Caro Meets Musicals & Opera Interview

Daniel Finn: The Clockmaker’s Daughter

By | Published on Wednesday 3 June 2015

‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’, a new musical from the writing partnership of Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn, has just begun a month-long run at London’s Landor Theatre, and early responses to the production appear to be extremely positive…


Intrigued by the sound of the show’s folky subject matter and themes, I sent some questions over to Daniel Finn, to find out more about the musical, and the team behind it.

CM: Tell us about ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’ – what is it all about?
DF: It’s a folk faerytale with an original story and music. It’s set in a small, fictional, town in Ireland where the townsfolk gather every year to take part in a strange ritual (‘The Turning of the Key’). In the middle of the square there is a statue of a girl with a keyhole in her back. The myth is that the statue used to be alive and one day, if they keep winding her, she might come back… The show is the story behind the legend.

CM: What themes does it explore?
DF: Quite a few. The great thing about fairy tales is that they’re thematic by nature; they’re always built around a central moral and grow from there. With ‘Clockmaker’s’, I’d say our main theme is prejudice but that includes animosity, fear of the unknown and how we handle difference. One of the lines from the show is ‘We are measured by our time’ and it’s an important message: we are not defined by appearance but by action. But we believe the show has many other things to say…

CM: Where did the idea for the narrative come from? What was the inspiration?
DF: We were very keen to find the story first on this particular show. When you set out to write an original story we both believe it’s very important to know your destination before firing up the engines and that was the main thing for us with this. Insofar as inspiration is concerned, the main thing really was we wanted a new Grimm – a dark faerytale – and we wanted to do it with a folk feel. Other than that I can’t really say. We went up to Birmingham for 5 weeks and locked ourselves away; we spent the first week consolidating the plot, scene by scene, finding the song placement and then knuckled down. Somewhere in all that we found what we have now.

CM: Why did this subject matter lend itself to musical theatre? How do you decide when a song is appropriate and who should sing it?
DF: Michael’s fond of a quote: ‘In musical theatre a song should only be used when spoken dialogue is no longer enough.’ The emotional peaks in a story are usually where you find your songs but there are other reasons too; set up, plot development, revelations. It’s a fun process really, finding your song points and justifying them. In terms of subject matter I’d say it’s no more or less relevant than any other. That’s one of the best things about musicals, they really can be about anything.

CM: How does your creative relationship work with Michael Webborn work? How did it come about?
DF: We met in Scotland at what was then the RSAMD. Michael was there doing his Masters and I’d been given the opportunity of taking my first show ‘riZen’ up to do a workshop with some of the students. We were assigned Mike as our Assistant MD and we both knew by the end of that week that we’d like to work together. The relationship is extremely collaborative, we’re very close and we work well together. Mike tends to fall into music and I tend to fall into lyric and book when it comes to maintaining what we’ve written but we compose everything together and nothing is decided without the approval of the other. We both write the top-lines (the melodies), we both write lyric and we both write libretto. It’s tough because people tend to want to pigeonhole when it comes to a writing partnership and we’re not completely exclusive.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast you have assembled for this?
DF: The cast are incredible, they really, truly are. Some of them are people Mike and I have worked with for years and some of them are completely new to us but they are all exceptional. They’re giving every single ounce of energy they can muster to this and that is a very, very humbling thing to see. The entire creative team have been blown away by the calibre and commitment we’ve found in our cast. Our leads are definitely people to watch out for in the future. We’re very lucky to have them.

CM: Are there plans for further stagings of ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’, after the run at Landor Theatre?
DF: We’re pleased to say that a youth production is happening in Cirencester shortly after we finish the run at the Landor but at present that’s as much as we know… We’re already thrilled to have reached this stage: to have so much belief coming in from (Landor Theatre AD) Rob McWhir and the team he’s assembled means the world to us. Obviously we’d love for it to move forward and someday make it to the West End but at present we’re still praying for that possibility.

CM: What’s next for you? Are you working on anything new at the moment?
DF: At the moment we’re solely focused on ‘Clockmaker’s’. We’ve just finished previews so we’re still tweaking things and Rob is still adding the finishing touches. It’s a great process to be a part of, it’s fantastic to see how he works. Mike and I have, at present, roughly five new concepts we’re desperate to have the time to develop. We’re by no means short of ideas or enthusiasm it’s purely finding the time and funds to get them down on paper. For now that’s okay because we’re having such a good time here at the Landor, but we’d love to keep going and we’re very keen to keep working together.

‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’ is on at Landor Theatre until 4 Jul. See this page here for more info and tickets.

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