Give up your day job

When indulging in the moans about work practices that are every employees’ inalienable right, some designers often conveniently forget that, with the occasional exception, the design industry treats its staff pretty well.

For example, design groups have pioneered new working practices for parents, and always allow staff the time to support charitable causes.

It’s a two-way street, of course: exercising creative muscle outside the office can have a positive impact on what goes on during working hours.

It shouldn’t seem unusual, then, that David Nichols would make use of a sabbatical, from his role as director of Brown Inc’s parent the Added Value Group, to finish a project to co-write and produce a Broadway-style musical. Between Love and Passion is based on What a Handsome Pair!, a short story by F Scott Fitzgerald. The play is now running at the New End Theatre in Hampstead, north-west London.

Nichols and his collaborators, writer Matt Avery, composer Will Todd, and lyricist and performer Daniel Hopkins, took four years to complete their work. They had a strong start – Fitzgerald could always knock out something good, even if his career was waning when the story was published in 1929.

Nichols equates the creative process needed for a stage production to his day job: “There are parallels for launching a product on to the market [and putting on a play]. It doesn’t happen without a vision. And you have to persuade people about the quality of what you are doing before you do it. I had to persuade these people [the three others working with him on Between Love and Passion] to give up years of their lives.” They certainly aren’t in it for the money – wealthy Lloyd Webbers are the exception to the rule in the world of musicals.

And what is the play like? Pretty good actually, even if I was tempted along by the promise of a Scott Fitzgerald adaptation, having expressed an aversion to musicals on several occasions.

The adaptation was originally created for a larger stage than the New End’s diminutive space. This has meant a slimming process, resulting in minimal props and scenery. A revolving door, a piano, a trunk and some suitcases are given multiple uses, with lighting used to good effect to change scenes (22 times), by designer Charlotte Conquest.

The cast is good, especially Hopkins’ seedy money man. The songs won’t be a regular feature on my Walkman, but they rattle along at a fair pace.

The plot – two guys competing for one girl – is straightforward, with the audience establishing a clear favourite early on. But not because he is a creative type with a natty selection of one-liners. Most of the audience were supporting Teddy Van Beck, played by Daniel Brown, because the actor has, and displays, a muscular torso.

Fitzgerald, who often gave his characters some realistic human frailties to help move his plots along, would probably have appreciated that.

Between Love and Passion is playing at the New End Theatre until 15 August, admission is £12-14

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