AUSTRALIAN composer Nicola Jane Buttigieg has been thinking outside the traditional musical theatre box.
“More recently I have not been inspired by other more established musical theatre composers at all,” she says.
Instead, a cappella vocal groups, syntho-pop club band M83, a recent trailer for the television series Skins, The Bottle Boys version of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, and the mesmerising choral writings of 16th century Thomas Tallis, is what Buttigieg finds interesting.
“I am very much inspired by most fusion style music to say the least,” she says.
Consequently, the musical composition for her latest work Beowulf in Soho combines electro/heavy metal sounds with more traditional orchestral scores.
“Despite the new futuristic setting of the piece, and inclusion of electronic beats and overdrive guitar, the atmosphere of the piece still invites tribal drums and Anglo-Saxon style melodies supported by brass and horns, as well as Viking-style chants and heavy, demonic style choral writing,” Buttigieg told Australian Times.
Set in a not-too-distant-future dystopian London nightspot, the legend of the superhuman Beowulf is retold in a world where the outcast monsters are created by pollution, and inhabit the labyrinths of the big city sewer systems.
“The moral of the Beowulf story attracted me as it is timeless and suitable for any age. There will always be apprehension in trusting anyone with strength out of the ordinary, and there will always be outcasts wanting to seek revenge on their own community,” Buttigieg says.
A 30-minute sample of Beowulf in Soho will be presented as part of the ‘From Page to Stage’ festival: a season of new musical theatre, dedicated to the performance of work at different stages of development.
Produced by Aria Entertainment and supported by Arts Council England, ‘From Page to Stage’ festival includes a mixed programme of staged readings, concert version showcases, and full productions from around the globe. It is happening this February and March at the Landor Theatre in Clapham.
In addition to the opportunity to work and brainstorm with inspiring theatre directors, actors, choreographers and other creatives, Buttigieg is keen to use this showcase performance to test an alternate tempo notation method, which she has been developing for musical theatre vocal writing.
“I have been working for a number of years on developing a symbolic notation system for musical theatre performers to convey their dramatic interpretations to a tailor designed musical theatre score format, that allows flexibility in tempo when fusing ‘live musician’ and ‘electronic’ components.”
“My overall aim is to evaluate how useful and effective the performers and director find my notation system, and to encourage them to suggest any possible improvements,” she says.
The performance of Beowulf in Soho at the ‘From Page to Stage’ festival, will not be the first time Buttigieg’s work has been staged in London; a city which she says offers many “different opportunities on many levels (and budget expectations).”
She has presented new material twice in staged recital form as part of Iris Theatre’s ‘Workin Progress’ at St. Paul’s Covent Garden, as well as via pre-recorded samples for WestEndProducer/Soho Theatre’s ‘Search for a Twitter Composer’ competition last year. And in both 2007 and 2010, Buttigieg received sponsorship from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group Theatres (RUGT) for concert showcases of her musical theatre material at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Grand Saloon in Covent Garden.
Buttigieg’s advice for the creatively inclined trying to ‘make it’ in London:
“If you want to do something creative in London, organise it and do it yourself. Join the British support groups in your field, but don’t expect them to produce your work or provide you with work directly. Rather harness the opportunities they offer, be in competitions, collaborative events or functions, and make the most of how they promote events you might create yourself.”
And don’t forget:
“Be nice to anyone who takes an interest in your work in any respect.”
From Page to Stage; A Season of New Musical Theatre is on from Monday 10 February to Sunday 9 March 2014 at Landor Theatre. Click here for the full programme and to buy tickets to the festival.
For more information or to donate to Aria Entertainment’s Kickstarter campaign to help fund the 2014 ‘From Page to Stage’ Festival visit the link below: