I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle based on the novel by Dodie Smith Book and lyrics Teresa Howard music Steven Edis

Sunday, 29 June 2008


Mercury Musical Developments held a speed dating night at the Actors Centre -  no, not the romantic kind!

It was to link up composers, lyricists, book writers, directors and producers.  There were, of course, too many writers, and we were all trying to dodge each other in a vague attempt to speak to people who could help us move our shows on.  I talked to some really interesting people though, and was particularly impressed to see the fresh new faces of Rival Theatre Company really listening to writers and taking an interest.  Producer Jamie Wilson was also there, giving good realistic advice.  He put some tough questions to me which made me realise how hard it is to pitch an idea face to face.  I always discover afterwards what it was I wanted to say!

In the end, when the dust settled, the writers did end up together, mainly to laugh and rant about life.  It was great to see  composer, lyricist Susannah Pearse again.  She is a wonderful comic writer and is off to Edinburgh to do a reading of her new show.  It was also good to see David James, from the Writers' Guild, who never ceases to make me laugh about the business of theatre, and God you do have to laugh!  So many West End shows have bombed recently, shows by the 'right' people and produced by the 'right' people.  Nothing can guarantee a show's success.   However, experienced or hard working people are, the cards are always unseen in this game of risk.

Thursday, 26 June 2008


Yesterday I had breakfast with designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca.  She had read POSSESSED and is interested in designing for the show.  Strangely enough she has just completed a job designing costumes for a production of Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde which is going to be opening in Germany in the New Year.  The costumes were spectacularly beautiful, each one a work of art, created with great depth of thought and imagination.  The costume pictured here is from her Ring Cycle for Covent Garden Opera House in 2004.  It is part of an exhibition at the V & A, which I must go and see.

Marie-Jeanne's studio was a treasure trove of books, pictures, masks and objects from all the shows she has worked on over the years.  Looking through her designs and photographs of productions she had worked on I felt so excited and inspired.  POSSESSED, with its Pre-Raphaelite setting is a designers dream and to work with someone as creative as Marie-Jeanne would be amazing!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


On Saturday I am going off to see The Music Man at Chichester Festival Theatre.  Steve is the orchestrator and musical supervisor for the show.  It is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, the artistic director of Birmingham Rep.

The book, music and lyrics are by Meredith Willson and story by Meredith Willson and Frank Lacey.  It is starring Brian Conley as Professor Harold Hill and Scarlett Strallen.

This is an American musical classic with a tremendous score including 'Then There Was You', 'Trouble' and 'Seventy Six Trombones'.  

I haven't been to Chichester since my clown play 'Grock' was on there many years ago.  I remember spending a fantastically intensive week prior to rehearsals, sitting in a cottage in a picture postcard village called Sheet, chained to a desk doing re-writes - it was still bliss!  We had a really excellent cast.  Derek Royle, who played Grock, was truly amazing, he had begun his performing life as an acrobat in a group called the 'Adonis Three' and so was perfectly suited to the physically demanding role of the first music-hall clown!!  

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Today I am busy putting together a submission for the Fred Ebb Award.  Fred Ebb was the lyricist who wrote with John Kander and produced memorable musicals like Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spiderwoman.  I am particularly fond of Cabaret.  

I don't hold out an enormous amount of hope but think it is worth a try, because you never know!  I can only submit four songs, and it was difficult deciding which ones, but have come to decision and am busy printing everything out to send off to the States.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


I have taken Julian Fellowes advice and found a new musical idea to work on while I am waiting to hear news on POSSESSED. It is based on a book but is a deadly secret because the rights cannot be bought, because they are so valuable, but the agent has given us leave to produce a first draft. Steve and I are really excited by the idea. While Steve is working on MUSIC MAN at Chichester, I am sketching out a synopsis, character outline, chapter breakdown of the whole book and have started to think about how I can open up the idea to translate it into a musical.  I have also started reading round the subject.  The novel is very autobiographical and luckily there is an autobiography of the author and a biography, so I have plenty to go on.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

NAMT Festival of New Musicals

On my return from Venice I discovered the sad news that POSSESSED had not been chosen for the festival in New York.  I can't say that this wasn't a disappointment, it really was, although the logistics and cost of arranging for our actors to go out there had been a problem in the back of my mind.  It would have been pointless to start again with a new team because we had got so far with the Oxford showcase.  

We are still waiting to hear back from a lot of producers here though so we have to sit tight for the moment.  

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


I have just returned from Venice, the city Ruskin found so inspirational. The work of Titian and Tintoretto were strong influences on the Pre-Raphaelites. The Scuola di San Rocco, which Ruskin had been so inspired by, was a profound experience for me. On the altar, standing on an easel was a painting of the annunciation. At first I thought it was a painting by Rossetti but discovering it was a Titian and was astonished because I knew there was something else by Rossetti which was very similar. I had to find out what it was.

The first Pre-Raphaelite painting exhibited with the initials PRB, was by Rossetti, called "The Girlhood of Mary Virgin". The composition of the painting was so similar to Titian's, even with the red cloth lying over the balustrade, that I knew this was what I had mistaken the Titian for. It was clear to me that Rossetti had painted a premonition of Titian's painting. He wrote two sonnets called The Girlhood of Mary Virgin to explain the symbols in his painting. He saw the red cloth as a symbol of the unborn Christ, the lily as innocence, the briar and palm her pain and reward. The symbolic lily carried by Rossetti's child angel mirrors the lily held by Titian's flying angel. Rossetti places this little angel in his painting as if it is watching the young Mary waiting for the moment when it will bring her the news that she is carrying God's child. The sewing basket in Titian's painting is the embroidery work that the young Mary is sewing in Rossetti's painting, taking the same shape as the lectern that she is kneeling at in prayer when the Angel Gabriel visits her in Titian's painting. The image of the glowing dove is represented in exactly the same way in both paintings, only in different areas of the picture. The main difference in Rossetti's painting is that he also includes a man outside the window tending to a vine, who is a further prophetic image of Christ - and also an older woman sitting beside Mary, who is a thoughtful St Anne, but could also represent the older Mary that she is to become.  The Titian Annunciation far surpasses Rossetti's early painting in skill and drama and has much more of a sense of movement and life to it but there is something strange and fascinating about Rossetti's prophecy painting.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was one of the high points of my Venetian trip, I will never forget it. But there is one mystery, as far as we know Rossetti never went to Italy...