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

Monday, 16 December 2013



A wonderful evening at home last night with masses of friends and family singing carols, accompanied by Steve Edis on piano!

The power of old songs and singing with friends- such a joy!

Some of the voices that rose above the others to thrill us all came from new stars of opera and musical theatre including Olivia Holland-Rose, Luke Bateman and James Penniston.

Monday, 25 November 2013

S & S Awards Night

S & S Awards  - Great to see Broadway World advertising the Award!

I had a fantastic evening with my family and  so many wonderful friends listening to new musical theatre songs on the Award night, empassioned words from Mark Shenton and Warner Brown and the great Don Black handing over the award.

Lovely to have the acknowledgement that our Writing Lab had so many of its members highly commended for the award.

It was especially good to hear our songs from Possessed again, with beautiful Caroline Sheen singing "Hungry Sea" and Matthew Crowe and Holly Anna Lloyd being hilarious as Mr Carter and Bessy singing "Mr Carter" (which we have sometimes called "A bit of Rough and Tumble" so you get the theme immediately!)

I loved Warner Brown and Gweneth Herbert's song Find the Words, about writing songs, which opened the show and closed it.

Last week in the Observer there was an article about the show which won this prestigious S & S Award- "Forest Boy", and Warner Brown, whose award it is, saying that there is a call out for musicals to embrace dark themes of death and steamy sex..... Possessed covers not only these subjects but also drug addiction, ghosts and exhumation of a coffin. So I think we might be on track there!

A picture of Caroline as she was last night and another of her as the practically perfect Mary Poppins!

Monday, 23 September 2013

S & S Awards Night at the St James Theatre

SUNDAY, NOV 24TH 19:00 - 22:30

We are delighted to announce that the winner, four special commendations, each of whom narrowly missed winning the main prize, and two runners-up for the S&S Award 2013 are as follows:

FOREST BOY: Book, music & lyrics by Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour
THE ATTIC: Book, music & lyrics by Mark Carroll
COUNSELLING MR TOAD: Book, music & lyrics by Andrew Brinded
POSSESSED: Book & lyrics by Teresa Howard, music by Steven Edis
THE STATIONMASTER: Book by Susannah Pearse, music & lyrics by Tim Connor
THE QUEEN OF SNOW: Book & lyrics by Jen Toksvig and music by Alexander Rudd
BETWEEN EMPIRES: Book & lyrics by Morgan Mackintosh & Orlando Simon, music by Michail Palaiologou

This is the second year of the Award and this year’s winner will receive a week’s development with a professional creative team next year, followed by an industry showcase later in 2014.

In addition, there will also be an Awards Event on the evening of Sunday 24th November 2013 at the St James Theatre, London where the Award itself will be formally presented along with excerpts from the winning show, as well as a selection of songs from the specially commended and runners-up.

Go to this link on the MMD Website to find out more information:   S & S Awards 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Writing Lab on a roll with the S & S Award!!

 Charles Hart with the winners and runners-up of the Sidney Brown Memorial Award 2012, l to r; Christine Denniston, Gwyneth Herbert, Charles Hart, Denise Wright and Chris Burgess
The Sidney Brown memorial Award has been re-named the S & S Award.  This year the winners were Scott Gilmore and Claire McKenzie with their musical FOREST BOY, which had a production at the Edinburgh Festival this summer with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

I am really excited to say that there were four Specially Commended shows and my Pre-Raphaelite musical POSSESSED, with beautiful music by Steven Edis, was one of them, plus two runners up.    POSSESSED tells the story of Jane Burden a young girl from the backstreets of Oxford whose life is changed irrevocably by a chance meeting with artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Persephone by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Songs from all these shows are going to be sung in Cabaret at the beautiful brand new St James Theatre on 24th November, produced by Mercury Musical Developments.  I went to see Trisha Thorns wonderful production of London Wall here and I have to say it has a great bar!

St James Theatre

The really interesting part of this is that three of the shows were by other members of my fantastic Writing Lab: Tim Connor, Susannah Pearce, Jenny Toksvig and Andrew Brinded.  So I am overjoyed to find that on the cabaret night I will be surrounded by colleagues I have chewed the fat with and spent exciting hours giving and getting feedback on work.

Christine Denniston, the leader of the Lab Workshop, was herself one of the Runners Up for the Award last year.   I am sure Christine will be extremely pleased to discover that her Workshop writers will be taking pride of place at the St James cabaret on 24th November!

Saturday, 31 August 2013


James Penniston as Raoul & India Shaw-Smith as Christine

Vivo D'Arte never ceases to amaze me with the skill and incredible talent of its young performers - their production of The Phantom of the Opera is no exception.    From start to finish they gave everything the Youth Company promises: passion, commitment and excellence.

George Watkins as the Phantom

It was quite something to have got the rights to perform one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most successful musicals and I was really knocked off my seat with this production, almost forgetting at times that no one in the cast was older than 19.

Hayley White as Carlotta

Young director Dan Cowtan who trained in voice at the Royal Northern is also the vocal coach for many of the cast.  Dan's experience and directing skill really brought out the best in this young cast.  His excellent teaching has helped some of them gain prize places at many of the country's top drama and music schools including Richard Edwards (acting at Italia Conte), George Watkins (voice at Guildhall) and James Penniston (voice at the Royal Northern).

The incredible depth of emotion portrayed by the cast in this compelling musical drama was breathtaking.

George Watkins, who played the title role of Phantom has a rich powerful voice, and created a character that we were able to pity and despise simultaneously.  James Penniston was a joy to watch as Raoul, with his tender soaring voice.  He gave a profound gravitas to Raoul in his interpretation which showed a sensitivity way beyond his years.  Beautiful India Shaw-Smith was stunning as Christine and I was amazed by her fabulous voice.  Sara Lawrence gave us a brilliantly austere Madame Giry and Hayley White's comic Carlotta was absolutely on point.
Sara Lawrence as Madame Giry

There was  some fantastic comic timing in performances by Freddie Clarke, Richard Edwards and Alfie Glasser and a lovely cameo from Pippa Taylor in her Meg Giry.  The corps de ballet from the Espinosa Dance Project lent a really professional framework to the production under Yat-Sen Chang's choreographic guidance.  Fiona Quilter-Wood's choreography for the rest of the cast was inspired!

The work that had gone into the production was incredible, the costumes, set, lighting and the rousing band.  From the littlest member of the chorus, everyone gave their all to this stupendous production of Phantom - a show I shall never forget.   Well done Vivo d'Arte!!

To find out more about their courses and upcoming productions go to their website:

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Another triumph for OUDS Thelma Holt International Summer Tour, with The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare - at University Church, Oxford.

The Company

Legendary West End producer Thelma Holt, became the Cameron Mackintosh Professor in Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s College Oxford in 1998, where her association with the Oxford University Drama Society began.   For fourteen years she has been taking Oxford’s top talent to produce, design, direct and perform in Shakespeare across the UK and to the Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space.  It is through these tours that young stars like Rosamund Pike, Julian Ovenden and Rory Kinear began their careers.

This year Thelma Holt’s brilliant choice of Producer is the magnetic Jessica Campbell, who told me it was “a dream to work with such a good company” and that she has loved every moment.  Jessica is not new to the role of producer - her production of The State vs John  Hayes opened at the Hen and Chickens last summer and is now off to EdFest.  She has six other OUDs productions to her name and now that she is graduating I am sure we will get the chance to see a lot more Campbell productions in the future.  

This years brilliant young director Christopher Adams won his pitch with a vision of Comedy of Errors set in 2013 in Malaga - a contemporary equivalent of the wealth and excess of Ephesus, where Shakespeare sets the play.  Christopher wanted us to see the characters as “a community of pleasure-seekers who have drifted from their roots” and the analogy works extremely well.  He lends a particularly physical element to the production from his Lecoq training, and experience as assistant to Irina Brook’s production of Pan.

The play is one of Shakespeare’s most farcical comedies full of mistaken identity, idiotic slapstick and clever wordplay.  But beneath the surface lies a dark underbelly that seems to be touching on the quest for “self” understanding and there were times when I wondered whether I was “in earth, in heaven, or in hell, sleeping or waking, mad or well-advised”, but I loved every moment of it. 


Emma D’Arcy’s acting stage manager is a tour de force, but I will say no more because I might give it away! Adriana (Hannah Gliksten) and Luciana (Constance Greenfield) have a real sisterly connection, which must have developed through the intensive improvisation workshops that Christopher took the troupe through at the beginning of rehearsals.  Natasha Heliotis (Abess & First Merchant), has a beautiful singing voice and transformed effortlessly between her different parts.  Peter Huhne acted with real gravitas as the Duke and in contrast Dylan Townley caught the comedy with his character roles as Angelo and Jailer.  

I was very fond of Alexander Stutt as Egeon and can see why he has won a prize place at The Drama Centre.  Amelia Sparling who plays the rotund Nell and Zoe Bullock who plays Balthazar and the Courtesan are excellent comediennes.

Artemas Froushan and Hannah Gliksten as Antipholus of Ephesus and Adriana

My favourite performance was David Sheilds, who completely captivated me with his portrayal of Antipholus of Syracuse, with a mixture of sensitive and hilarious comic acting played with perfect timing.  His man servant Dromio was brought to life beautifully by Sam Plumb as a lanky camp inbetweener and his twin Dromio, Harley Viveash left us almost weeping with his mirror image of bonkers slapstick.  Artemas Froushan created a wonderfully louche Antipholus of Ephesus.

The music was exciting and eclectic, all composed especially for the show by Nathan Klein.

This Comedy of Errors is a wonderful display of energetic new talent and really well worth trying to see if you can pick it up on the tour which begins on Wednesday 14th August.

It will be running at:
Southwark Playhouse 14th to 17th August 7.30pm
and on 17th August at 3pm

18th August in the Dell at Stratford-Upon-Avon at 4pm

24th August 1pm & 7pm and 25th August at 6pm
Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space

29th August 7.30pm
Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

4-7th September 7.30pm
Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

To contact the tour producer, Jessica Campbell, or the tour director, Christopher Adams please email: oudsjapantour2013@gmail.com

Friday, 9 August 2013

Possessed Shortlisted for the S and S Awards!

Steve and I have heard the our Pre-Raphaelite musical POSSESSED  has been shortlisted for the S & S Award!  This used to the be the Sidney Brown Memorial Award.  

It is a wonderful award that gives writers a weeks development workshop with a cast of leading actors, followed by an industry showcase in central London.

Last year my friend Christine Denniston and composer Gweneth Herbert received a Special Commendation from the award for their musical Before the Law.  The Winners were Denise Wright and Chris Burgess for their musical Emerald.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Working on a New Song

I have been coming up with ideas for some new musicals and writing an Arts Council application.  But a new song has been working its way through under all this and now I have begun to work on it.  This method often works out well - the ideas start to build up, I write notes and then when I can't bear to live without writing it I put it all together and begin. Although, I am not sure whether this method is any better than having to write a song under pressure, sometimes those are the best songs, because I don't have time to edit myself too much.

But now that I've begun it looks as if the title may change.  Titles are so important - if the title changes, the whole meaning of the song changes.

I discovered a wonderful book to work up song lyrics in, called The Lyricists Notebook.  I carry it everywhere.  It's about the size of an exercise book so it's easy to carry around with you, has really lovely paper, spaces to fill in about the location you wrote the song in, chord boxes, date, and inspiration and a few quotes thrown in to amuse you  - like:

"Imagination is the key to my lyrics.  The rest is painted with a little science fiction."  Jimi Hendrix - I am not sure what he means but when I am hunting down a rhyme it makes me laugh.

The great thing about this book is that when I come back to work on a song it always surprises me how much I have already written and the lists of rhymes are so useful but sometimes I have absolutely no memory of verses I worked on in it and they feel like a gift!!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Writing Lab

Another brilliant night at Writing Lab - an MMD Workshop run by Christine Denniston, which I always feel very lucky to be a part of.

We met in a fantastic space just by Bond Street Station - called the The Music Studios.  They are studios for musicians to go and practise and rehearse and every room has a grand piano in it.   There is a link to their website HERE

James Lovelock brought in a scene from his musical Sunshine Guy, which has recently had a production at Birmingham University and a transfer to the Landor Theatre, but he is still refining the show and we read a scene and he sang one of the absolutely beautiful songs.

Karl Miller and Chris Ash presented only the music for a musical they are working on.  They wanted to find out what we got from the music - and wonderfully our feedback was very much what they had hoped.

I brought in a scene from Capture which I had added a character to and moved another, only the day before.   The feedback was really helpful, the dynamics of the scene had changed a lot from this switch and I felt that it had improved so will be keeping it this way for the moment.

Karl, Chris, Christine and Tim Connor and I all went off to a Lebanese cafe afterwards to talk about life, musical theatre and everything - which is always a very important part of the evening!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

London Wall

Maia Alexander at Pat Milligan and Alex Robertson as Mr Brewer

A triumph for Two's Company!

I went to the press night of London Wall last night, a transfer from the Finborough to the spanking new  St James Theatre, in Victoria.  Oh and this production really deserved the move to a bigger theatre, both for more people to see this rediscovered play by John van Druten and also to see this flawless production full of wonderful performances.  It is only on until 1st June so do go and see it. 

London Wall is directed with perfection by Tricia Thorns.  The cast includes: Maia Alexander as Pat Milligan; Mia Austen as Miss Bufton; Emily Bowker as Miss Hooper; Marty Cruickshank as Miss Willesden; Alix Dunmore as Miss Janus; Timothy O’Hara as Hec Hammond; Alex Robertson as Mr. Brewer; Craig Vye as Birkinshaw and David Whitworth as Mr. Walker.

You will be amazed to see how very contemporary a 1930's play can be and the tone of the production brings the story even closer to us.

"LONDON WALL first appeared in the West End in 1931 and offered contemporary audiences a rare look at the life of women office workers in the City. An 80 year old play arrives on stage at a time when the continuing inability of men to see women as professional equals and colleagues is exceedingly topical."

I had a particular interest in going to see this play - John van Druten was a contemporary of Dodie Smith's.  While Dodie and her husband Alec Beasley were living in Hollywood, and she was writing I Capture the Castle, John and his great friend Christopher Isherwood were constant visitors to Dodie's home.  I think it was also Dodie's idea that John should adapt Christopher's book, Goodbye to Berlin into a stage play - which was later called I am a Camera and then adapted by Joe Masteroff, John Kander and Fred Ebb into the musical Cabaret!!

You can book tickets on the St James Theatre website HERE

Our new St James Theatre is a really fantastic space and I look forward to seeing more shows there in the future!  It seats about 312 and has a thrust stage, with a steeply raked auditorium making this a really wonderful space for intimate theatre.  There is also a studio theatre seating 100 and a fab bar!

A wonderful four star review of London Wall in the Telegraph by Charles Spencer 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Writing Fellowship!

The view from my kitchen window of St Helen's Church.

I am living in a little cottage near Stratford-Upon-Avon at the moment, having amazingly received a Fellowship for three months.   I am writing all about it on my new blog called FROM THE ROOM.  The motto of the Hosking House Writing Residency is "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write".    I feel very blessed to have that, out here in the snowy Stratford countryside.  It is an idyllic spot and the only real distraction from work is the beauty of the place.

The link to the new blog is here

Vivo D'Arte

Vivo D'Arte Schools Edition of Les Miserables  - James Penniston and George Watkins

Vivo D'Arte, a wonderful youth theatre company in Hertfordshire are planning to put POSSESSED on.  Dan Cowtan is going to be directing the show and the cast will be drawn from the Vivo D'Arte Company.  It will be fascinating to see what a youth theatre company will be able to do with the show.

I went to see their Schools Version of Les Miserables and was incredibly impressed.  Above is a photograph of two of the performers from the show - James Penniston, who is playing Thenardier, has just received a place at the Royal Northern College of Music studying voice as a Bass/Baritone and George, Jean Valjean has also received a place at Guildhall studying voice as a tenor.  Dan Cowtan directed this production of Les Mis but has also been the young singers vocal coach.


Anna Francolini and Joseph Millson in rehearsal for  POSSESSED

Our Pre-Raphaelite musical POSSESSED has been chosen by MMD to be put forward as one of their three nominations for the NAMT Festival of New Musicals in New York.  We just have to hope that the Americans will like it enough to get it through to the finals. Steve and I are really excited about this!