I'm going to begin by singling out the two people without whom none of this would have happened:
Charlotte Gittins - When you tell someone that you're working with Charlotte, their face usually melts into a dazed smile of approval followed by an exclamation along the lines of "Ohhh, she's the BEST." It was almost exactly one year ago, at Fringe 2016, over pots of tea, when I tentatively said to her that I'd had an idea for a Richard Carpenter show, and her encouraging words were the fuel to start the engine running. Then, a few months later, in a rehearsal room in London Bridge, her provocative improvisations with me added plenty of coal to the furnace. Finally, earlier this year, in a television studio off Tottenham Court Road, her insightful notes on the first stagger-through were so perfectly pitched to offer useful criticism without killing my passion for the piece. I couldn't have asked for a better collaborator to egg me on. She has all my favourite qualities in abundance - endearing humility but also fierce pride in her work, unpretentious unless it's hilarious to be pretentious... I will owe her for the rest of my life. (Literally, because she refused to charge me for her priceless services.) Charlotte, you are the actual best and I love you.
Jon Brittain - I don't want to blow too much smoke up his ass (which incidentally is where he keeps his Olivier Award, I'm told) but Jon is really uncommonly gifted and it's been a complete joy to have our first collaboration do so well. We wrote the songs for Super Happy Story all over the place - in the National Theatre foyer and the Curzon cafe, in student-y digs up at Hull Truck, over Skype - and it never felt like work, mainly because Jon had done all the heavy-lifting before I came on board. I feel like I've received a disproportionate amount of credit for my contribution, but that's what Jon's like. He's such a generous soul - and because of him, I get to walk away with a Fringe First this year. But more importantly, his lovely play makes me cry every day, no matter how many times I see it, and I can't wait to work with him again. Season ticket for the Jonorail, please.
And then the two people who, once Richard was happening, made him really HAPPEN:
Madelaine Bennett - A lady of impeccable taste who turned up at my first work-in-progress and then proceeded to PR the actual hell out of it, getting me more interviews, reviews and coverage than I thought possible. And, most importantly, truly made me feel like the show was going to be brilliant with or without her on board - she just wanted to maximise everything for me. Plus, she used to front a rock band who opened for The Stranglers, so she wins.
Carrie Hardie - I don't know what I would have done up here without her, calmly ensuring that practically every seat had a bum on it, every flyer a hand to hold it, every poster a galaxy of stars. She only came on board a couple of weeks before, but by the first weekend, it was as if we'd never been apart. I hate the 32 years prior to this for not containing you. Carrie, will you marry me?
Then, the company who hired me to do Super Happy in the first place: Hull-based Silent Uproar, headed up by artistic director Alex Mitchell, who took me for a Caffe Nero in 2015 and said that he wanted to develop a peppy musical about mental health and would I write the peppy music? Big thanks to him and the rest of the boys - Adam Foley, Alex Brook and Jon Calvert - for paying me to do what I love.
Now to the creatives whose skills I purloined for Richard, and whom you should all hire whenever you can:
David Doyle - Thank God I picked the venue I did in Brighton, otherwise I'd never have met this lovely soft-spoken in-house tech, who said afterwards that he really liked my show, and if I hadn't already got one, he was an "award-winning lighting designer." Turns out he's actually a really big deal. And is also adorable.
Victoria Falconer - There is no one this woman doesn't know, no pie she doesn't have her finger in. From musical consultation, to general dramaturgical advice, to a painful morning over the phone patiently guiding me through how to set up and target a "Facebook ad" (shudder), she does it all with SUCH style, and SUCH a lovely hairdo.
Barry Hilton - He's been patiently telling me about sound ever since we met. It seems to go in one ear and out the other (IRONICALLY.) So I'm extremely grateful that he continues to lend a hand on the mixing desk, even from his dilapidated old French farmhouse in the middle of nowhere that he's currently doing up with his wife (more on her later.)
A round-up of further creative input from brilliant people:
Shane Gill for expertly pressing the buttons on the desk, and taking on the pivotal role of "confused technician" at a climactic moment in the show when Richard goes off on one at him; Sean Mooney for designing an ingeniously simple spectacular set-piece for the finale (and Adam F. and Alex B. for taking Sean's design to B&Q with me, getting techie discounts on the materials and putting it together) - I haven't yet told them that the whole thing was abandoned after the third performance because it was too difficult to set up; Traipsy Drake for the gorgeously garish made-to-measure yellow polyester shirt; Elizabeth Hedley for subtly styling the fright wig so it was just on the more realistic side of ridiculous; Joanna Yates the National Portrait Gallery-exhibited artist who produced such a life-like drawing of Venus Williams that I didn't need to say who she was; Dominic Moriarty for the eye-catching artwork that I received lots of compliments about; Steve Ullathorne for photographing the first batch of images that got me so much interest from the get-go; Edward Moore for snapping live shots of my Brighton show that kicked the interest up even more; and James Pickering for his musical engineering wizardry.
The cast of Super Happy - Madeleine MacMahon (Sally), Sophie Clay (all the female parts), Ed Yelland (all the males), and show-saving swing Sally Helen Reuben - who all lived with me and saved me from becoming a weird hermit-crab who had no fun. The synergy of this cast was the best I've ever experienced in 12 years of Edinburgh - no wonder they all got so many good reviews and accolades. Gemstones each.
A list of people who, at one time or another, sat down with me and talked about Richard, or came to a showing and offered thoughts: Andrew Doyle, Adam Kay, Lucy Wray, Madeleine MacMahon (again), Alice Holland, Gemma Arrowsmith and Kate Clevett. They all contributed something invaluable, from big structural changes to just a single word ("poppycock.") Kirsty Mann deserves special mention for basically being my other half in real life when I needed some support or even just a sounding board, even while mounting her own accomplished first half-hour of character comedy. And Alex Jarrett offered advice and encouragement early in the process, which pushed me to think outside my usual box and for which I'm very grateful.
Miscellaneous Richard shout-outs: Suzanna Rosenthal and Philip Stinson for their help with the legal aspect (R.C. is famously litigious); Julie Holman, Helen Pye, Stella Reilly, Holly Wilson and Susana Gomes for assisting Madelaine the PR machine and being so ridiculously complimentary (to my face at least) about both of my shows; Daniel Cainer for generously lending me his keyboard to use so I didn't have to schlep mine between Pleasance and Underbelly every day, Joe Morrow for taking "saxophone" off the already-stretched budget by graciously donating his, and my brother Sam for the cymbal (he owes me, I once saved his life on holiday, but I'm still grateful and I love him lots); Yianni Agisilaou for supporting Carrie supporting me, and lending equipment to film the show for posterity; Jamie Mykaela and the flyering team for some killer flyering in an array of fabulous outfits; Vikki Mizon and Marina Dixon for making it possible for me to bring Richard to the Underbelly in the first place, and Cat Neufeld for being on hand the couple of times I had tech issues; Simon Reilly, Porl Cooper and Matthew Whittle for seeing potential in the idea and offering me spaces to preview at very generous rates; Kevin Wilson for adding his own invaluable two cents of PR buzz to my little engine that could; Alison Thea-Skot for looking like Karen Carpenter and giving up an afternoon to pretend to be her, no questions asked; Emma Bianco for tirelessly working to get me an audience to my first show; Emma Waterford for a fun afternoon traipsing around London vintage shops for costume, and Richard Poynton for helping to get me a gig in Birmingham; Nelly Velasquez for designing the tour artwork; and beloved friends/family members Holly-Jane Shears, Douglas Winship and Leela Bunce for opening their doors to me and providing free accommodation.
A special dedication to the woman who is largely responsible for my having a career. My very own Karen Carpenter, except she's not mine, she's her own person, not defined by her relationship to a man - pipe down, feminazis. The one, the only: Laura Corcoran, who is yet to be matched in my opinion, who's seen me at my worst yet gently helped me find my best, whose path crossed with mine at just the right time to make my prospects ten times better, and whose partnership I couldn't treasure more.
Since this is taking an unexpectedly sentimental turn, I will also include a heartfelt tribute to two women who were early inspirations in this business: Anne Berry, who taught me everything I know about drama, and Saira Bloomfield, who gave me confidence to think I could do this for a living.
And finally, it goes without saying but that sometimes means you should say it more - Mum and Dad and Granddad and Nana, the foundations upon which my very existence is built, the be all and end all, the people you always think of when something good happens because you look forward to telling them, because a joy of yours is also a joy of theirs. Thanks for the Wurlitzer, Nana and Granddad - I think even Richard Carpenter himself would be jealous.
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)
WINNER Fringe First
WINNER Musical Theatre Review Award for Best Musical
NOMINEE Holden Street Theatre Award
NOMINEE Mental Health Award
★★★★★ What's On Stage
★★★★★ Edinburgh Festivals Magazine
★★★★★ British Theatre Guide
★★★★★ Three Weeks
★★★★ The Scotsman
★★★★ The Stage
★★★★ The List
Richard Carpenter is Close to You
The Stage BEST SHOWS
The Guardian TOP PICK
Not Television Award for Best Recovery WINNER
The Reviews Hub ★★★★★
Edinburgh Culture Review ★★★★½
The Times ★★★★
The Stage ★★★★
The List ★★★★
Edinburgh Festivals Magazine ★★★★
Fringe Guru ★★★★
Broadway Baby ★★★★
Theatre Bubble ★★★★
The Wee Review ★★★★