❉ Ange Chan previews a new British musical about friendship, love & survival, set in Soho across 60 years, featuring the songs of Marc Almond and Soft Cell.
“Marc Almond is one of the great narrative songwriters of our time and his songs are a perfect fit for contemporary musical theatre. Marc’s characteristic themes – exclusion and isolation, disease and desire, neon and sleaze, waifs and strays, passion, acceptance and survival – provide the backbone of this piece” – Michael McManus
Hot on the heels of the sold out, last gig ever of Soft Cell at the O2 on 30th September, comes a crowdfunded project called Tainted: A New Musical, which is set in a Soho establishment, across 60 years. The name of the venue may change – Le Grand Guignol in the 1940s, Gutter Hearts in the heady 1970s, and The Pink Flamingo in the 1980s – but the ethos of the place never will. There is no prejudice accepted there, no hatred and no blame. Just love, acceptance and friendship – with added dancing, laughing, drinking and loving. In a world which is tainted by bigotry and injustice, this is a story of acceptance, survival and love and features the songs of Marc Almond and Soft Cell as well is being backed by the duo themselves.
Tainted is the brain child of writers (and Soft Cell fans) Michael McManus and Charlie Ross Mackenzie, and it’s been a work in progress for the last two years with some workshops, rehearsals and part-performances already under its belt. The recent Kickstarter campaign succeeded in reaching its £10k target which allowed the showcase workshop to go ahead.
The idea germinated from a seed of a “wouldn’t it be good if we….” idea some four years ago and by a series of incidences fuelled by utter chance, Charlie and Marc Almond’s paths happened to cross, contacts were made, kismet shone brightly and the opportunities were seized, discussed between the relevant parties and as the plan gathered momentum, the idea grew legs. Marc’s songs (for which there was no official score) were stripped down musically and built back up again to fit the various time frames depicted, in order to give the script authenticity and meaning in a musical theatre sensibility.
The showcase workshop event was held on Wednesday 24th October with two performances; a matinee for VIPs and Industry guests, and a showcase in the evening for the crowd funders. The event was held at the bijou The Vaults theatre, which is located underneath Waterloo station and filled with Cellmates and Gutterhearts alike, including myself.
The atmosphere at The Vaults was very inclusive from the beginning and you found yourself immediately warming to the characters as they acted out their roles. Each actor ‘owned’ their character and the singing and acting was to a very high professional standard. The story covered a gamut of themes including the AIDS crisis, transgenderism, racism amongst others and the songs selected were interwoven into the script very cleverly, and in some cases took on new meaning to align with the story. There was an added bonus that during Act One in that Marc Almond himself was in attendance as he couldn’t attend the matinee session due to work commitments, promoting his forthcoming album with Jools Holland Lovely Life to Live which is being released on 23 November 2018. It was reported that he was wiping happy tears from his eyes as he slipped out of the back of the theatre.
The musical features songs from every stage of Marc Almond’s career, ranging from the famous to the unknown and previously unpublished. Tainted has been through four workshops and private readings, including a full performance of Act 1 in February 2018 with students from the Guildford School of Acting. The showcase featured a cast of 12 and a live 4-piece band. Directed by Bryan Hodgson with musical direction by Matt Malone, Tainted hopes to go into full west end production in 2019. Watch this space!
❉ Directed by Bryan Hodgson, written by Michael McManus and Charlie Ross Mackenzie, with musical direction by Matt Malone and featuring the songs of Marc Almond, ‘Tainted’ debuted in London with a special public showcase performance on 24 October 2018 at The Vaults, London. For more information go to www.taintedmusical.co.uk/ | Facebook: Tainted Musical |Twitter: @taintedmusical
❉ Ange Chan is a poet, author and writer for We Are Cult. She has been both a Cellmate and a Gutterheart and currently runs Marc Almond’s Fans on Facebook. Her latest volume of poetry ‘ Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak’ was published in October 2017. Her third novel ‘Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots’ is currently an on-going work in progress.