From puppet to page to stage …

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Not that long ago, something like Forward Theatre Project’s SCRATCH MY CITY would have seen me running screaming for the hills. These days, though, I tend to say’ yes’ to things that scare me. Don’t get me wrong, falling off a cliff on to a spike scares me and you won’t see me doing that anytime soon (at least I hope not), but in terms of my writing life I have learnt to embrace a challenge. Because you just never know.

I think the most frightening writing-thing I have ever done was the OVNV 24 Hour Plays. Having a play you wrote overnight introduced on to the Old Vic stage by Jeff Goldblum takes some beating on the Fear Chart.  But I did it.

And in a twisty-path way, that led to my play Fine being performed on Sunday night as part of FTP’s latest SCRATCH MY CITY. Because I met Artistic Director Charlotte Bennett while doing The 24 Hour Plays. She invited me to join FTP and the rest, as they say, is history.

I did my first SMC with the company last year. There’s always a jumping off point for the writers. Last time it was design ideas from Left Luggage Theatre Company. This time it was puppets. Yes, puppets. The brief – how puppeteers create characters differently and what happens if these are humanised on stage. At first I was sceptical. Then Cuthbert came in to my life and I realised how brilliant these Colossal Crumbs creations were.

This is Cuthbert. He is a fish. [Click] the picture to see his story. 

See?! See what I mean! Just looking at him I knew I loved him and he broke my heart on first viewing.

Clearly the pairing of Cuthbert and me was no fluke. In her initial email, Charlotte wrote “ … the tragic/comic style in Cuthbert’s story which I thought you would be very good at”. Clearly my reputation precedes me … a lonely fish who dreams of suicide? Give it to Carr, that’s right up her street. And indeed it is.

I knew fairly quickly the angle I wanted to take. Which is fortunate as the turnaround on these things is tight – a fortnight to turn in your script.

The things that stood out for me the most in the video were Cuthbert’s solitude despite not being the only fish in the pond and his book ‘The Way to Happiness’. So I gave Cuthbert a friend, or at least someone who might become a friend eventually, The Librarian. She’s come for the book which is 30+ years overdue. What I didn’t want was to make Cuthbert a victim – all those lonely years have taken their toll, he’s spikey, he’s put walls up, he’s not going to fall in to the arms of friendship with any passing stranger. And the Librarian too, she has her own reasons for her visit, her own needs.

Two lonely people, one magic library book. Yes, that’s right, because before we start getting all angsty and deep, ‘The Way to Happiness’ was no ordinary tome. It had Rolos inside (you had to be there, I’ll say no more).

Below are some production shots:

  

Fine – first produced by Forward Theatre Project as part of Scratch My City, Soho Theatre, August 2012

The cast was as follows:

CUTHBERT: Rhys Meredith
LIBRARIAN: Jackie Lye

Directed by Sarah Bedi

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