Vera Shrimp – week #3

Hello! I’ve been a bit quiet lately, haven’t I.

So, since my last:

I was rehearsing for, and performing in, Bombshells at The People’s Theatre. A collection of monologues by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith. I got to work with a lovely and talented team and sport ‘librarian chic’.

I went to New York. I know, right, get me, swish swoo.

A Wondrous Place opened in Liverpool before heading to Sheffield. It’s had some great audience reaction and reviews so far, including  ★★★★  from  The Guardian. It pitches up in Newcastle on Tuesday. More info and to book [here]

I applied to, and have been shortlisted for, Northern Stage’s Title Pending Award – which is very thrilling. The judging weekend is imminent, gonna dig out my loose rehearsal slacks and soft jazz pumps.

I wrote draft #3 of Vera Shrimp, ready for our development week at Northern Stage last week. Now, when we left Vera things were all a bit gloomy. Rosie and I had just finished our week at ARC Stockton and I was really struggling.

Well, fortunately, last week things took a turn for the better. I made a concerted effort to shake off what had gone before and come into it with a fresh and positive attitude, not be my own worst enemy and harshest critic. (Rosie will confirm that it’s an ongoing effort, but I tried!)

We powered straight in to getting the show on its feet and the words in to my mouth, and made a huge amount of progress. We started thinking about its shape and its tone, finding the voices of the other characters and my voice as narrator. We welcomed award-winning designer Imogen Cloet to the fold, and starting to think about the visual elements was very exciting.

The week culminated in a showback on Friday afternoon during which I performed a 30 minute extract from the play. It’s amazing what you can achieve in four days, and I am really proud of what we were able to show of our work-in-progress. I won’t lie, I was nervous. My performance wasn’t perfect but, you know, that’s ok. I got out there and I did it, which feels like a real personal victory. We were able to give a flavour of some early design ideas, Northern Stage’s Kev and Mareike provided us with lighting and sound to support and create atmosphere and mood … all in all, we have a show. Or the beginnings of one. And it, and I, can only get better.

Some audience feedback:

Lovely work. Well done missus!
Really really enjoyed being taken into Vera’s world.
Excellent and can’t wait to see more!
You have a really good face (!) 

So, we’re looking ahead now to the previews in July at Live Theatre and ARC. They’re work-in-progress preview performances but of the whole show – so those who were asking about how it starts, and how it turns out, come along and find out! 

    

Big thank you to Northern Stage for hosting us and for their support. Equally big thank you to those who came along to see it – your encouragement, comments and questions are hugely appreciated … x

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It’s raining, it’s pouring

After all my badmouthing of 2012, 2013 has got off to a much better start. I’m not counting my chickens, but just saying that it’s keeping me busy so far (and long may it continue – touch wood)

 

The big news at this moment is that NEVER RAINS BUT IT POURS is going to be produced as part of Theatre503’s LabFest next month.

You might remember that NEVER RAINS started life as part of Past Glories at The People’s Theatre back in 2011. Well it’s never really gone away and I’ve always had it in my mind as one I could do more with. I’ve revisited and reworked it recently so am delighted that this new version is part of the Festival, directed by     Tom Latter for Sheer Drop Theatre.

For all the info and ticket details, please click [here]

  • In other news … The Traverse Fifty is well underway and we’ve all be paired up with our photographers. Your photographers? I hear you cry. Yes indeed. Writer Pictures, who specialise in literary portraits, are collaborating with the Trav50 to produce portraits of each of the writers and they’ll be displayed later in the year. ‘My’ chap is a very talented documentary photographer called Ian Forsyth. I opened my introductory email to him with the words “I hate getting my photo taken” … we’re yet to meet but plans are afoot and I just hope he doesn’t end up feeling he pulled the shortest of short straws.
  • In other other news … I am busy working on my play for A Wondrous Place. It’s not been an easy one this one (are they ever?!) but I think I’m starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Apart from that I can’t really say much, but I’ll update as and when.

Laters alligators. See you at Theatre503, maybe … bring a brolly! x

Goodbye 2012. Close the door on your way out.

If you’d asked me, even as recently as a month ago, how I felt about 2012 (not sure why you would, but bear with me) then you’d have probably been met with a barrage of swearing.

Maybe it was always going to struggle in the face of 2011. Of course, rose-tinted glasses do come in to play somewhat so I won’t pretend there weren’t wobbles along the way that year. My eczema recurred in a big way (too much information?) and I suffered rather frightening anxiety dreams as I tried to balance everything. But even with all that, two words – Dolly Would– made 2011 the hard act it was to follow. It dominated my whole year and its early January broadcast saw me start 2012 on the highest high imaginable.

And the rules of the universe dictate that highest high must be followed by the lowest low.

The pressure I felt to keep up the momentum was huge. And projects did come along, I strengthened some existing relationships, started new ones and tried new things like my first stab at dramaturgy (never again, but that’s another story for another day!)

I failed, however, to win the Culture Award for Writer of the Year. I failed to get this commission, or that project, or the other scheme. Things were slowing down, not speeding up. I was slowing down. It’s hard to keep going in the face of, what seems like, a wall of rejections. I had spurts of productivity, creativity, but doubts – never too far from the surface anyway – creep in, the whispers of “what’s the point?” get louder.

Maybe I’d peaked, maybe that was me done. And when I got screwed over financially for the first time (that I know of) in my career, maybe that was the last nail in the coffin – not cut out for this business after all?

I spent much of 2012 frowning. Frowning while Googling my contemporaries to see how successful and happy and funny they were. I cried in public at least twice (mortifying). And there were the darkest few weeks about 3/4 through when I refused to leave the house.

But you don’t take up this profession to be able to walk away from it easily. It’s not a hobby, not a sideline. Something inside me still had fight – something that was still getting me up in the mornings even if the rest of me wanted to pull the sheets over my head.

I submitted my application for the Traverse 50 at 3am on the deadline day. I didn’t write it then – I’d prepared it way in advance during one of the spurts – but I hadn’t sent it. The “what’s the point?” voices thought they had triumphed when I went to bed that night. But when I woke up in the early hours it felt like do-or-die. Was I in this or not? Well I am, as it goes, cos I got up, turned the computer on and a month later I was listed alongside 49 other writers for the year-long attachment to Scotland’s Traverse theatre.

So the back end of the year has seen things looking up. As well as The Traverse 50 I’ve been commissioned for A Wondrous Place, a production that aims to challenge the negative ‘grim up north’ stereotypes and will tour to Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester in May/June. It’s a fantastic opportunity and concept that I hope I can rise to. December saw me perform my first solo show, and the whole writer slash performer path is one I’d be keen to walk down further (fingers crossed, touch wood, etc).

Who knows what the New Year will bring. Promises and predictions seem futile. All I want is to keep writing and write better. And to shop more in Next.

So then 2012. You’ve had your moments, but I won’t be sorry to see the back of you. Although well done on the Olympics, I did enjoy that very much.

Big thank you to all my family and friends who have supported me this year (and the rest). I know it’s sometimes not easy and I can be a right pain to know, but sometimes I’m quite funny too, and occasionally bring sweets, so hopfully that balances it out somewhat … xx