Seems I let a cat slip from the bag in the Q-and-A session after a recent gig in Australia by mentioning some work undertaken in conjunction with a possible stage musical involving the songs of The Pogues. I was offering an answer to a question about whether I had thought about undertaking work in media other than prose or television. What has ensued with the Irish press, and then with the likes of Rolling Stone, has been a little surprising, if not entirely premature.
To more carefully ground this in fact:
I’ve been a fan of The Pogues and their music since the late 1980s. After we had used some of their songs in The Wire, I had a chance to meet the bandmembers through George Pelecanos, who had been invited to one of their concerts in Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter, during some time in London, I was approached by Phil Chevron about the possibility of writing a musical that would utilize the band’s discography. Interested, I was then introduced to the estimable director Garry Hynes of Ireland’s Druid Theater, who had also been engaged by Mr. Chevron.
In turn, I approached Mr. Pelecanos and my wife, novelist Laura Lippman, to help create a storyline for such a musical. George, my colleague on The Wire and Treme, is also a longstanding Pogues admirer and Laura, who has the lyrics of every Sondheim show memorized, has forgotten more about American musicals than I have so far learned. We sat, worked the problem, ran it by both Ms. Hynes and Mr. Chevron, who offered notes, suggestion, encouragement and help overall.
Earlier this year, after a couple abortive drafts of leaden misery, I turned in a completed draft that was at least free of shame-inducing hackery. The draft went to Ms. Hynes, with a copy to Phil Chevron, who was struggling with late-stage cancer. I was glad to have produced something at least worthy of their consideration before Mr. Chevron passed away in October, if only because it was Phil’s love and understanding of the stage musical and his advocacy for this project that it exists.
Meetings and readings of the material are scheduled for later this spring, involving the writers, Ms. Hynes and her Druid team, and members of The Pogues. After that, a second draft — this one involving Pelecanos and Lippman — is likely. And once Ms. Hynes and her team fully instruct and guide us, I have little doubt that third and fourth drafts will also be forthcoming. Much more work by all is going to be required before such a project can be properly developed.
It is not a musical about The Pogues, as was reported, but a tale written to utilize their musical canon. It is not David Simon’s next project after Treme. It is not the Druid Theater’s next project. Casting calls remain unscheduled. Rehearsal space has not been rented. Tickets and playbills are not being printed anywhere for any purpose. Shane Macgowan has not been assigned his house seats for the duration of the run. No, a fellow in Sydney, Australia asked a question and without thinking too much, I answered him correctly without realizing that the internet’s reach includes the southern hemisphere. Cat rebagged, I hope. Or at the least, it’s a housecat at this point, not a stalking tiger.