Pie and Chips

In 2012, I was working away as a musical director on a show produced by ATG Theatres. One (unsurprisingly rushed!) lunchtime, I recall having a brief conversation, over pie and chips, with the director, about my desire to write a show based on the life of a well-known historical figure: the subject of several books, a couple of films and millions of posters, T-shirts and the likes worldwide.

That conversation is the earliest specific memory I have of wanting to write this piece, although I know the seed was first sown a few years before, through my love of the music, and later the folklore and culture, of the icon’s adopted homeland.

I’ve been a professional musician and composer for over ten years. I trained at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, one of the UK’s top performing arts institutions, probably best known for being co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney, who makes regular visits. I specialised in composition and musical direction, graduating with a first class BA (Hons) Music, and have worked in these fields ever since.

I want the piece to tell the story in a new way, but one that is historically accurate.

I have written or co-written the music for shows and documentaries; I have edited libretti on others; I have produced a couple; I have arranged and orchestrated scores; I have been musical director, AMD, and played in the bands on so many productions throughout the UK that I can no longer remember them all by name. I have never written one in full. Nor have I ever worked on one alone. Neither have I debuted anything at Edinburgh. But I will, and I’ve given myself a year.

I am lucky in that my career has allowed me to develop an in-depth knowledge of musical theatre works, the musical devices employed, the way story lines work and develop: the tensions that make the tales tick. I am equally lucky to have a girlfriend who works in theatre production and gets lots of cheap tickets to see shows for research! She’s pretty nice too.

Content dictates form.

Research is going to be pivotal to the project, and I’ll be talking about that a lot. I want the piece to tell the story in a new way, but one that is historically accurate. First up then, it’s an 818 page biography I’ve just bought about the life of the hero. Hero..? Villain..? I’m not sure yet. He’s a colourful character. Time, tired eyes, and lots of coffee, will tell, I guess.

In the words of Sondheim, “content dictates form”. So, I’d better go and find some!

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