Wednesday, 19 October 2016

British musical theatre must be better

I proved to myself that I shouldn't have left the house today by first taking the wrong branch on the Northern Line and not noticing until I'd travelled three stops out of my way, and then, in an attempt to remedy my mistake, going in the wrong direction on the Central Line. The packed tubes I encountered at every stage made me apoplectic with rage. 

I am just not in my right mind. Not at all. My heart is breaking for Llio and Silvia and I'm mentally and physically spent.

I read in the Metro today that Cliff Richard has been speaking to the House of Lords to recommend a change in the law stating that accused sex offenders can only be named after they're actually convicted of a crime, which is something I categorically and wholeheartedly agree with. We live in a ludicrous world where any Tom, Dick or Harriet can accuse someone of something untoward whilst hiding behind a screen of complete anonymity. A famous person, particularly, ends up with absolutely no hope of a fair result, once the brutal trial-by-media has kicked in. Take the Ched Evans case. He gets shafted, goes to jail for the best part of three years, emerges a social pariah, and, when the case is overturned, an appeal goes out to raise £25k so that his false accuser can move to Australia and continue to live an anonymous existence. It makes me livid. It makes me want to spit blood. And yes, I am convinced that the same would not be the case if the wild majority of people accused of sex crimes were women.

I get that there are still glass ceilings in this world, and terrible examples of misogyny and violence against women, but unless we acknowledge that it's not always that easy to be a man, we'll never be able to properly address the true meaning of equality.

This evening, after meeting the lovely Josh for the fastest of pots of teas at Soho Theatre, I went to a second platform of new musical theatre writing at Shuttleworths. I'll be brutally honest and say very little of it really floated my boat. Some of the writers showed promise. Some of the music by American writers particularly was actually very accomplished. Michelle's songs shone brightly, but the overarching sense was one of great laziness. Christ, I write a song, then re-write it, then put it in a drawer and then come back to it to see if it's any good, and I heard song after song tonight which felt like it had been written on the back of a Cornflakes packet. I consider lyric writing to be the area of my writing which needs the most work, so, to quote Arnold Wesker, "I worry at it, hone what I write..." until it feels good enough. Until it's the best that I can write. There were some dreadful lyrics this evening and I was left wondering how many writers could genuinely say they'd done their best. Anything other than your absolute is simply not good enough.

But the thing that made me most angry were the two girls who popped up on stage in the second act, performing a huge chunk of a Footlights-style "comedy" revue, minus the political bite or daring parody. It reminded me of the stuff I run a mile from at the Edinburgh Festival, namely people "doing" funny rather than actually being funny. Up until that point, the most songs performed by a single group by a single writer had been four. These girls did seven songs, even though only four were written down in the programme. To add insult to injury, at this NEW writer's cabaret, a great big chunk of their material wasn't original. They ended with a five-minute rendition of Liza Minelli's Ring Them Bells, which I found almost insulting within the context of the evening to the extent that I worried a lot of the younger writers in the room wouldn't even know the song was an old standard, and might become despondent thinking they'd never be able to write something which matched its quality. The two girls were charming and the pianist was brilliant, but a revusical filled with clumsily re-written standards was absolutely not what the evening was about. At one point they burst into Taylor the Latte Boy and my heart sank! On and on it went. Grossly arrogant and mis-pitched.

British musical theatre needs to be better than this. I ought to go to these events and instantly feel the need to raise my game. Instead, tonight, I sat there wondering if people listening to my songs have the same angry responses.

...And if I have to hear another singer pronouncing her d's like t's I'll go insane! The words are bed, head, land... not bet, hett and lant! Estuary English has a lot to answer for!

Rant over!

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