Writing Musical Theatre

I've been thinking a lot recently about the difference between being a songwriter and being a musical theatre composer. There was a time when I thought the two things were the same, but the more I look at how my process has changed as I've shifted from one to the other, I can see that it is a different way of looking at music. It's been on my mind recently as it seems to be in vogue for big-budget new musicals in Scotland to bring in song-writers who have never written musicals before, and I think that at times it can be clear why certain songs may work on albums but don't work on stage - and vice versa.
This got me thinking back to my own journey. I have always written musicals, and I have always written songs for rock bands, and until fairly recently the two things were the same for me. It wasn't until I started working with professional directors and dramaturgs that the differences between the two became clear.

A singer-songwriter song can be all about feeling. …

Working Freelance in the Arts - A Week In The Life

I was chatting to a friend who doesn't work in the arts today (that's a more unusual occurrence than it should be...) they asked me what I was up to and, having explained my week to them, they looked at me with horror. "That sounds like a nightmare."

For me, however, it was a great week that was varied, interesting and rewarding. "I like to go to the same place every day, know I'm starting at 9 and finishing at 5." They continued. That didn't sound like fun to me...

I thought it may be of interest to those who are perhaps thinking of going freelance to see what an average week looks like for somebody like myself, a self-employed theatre practitioner. I don't really like that term to be honest, but it's the best way to describe the various bits and pieces I do. Here's my diary for the last week:
Monday - Auditions 9.00-18.00 on Monday was taken up with sitting on the audition panel at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It was the last da…

Some Audition Tips for School Leavers

I see a lot of auditions for drama school, I pop in and work for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and do first and second round admissions for their BA Acting and Musical Theatre courses.

It can be a really exciting job, attempting to spot the next great talent, but it can equally be demoralising as I see a lot of young people who come in either under-prepared or, even worse, badly prepared and don’t give themselves the best chance to show off what they can do.

The brilliant Ali De Souza has made this video hereabout auditioning and I thoroughly recommend watching it.

Ali’s notes are more about what to do on the actual day, so I thought I might write a few (hopefully) helpful tips about how to rehearse your scenes and what an audition panel is looking for. I would say that these notes are mainly aimed at those who are just about to leave school and perhaps have little experience in the way of auditioning. I should note that these suggestions are from my own personal experience and ar…

Some Notes on Youth Theatre

I finished up teaching at the youth theatre I co-founded in Greenock this week. I've been doing classes there since 1998... every Saturday for almost twenty years.

My work with young people has taken me some interesting places and I've learned a massive amount from the scores of shows I've directed and written. I've made so many mistakes over the years as I tried to work out what on earth makes a youth theatre tick, but bit by bit I chiselled away, alongside my partner in crime Marianne Yeomans, and I think we've come up with a way of running youth theatres that works.

Before I forget it all, I thought I would be useful to write down what I think that is. I absolutely would not say that this is a system that those running youth theatres would all agree with, but they worked for me and for the hundreds of young folk that I have worked with over the years and I'm sure there are many people who would vehemently disagree with me, but here they are anyway.

YT Is Not …

Naughty Cat and the Cheesy Moon

It's been a busy few months (which has included making a new website - you can check it out here) as I've worked on a couple of fast-paced musicals. First up was Vinyl Idol - which I co-wrote with Debbie Hannan - and was performed at Glasgow's Oran Mor as part of Play Pie and a Pint. I had been involved in PPP productions before, in very small ways, so it was fun to co-write and direct this mad little piece about golden-age idols appearing out of a girl's closet and causing chaos!

Currently I have my show for children, 'Naughty Cat and the Cheesy Moon' on at Assembly Checkpoint as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. It has been getting great responses from the public and press alike. Here's a 5* review from The Herald. The show went through the same development scheme that my musical 'Towards the Moon' started on back in 2011. It's a great opportunity where the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Musical Theatre Masters students get to work on and perform…