Brief outline of season 1: This is three stories woven together: the story of the Cuban revolution, the true (ish) story of the making of the musical ‘Fidel’, but mainly the story of 21st century life seen both through the eyes of Fidel Castro (magically present as a 40 something revolutionary in 21st century UK) and through the eyes of GG: mother, colleague, aspiring composer, sister and also single woman thrust as an innocent into the bizarre world of online dating. While GG struggles with the emotional challenges of 21st century life, the key theme of how to survive the 21st century is played out in the secondary character Mel who is a sustainability lecturer and prepper, convinced the end of the world as we know it is nigh. The character of Fidel introduces us to Cuban solutions which enabled Cuba to survive on minimal resources and values of solidarity. Despite the themes of anxiety and loneliness, the tone is upbeat.
This is also a musical feast drawing on many musical traditions. All the songs mentioned that relate to the musical exist and are available to use – see www.fidelthemusical.org to hear the songs and get a sense of the true story underlying the script.
In following seasons, there are a series of crises that throw the community of characters into jeopardy and the community must learn skills to survive and thrive in a new world. Each season brings back a different historical character to assist.
SEASON 1: STORY LINES AND CHARACTERS
PLOT A: GG is around 40 and we meet her as she is lonely, having suffered the death of both her parents, splitting up with her long-time boyfriend and her son having left home. She is pathologically empathetic to the sufferings of others and her musical tastes reflect her tendency to wallow in misery. Although she is passionate about music and a musical lecturer, her last musical was a disaster – but this has not affected her dream to write a West End musical. On a visit to Cuba, she is inspired by the spirit of solidarity, community and tales of Fidel Castro to write a musical about Fidel. Rumours that Fidel is immortal seem to be borne out when he appears to GG after his death to help her write the musical ‘Fidel’. His aim is to tell his story and the story of Cuba from the Cuban perspective. The key hook throughout is whether GG is mad or is being haunted.
Casting suggestions for GG: Billie Piper, Sally Hawkins, Romola Garai (the Hour, Emma), Louise Brealey (Molly Hooper in Sherlock). A reader suggested Miranda Hart – it didn’t appeal as it makes the romantic angle less credible, but when I re-read it, I saw immediately the character has Miranda-ish elements in her authenticity and inability to hide her feelings.
For Fidel I’d love Javier Bardem or Jaime Camil.
PLOT B: Mike is GG’s brother, he is a marketing executive and he is married to GG’s colleague Mel who is a professor in sustainability. Mel has just kicked Mike out for sleeping with a colleague at a conference, and also because she despises his job which encourages consumption, which she believes is destroying the planet. Mel has nightmares that the ‘end of the world as we know it’ is nigh, and gets increasingly panicked about ensuring she is prepared and can keep her family safe. Mike is devastated to lose Mel and tries to woo her back with survivalist skills, archery certificates and hydroponic cucumbers, but it is not until he turns his marketing skills to good that he finally wins her back.
Mel is sardonic and more hard edged than GG: Sandra Horgan or Zawe Ashton?
Mike: Russell Tovey, Lee Ingleby, Will Mellor.
PLOT C: Charles is GG’s romantic interest. He is nerdy, a Tory and a re-enactor, yet despite their differences they are thrown together and discover a deep connection. Charles proves his worth, but suspicions arise when GG suspects he isn’t all he appears to be.
My first choice would be Matt Smith.
PLOT D: Sue is GG’s nemesis – another music lecturer, but more successful, manipulative, charming and hypocritical. GG’s friends and family like her and worst of all, prefer her music. Due to a misunderstanding, Sue is also writing a musical about Cuba, and each episode shows a reversal of fortune as first one then the other attains the upper hand. Finally, Sue gets GG sectioned under the mental health act as clips showing GG being possessed by Fidel Castro go viral. But GG gets out on the ‘Santa defence’ from Miracle on 34th Street, on the basis that one cannot say GG is mad just because she claims to be haunted by Fidel.
My casting choice for Sue would be Sally Phillips or Sandra Oh.
GG is in trouble for making her students cry with her miserable music course and is sent to Cuba to learn about some more upbeat Latin music for the World Music course. She goes with her sister-in-law Mel who is a professor in sustainability, and is keen to learn lessons from Cuba who has learned how to survive amidst 60 years of lack of resources due to the embargo. In Cuba GG and Mel become inspired by what they see, and learn about the Cuban revolution and meet many people who know Fidel. GG becomes a ‘Fidelista’. Mel gets off with their Cuban guide as revenge against her husband (and GG’s brother) Mike. The idea of a musical about Fidel Castro is floated as a joke while drunk. The idea lies dormant till, on the moment of his death Fidel appears to haunt GG asking her to tell the Cuban story and keep her promise to write a musical ‘Fidel’.
Episodes 2 – 7 are fully written and follow plot arcs as above.
Episode 6 includes lots of cameos that are pure fun when different actors compete to play Che and Fidel. They could also work using fictional names that represent these kinds of personalities or with the actual actors, but nothing in the plot depends on them so they are optional bits of fun.
1. George Clooney and Brad Pitt discuss who should play Che and who Fidel and who can pull off a beret, while their wives/girlfriends debate Cuban politics. 2. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon do a masterful display of acting one-upmanship as they challenge each other to play different actors playing Fidel and Che e.g. “Now Sean Connery as Fidel”, “Queen Elizabeth as Che Guevara!” 3. Alexei Sayle barges into the auditions, waves away the script and does a rant of his own. He carries such conviction that he wins everyone over but then glares at them all as if they were the cause of his rant and storms out again.
4. Hugh Grant hears that they want Hugh, and thinks they mean him. His apologetic style is not very Fidel like.
SEASON 1 PITCH
This is the original pitch for the screenplay version and still works for season 1, but if you want to pitch it including the idea of future seasons then it would need rewriting:
“A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past” Fidel Castro
GG is on the market again, but the market isn’t like it used to be, and neither is she. Looking for love in the 21stCentury is a different game.
Time for a time-out. A Caribbean sojourn to re-arm and re-assess. But when your island retreat is Cuba, birthplace of revolutionary communism, you are apt to come back with more than a tan and a souvenir shot glass.
Back to reality, GG finds she has a new ally in the war on life. He might be an imaginary, bearded socialist icon (deceased) but still, she needs all the help she can get.
A man of action, even in death, must not reserve his seductions and seditions to one woman alone. And GG is curious to see what ripples result from dropping her hot political firebrand into the tepid pond of democratic apathy, and into the fresh produce aisle at Tescos.
Captured by his story and swayed by his persuasive rhetoric, GG is compelled to build a monument to her guerrilla muse, his loves and his cause. An all-singing, all-dancing monument that will wake the sleeping consciousness of the capitalist bourgeoisie and release like doves the captured souls of the proletariat.
As she builds her monument, GG takes on the past with the future. Her own and that of the wider world. The struggle is real, Comrade. The struggle is real.
“A revolution is not a bed of roses” Fidel Castro
Season 2 focuses on the prime minister (who we meet as the foreign minister in Episode 1) who is taken over by Che Guevara. What is a Tory Minister (a mixture of Trump and Boris) to do when he is guided by the man who epitomises the spirit of solidarity in a country in crisis as climate change brings an influx of refugees? Che’s solution is to do a knowledge swap: our knowledge helps desertified regions in Africa flourish again, and African knowledge helps strengthen UK local communities making them more resilient to shortages. But to sell this solution to his party, the Prime Minster must pitch this as ‘sending them back to where they came from’.
Season 3 brings back Lizzie Magie – a little known 19th century American woman who invented Monopoly, was a stand-up comedian, an inventor of gadgets and political activist. She designed the game with two sets of rules – one where as one person gains, everyone gains – win-win. The alternative set of rules (the current Monopoly) was designed to be a cautionary tale – she turns in her grave when she realises the wrong version prevailed. These themes of win-lose versus win-win are played out against shortages of supplies (as Mel predicted) and a breakdown in money supply. Charles finds that he and his re-enactors are being asked to become a kind of local guerrilla army for hire. Sue tries to recruit them to protect her stash – she was prepared because she listened to Mel’s predictions unlike others and made plans. Sam wants Charles to use his group to steal food for him and his new wife and baby. Charles is torn between the self-interested values of some of his re-enactors and Sue, and concern for GG’s son Sam and also the values of solidarity that mean so much to GG. Luckily over the years Mike’s tool- sharing plan has morphed into a whole new sharing business model which helps people deal with the breakdown in supply chains and infra-structure. Gradually they all bring the community back from the brink of feral self-interest to a functioning community.