yes, we sing a little bit of the song. During the war, people enjoyed participating in songs with actions - there was another well known tune of the time called “Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree” and, influenced by that, Al decided to write a song of his own with movements. Al composed “The Hokey Cokey” in 1940 especially to lift people’s spirits during the Blitz. We show the audience how he was inspired by the well known tune of the day, “Salome”, and using the rhythm of that song, he worked in the lyrics 'That’s what it's all about'! The original song, tempo and lyrics are much cleverer then the version that we all now know and sing at children’s parties.

Were you familiar with Alan Balfour's work before this production?
No, I wasn't familiar with Alan's work before reading The Hokey Cokey Man, but I'm thrilled to be at the New End Theatre, which is a powerhouse for new writing.

What do you identify as your career highlight to date?
That's a difficult one. There are several shows that I've loved doing not necessarily because they were stonking great hits but because I have loved the part and the people I was working with. For instance the original production of Song of Singapore, The Betrayal of Nora Blake, Plaza Suite, A Small Family Business, A Midsummer Night's Dream, working with Simon Slater and Sarah Travis on our show Two Birds and a Bloke and I have to say we are having a brilliant time with The Hokey Cokey Man, so that is up there too.

You were the longest serving Fascinating Aida soprano - any plans to return?
Returning to Fascinating Aida is not really up to me. Of course, I would love to work with the girls again if the opportunity arose.

What advice do you have for young performers trying to break in to the industry?
If you can't get yourself on to a reality programme, get as many strings to your bow as possible because it's not nearly as easy as they make it look on TV!! 

The Hokey Cokey Man, which is directed by Ninon Jerome and also features Anna Acton, James Doherty, Michael Gilroy and Lee Ormsby, opens at the New End theatre on Friday (22 May 2009, previews from 20 May), where it continues to 21 June.


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