Julie Burchill’s musical is a labour of love and lust on Easy Street

Not content with writing provocative columns, a Brexit play, and cancelled-then-uncancelled books, Julie Burchill has now turned her hand to musicals…

Julie Burchill is no slouch when it comes to launching new projects. She talks to Title Sussex about Hard Times on Easy Street, the Brighton-based show’s sexy storyline, the added admin of musicals, and her plans to keep penning mischievous material for the stage.

A musical? What were you thinking?

I’ve adored musicals since I was a little girl, but it wasn’t until I met my friend Robin Watt – a composer – in Hebrew class that it occurred to me that I could actually do one myself. Musicals seem so mysterious from the outside – like magic! But when you get down to it, they just require good words and good music to be great, like life itself.

You’ve written a play before, but as a writer and journalist, was it very different writing for a musical?

SO different. Adding music to the mix adds a whole other level of organisation. But luckily, I had Robin and our other musical geniuses, Tim Wade and Michael Edmonds, on board to take care of that.

Tell us about writing the songs – how did that come together?

I would write the lyrics and give them to Robin to write tunes. But I am somewhat clever-clever at times, and often write so much alliterative stuff that can sound like tongue-twisters. Amusingly, Robin started doctoring them by giving them to my husband Daniel – because “he has a way with words”. Imagine my shock at this diss! But it has worked out very well and one of Daniel’s lyrics – You’ve Changed – is one of the very best songs from a whole list of crackers.

Without giving it away, tell us a bit about the story

Anna, a young singer, falls for her boss Otto, the owner of a failing Brighton cabaret club. She is, in turn, lusted after by Elle, an older singer. Then a bad man called Rory enters the sexual fray, creating a love rectangle.

Is this story drawn from personal experience?

Not really, but I’ve heard a few gay men boast that no man is so straight that he can’t be turned – it’s so arrogant and quite misogynistic. Then I thought about the flipside – what about the gay men who have their head turned by a woman, like Tom Robinson with his wife Sue, or Montgomery Clift with Liz Taylor? It’s an interesting and unusual story, and I like unusual things.

What next for JB?

I’ve been so lucky to have a great director, Seth Morgan, and an excellent cast and crew. But it’s been such a roller coaster – conceived in 2016 and having three previous directors – that it makes the Vampire Ride at Chessington look like the A15. So much funny stuff has happened along the way that I already have an idea for a play about a play called CURTAIN!. It’s going to be a scream.

 

Like theatre? Havers and Hodge in Private Lives…