Thursday, 2 December 2010

'Winter kept us warm', Wasteland

Perhaps it's the enforced solitude of the snow (which I secretly love), but have just written a new and very mad character - even for me. The moral maybe comfort-eating can kill, in more ways than one. (And this time it's definitely not about chocolate.) Am planning to do a short monologue at the Hull BUDS in new year, so the demon may get excorsized.

Weird how the snow comes and us being so rubbish at keeping mobile through it, we're suddenly plunged into this very interesting and rare world of hush outside.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Writer blocked, but ramming through.

Haven't had time to write lately and at risk of sounding like a scouser, 'it's doing my 'ead in'. So this morning just sat down and wrote a short drama piece straight off. Feel so much better. Now am watching 'True Blood' recorded from last night (while have stomach for it) and typing the piece up for what it's worth.

Went to Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds last night for its 5th birthday bash along with Mick in our ActONE capacity, having put on studio shows there each of the last 3 years. Met the general manager, a very charming Scot, and he seemed impressed with what we'd done, good publicity and feedback we'd received etc. Also talked about the recent SY event with Alan Bennet, which they seemed very proud to have hosted.

Have had to step down as SY branch co-ordinator, due to pressure of legal work and desparate need to find time to write. I suppose it's good that at least I want to and feel creative - no shortage of ideas for new stuff. I know from past experience that real writer's block is when you can't write, whether you have time or not, and that it horrible. I used to think it didn't exist and was used as an excuse to be lazy but when it hit me, I found out it was real enough. Wouldn't wish it on anyone - except maybe the odd TV writer when you see some of the rubbish churned out (but then the finished product was probably not very like their original script).

Sunday, 19 September 2010


‎'Doublecross' has gone much better than dared hope this weekend in Leeds. Both nights had good audiences, but last night the actors got into their stride and there was a lot of laughing and clapping - fortunately from the audience.

The hard work put in by the director, Colin Lewisohn, and the actors was clear. . Hard to select best bits, but some I was really pleased with were Richard Dipple's dapper journalist with his slow verbal seduction of dour legal eagle, played by Hayley Briggs (we all knew he'd get her and would keep pressing those buttons until he got the right ones. And boy, has Richard come on as an actor lately, but then he tells me lately he's been working with someone who worked with Alec Guiness); Hayley's mix of vamp and little girl lost as Sam, the rather dubious 'nurse'; Rachelle Vernelle's touchingly desparate vulnerability as would-be mother, Kay, caught between older husband and the Byronic journo; and finally Asadour Guzelian's moving portrayal of unlikely hero, the local councillor, as he copes with both bemusement at a rampant rabbit and the tragic yet hopefully redemptive revelation at the end of the play. For Michael Yates and I, it was great as writers to see our characters coming to life in this way.

We're now into the final push for the performance at Otley Courthouse on Friday. Bit nervous as we've never done this venue before, but prepared to put it down to experience whatever. Please come anyone who can - whether you up for something different drama-wise (or even if you just quite like the odd scantily-clad actress and a plot that involves handcuffs and gimp mask!)

It's a dark comedy drama with a La Ronde structure, based on the premise that life - like drama - is based on lying. There's always a subtext and the real question is whether trust just gets in the way of seeing it. Otley Courthouse Fri 24th 7.30pm tel 01943 467466 tickets £9/7 conc.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett came to address Script Yorkshire members at Carriageworks, Leeds on Friday (long story but I was sort of instrumental in this happening, and very glad it did). He was fascinating. A 75 yr old with a schoolboy sparkle in his eyes and still rosy cheeks. He began by reading an extract from his writing about his childhood in Lower Wortley, prose with poetic elements in it, which is saying something based on Lower Wortley. (Don't mean it. I'm from Bramley so how can I talk, and besides my Auntie Connie was a lollipop lady on the junction where he used to live.) The passage evoked back-to-back life of 50s pre slum-clearance West Leeds, but not all the bad bits by any means. But the passage dwelt much on the significance of names, showing that writer's fascination with words and what things/people are called - or more importantly chosen to be called.

The main part of the evening was question and answer, ranging wide over topics of interest to writers. I learnt a lot. AB's observations included such as that in some ways censorship had helped 'intensify' drama and its demise meant that 'your armoury decreased'. This seems to touch on the debate that crops up so often now about the usefulness of constraints. (Maybe Aristotle's 4 unities should be revived and we should go back to pre-Lady Chatterley prissiness.) AB explained why art is not a craft, in that in working a craft, you know each time you can produce an item to standard or in a certain form, whereas with art you never know it if will work or get anywhere. (Story of my life, though I suppose that's what makes art exciting as well as such a bitch - you never really know how it will come out.) So many bon mots and tips, perhaps summed up with AB's warning to 'protect your own endeavour'.

Come to think of it, wasn't that Captain Cook's ship, 'The Endeavour'? Another worthy Yorkshireman, who had quite a journey (though not from Lower Wortley).

This week sees me tied up and doublecrossed, as in 'Doublecross', latest ActONE production, co-written with Michael Yates, dark comedy drama with the premise that life - like drama - is based on lying. There's always a subtext; the question is whether trust only serves to get in the way of seeing it. On at Carriageworks this Fri/Sat, then at Otley Courthouse the following Fri. Bit nervous about this one, as it's different, but at least we're trying 'different'.

Monday, 16 August 2010

'About Chocolate', Edinburgh Fringe, Surgeons' Hall

First show tonight went well, with decent-sized, very appreciative audience and we suspect at least one reviewer. Irene was marvellous and her acting had them spellbound. I got choked up at one point, and I know the story inside out (having written it).

Edinburgh's buzzing. Way too many shows these days. You don't know where to start. When I came for the first time 5 years ago with a show at Pleasance Courtyard, it all seemed very different. Pleasance seems dominated by childrens' shows and stand-up this year. The Free Fringe (which concept I totally agree with) is having an effect, but that also tends to focus on stand-up. (Would be happy to do drama in it, but they have a limited amount of venues for plays and tend to insist on the full 3 week run - not that easy for non-students, with bills to pay and a need to keep earning a living.)

Our Surgeons' Hall venue is in its second year and has a great atmosphere. The venue itself is in a modern building, with 4 theatre spaces. Ours is theatre 3, capacity 40, but a super little space for an intimate play like 'About Chocolate'. Our two tech guys, Peter Meese and Paul Beswick, who've come with us, have also found it fine to work in and both have done an excellent job. Charles Pamment, who runs 'thespaceuk' venues, is good to deal with.

Surgeons' Hall adjoins the Royal College of Surgeons on Nicholson Street. Its courtyard is therefore flanked by some interesting, historic buildings - including one where the original bodysnatchers stashed away and disected their snatched bodies! This doesn't seem to have put people off their beer though and the courtyard is one of the best spots to chill out, with bar and cooked food available -without the crush and long queues to be served of the Pleasance Courtyard.

So here's hoping they'll all come and get the chocolate! 5 more nights to go.

Monday, 26 July 2010


Attended the Script Yorkshire second BUDS in Bradford on Sat, which had learnt from mistakes of the first in Leeds before Christmas and went much smoother. It was particularly useful to be able to give and get feedback there and then. The stricter timing and frequent breaks helped a lot, and we didn't have any early exodus (last time, the pieces which over-ran seem to have had the effect of making most of the audience run too). Most of all, it was fun. (When it stops being that, I shall stop writing.)

Colin Lewisohn directed an excerpt from my work-in-progress play 'The Black Prince', with Eddie Butler in the title role, Warwick St John as Hugh, my limp lettuce lawyer would-be hero, and Alissa Juvan as the femme fatale of the piece (with Colin as her pimp). It went great and I'm working on it further, with some research to do to help the development.

BUDS brought forth a lot ov variety, from my own favourite talking statue to goon a type radio play, Scarborough vikings and a Vicky Pollard stylee Virgin Mary.
The discussions/feedback were helpful too.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Rain, Rain, don't go away

Went to a rainy but inspiring Authors North, Soc of Authors get-together today in Carlisle. Speakers were John Murray (former editor of the sadly deceased but excellent 'Panurge' and a writer/editor committed only to what is best, not best known or most saleable) and the talented and intriguing writer, Clare Sambrook.

If only we had another 'Panurge'...! (Though I do have several other urges.)