And the nominees are …

I was delighted to find out this morning that I have been nominated for the Culture Awards Writer of the Year.

I am shortlisted alongside Michael Chaplin and David Almond, which is a teeny tiny bit intimidating but very flattering to be in such fine company.

So thank you to everyone involved in bringing my 2011 productions to the stage.

And thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination.

Keep your fingers crossed come April 16th … x

“Not forever, just for now”

Things I have learnt since the last time …

  • It can be too early for a handful of chocolate raisins.
  • Terry & Marg did it.
  • It doesn’t take as much as I thought to set me off blubbing.
  • “Micey” means disreputable/creepy/there’s a rabbit off.
  • It hurts when you put teaspoons straight from the freezer on your eyes (although it is good for tiredness – you’re in so much pain you forget how tired you are).
  • Columbo will be sadly missed.

And thus, so ends The Girls From Poppyfield Close.

I say ‘ends’. Ends for now.

Because the three night run in Live’s Studio Theatre last week is part of the play’s ongoing development. I’ve come out of the rehearsal process and performances with so many new thoughts and ideas – I’ve gotten to see the play up on its feet, in front of an audience, and there is no better way to shine a spotlight on what works and what needs working on further.

I can’t sign off on this without paying tribute to the team. With only a week and a half rehearsal time, Rosie, Phillippa, Cheryl, Cliff, Sam, Rachel and Chris achieved something incredible. And the hard work, enthusiasm and humour of everybody made it one of the most enjoyable projects I have worked on. Not to mention the fact that ‘treats corner’ was never left empty, not once!

And credit to the production team, of course. Designers Verity and Kate; technicians Drummond, Craig and Tom who created such an evocative and atmospheric world for the characters and audience to inhabit.

Ok. So that’s enough gushing. They were all fabulous dah-ling, blah blah blah!

For photos, reviews and audience feedback from last week’s production, click [here]

David Bailey won’t be too worried …

The Girls From Poppyfield Close

Below are some (not great, let’s be honest) photos taken by yours truly on the first day of Week 2 rehearsals …








Biscuit Watch … Rachel wins on best biscuits today. She kept it classic with Jaffa Cakes, always a winner.


Day -4 and I have learnt a number of things this week …

  • Banana skin is a cure for verrucas.
  • When you want a lighter to run out of gas, it resolutely won’t.
  • Lunging is sinister.
  • My next play shall be called The Peregrinations of Mrs Budge
  • Establish a ‘treats corner’ and everyone is happy.
  • Someone being thwacked with a plimsoll is funny, no matter how sombre the context.
  • Cheerios are an evening meal.

I could go on.

But I won’t.

It all adds up to mark Week One of rehearsals for The Girls From Poppyfield Close.

The cast and director met up for the first time on Monday, starting with a script read through in the morning. Unfortunately due to an unavoidable commitment (which shall be filed in the drawer marked ‘Sods Law’) I have only been able to attend rehearsals in the afternoons this week. But, I don’t think this was such a bad thing. For the first session it meant the script could be read and discussed without me folded up in the corner, so when I did arrive in the afternoon they had had time to digest it a little.

It is not a long rehearsal period so was a case of jumping-straight-in from Tuesday. The energy and attitude towards the play has been great, the actors seem engaged by their characters and the story. There are regular questions and ideas which is fantastic – I’m kept on my toes, never far from my editing pencil, but I love it. It’s great to be able to share these characters and this story, to see it ‘come alive’ (horribly cheesy, sorry), to have conversations about it, answer the questions (or not) and see different ideas played with and tried out.

I think a massive bonus is the fact that the director Rosie Kellagher has been with me for the whole process of developing Blood in to Poppyfield.

It was Rosie who rang me at the back end of last year to ask if I’d be interested in developing it in to a full-length piece and she has read every draft thereafter. It is Rosie who has assured me it’s “not shit” and listened to me doubt and fret. But it’s all been worth it, cos on Friday she saw me do a giddy little dance after the first stagger through of the Acts! I know that she knows this play and where it is in its development. She gets where I am coming from and gets me as a writer, and that is invaluable.

But don’t tell her I was being nice about her though, it’ll go straight to her head.

While I am being complimentary about other people (it’ll wear off shortly and normal service will resume, I’m sure) a big huzzah for the talented company of actors on board. I have looked forward to going in to rehearsals every day to see them and what they’re going to do.

And it’s been a great surprise how much laughter there has been – while there is humour in the play it’s hardly a ‘comedy caper’, but there is a real enthusiasm to the rehearsals. And biscuits. Biscuits always help. Kudos to Cheryl for bringing in the best biscuits so far – a sort of chocolate Hob Nob/cookie hybrid. Immense.

So then. Rehearsals continue next week, with the play kicking off on Thursday. I really hope it continues to be as enjoyable. Or at the very least, the biscuits keep coming and to such a high standard.

The girls (& boys) of Poppyfield Close

Evening. How goes it? Good? Lovely.

Right then. Back to me.

Rehearsals for The Girls From Poppyfield Close start very shortly. Which is fortunate as the play opens in 16 days. Gulp.

As such, today is officially branded Day -16. You see where I’m going with this.

I am delighted to be able to tell you the cast. So … drum roll please … Cliff Burnett, Christopher Connel, Cheryl Marie Dixon, Samantha Neale, Rachel Teate and Phillippa Wilson. A big hand for all six of them, please *the crowd goes wild*.

Director Rosie Kellagher and I will be spending this week ironing out the finer details. There is a lot of talk from Rosie about her doing “prep”. I, meanwhile, have bought a ring binder. It’s red. And devoted some time to deciding what to wear for the first rehearsal. Priorities.

It’s a very short run at this stage in its development but delightfully all three nights are sold-out. So of all the things I can worry myself into a tiz about over the next 16 days, playing to an empty room is not one of them. There is a returns list if you ring Live Theatre’s Box Office. Just saying.

Oh, and there was a feature in this month’s Culture Magazine on the play – pages 22 & 23 that you can access [here]. There are no spoilers,  unless you count “not everybody dies at the end”. Which they don’t. Or do they? (Disclaimer: no).

  • In other news … Dolly Would continues apace. My producer suggested it be more of a caper as I move into Draft #2. I’ll tell you what, he might be careful what he wishes for in future. I’d go as far as employing the words ‘escapades’ and ‘hijinks’. How much of the shenanigans survive the next draft remains to be seen, but if the audience enjoy listening to it as much as I’m enjoying writing it (touch wood, there’s a way to go) then that’ll be a job well done!

Beer, pigs & vitiligo (not necessarily in that order)

Awww, did you cry? Did you? Even just a little bit? I did. There, I admitted it.

And no, this isn’t the bit where I reveal I am talking about something obscure, I am actually talking about the Royal Wedding.

It was quite a day, first up I discovered I really am an old softie at heart (every time they cut to Kate – sorry, Catherine – or her Dad, or her Mam, or a reveller, or some union jack bunting, or anything really, I welled up). I also found I am quite partial to beer, lucky really as after the nuptials I headed to the Gateshead Beer Festival (surprisingly I had the  afternoon free having not been invited to the reception).  ‘Raspberry Blonde’ was my favourite – I have no other information on it than that, I’m afraid. I picked my beer like I pick a horse in the Grand National, if it’s got a name I like then I plump for it. And so ends the science bit.

It’s all been mental busy of late. But, needs must. I’ve got to put the work in, them there scripts don’t go writing themselves. In the past few weeks of nose-welded-to-the-grindstoneness I’ve done my back in from hours sitting at my desk and my eczema and vitiligo have flared up from stress … sorry, too much information?! Vitiligo is what they say Michael Jackson had, fact fans. Although fortunately that is where any similarity between us begins and ends.

Forefront in my mind at the moment is The Girls From Poppyfield Close that opens in about 7 weeks at Live Theatre …

Over two decades ago, Charlotte set off home from school. She never made it. But now the papers say a body has been found, bones dug up and the case back in the headlines. In the remains of the house they all grew up in, now condemned for demolition, her sisters wait to find out, each harbouring their own guilt and secrets about what happened.

Thurs 23 – Sat 25 June … click [here] to see booking information.

This is my first solo production at Live, by which I mean it’s a full-length play and I am not sharing the bill. On the one hand this has been a long-held ambition of mine and I am super-duper excited. On the other hand, I am as nervous as you’d expect, not being able to share the load and having to carry a whole night. Some people, eh. Never happy. The cast is TBC but the director is Rosie Kellagher who has been there every step of the way as I’ve developed the script from its 30 minute original Blood, and she directed my last piece at Live Clint.

I’ve been invited to the launch of Live’s new Season tomorrow, where I’ll chat about the play. Ha ‘chat’ hark on me, just shootin’ the breeze. Mainly I am channelling any nerves into worrying about what to wear. That said, I’ve just had the schedule through and every slot looks like it has a whole 5 minutes – how far wrong can I go in 300 seconds? … (famous last words) It’s being held at The Broad Chare, a new pub next door to Live, and I hear they have a wide beer selection. So then, I’ll be in my element – what with me being such an expert now.

I’m also continuing to write Dolly Would, my first radio drama. I’ve had the feedback from Draft #1, all very positive and encouraging. I’m  going into Draft #2 with lots of ideas, less worried about getting my head around ‘thinking with my ears’ and able to focus more on the story and its characters. I also have the recording dates which makes it all very real. If I ever feel like slacking, I can think ahead to that recording and the fact that in eight months or so it’ll be on air (gulp!)

  • In other news … I spent Saturday looking up online how to butcher a pig. Suffice to say it was for research purposes for a new endeavour with Forward Theatre Project. I felt a bit queasy and, at the same time, desperate for a bacon sandwich.  Confusing.
  • In other other news … the Rascals are convening this evening to discuss our brand spanking new project … details announced soon
  • In other other other news … my friend Helen Macfarlane is appearing in The Crucible at York Theatre Royal this month. One of my favourite venues as that’s where the whole Tobacco double-bill adventure began. Speaking of which … the Latitude Festival looms ever nearer, and along with it a certain Chekhov/Carr double-bill.
  • And finally … The Royal Shakespeare Company. I’ll leave that with you.