A showcase performance of The Wicker Husband took place at The Other Palace, London.
The Wicker Husband, with a book by Rhys Jennings and music and lyrics by Darren Clark, is based on a short story of the same name by Ursula Willis-Jones. It tells the story of The Ugly Girl, a hardworking fisher woman (Anne-Maria Piazza) who lives on the outskirts of a town of people who value physical beauty above all else.
Things turn around for The Ugly Girl when she stumbles across the Old Basket Maker’s (Clive Rowe) house. She asks him for a husband made of wicker, after a snide woman remarks that that it is the only love she’d ever be worthy of, and the mysterious old man complies.
When the townspeople see her wicker husband (Tyrone Huntley) they become envious of the happy couple and seek to destroy their happiness.
The story is woven together with folk music and puppetry also has a large part to play in the telling of this story.
The musical won the MTI Stiles + Drewe Mentorship Award last year and is now in the process of being developed into a full production. This showcase was a delightful sneak peek into the beginning of The Wicker Husband’s journey.
The show has been through a full year of developmental support including a writing retreat and two panel-led progress labs.
The presentation, directed by Charlotte Westenra, demonstrated the progress of that work; and with only three days of rehearsal behind them, the cast members did an extraordinary job of bringing this tale to life.
It was hard to consider Anne-Maria Piazza as the Ugly Girl as she managed so flawlessly to pull out all the beauty and goodness of her character, not to mention she has a beautiful singing voice that seems to take on any style thrown her way.
Tyrone Huntley, as the loveable wicker husband, was so sweet and caring that it seemed natural that the other townspeople envied the Ugly Girl.
The innkeeper (Jamal Andréas), cobbler (Roger Evans), tailor (Sebastien Torkia) and their wives (Loren O’Dair, Rebecca Trehearn and Elexi Walker) played the conniving, shallow townspeople who were willing to stab their friends in the back. The latter were also never short of one-liners that had the audience in stitches.
Finally, it’s up to the old basket maker to ensure the townspeople learn their lesson and Clive Rowe provided the perfect balance of sternness and compassion to pull it off.
The story comes with a great message: that beauty isn’t something you can see, but something that you have inside. It teaches acceptance and tolerance toward others, even if they do look a little different. And it has a soundtrack that you could play on repeat.
The book and songs are well written and help the story progress smoothly. It seems clear why this show was chosen as the mentorship winner.
It’s a sweet little tale and it will be interesting to see what happens with it next, puppetry and all.
Readers may also be interested in:
The Wicker Husband – the inside story on bringing a new musical to life – Feature