Spotlight On… Writer of Muted, Sarah Henley

Interval Productions present  Muted A New British Musical
The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU  Wednesday 7th December 2016 – Saturday

Use the following contact details to book tickets: http://bunkertheatre.com/ and 0207 234 0486.

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I chatted to Sarah about the piece…

Tell me about Muted and your inspiration for it

Muted came about in a fairly round about way. It started as a show called After the Turn and, unlike a lot of musical theatre projects, began with the music and the book came second. Tim (Prottey-Jones) had a great album and an idea of some characters and storylines – particularly the fact that the leading man didn’t speak. This obviously came with its own challenges in terms of writing – dialogue is not that easy when one character can’t say anything! However, it’s interesting what comes out when someone is trying to fill the silence. Since After the Turn and the workshop performances at The Courtyard, it’s been through a lot of development. Music and lyrics have been re-written and added to help blend the story more – Tim and Tori Allen-Martin (music and lyrics) have worked hard with me to make the show feel ‘whole’ so you wouldn’t be aware as an audience member that the songs came first.

In terms of inspiration I love the idea of intimate, personal stories and how characters can mentally affect one another – I hope everyone will know someone like one of the characters in Muted and can relate to it in their own way. I was keen to write an ensemble piece rather than have one great part and a lot of ‘supporting actors’ – I like everyone to have a story arc.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

The first draft came very quickly – in about two weeks! However, as they always say, ‘musicals are rewritten’, so the difficult part has been getting it right (or as right as it can be!). I’ve had loads of support on this – both from actors who’ve been involved from the start, Tori and Tim, Jamie Jackson the director, as well as the Bunker team and various other industry friends. I’m hoping that we’re getting to a point now where it’s the best that it can be!

How will The Bunker lend itself to the piece?

One of the great things about The Bunker is its intimacy – the audience are on three sides and are so close they can see everything. Muted is a piece where you really get to witness the psychological impact people have on one another, particularly when they’re suffering themselves. I think the Bunker will make Muted feel really immersive and enable the audience to get really close to the characters.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

Well, firstly – and I know ‘entertainment’ can be a dirty word in this industry – I’d love the audience to come away having had a brilliant night. In terms of a ‘message’, I think the overall message in the piece revolves around forgiveness both of self and others, and how far that’s possible depending on the gravity of the act that requires it. Also, there’s two very manipulative characters in the story and re-reading it now it’s interesting to see ‘how’ that manipulation happens and to look at where it occurs in your own life.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

I’m still a budding writer! I guess one of the best things I’ve done is to collaborate with others and make my own work. I put on my first play, Getting Out, on the fringe 8 years ago on no budget; the experience of working with actors and a director is invaluable. There are a lot of ‘schemes’ out there for young writers, but if you’re not careful you can find yourself spending so much time applying for them and writing ‘three scenes’ pandering to briefs that fulfil funding requirements etc., that you never actually get the play that you want to write heard. As a playwright you need to hear voices on your plays – it’s no good on your computer, so do whatever you can to make that happen. I’ve been going for 8 years – support is not readily available and often the gatekeepers aren’t looking for work like mine, but I’m not going to stop… a DIY attitude is something to nurture!

Thanks for a fascinating interview, Sarah!

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