IF five musicians found themselves stowed away in the belly of an ocean liner there’s a fair bet they would start making music together.
And in a new show opening at the Watermill Theatre at the end of January, that’s exactly what they do.
The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea is a cabaret show featuring music of the Twenties and Thirties, compiled by composer and actor Simon Slater.
He said: “It’s set in 1931 on a Cunard liner, the SS Fortuna, as it makes its way from Southampton to New York and it’s full of my favourite songs from artists like Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. I was brought up on swing music and guys like Benny Goodman and Fats Waller are great heroes of mine.
“You can’t replicate what they did of course, but I love that music for its energy and sense of fun.”
Slater has worked at the Watermill for more than 20 years, and for the past five years he has written the music for the Christmas show, including this year’s Pinocchio. In this show he not only compiles and plays the music, but also plays one of the characters, an Indiana Jones-type chancer on his way to search for treasure in the promised land of America.
The other three stowaways are a down-and-out, a toff in search of the American dream and a cheeky Cockney girl-next-door in search of romance. The other character is a black blues singer who gets a free ride on board in exchange for regular performances.
Songs include old favourites such as Ain’t Misbehavin’, Makin’ Whoopee and Stormy Weather, as well as some lesser-known songs such as a Thirties number called He Played His Ukulele As The Ship Went Down which the director found among a pile of old music at home.
Simon Slater has worked on countless plays, musicals and films over the years, but says his most exciting projects include a three-year stint in the West End musical Mamma Mia!, in which he played the “Piers Brosnan” character, and appearing alongside Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, playing one of her ministers, Chris Patten.
He said said: “Watching Meryl Streep being brilliant was great. I said to the others, ‘My God, we will have to up our game a bit here’.”
Last year he also played Lord Cadogan in Chariots Of Fire, directed by Edward Hall, which transferred from Hammersmith to the West End. He was also musical director for the show.
• The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea is at the Watermill Theatre from Friday, January 31 to Saturday, February 15. Box office 01635 46044 or visit www.watermill.org.uk