Monthly Archives: November 2012

Gutted

So, that was all a bit pointless. The play for Ignition has been pulled due to actor illness. Nothing much to be said, really. Except, I’m reminded of a time many moons ago when I spoke to an experienced writer about the joys of working with actors on a piece of work. He looked at me with a wry smile and said, “yeah, they can be brilliant or they can bring a piece to its knees.”

I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. Nowadays I do. Illness can’t be helped so it’s just bad luck. But for whatever reason a play you’ve written has been pulled and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can rationalize – but it’s frustrating and a bitter pill to swallow. Since you’ve done everything you needed to do, on schedule and to a high quality – and re-written once due to a previous actor-driven crisis – so the news that it was all for naught just makes you want to punch a wall. Or more specifically in my case – play computer games. I just want to forget about it and play Final Fantasy Tactics.

I’m also gutted for Carly – since she’s put a ton of hard work in and this would’ve been her debut directing gig.

Swings and roundabouts though. The day before this news I had the workshop with In The Red and this was fantastic. The actors threw themselves into the development of what will be my first full length play in a way that was inspiring and made me think – “I’ve got to do their hard work justice.” It was also a great opportunity to see The Houldsworth – a new venue in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. And I was delighted to see Sally Lawton there who is an inspiration. She’s so hard working and dedicated!

Onwards and upwards…and stop talking in cliches Rik.

New Play Workshop

Well, the workshop with In The Red is tomorrow. Davinia has done a really bang up job with the cast and also secured Anna Marsland (@anna_marsland) to run it. Anna has worked at the Royal Exchange as assistant director and now works at the New Vic Theatre. I’m looking forward to working with Anna and of course Davinia, whom I’ve known for years now. We first met at the Oldham Coliseum when I was assisting with the new writing course. We’ve since worked on audio pieces together and I’ve watched her set up her own theatre company (the aforementioned In The Red).

Once upon a time I knew no-one in theatre. Now I find I’ve known people for about six years (2006 is when I first got involved at The Coliseum) and in that time I’ve watched friends and colleagues change, grow and try different things in order to achieve their ambitions. Nothing in theatre is static. From the staff in theatre departments who change every few years, to the actors or producers who move on and shift their focus, change is going on all the time. This makes it difficult to align yourself with a specific place – it’s rather the people you make friends with that provide consistency. So, Davinia, whom I met as a new writer, ends up arranging a workshop for one of my plays through her theatre company six years later.

It feels a little self-indulgent to ask for actors and a director after writing only one act of a play – but I’m trying to do what I’ve read about other theatre writers doing – particularly my favourite David Eldridge (@deldridgewriter) – who spoke at a recent course I attended. Theatre is so much about actors that to write in isolation seems almost absurd to me – but then, new writers don’t usually have the luxury of doing anything else, so I’m immensely grateful to have the opportunity. It’s something I hope to continue – but again, it’s all about money and resources. And the goodwill of friends.

But I woke up today wondering how I can be the age I am and not be doing what I want to do for a living yet? So I’ve got to shake that feeling before tomorrow! Here’s my attempt –  okay, the thing is – all you can do is write, and the rest of it is fate. Or luck. Or bribery. And the fact is – Yoda was wrong. It’s not “do or do not”. It’s “just keep trying”. Try try try.

As long as you tried you can rest easy. The horrible thing would be to look back and know you could’ve done more. So, in the end, it comes down to a cliche – if at first you don’t succeed:

Try.

Try.

And try again.

And again.

And again.
Etc

Rushing Around

Went to see a play starring Chris Bridgman and Martin Harris of Rocket Theatre fame last night. Got there five minutes late due to Google Maps sending us up over the moors. I’m obviously using it wrong and need to click some option or other to select only main roads. I can’t find it however…

Good show – a sort of amalgam of Oscar Wilde and PG Wodehouse – adapted for the stage. Plenty of audience interaction and some very clever magic tricks! With the butler, Middlewick, apparently reading the audiences’ minds at one point! It’s an example again for me that theatre needn’t always be so serious. It can be about entertainment – and I would call the show a crowd pleaser; easily staged and appropriate for a wide range of audiences, from theatres like the one in Darwen, to non-theatre venues, like a golf club for instance, where members are looking for an evening’s entertainment after dinner.

The drama of finding these little regional theatres though is getting increasingly stressful. With S having broken her arm I was driving last night and it was my first time on the motorway – in the pouring rain and at night. Not ideal. Talk about jumping in at the deep end. I think S was actually more nervous than I was, which is understandable.

Then received news that an actor had pulled out from the Ignition gig and so re-writes where on the table. This irked me somewhat since the whole point in my mind was to meet actors and write for them – so to have one pull out was doubly frustrating. However, we found an excellent replacement in the person of the fantastic Peter George. This did mean I had to re-write the character to be younger but it was relatively painless. I also had to constrain myself by the fact that we are 5 days from performance and two of the actors have already familiarized themselves with the script – so it’s too late to go for a sweeping re-write. I think the character still works however and Peter will be great.

Just posted a script off to the BBC and now I’m going to eat some dinner. Lamb chops!

Ignition Rehearsal

Went well. First and foremost. At a pub in Salford called the Black Lion which has several “pods” upstairs. Why people involved in theatre and the arts have to come up with these weird words to describe their facilities is beyond me. They’re not “pods” they’re “rooms”, darling. Anyway, at least they didn’t appear to despise us – which sometimes happens with pubs that hire their rooms out. They really don’t like you being there and the only reason they do it in the first place is because they hope you’ll buy drinks. Thankfully, the Black Lion isn’t like that – and it’s got a good reputation for supporting artists in Salford and Manchester.

This is Carly’s first time directing someone else’s writing and directing actors (other than herself for her own shows) – but she took it in her stride. She’s very into the true emotion of the piece and I think we both feel it would be nice to have longer. These quick shows are good in that they force you to work fast and get stuff done but I think talking to several people they are all itching to try something longer. I’m not, really, since most of my longer work is ongoing anyway and I can continue with that when I like – but it’s different for writing. Short, sharp and brutal is the exception – so I’m still getting a lot out of it.

The actors are a great trio so I’m going to link them all below. Links to Carly also.

I came away again feeling like “yep, I know where I fit.” I feel comfortable as the writer. It feels natural to me. I nearly had a coronary when one of the actors joked I might have to take over one night for him due to a scheduling conflict. I really can’t think of anything worse! And I actually get fatigued having to express my thoughts to people for any extended period of time – so I’d be no good as a director. Being the writer involves just the right amount of interaction for me!

Peter Quinn

Anthony Thomason

Andrew Grogan

Carly Tarett And some of her plays:

Sinful Review and talking about “Princess Dee” below:

(BEAT)

Useful to have this blog for those times when you’re not quite ready to veg entirely but you’ve finished a bunch of work and feel the urge to reflect. Script for Ignition completed and sent to the director who seemed to like it. She had a few ideas for improvements and clarification – which were all on the money. I’m particularly happy this director has a background in comedy – so she’ll be able to locate where the the funny bits are working and where they’re not.

Strange delay always with writing though. Feedback or performance never comes when you want it and you’re invariably onto something else by the time it does. I’ve already shifted to a sitcom I’m writing for the BBC – which isn’t as rubbish as I thought it was. I’m not sure they’ll pick it up though – coz I’m not really sure I’m a comedy writer. There are funny bits in it but I struggle to write jokes. Funny stuff just happens sometimes – or the tone of the characters is such that they say slightly humorous things…not really selling it am I?! We’ll see.

I’ll finish that and send it off, do a bit of a play called Ghostwright the remainder of the week, then focus on another play “Caring” which I’m workshopping with Davina Johki and Anna Marsland on Sunday.

The other half’s arm is still broken so I’m trying to be supportive with that (forced me to drive the car more anyway!) but definitely get the sense she wants me to back off a bit. She’s very independant so I’m trying to walk the line between support and just being a cotton wool bearing mollycoddler. Oh, also trying to sort out the day-job situation – since I need something new again. Interview this Thursday.

Just can’t be bothered getting worried – but it’s there occasionally. Money, rehearsals, workshop, performance. I hope the play for Ignition doesn’t suck. I hate the first night when you’re sitting there…I just want to vanish, or peep through a crack in the door at the back, but you’ve got to support the actors and director – and it’s incredibly ungrateful to the production crew and venue not to be there. But I don’t enjoy it. I know one writer who doesn’t sit in on his performances. Whatever works for him – but I think you’ve got to force yourself to do it. If nothing else – you need to know where the writing is working and where it isn’t.

Organised Chaos Winter Ingition

Went to meet the actors for a play I’m writing as part of OC‘s “Ignition” at 3MT. I’m always nervous going to this type of thing. In fact, I’m always nervous period. That’s sort of why I force myself to do things.

This was another situation where you’ve got to meet and make friends with a bunch of complete strangers in a very short space of time. Fortunately, Gayle and Dan make it a little less painful, in that the relaxed atmosphere at Organised Chaos really flows from them. It occurred to me about 5 minutes in, after having been introduced to the three male actors and one other writer, that I’d actually done zero prep for this. I hadn’t even prepared any questions to get things going. So as we chatted, and Gayle and Dan ran through the details of the show, I frantically scribbled down some opening questions for the actors.

The point of meeting the actors beforehand is to write with them in mind. Something I’ve done once or twice in the past – but never with a completely new trio. The play also has to be written for this coming monday which gives me seven days to come up with something that doesn’t completely suck.

Luckily one of the actors gave me a ton of great ideas just by telling me a bit about himself. He does that actor thing of telling stories – in this case not about previous gigs – but about his life. A really interesting guy and because the stories were quirky with some odd characters I worked up a scenario as he talked. After this I felt a little more relaxed – and he was great about using his history as a starting point.

I’ve studied at theatres, uni and with writers agencies over the years, also a lot of reading about how to generate stories, but still I find it difficult to define how you come up with something that interests you. It’s never, or rarely, for me about a writing “activity” such as they teach on creative writing courses to get the creative juices flowing. Nor is it about knowing the shape of a classic story and trying to find the correct elements (or if it is – this isn’t a conscious process for me) It’s a different starting point every time. A word. A person. A situation. It can be anything. But once you’ve got that thing that interests you, whatever it may be, your brain starts to form connections and things start happening. Maybe it’s a bacterial sort of process. If you drop a germ into a dish – and if there’s enough food there for it to live on – it’ll multiply automatically. Because that’s what it does. It’s a germ. That’s its purpose.

Until you’ve got…fungus?

I don’t think I’ll use this analogy again. But anyway, it went well. Got to admire people like Gayle and Dan who decide to create theatre themselves and make it happen, regularly and consistently. It also occurred to me that the actors, directors, writers and producers I hang out with are all really doing something that’s important to them. Whatever their skill set and experience they’re a bunch of people that like to get involved – often wearing several different hats. At one time I might be directing someone, who later goes on to direct me, or produce something I’ve written. You do what you’ve got to do because it’s better than doing nothing. And it’s all good experience.

BREAKING NEWS

The BBC has just exploded. Large bricks and chunks of mortar have been reported falling as far north as Iceland. There is a large hole in London where news used to be. Some people have overreacted – but those people have been swiftly shot. This is indeed a dark day – because it’s night. Sleep tight.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20284124