Belle and Sebastian's Mick Cooke discusses Cannibal Women of Mars
The BAFTA-winning composer has crafted 'a musical for people who don’t go to musicals'
I went to see Avenue Q about five years ago and thought that there is bound to be more space for stuff like this: a musical for people who don’t go to musicals,’ says Mick Cooke, founder member of Belle and Sebastian, BAFTA-winning composer and the musical maverick who provides songs for Cannibal Women of Mars. As the Tron’s late season production – artistic director Andy Arnold has made a point of presenting something during the usually quiet July – Cannibal Women of Mars is a radical departure from typical musical theatre.
The plot follows the misadventures of two young men as they escape to the Red Planet in the hope of finding pleasures prohibited on a brutal Earth. ‘It’s 100 years in the future, over-population is a problem so the lower classes aren’t allowed to breed,’ explains Gordon Davidson, Cooke’s long time collaborator and co-author of the show’s book. ‘If you are caught trying to breed: that’s it, castration. Which is the motivation for our characters to go to Mars!’
In classic science fiction style, however, the young men – whom Cooke describes as having ‘the sort of naivety familiar from The Inbetweeners' – discover that ‘there are worse things that having your scrotum removed’. Cooke, meanwhile, takes advantage of the fantastic scope of the story to explore a range of musical styles, from a sea shanty to some Latin swing. Having a live band on stage also gives the songs a continuity of sound despite the diversity.
With the genre often abandoned to either ‘jukebox’ musicals, which revisit old pop, or the mainstream pomp of Lloyd Webber, this combination of B-movie kitsch, Cooke’s 21 new songs, and a scene involving what Davidson calls ‘the scrotumatorium’, make Cannibal Women of Mars a rare example of originality and humour.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 9–Sat 20 Jul