Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark

As new digital sheet music store New UK Musicals launches, I talk with multi-award winning composer & lyricist Darren Clark about the site and his career

Darren Clark has been responsible for two of my favourite shows of recent years in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Wicker Husband so I was interested to discover that he has been keeping very busy during lockdown, creating New UK Musicals

New UK Musicals is an online platform where you will be able to purchase sheet music from some of the best new musical theatre writers working in the UK today. It’s a digital store where performers and fans can listen to online samples, purchase fresh, new songs and also connect with the writers who create them.

Designed and built during lockdown, the site launches with a competition for performers who will be able to buy and download selected songs from the site and upload videos of themselves performing to New UK Musicals. First prize includes a number of free downloads from the site as well as the opportunity to perform alongside West End stars in a special edition of Adam Lenson’s SIGNAL Online Concert Series celebrating the work of these writers on the 16th June.

Writers represented on the site include: Finn Anderson (Islander), Rebecca Applin (Jabberwocky), Bateman & Conley (The Sorrows of Satan), Ed Bell (My 80 Year Old Boyfriend), Darren Clark (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Elliot Davis (Loserville), Gus Gowland (Pieces of String), Teresa Howard (I Capture the Castle), Richy Hughes (Superhero), Carl Miller (Wasted), Noisemaker (My Left Right Foot), Eamonn O’Dwyer (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), Susannah Pearse (Jabberwocky), Victoria Saxton (Marriage a la Mode), Amir Shoenfeld (Benny in Beta), Emily Rose Simons (Confessions of a Rabbi’s Daughter), Tim Sutton (The Secret Garden), Stiles & Drewe (The Wind in the Willows), Webborn & Finn (The Clockmaker’s Daughter) and Wigmore and Green (Van Winkle). Continue reading “Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark”

The finalists of The Offies 2020

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

The 2019 fosterIAN award winners

Best Actress in a Play
Sarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori, Three Sisters

Best Actress in a Musical
Audrey Brisson, Amélie the Musical

Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boys

Best Actor in a Musical
Jamie Muscato, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Monica Dolan, All About Eve

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie, & Juliet 

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Nick Holder, Faith Hope and Charity

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
David Bedella, & Juliet

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse

A sensationally good new British musical that I couldn’t recommend more. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the Southwark Playhouse is something special

“It’s only a matter of time”

Jethro Compton has made me cry before. At the Southwark Playhouse too no less, albeit in its former location, as a young JM Barrie in a truly imaginative staging of The Boy James. This time though, he’s wearing the multiple hats of book-writer, co-lyricist and director of this adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And reader, I bawled!

Some of those tears were of joy, at the unexpected discovery of a sensationally good new British musical. With the story’s relocation to Cornwall, Darren Clarke’s (composer, co-lyricist and musical director) score leans heavily into folk song and shanty rhythms to glorious effect. These are songs that feel like they have always existed, elevated by powerful dynamic changes and harmonies to live a life in reverse for. Continue reading “Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Park Theatre

“There is a new face on the frontier”

Westerns have never been my thing so The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was all brand new information for me. Jethro Compton’s production uses Dorothy M Johnson’s original short story as its primary source material rather than the more famous film and purely by virtue of putting a Western on a stage, possesses something unique as it is a genre that has barely been touched, at least in my memory, by any London theatre. And it is also a surprisingly effective treatment that makes it one of the more atmospheric shows of the year.

Compton errs towards something of a cinematic style – Jonny Sims’ music swoops around the theatre, Robert Vaughan’s voice as a narrator guides us through the story, and Sarah Booth’s single set design contains all the action, told as it is largely in flashback. The plot doesn’t hold too much surprise so I’ll say little about it here but the play is best when it focuses on the love triangle between Oliver Lansley’s lawyer Ransome Foster, Niamh Walsh’s illiterate bar owner Hallie and Paul Albertson’s Barricune who rescued Ransome from a tight spot. Continue reading “Review: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Park Theatre”

Review: The Boy James, Southwark Playhouse

“I came to realise forever is too long”

Belt Up Theatre played Southwark Playhouse last year and return there once more, this time with their show The Boy James, written by Alexander Wright and inspired by the early life of JM Barrie. Tucked away in a space created in one of the vaults at the rear of the building rather than the main auditorium, we’re guided to a cosy sitting room cum study dressed with faded draped fabrics and umpteen childhood toys and mementos by a young pyjama-clad boy, who with great enthusiasm encourages us to make friends with the people around us and play games like tag and I-Spy.

It is a thoroughly enchanting introduction into this world and perfect at drawing the audience into the child-like wonder with which the story is told. The comfortable cocoon of innocence is broken by the arrival of the adult world in the shape of James, Barrie himself, with his weary experience and also in the shape of another intruder who brings violence and sexual awareness to this world, really pushing home the message about the sadness of losing childhood innocence and the pain that the adult world brings with it. Continue reading “Review: The Boy James, Southwark Playhouse”