10mm Dog’s Dinner Script part 1

Sorry for not writing for two weeks. Dad came down again and we spent all last weekend doing DIY. Ditto all last week end this weekend. It has become quite the headache.

Tonight I’m going to take the first act scaffolding and turn it into a full script draft that leads into “Comfort”.

Here is the scaffolding for what happens in act 1:

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He says it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

I reckon that some of these points will be swollowed up into just a couple lines of dialogue while others will take up loads. Remember that the bullet points only identify the bits where the action changes in the scene. Remember this is just a swift once through to get something down. It’s always easier to edit than write afresh.

(Obviously this is not in musical theatre script formatting)

————- START SCENE —————-

Act 1 Script first draft

It is dinner time in a restaurant in modern day South Korea. Lights up on Brits Mike and Holly who are sitting left and right respectively at a table center-stage. In-between them and facing out to the audience is their dog Max who is also sat at the table. An unnamed waiter is putting drinks on their table.

HOLLY
Thank you. We’ll just need a few more minutes to look at the menu!

Mark is playing on his smartphone.

MIKE
You know they’ve even got 4-G out in the streets.

Max barks at the waiter as he walks away. Mark doesn’t respond.

HOLLY
Sorry. Mike will you please shut that dog up.

MIKE
Not listening
Saw someone watching tv in the underground.

HOLLY
MIKE!

MIKE
Hmm?

Max barks at Mike. Mike playfully barks back at Max.

HOLLY
I don’t believe this. I do not believe it. Not enough that you bring him into the restaurant, you let him make all that racket!

MIKE
Aww don’t listen to her mate, she’s got sunstroke and was up all night on the bog.

HOLLY
Why can’t you just tie him up outside?

MIKE
Holly this is South Korea. Do you know what they do to dogs?

HOLLY
Its bollocks.

MIKE
Max doesn’t leave my sight.

Max barks at Holly.

MIKE
To MAX
No he doesn’t leave my sight does he? And Holly can roll her eyes and fold her arms but if she insists on dragging me half way across the world to look a…

Triangle.

MIKE
… Buddhist temples!

Triangle.

MIKE
Folk Museums!

Triangle.

MIKE
Or Royal gardens!

C7th?

MIKE
Then I have a few stipulations of my own.

Into song “COMFORT

 

————- END SCENE —————-

Right I will now read it back to myself without changing anything. Back in a minute.

Back. Read it though twice. Part of me thinks it’s a bit long but it is after all the opening scene so that probably is allowed to be long. Saying that it might only run to about a minute is it is acted snappy. Just re-read it with a stopwatch and it’s a minute exactly.

It reads okay. I think it’s coming through that Mike is a bit of a dick and Holly is annoyed. That’s all the character development I think they need at this point. The only bit I’m not to sure about is when Mike says:Then I have a few stipulations of my own.”. That seems a bit too much like he answering a question that nobody has asked, like something out of a clever old-time musical where everyone is smart and wordy. Stipulation isn’t too clever per se, it just seems to focused. This song isn’t really about the dog, it’s about comforts. The dog can be the final comfort. Perhaps in the song it looks like he is going to imply that his chief comfort is Holly, but instead it’s Max. I suppose “Requirement” is a better word that stipulation. I’ll change it to that.

Other than that change the scene is good enough for me. I might add a stage direction to tell Holly to roll her eyes and cross her arms as Mike says she is, that would be a nice sight gag that tells the audience that they are in a long-term ‘I know all your moves’ relationship. Hopefully that will make Mike slightly more sympathetic if we can see that Holly is a bit of a nag.

I’ll add those small changes into the second draft.

—————– start scene ——————-

Act 1 Script second draft

It is dinner time in a restaurant in modern day South Korea. Lights up on Brits Mike and Holly who are sitting left and right respectively at a table center-stage. In-between them and facing out to the audience is their dog Max who is also sat at the table. An unnamed waiter is putting drinks on their table.

HOLLY
Thank you. We’ll just need a few more minutes to look at the menu!

Mark is playing on his smartphone.

MIKE
You know they’ve even got 4-G out in the streets.

Max barks at the waiter as he walks away. Mark doesn’t respond.

HOLLY
Sorry. Mike will you please shut that dog up.

MIKE
Not listening
Saw someone watching tv in the underground.

HOLLY
MIKE!

MIKE
Hmm?

Max barks at Mike. Mike playfully barks back at Max.

HOLLY
I don’t believe this. I do not believe it. Not enough that you bring him into the restaurant, you let him make all that racket!

MIKE
Aww don’t listen to her mate, she’s got sunstroke and was up all night on the bog.

HOLLY
Why can’t you just tie him up outside?

MIKE
Holly this is South Korea. Do you know what they do to dogs?

HOLLY
Its bollocks.

MIKE
Max doesn’t leave my sight.

Max barks at Holly.

MIKE
To MAX
No he doesn’t leave my sight does he? And Holly can roll her eyes…

Holly rolls her eyes.

 

MIKE
…and fold her arms…

Holly folds her arms.

MIKE
…but if she insists on dragging me half way across the world to look a…

Triangle.

MIKE
… Buddhist temples!

Triangle.

MIKE
Folk Museums!

Triangle.

MIKE
Or Royal gardens!

C7th?

MIKE
Then I have a few requirements of my own.

Into song “COMFORT

—————– end scene ——————-

Cool. In the next blog I will start drafting the song “Comfort”. See you then.

10mm Dog’s Dinner Scaffolding

Scaffolding? Scaffolding? What the devil is scaffolding?

I remember Tim Saward wrote a Facebook update once in which he said something like ‘I can’t get this song down, all I have is the scaffolding’ and then someone, probably Jennifer Toksvig, said ‘hey, don’t stress it, the scaffolding IS the song, everything else is just detail’. I vowed then that I would make it my mission to find out what scaffolding is. To date I’m still not entirely sure, but I have my own system that works for me, and I call that scaffolding.

Scaffolding (my definition) is pegging down the shape of the song or musical; or whatever. Pegging is in fact a better analogy than scaffolding because when you peg you are putting in the earth the places you intend to dig and eventually start building. Scaffolding on the other hand is something you do long after any design has been signed off. Nevertheless, scaffolding is what it’s called. Now by ‘pegging down the shape of the song’ I mean you actually write down in list form everything that has to happen in the drama. Every emotional turn and every little inclusion of plot and character has to be put in the list. From the list you can chart where a song might begin and even what its first verse might concern itself with. In fact lets go a little deeper, at this point you are scaffolding to decide whether the songs are even going to be verse/chorus or verse/verse/bridge/verse songs.

Verse/chorus vs verse/verse/bridge/verse songs

There are both useful in their own way of course. Consider that all songs make their ‘point’, which is usually the title of the song, either at the end of the chorus with v/c songs or at the end of each verse in v/v/b/v songs. This means that there is more space to put ideas before you have to get back to that bit in the song where you have to repeat the name of the song.

Verse/chorus songs have a fair amount of space between chorus end and chorus so they are good if you have a lot to say. They do however, tend to want the whole chorus to be repeated almost identically each time. A good example of a v/c would be Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Evita.

Verse/verse/bridge/verse songs however have their repeating idea at the end of each verse. This means that you are going to have to keep your wordplay keened up and think of a song title that you can come from at every which angle. A good example of a v/v/b/v song would be (there are hundreds of course) Losing My Mind from Follies.

In my works to date I have found the verse/chorus shape more useful, perhaps it’s time to force myself into a new groove?

Anyway, back to business.

 

Scaffolding Dog’s Dinner

This might end up being a long blog as what I am going to do now is stream-of-consciousnesses style list and annotate my musings and thinkings as I go. Jeez, this is going to be like writing a script but of everything. I better get started. No. Cup of tea first. No it’s too late for that (11pm GMT). But then again I did have that 1pm-8om nap. No. No Daniel you are just going to start and see where you are in an hour.

Quick review of the plotting.

Okay. There are five acts and so far two, two-and-a-half songs decided. Another song probably find itself at some point. The acts are: meet the couple and dog and sing comfort, look at the menu, talking to the waiter, wife takes photos and sings status, food arrives and they sing comfort again. Cool. I will now peg out the first act.

First pegging

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • We see the couple. Lets call them Mike and Holly.
  • Mike says he is annoyed about being in this restaurant.
  • The dog starts barking.
  • Holly is annoyed at the situation.
  • Mike sings his comfort song to the dog and vicariously to the wife.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

Okay. That looks to me like everything that I had in my outline, plus a few ideas I had as I wrote. I will now nb areas that I feel need more detail.

Querying the first pegging

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • We see the couple. Lets call them Mike and Holly.
    • Are they already sat?
    • Do they already have drinks?
    • Have we met or seen the dog yet the dog yet?
    • Could they not come on from off-stage and that is how the scene is framed?
  • Mike says he is annoyed about being in this restaurant.
    • He can’t just say it. What provokes him? Could Holly say something?
  • The dog starts barking.
    • Is this the first time the dog barks. Perhaps Holly could be angry and Mike takes pleasure from it.
  • Holly is annoyed at the situation.
  • Mike sings his comfort song to the dog and vicariously to the wife.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

Not that many notes really. I suppose it’s only really about a minute or less of drama. One of the questions I had is if they are already sat or do they come in. I would really like Holly to be sipping wine during the reprise of ‘Comfort,’ so that means she has to have wine already. We don’t want them to have any serious iterations with the waiter before their scene with him so they cannot order drinks at the start. That would if anything require three occasions with the waiter: the ordering of the drinks, the returning with the drinks, the ordering of the food and the bring back of the food. If the scene opens with them already with drinks at the table or with the waiter just leaving the table after dropping of the drinks then I can live with that. Either way it settles the question of whether they start at the table or not.

Another question. ‘do we see the dog or not’ is one that might inform the rest of the piece. I don’t think we can very well have a reveal that there is a dog under the table. It’s just too silly. If the scene started with the dog barking at the waiter who has just brought the drinks over then it sets up there is a dog at the table, Holly can react with embarrassment and Mike can react with pride. This little question has just set up the opening of the piece better than any exposition dialogue.

I will now write up the second pegging.

no the dig ain’t safe out there

Second pegging

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He says it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.

That seems pretty good. I’m never sure how fine you can get with the details in scaffolds before you are writing script and lyrics out and out. If I were just working on the piece and not writing for illustrative purposes I might just keep tweaking at the same messy list until it evolved into a script. There really are no rules.  I could probably break up the ‘comfort song’ into a song scaffold but no more than that really.

(As you can see I made a little note about the sort of song I think the ‘comfort song’ could be.)

I will continue from the first act all the way to the end of the piece.

Whole piece first pegging.

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He tells her it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.
Act 2 – Reading the menu
  • Holly tries to decipher the menu like a trooper
  • Mike reads out the menu with silly talk
  • Holly tells him off
  • the waiter arrives
Act 3 – The waiter
  • Mike asks if they have pizza
  • Holly is allergic to prawns and
  • No tomatoes
  • We had chicken last night
  • chicken? Holly does a noise like a chicken.
  • I want beef. Moo.
  • That’s a cow. Well what does a beef sound like?
  • Look we’ll have the special.
  • Holly: Oh and can you take the dog?
  • Mike protests
  • Holy: It’s alright Mike, the waiter is going to take the dog, give him some food and then bring him right out.
  • Holly: Dog – food. Dog = food.
  • Holly doesn’t even let the waiter protest, she just hushes him off.

Act 4 – The status

  • Holly gets her mobile phone out and starts taking duck face selfies, checking each one before taking an other.
  • Mike can’t believe this: more photos!
  • Holly asks Mike to smile as she closes in on him.
  • She sings status as she is taking the photos
    • Perhaps the song can have a ‘cheese’ punctuation?
    • Perhaps her rival had 56 likes for her engagement ring status update and she needs to top it?
      • That can be “the bit”

Act 5 – The food

  • The waiter returns and puts food in front of them
  • Mike recognises the bowl in front of him. It’s his favorite dish in the world. Curry.
    • Set up curry in his comfort song
    • The food arrives. They begin to eat. It’s the husband’s favorite. It’s curry. As he tucks in she find a dog collar in her food. She pushes the plate aside and he grabs it. He sings as he eats and she joins in. They toast to comfort.
  • Holly recognises the dog’s collar in her food.
  • Mike ask’s what she’s got, and if she’s going to eat her dinner. Holly hands hers over and gets her camera out.

Cool cool. I think I lost it there in the bit with the waiter and started pitching dialogue when I should be thinking about scaffolding. That’s okay though. The lines are blurred after all and perhaps my little deviations into script will say more about how I want the scene to go down tonally than by describing it verbosely. That last scene seems a little short. Perhaps it will have the dramatic feel of being longer when it is staged. Or perhaps it will change some more.

Querying the whole piece first pegging.

Act 1 – Meeting the couple
  • A waiter leaves drinks on the table where Mike and Holly are sat.
  • In broken English Holly tells the waiter that they will need a bit more time to look over the menu.
  • As the waiter walks away the dog barks at him.
  • Holly scolds Mike for bringing a dog into the restaurant.
  • Mike talks to Holly while stroking the dog. He tells her it might be a bad area for all they know and if he’s going to be dragged around somewhere he doesn’t want to be then he should get his dog with him. SingsComfort Song’.
    • The comfort song can be a ww2 style ‘keep the home fires burning’ or ‘oh to be back to my baby’ song. That would suit a little-England squaddie type.
  • Holly interrupts the song to make him look at the menu.
Act 2 – Reading the menu
  • Holly tries to decipher the menu like a trooper
  • Mike reads out the menu with silly talk
  • Holly tells him off
  • the waiter arrives
Act 3 – The waiter
  • Mike asks if they have pizza
  • Holly is allergic to prawns and
  • No tomatoes
  • We had chicken last night
  • chicken? Holly does a noise like a chicken.
  • I want beef. Moo.
  • That’s a cow. Well what does a beef sound like?
  • Look we’ll have the special.
  • Holly: Oh and can you take the dog?
  • Mike protests
  • Holy: It’s alright Mike, the waiter is going to take the dog, give him some food and then bring him right out.
  • Holly: Dog – food. Dog = food.
  • Holly doesn’t even let the waiter protest, she just hushes him off.

Act 4 – The status

  • Holly gets her mobile phone out and starts taking duck face selfies, checking each one before taking an other.
  • Mike can’t believe this: more photos!
  • Holly asks Mike to smile as she closes in on him.
  • She sings status as she is taking the photos
    • Perhaps the song can have a ‘cheese’ punctuation?
    • Perhaps her rival had 56 likes for her engagement ring status update and she needs to top it?
      • That can be “the bit”

Act 5 – The food

  • The waiter returns and puts food in front of them
  • Mike recognises the bowl in front of him. It’s his favorite dish in the world. Curry.
    • Set up curry in his comfort song
    • The food arrives. They begin to eat. It’s the husband’s favorite. It’s curry. As he tucks in she find a dog collar in her food. She pushes the plate aside and he grabs it. He sings as he eats and she joins in. They toast to comfort.
  • Holly recognises the dog’s collar in her food.
  • Mike ask’s what she’s got, and if she’s going to eat her dinner. Holly hands hers over and gets her camera out.

10MM Dog’s Dinner Plotting

So you’ve just read the previous blog where I run on about what I’m looking for in a 10MM. Now I’m going to try and come up with an outline / scaffold for one. Plucked from the list at random is the Urban Legend ‘Dog’s Dinner’.

In case you are unfamiliar, the story goes that a couple are traveling to a far-flung part of the world, probably in East Asia. The couple have been staying in this particular city for a spell and while they cannot decipher the menus, they vaguely recognise the hieroglyphs and know that they don’t want another bowl of “house, tree, square-cat-foot” or whatever the letters of that nation’s language look like. The couple also have a companion dog that they take everywhere with them. When the waitress comes over they manage to bridge the language gab with hand gestures and volume that they wan’t something special. Something off the menu. They then hand the waitress the dog and sees that the dog also ‘gets food’. The waitress returns with two bowls of ‘food’. It is the dog obviously. In some variations of the story the couple find out by discovering a dog collar in their food, in others they find out by the waitress plainly telling them. So there’s the story in case you hadn’t come across it.

I do like the general shape of the legend. It’s concise, it’s tightly staged and you half-know what is going to happen from the outset. There are also two protagonists and that means there are two people sitting opposite each other for the whole ten minutes. This just screams out for conflict. Lets imagine these are typical tourists in a far off land. Lets make the land Korea because I’ve been there. Lets make the tourists Brits because I am one. And Brits make exceptionally bad tourists. Lets have one of them utterly reluctant to eat out anywhere unfamiliar, insisting that they had sworn they’d seen a KFC down an ally somewhere. The other half of the coupling can be more open to the local cuisine. Now we have conflict. Oh and don’t forget the dog! There’s a dog in this. Right, now we’re talking. Let’s make the one who doesn’t like to travel a man (only for the sake of he/she demarcation, I reckon this could work any way really) and all he wants is his home comforts. And that is why he brings the dog along. His partner (wife?) hates the dog, the fact that he brought the dog on a holiday and that all he will not stay out of his comfort zone. There. We have the characters set up nicely. Now they have to scale the menu and decide that they don’t want anything on it. That’s simple.

Now the waiter arrives. Here there will be some lost in translation ‘business’ that ends with him being handed the dog.

Then the couple are left for a moment until the food arrives. Something probably has to happen here. Perhaps the wife takes a photo of them. Perhaps that annoys the husband and he thinks that all staged photos are useless. The wife can insist that everyone loves to look at photos of people sitting in restaurants.

The food arrives and they eat it. Wife finds a collar in the dogs dinner. The husband loves it and it reminds him of the great curry place they have round the corner from where they live. We can add that idea in earlier. We can set up that the husband only likes his favourite curry and his dog and they bring him comfort. So there our hero sits, almost crying in the comfort that surrounds him. The wife is delighted that the dog is gone and joins him in his elation.

That plot feels pretty good. It will be tight to squeeze it into ten minutes but that’s the craft I suppose. I am most happy with how the characters have developed. In the original story the husband and wife just ate the dog and, we assume, found out later to disgust and tragedy. Now its a little ironic and schadenfreudest. It will be cool to have the wife a little gleeful, but that would have to be earned by having her hate the dog and be really annoyed with her husband.

Scaffolding Structure

I will now bullet point my outlined rambling into something more like a scaffold-ed structure.

  1. Couple are sitting in a restaurant. Husband doesn’t want to be here, he want KFC. He lets the dog sit at the table. The dog barks and the wife shudders. The wife hates the dog and is at her whits end with her husband. He tells the dog (telling the wife vicariously) that if he is going to be dragged around the earth he needs his comforts, namely his rottweiler puppy.
    1. A Little Comfort
  2. They look at the menu. Some business with the funny glyphs that is interrupted by the waiter. This can illustrate the disinterest of the husband to the whole travel experience as he reads it out in “ping-ching-ting-tong” racist language to rial up his wife. It works.
  3. The waiter arrives to take the order. They manage to stress “special” and then the wife hands the dog to the waiter and asks that they feed it round the back. This is to the husband’s protests.
  4. The wife takes a photo, this annoys the husband. This is her theme. Perhaps her Facebook friend/ status rival had x many photos of their trip to Vienna so she has tp up them.
    1. Status.
  5. The food arrives. They begin to eat. It’s the husband’s favorite. It’s curry. As he tucks in she find a dog collar in her food. She pushes the plate aside and he grabs it. He sings as he eats and she joins in. They toast to comfort.
    1. Comfort Reprise

I have broken up the drama into 5 acts and put in a couple of song suggestions. Each act will want to have music in it in some form or another. As these are 10 minute musical there is always the option of having them sung through. My instinct is that for this particular story it might be more impactful to have a naturalistic (in a Sondheim sense) ebbing between singing and talking, saving talking for either emotion or set-piece comedy.

The ‘Comfort’ song is definitely the workhorse of the piece and it should land quite nicely in it’s reprise. The ‘Status’ song can be a character number of sorts for the wife. It’s the only time she isn’t concerning herself with the dog. The other moments in the story, the reading of the menu and the order with the waiter can be either set to music, thematic weaves between dialogue and singing, or just plain spoken. I think spoken would save time but hey, this is a musical after all.

As for a note on style of music, I don’t have any ideas yet expect that I don’t really want anything to be slow or ballady. A pet peeve of mine is high-concept musicals that are just stuffed full of ballads to earn a sort of earnest truth or worthiness. I want songs in which the actor has something to do. It’s also way more fun to have a character say what they are thinking but not saying it than to just have them stand upstage and tell you for five minutes. We don’t have five minutes anyway!

 

In the next blog installment I will be writing about scaffolding.

As always, give me your comments. I want to know if anyone’s out there. Please no comments about spelling and grammar, as I have written time and again, I am an idiot.

 

[Time for a bit of honesty time. I actually began writing about the Dog's Dinner urban legend as an example of one that I felt would make a bad ten minute musical. Then as I began to deconstruct it I convinced myself that it had all the elements right there. I think I was put off by the dog that would have to be a played by a puupet. There are also the vaguely other-ist idea of going to a foreign country to eat dog. I have been to South Korea where they do indeed eat dog. I suppose it's no different to South Koreans coming over to the East of England and watching in disgust as we chomp our way through bale after bale of sampha, a plant treasured as a noble guardplant and lapflora in the Eastern peninsula.]

Urban Legend 10 Minute Musicals – Dog’s Dinner

So I watched a few documentaries about urban legends, read Snopes from page-to-page and opened up a few of Neil’s classic (who am I kidding, they are all classic) publications of Fortean Times and threw together a shortlist of all the legend I thought had something that you could to on stage. Note that I didn’t necessarily just consider ones I thought I could musicalate, not just yet. For now it’s just the ones that I think could be done on stage. Done on stage With a small cast. And no budget. And probably no access to the lighting rig. Hey, times a tough, and festivals seem to think that drama is something that can be done just as well in a living room as a proscenium arch threatre. It’s your Andrew Lloyd Webber theatrical spectaculars that have sent ‘serious’ people into a mindset that real drama is in fact hurt by stagecraft. Poppycock says I. But who am I? Sat in an attic of a derelict house writing blogs about ten minute musicals at half ten GMT.

Anyway. On with the Blog.

So I threw together a list of about thirty ideas. Here they are:

  • The Birthday Suit
  • The Lie Detector
  • The 13th Floor
  • The Baby Monitor
  • The Fancy Dress Sex Party
  • The Killer Is IN THE HOUSE!
  • Mind Control Computer Game
  • Bloody Mary
  • The Door-To-Door Salesman
  • The Ventriloquist Dummy
  • The Hitcher
  • The Backseat
  • Lover’s Lane
  • The Policeman (Who Isn’t A Policeman!)
  • The Kidney
  • The Snake In The Coat
  • Buried Alive
  • The Salmon Moose
  • Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn On The Lights
  • Tech Support
  • The Delivery From Grandma
  • The Student In The Asylum
  • The Fake Suicide
  • Santa Up The Chimney
  • Call Me Grandma
  • The Diet Pill
  • The Cursed Boot
  • Urine Test
  • Dog’s Dinner
  • Bloody Mary
  • Tanning To Death
  • Data Implant By Big Corporation.

So there you go, a big list. Now the first thing I am looking for in this list of idea cues are the ones that suggest a story or character motivation. They all include people, but not all of them have a central protagonist who’s actions move the story. Some just have a victim for whom the story just wraps around. That’s okay though, because you can always give them a story.

The second thing I am looking for are the ideas that actually have an interesting ending from the perspective of the actors. I hope that at the end of the ten minutes (I do hope they time them) the audience clap, but I really would like to avoid an actor looking contemplatively out into the upper circle and having that be the ending. Or the plot just running out of steam. These little musicals need to have an ironic twist or reveal. And the reveal has to be dramatically interesting. The Urban Legend of Big Phama or CocaCola putting chips in everyone’s brains so they want a coke more often isn’t really a reveal because the very fact would have to be ‘told’ to the audience. I want ‘Show’ not ‘Tell’.

I don’t think there are any more refining qualities for my ten minute musicals. Good character motivation and a twist ending is more than enough to keep one occupied. Let’s pick one at random and I’ll start decon/reconstructing an outline.

[See next blog]

Sorry for all the latenesses…

I have spent the bank holiday weekend installing a PVC backdoor and blocking up an old doorplace. Needles to say I am dry, bruised and unmusicaled. I meant to begin my ten-minute-musical writing binge this weekend after a full day of building work, but I saw tired. That an a friend from out-of-town popped in so we spent Saturday cosying up. (Had to go back just then and correct ‘saturday’. I am a poor speller any years ago I decided that when I was trying to learn how to spell Wed-nes-day I should update my spelling of Saturday and put a turd in it. Later i learned that it is infact spelt with a turd anyway and my correction is in fact a second-order misspelling. Turds, the things of two uses.).

So no musical stuff to say, which is until I compose the next blog. Which I am going to do… NOW!

10 minute musicals

So I’ve had an idea.

You know those ten minute play festivals? Yeah well I’m going to do some stuff for them anyway. R.C. says that while they’re not great, they make good economic sense and are fun to write if not to watch. Economically they are the closest you can get in terms of bums-on-seats to having a play packed with children. In children’s shows, each child guarantees a couple parents, two pairs of grandparents and who knows how many disinterested aunts, uncles and siblings. In ten minute musicals you have a cast of between two and ten people per play and there could be maybe ten plays in a booking. That’s a lot of people to bring their friends and partners to.

Anywho. So yeah I’m going to do a ten minute musical. I recall my brah Tim Saward on Musical Talk having a chinny with Thos Ribbits about writing a ten minute musical. He felt that they were an exercise in futility because what you have after you have written one is something that can only ever exist in 10 minute festivals. A work that only exists in the context of a niche festival. Well that’s no biggy I remember thinking at the time. Just write episodic pieces and then if you want to have something more substantial you can stitch the episodes into a real show later. But what’s an example of good episodic musical writing I ask the. Godspell? Sorta. Cats? Yeah, but how surreal would be a Growltigger’s last stand in a ten-minute festival? I think that the episodes have to be legitimate stories, so you would want to do something more akin to The Canterbury Tales. That is; an arc of people who are themselves telling fully packaged beginning-middle-end stories.

My idea is simple and hopefully should be enough to keep me interested in the project. I’m going to write a few ten minute Urban Legends. Each one starts with a ‘I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend…’ that then trails into one of the internet’s most popular urban myths.  I will process through my first one in the next blog. I have a good list that I have accumulated from watching urban legend YouTube best-ofs.

Stay safe you crazy diamonds.

Back, and this time for reals.

So it’s been a while hey? And the new WordPress backend UX is pretty, so that’s nice.

 

Right so One Way Ticket was a bit of a non-starter. Had no joy fining a boy to play Jack so after two attempts to stage the show at the Gorleston Pavilion I have decided to put the project on ice. Shame, it would have been cool to do the ol’ ‘one show a year’ chug and become a legend for my tenacity if not absence of obvious talent.

Yesterday Neil and I took the transport to go see R.C. and Val in London. R.C. had a song in the Stiles and Drewe prize half of the Sondheim Prize at the Garrick. It was too hot for theatre but we bottle watered it and somehow made it through. The show was great, the singers were almost consistently fantastic and the song choices were good and rare. I don’t think I could have lasted through four ‘losing my minds’.

As they do every year, the finalists for best song sent me in a whirl of inadequacy. All the songs had suspended 4ths, busy bits in the 6th octaves and an unfailingly earnest obsession to never quite give you the melody you want to hear.

The winner was a lady comedian’s stand-up number. Or numbers. It was a little unorthodox. She had two songs in the shortlist and won the award for ‘best songwriter’ rather than best song. Her songs were really good, if too long and not ever actually finishing on a joke.  One of her songs had a seemingly straight fellow (i.e. not camp)  singing about having a crush on a boy he has found on facebook. It got me thinking. Is there a great wealth of songs about being gay that aren’t poor-me songs or what-is-this-inside-of-me songs? How about a small, charming-but-not-camp gay song? I bet that would get the likes of Stiles and Drewe foaming at the panel. You know what, I think I’ll try my darnedest to write them their gay-boy-nest-door waiting-for-his-date song.

…Or maybe I’ll intend to and write something weak and not bother sending it in.

Oh I had robs and pizza in one day. And R.C. and I had sticky toffee pudding. He can’t get it in ‘merica. I talked up sherbert all day so today they went out to buy some. I’ve yet to hear back.

 

Dougal Irvine’s Acoustic Overtures [moved]

[n.b. This was moved from the pages subfolder to the blog>reviews sub.]

 

Featuring Julie Atherton, Samantha Barks, Annalene Beechey, Daniel Boys, Sarah Earnshaw, Ashleigh Gray, Ross Hunter, Michael Jibson, Sarah Lark, Rebecca Lock, Cassie McIvor, Amy Pemberton, Stuart Matthew Price, Lauren Samuels and George Ure.

Thank you for purchasing this debut album of my songs. To record and release it fulfils a dream I’ve had since my early songwriting days at school. However, if I’d told my teenage self my first album would be songs for musical theatre I would scoffed loudly and probably given my superior an adolescent slapping.

I didn’t grow up immersed in musical theatre. I was more into bands, drinking and sport, not necessarily in that order. My housemate at university (whom I blame my entire career on) persuaded me to play the part of a non-singing chess player in his production of ‘Chess’. Sitting through Anthem, Nobody’s Side and Pity the Child et al. for five nights in a row catapulted me into a passionate love affair with all things theatrical which saw me abandon my dreams of a Psychology PHD and instead audition for Mountview as a performer. My time at Drama school opened up a creative side of me I’d hitherto been steadfastly ignoring. You could say I came out at Mountview, albeit in an unconventional way.

When I finally got round to writing, it was no surprise therefore that I wrote an unconventional musical – ‘Departure Lounge’. The fact that it was embraced by the theatrical community I was astonished and humbly grateful for. So what next? After ‘Departure Lounge’ I began the real struggle, forging a living as a writer. This album is really a summary of that process so far.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in that the birth of my career has co-incided with the birth of Perfect Pitch, an Arts Council supported organisation that supports the development of new musicals, run by Andy and Wendy Barnes. 8 of the songs on Acoustic Overtures come from shows/bits of shows that Perfect Pitch have been in some way involved with.

It’s an odd thing, to yank a bunch of songs off the stage and try and play them through your headphones. For the album Peter White, Simon Greiff and I have tried to treat the songs as their own entities and make them as listener friendly as possible. I hope you enjoy them, and the wonderful performances by my awesomely talented guest singers, many of whom I’ve known for years and have been dying to record with ever since I met them. I leave you with a favourite quote from a favourite band growing up: “There’s only one way of life, and that’s your own” – Levellers, Levelling the Land (1991).

Dougal Irvine, September 2011 www.DougalIrvine.com

01. Mr Musical Vocals: Amy Pemberton I wrote this song specifically for Acoustic Overtures. You won’t find it in any musical soon, good luck trying to make dramatic sense out of it. It’s a piece of fun for those in the ‘biz and shows Amy off for being the phenomenal performer she is.

02. Clean Cut Rapper Vocals: Dougal Irvine I did a cabaret Off-Broadway in 2009 while ‘Departure Lounge’ was at the New York Summer Play Festival and I wrote this song to open the night. Those Brits on Broadway eh, we’re not half as funny as we think we are!

03. Two Faces Vocals: Ashleigh Gray From the very first draft of ‘In Touch’ which was originally titled ‘Simpletown’. Andy and Wendy Barnes liked the song so much it stayed for about four drafts before getting cut. It takes a special performer to really make this song work – enter Ashleigh Gray.

04. Silence And The Rain Vocals: Cassie McIvor and Daniel Boys My first attempt at a musical after ‘Departure Lounge’ was called ‘Guilt’ and showcased in Perfect Pitch 2007. The piece wasn’t great but I’ve always liked this song so I was really happy to be able to record it finally. Daniel and Cassie’s voices are a gorgeous blend.

05. The Morning After You Do It Vocals: Ross Hunter I wrote this as a pitch to get the stage rights for a film that came out in 2009. I’ll leave you to guess the film, the clues are in the lyrics. Oh and Ross Hunter – Wow. Special nod to Phil James on Guitar, he’d give Brian May a run for his money.

06. Megan’s Hero Vocals: Lauren Samuels This is from ‘In Touch’ developed by Perfect Pitch via workshops at LIPA, RSAMD and ARTS ED. With all that time in Drama schools it is fitting the first full production will be at another, the MTA, in June 2012. I love Pete White’s country arrangement of the song and Lauren Samuels simply nails it.

07. Tir Na N’Og Vocals: Samantha Barks and Dougal Irvine Another song from ‘In Touch’. Two characters bonding over the internet through re-enacting an Irish legend. But who to sing it? Simon introduced me to Sam Barks and it was a no-brainer.

08. Simple Vocals: Michael Jibson Another song from ‘Simpletown’. I’ve been a big fan of Mike Jibson since his stage debut in ‘Our House’, so was very excited to work with him finally.

09. Do You Want A Baby Baby? Vocals: Julie Atherton From a new piece I’m writing called ‘The Buskers Opera’. We cast the songs first on Acoustic Overtures before we approached any singers, but I was praying this song would make the final 12 as I had one person in mind. If there’s one performer who has gone out on a limb for new writing over the last ten years it’s Julie Atherton. I’m proud to call her a friend.

10. Mermaids Vocals: Annalene Beechey and Rebecca Lock This is the only other song from ‘Guilt’ that survived. I re-wrote it for the album. It’s very personal to me this song. Annalene and Becky are such beautiful singers, I can’t quite articulate what finally recording this song means to me.

11. We Need Love Vocals: Sarah Earnshaw, Sarah Lark, Stuart Matthew Price and George Ure The closing number from ‘In Touch’. Thanks to Mark Collins for extra help on the arrangement. I’m hugely grateful to George, Sarah, SMP and Little Earn for becoming more than the sum of their considerable parts on this song.

Bonus Track – Song For Friends Vocals: Dougal Irvine This is for anyone who’s supported and encouraged me over the years. Art isn’t easy (thanks for pointing that out Mr Sondheim) and earning a living from it is even harder. Thank you for keeping me going. Dx

All Songs Copyright Dougal Irvine – MCPS 2011

Produced for SimG Records by Simon Greiff

For more information visit: www.SimGProductions.com

Recording Engineered by Peter White & Siggi Sigtryggsson

Mixed & Mastered by Siggi Sigtryggsson

Vocals Recorded at London Elektrik, September 2011

CD Design & Art Direction by Simon Beechey www.atdgraphicdesign.com

Photography by Michael David Smith www.michaeldavidsmith.co.uk

8 tacks featured on ‘Acoustic Overtures’ were originally developed in association with: www.PerfectPitchMusicals.com

Musical Supervision by Peter White All songs arranged by Peter White and Dougal Irvine, except ‘Mermaids’ and ‘We Need Love’ arranged by Peter White, Dougal Irvine and Mark Collins

Dougal Irvine: Acoustic Guitars, hand claps and lead Keyboard on ‘Morning After You Do It’ Peter White: Piano, all other Keyboards, Banjo, Melodica, Finger Cymbals, Clay Pot, Tin Whistle, African Drum, Shakers, Cajon, Bongoes, hand claps and beat box (!) Phil James: Electric Guitars

Suzanne Evans: Viola and Fiddle John Hennessey-Brown: Cello Louis Dowdeswell: Trumpet Mike Davis: Tenor Saxophone Matt McDonaugh: Drums Gemma O’Duffy and Laura Tebbutt: Backing Vocals

Also available from the SimG Records catalogue:

The enchanting, ‘delightful’ debut album from West End chanteuse Annalene Beechey; featuring a selection of songs by leading British and American songwriters including; Scott Alan, Stiles&Drewe, Grant Olding, Maltby&Shire, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Richard

Taylor, William Finn, with beautiful arrangements by Peter White, plus special guests

Rebecca Lock and Julian Ovenden.

‘a delightful album’ Musical Stages ‘a stunning performer, you’ll love this album’ Richard Maltby Jr. ‘a pleasure to listen to, an angelic voice … it’s a winner’ WhatsOnStage ‘a rare and gifted actress who layers startlingly focused emotion into her singing’ George Stiles

An Original Revue created by Mercury Musical Developments and The Gate Theatre, showcasing new British writing by Craig Adams, Eric Angus, Don Black, Maurice Chernick, Chris Burgess, John Farndon, Gwyneth Herbert, James Humphreys, Dougal Irvine, Paul James,

Frank Lazarus, Stuart Matthew Price, Cathy Shostak, Richard Stilgoe, Tim Sutton, Sarah Travis, starring David Burt, Stuart Matthew Price & Cath Whitefield, plus beautiful arrangements by Tony winner

Sarah Travis.

‘sweet, and occasionally deep’ Mark Shenton, The Stage

‘marvelously satisfying revue … gamely performed’ TheaterMania **** 4 Stars

‘soaring vocals, graceful melodies, a must for any musical theatre fan’ Public Reviews

For more information and to purchase please visit: www.SimGProductions.com

Thank you to my wonderful guests and musicians. Thanks to Mike Xavier, Stevie Webb, Perfect Pitch, Siggi, and Stephen Fry. Thanks to my family, my beautiful wife Rhiannon and to little Pip (working title) for giving me the best deadline of all.

Special thanks to the following WeFunders, without whom this album would not exist:

Kevin Kelly & Paul Thurtle; Laura Kilburn; Amy Hutchinson and Paul Wilson from BritishTheatre.com; Oliver Blond; Lin-Ann Anatharachagan; Bee-Ann Robins; Kate Hudspeth; Gregory Ashton; Hugo Trebals; Jenny Latimer; Jo Harrington; Olly and Lou Rogers; Peter Dudas; Robin, Debs, Molly and Poppy Street; Christine S; Tim Prottey-Jones; Paul and Kathy Gillibrand; Sally Humphreys; Helen Brown; Niall Bailey; Anna Riera; Sarah (Smish) Smith; Carrie Purewal; Soliloquy; Gavin Young; Steven Richards; Cynthia DiCola; Laurence Mark-Wythe; Jenny Smith; Sarah Brown; Helen Lockstone; Sarah Drew; Garry and Louise Crystal; Hannah Reymes-Cole (Bam Bam); Katie Bernstein; Mark Collins; Jennie Beanland; Gina Beck; Kate Rosenberg and Tomas Elizabeth Blasco.

And finally thanks to my two main collaborators on this crazy project; Simon Greiff (aka the man, Mr Cool, Mr Shorts) and the legend known as Mr Pete White. It’s been an absolute privilege.

When I first heard the music of Dougal Irvine I was completely entranced. The apparent simplicity and instant tunefulness belies, to my mind, a deeply musical talent. And he can write for character, which is an often forgotten essential in musical theatre. Dougal’s music can be parodic and witty as well as deeply lyrical or fabulously uplifting, rousing and anthemic too. Most of all, which is so rare in musical theatre these days, it is completely original in tone, style and manner. You hear no ghostly footfalls of Sondheim or Menkin, just the original voice of a wonderful composer/lyricist. I am proud to be a patron of Perfect Pitch which has helped Dougal develop ‘In Touch’ many numbers from which you will hear on this album. The coming together of Dougal and an organisation that exists to serve just such a unique and exciting talent makes my heart glow. Listen and enjoy.

Stephen Fry, August 2011

The first draft of the script

Yesterday R.C. sent me the first draft script and I immediately printed it out (I like to print stuff out) and read it through twice. I like to read things through twice so that I don’t let any expectations cloud what is there. I tend to like things exactly as I first imagined  and that’s a really great habit to get out of. Reading it through a second time means that you can save the ire for the second reading, and let the first one just be reading for pleasure. It usually works.

R.C. has put together a script without any songs. He has basically written a play with occasional monologues that he uses to help develop songs later. This is a great way of writing songs that will naturally sing in the same tone of the scene that they sit in. It’s also a good lyric writing exercise. With the script free of lyrics it’s easier to see where songs can go and what dialogue can be swallowed up and what can be extenuated. As this show is a mystery, there are plenty of clues and set-ups that need to be sung loudly.

Writing and producing a musical in a year.

Over the next year I and my collaborator R.C. Staab and my creative time in my home city of Norwich will be staging a musical that I and R.C. are currently writing. The energy and inspiration for this swift turnaround is the marvelous production of our ‘Zombie Wedding: A Musical Zomedy’ at the Pavilion Theatre Gorleston and ‘One Way Ticket’ will be staged there in November of 2013.

R.C., who is a New York resident, visited me and the Zombie production during the olympics and during his visit we worked for a couple days on the plot for a murder mystery musical. A couple months later R.C. came to Norwich again to see the show and to spend a day finishing off out plot.That was a month ago to this day. Since then I have been unwinding from the show and thinking musically about the era in which the show it set; the late 1930s.

R.C. is currently writing the first draft of the script while I work on the first draft of the song. By the end of December I plan to have a very very rough draft of the music and will host a table reading with music in late December with actors.