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Tim and Darren
04 July 2011 @ 05:45 pm
Tim writes: It's been a while since a post here. I am just pulling this blog from beneath the waves to mirror some comments made by Faithful director Thomas Hescott on today's controversy about the Lee Hall/Harvey Brough/Opera North project in Bridlington. (Earlier posts in this blog are my views, not Thomas').

The context can be found in Lee Hall's article going public with the story, then
this later article from The Guardian with quotes from the local authority and Opera North. Opera North issued two statements (at the time of writing a third from their senior mangement is promised). There were also significant blogs from Daniel Bye, condemning ON's position, including an update in response to a later post from Opera North, and a defence of Opera North from Eleanor Turney.

Finally, Hall himself released the complete text of the offending scene on A facebook group supporting his stance.

UPDATE: Opera North have released a third statement, which goes a bit further in support of Hall, but still fails to really take a position on the school's rationale or decision. In the meantime, somebody with a personal connection to the school in question, has published a rational, parsimonius blogpost that carefully lays out exactly what has been alleged and denied (and how this is more heat than light at this moment). Jondrytay has What Opera North Could Have Said.

So those are the story both previous and subsequent to the below, all over about 18 hours or so. The below is quoted, with permission, from Thomas Hescott. I agree with every word.

Thomas Hescott writes:

I was saddened to read that an exciting community project at Opera North involving 400 participants has been axed due to a school having issues with the depiction of homosexuality. I was, however, dismayed and appalled by the response from Opera North and their comment "we can appreciate the viewpoint of the school about when they make the decision to teach PSHE to their pupils".

Schools in general tend to be slow on the uptake. Whilst many have inspirational teachers and a few have extraordinary leaders, schools, as an institution are rarely forward thinking. They conform to the moment and are usually fearful of pushing expectations. For years Section 28 was left unchallenged by formal education, and even now for many schools it is as if Section 28 were still in place.

When I was five, I asked my Mother if two men could get married. I was told no. I then asked if two women could get married. Again my Mother answered no. I persisted asking if it was therefore wrong for two men or women to marry. The answer came back that no it was not wrong – the law was wrong. I was amazed that my mother would tell me that something illegal was good and right, that the law was wrong. This is one of my earliest memories, I was a long way from understanding my own sexuality but even at five I was starting to connect with the adult relationships around me. Formal education is fundamentally wrong to put an age onto discussions about gender, sexuality and homophobia, it confuses these conversations with the ‘nuts and bolts’ conversations of sex education, and it fails to understand that sexuality has very little to do with sex.

At the age of five we are taught about right and wrong, and we are taught about discrimination in broad terms. Plays and literature tackling bullying for this age group are everywhere but the moment the bullying or discrimination being discussed is attached to sexuality teachers become scared – they think they are talking about sex when they are really talking about equality.

I have worked in theatre, and with young people for many years now. Questions of sexuality often rear their head, just as they do for heterosexual people. The only difference is the heterosexual community are so used to answering questions about straight relationships they don’t notice. I was once asked by a boy, of about eight or nine who was playing a Munchkin in a production of The Wizard of Oz if the actress playing Dorothy was my girlfriend. The answer ‘no I’m a friend of Dorothy’s’ was going to go over his head, so I simply responded with ‘no. I have a boyfriend’. He looked at me in amazement and exclaimed ‘But that makes you bifocal’

Time and time again when working with young people and being open when asked I have gently offered a view of homosexuality that is non threatening, and non predatory and I have often been the first openly gay man a young person will meet. I don’t do this in order to be a positive gay role model just as the straights aren’t consciously offering themselves up as positive ‘straight’ role models. I do however see it as an absolute responsibility to answer questions of sexuality honestly when asked. Schools should do the same.

Of course a school objected to the subject matter. As one teacher said to me on twitter "teachers are too narrow minded to be trusted with children’s minds". It was however the responsibility of Opera North the engage with the topic and to educate our educators. Left to their own devices schools will never evolve or change – education partnerships like this have the ability to move the curriculum forward.

Opera North offered hundreds of young people the chance to perform in an opera – what an extraordinary opportunity. This opportunity was coupled with the chance to explore issues and ideas that are hard to discuss in a classroom environment. The school that pulled out deprived their pupils of a life changing educational experience. Within that school there will be many children who will grow up to discover they are gay and this act of censorship will send them a clear message that growing up to be who they are is unacceptable to society. By allowing this to happen, Opera North have condoned a homophobic act. They should have been standing alongside Lee Hall offering to pay to bring Stonewall in to help discuss the issues. They should have been doing everything possible to ensure that the issue of discrimination was treated with the respect it deserved. Instead they condoned homophobia, and their later response confirms that their education department have little or no concept of how important this subject is, and how badly they have dealt with it.

=== end of Thomas Hescott's entry.

Tim again - My own thoughts on the matter are that the school and the local authority are the main villains here, but that Opera North have (at the time of writing) three four times missed opportunities to condemn the school's decision and its basis and instead have taken the mistaken line that the school have the legal and moral right to choose what their children learn through participation in art. Conversely, they have refused to defend the right of the author to write what the topic demands. This is not a neutral position as they claim. They could easily get off the hook by coming out and declaring their disagreement with the school's position. Easily.

UPDATE: The most recent statement does seem to defend the author's rights, and also seems to say that Opera North did not particularly think that the controversial sections needed to be cut. Still little clarity on the reason for the cutting request, however.
Tim and Darren
25 May 2010 @ 02:06 pm
After two years of being a little in the doldrums in terms of musical writing opportunities, we finally have something very definite lined up, and we're very pleased about it as we've had a few ups and downs.

Faithful - in a wholly new 30 minute version - has been picked up by The Watermill, Newbury (birthplace of Stiles and Drewe's musical Honk! and John Doyle's actor-muso productions) as one of two shows that will be done as a professional reading at the end of August, then appear on YouTube after that. This will be a great platform for a project close to Darren's heart.

It has a long and chequered history... After doing a lot of work to develop the basic scenario of Faithful, we planned, in 2008, to do a reading in Edinburgh. Something happened to our momentum during that process (I think part of it was moving house) and in the end we cancelled the reading and decided to take longer over working it up.

Then in the Summer of 2008, we got the opportunity to do a 10 minute musical for the Theatre 503/Urban Scrawl strand, based around Hatton Cross. It was a perfect location for a story based on the same themes, so we started working that up as a story about Amina, essentially the same character as from Faithful, and Mark, a significantly modified version of Dillon. We finished 3 drafts of that, developed via MMD's Writing Lab Xtreme, and presented it at the WLX/Jermyn Street platform in July 2009, but we held off releasing it pending the Urban Scrawl production.

Then by the time we got to getting a confirmed recording date for Urban Scrawl, it turned out they wanted draft 2, which we had sent them back in December, but not heard back on, since which we had reached draft 4. We didn't feel draft 2 worked as a musical, and we'd moved on from that draft, so we offered to revisit draft 2 as a straight play, or withdraw. They said it would be best for us to withdraw, so we did (and they replaced it, oddly, with a straight play in the Hatton Cross slot), so that was the end of that.

Then we decided to produce it ourselves for the MusicalTalk podcast. However, before we got that far, the Watermill opportunity came up.

It's going to be very exciting. It's also going to be a rush to find the time required. But we're really looking forward to it.
Tim and Darren
02 April 2010 @ 05:52 pm
Last night saw the Scenic Route cabaret, where 30 minutes of material from the 2008 version of <furReality> was presented by Scenic Route Theatre, with Dylan Summers at the piano and with the vocal talents of Adam Buchanan as Russ, Jennifer Tanarez as JadeVixen, Nadeem Crowe as Gr1z, Will Stokes as Eric, all the furmeet furs and Samba, and the amazing Jessica Sherman (who has previously performed our material in Toronto) as Malvina.

Adam has previously worked on material from the show at a workshop at the Royal Academy of Music. He and a fellow student very gamely worked on some of the naughtier content of the show during one of the workshops.

This is probably the last time there'll be a public performance of the songs Dark Duet, Yiff! or Furmeet. As the synopsis of the show has undergone greater and greater revisions in the last few weeks, these numbers are going to have to be, at best, significantly reworked, both musically and lyrically, so in effect they're cut from the show. The Ultimate Yiff is also going to be changed quite a bit.

Hoping that YouTube allow this version of Yiff! to remain up...

My lovely friend Jenifer Toksvig took the video for us, which you can see below the cut.

clickyCollapse )
Tim and Darren
30 March 2010 @ 12:13 am
Update: we've had a last-minute change of venue for the Sneak Preview cabaret...

So you can catch the last ever public performance of the songs "Yiff!", "Dark Duet" and "The Ultimate Yiff" (along with some others that aren't cut... yet) this Thursday at the Scenic Route Sneak Preview cabaret in London, featuring Adam Alexios Roberts, Jennifer Tanarez, Nadeem Crowe, Jessica Sherman and Will Stokes. Catch it at The Loom Bar and Club, 5 Clipstone Street, London W1W 6BB. Order tickets on 078 1124 8327.
Tim and Darren
27 March 2010 @ 08:59 am
Well, after some very speedy casting in the week, we're starting two days of rehearsal today for the Scenic Route Cabaret, with Adam Alexios Roberts as Russ (the fourth to date), Nadeem Crowe as Gr1z (third), Jessica Sherman as Malvina (second), Will Stokes as Xanthinus (second), Jennifer Tanarez as Jade (second) and Benjamin Bond as Cyaneus (second). It's going to be the first time we've done something without at least one person from the original 2007 workshop, and everyone is new to the material, so it's gonna be an interesting exercise for me to introduce a whole new cast to it in such a short space of time.

Performance Thursday 1 April at the Edinburgh Cellars, 125 Newington Green Road, Islington, N1 4RA. Call 078 1124 8327 or check out The Scenic Route website for more.
Tim and Darren
23 March 2010 @ 02:11 am
Well, it's been a long time since an update here.

<furreality> is starting to move forward again. The last few months have been slow, but during them Darren and I've been having meetings with director Christian Durham and putting our synopsis and story structure under the microscope, criticising it a *lot* and trying to find the best ways to achieve the ending that both says what we want to about furry, but also which is comprehensible to a regular audience and gives them a way to connect. The latter is a lot harder than the former, I think, but Christian has been both helpful and uncompromising! Other people like the Writing Lab Xtreme group at MMD have been amazingly helpful.

We've been thru several versions of the story in the course of changing things around. We had a period where the story got rather epicly long and started to feel rather bogged down with over-plotty "drama" instead of story which is both true to the characters and also pithy.

So there are still dents to hammer out, but the show now has a fundamentally much better chassis.

Of course, once the storyline is done, then we're into drafting dialogue and structuring the individual scenes for a table reading, so we can see if the character behaviour is all stacking up and if the story can be made to flow. There will be significant changes, and I think quite a few of the songs that were in the King's Head reading will not appear in their current form. Time will tell which ones we replace entirely, but there will certainly be replacements.

It'll be a while before we get to start writing music and lyrics again, but as we're now looking at a production in the Autumn, not *that* long.

In the meantime, the old material still has some life in it. Back in October, I asked the tremendously talented Stuart Matthew Price, Elena Rossi and Anthony Flaum if they would do some material from the old show for a fundraising cabaret. We contrived a short version of the story and did The Boy Won't, The Ultimate Yiff, Army of the Light, Drawing a Fox, Perfect Oblivion Wolves in the Forest and Never Gonna Happen.

The first two songs, sadly, didn't make it to tape (especially Stuart's electric rendition of Ultimate Yiff), but the others did and they're below... Stuart's the third person to play Russ, who we made an Ipswich boy this time rather than Whitby. His rock voice and passionate delivery really found an interesting new level in the character.

We're doing another programme of songs on 1 April, at the Edinburgh Cellars, 125 Newington Green Road, Islington, N1 4RA if you want to hear some of those old stoaters. Call 078 1124 8327 or check out The Scenic Route website for more.

Casting tba once I have everyone's availability!


Here's the video:

Tim and Darren
21 November 2009 @ 08:29 pm
Just to note that we're starting to get into gear for the production.

The current furReality site has been replaced with a holding site at furReality.net.

Check in regularly for new pages and updates.
Tim and Darren
03 September 2009 @ 12:37 am

After a long while of ignoring it, I happened to call in on the "Boycott Yiff!" YouTube video posted a while back by a troll. Rather gratifyingly, quite a few of the comments are positive about the show so far, so that's encouraging and is making me look forward to completing the show, cos sometimes it's hard to know whether all that effort is appreciated. :)

Comments here, and they rather wonderfully epitomise the kind of internet culture that the show's about, as well as containing some nice commentary. lulz.
Current Location: United Kingdom, London
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
Tim and Darren
02 September 2009 @ 07:20 pm

A bit of short but exciting news: Rosemary Ashe (the original Carlotta from Phantom and latterly the original Miss Andrew from Mary Poppins) is going to be performing our song No Answer, previously featured on this blog, at the Grimeborn Festival in Dalston, at the Arcola Theatre, alongside work by a few slightly more established "new voices", such as Conor Mitchell and my longstanding friend Raymond Yiu. Also there'll be work by the likes of Adam Guettel, Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael John LaChiusa, so we're in rather dizzying company. We're assuming they'll put our song earlyish in the programme!

If you're interested, it's on Friday 4 Sept from 9.30pm and here's the link (or see arcolatheatre.com and click on Grimeborn).

More news on both The Loop and <furReality> coming soon. The Loop is to be rewritten, recorded and then to have remastered backing tracks from Jamsheed Master, and the plan is it will "air" on the MusicalTalk podcast (musicaltalk.co.uk) in November or thereabouts.

We have a production meeting re: <furReality> on Friday night with producers The Scenic Route. Before the end of 2010, and perhaps rather sooner than that, you should be able to see a full production of the whole show (which will be in one act) somewhere in London. There will be rewrites, an ending, new animations by Kyle and that's about all I know at the moment!
Current Location: United Kingdom, London
Tim and Darren
13 June 2009 @ 03:47 am
We think we might finally have worked out a way to make The Loop work. Recently I was thinking to myself that maybe it simply wasn't a musical and that we should just throw out the songs and have a perfectly solid bit of drama.

However, that wasn't the brief and I'm not sure it would do the cause of musical theatre in the UK much good if one of just three musicals in the Urban Scrawl series threw in the towel...

So we have now turned it in the opposite direction, discarded the dialogue and the character of Mark and the whole scenario about exams, and just focused down (again!) on the basic situation of Amina, which is that she's facing a marriage she doesn't feel ready for, but at the same time also doesn't feel ready for or comfortable with the idea of striking out wholly on her own, abandoning her family.

This now takes the form of four (or three and a half) songs. First, some recitative in which we hear the letter she's writing to her mum in her head (one of those letters you never send and you keep redrafting - a bit like this musical, come to think of it).

Second, there's Bengali Bride, which becomes a projection of Amina's ideas about her mother's vicarious, Banglawood-ised daydreams about her fate.

Then third, there'll be (but isn't yet) a song called Chemistry, in which Amina retells the story of her chaperoned meetings with Nazim, a chemist, who tries to tell her all about quantum uncertainty, because it's a handy metaphor for determinism in life.

And then, the song that's been in since the beginning, with the same musical structure, but with a top-to-bottom lyric rewrite: Future.

Anyway, hopefully this will be the last draft. Last night, with the help of actress Harveen Mann and our producers, The Scenic Route, we aired the material, except Chemistry, which of course was a great way of getting Darren and me to actually (re)write the material.

The reaction to Bengali Bride was enthusiastic, and perhaps a bit more polite for Future, but I think a lot depends on hearing it in the podcast context. I think in a cabaret context, there's a lot of pressure on a song to be grabby and brash, which is less the case in the intimate world of acoustic drama. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

This whole 'be grabby' thing is something I feel very ambivalent about. I think there'll be another post about that quite soon.

Here's some video:

The Letter

Bengali Bride

and, finally, for now, Future.