Musical Theatre Darkroom

A brand new musical theatre artist development programme


Musical Theatre Development Consortium

Royal & Derngate, along with a consortium including China PlateImprobable, Mercury Musical Developments, Musical Theatre Network, Perfect Pitch and Scottish Opera, successfully applied for an Arts Council England Ambition for Excellence grant to create a step-change in the way new musical theatre and opera is developed for mid-scale touring.

Over the next three years, Royal & Derngate will lead this consortium to help encourage a diverse range of at least 150 writers, composers and theatre makers to create original new work suitable for mid-scale touring. This will include at least four new theatre productions, a national showcase of new musical theatre, a national symposium focusing upon musical theatre and a variety of artist development programmes, including The Musical Theatre Darkroom.

If you are interested to learn more, or in writing, developing or staging new musical theatre, our Artistic Director Paul Warwick,
will be speaking at the UK Musical Theatre Conference 2019 at the Royal and Derngate on Friday 15th March.

Anyone is welcome to attend - click here for more information

What is the Musical Theatre Darkroom?

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

It seeks to support the widest range of styles and experimentation within musical theatre as an artform – celebrating the potential of the sung word to tell stories in accessible, contemporary, relevant and exciting new ways

Drawing inspiration from the best in British practice, alongside a wide range of American musical theatre residency programmes, the consortium will draw upon their wide range of experience from both sides of the Atlantic to curate a series of residencies and development processes designed to both challenge established artists and discover diverse new voices.

The development support offered will be bespoke, recognizing that different writing teams will require different kinds of support, and delivered in two main strands.



Strand One

As part of the consortiums commitment to championing diverse voices within mid-scale musical theatre,
Strand One is targeted specifically at new musicals by BAMER / PoC artists.

We envisage development support for three musicals / writing teams built around
a weeklong workshop-residency held at Royal & Derngate from 15th – 19th July 2019. 

The workshop-residency will be 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.


Strand Two

We envisage 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

At the end of this development cycle China Plate and Royal & Derngate's intention is to take one project into production in 2021.

Musical Theatre Darkroom 2016

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.

Participating Artists

Bola Agbaje

Katie Lyons

Ella Grace

Tim Sutton

Craig Adams

Pippa Cleary

Caroline Horton

Rash Dash