Musical Theatre Darkroom

Two people standing at a keyboard, laughing and pointing out towards the camera.

The Musical Theatre Darkroom is an artist development programme that supports the generation of original British musical theatre productions.

The project brings together experienced musical theatre practitioners and writing teams / artists to collaboratively interrogate traditions, models and approaches to making musical theatre.

For more information, please contact Susan Wareham.

Photo © Helen Murray

Musical Theatre Darkroom 2022

A group of people sitting around laptops watching and listening to people on a TV screen.

Presented by China Plate, Birmingham Hippodrome, Musical Theatre Network, Mercury Musical Developments and Royal & Derngate, Northampton.

Artists were invited to apply for the Musical Theatre Darkroom 2022 – a groundbreaking laboratory programme that supports the development of original new musicals.

As part of this programme’s commitment to championing diverse voices within musical theatre, this opportunity was targeted specifically at new musicals by artists from the global majority*.

* This includes people of Black Caribbean, Black African, South Asian, East Asian, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab, Latinx, Jewish, Romany and Irish Traveller heritage.

This year’s selected teams and musicals included:

  • Nemo Martin – Seashore Yuánfèn 海缘
  • Maya Productions – Benny and the Greycats
  • Thabo Stuck – #50 Days

Head to our blog here, to read more about them.

The Musical Theatre Darkroom took place as a weeklong workshop-residency at Royal & Derngate, Northampton from 11th-15th July 2022.

The residency was led by composer Fred Carl and lyricist and librettist Robert Lee – both experienced musical theatre practitioners and specialist tutors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

The teams also had the opportunity to pitch their work at the BEAM2023 Showcase in Spring 2023.

Musical Theatre Darkroom Participants 2022
Photo © Ed Collier

Musical Theatre Darkroom 2019

A group of 9 men and women standing together in a group, looking directly at the camera.

Produced by partners from the Musical Theatre Development Consortium China Plate, Royal & Derngate Northampton, Musical Theatre Network and Mercury Musical Developments, the 2019 Musical Theatre Darkroom was a groundbreaking laboratory programme launched to feed the wider consortium ambition to develop and commission original new musicals for mid-scale touring.

The development support offered was bespoke, recognising that different writing teams required different kinds of support, and delivered in two main strands.


As part of the consortium’s commitment to championing diverse voices within mid-scale musical theatre, Strand One was targeted specifically at new musicals developed by BAME/PoC* artists.

“This was THE BEST residency I have experienced and probably the best learning/ studying experience I have ever had.”Dominique Le Gendre (Musical Theatre DarkroomArtist)

Three musicals / writing teams attended a weeklong workshop-residency held at Royal & Derngate in July 2019, led by composer Fred Carl and lyricist and librettist Robert Lee from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

Selected writing teams/musicals were:

  • Lakesha Arie-Angelo and collaborator Dominique Le Gendre – Runaway Bay
  • Omar Baroud – After Elijah
  • Charlie Westenra, Darren Clark, Michael Henry and Juliet Gilkes Romero – On Hostile Ground

(*This terminology reflects wording used by China Plate and partners during the planning and delivery of this project. China Plate is currently developing an Anti-Racist Policy which amongst other things is reviewing the language used by the company in relation to ethnicity. BAMER/PoC are not terms that China Plate now use)


Aimed at developing original British musicals (not adaptations or jukebox musicals) this strand offered bespoke support as part of a yearlong development cycle that could resource any of the following:

  • Writing commissions
  • Dramaturgical support
  • Table reads
  • Mentored development residencies
  • Development workshops (actors, musicians, directors, MDs)
  • Scratch performances
  • Industry presentations
  • Pitching or performance slot in BEAM 2020
  • Producing support

Stand Two supported the development of Gin Craze! by April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers and culminated in a critically acclaimed production at Royal & Derngate, Northampton in June 2021.

    Mercury Musical Developments logo

Musical Theatre Darkroom Participants 2019
Photo © Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Musical Theatre Darkroom 2016

A group of participants wearing headphones, walking down a narrow corridor, which is lit up pink and purple.

A Musical Theatre Darkroom pilot took place in 2016, bringing together four experienced theatre makers who were new to musical theatre and four experienced musical theatre makers to take part in a six month development programme. The initiative was based on our Darkroom artist development programme, which has run since 2004.

James Hadley, Executive Director, Musical Theatre Network said “Musical Theatre Network is excited about the growing interest in musical theatre from more experimental artists, acknowledging that commercial West End musicals are only part of as broad an artistic spectrum of musicals as there is of music or theatre in general. Musical Theatre Darkroom is a catalyst for new creative dialogues which will hopefully speak in new ways to audiences who might not have listened in previously.”

The Musical Theatre Darkroom 2016 was led by China Plate and the Musical Theatre Network, in partnership with Royal & Derngate Northampton, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Harlow Playhouse and Farnham Maltings’ greenhouse initiative. The project was supported by Arts Council England and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Previous participants:

Bola Agbaje
Katie Lyons
Ella Grace
Tim Sutton
Craig Adams
Pippa Cleary
Caroline Horton
Rash Dash

Blackout by Katie Lyons & Ella Grace
Photo © Zbigneiw Kotkiewicz