Tag Archives: Paul Boyd

Paul Boyd: from Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory to the bloody Tower of London

Paul Boyd at the Tower of London yesterday

Paul Boyd, ready to audition, at the Tower of London yesterday

My chum comedienne Janey Godley’s weekly podcast has a new signature tune from today, written by the wildly prolific Paul Boyd.

“It’s the same tune,” he told me yesterday at the Tower of London, “I just brushed it up a bit, because I thought: They’ve had it for five years now. I didn’t want to have an outcry from all her fans if I changed it too much.”

“Probably wise,” I said. “There’s an awful lot of them and anyone connected to Janey is possibly dangerous.”

On Monday, I had not been able to go to the launch party for Paul’s latest music album One Night Stand.

“It is,” Paul told me, “subtitled The Best of Paul Boyd, Volume 1 – I made them put Volume 1 in case anyone thought I had died.”

The launch party had included performances by some of the artists.

“It was really strange,” Paul told me, “to hear my songs sung out of context and not within the confines of a show. This is my 7th album but all of the previous ones have been cast recordings.”

“How many shows have you written?” I asked.

One Night stand but 22 musicals and much more

One night stand but 22 musicals + much more

“22 musicals, 35 scores for plays that have toured nationally, 2 water spectaculars and hundreds of songs for cabaret, concerts and so on.”

“You did two water spectaculars?” I asked.

“They’re very big,” said Paul, “in Japan, Taiwan, Serbia and Denmark.”

“You did two water spectaculars?” I repeated.

“Huge water spectaculars,” he replied, “that I co-wrote, scored and co-directed. One was called The Little Mermaid and the other one Sinbad. Boats were coming on. It was crazy. I really loved it.”

“Serbia?” I asked. “Before, after or during the war there?”

“After the war. In Belgrade, there were lots of bullet holes in the walls, but I grew up in Belfast in the 1970s, so I was the only one not phased by any of it. There were about 2,000 people a night coming to see it. We were staging the show in the Olympic swimming pool which had become a bit dilapidated since 1984, so there was a real sadness to the place.”

“Maybe the swimming pool was a bomb crater?” I suggested.

“No,” said Paul. “It survived, weirdly. But there were little things like they didn’t have enough diesel to heat the pool to the standards we required because, when you do water shows, there are so many rules and regulations about the amount of chlorine and so on and the temperature dictates the costumes your actors wear. So, in Serbia, we had all the costumes re-designed, made out of neoprene – the stuff you get in wetsuits – which has a slightly insulated quality. But we had to have two mermaids because they got too cold if they stayed in the water too long.”

“You are,” I said, “from Belfast, but the name Boyd…”

Paul’s glorious musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory

Paul’s glorious musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory

“… is Scottish. yes. I’m from the Royal House of Stuart – well, a servant of… maybe we scrubbed their steps… There is a rumour that the Boyds were kicked out of Scotland for flirting with the King’s men, which is a family trait I like to keep going. Now I’m working with the Beefeaters…”

“Which is why are we meeting at the Tower of London…” I prompted.

“Yes. because I’m doing auditions for chorus members here today. Next February – the 13th and 14th – there’s a variety show – Live at The Tower – it’s Valentine’s Eve and Valentine’s Night – which Historic Royal Palaces have asked me to direct.

“Like all royal palaces, the Tower of London needs to raise money every year to keep going – I think they need to raise something in the region of £2 million a year just to keep the gates open and keep everything functioning. We’re hoping to raise money for St John’s Chapel, which is the oldest Norman church in England – it’s in the White Tower. Lots of people were dragged out of there to meet their deaths. It needs a bit of tender loving care so we’re going to raise a bit of money for that.

Beefeater Moira Cameron (Photo by Joshd at en.wikipedia)

Yeoman Warden woman Moira Cameron (Photograph by Joshd at en.wikipedia)

“The Beefeaters themselves – the Yeomen Warders – came up with this idea – Pete McGowran and Moira Cameron – the first and only female Beefeater. We didn’t know what kind of show to do so I thought a variety show. I love variety, music hall. The Royal Variety Show is the kind of feel we’re looking for and that’s the kind of audience who will be invited along to pay the sort of prices we want for the tickets.”

“Televised?” I asked.

“Not this year. Fingers crossed for future years. The idea is we launch it next year and see what happens.”

“It’s in the White Tower?” I asked.

“It’s in the New Armouries building – There’s a huge banqueting hall on the top floor which has the White Tower as the backdrop.”

“That’s in February next year,” I said, “but, before that…?”

“I’m directing my first panto.”

“Where?”

“Blackpool, the home of variety. At the Blackpool Grand.”

“That’s gigantic,” I said. “And it’s your first panto?”

“Yes,” said Paul. “A lot of my shows started off as Christmas productions, like Alice: The Musical and Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel, but I’ve never written a panto ever.”

“Oh yes you have,” I have.

“Oh no I haven’t,” said Paul.

“What’s the panto?” I asked.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs starring Sue Pollard with real-life little people. A lot of pantos don’t do that now. A lot have children with big heads and pre-recorded voices. And some just have people on their knees. We’re very fortunate. We have a very good-quality cast.”

“Pantos,” I said, “are very restrictive, but in a good way.”

Paul’s first ever pantomime - coming to the Blackpool Grand

Paul’s first ever pantomime – coming to the Blackpool Grand

“Yes, there are all the rules and regulations. Things like the good fairy always enters from stage right and the bad fairy or Wicked Queen always has to enter from stage left.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Paul. “If you ever see a panto where the good fairy comes on from stage left, it’s wrong.”

“Any trouble with Disney?” I asked.

“I imagine there’s always trouble with Disney. But I think the only thing is, with the dwarfs, you’re not allowed to call them Sleepy. Dozy, Doc, Bashful and so on.”

“There was,” I said, “the porn film Snow White and The Seven Perverts and, when Disney threatened to sue, the distributors changed the title to Some Day My Prince Will Come.”

“I remember reading once,” said Paul, “that someone was doing a panto of Beauty and The Beast – which is a Disney stage show as well as a film – and they had to have their posters approved by Disney in case they infringed any Disney rights.”

“You are very prolific,” I said, “but you have not done a new musical this year.”

“I did have three shows lined up,” explained Paul, “which all fell apart. We have had a really dodgy year in Theatreland this year.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, there’s a lot of people running venues in London who just really don’t know what they’re doing. That’s the honest truth. I work in Rep theatres all over the country and other theatres all over the world but in London – particularly on the fringe – the lunatics are running the asylum.”

“Can I quote you?” I asked.

Some of Paul’s many musicals

Just some of Paul Boyd’s successful musicals

“I think so, yeah. Though make sure you say there’s some lovely lunatics, because some of them I get on with really well. But I’ve had a couple of run-ins with people who’ve taken shows almost to the point of production and then turned round and decided they’re going in another direction. You don’t do that. I’m not used to that. A lot of faffing around. There’s no malice in it at all. A lot of people just don’t know what they’re doing and I think a lot of us, as writers, are finding it frustrating when our only outlet is the fringe and off-West End.

“One of the shows I had lined up with one of these fringe venues that didn’t come off this year, we’ve decided to do next year and I’ve just started to co-write it with a very well-known, award-winning TV scriptwriter who is venturing into theatre for the first time. He’s bringing a lot of cachet with him and a lot of people with big names want to be involved in it now. So having it fall through initially has actually helped the show.”

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In Paul Boyd’s wonderful Molly Wobbly musical, one Tit has been chopped off

Molly Wobbly’s wonderful Tit Factory at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

Paul Boyd’s “astonishing” show at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

Paul Boyd wrote the intro and outro music for my chum Janey Godley and Ashley Storrie’s weekly podcast.

He has also written 22 musicals. So he is an interesting man.

When I saw his musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, I wrote in my blog that it was “astonishing. It has more catchy tunes in it than all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals combined… It is a combination of Rocky Horror style exuberance, British music hall jollity and the best of West End musicals… Its effervescent vitality is quite something to behold.”

Now the show is about to start at the Leicester Square Theatre with a week of previews starting on 27th January, followed by an initial six-week run. The cast now includes Spike Milligan’s daughter Jane.

Paul outside the Leicester Square Theatre

Paul outside the Leicester Square Theatre

I had a chat with Paul Boyd in Leicester Square this week.

“I see,” I told him, “that the title has lost the words Tit Factory. It is now just called Molly Wobbly. Is that for commercial reasons?”

“Yes,” admitted Paul. “The pressures of commercial theatre. Not so much for London but, if it ever ended up touring the regions, you would never get the original title into a brochure. The one thing I always fought for was the title, but I finally gave up last year when I had a fight with Transport For London who would not advertise it. They wouldn’t advertise Molly Wobbly’s T*t Factory and they said: We wouldn’t even advertise Molly Wobbly’s *** Factory.

“I thought: Well, if I’ve got those sort of problems in London, imagine what it will be like in Bridlington or Bath. At Leicester Square, they are selling it as Rocky Horror meets Carry On meets Little Shop of Horrors. That’s fine. If you can sell it as that, do it.”

“Well,” I said, “my view on most things is: Write it as Art. Sell it as baked beans.

“Well, that’s it,” said Paul. “And, if you can sell that title…”

“I think it’s a really good title,” I said. “And pure kitsch is saleable.”

Molly Wobbly Leicester Square flyers

Flyers for upcoming Leicester Square Theatre’s production

“That’s how you market it,” said Paul. “But, if you sit down to write it, you have to be prepared not to tie up loose ends. You have to think: I’m just going to go completely off the wall. All my other shows are very neat. When I sat down to write Molly Wobbly, I had no idea where it was going or how it was going to end. With Molly, I didn’t even know what a Tit Factory was when I started.”

“You thought of the title first?” I asked.

“Yes. Because it was for a competition I did not want to win. In 2006, Cameron Macintosh ran a competition to write a musical for a theatre which was opening in Inverness.”

“The Eden Court?” I asked.

“Yes. I was asked if I would submit an entry, but I didn’t have time to write a musical. I was touring South Korea or Taiwan with another musical and had loads on. The rules for the competition said you could submit ‘up to ten minutes’ of material from the full-length show. I didn’t have the full-length show, so I wrote a 10-minute musical and made it sound like an extract, and, to make sure they would never ask for the rest of it, I decided to call it something that no-one would ever produce and the words just came into my mind: Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory. And, inevitably, it got short-listed. I had to pull out of the competition because I had no time to write it and no idea what it was about.

“It stayed as a 10-minute musical for about four years and then the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, heard the 10-minute extract and wanted to commission a full-length show and they twisted my arm and convinced me and I sat down thinking: What the hell is a Tit Factory and what happens there?”

A song from the original Lyric, Belfast production is on YouTube:

“What was your elevator pitch for Molly?” I asked.

“I’ve never found a succinct way of selling it. It’s about giving a woman a makeover and, by the end, the town of Little Happening has got a makeover. It’s about people bettering themselves and getting their ideals, whether or not that’s everybody’s ideal – and people, under the influence of a potion, deciding how they can be sexier or more beautiful.”

“With laughs,” I said.

“Lots of titters,” said Paul.

“How does anyone decide they want to write musicals?” I asked.

“Well,” said Paul, “I did Gilbert & Sullivan at school in Belfast and I’m a big G&S fan to this day. I had a good music teacher called John Ross Dallas – JR Dallas.”

“Like me,” I said. “I had a music teacher at school who loved G&S – They are SO clever and SO funny.”

Gilbert & Sullivan

G & S + Carry OnRocky Horror Show = Molly Wobbly

“At the age of 16,” Paul told me, “I played Coco in The Mikado and, at 17, I played Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance. I performed those things and I suddenly realised that there was something I was good at. All my teachers who had ignored me, because I was useless in all of their classes, were suddenly talking to me. I remember the Physical Education teacher came and congratulated me. I hadn’t spoken to him about anything other than chilblains for about seven years.

“Then I went to the University of Ulster to do a History degree and changed subjects to Theatre Studies. I ended up doing a terrible course which was so bad I decided the only way I was going to have fun was to write a musical. I was 19 and wrote a show called Macbeth: The Musical in 1992. A producer came to see it, bought the rights and toured it all round Ireland. So I had a show touring at the age of 20 and I haven’t stopped since, maybe because I’m afraid of trying anything else.

“Originally, writing musicals was an accident – a way of having something to do as an actor. Then I stopped acting in them and just wrote them.”

“You’ve written rather a lot of musicals,” I said.

Molly Wobbly was No 18 or 19. I’ve done 22 now.”

“But not,” I said, “without problems in Molly’s case…”

Molly Wobbly Hackney Empire Gary Wilmott

Gary Wilmott in unseen Hackney Molly Wobbly

“2013 was a very strange year,” said Paul. “The show had been a big hit at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. The Leicester Square Theatre wanted to put it on at Christmas 2012, but it wasn’t my call in those days: the show was owned by other people. There was this idea that it would go to the Hackney Empire and it was happening and then suddenly it wasn’t happening. It fell through at a day’s notice.”

There is a promo on YouTube for the unseen Hackney Empire production.

“We had rehearsed the show for three weeks,” explained Paul. “We had a fabulous cast and had wonderful production team – we had decades and centuries of experience. It was Friday morning and we were due to open that night. Then the finance all fell through on the day we were due to open. The money suddenly wasn’t there.

“Then, in 2014, I got the rights back and I was free to do what I wanted with it. So last year, we did a stage concert of it at the Phoenix Artists’ Club and then we were invited to take it to the Leicester Square Theatre.

Paul Boyd - Things are looking up now

Things – very much looking up this week for Paul Boyd

“There was a guy called Christopher Malcolm, who has now passed away. He was involved in the Rocky Horror company – he played the original Brad, directed all the big Rocky Horror shows in the 1990s and, in 2012, he started working with me on Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory and helped me shape it from the 2011 one-Act version to the Edinburgh Fringe shows which you saw in 2012.

“Christopher’s plan for the show was always to start it small, like they did with Rocky Horror – to start it as a cult thing. He was always wary of the plans to take it to the Hackney Empire or anywhere that big – not because it was Hackney, but because it was a 1,200-seater theatre.

“He passed away in February 2014, so he never got to see it at the Phoenix, but that was very much in keeping with his plan. The Lyric in Belfast was 300 and the Edinburgh Fringe venue was 400. The Phoenix Artists’ Club was 40 or 50.

“Where we are going to be in the Leicester Square Theatre sits 70. So it has the right feel. You’re actually sitting in Mammary Lane. It’s almost immersive. It feels like an undergroundy show with room to grow. If it grows, fine; if it always stays a little cult show, also fine.”

The YouTube promo for the original Lyric Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe shows gives a good flavour of the show:

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