Last month’s copy of The Community Voice carried a rather scathing, if entirely justified, review of the musical “Seagulls Dance” which premiered at Draíocht recently. While praising the lavish production and musical content, the reviewer felt the plot was about as credible as a plea from Westlife to be considered serious musical artists.
I ruminated on this. The production had all the ingredients to make it a smash hit on Broadway except a believable story line. I hurriedly fumbled in my pocket for a pen and an old Snickers wrapper, and in five minutes, had come up with a fully-fledged musical, tentatively titled “Seagulls Drink Cider.”
Act One opens with a group of villagers converging merrily on Blakestown Roundabout. They sing a traditional Irish song (“All This, and Lidl Too”) and dance gaily around the central island until a fleet of squad cars comes roaring up and moves them on.
On their way home, Kylie professes her deep undying love for Dwane in a heartfelt ballad (“Will You Ever Bring that Hape of Junk down to the Carwash?”) Dwane is overcome with emotion and the two of them dance a pas-de-deux, as an expression of their oneness.
They are then accosted by Mrs. Bulalewe, a Nigerian woman, whose Puerto-Rican husband has been deported and now, unbeknownst to her, is having a whale of a time on a beach in Phuket. She sings an aching and heartfelt lament for her homeland (“Jeez, It’s Chilly Here, Innit?”) and all the villagers enter and sit at her feet, until a fleet of squad cars comes roaring up and moves them on.
Act Two sees Dwane and Kylie at home, while their two young children, Brad and Britney argue over the Playstation. Mrs. Bulalewe knocks at the door and starts to sing the haunting, aching and heartfelt ballad, “I Never Packed any Cardigans” but she is interrupted by Garda Jason Villens, who wants to query Dwane about his road tax. While the policeman is singing the amusing ditty “Is that Your Vehicle Outside Sir?” Dwane makes his escape through the kitchen window and promises a distraught Kylie that he’ll write to her from Marbella.
Garda Villens has a moustache and a little goatee beard to indicate that he is intrinsically evil. He is smitten by lust for Kylie and sets about wooing her, but her biting refrain “While There are Dogs in the Street?” sends him packing.
Act Three is a single scene set beside a pool in Marbella. It is 18 years later. This is conveyed to the audience by a woman walking out on stage carrying a sign that says “18 years later.”
Dwane is lying on a sun-lounger, quaffing champagne and telling jokes to two beautiful young women cuddling up to him. He suddenly breaks into “Me Darling Little Blakestown Semi,” an atmospheric, haunting, aching and heartfelt ballad of longing for his homeland. As he sings the line “And it was so convenient to the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre too,” he breaks down and cries, and realises he must return home.
In Act Four, the now Detective Inspector Villens has not yet got the hint and is still pursuing the by-now-quite-frumpy Kylie. She fends him off with the feisty “Jesus, Get a Life, Will Ya?” He gets into his car and prepares to drive off, but is interrupted by Mrs. Bulalewe, who comes out of her house singing the unforgettable tune, “You Call This a Summer?” Distracted, D.I. Villens reverses over Kylie and kills her. As she dies, she sings the tearful, atmospheric, haunting, aching and heartfelt dirge, “I Don’t Believe It! A Bloody Nissan Primera.”
Outside the graveyard, the funeral cortege realises that nobody has picked up the key to the cemetery gates and, rather than waste a lovely day, they decide to bury Kylie in a nearby field. Brad, by now a strikingly handsome young man with a degree in Welsh Cookery, is determined to revenge himself on D.I Villens, but Mrs. Bulalewe reminds him that the Coroner’s verdict of ‘Suicide By Running Herself Over’ was the only logical conclusion. As the mourners file away from the graveside, Britney kneels by her mother’s grave and sings the gut-wrenching, tearful, atmospheric, haunting, aching and heartfelt tribute “You Never Showed Me How To Work the Washing Machine (Mam)”
D.I. Villens strides across the field towards Britney. He feels that, with the burial over, it would be a good time to approach her with a view to matrimony. She fends him off, despatching him cruelly with the acerbic “You Won’t Get Your Size 12 Slippers Under My Table, Officer.”
As she breaks down, Dwane comes over to see what is going on. He is back from Marbella. Britney runs into his arms and he comforts her. Curiously she does not ask where he has been for the past 18 years. Brad appears from behind a sprig of spinach and the three embrace. Somebody breaks wind, and they all laugh. Suddenly a fleet of squad cars comes racing across the field and they run for it.
Finally, in Act Five, Dwane, Britney and Brad are stopped at a roadblock that has been set up on their driveway. Dwane has only just found out that there was nothing wrong with his road tax in the first place and blames D.I.Villens for his wife’s death. D.I Villens leans into the car and informs Dwane that the readout says he was doing 80kph in a 30kph zone. This he imparts with the lilting air “On Our Way to Mondello, Are We, Sir?”
Britney opens the car door and tries to make a run for it but catches her leg in the seatbelt and falls under the wheels of an articulated truck. Her swansong “At Least Its Better Than A Primera” is guaranteed to haunt audiences for a very long time with its pathos.
Dwane tries to get out of the car, but his door is up against the pillar and he is trapped. Brad is in the back listening to his iPod, unaware that anything is afoot. D.I Villens produces a black spherical object from behind his back, lights the fuse and throws it into the car. It is not a bomb but a faulty ballcock and both Dwane and Brad drown, to the sound of the classic number “Glug, Glug, Glug.”
D.I.Villens turns to the audience and regales them with a rousing rendition of “Frog Went-a-Courting” As the song reaches its crescendo, he is flattened by a meteorite.
Mrs. Bulalewe comes out of her house, sees the devastation and breaks into “These Home Heating Bills Are Costing Me A Fortune.” Cue the curtain, and obligatory standing ovation.
Of course, penning such a strong script with such well-rounded characters is bound to pose its own problems. What do we move off the mantelpiece to make way for the Tony awards that will inevitably follow? Who do we want to direct the film version? Where should we host our Oscar-night party?
But, of course, artists are supposed to struggle. Just as the best footballers are produced from disadvantaged areas, so the best musical playwrights wrestle with their consciences and grapple with life’s eternal conundrums. Ours is not an easy path and we go through torture for our art.
Unlike “Seagulls Dance” where it is the audiences that go through torture…