Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Em day

Today's been a day of Em which started with a lunchtime meeting at Central School with our director Hannah, and the head of the musical theatre course there, Wendy. I was profoundly scared about going in. Handing over a baby which has been gestating for years is a really brave thing to do, and, all too often, directors and producers can be overly cutting and brutal, which simply has the effect of kicking a writer in the guts when he's at his most vulnerable. I don't really care how harsh a set of notes are, as long as the person giving feedback is coming from a place where they think the piece has at least the potential to be wonderful.

I needn't have worried. Hannah and Wendy gave brilliant notes, which very much came from a place of love for the show. There's a lot more work to do, which terrifies me in terms of my not having any earnings coming in, but their input on the reading was both insightful and terribly useful. The main message was clear: the show has authenticity and heart in abundance, which is 50% of the journey covered. What it now needs is more craft. They're focussing mainly on the show's script. There's a somewhat relieving belief that I'm a highly competent songwriter who doesn't need a huge amount of guidance in that field. What they're after is character development, primarily to enhance the journey of the Central character, Em, and to allow the decisions that she makes to seem more believable.

I'm going to Hannah's house tomorrow night to really get inside the script.

There's a lot of work to do, and I'm taking myself to Brighton at the end of the week to write another draft without the distractions of anything but the roaring, yellow sea.

We had a production meeting which slightly turned into one of those moments when everyone asks us what we want before telling us what we want is impossible. Actually, I think Em would have great impact with just a beautiful set of costumes and some tasteful lighting and sound. We already know that the actors at Central are right at the tops of their games. The production team seem very jolly and hugely capable as well, to the extent that I felt the need to gushingly thank them for helping me to bring the story to life. 

The Em vibe continued this evening at the MMD new writers' cabaret, which, I was thrilled to discover, was being compèred by the ever-adorable and deeply-talented Jake and Pippa. They sang a song from their Adrian Mole show which was really very special. That said, I always thought Adrian Mole was set in Leicester, so was a little surprised to hear Pippa saying she couldn't do a "northern" accent. If this blog achieves nothing else, it will reclaim the Midlands in the brains of those who read it regularly! That said, wasn't the Mum played by Lulu in the TV series in a broad Scottish accent? I may have made that up.

As usual, a good variety of songs were performed, including an excellent piece by Michelle Hutchins, bravely and beautifully sung by Sévan Stephan from Stratford East. Other highlights included Lauren Hillier singing from her show Nursery Crimes sans her partner-in-(nursery)-crime, Ryan, and a fabulous song by a 16 year-old girl, who plainly has a big future ahead of her, maybe more as a singer-songwriter than as a musical theatre writer, but her talent will out.

Once again many of the songs were too long. In my view there has to be a very good reason for a musical theatre song to top four minutes, and it's most likely to be that it's a massive all-singing-all-dancing show-stopper. I want to sit down with some of the writers and introduce them to form, musical structure and narrative drive. The audience started clapping early during one song. It was a great song, but it had started to outstay its welcome. I hope the writer took on board the subconscious collective note that the audience was giving him at that point.

Abbie sang the song from Em with panache and great beauty. I really love her lower range. So round and chocolaty.

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