Brand New Musical Nels Place Heading To Norwich

Welcome to Nel’s Place: Talking to Ben Welch from Sheep Soup

At Norwich Theatre, they love new musicals, and they know you love being part of the journey from the very start. That is why they have joined Rewrites, a consortium of venues that selects a musical in development to tour across venues, and boy, do they have a new musical for you! 

Nel’s Place is a wild and wonderful fantasy brought to life by the musical theatre company Sheep Soup at Theatre Stage Two from 22 – 23 March.

Ben Welch is here to tell you about the show and where they get their ideas from.

Can you tell me a bit about Sheep Soup?

We started up the company whilst training at the Television Workshop in Nottingham; it’s a screen actor training school whose alumni include Vicky McClure, Bella Ramsey and Jack O’Connell. The style of work there was improvisation and naturalism-based. 

When we started making theatre together as a company, the idea was to merge this grounded, truthful approach with our passion for music. We soon found that we filled a gap in the musical theatre world, making gig-style theatre that was relatable and appealed to non-traditional audiences.  

Collaboration is at the heart of what we do, bringing artists together from a huge range of performance fields to create original and inspiring live performances. We love telling stories set where music happens naturally – front rooms, open mic nights, recording studios – all featuring multi-skilled actor-musicians live on stage. 

Tell us about the show.

Trapped in a hoard of memories and music, Nel yearns to make space for granddaughter Molly’s 16th birthday celebrations. Can Nel find a way through grief to let her family in?

Nel’s Place examines what material things really mean to us and how easily we can become buried by the past. We follow Nel’s journey through her hoard and her memories in a desperate attempt to repair her family. She is accompanied by a house band who represent the objects around her and the real bandmates of her past life in music.

We go from Nel’s living room into the dingy late-night cabaret bar “Rock Bottoms” hosted by the ghost of her cat, Merlin, as Nel faces her journey of understanding and therapy. At the centre of the story are three generations of women who have been impacted by the pain of the past and the resulting hoarding disorder that Nel’s trauma created.

Describe the show in three words.

Forgiveness is jagged.

What should audiences look out for/expect?

A banging mix of musical numbers that span a number of genres from rap to soul, folk to ballads, all played live on stage by the characters in the show. We want the show to not only represent Nel’s struggle with hoarding but also allow us all to reflect on our own relationship with our stuff.

The show is about hoarding. Where do you even begin with a topic like this?

We began by watching shows such as Hoarding: Buried Alive. We were interested in the drama surrounding the people involved and very quickly realised how damaging these shows are for people genuinely experiencing hardship as a result of hoarding. You can’t quick-fix the problem; it’s a long process with many strands and approaches. Hoarding is often a symptom of something deeper that needs to be tackled at the root to figure out how you got there. 

It felt right as a musical; our main character, Nel, has inherited a hoard of instruments from a lost lover, and the strong links between music and memory play a part in our story.

Did you have to do a lot of hoarding research?

We’ve been making this show for around five years and, from the off, we knew how important it was to have the people and the condition properly represented. 

We received funding from Arts Council England and contacted a wide range of organisations and professionals that support individuals and families affected by Hoarding, from social workers to “de-clutterers”.

We came into contact with Ian Porter from Hoarders Supporting Hoarders based in Liverpool, and after some understandable vetting, once he understood that we were attempting to treat this subject with the right care, he invited us to meet the support group. We’ve been working with them for over three years now and have had regular meetings and creative sessions with them, exploring the themes of the show as well as looking at ways of creatively expressing their journey. We’re extremely proud to have created a verbatim soundscape alongside the group that we plan to feature in the show.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Things that make us tingle. Stories or communities that don’t get represented within the society deserve to be. 

Collaboration is at the core of what we do, so we often start with something small and then work with a rich mix of artists and their experience and skills to bring it into reality. 

Improvisation and jamming music have always been a fun starting point for us and can lead to really valuable stuff.

Are you excited to take the show out on tour to Rewrites venues?

We’re SO pumped to get it out into the world. It’s been a long old journey to get to this point, and we’re so excited to share it with other people. It isn’t a full production yet, but Rewrites gives us a chance to test it out on an audience and hopefully get some people on board to make the full show happen!

What do you think is the importance of programmes like Rewrites to get new work out to audiences?

It’s a brilliant way of connecting companies and shows with audiences throughout the process. We were a part of Rewrites at The Lowry in 2019, and it’s amazing to see it expand across the four venues that are supporting the project. It’s rare that original musicals make it to the stage, so it’s a dream opportunity to surprise audiences and take a risk on something they haven’t seen before.   

Nel’s Place is at Norwich Theatre Stage between 22 – 23 March. For more information or book, visit or call the Box Office on 01603 630 000.

Nel’s Place is at Norwich Theatre Stage Two on 22nd – 23rd March 2024

Tickets Priced at £10

You can find further information HERE

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