I think it must have begun in 2009. My friend Jenny was visiting London from Edinburgh and she brought her friend Katie along with her. They were hungover and came to visit me one bright Sunday morning in my London flat. Katie was a children's theatre practitioner and was interested in using music in her ideas. I was a musician who had written a few songs for some shows at Putney Theatre Company at that point and Jenny introduced us...
I suspect that was the real beginning for me in the world of Professional Theatre composition. Up to that point the people I had worked with were interested in creating high quality theatre but had no interest in making it their living. This is the wonderful thing about London's amateur theatre society, a huge amount of talent and high quality productions are the perfect training ground for honing your art and making important connections whilst at the same time dancing like an idiot and getting horrendously drunk three nights a week.
Katie was my way in. She was motivated in a way that I had not seen before and had a real drive to make theatre (her passion) her career. I had toyed with the idea but really had not idea how to go about it. If I had any advice for young theatre composers wanting to earn some money from what they love it's this: Attach yourself to someone who is talented, has vision, has a practical knowledge of the industry and the motivation to always be seeking the next level. These people are not easy to find but you'll know them when you meet them. And fortunately it happens that when you meet one, you meet plenty more through them.
Katie asked me to work on a project for her MA at RADA. That was the beginning of the Paper Balloon Theatre Company. Katie, Kirstin, Alex, Jen and Dorie became a group of theatre practitioners making work for young people over the next three years. None of us paid, just doing it because we wanted to make good theatre in a professional setting. Two shows on and I am very proud to say that Katie and Alex applied successfully for Arts Council Funding and we are now being paid to create a new piece of theatre with the extraordinary international children's playwright, 'Finegan Kruckemeyer'.
It's called Zachary Briddling who was awfully middling. All about a normal boy. A painfully normal boy. A boy so normal in fact that he goes on an adventure in an attempt to make himself less normal. Katie is Director, Alex is Creative Producer and I am Composer and Lyricist.
At the beginning of August, just after I finished work on 'You Obviously Know What I'm Talking About', we found ourselves down in Oxford working on the first Research and Development period for the show.
The days were long (with workshops with children in between rehearsals) and we learnt a lot about how to handle the time. The actors were great and very enthusiastic, (and excitingly for me all possess really good singing voices). During the week I wrote three songs for the show. I met some brilliant people, Rachel (associate director), Karl (movement director). The Pegasus Theatre staff were (as ever) wonderful. Special thanks to Angharad for facilitating my songwriting workshop with some of the kids. We found a really interesting physical language for the show as well as interesting use of music and song throughout. The week was hard work but really successful and interesting.
Following that we had a Skype meeting with Fin to discuss how my songs might fit in with the writing. It was great that he was so enthusiastic about their inclusion in the piece, I was delighted to receive such positive feedback from such a fellow.
So currently the show is undergoing tweaks and rewrites and inclusion of songs etc. ready for a rehearsal period early next year... watch this space.