Muted seems an odd choice for the name of a musical, not least one that is debuting amidst all the panto madness of London’s theatre scene at Christmas time. But as the first musical ever staged at The Bunker, the brand new underground fringe theatre space in Southwark, Muted, and the creative behind it, look set to make some noise.
The show follows the story of Michael Brookman, the teenage frontman of a band on the brink of stardom, who stops speaking following the sudden death of his mother.
For Tori Allen-Martin, co-writer Sarah Henley and composer Tim Prottey-Jones, last Wednesday’s opening night was the culmination of four years of work on the musical, which originally debuted as After The Turn at The Courtyard in 2012.
“The spot came up last minute so Sarah had two weeks to write the script, two weeks to rehearse it, we were running around town begging and borrowing to dress the set – stealing sofas out of skips – it was mad,” Tori says.
The madness was clearly kept confined to backstage. After The Turn enjoyed a sell-out month, award nominations from industry publications and the applause of Stephen Fry who labelled the show “stunning”.
“The show was our baby and we had some offers to take it forward but when the timings didn’t work out we were gutted,” Tori says. “Sarah and I wrote another two musicals, learned a lot from the experience, but we always knew we had something with this show so we came together at the beginning of the year and decided to rework it.”
Muted has been adapted for The Bunker stage, a renovated underground car park near London Bridge launched by Joel Fischer and Joshua McTaggart earlier this year. “When Joel and I first heard the opening song to Muted, we knew this show was something special,” artistic director Joshua McTaggart says. “Championing home-grown talent and nurturing new work is key to the ethos of The Bunker, and we have loved seeing Muted change, evolve, and grow, while still keeping the core of its original musical brilliance.”
Tori echoes the Bunker ethos of nurturing new work, pointing to her own experiences trying to fund Muted through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter as proof these attitudes are needed now more than ever.
“There’s only so many times you can beg people for money [a Kickstarter campaign raised almost £6,000], and you shouldn’t need to after a while,” she says. “There’s funding going into research and development – which is great – but there’s not enough to actually get a show up and
“There also isn’t enough support for British writing and the only way we can combat that is to really push – create work for ourselves and each other. I’m really passionate about messing with the genre and creating musical theatre that’s really modern. It’s challenging, but you’ve got to be the change you want to see.”
Muted is on at The Bunker until 7 January