'A new kind of musical' with Depeche Mode music
Jukebox musicals are not uncommon these days - Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You spring to mind - but the brooding music of Depeche Mode has not been utilised in this genre yet, until now.
Theatre producer and writer Adrian Buckle, of Unifaun Theatre, has acquired the rights to use songs from the Essex band's back catalogue for Playing the Angel (taken from the name of their eponymous 2005 album) in what Mr Buckle is calling "a new kind of musical".
"Depeche Mode's music always had that theatrical element in it," said Mr Buckle, who caused a stir last year when a play he was producing, Stitching, was banned by censors.
"I'd started writing a script influenced by their music but it came to the point where I realised it was more of plagiarism, if anything, so I stopped there," the writer recounts.
He then made an effort to find a way to acquire the rights to use Depeche Mode's songs, going to their label EMI which then directed him to the band's manager, J. D. Fenger, who liked the idea. Mr Buckle could then resume work on the script.
"It is a story of two boys growing up, coming of age and discovering love. They are abused, used, taken advantage of... It's their sad way of discovering life," the writer explained.
The musical is nowhere close to a middle-aged woman living on a Greek island happily reminiscing about her past while dancing to 1970s pop music. "Depeche Mode are not Abba or Queen. The story can't be a happy one," the writer said.
Unifaun are known for pushing the boundaries of local theatre; Stitching, banned last year, is a case in point, as are Sarah Kane's Blasted and Peter Shaffer's Blasted. Is this musical written in the same, often controversial, mould?
"Well, I'm not going to invite my grandmother to this musical... and, yes, it will push boundaries. But I don't do plays because they are controversial, I do them because they're quality productions, which are relevant to the local scenario," he said.
"I liken the musical - courageously - with Mark Ravenhill's writings... It's a new kind of musical; we're combining the in-yer-face style of theatre so popular in the UK with musicals as well as a visual element."
The play will run at the MITP theatre, Valletta, on the last weekend of February and the first two weekends of March next year. However, the team would like to take this production - which is not expected to make any money - elsewhere, possibly the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or somewhere similar.
Writing a jukebox musical can prove to be difficult. At times it is hard to justify the use of a song when it has little or no bearing on the story and Mr Buckle knows this all too well. He is writing the script from scratch and 11 of the songs originally in the draft have been scrapped because they do not fit in with the story.
Mr Buckle has roped in Toni Attard to direct, Daniel Cauchi as musical director, Denise Mulholland for vocal coaching, Janet Vella for choreography, Niki Gravino for orchestration, Anthony Catania for visuals and Joseph Borg for graphics.
There is no cast yet, however, auditions for dancing, acting and singing will be held on June 27 at St James Cavalier, Valletta. Those interested can contact Mr Buckle on [email protected].