Theatre show 'an hour of madness', says creator Robin Judkins

A musical written and performed by Sumner identity Robin Judkins will make its "world" premiere at the James Hay Theatre on Saturday - and could be destined for next year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Free Bus To God was written by Judkins over two-and-a-half years.

It’s about a group of musicians who, with nowhere to rehearse, use an old municipal bus and drive around on Sundays picking up their players - and anyone else at the bus stop.

Judkins, who is well-known as the founder of the Coast to Coast race, said he was excited to get his musical on stage at last.

"We tried to put it on last year in Lyttelton and again in February this year, but Covid prevented it happening.

"Myself and the entire crew involved are so excited to be performing it at the James Hay – we’ll have to take everything up a notch now,’’ he joked.

The 73-year-old is working in collaboration with theatrical director Hester Ullyart and his musical co-stars are Janice Gray, Shay Horay, Tom Trevella and Emily Fairlight.

The show’s musical director is Adam Hattaway, and his band is made up of Mike Kime, Thomas Isbister and Reuben Derrick.

Free Bus To God was a distillation of 122 pieces that combined 20 songs, rants and raves into an hour of madness, Judkins said.

There was humour in his show and also sad bits, which featured in some of the four love songs chosen.

"There are some hard characters featured, but you can feel comfortable with them.’’

Last week Judkins was busy assembling a number of stage pieces for the premiere, including 10 bus seats, a hand brake, a steering wheel and a bus stop sign he’s recommissioned and worked on.

He has road-tested the show by breaking it down into six parts to perform at open mic sessions.

It flows well and features a broad range of music chosen by Adam Hattaway, he said.

Judkins intended filming the show and has ambitions to put it on at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

"I’ve got to make sure we’ve got a winner first, but it’s an exciting proposition and taking everyone over to Scotland, including my daughter, would be a blast.’’

Judkins said there was a Commonwealth section planned at next year’s fringe, which made the trip even more appealing.

A full documentary of his journey with the Free Bus To God project is also planned.

Judkins has been a Sumner resident for the last 36 years and has previously published two books of his poetry, a novel and a memoir.

He is 56 pages into his current book, a thriller called The Butcher, The Sniper And The Journalist.

Tickets to Free Bus To God are available here.

-By Mick Jensen

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