Composer and lyricist Eamonn O’Dwyer found family unity through grief following the death of his mum.
The female trio at the heart of his latest play, The House of Mirrors and Hearts, tip the other end of the scale suffering separation, addiction and loneliness.
The 34-year-old - alongside Rob Gilbert - has been exploring tricky emotions underpinning the plotline for the past nine years.
He said losing his mum aged 23 had proved a “strangely positive experience” despite the huge personal tragedy.
In the musical, which showcases at The Arcola from July 2, mum Anna and daughters Lily and Laura find the death of the girls’ father has a devastating impact on family life.
“My experience was so opposite, but there’s a certain sense of catharcicism as a writer addressing these issues and talking about family,” said Eamonn.
“I grew very much closer to my dad and sisters and our family pulled together through this terrible time.
“I was very thankful for that - we needed each other more than ever - and I began to be interested by the idea of a family who doesn’t achieve unity in grief.
“For these women it’s an experience that leads them apart not brings them together.
“There’s two sisters at the heart of the play, and I have two sisters, and I find the duet they sing a particularly moving experience.
“So I’ve drawn on my own experience and inverted my own experience too.”
The musical score, he said, was delicate and needed to be tackled with sensitivity.
It chimes with a story that sees the family live a life of suspicion and silence before new lodger and former poet, Nathan, moves in.
Eamonn said this gave him great scope to incorporate art and poetical music as key themes.
East Londoners fond of theatre might recognise the play’s title, too.
“We did a mini version five years ago in Arcola’ old space, in Arcola Street,” added Eamonn.
“It was the first production and an hour long. We’ve now fully expanded, the characters have expanded and the size has expanded, too.
“We fell the show’s grown up as the space has grown up as a lovely 200-seat venue.
“It’s going to be really beautiful and atmospheric - anyone who comes to see it will be sure it’s a musical, but I’m not sure there’s anything quite like it at the moment.
“I hope that’s what’s going to make it exciting.”
The House of Mirrors and Hearts, The Arcola, July 2-Aug 1, Mon-Sat 7.30pm with Saturday matinee at 3pm, from £12
Go to arcolatheatre.com .