Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark

As new digital sheet music store New UK Musicals launches, I talk with multi-award winning composer & lyricist Darren Clark about the site and his career

Darren Clark has been responsible for two of my favourite shows of recent years in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Wicker Husband so I was interested to discover that he has been keeping very busy during lockdown, creating New UK Musicals

New UK Musicals is an online platform where you will be able to purchase sheet music from some of the best new musical theatre writers working in the UK today. It’s a digital store where performers and fans can listen to online samples, purchase fresh, new songs and also connect with the writers who create them.

Designed and built during lockdown, the site launches with a competition for performers who will be able to buy and download selected songs from the site and upload videos of themselves performing to New UK Musicals. First prize includes a number of free downloads from the site as well as the opportunity to perform alongside West End stars in a special edition of Adam Lenson’s SIGNAL Online Concert Series celebrating the work of these writers on the 16th June.

Writers represented on the site include: Finn Anderson (Islander), Rebecca Applin (Jabberwocky), Bateman & Conley (The Sorrows of Satan), Ed Bell (My 80 Year Old Boyfriend), Darren Clark (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Elliot Davis (Loserville), Gus Gowland (Pieces of String), Teresa Howard (I Capture the Castle), Richy Hughes (Superhero), Carl Miller (Wasted), Noisemaker (My Left Right Foot), Eamonn O’Dwyer (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), Susannah Pearse (Jabberwocky), Victoria Saxton (Marriage a la Mode), Amir Shoenfeld (Benny in Beta), Emily Rose Simons (Confessions of a Rabbi’s Daughter), Tim Sutton (The Secret Garden), Stiles & Drewe (The Wind in the Willows), Webborn & Finn (The Clockmaker’s Daughter) and Wigmore and Green (Van Winkle). Continue reading “Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark”

Review: The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

Gorgeous new folk musical The Wicker Husband is perfectly situated at the Watermill Theatre and simply must be given more opportunity to soar post-crisis

“Once upon a withy on the edge of a deep damp swamp, nestled in the arms of a winding river, stood a pretty little town…”

Snuck in under the radar for this one as I’ve been looking forward to The Wicker Husband for a long time. Four years in fact, since I first heard a snippet of the score but as ever in the world of writing a new musical, the show has been in development for more than twice that time. Further upping my anticipation was the success of composer/lyricist Darren Clark’s last major project The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which was only my very favourite show of last year.

Together with book-writer Rhys Jennings, their adaptation of a short story by Ursula Wills-Jones has a bewitching quality that is eerily compelling and in the tradition of all the best fairy tales, has no problem in going very dark. Along with my mortal fear of eerily humanoid puppets, it makes for a much more chilling night at the theatre (for me, at least) but one which is ultimately beautifully human too, as Charlotte Westenra’s production reminds us why fables have endured for so long. Continue reading “Review: The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Family theatre in August

A rare summer in the city for me means I can take in some of the family shows on in the West End right now – Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical, The Scarecrow’s Wedding, Where is Peter Rabbit? and Monstersaurus 

“Microscopic Bobby was my wife”

Photo © TheOtherRichard

The world of Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical (suitable for 7yrs+) as imagined by director Amy Hodge and designer Georgia Lowe is a fantastically bizarre one, full of warm and witty touches that shoud delight children and adults alike. Tiny gingerbread professors, menacing sunflowers, dancing doughnuts, a rainforest of umbrellas, it is an impressive and inventive take on imaginative world-building that perfectly suits Andy Stanton’s storytelling.

All things told, it is a fairly slight tale – bears, beers, butchers, you know the usual, but there’s just such a sense of fun about the whole proceedings. The cast revel in non-sequiturs aplenty (Helena Lymbery, Steve Furst and Gary Wilmot particularly impress), Jim Fortune’s eclectic score builds in post-modern layers that further pique the interest, and the show even manages to sneak in some pretty powerful messaging among all the madness. Recommended. Continue reading “Family theatre in August”

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse

A sensationally good new British musical that I couldn’t recommend more. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the Southwark Playhouse is something special

“It’s only a matter of time”

Jethro Compton has made me cry before. At the Southwark Playhouse too no less, albeit in its former location, as a young JM Barrie in a truly imaginative staging of The Boy James. This time though, he’s wearing the multiple hats of book-writer, co-lyricist and director of this adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And reader, I bawled!

Some of those tears were of joy, at the unexpected discovery of a sensationally good new British musical. With the story’s relocation to Cornwall, Darren Clarke’s (composer, co-lyricist and musical director) score leans heavily into folk song and shanty rhythms to glorious effect. These are songs that feel like they have always existed, elevated by powerful dynamic changes and harmonies to live a life in reverse for. Continue reading “Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse”