So after the introductory session, we then get to have an initial chat about our specific show with Robert and Fred. They have already read the pages of script that writers Carl and Chris sent them from a few months ago and they’re advising on their first impressions of the piece and where to go next.
I am struck by the sheer depth and intelligence of their critique. From only a small section of the overall piece, they are able to speak with such intelligence about the elements that make it up, the way it is composed and the way it seems to function. To draw correlations about what has been written so far and what the full piece could begin to look like. What I realise is that the way you start a musical, the form you have conceived to tell the story and the mechanisms of that storytelling are key to all of the writing you have to do. That there are principles and they need to be figured out and connected to the story and the arcs of the characters before you can get too far along the journey of the piece.
Here are some of the thoughts they gave us (if you missed the first blog we’re making a musical about the Brontës)
- They asked us if Charlotte – as the oldest Brontë and the one who outlives the others – is the lead. Or if all of the cast have equal weighting.
- They suggested she has negative energy towards the other siblings, and that maybe that should be examined. That positive energy is useful for characters in musicals because it allows us to see them doing things wrong but with good intentions.
- Just because she’s in charge of the siblings in many ways, how can we make them balanced and responsible for their own fate.
- They observed the framing device of the piece which gives it a non-linear structure. They said we should look at what a linear and simple narrative order would be missing and then ensure that the frame only gave us what was missing from the story if it weren’t there.
- They asked fascinating questions about the anachorinstic nature of writing a piece set in the 19th centrury that uses a more contempory form of music. Are the characters aware of their displacement in time? Are the audience?
- Finally they unpacked the current opening number. Openings are important and difficult, they need to hook the audience and contain the drive for the story, they need to set the scene and tell us the rules that the piece is going to follow. They need to set the expectation of the experience. It goes without saying that none of this is easy. Which is why they said “Often we have to write the wrong opening and then later you write the right one”.