As featured in Broadway World
In This Beautiful Future, our new show about love in extreme in occupied France during World War II, different worlds meet: the past and the present, the real world and a dream world. We hope that the music will create the space in which this can happen.
Theatre is primarily a way of telling a story, and music is primarily a way of expressing emotions. Of course the best theatre moves you and great songs tell stories, but at their core, that’s what they’re built for. The music in This Beautiful Future, if we manage it, will be a lift into the archetypal. Where the story expands. Where it feels personal, but also beyond any sense of coherent self.
I often don’t like music in theatre because the story on stage is so human and personal, and then the music comes in and it feels transpersonal. It just conveys broader emotions – ‘sad’ music or ‘funny’ music – but a play is not usually on that level, so it makes me cringe and disconnect from the play.
It’s very hard to make that step from personal to transpersonal, but that’s what the music is trying to do here. Well, it’s what the staging is trying to do really: take the intimate story on stage upwards to the gods, where everyone’s singing karaoke in their Sunday best.
The design will also have a major role in creating this space; I think it’s going to be amazing. It could feel like a heavenly daydream that breaks your heart. I really want to see the two older actors drinking Champagne in a karaoke booth singing Bing Crosby. I like that the actors aren’t pinned down as Elodie and Otto – they are much more fluid, and I’m excited to find out what age means when we see it in that context.
Initially, I think I got into music because it made me explode. My favourite musicians channel the zeitgeist without realising it. They explode from a personal experience, which happens to be deeply relevant to the culture around them. I find that so magical about music – all music really, apart from the most cynical pop.
Theatre has always felt more applied. It’s speaking to specific issues and moments in cultural time. It’s more considered, much more exposed, and I think it’s more powerful for that.
So, when writing the music for a theatre show, I can’t just explode and hope it matches up with the moment the play is exploring. I have to work really hard to listen and listen and listen to what’s being said by the writer and director and the whole team, and then very carefully explode in service to that project. Whenever what I make is self-indulgent it generally turns out not to work with the piece. So that’s been the big one: listen, listen, listen.
I come with the belief that music isn’t needed. That’s always my hunch with film and theatre – that there shouldn’t be any music at all and the script and actors should be enough. I like being proved wrong.