Thursday, 15 December 2016

PREVIEW - Muted at the Bunker, Southwark Street

The story of what happens to an exceptional teenage singer whose world comes crashing down after the sudden death of his mother is the subject of the latest production to be staged at The Bunker.
Muted was written by Bermondsey based Sarah Henley with music by Tim Prottey-Jones and Tori Allen-Martin.
It is a story of grief, guilt, self discovery and forgiveness not to mention the thing we can’t do without - love.
It tells the story of Michael Brookman, a young man and singer in a band which is about to hit the big time. But the death of his mother in a hit and run accident has a profound effect on Michael - so much so that he quits the band and stops speaking entirely.
In fact he doesn’t utter a word for three years and none of his friends or family know what to do. Michael’s former band mate Jake is trying to hold everything together as the band’s shot at the big time comes along. But to get there, the record label wants Michael back as the band’s frontman. 
Lauren, Michael’s ex-girlfriend who is now in a relationship with Jake, tries to bring Michael back from the edge. In doing so, long-forgotten feelings are unearthed and uncomfortable truths force their way in.
In a chat ahead of the show’s opening at London Bridge’s newest theatre, Sarah tells me that four years after coming up with the idea, and its initial staging at the Courtyard Theatre, she’s excited to be bringing Muted to new audiences.
“It been an interesting journey because it’s a story that has changed so much since its inception,” she says.
“I run Interval Productions with Tori and about four years ago we met Tim who came to us with an album of music and the idea of this character who doesn’t speak. 
“As well as writing, acting and directing I also work as a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) coach dealing with trauma in young people and that inspired me to think more about this character. The co-dependent relationship Michael has with his mother mirrors the stories I have seen in my work.
“And because it deals with mental health issues we knew we wanted it to be quite raw, powerful, real and full of energy rather than a glitzy and glamorous musical.
“I got to work on it and the initial draft was written quite quickly. Tori then booked the theatre space so I had to about three weeks to write it properly!
“However, it sold out and got quite a few accolades which was nice.”
These accolades included one following one of the workshops they did for it from writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry who said it was “stunning”, something Sarah admits was both a surprise and “amazing”.
“Yes, it was lovely of him to say that and we were really stunned,” she says. “But it’s changed a lot since then - and the feedback we had from the workshops we did has been incredibly useful in shaping how it is now. 
“Some of the songs were cut and some the lyrics were replaced with new ones. Tim has also composed new songs that suit it a bit more, some characters have a better arc and we changed the ending for Act 1, so it’s actually quite different,” she laughs.
“But it’s still very much the physiological drama that was the original with six characters and with Michael at the centre of it.
“As the story progresses, we get to see the fall out from the unexpected death of his mother and how his ex girlfriend comes back into his life.
“There is a big twist plus all the secrets and lies that spill out during the course of the story - making it really dramatic.”
Given Michael’s story and the themes and issues it raises Sarah hopes that after having seen it, audiences will leave with a better understanding of some of the mental health issues tackled in the piece.
“There will be some aspects of Michael’s character or the situations the people in the play find themselves in which those who come to see it will identify with and recognise,” she says.
“I hope that not only does it make people think but also that they can be entertained by it too, get into the incredible music and be touched and moved by it.”
And she is excited to be bringing it to the Bunker, a venue she says lends itself to the intimate nature of the piece.
“It’s an incredible space and I think what the two guys, Joshua McTaggart and Joel Fisher, have done to set this up is amazing and should be applauded and supported,” she enthuses.
“They are young, enthusiastic and I love what they’ve done here. Their programming is really brave and they are not afraid to take risks on the stuff they believe in. It’s very exciting to be part of that.
“I love it because we have the same ideas about how to make our shows feel like a great night out - so at the Bunker the bar opens before and after the show and audiences will be able to mingle and chat with the cast and crew about what they have seen.
“It’s a great place and we can’t wait to be there.”

Muted is at The Bunker, Southwark Street, until January 7, 2017. Tickets cost £22.50. Visit or call the box office on 0207 234 0486. 

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