Students Compose ‘House Party’ Musical for Edinburgh Fringe
June 13, 2012
The Fresh Outlook
Freya Smith and Jack Williams from Cardiff talk to The Fresh Outlook about how they ended up writing a musical.
Alcohol may have been the muse for many a writer and composer, but, for Freya Smith, the inspiration for the musical that she has co-written with Jack Williams turned out to be a night of misplaced sobriety: “I went to a house party and I think because maybe I was catching an early train the next day or some other reason I decided I wasn’t going to drink. So I experienced this house party, which was full of the usual sort of crazy and extravagant theatre people, while completely sober. I thought to myself, ‘I could do something with this ridiculous situation.’”
Using this experience as the starting point, Freya, 21, and Jack, 22, went about creating a musical which follows the various dramas and characters that can be counted on to make an appearance at any given house party. “For example,” Jack explains, “that time old situation when you’re cornered by someone enthusiastically speaking about philosophy and you can’t really escape the conversation. We’ve got songs about beer goggles, songs about drunk dialling, and more poignant songs as well about feelings of isolation and lost love, so it really covers the entire lifespan of a party.”
The result is Part A, a collection of thoughtfully worded songs that convey how navigating one’s way through a house party can be as confusing an experience as any we can hope to expect from our university years. The lyrics that they have written together portray the awkward transition from intellectual to emotional sensitivity, and how this line is often blurred, particularly where alcohol is concerned. The result is a show that is both witty and poignant, which displays a dazzling intelligence and, more importantly, a sympathy that few dare to attempt towards the self-consciously overeducated generation that everyone loves to hate.
The show will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, a feat of organisation that has proved almost as challenging as writing the music itself. Freya told The Fresh Outlook how, while they are both involved in the process of writing and composing, she is the one who has spearheaded Operation Edinburgh: “Jack’s really good at writing songs, but he’ll quite happily sit for six hours strumming away on his guitar whereas I’ll come in and just be a bit bossy.” Luckily, Jack sees the two approaches as an integral part of their working relationship: “The whole thing is a two man operation – we have to write the music, but we also have to plan and arrange everything, from the venues to the publicity.”
The initial writing of the songs was a collaborative process. Freya explained to The Fresh Outlook how they went about combining their individual concepts: “We both separately came up with our own ideas and we would begin writing songs, and then we’d come together and play them to each other. Then we would continue with what we liked and mess around with what the other had written. It wasn’t like one person always did lyrics and one person always did music. We both dabble in everything.”
The frequent reflections on the tropes of musical theatre and their gentle parodying of these would suggest that the writers had already spent a lifetime in the business, but this is in fact the first musical that Jack and Freya have written. Both are willing to admit that, until this point, music has been little more than a hobby that they have pursued on the side of their other endeavours. Although Jack plays in a band and Freya plays and teaches the piano, until now their main focus has been their studies – both finished university last summer, with Jack gaining a Law degree from Durham and Freya an English degree from Oxford. They hope that bringing Part A to Edinburgh will help them to launch a career in musical theatre.
Freya said: “We’d love to carry on writing musicals after this. Obviously it’s a bit of a struggle financially, but if we were able to do it, it’s what we’d love to do more than anything else.” Jack stressed the importance of acting upon your ambitions while you can – however whimsical they may seem: “You have to do things like this while you’re young. It’s the time to do it. You can’t go into an office job and realise 20 years later that you wanted to write a musical.”
By Sophie Yeo
[Image courtesy of Freya Smith and Jack Williams]