[GUEST POST] Laura Tisdall on “The In-Between” – A Musical About Parallel Worlds

Here’s a synopsis of The In-Between, Laura Tisdall’s new musical about parallel worlds:

Sarcastic nineteen-year-old dropout and perpetual under-achiever, Flick Wimple, has always lived in the shadow of her caring but neurotic elder sister, Alice. Since their parents died in a car crash, Alice has had to become more of a mother to Flick – a responsibility that traps them both and heightens their love-hate relationship. Resigned to the way things are, Flick determines to expect nothing exceptional from life and give little in return.

She is forced to re-evaluate, however, when one day she steps through the wrong doorway and finds herself trapped in the space between parallel worlds; the place known as The In-Between. There she is met by the mysterious, if slightly nerdy, Guide Calicus; a young man who has spent his entire life leading people between worlds. He offers Flick the chance to leave her problems behind and journey to another world and, as he leads her through the In-Between, the two begin to form a close bond, causing him to wonder what it would be like to live a life of his own.

But all is not right in the In-Between; other Guides are starting to go missing and tears are appearing in the walls… Ultimately, Flick must make a choice; to hold on to her past, her sister and the world she knows, or risk everything to try and save much more…

We invited Laura to talk more about how this interesting story came to be…

The In-Between Musical – Influences

I have been reading and watching fantasy and science fiction since I was ten and first read Harry Potter. I remember sitting behind the sofa, huddled up with the book, reading solidly all day. I had never been this gripped by a story before. I could write a long and varied list of what followed; Inheritance, Dune, Sabriel, The Magician’s Guild, Percy Jackson… but I think with all of them, a big part of what I love most about fantasy is the way it can transport you another world (or a variation/future version of our world) where the ‘rules’ can be different and anything is possible. The word ‘epic’ is often applied to many fantasy and science fiction stories, and I think one of the reasons they’re so engaging is that this changing of the rules allows you to make stories and character journeys bigger and more dramatic. A boy can become a wizard who defeats terrible evil, a poor coalminer’s daughter can stand up to corrupt authority and bring down an empire, and, in the case of my own new story, The In-Between, a rebellious orphaned misfit can try and save the world; all because fantasy allows them to make a journey of self discovery on a grander scale; to face bigger obstacles and rise above bigger challenges. As a result, we often root for them all the more.

I am a new writer/composer working in musical theatre, a medium not exactly synonymous with fantasy or science fiction! However, it is a medium synonymous with an underdog story; Valjean in Les Misérables, Elphaba in Wicked, Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera… this could be another very long list. I have been making up fantasy stories in my head (often fantasy stories), since I was little and, when I later also fell in love with musical theatre, in which music is used to heighten the emotional drama of a story, it seemed only natural to me to combine the two.

The story of The In-Between revolves around a place of the same name, which lies in between parallel worlds. Every now and then, people are born in the wrong world and, as they get older, never seem to quite ‘fit’. Eventually they find they have drifted into the In-Between (you enter through ‘between’ places, like doorways), where they are met by a Guide who then leads them to the world in which they will belong.

The first seeds of this idea were sown a few years ago by a friend at university who mentioned a game he’d played in which people were led between levels of death (like purgatory) by what I assume must have been angels. The storyline revolved around someone who was sent to the wrong place and all the repercussions that caused, for the angel as well as the person. He told me about it because he knew I wrote musicals and thought it would make a good show. It’s an interesting concept and one that appears in a number of other different stories where someone often protests “I’m not supposed to be here”. Movies which deal with similar issues include A Matter of Life and Death, Meet Joe Black and City of Angels, but I knew fairly early on that I didn’t want to write a story in which the main character had died. So I started to think of other places people could travel between and, having watched Sliders, read His Dark Materials and other stories which dealt with parallel worlds, the idea came to mind; what if there was a place between parallel worlds, where everything that got lost ended up? Thus, the In-Between came about.

I particularly like the often sarcastic, quirky style of people like Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman and, also, more recent Doctor Who, where the whole thing is a little eccentric and the ‘ordinary’ character, who asks all the questions we would ask, is the one viewed as strange. So into this new setting, I placed a pretty messed-up nineteen-year-old, Flick, who ‘isn’t where she’s supposed to be’ and argues about everything, along with her naïve and innocent Guide, Calicus, who’s spent his entire life never questioning anything. As things start to go very wrong with the In-Between, both Flick and Calicus are forced re-evaluate their perspectives and, together, they became more than they ever thought they could be, in order to overcome what they are faced with. The thing which really grips me in any story is a character’s journey; where they start, where they end up and how they get there. I always knew where Flick and Calicus started and where they would end up, but it was the fantasy genre, changing the rules, that allowed me to get them there.

Laura Tisdall graduated from the University of Surrey with a First Class BMus (Hons) degree in Music. She has written the music for the UK national tour of The Haunting, and been Musical Associate for The Night of 1000 Voices, Kerry Ellis and Brian May’s Anthems: The Concert and The Wonderful World of Captain Beaky, all at the Royal Albert Hall. The In-Between is Laura’s second musical. Her first, Faerytale, was showcased by Guildford School of Acting at the Electric Theatre.