First published in Carlisle Living September 2016
This month, I bring you ‘Carlisle Living – The Musical’. It’s a story of one woman’s struggle to write her column told via the medium of music, song and dance. Like most modern musicals it tends towards the gloomier end of the emotional spectrum: imagine ‘Rent’ or ‘Les Mis’ with fewer laughs. Unfolding in real time over two hours, Carlisle Living! is set in a poorly maintained semidetached house. There’s comedy, heartbreak and a ground-breaking use of mobile phone technology. Take your seats as the orchestra tunes up …
The curtain rises on Act One to reveal an untidy living room. The hoover is left carelessly across the kitchen doorway; a pile of unironed washing totters on the arm of the sofa. A spotlight picks out the slumped form of a woman – Sarah – at a table with an open laptop in front of her. She is typing. As she hits the keys, discordant notes play. Sarah types with increasing ferocity and the notes build into a cacophonic crescendo. Suddenly she slams the laptop lid shut and breaks into the opening number, ‘I Don’t Think I Can Ever Write Anything Funny Again’. As she sings, a beautiful young woman – Sarah’s daughter Jessie – comes downstairs and sings a melancholy counterpoint ‘You Weren’t That Funny In The First Place’. The duet ends when Matthew – Jessie’s boyfriend – arrives for breakfast. Sarah returns to the laptop and resumes her discordant typing.
In the kitchen, Jessie and Matthew perform a wild salsa-inspired number ‘Carnivorous Boyfriend’ while making a giant fried breakfast with sausages, bacon, hash browns and thirty-four eggs. As they conga into the living room with plates, overfull cups of tea and bottles of ketchup, Sarah attempts to ring her son Tom. The phone screen is projected onto the back wall of the stage. There is no reply, and Sarah sings the wistful ‘FaceTime Unavailable’.
The arrival of the Amazon Delivery Man creates a diversion. Jessie has ordered 800 things off Amazon Prime and all of them require a signature. ‘Sign Here Please’ is more upbeat but the mood is soon shattered when Sarah is left to put the packaging in the recycling and loads the dishwasher. ‘Clearing Up’ segues into the heartrending ballad ‘Broken’, when Sarah finds the dishwasher, washing machine and boiler aren’t working. As she sings, Sarah trips over the Hoover and breaks off the crevice tool. Act One ends with a reprise of ‘FaceTime Unavailable’ with Sarah trying – once again – to contact Tom without success. The curtain falls as she does the washing up by hand.
Act Two kicks off with a rollicking song and dance showstopper – ‘Is It OK If I Pay After Pay Day?’ – where The Man Who Mends the Boiler, the Washing Machine Man, and his assistant The Dishwasher Apprentice troop through the kitchen, dismantling and reassembling Sarah’s household appliances until they’re mended. Jessie and Matthew join in and hilarity ensues. Once the final repair man has departed, waving gaily, Sarah rings Tom. This time, he replies and their duet –‘Connecting … ’ – is projected on the wall. Sarah tells Tom about her domestic disasters and Tom responds with his solo, ‘How Come You’re Such a Clumsy Old Troglodyte?’.
Sarah realises the events of the day have provided the material for her column. She resumes her seat at the laptop and types. A glorious melody pours from the computer as she plays and performs the closing number ‘Carlisle Living’. The cast – including a projected FaceTime Tom – join in, one by one, leading to a rousing finale. As Sarah triumphantly types the final note – the curtain falls.