Composer . Writer . Cabaret Performer

Bunyan is particularly good at showing how ordinary people love and suffer, overcome or are lessened by everyday things - the substance of life in any street. The effect is to create a remarkable living tapestry
The Stage

Mark Bunyan Composer . Writer . Cabaret Performer

Musical theatre writing:

Homes and Gardens

After the huge success of Just Good Friends, the Cockpit commissioned me to write a further large scale musical for the summer of 1984.

Homes and Gardens

The Story
Homes And Gardens showed the garden of a London terraced house on a July evening in 1902, 1920, 1947 and 1984 with the action taking place simultaneously. Marion Davies’ brilliant set used the same house for all periods with the four gardens marked out on the floor as a time-zoned architect’s plan.

Homes and Gardens

For the first three time periods the house was owned by one family, with several members played by several actors. For instance the relatively young mother in 1902 could also be seen as a middle-aged woman in 1920 and a great-grandmother in 1947. (I loved the fact that the audience fully accepted that the character could be played by a mixed-race actress, a black actress and a white actress, successively.)

In the 1984 section the house was now owned by a middle-class lesbian couple - not to make any point about lesbian couples but to make a complete break from the extended family of earlier in the century.

The show is shot through with daring and theatrically exciting moments as well as sharp observation which lift it way above the normal level of youth theatre. It must surely mark Mark Bunyan’s emergence as brand leader among composers of the large-scale musical.

Times Educational Supplement

Achieves a real sense of the frustration of suburban life in twentieth century England.
Time Out
Homes and Gardens poster

The production
The production was plagued from the beginning by internal political wrangling - I was told at one point that the house should not be owned by a lesbian couple but by a black family, despite the fact that no-one had asked what the piece was about thematically.

Fortunately the wonderful and much missed Alasdair Cameron, the project manager, took me aside and said “Now that I’ve told you all that, go away and write whatever it was you wanted, dear.”

Sadly, the theatre’s internal politicking also led to the project being given very limited exposure for young actors to audition.

Instead of the 249 who had auditioned for 52 roles in Just Good Friends, with Homes And Gardens only 42 actors auditioned for 44 roles and two speaking parts had to be cut from an exceptionally intricate script.

Nonetheless, it was a piece which gave me the chance to move my own writing on considerably and I have always been enormously grateful for the opportunity.

Sods and Oddments, a showcase selection of my songs, featuring Rosemary Ash, Caroline Allen, Simon Rawlings and Duncan Smith, directed by Michele Hardy with musical direction by Kelvin Thomson, was produced at the Tristan Bates Theatre in 1999.

Duncan Smith singing I Planted Roses from Homes and Gardens was a high point of the show. The song is an elegy for his son and grandson, both lost in World War 1, by the father of the family in the 1920 segment.

Listen to I Planted Roses :

There are some funny and touching scenes and the overall effect, of a pageant of everyday hopes and prejudices culminating in a lament for the waste of two World Wars, is a moving one. There are tuneful songs, some good performances, a clever design and excellent integrated casting which proves once and for all that blacks can play whites with no sense of dislocation.
City Limits