GETTING TO KNOW HOWARD GOODALLFri 25 May 2012
Howard Goodall, the multi award-winning composer and music TV presenter talks to Soho Theatre ahead of his interview with Mark Shenton.
Tell about what we can expect from These Are A Few Of My Favourite Songs
Mark (Shenton) is more or less the only theatre reviewer in the UK who is passionately and knowledgeably committed to musical theatre, as opposed to being a stage critic who prefers plays and reluctantly, sometimes resentfully, covers musicals as a necessary evil of a journo’s job. I am therefore looking forward to chatting to him about my 30+ years writing musical theatre – most interviews I have done in the past few years have been about my TV and film work, my music education advocacy and my TV presenting (not that those subject will be off-limits with Mark!). Mark is single-handedly restoring pride & respect to home-grown musical theatre, as if it is something valuable and worth doing, as if there is actually a point to writing and producing an alternative to Wicked. Why wouldn’t a composer/lyricist want to spend time with him reflecting on the art?
Why is live musical theatre relevant to a contemporary audience?
I find it amusing all the fuss & bother about 3D cinema & now TV. It’s almost as if the actors are really there right in front of you, live!! Well, theatre IS 3D and always has been and the actors are there right in front of you. Add in live music performance and the overall possibility for total immersion is spectacular. People love to create worlds with their imaginations, it is the link we have with our childhood experience of discovery, where as children we do not expect literal, graphic reproductions of the images we are reading or being told about. We become the characters and their stories. Musical theatre, especially when it’s not trying physically to concoct the US Embassy in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, complete with literal, almost-life-size helicopter – which merely serves to remind us how much better cinema does that kind of thing – is the most effective and emotionally engaging opener of our imaginations. When it works well. That said, the ‘hit’ rate for musical theatre, how often it is really good, is I believe significantly lower than it is for cinema, when even a mediocre film is watchable. Travelling hopefully for the next undiscovered musical gem is part of the fun of it.
Tell us about a stage production that has had a big impact upon you.
Brian Friel’s Translations at Hampstead Theatre in about 1981! This was one of the seeds of the genesis of The Hired Man. The National Theatre’s Mysteries directed by Bill Bryden at the Lyceum Theatre almost as far back. Jeremy Sam’s production of Sondheim’s Passion in the West End (Queen’s Theatre – directed by Jeremy Sams, who is another of Mark’s guests in this season), Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters on Broadway, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at Drury Lane (though the singing was much better in New York) every Theatre de complicité production I’ve ever seen (which is most of them) – Simon McBurney = Total Unqualified Genius, Mark Rylance in Jerusalem, John Retallack’s Shakespeare productions at Oxford Stage Company in the 1990s (As you like it, The Tempest, Measure for Measure, King Lear in particular), Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy at Hampstead Theatre, Anthony Hopkins in NT Pravda 1985, NT/Cottesloe Paul Godfrey’s Once in a while the odd thing happens 1990, NT Richard Eyre’s Guys & Dolls 1982, Charles Sturridge’s production of The Seagull, Lyric Theatre (90s), Poppie Nongena at the Donmar 1984…….
You’ve composed for some of the greatest British TV comedies including Blackadder, Not The Nine O’clock News and The Vicar Of Dibley. What inspired you to move into composing for live musical theatre?
Two years on Not the Nine o’Clock News, which was my first post-uni job, which was brilliant in every way, but was all about taking the piss. I wanted to do something a bit more positive. Plus every time I went to a musical I thought, this is great (hmmm…or sometimes not), but it is so not my musical background, it is a form and an idiom that belongs somewhere else, so what would happen if someone with my influences (McCartney, Weill, English Choral, Anglo-Celtic Folk, G & S, Paul Simon) wrote a stage musical, how would it sound?
Complete this sentence: ‘Musical theatre is…’
..Not something you should do to make a living/become rich but something to do for the love of it’< Back to List