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De Profundis wins Leicester Square Theatre's The New Musical Project

Photo by Steve Ullathorne

DE PROFUNDIS, a new musical by Paul Dale Vickers, based on the letter playwright Oscar Wilde wrote to his young lover, Bosie, from his prison cell in Reading jail in 1897, has won Leicester Square Theatre’s The New Musical Project, and will premiere in a six-week season in The Lounge at Leicester Square Theatre from Thursday, May 1 to Sunday, June 8, 2014.

Directed by Katie Pesskin and with musical direction by Michael Riley, it stars Alastair Brookshaw.

I have no doubt that in this letter in which I have to write of your life and of mine, of the past and of the future, of sweet things changed to bitterness and of bitter things that may be turned into joy, there will be much that will wound your vanity to the quick – Oscar Wilde.

Composer Paul Dale Vickers has taken Wilde’s 50,000-word letter (Latin translation “from the depths”) and set the words of one of English literature’s greatest wordsmiths to a stunning score to tell a story of love, loss and freedom.

“I first read De Profundis when I was at drama school over 20 years ago and was immediately drawn to the obvious sense of drama within the letter,” he says. “I created a short ‘non-musical’ version and then left it. When I came back to it, many years later, I realised that it had potential as a sung-through piece of theatre. I was always fascinated by Wilde’s ability to forgive, his intense love for Bosie and how he used writing as a form of therapy.

“At the beginning of the letter he is full of anger; he then agonises over Bosie’s nature and how he could have been complicit in Wilde’s downfall; then, towards the end of the letter he offers staggeringly profound observations on the nature of forgiveness and, as he puts it, ‘the meaning of Sorrow and its beauty’.

For this musical version I let the rhythm of the words themselves dictate the shape of the music and allowed the sentiment to drive the chords and melodies. Much of the lyrical content is taken directly from the letter with some invention required to tie ideas together.

De Profundis is a piece of musical theatre in the conventional sense; however, I am experimenting with form in terms of structure as the piece is essentially an elaborate soliloquy.”

Vickers entered De Profundis in Leicester Square Theatre’s The New Musical Project and it is the inaugural winner. The New Musical Project was set up to to discover and nurture a new British musical that showed great writing talent. On offer was a process of mentoring and rehearsals that would ultimately lead to a fully staged show for the winner in the Lounge at Leicester Square Theatre.

Alastair Brookshaw

More than 100 musicals were received and considered. Six projects were chosen as finalists and showcases of them were produced and directed by Stuart Saint and Katie Pesskin. The Project involved 27 actors, 18 panellists, 180 hours of rehearsal, and six public readings, which were attended by 300 members of the public.

Alastair Brookshaw received rave reviews for his starring role as Leo Frank in the critically acclaimed production of the musical Parade at Southwark Playhouse. Immediately following the sold-out run he played the role again, this time in a production at the Jerusalem Theatre in Israel. His West End work includes Cabaret (Lyric Theatre) and Blood Brothers (Phoenix Theatre), where he was understudy for the role of Eddie.

Brookshaw was in Craig Revel Horwood’s revival of Hot Mikado at the Watermill Theatre, and a vocalist in the dance musical Shoes at Sadler’s Wells. His other musicals include The Carnival of the Animals (Riverside Studios), Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory (Phoenix Arts), Putting It Together and Notes from New York. He was also in Bed & Sofa (Finborough Theatre) and A Winter’s Tale (Landor Theatre).

Tickets: £15.50 Tuesday to Thursday; £18.50 Friday to Sunday; Previews (May 1 to May 4): all seats £15.50. To book, call the box office on 08448 733433 or online at www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/.

Times: Vary.