It’s been a little while away from Blog world, I haven’t seen a huge amount of Derek, Jasper and Colin lately which has been lovely. And I’ve been wondering why that is. Today I’m sitting down by the river in Putney having a little lunch by myself and thinking about life and how strange and wonderful it can be sometimes.
You may know that I’ve been working on a new musical called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which opens soon at Salisbury Playhouse before arriving in London at Southwark Playhouse on the 15th May. My theatrical work to date has wandered widely across a spectrum of genres and subjects, from the true life stories of Argentinean genocide and mass disappearances in Mexico to tales of a scarecrow’s wedding and the grumpiest boy in the world, to stories inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis and Alan Turing to stories of fairies, sprites and extraordinary spouses made entirely from Wicker. So when someone asks me what sort of work I make, for a long time I didn’t really know what to say…
Now I just say that I’m a storyteller.
And the stories I choose to tell are the ones that spark a little spark in my imagination and give my heart a little kick.
The spark will never be a bonfire at the very beginning. The kick will never be more than a little nudge, certainly a far cry from a coronary. For me that’s not the nature of things work. In all of the stories I’ve been privileged to tell, the excitement grows as the work grows. As you discover the story, the imagination begins to spark everywhere, the heart starts to thump deeply and by the time it finally comes to fruition on stage it has become an electrical thunderstorm in my head and a thumping march in my heart.
Such was the situation with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The show that we have made is unashamedly romantic in it’s nature. but interestingly I have never been particularly interested in telling purely romantic stories. By which I mean the principal driver of the show is the drama and conflict inherent in the romantic relationship between two (or more) beings.
I don’t think I’ve ever told a story where a romantic relationship is the real driver of the drama. It may strike some people as odd given that I have written shows entitled The Wicker Husband and The Scarecrows Wedding. But for me it has never been the love story that has drawn me to these stories…
When I think of The Wicker Husband I think of the struggle of self acceptance, when I think of The Scarecrows Wedding I think of grieving and loss and when I think of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I think of time.
Time and what we do with it.
When I was first approached by Jethro Compton about being involved in the project, the thing which sparked that little spark for me was our perception of and relationship to ‘time’ and what that means for us as human beings.
For me, my interest in the story began as a philosophical enquiry, almost an intellectual exercise into the nature of time itself.
I would always hope that approaching stories in this way will hopefully lead to a deeper, more complex and human experience for the audience. After all, romantic relationships are only a part of our lives and they tend to reflect the deeper parts of ourselves that sometimes we’re afraid to look at.
So with Benjamin Button I began with the idea of Time… Whilst for Jethro Compton (my collaborator) it began with the idea of Home…
Coming at the story from these two different perspective has led me to a rather strange conclusion about writing collaborations…That starting on the same page is not necessarily always the best thing.
If Jethro and I had both started from the same point then I think the show would have suffered for it. As it is, the collaboration thrived upon those two different ideas slowly moving to a central point and influencing each other upon the way. I think this manner of collaboration can lead to a richer storytelling palette. As long as the nature of the collaboration remains generous and understanding then I think it’s probably extremely healthy to approach a story from different points of view. After all, that’s what our audiences will be doing. Reacting to the story based on their own unique personal experiences.
Now that I think about it, there are two particular songs in the show that dig at the heart of what the story is about for us.
One is called ‘Home’ and one is called ‘Time’.
These thoughts have come to me after spending a week down in Cornwall rehearsing with the company. Nights on the beach with fish and chips and curry, a bonfire under the stars and singing in Cornish around it. The things which one might think of as cliche, but as one of our astute company members pointed out.
“Yes, very cliche… but strangely enough, something I’ve never done.”
Sadly, our West End stages are currently dominated by American Imports, Juke Box musicals and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh juggernauts, with just 6% being written by UK musical theatre career writers…
So if you are planning on seeing a West End show, perhaps reconsider, come down to Southwark Playhouse and see a brand new UK musical set in Cornwall, performed by our extraordinary ensemble of actor musicians. It’s a fraction of the cost of a West End show and you’ll be right up close to the action.
If you would like to come and see it then click on the link below and support new UK musical theatre by writers who really care about the medium. It's on from the 15th May through to the 8th June.
If you are a twitter person please tweet about it. If you are an instagramer, please instagram.
If everyone who reads this blog brought along 5 friends then we will be able to sell the run out. Book your tickets below: