If someone had told me this time last year that I’d end up writing a musical, I’d have thought they were on drugs. Although I was involved with the marketing of various West End shows a few years ago as part of my thankfully now deceased career in the ad industry, I’m not a big fan of musicals as a genre. All that pointless bursting into song is really not my thing. But last November I bumped into an old face from my advertising days – Matthew James – in a pub in Soho and we got talking about what we had been up to in the six years or so since we’d last seen each other. I banged on about having a couple of novels published, writing some screenplays and becoming a full time writer, but the tale that Matthew told was much more interesting. Having reached a very senior position at the Mail on Sunday, Matthew developed a massive coke and hookers habit which destroyed his marriage and career and sent him on a one way ticket to rehab. But throughout this episode, he started writing songs with a friend of his, Nick Hale, a musician and producer with a successful track record in the music industry.
Matthew told me that they had a bunch of songs that they wanted to turn into a musical. Was I interested in getting involved? I went away and listened to the songs and loved them – not the usual musicals fodder at all – but I was busy with scripts and a novel rewrite so I said no. But as destiny decreed, Matthew and I found that we lived about half a mile from each other and started meeting up in the pub and talking about the story. Suddenly things started to develop a life of their own when Matthew announced that he was giving up his job, had booked a theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe and was going to put on HOOKED – as it was now called – in three months time. I couldn’t help but get swept away on the lunacy of putting on this show – which mirrored Matthew’s personal experiences – and set about writing the libretto, pulling together all the songs and unifying them in a story while Matthew and Nick worked on the music and auditioned actors.
With a super-talented cast and director on board and with three sold out preview shows under our belts, HOOKED transferred to Edinburgh and much critical acclaim. The Stage described the show as a “theatrical phenomenon”. At the end of the Edinburgh run, we were invited back to the prestigious Theatre 503 in London for more shows. It was an amazing experience and now producers are taking our calls – even calling us – and we’re gearing up for an extended London run in the spring with a longer show and a bigger cast. While I have enjoyed writing what is for me a totally new form, as a scriptwriter, I am keeping one eye on the possibility of bringing HOOKED to the screen. There hasn’t been a credible London film musical for a very long time. Hopefully, with HOOKED, we can change that.
ABOUT MAX: Max Kinnings is the author of three novels, Hitman, The Fixer and the forthcoming, Baptism. He has written a number of screenplays and been commissioned by a variety of film and television producers. Rik Mayall’s best-selling 2005 spoof autobiography, Bigger Than Hitler Better Than Christ, was co-written by Max and he has written the libretto for the musical Hooked which has transferred to the Edinburgh Fringe following sold out previews at Theatre 503 in London. Max lectures in creative writing at Brunel University.