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We Met at King's - Kate and Alex

Kate Marlais (Music, 2005) and Alex Young (Music, 2005) have been firm friends ever since spotting each other on the Quad back in 2002. We spoke to the award -winning musical theatre writers about their time at King’s, and where their friendship has led them since.

Can you give me a short biography of your writing partnership?

Kate: We write musicals and have been collaborating for 10 years, writing Book, Music and Lyrics together. Our musical Robyn and Laura is playing in London in summer 2023, and another of our musicals is in development with Concord Theatricals. Awards include the S and S Award in 2015 for our first musical Here, in conjunction with Curve Leicester and Mercury Musical Developments.

Why did you choose to study at King's?

Alex: I think I always wanted to be in London, and King’s was top drawer for music. The open day was easily the best I’d been to, with Pret A Manger sandwiches and a very attractive boy showing me round. I also remember seeing a poster for the King’s Musical Theatre Society’s production of Grease in the loo, and despite being a hand drawn picture on a sheaf of pink A4 paper, I was *impressed*.

How did you meet?

Alex: I remember spying Kate quite quickly, hanging out with the two most attractive and cool-looking boys on the course, and I’m not ashamed to say I swiftly put a little game plan in place to befriend her. Sometimes you just know who your people are. I approached her in the bar and said what I thought would win her over: 'I think you’re very pretty'. She looked me up and down imperiously and said 'Yeah ok, I’m Kate.'

What are your greatest memories from your time at King’s?

Kate: Where do I even start? We were best mates from day one and immediately thrust ourselves into a deliciously impish rebellion whilst at King’s. Alongside our friend Michael Gray (War Studies, 2006), we took over the running of the King’s Musical Theatre Society. We put on many shows at The Greenwood Theatre, such as West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar which Alex directed and I played the lead – no, I wasn’t a nepo baby; Alex put me through a gruelling audition process - and the Threepenny Opera which we both were in.

Threepenny was an infamous show - the Greenwood had to suddenly close a couple of days before opening night. Alex, Michael and I did a mad dash around London trying to convince a space to host our show for free last-minute. We finally found a bar who agreed – the derelict student union bar behind St Thomas’ Hospital. The deal? We had to do the clean-up ourselves. Clean up? Can’t be that bad. But this bar had literally been closed for months, with mouldy half-drunk pints still on the tables. It was horrific. But, in the true spirit of theatre, the whole cast mucked in and spent what should’ve been our technical rehearsal scrubbing the space clean. It turned out to be the perfect venue for our gritty, grubby musical.


Alex: Nearly all my best memories are with Kate and our pals in the Musical Theatre Society. Staying up far too late, making grand plans and invariably very long lists - we love a list, even now. Squeezing into single beds in our respective halls, and laughing until we nearly peed. The extreme excitement of doing shows at the Greenwood Theatre, and drinking into the small hours at the Rose pub opposite, youthfully basking in our undoubted brilliance. I specifically remember the first time we almost accidentally composed together, in a practice room, doing an arrangement of Silent Noon, the Rossetti poem set by Vaughan Williams. Still one of my favourites, and the type of vocal harmony we found together is now a trademark of our work.

Although it was not all wine & roses. One evening we were standing on the Strand waiting for a night-bus in the rain; Kate had an enormous army coat on, the hood pulled right over her head so I could only really see her mouth, telling the longest and most deeply un-worth it joke I’ve ever had the misfortune to hear.

Outside of your work together, what have you personally gone on to do since graduating?

Alex: I bummed around for a few years after graduating trying not to audition for drama school - what a stupid idea that would be, I thought. So I worked in recruitment and tried very hard to be a reasonably normal person, but no dice. I went on to study Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music and have been surprised to be pretty much in work ever since. My theatre work includes Poppy in the award-winning Standing at the Sky’s Edge at Sheffield Crucible and National Theatre, The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods at Bath Theatre Royal directed by Terry Gilliam, Nellie in South Pacific opposite Julian Ovenden and Sally in Me and My Girl opposite Matt Lucas, both at Chichester Festival Theatre. I played a young Imelda Staunton in Follies at the National Theatre, and Carrie in Carousel alongside Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe, conducted by David Charles Abell at the London Coliseum for the ENO. During the pandemic I set up an online play reading group - The Corona Days Plays. What started as a gang of 30 or so grew to a 300 strong family of waifs and strays, (including a lot of Kings alumni!) many of whom have become my dearest friends, reading a play a week with ever increasing inventive zoom technical prowess! We were included in features by the New York Times and The Stage, and I was knocked out to receive a special WhatsOnStage award for my contribution to the theatre industry during the pandemic. I coach acting privately and in leading UK drama schools which I love, especially now being in productions with people I’ve taught, and in one case being directed by an ex-student. It’s a deeply gratifying thing, even if it makes me feel entirely ancient. I’ve also had a little girl, Maggie, who is a complete darling and the love of my life.

Kate: Aside from my collaboration with Alex, I have fingers in many pies. Having been an actor and singer for ten years, I now work mainly as a composer, lyricist and writer, whilst also forging a career as a musical director, music producer, arranger and sound designer. I was made Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2018 and was the 2018-19 Cameron Mackintosh Resident Composer at Lyric Hammersmith. I’ve worked extensively as a creative within music for theatre and physical theatre, for companies such as Frantic Assembly, Michael Grandage Company, ThickSkin, DV8 & Rambert, at venues such as Manchester Royal Exchange, Lyric Hammersmith, Lowry Manchester, Lyric Belfast and Traverse Edinburgh. I also work a lot with music artists who are writing for theatre, such as Kele Okereke (English, 2003) from Bloc Party, Karl Hyde from Underworld and most recently The Staves; I arrange or help shape their music for stage and dramatic purpose.

As a performer, my favourite credits include War Horse (National Theatre) and The Human Comedy (Young Vic). This year, I’m releasing an EP of my own songs on all streaming platforms.

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