Writer Mike Scott-Harding fills Afridiziak Theatre News in on his new play, Pattie Shop Diaries, which has workshop presentations happening later this week. With a desire to see more black British history on stage, he shares the background to why he felt the need to write this piece of musical theatre.
What was the inspiration behind Pattie Shop Diaries?
One of the reasons I wrote this piece was because I – along with my partner, Gerrard Martin – saw a distinct lack of modern, black British storylines being told upon the London and UK musical stage. Of course, we saw – and still continue to see – black British actors playing increasingly more roles in London musicals, but they generally had to speak with American accents to express dialogue set thousands of miles away and several decades ago. We – in Britain – have decade’s worth of stories to share and compare; so I decided to get on and tell a few.
Can you tell us about the process from idea to the workshop presentation?
The process has been long and interesting. Here’s a basic timeline:
Mid-2008: Having had the initial idea with Gerrard Martin, I complete the first script draft of Pattie Shop Diaries (PSD).
Through 2009: I record demos for the PSD soundtrack, design and print leaflets for publicity and marketing, record a one song original soundtrack, edit a trailer, and help construct a website.
October 2009: PSD pitched at (theatre networking forum) Decibel.
25/5/10: An early version of PSD has public presentation at The Albany, Deptford; 250 audience members are present.
Spring ‘12: I successfully apply for an Arts Council grant, and oversee a workshop and industry sharing of PSD in July 2012 (Albany).
Several table-reads follow – the latest one being in Spring 2016. I continue to finesse the script and send it out to selected theatres and producers.
August ’17: PSD is invited by The Other Palace Theatre, Victoria, to take part in ‘Musical Bites’, an evening showcasing promising new, original musicals.
5/10/17: Following a short rehearsal period, PSD’s 12-minute presentation at ‘MB’ receives a positive response from the 120-strong audience.
17/10/’17: The Other Palace Theatre offers PSD a ‘one week workshop + industry showing’ in Spring 2018.
November ’17: PSD is accepted into (theatre networking forum) ‘BEAM18’, where a 10-minute pitch will be delivered to potential investors and partners
February ’18: Self-written Arts Council application accepted, allowing May ’18 presentation to go ahead.
2/3/18: PSD’s 10-minute presentation at ‘BEAM18’ receives a positive response from the audience of industry professionals and delegates.
We – in Britain – have decades worth of stories to share and compare; so I decided to get on and tell a few.
What are your long terms plans for Pattie Shop Diaries?
I wish for the piece to be on the West End stage, and to tour nationally and internationally. I want the songs to be part of the modern musical-theatre canon, and for audience-members, fledgling musical-theatre practitioners, and the wider public alike to sing them in streets, playgrounds, and theatre foyers worldwide. I would also like a film, a CD, and possibly a TV series based on the show. I want it to be at the forefront of a new wave of commercially viable, artistically respected, and critically lauded stage depictions of black British lives. Hashtag, BlackStoriesMatter
Tell us about biggerthanME productions.
biggerthanME productions is a creative, artistic, philosophical and (occasional) business agreement between myself and Gerrard Martin, my ‘partner in time’, based on the interconnectedness of music, movement, and message. Gerrard is an extraordinarily talented dancer, choreographer, yoga facilitator, movement director and creative practitioner. We found, shortly after meeting, that our respective talents dovetailed well together so – since our Arts Council-funded multi-media music & dance piece, ‘Rage and Breathe’ in 2008 – we’ve been helping to facilitate each-other’s creative visions. Sometimes I may help with a music soundtrack for one of his dance pieces, or he might create movement for Pattie Shop Diaries. After PSD, and Gerrard’s new dance piece ‘B…’, we are planning to create a series of new work, so watch this space…
Tell us about some of the cast and creatives behind Pattie Shop Diaries
The director, Onur Orkut, is one of the most talented theatre practitioners I’ve ever met; whether it be through music, dance, dramaturgy, lighting, movement, sound…he seems to have ‘musical theatre’ down pat. I am honoured that he’s agreed to direct, and am excited by the potential results. Harry Style, the musical director, is not only super-talented, but is also quick, efficient, humble, and super-chilled. The cast includes Coral Messam [read interview], Paul Hazel, Michael Stewart, Richard Taylor Woods, Ash Samuels, Steve Oliver, and Consuela Rolle. Each and every performer is superb, and great company. Coral, for example, is an artistic force-of-nature, Paul and Michael both have amazing voices, Richard versatility is remarkable, and Ash, Steve and Consuela are so talented and dedicated. Each has performed – or been practitioners in – many ‘big’ shows, such as NT’s Death and the King’s Horsemen, Motown the Musical, Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys, The Rat Pack, and acclaimed pieces such as DV8’s Can We Talk About This?. It’s going to be great. Oh… and Gerrard’s doing movement direction.
I wish for the piece to be on the West End stage, and to tour nationally and internationally.
Why should people come to the Pattie Shop Diaries workshop presentations?
I hope that people will come to the presentations and be reminded that black people on the UK stage do not have to speak (or sing) in American accents in order to be seen or heard. London, especially, is a diverse, multicultural city, full of diverse communities containing their own histories, stories, and concerns. I want people to be reminded of the power of their own stories, their own individual voices, and their own experiences. I am hoping that the story I’ve written – around “a black British family living above, and working in a Caribbean food establishment in Brixton, South London, 2012” – will resonate with people, and encourage them to value their own legacies just as much as those handed to them by others further afield. Pattie Shop Diaries deals with many issues facing people today (such as the debilitating effects of debt, grief, homophobia, deferred dreams, knife crime, gentrification, etc.), but I’d like to think they are essayed with humour, compassion, and grace.
Oh…and for those lovers of musical theatre who just wish to come out of a theatre humming a few great, new songs… this is the one. Come savour the flavor!