Buttrey rocks Bedlam

Mar 3 2024 | By More

EUTC workshop new rock musical at Bedlam

Thaddeus Buttrey wrote his first song when he was 10 years old and first performed in a musical when he was 13. Now, the Edinburgh University phd student is set to have his rock musical Who We Are Now staged by the EUTC in their Bedlam theatre.

Buttrey has been something of a hit over recent years in a series of stand out roles for the University’s Savoy Opera Group – his bravura syllable spitting was particularly clear as the very modern Major General in Pirates of Penzance and his gleeful take on Audrey II was even more memorable in their recent Little Shop of Horrors.

Poster for Who We Are Now

Now he steps off the stage and into the director’s chair to start breathing life into his own work which – like all of us – is “ready to be workshopped into the best version of itself”. The semi-staged production will be in Bedlam on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 March, 2024.

Who We Are Now is a sung-through rock musical, following young musicians who are shadowed by the physical manifestation of mental illness and their personal demons as they pursue their art. As an exploration of mental illness, projected trauma and learning to be better, it is also poignant and relatable.

coping mechanism

“I began writing what is now Who We Are Now six years ago,” Buttrey told Æ. “At that point in my life I was not doing well; emotionally, personally, or professionally. I just began writing music as a coping mechanism, initially without much thought of putting these songs into a larger project.

“Over time, I noticed that the songs I was writing shared common themes, and the beginnings of a story were forming.

“Early drafts had the show as a song cycle or concept album, but after adjusting the story and making a few difficult cuts, I felt the most effective way to realize this idea was through a full rock musical.

“While the show is definitely not autobiographical, I did draw heavily from personal experiences to create something that I felt was earnest and sincere.”

Thaddeus Buttrey. Pic Shicheng Huang

Having got his first guitar aged ten, Buttrey admits that his first song was “terrible”. But he kept at it, writing rock and heavy metal music throughout his adolescence and into adulthood while gigging across rural New England and to cities including New York City, Edinburgh, and Dundee.

Eventually the time came to combine two of his great loves, musical theatre and rock music, into one project. The result is Who We Are Now.

A fully realised production would make heavy use of evocative imagery and abstraction where literalism is not sufficient to portray the young musicians and the demons which haunt them.

However this semi-staged take on the show will have to rely more on Buttrey’s original music. It’s a soundtrack which is “intended to be less Spring Awakening, and more in the vein of Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” he says. “While also paying homage to the artists I heard on classic rock radio growing up.”

The company of EUTC actors have been cast gender-blind as Buttrey believes that the only thing that should matter for the show is the actors’ abilities to effectively portray their characters.

levity, joy and optimism

As a show which originated in a dark place, Buttrey says that one of Who We Are Now’s central themes is that of internalising trauma in an unhealthy way, and projecting back onto the people you care about.

“But there is also hope,” he adds. “There are moments of levity, joy and optimism to balance out that darkness.

“I think Who We Are Now’s central thesis is summed up nicely in one of my favourite songs from the show: ‘The past does not need to define who we are now.’”

Which is certainly a message of positive change which we can all hope to agree with.

Who We Are Now: A Rock Opera in Two Acts 
Bedlam Theatre, 11B Bristo Place, EH1 1EZ.
Mon 4/Tue 5 March 2024.
Evenings: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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