Muted began its life in 2012 as After The Turn. My then Co-Producer, Sarah Page, and I blindly and boldly booked a slot at The Courtyard Theatre on Old Street leaving us with a month to cast, re-write the book (cue favour from one of my oldest friends Sarah Henley), and rehearse! We raised £2,500 on Kickstarter and did the whole thing on beg, steal and borrow (literally raiding skips).
From such humble beginnings, we did alright! Stephen Fry labelled it 'stunning', Mark Shenton called it the 'British Rent' and we had queues round the block for our last week. We got some offers to take it forward that for various reasons didn't work out. At the time I was devastated, but in hindsight it worked out for the best. We all went off and did our own things - we produced four more musicals as Interval Productions - Sarah Henley and I collaborating as co-writers on Streets and Another Way, for which we received several OFFIE nominations. I flew to Africa to work with Idris Elba on his mi Mandela album and Sarah was Writing Assistant on Women on the Verge - we honed our crafts and we grafted.
But After The Turn had been too good a thing to let die. Three years on, we rewrote it, axed songs, wrote new ones, and we re-named it Muted (a suggestion from choreographer/director Gary Lloyd). We couldn't get funding for a showcase but luckily we're Poster Queens for struggle being ammunition! We raised nearly £6000 on Kickstarter and did it ourselves - we showcased the new version and recorded an album. For a while, it seemed nothing would come of it (other than further proof of incredible support from fans of the show) and then The Bunker got in touch. They loved the show and wanted it as their first musical.
As per, it was all last minute - the biggest problem was raising the money and that's still a battle now but we couldn't miss this opportunity to get the show on. Even if we're paying it back for the rest of our lives. It's funny, something comes over from Broadway and everyone goes nuts for it but our own homegrown work? Where we're trying to represent London stories and voices? No-one cares.
The reason we still do it? The creative process. The team we've put together is phenomenal. I don't think there's any room for ego when you're creating - collaboration is best and we're lucky in that everyone involved with Muted is in this for the greater good. Jamie Jackson (our director) is steering the piece brilliantly and bringing things out I hadn't even realised were there. Tim Prottey-Jones (our composer) has given our brilliant MD Adam Gerber licence to completely reimagine the songs, and I think audiences who've seen the show before are in for a treat.
Initially, I'd thought I'd just produce but Tim asked me to play Lauren so Sarah wrote the part with me in mind. As an actor, that's too good an opportunity to turn down though being the only person who's done the show before, I've had to unlearn and re-learn the part. However, I don't think you can produce AND be in something easily - it's a conflict of interest and the cast need to be free to moan off record when they need to! So we decided I wouldn't be part of the production process once rehearsals started. I don't go to meetings and I wasn't involved with auditions, set, costume so I had no head starts - it wouldn't be fair to the other cast members.
The West End needs some venues committed to shorter runs of new pieces because getting new work on its feet and collectively shaping and re-shaping it is definitely the way to get the best results. It's a daily struggle to get heard, we're young women trying to dance to the beat of our own drum, and a lot of people aren't OK with that. But we'll keep pushing our own bandwagon, until people are ready to jump on. After all, you don't know you're making history while you're making it, do you?