Birmingham Hippodrome has welcomed 15 musical theatre writers and creatives to their new Musical Theatre Writers Group programme.

Musical Theatre Writers Group (MT Writers Group) is a key developmental programme that focuses on the craft of writing musical theatre. The six writing teams will work with the Hippodrome’s New Musical Theatre Department to develop a new musical over the course of 12 months.

The group will attend monthly sessions at Birmingham Hippodrome led by writer and dramaturg Victoria Saxton and composer and musical director Tim Sutton, along with guest masterclasses and peer learning. Each member of the writing teams receives a bursary of £2000, along with travel expenses to attend the sessions. The writers will also have the chance to share their work with an audience at two points during the year and will receive ongoing mentorship from the Hippodrome’s New Musical Theatre Department beyond the end of the project.

Deirdre O’Halloran, Head of New Musical Theatre at Birmingham Hippodrome said: “It was fantastic to welcome our incredibly talented writing teams for their first session of our flagship talent development programme last week. We received 180 applications, reinforcing just how crucial programmes like this are.”

The writing teams and new musicals in development are:

Award-winning playwright, dramaturg, and theatre educator Dominique La Victoria and actor, singer-songwriter, and vocal coach Melisa Camba, who teaches singing at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. The team recently took part in the Overture development scheme.

Their musical This Is My Name takes audiences back to the 1869 Spanish colonial Philippines. Historical figure Señora Maria del Rosario Gil y Montes de Sanchiz, a poet, mistress to the governor-general, and activist, dares to attend a ball wearing ribbons in her hair saying VIVA LA LIBERTAD! (Long Live Liberty!)

David Payne, a book writer and lyricist whose writing credits include Eastenders and The Archers; Aron Sood a composer, orchestrator, and musical director who is currently a musical supervisor for AIDA cruises and Nyasha Gudo, who directed #50days, a grime musical with a cast of thirty-five at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Their musical Andy’s Man Club – The Rock Opera tells the powerful true story of Andy’s Man Club and how it developed from one heartbroken family to a handful of men having a chat over free tea and biscuits, eventually becoming one of the country’s biggest and most successful suicide prevention charities; bringing people together and saving countless lives.

Writer Matthew Harvey, whose new musical Unbound has been commissioned by British Youth Music Theatre and will premier in Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio in 2024, and writer, creative director and performer Ryan Carter, known for his versatility and innovation in musical theatre.

Their new musical Reveries centres around a small group of friends who return to their hometown to dig up a time capsule they buried as children following the death of their friend. Their late friend George has left a video message in the capsule along with a small fortune. He challenges them to answer the question ‘are you really happy?’ and, if not, to change their lives for the better.

Birmingham-based team made up of producer, writer, facilitator, and multidisciplinary artist Gaby Songui, working with music composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyriq Baker and songwriter and vocalist Kristal Malin.

Their musical Pit Stop and Wash is a character driven story, following the growth of five people and a magical washing machine. It explores life and love with humour and wit. The music is lyrical, with various cultural influences, and lots of soundscapes utilising the laundromat.

Composer Jenni Pinnock who combines themes of nature and science with quirky time signatures and soaring melodies, writer Brian Mackenwells, who is the co-writer of the multi-award winning podcast drama Action Science Theatre, and lyricist, singer and writer Helen Arney who has been nominated for the Stiles+Drewe Best New Song Prize.

Their musical, The First All-Ladies Cambridge Fire Brigade, is an upbeat ensemble piece, following the world of Hertha Marks-Ayrton and four of her contemporaries at 1870s Girton College, Cambridge who form the first ever all-female fire brigade.

Lakesha Arie-Angelo is Associate Artistic Director at Clean Break and in 2022 Lakesha was Revival Director for The Color Purple UK tour, co-produced by Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome. She is working with Nathan Lawrence (aka NeONE The Wonderer), who is class of 2023 MOBO Unsung musical artist from Wolverhampton.

Together they are developing Untitled (A Very Serious Unserious Black Hair Court Room Drama The Musical). The show is an all-Black satirical court room ‘drama’ musical about texturism within the Black hair industry and capitalism set to original 90’s Pop, R’n’B and Hip-hop.

Deirdre added: “The breadth of exciting ideas being explored by our six writing teams is a testament to the creativity and vision within the UK musical theatre ecology right now. We can’t wait to work with our teams to develop their ideas further for a range of scales and platforms.

The work of the New Musical Theatre department has been generously supported by Founding Supporter Charles Holloway.

Full bios of our teams:

Dominique La Victoria

Dominique is a Filipino award-winning playwright, dramaturg, and theatre educator based in Glasgow. She earned her MA in Dramaturgy and Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her plays have triumphed in the prestigious Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, and have been published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines – Intertextual Division. She has worked in productions in the UK, US, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Recent dramaturgy credits include: Nekropolis (Cultural Center of the Philippines) and Light of the City (BRDG Japan). Website and portfolio:

Melisa Camba

Melisa Camba is a Filipino actor, singer-songwriter, and vocal coach. She now teaches singing at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, where she earned her MA in Performance – Musical Theatre.  Writing/Composing credits: THIS IS MY NAME (industry showcase as part of OVERTURE 2023 at The Other Palace; Boses (Voice) (performed the world premiere at the Maiden Speech Theatre Festival in 2019 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, now Seven Dials Playhouse  Recent performance credits include: Little Women – The Broadway Musical (Dugdale Arts Centre); Legends of Arahma (St. Paul’s Church); NEWSFEED (Southwark Playhouse)  Website: Spotlight:

David Payne

David Payne is an LGBTQ+ book writer and lyricist and have recently completed Reality Bites – The Interactive Musical; an ambitious story of the pitfalls of fame. Versions of the show have been shared at the Birmingham Rep, the Leeds Conservatoire and in the Patrick Studio at the Birmingham Hippodrome last year. It was also selected for the online series In The Wings, won a three month development residency at the University of Winchester and made the final of the BYMT New Music Theatre Award in 2022 as well as numerous scratch nights including slots at The Union Theatre and The Bread and Roses. David is currently working on two other musicals with composer Aron Sood. All The World’s A Stage is a Eurovision style anthology concert where all of the acts are characters from Shakespeare plays. They were commissioned to write a song from the show for the Queer Folio in association with 1623 Theatre Company and made the final of the New Music Theatre Award in 2023.  David was previously lead writer for the award winning comedy dinner theatre company, Laughlines where he wrote new versions of classic sitcoms featuring original musical numbers – including Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses and The Vicar of Dibley as well as their murder mystery musical PantoCrime.  He is the Story Producer and Director for BBC Radio 4’s The Archers and television credits include EastEnders, Hollyoaks online and the CBBC comedy Class Dismissed. His play The Killer Question has completed two nationwide tours and he also wrote an episode of the urban supernatural drama, Seaview in association with the Coventry Belgrade.

Aron Sood 

Aron Sood is a composer, orchestrator, and musical director, specialising in musical theatre. Currently he is a musical supervisor for AIDA Cruises and a regular musical director on board P&O Cruises. Recent credits include Cinderella (Spotlight Theatre), I’m Every Woman – The Chaka Khan Musical (London Workshop), Cinderella (Salisbury Playhouse), To The Streets (Birmingham Hippodrome), Sleeping Beauty (Hoxton Hall, 2021), Cinderella (Playhouse Theatre, 2019), Shrek (Belgrade Theatre, 2019), 13 (Albany Theatre, 2019), and Beauty and the Beast (Southport Theatre, 2018). He has also orchestrated with the LMTO and for several showcases at The Union Theatre.  As a composer,  Aron has worked on a number of original projects. In 2019 he wrote the music and lyrics for a new musical, Sidekick, which played at The Other Palace and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His original song ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’ was commissioned by Stagecoach and performed at The Shaftesbury Theatre.  He also wrote the music and lyrics for Eliza and the Purple Monster, a project that was created in development with BYMT, composed Reality Bites – The Interactive Musical and is now working on All The World’s A Stage – A Shakespeare / Eurovision Mashup and Andy’s Man Club – The Rock Opera with David Payne and Nyasha Gudo.

Nyasha Gudo

Nyasha Gudo has directed musical theatre at the highest level in the West End and subsided theatre. Most recently he directed #50days, a grime musical with a cast of thirty-five at the Birmingham Hippodrome. He has worked as an Associate Director on the Olivier nominated production Bob Marley: The Get Up Stand Up Story in the West End, Spitting Image – The Musical at the Birmingham Rep/West End and a new musical about the Bristol Bus Boycotts of 1963 at the Birmingham Hippodrome. He has also worked at various theatres across the country from the National Theatre, RSC, Chichester Festival Theatre and many more.

Matthew Harvey  

Matthew Harvey began writing musical theatre at the start of the pandemic having following a successful career as a performer , appearing in West End musicals such as Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar. His debut song cycle Now Or Never was live streamed from The Barn theatre in April 2021 to critical acclaim including a nomination for the Stiles & Drew’s Best New Song Prize.

Following Now Or Never Matthew was awarded the MGC Futures Bursary to develop the musical score for Reveries, his second collaboration with creative director Ryan Carter. Matthew was also awarded funding from Help Musicians to create a brand new album of musical theatre songs; Whatever Happens Next is now streaming on all platforms.

Finally, Matthew’s witch musical Unbound was commissioned by BYMT to be performed at Birmingham Hippodrome in August 2024.


Ryan Carter

Ryan Carter is a Creative & Performer known for his versatility and innovation within the world of Musical Theatre. He started working in digital theatre in 2015 with his web-series ’The Audition Sessions’, before inviting his growing online audience to the world of gig-theatre with projects like ‘REFRESH’ (Underbelly Southbank), a musical gig for the netflix generation. Ryan has been awarded two Black British Theatre Awards for his work within Innovation and Technology. The first of which for his role as Creative Lead on ’Turn Up London’, an online fundraising event raising over £12,000 for essential pillars of the Black Lives Matter movement. Ryan served as ‘Creative Director of Digital Projects’ at The Barn Theatre, developing work like ‘Now Or Never’ and ’The Secret Society of Leading Ladies’ – The later earning him his second Black British Theatre Award. Other recent work includes various roles in Aint Too Proud (Prince Edward Theatre), Edie (Theatre 503), Choir Of Man (Edinburgh), The Wiz (Hope Mill Theatre), The World Goes ‘Round (Barn Theatre) and The Boy Friend (Menier Chocolate Factory).  Ryan continues to use his experience and multidisciplinary skill set to break the mould of conventional musical theatre making.

Gaby Songui

Gaby Songui is a Birmingham-based producer, writer, facilitator and multidisciplinary artist. She began training in musical theatre at six years old, and at sixteen, had a scholarship through The Stage magazine for her writing for performance. When she was eighteen, in 2017, she travelled to Brazil and produced a musical theatre showcase in a conservatoire over the summer. She has since engaged in musical theatre recreationally through university and then Bournville Musical Theatre Company. Gaby started writing scripts at thirteen years old, and subsequently got a first class degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham. She has had various writing commissions, including a script for Aston Hall in 2022 (a story about ghosts), two scripts for Selly Manor in 2022 and 2023 (monologue based pieces about historical figures), and two scripts for C&T in 2022 and 2023 (adventure stories). These have been audio based scripts, and were recorded and showcased through these organisations. Gaby also runs writing groups and events through her own organisation Windswept Workshops (founded in December 2019), and in 2022 put on a writing showcase at the Midlands Arts Centre. She co-edited and wrote for their company’s publication (published through TLC Publishing), and then rehearsed and produced the final performance. She also is a circus performer, and has frequently performed and taught with CircusMASH. In 2022 she was successful in getting a DYCP, which looked at theatre and circus. She was then commissioned to devise a theatrical performance for Solihull cep using music, theatre and circus. She also did an R&D process for a performance showcase at TILT festival.

Tyriq Baker

Tyriq Baker is a Birmingham based music composer and multi-instrumentalist. He has experience composing music for a wide range of music. He composed and credited for soundscape music that featured in the Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, composed orchestral music for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, written original music for B:Music and PRS Foundations’ 2023 Jazz Commission, worked with Birmingham Opera Company and composed music for Birmingham Rep Theatre’s 2022 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His recent commission was with Moseley Road Baths as part of a National Lottery Project, where he also collaborated with Gaby Songui. He has self-released music from a wide range of genres. He is currently working to release a three album music project retelling Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with 21 songs exploring genre influences of pop, rock, folk, jazz, ballad, reggae and more, for the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Folio. The project, titled: ‘A Night’s Dream’ premiered at Birmingham Rep Theatre in November 2023, and involved 30+ singers, musicians and actors. As well as this he created a 2 hour audio musical film titled ‘Rootswork’ in 2021, which he was the director, producer, composer, scriptwriter and editor of. The project explores two young black British men from different socio-economic backgrounds exploring their musical roots. It explores genre influences of hip-hop, West African music, gospel, classical, folk among others. He has also composed for independent films, one such titled ‘The Crimes of Herbert Morris’, which he released a soundtrack album for in late 2023. He is also a multi-instrumentalist, playing Piano, Clarinet, Bassoon, Bass Guitar, Saxophone, Drums and Guitar.

Kristal Malin

Kristal Malinis a Birmingham-based songwriter and vocalist. She began engaging in musical theatre in school, and after graduating university completed a full time course at Italia Conti – specialising in singing and songwriting. She was particularly drawn to more lyrical music, writing and performing her own original compositions.

Following Italia Conti, she found work within the creative and media industry. This has led to a career in project and account management, but her passion for musical theatre remained strong. She joined a theatre group in St Albans becoming a cast member in a production of ‘Hairspray’.

Having been reinspired by the evolving musical theatre scene and several new productions, Kristal began writing music again in 2020. Taking up further singing lessons and embarking on other media production training helped her compile an array of original songs. These have been showcased at a one-night-only event in Milton Keynes in 2023. Her other work includes writing and recording lyrics for a newly formed band’s demo.

Having relocated to Birmingham, Kristal joined the cast of the Bournville Musical Theatre Company. As a cast member she has performed in various showcases and concerts as well as productions of ‘The Wedding Singer’ and most recently ‘Addams Family’. She will be co-producing the upcoming BMTC concert in Autumn 2024.

Jenni Pinnock

Jenni Pinnock is a composer based in Cambridgeshire who loves combining quirky time signatures, soaring melodies and moments of stillness. Nature, science and stories are key themes within her predominantly tonal music which regularly receive performances worldwide.  After graduating from Kingston and Trinity Laban she predominantly focused on contemporary classical composition. A long term musical theatre lover, over the last five years she has begun seeking commissions and collaborations in the genre. In 2017-18 she was commissioned to write a number of pieces for Ada’s Algorithm (the Ada Lovelace musical) by librettist James Essinger. In 2021 she was awarded funding by Arts Council’s DYCP fund to develop her musical theatre writing, resulting in a collection of nine stand alone musical theatre pieces entitled Snapshots, remotely recorded by professional MT performers. In 2023 she and Helen Arney embarked on two collaborative musical theatre pieces: Bertha Benz Takes A Ride (premiered October 2023) and Put Out The Fire, a concept piece about Hertha Ayrton.   In her classical writing, Jenni regularly collaborates with other writers focusing on bringing their stories to life. Examples include Cracked Voices (collaboration with Graham Palmer; 12 piece song cycle funded by Arts Council and PRSF, focusing on forgotten stories from Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire) and Deception Island (collaboration with Elizabeth Lewis Williams and Story Machine; installation set inside a replica Antarctic hut featuring original music, spoken word and archival Antarctic sounds).  Jenni is a member of the Musicians Union, the Ivors Academy and Mercury Musical Developments. Alongside composing she teaches, runs composition workshops, and is a mentor for Making Music’s Adopt a Music Creator, supporting emerging composers as they work with leisure time groups to create new music.

Brian Mackenwells

Brian Mackenwells is an Irish writer living in Oxford. Despite being quite tired, he tells fun, funny, and pacey stories using whatever medium he can get his hands on. Brian has a wide experience in theatre, having acted, directed, and done various tech roles over the last 15 years. This all helped him when he came to write for the stage, with his first full-length show in 2011 of his adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s philosophical thriller “The Man Who Was Thursday”, which he also directed. One reviewer said that Brian “deserved a lot of praise and credit for this faithful adaptation which managed adeptly to gel political philosophy, ethics, and theology with a welcome dose of humour, espionage, and nail biting action”.  He was also a finalist in the “Pen to Print” one-act play competition, run by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, which involved his script ‘Polar Opposites’ being performed as a rehearsed reading at the Broadway Theatre in Barking  He spent five years co-writing a monthly full-cast audio drama called “Action Science Theatre”. This multi award-entering podcast released over 50 very silly adventure stories, including a live show at the Green Man Festival, and was downloaded over 75,000 times.  His children’s poetry has been published in the Dirigible Balloon and the Caterpillar, and two of his poems were chosen for inclusion in the kids poetry anthology “Chasing Clouds“ alongside poets like A.F. Harrold, Zaro Weil, and Michael Rosen.  When not doing all of that, he also performs stand-up comedy for fun. His set on his (genuine) love of pencils (don’t get him started) (no really, he doesn’t have that many words left in this bio) led to developing it for the BBC as part of their ‘Boring Talks’ podcast series.

Helen Arney

Helen Arney is a lyricist, singer, writer and recovering stand-up comedian based in London. She’s appeared on TV, radio and stages across the world from Edinburgh to Las Vegas with her unique mix of stand-up, songs and science. Since electrifying Sandi Toksvig on BBC2’s QI, serenading Jon Snow on Channel 4 News and creating science-comedy theatre phenomenon “Festival of the Spoken Nerd”, Helen now writes musical theatre.  Drawing on her vast and eclectic experience of songwriting, stand-up, scriptwriting and science communication, Helen creates fun, funny and physical musical theatre that connects with audiences of all ages. Recent work has featured at the Natural History Museum, London’s Cambridge Theatre and in over a million downloads of “A Podcast Of Unnecessary Detail”.  Helen is a member of Mercury Musical Developments, MMD LABS, and an alumni of BML workshops where she began working on “The Unstoppable Letty Pegg”, the teenage jiu jitsu suffragette musical, with composer James Hughes. In 2023 the title song “Unstoppable” was nominated for the Stiles+Drewe Best New Song Prize and featured in the final concert at The Other Palace. With composer Jenna Dyckhoff, Helen was selected for the 2023 cohort of Overture’s Artist Development scheme with their female-led space-race show “Almost Astronauts”. The show’s development has been supported by the Jane Goodman Fund, Leeds Conservatoire and dramaturg Charlie Westenra. Helen also collaborates with composer Jenni Pinnock to write about forgotten women of science, including automotive pioneer Bertha Benz and founder of the First Cambridge All-Ladies Fire Brigade, Hertha Ayrton.    Helen has a Physics degree from Imperial College and a Masters with Distinction in Screenwriting and Playwriting from City University, where she won the Year Prize. She has also filled several notebooks with rhymes for Uranus (none of which are printable here)

Lakesha Arie-Angelo

Lakesha Arie-Angelo is Associate Artistic Director at Clean Break. Musical Theatre was Lakesha’s way into theatre and live performance. She has a BTEC in Performing Arts-Musical Theatre. Whilst most of her professional work has been in plays (writing, directing, dramaturgy and teaching), Musical theatre has always been her first love. She wrote the book and lyrics for a musical ‘Runaway bay’ which was selected for development with China Plate, Mercury Musical Developments and Royal & Derngate, led by Victoria Saxton, as part of their Musical Theatre Darkroom where she further developed some of the musical aspects with the legendary Dominique Le Gendre. In 2022 Lakesha was Revival Director for The Color Purple UK tour, co-produced by Birmingham Hippodrome and Leicester Curve. The show was subsequently nominated for a Black British Theatre Award for Best Musical Production.

Nathan Lawrence

Nathan Lawrence (aka NeONE The Wonderer) is class of 2023 MOBO Unsung musical artist from Wolverhampton. His music is dedicated to self-exploration through an electric fusion of musical genres. He challenges perception of normality, traversing through dreams, nightmares, myth, and reality. NeONE composes and writes lyrics for his music for 36.7k monthly Spotify listeners with some of his music reaching upwards of 600,000 Spotify plays. His previous work in musical theatre has been as composer and sound designer for 2006/2007 production of Oliver Twisted at Grand Theatre Wolverhampton. NeONE was also selected as part of Giles Peterson’s Future Bubblers 5.0 compilation at Brownswood Recordings.