Up at a more civilised 8am this morning. Decided to do some further work on one of the songs “Have You Seen My Husband” down at the Gite before heading up to the villa. I started off at one place, tried out a whole bunch of other ideas and eventually realised that my first idea was the strongest with the other ideas gently informing it’s structure. It’s still nowhere near done yet, but the structure is starting to come together.
I set off up the hill to the villa about 9.45am and arrived once more covered in sweat and breathing like I’d been chased by a bull through the streets of Pamplona. Ants and George had prepared breakfast again and we decided on a loose plan for the day. From my previous days work with Rhys I had a shed load of new writing to be getting on with and since I’ve learned that my creative brain works best in the morning, we decided I would work on new things until lunchtime, then after lunch I would play them one of the larger set pieces that I was struggling with to see if they could help me make it stronger.
So after breakfast, whilst Ants and George were making important sounding international Skype calls all over the world with their various collaborators, I set myself up outside and set to work. Fortunately it is such an inspiring place to work that I was soon ripping through the new songs. Of course they were very rough, but by lunchtime I had written 1st drafts of “Heart of the Weave” “Have You Seen My Husband” “The Fishing Ditty” and “Come Sit By The Fireside” which is probably the fastest I’ve ever worked in my life. As a result when it came to lunchtime I was practically catatonic, my brain having fried itself to within an inch of its creative life. Before lunch I went for a walk around the perimeter of the property mindlessly throwing a ball in the air over and over again. Put me in a bumless gown and I may have looked like a patient in a very special hospital.
After lunch we gathered in the kitchen to go through one of the big song moments (“The Wicker Maid”). We read through the song/scene with me playing and singing and everyone joining in the dialogue with amusing west country accents. Upon finishing, I was very relieved to hear that they really loved the song. Having said that, they then gave me all of their notes. And once again, they were insightful notes that led the way towards clarity in the storytelling and the overarching structure. They suggested moving certain parts of the song to different areas, starting much more slowly and with gravitas, and building to a huge climax at an extremely important moment that I had completely skipped over. George suggested tempo and meter changes that would add hugely to the build of the song and Ants gave suggestions to the direction of the lyric that would add to the clarity of the piece. Again, the feedback was brilliant and I could see how it would transform the song and turn it into a real centrepiece for Act 2.
So they left me to it, and I went away and started implementing changes including a couple of small revelations I had on my own along the way. Then at 5pm I skyped home to Manda. It was lovely to hear her voice from home and I showed her round the place and introduced her to Sixpence whom she was extremely excited by. Seriously cute dog. With my brain almost completely dead by about 7pm, I put the work aside and went for a swim in the pool. I say, swim, but it was more of a flotation experience as my limbs didn’t really move. Just sort of floated about the place and stared up at the sky, watched very carefully by Sixpence, who followed me around the pool as I drifted from side to side. It was a nice opportunity to just turn the brain off. In the distance I could hear George trying out the guitar.
When I came in George was excitedly talking about the joys of the capo for the guitar and also the alternative folk tunings that I use a lot when writing for The Wicker Husband. All of which basically make it a lot easier for the guitar to sound great… “Ah” he said, “So that’s how you do it. You cheat.” He showed me a couple of lovely patterns he had figured out and said it was quite inspiring to hear guitar played out here and expressed a desire to dedicate some time to learning guitar in the future. Ants shouted from inside, “Didn’t you know that’s how the mentorship works? You come out here and mentor us.”
George had made a lovely dinner of Steak Ashe and once again we sat outside and talked a lot about the current state of musical theatre in Britain, it was a fascinating insight into the industry from two guys who had been there and done it and were still in there and doing it. We talked about how much of a success the BEAM festival organised by MMD and MTN had been earlier this year and how it seemed to represented a bit of a sea change in the musical theatre building community of the UK. The British invasion of the 80’s and 90’s on Broadway was down to such a small community of people (basically Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and Cameron Mackintosh’s super shows) that there wasn’t a community they were coming out of. It feels like this is changing and the next generation of writers will have a community of up and coming writers to inspire and support them. Good news indeed.
Exhausted, I was driven down the hill at about 11pm, (George and Ants had read my previous days blog and refused to let me stumble down the path again - given I was clearly incapable of the art of walking) and stumbled once more into bed, looking forward to another days work.