In Clay is a new musical written by Rebecca Simmonds and Jack Miles and based on a true story. It tells of a woman in 1930s Paris discovering a love for ceramics and pottery and uses this art form to explore her relationship with friends, her husband, and the concept of art. The production contemplates the purpose of art: is it to achieve world renown and acclaim, or is it to find joy and beauty for yourself?
Directed by Grace Taylor, In Clay has intimate staging, with an eclectic mix of pots and bowls framing an artist’s studio. Huge white sheets drape behind paintbrushes, canvases, ceramics and clay, and each pot used throughout the show has its own meaning and importance.
Roz Ford plays lead character Marie with humour and determination, and is particularly impressive in some of the more emotional moments. She weaves in and out of song with ease, telling this sensitive story of hope, loss, dreams and potential through her lovely vocal ability and excellent acting. Additionally, she portrays both Marie’s best friend and husband with the perfect level of humour. The costume she wears throughout – a floral green top and cream trousers – is gorgeous and effectively creates the air of a Parisian artist working in her studio.
Whilst the monologues are beautifully written and delivered with power and poise by Ford, the most exciting attribute of this new production is the clever way in which the original songs so effortlessly depict the surroundings and portray Marie’s changing emotions, as she attempts to make a name for herself and her art in a man’s world. The small yet effective band, conducted by Matt Herbert, comes together well to provide a stunning rendition of Miles’ score, with Herbert’s valuable arrangements and orchestrations allowing each musician to contribute to the play. The use by Ford of a more legit soprano musical theatre style contributes to the feeling that this production is set in the early 20th century, although ensuring the time period is clear earlier on would be helpful.
The climax of the show is wonderful, with Marie using ceramics and Japanese pottery techniques to portray her own ability to find the beauty in sometimes broken things. Similarly, the way in which the first ever imperfect piece of pottery she makes is used to explore her ongoing and changing relationship with her artwork is directed well. It would be great to see a full size and working potter’s wheel incorporated into this production if, and when, it goes on to future performances.
In Clay is a beautiful, original new musical produced by a talented team of creatives and performed by an exceptional actor who perfectly brings this funny, emotional story to life. It’s a fantastic show that definitely deserves a successful future after its run at Vault Festival!
Book and Lyrics by Rebecca Simmonds
Music and Lyrics by Jack Miles
Directed by: Grace Taylor
Music Supervision, Arrangements, and Orchestrations by Matt Herbert
Lighting Consultation by Tom Turner
Produced by Design & Canvas Co
In Clay has completed its current run at VAULT Festival 2023.