The Super Story behind Supertown

Supertown Logo

Recently I had the absolute honour of being asked to conduct the world premiere of ‘Supertown the Musical‘, written by two very dear and very talented friends, James Sidgwick and Robert Sanders. They are on a journey to expand the super power of their super musical, and I wanted to share with you the story behind this amazing work. So below you will find my guide to writing a Sidgwick and Sanders musical, or better known as how NOT to write a musical, in 3 simple steps:

  1. Step one: Writing the Musical

A Long Distance Relationship

James and Rob decided early on to involve their other halfs (Claire and Sophie). This was a potential risk, as many of us know working with our other halves can be…tricky. To add to this, during the writing of Supertown, Rob was thousands of miles apart from his partner. I can only imagine how much they missed each other, not seeing each other for months on end, communicating via the shaky internet connection Rob had out at sea (I’m making him sound like a romantic, burly sailor – the truth is he was playing keyboard on a Disney cruise having a lovely old time sunning himself). You can picture how difficult it must have been for our star crossed lovers, who were used to being together every day, watching Game of Thrones together, eating Vienetta, and now so far away. Oh I’m sorry – you think I mean Rob and Sophie? No no, I mean Rob and James! And on top of all that, they were also trying to write a musical together! The distance led to some ‘technical’ difficulties…

‘Technical’ Difficulties

As I’ve explained, the shaky and not all too frequent internet access led to some issues. Rob would send James the music he’d written via dropbox, and then James would send him back audio notes on it. All sounds very professional, doesn’t it? But what happens when two friends communicate in this way? That’s right – James would start by commenting meticulously on the music and sharing ideas (work-shopping it), then get distracted and go off into general chatting and gossiping. I know I know, hard to believe…Add to that the issue of Rob’s appalling spelling of lyrics, which upon discovery on the audio tracks James would laugh uproariously, it’s amazing they got any work done on Supertown at all..

Keeping it Clean

There is a song in the show called ‘Action Scene’ depicting some of the shows best loved characters becoming….closer. The song was originally entitled ‘Supersex’ and had to be completely re-written and re-recorded with the complete change in lyrics. ‘Action Scene’ contains plenty of innuendo and double entendres, so I dread to think how rude ‘Supersex’ was. (I might have been sent an early demo of ‘Supersex’ – obviously Rob was far too professional to have shared it with me when James expressly asked him not to show any of the tracks to anyone, however if it happened to have reached my possession, I would be able to say that it was indeed very rude, And very funny. Soz for telling on you to James, Rob!)

Distracted by a Dog

James’ favourite character in the whole show is Dogwoman, who was the last character added to the script. During the show Dogwoman is not only a superhero like all the others, but at times descends into ‘dog-like’ behaviour (from the mind of James Sidgwick, ladies and gentlemen). James’ favourite moment of the whole show is during the song ‘Superhero of the year’, where all the characters are outlining their plans (classic superhero musical theatre material right there) and Dogwoman suddenly gets distracted and ends up playing with a ball. James and Rob has assured me many, many times (too many?) that Dogwoman is supposed to be a sexy take on ‘Cat woman’ and the fact she is called a dog is in no way meant to be derogatory about her appearance.

  1. Step two: Recording the Demo

The Corridor of Shame

When I first heard about the ‘Corridor of shame I laughed. This was down to James and Rob’s casual dismissal of it as though it was a shared joke. Then I heard Claire and Sophie’s side of the story. In recording the demos for Supertown, James and Rob needed the female vocals of their other halves to ensure that a) they had female vocals on their tracks (obviously) and b) that they could do intensive recording sessions at James’ house (sometimes lasting DAYS). Rob and James at this point knew their music inside out from the months of work-shopping the songs – however poor Sophie and Claire did not. Having no score in front of them and often not hearing their lines more than once, they were expected to perform high quality and accurate vocal lines in one take. When they did not manage to do this after a few tries, they were sent to the ‘Corridor of shame’ – a narrow space in James’ house where they would listen to the vocal line they were supposed to record over and over, and then would return to have another go. Barbaric. James’ reaction to this is to shrug and proudly say ‘worked everytime!’

The First Rule of Recording

James had imposed a strict ‘no drinking while recording rule’ during the recording of the demo which everyone rigorously stuck to. The reasons for this are obvious; a clear head makes for better concentration, and therefore better accuracy of vocal lines; alcohol can cause some severe vocal issues making your voice not sound anywhere near as nice; and when enunciating words alcohol can cause some serious slurring (try saying that when you’re drunk). However, one night James decided to treat himself to a few beers during a particularly long solo session (not a euphemism). After some particularly spectacular tuning issues discovered the next morning, and time lost spent auto-tuning and re-recording all of his lines, James declared the rule sacrosanct, much to the annoyance of everyone else (who had been enforcing the rule all along).

The Superchair – or Furniture Issues

Throughout the recording of Supertown, Rob favoured a particular chair in James’ house (we all do it don’t we? I definitely have a particular ‘spot’ on the sofa and woe-betide anyone who sits there – PEDRO). This became known as the Superchair. The Superchair was clearly a loved and cared for heirloom, being around a million years old (to the nearest million) and had never really been sat on as much as it was during recording. Shortly after finishing the demo it had to be sent to be repaired. However, this was not the only furniture issue. The photo above of the recording sessions of Supertown looks very professional doesn’t it? The posh microphones, set at perfect mouth height. I wouldn’t want you to think this was the case from the start. Initially they had to sing into microphones dangling precariously from James’ kitchen cupboards, hanging off an old blind pole. Resourceful.

‘Artistic Differences’

Amazingly, despite the close quarters of the recording sessions, and the heavy involvement of their other halfs, there were surprisingly few fall outs. One occurred after James’ night of drinking, and his discovery of some rather mangled harmonies. After listening to the recording of the night before, James spluttered ‘and we call ourselves singers?!’ Shortly after this exclamation, he realised that he was the cause of the bum notes. Nice try at trying to blame everyone else though James. Although being crucial in the recording, Rob is not actually a singer or actor, and in some recordings on the demo this is painfully obvious – auto-tune can’t correct bad acting (sorry Rob!)

  1. Step three: Pitching the Idea

Dragon’s Den

James and Rob were keen for their beloved society, LIDOS, to perform the premiere of their musical. Despite being on the committee, James had to pitch the idea to them, and became so nervous he actually had to script what he was going to say – a real ‘dragon’s den’ moment.

Luckily, his pitch was successful, and the rest, as they say, is history! Now that you know the stories behind the writing of the first Sidgwick and Sanders musical I would love you to help these two on their journey – please have a look at their crowd funding page for more info on their story, and even some snippets of the show itself – here. I know the boys would be very grateful for any contribution you may feel able to spare that will help them realise their dreams of taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Can YOU put the ‘super’ in Supertown?

 

How To Make Food Shopping Fun!

Supermarket

I need to make something clear. This is not a post aimed at those with children who have misty eyed ideals of teaching their child to cook and enjoy seasonal produce…this is how to make food shopping fun for the adults who have little time and even less patience. Many of us have busy work and social lives, so food shopping comes fairly low down on the list of priorities in our spare time. It is often seen as a tiresome necessity – but I think I have found some ways to make it a fun part of your week. Try one of the below out next time you go – guaranteed to make something more of the experience than drudgery and boredom.

1. Zombie Attack

This is a Pedro invention to keep me from spending hours in the supermarket. After a certain amount of time down an aisle (you can set your own time limit – ours seems to be when Pedro gets bored while I’m trying to compare two products for price) you have to pretend Zombies are coming and run out of the aisle never to return. This is absolutely terrifying – particularly if, like me, you are ridiculously scared of them. Pedro soon abandoned this when he realised that with plenty of time to compare different products we would usually end up with the best possible value – and it takes a stupidly long time for me to get my head round cost per kg. When it comes to a toss up between budgeting and running for your life from a Zombie apocalypse (Pedro growling like a Walker), there is no competition.

2. Supermarket Sweep.

I haven’t done this one yet, but desperately want to! It does involve some planning ahead, but I reckon the result is worth it. You both need a copy of your shopping list, then take a trolley each and dash round the supermarket collecting everything as quickly as possible. The winner is the one who gets to the check out first with all the items – loser has to pay for that week’s shopping…and to get a bit of a head start you could have a basic knowledge of the layout of the aisles in order to reduce your time! (Ok, this one is a little bit sad, but everyone loves pushing a trolley really fast down an aisle).

3. Embarrassing your Shopping Partner

I apparantly do this without even realising – unbelievable I know! The trick here is not to be easily embarrassed or likely to feel any sort of shame or inhibition. I’ve won this game by yelling ‘Arrrrrrrrrrrrriba’ at the checkout when buying food for a Mexican feast, causing all shoppers to stop and stare for an awkward few seconds and Pedro to hide behind the trolley. I would also recommend talking loudly to yourself, or making up a song about different ingredients eg ‘Chipotle Paste, Chipotle Paste, it’s such a waste when I can’t find Chipotle Paste’ and so on. (As if I buy chipotle paste! Look at me pretending to be all posh!) You could also try doing impressions of different food. I do rather good ones of boil in the bag rice, and croissants.

I do find that Pedro and I rather enjoy our weekly food shop. It should be an onerous chore, potentially wrought with hissed arguments over the cost of luxury fruit and flavours of Soreen. The truth? I make a list of the meals we will eat that week, then make a shopping list, roughly in aisle order, and we go round together being very silly and no doubt highly irritating to everyone around us.

How are you going to try livening up your food shop?

Living with a teacher – A Partner’s Guide

Teaching is a huge part of my life, which is why it’s so tempting to blog about it (soz – not soz). My last post on it indicated that at times it is very all-consuming – taking up a million hours (to the nearest million) of my life – you can read it here. This is why I’ve decided to write a 5 point partner’s guide to living with that strangest of all beasts – the teacher.

  1. The Early Starts

If you start work at 9am – you have no idea. Some people walk the dog before going to work, others go to the gym, or even have time for a leisurely breakfast, watching or reading the news. A teacher slips out of the house while it’s still dark, arriving at work while it’s still dark, and begins working before many have even been woken by their alarm. But remember – this is a guide for the partners of teachers. As a partner of a teacher you mustn’t grumble that you were woken up before you had to get up (Pedro gets an extra HOUR in bed after I have left). I would also suggest providing a ‘dressing room’ for the teacher in your life to prevent wardrobe disasters caused by them dressing in the dark. These may include: wearing two similar but ultimately different shoes, various garments on inside out, not realising that black underwear will show through a chosen outfit until you get to the bright unforgiving lights of the school corridors, and a horrific mismatch of colours. (This list is not exhaustive). Furthermore, be forgiving when the teacher in your life elects not to risk the eye-stabbing inevitability of putting on mascara at 6am. And when they fall asleep on the sofa in front of Eastenders, (8pm on Mon and Fri, 7:30pm on Tues and Thurs – yes, I am a little bit of a fan) do not make the obvious mistake of telling them that you are tired…

  1. Illness – or Being a Martyr

Teachers are the absolute worst at being ill. They will struggle bravely on unless full on vomming at regular intervals. The reason for this is simply – teachers LOVE to be a martyr. Below is a list of things you might hear a teacher say when they’re ill:

‘But I can’t possibly miss today…..

it’s my exam class!’

it’s my important meeting!’

it’s my lunchtime club!

And a classic:

‘I’ll have to set all the work anyway – it’s easier to just go in!’

Being at the germ-face of teaching (in contact with over 100 illness ridden children per day) certainly carries its risks – so as a partner of a teacher, NEVER complain of a little sniffle.

  1. Planning, Preparation, Marking

Any partner of a teacher knows the perils of whinging about the amount of work they have to do. In my eyes, if you’re not prepared to put up with the following common occurences, you should maybe rethink being with a teacher:

Endless requests for a ‘volunteer’ (that’s you in case you didn’t realise) to cut things out or feed sheets through a laminator.

Having every TV programme you watch together accompanied by the glow of a laptop screen and the sound of typing.

Picking up the pieces after yet another meltdown over a broken or lost memory stick (yes – I know we should back them up – but how often do people do this really?!)

Planning your weekend around workload – eg ‘I can’t have a late one on Saturday as I’ll have to get up early to mark on Sunday so that we can still go out for lunch…

  1. Observations

The dread of all teachers everywhere. I’ve compiled a list of telltale signs a partner should look out for if an observation is coming up:

  • Stage 1 – denial. You will hear phrases like ‘People can come in anytime to watch my lessons, I won’t be doing anything special just for them anyway.’ Be warned. It is not time to relax yet.
  • Stage 2 – planning. They will spend hours on a lesson plan that is pages and pages long, all the while muttering about how ridiculous it is. Stay. Away. They will also be creating colourful and no doubt laminated resources. Now is not the time to remark ‘I thought you weren’t going to do anything special?’
  • Stage 3 – panic. The teacher will be trying to find an outfit that hides their sweat patches of fear, and then having a breakdown when they realise it is in the wash, and ladder their tights. Be supportive during this difficult time.

5. Holidays

The partner of a teacher must NEVER, EVER commit the atrocity of reamrking on how much holiday they get. This is a cardinal sin, and may result in having a very heavy textbook launched at your head. Similarly, when the teacher is on holiday, do not come back from work and ask why they haven’t done the dishes/washing. Chances are they have been working all day/catching up on episodes of Eastenders they have missed through falling asleep before 8pm…

So there you have it – my guide to all those partners of teachers out there. Do you think I’ve missed anything out?

Moved in with a boy – what next?

It’s been a long time since I last blogged – I never thought I’d take a break for so long!

Since I last blogged I returned back to work after the summer holidays, and things got very busy. I’ve been working a million miles an hour (to the nearest million) and only now am I feeling like I have a moment to spend doing what I’ve found I love – writing.

Moving in with Pedro has been brilliant. Aside from little things like damp towels, left-up toilet seats, and endless dirty washing, he has been the ideal housemate. I’ve missed blogging about the funny things that happen, the lovely things that happen and the downright silly things that happen.

So I’m back – and have lots of stored up topics to blog about! Upcoming headlines include: My indecent love of all things Christmas, recent changes in teaching and education, students – were we really all like that once?, bullying – we never really leave high school, work-life balance, car driving manners, and how YOU can put the ‘super’ in Supertown.

Meanwhile – a few funny things that have happened recently:

Getting all the way to work before realising that I’ve only put makeup on one side of my face, leaving one bare cheek, eye and eyebrow, (and wondering why the truck driver who let me out of a junction gave me an odd look when I gave him a cheery ‘thank you’ wink)

Singing a lovely little song to Pedro about how thankful I am he has accepted me into his life first thing in the morning and feeling slightly affronted at his baffled and sniggering response.

Whiskeroo chasing and devouring an enormous spider – and me being unsure whether to feel proud or disgusted.

Pedro FINALLY caving and letting me watch the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special – IN SEPTEMBER.

My parents smugly saying how good their puppy Freddie is in coming back when they call – just before he legged it after another dog and refused to come back for 15 minutes straight.

Has anything funny happened to you recently? And what topics would you like me to blog about?