Three Years Later…

It’s hard to know where to begin this post. Last time I wrote, I was on my way to one of the last rehearsals for HOT (Helen of Troy). I feel so lucky that we were able to complete our planned run of four performances at The Cockpit at the beginning of February 2020 before Covid-19 shut down the theatres, and most everything else. As we approach the third anniversary of the first UK lockdown, I suppose I’m in a bit of a reflective mood.

HOT (Helen of Troy) at The Cockpit in 2020. Photo by Sonia Sanchez-Lopez

I don’t spend much time thinking about what might have been for that show if we could have carried on with the momentum and inspiration we felt after those performances. We had grand designs about taking the show to festivals and on tour. At the beginning of the pandemic, I wondered if the world still needed a fun little show about teenagers in the 90s rewriting beauty myths. Now, I have some ideas for the next version, but it’s on the back burner.

To tell the truth, I am just starting to get my creative energy back. It may seem like I have always got some new exciting thing going on, between the annual Voila! Europe Theatre Festival and various workshops and scratch nights with Theatre Maker at The Cockpit. I’m especially proud that we kept the festival going through the pandemic with innovative online and then hybrid programming – and celebrated the 10 year anniversary of Voila in 2022.

Presenting the annual Voila! Europe Off-Fest Award, alongside some of the 2022 artists & Voila team.

But much as I love producing those projects at The Cockpit, I’ve really missed doing my own creative work over the past three years. I couldn’t face the enormity of writing a play, while a little voice at the back of my mind wondered what luck, skill, and magic it might take for a new show to actually get to the stage. I’m in awe of the artists and companies who persevered with creating and producing their work despite the extra risks, chronic uncertainty, reduced funding, apprehensive audiences… I honestly couldn’t do it.

Instead, I turned to songwriting. Writing a whole play was too much for me, but I could manage a three-minute song. And then another. And then another. And then a songwriting class online. And then a week-long bootcamp. And then a year-long mentoring programme, and a lovely community of fellow songwriters. And then an idea for a musical. And quite a lot of trial and error and YouTube videos along the way.

(You should see my recommendations: one third music theory, one third ukulele tutorials, one third American political satire.)

I finished a first draft of Ukulele Days at the beginning of January this year. Music and lyrics for 13 songs, and a story for 8 characters loosely inspired by Much Ado About Nothing – if Shakespeare’s best lovers Beatrice and Benedick (fight me, Romeo & Juliet) were magically transported through time and space to a ukulele festival in by the sea in the north of England.

Momentum, that mysterious elusive thing, seems to be back on my side. In September, I started as a lyricist in the Book, Music & Lyrics workshop. I’ve sung a couple of my Ukulele Days songs at a musical theatre open mic night run by MMD (Mercury Musical Developments) at The Other Palace. I got some actor-musicians together for a scratch night at VAULT festival last month with Music Box Theatre.

Nickey Van Tooren & Lata Nobes in a Ukulele Days scratch night.

Later this month, I get to announce an exciting thing, but you’ll have to keep an eye out on social media for that. In a way, that’s why I’m writing this post. It’s time to dust off the blog, the website, the Pinecone Performance Lab social media – and myself.

That was a long, long winter, but I’m done hibernating now, and ready for the spring.