Adopt a low-pitch Bronx accent, and a hard ‘Mitchell brothers’ stare.
“You’re a little late, but business is business.
You’re a little late, but business is business.
You’re a little late, but business is business.”
These lines are taken from a musical in which I was involved at ‘workshop’ stage. Each time the sentence was spoken, the rest of us were directed to dive underneath the tables we were sitting at/perched on/hanging close to. Each time. Which meant we had to scramble back up again immediately, twice in succession, until the final time when we remained crushed and entangled beneath the tables. No-one in the cast understood what dramatic purpose was being served as we hurled ourselves to the floor for the third time, blood rushing to our heads, and knees ricocheting off table legs/the floor/other people (delete where appropriate) as we admired the chewing gum art on the undersides of the tables and tried not to giggle at the way Ben’s hair had got stuck in Simon’s shirt buttons in the melee. We’ve all heard of the ‘rule of three’ but this show was far too earnest for any comedy to have even sneaked in accidentally, however hard we may have tried (quite hard). Think textbook New York turf war juxtaposed with clichéd gay issues, crank up the angst and you are left with an ensemble piece of, well, wank. All infused with such an air of martyrdom that the audience was left rolling their eyes rather than actually giving a shit. Perhaps I’m being harsh, there were some redeeming features…like…um…one or two tuneful melodies. So write an album! Put on a concert! But don’t ask an audience to invest in some half-arsed underworld story you’ve inexpertly concocted to join the dots of the songs. Please. I mean, you only need to look at We Will Rock You to see how that doesn’t work. Oh. Oh right.
Another notable workshop I was involved in was performed in the Midlands due to the piece’s connection with the area. The reason for its notoriety in my back catalogue of workshops is rather different to the last. The company numbers were boosted by an ensemble choir of Am Drams who, with typical Am Dram arrogance, (we’re basically semi-pro, you know) didn’t even try to hide their pique at not being given lead roles, (we always get glorious write-ups in the Herald) resentment seeping toxically from their pores. In a bold display of professionalism and example-setting, one of the pro actors decided to play the common actor’s game of bringing an object on stage and passing it amongst the cast unbeknownst to the audience. The loser of the game is the actor who ends the show in possession of the object. On this occasion, the object used was a glow in the dark vibrating cock-ring. Purchased the previous evening from a pub vending machine along with a wind-up hopping willy, it had been the source of much amusement on our night out. We certainly got our money’s worth as the hilarity continued throughout the show, each of us in turn subtly passing the cock-ring to the next unsuspecting actor, and like the professionals that we were, without so much as a flicker of our frolic visible on our faces. Well, maybe just a flicker. I wonder what the Herald would have had to say about that.
My workshop involvement has not been quite as extensive as I may have led you to believe but there is nothing more exciting than being part of the development process of something good, and there is equally nothing more frustrating than the opposite. When any criticism, constructive or otherwise, is dismissed with a mere sweep of the writer’s artistic hand and the assertion that their critics have failed to see their vision or some other such nonsense you wonder what the purpose of the workshop actually was. A bitchy tirade against anyone who has the gall to suggest improvements to your beloved creation ain’t gonna do anything for its long term prospects. Obvs.
I saw a workshop for a Peter Pan musical recently, and I mean, really. Do we need another one of those? There are already 17 stage adaptations of Peter Pan (I just googled it), and approximately 16 of those are musicals. There is clearly no gap in the market for musical versions of Peter Pan. Write something else. Go on. For two examples of shows currently in development that in my humble opinion are Getting It Right, look no further than The Mill on the Floss and The MonsterBride. And let it not be said that I am not a champion of the musical workshop, despite compelling evidence to the contrary in this post.
Now go out there and write a hit. And then cast me in it. Pretty please?