So, earlier this week rehearsals started for Fat Alice. I was, frankly, giddy with excitement. I bought two (count ’em) jumpers to celebrate and took myself off up to Edinburgh. Below are some poor quality photos I took. The actors are Meg Fraser and Richard Conlon, directed by Joe Douglas.
“By trying something new you might discover something great.”
This month, Write Here, the Traverse’s New Writing Festival will showcase the best in new writing from Scotland and beyond. As one of the Traverse Fifty I have a few things amongst the line-up …
Lunchtime Rehearsed Readings
Tues 22 – Sat 26 Oct, 1.30pm
Want nourishment for the body and the mind? In the spirit of the hugely sucessful A Play, A Pie and a Pint, Dream Plays and Breakfast Plays, we have a special series of Lunchtime Rehearsed Readings all week as part of Write Here. Each day there will be readings of two mini-plays from our Traverse Fifty, accompanied by a refreshing bottle of Innis & Gunn beer (or soft drink) and a warming bowl of home-made stovies. A perfect way to spend a windy Autumn afternoon.
Wed 23 October @ 1.30pm – directed by Zinnie Harris
FAT ALICE by Alison Carr
ASSESSMENT by Robert Dawson Scott
Mon 21 Oct – Sat 26 Oct (2.30pm – 6pm)
Experience theatre in a different way, through our free headset plays. Featuring five five-minute plays, audience members simply collect a headset at Box Office and tune in to hear nuggets of brilliant new work, created by our Traverse Fifty.
Mon 21 Oct – Sat 26 Oct
Proving that art is everywhere, these tiny gems of plays are hidden around the Traverse building, waiting for you to discover. Discover a new voice in the Atrium, meet a new writer by the sofas – expect the unexpected.
Writers’ Pictures Exhibition
Mon 21 Oct – Sun 3 Nov
To celebrate our Traverse Fifty writers, our friends at Writers’ Pictures paired each writer with a photographer back in January. Throughout the last 10 months, each pair has been working together to create a portrait of our 50 playwrights. Over Write Here, all 50 images will be exhibited for the first time in our bar. Come and take a look at the faces behind the words. Click here to read my blog about the experience
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
2010, eh. It’s been quite a twelve months. Here’s a little review of my year …
- I am invited on to BBC Sparks – a scheme for writers identified as having potential for radio drama. I accept. Obv.
- Deadline for submissions for Live Theatre’s Different Stages Festival. My effort, Tittle Tattle Tattletale, is a bit of a departure from my ‘usual’ style and content but it seems like an ideal opportunity to chance something different.
- I submit Maggie & Mary for the first Newcastle INK Festival.
- Auditions for Blood & Money.
- I spend a week on an organic farm in Kent with BBC Sparks. I lose the ability to form sentences and seem incapable of ‘thinking with my ears’. I wonder whether me and radio drama will ever be friends.
- Extracts from Blood & Money are performed as work-in-progress drafts at Northern Stage’s First In Three night. The audience feedback is positive. I eat too many chips.
- Tittle Tattle Tattletale is performed at Live’s Different Stages Festival.
- I enter the Nick Darke Award with a new play, Trickle. The entry requirements are the first 20 pages and a synopsis … which is lucky as the first 20 pages and a synopsis are all I have!
- I am invited to write a one-act play for the Centenary Season at The People’s Theatre. There are four writers involved, each with an association with the People’s – past or present – and the theme is Past Glories.
- Blood & Money previews at The People’s Theatre – rehearsed reading.
- I submit a short for Theatre503’s PLAYlist – plays inspired by a song, that can be no longer than that song!
- I go to York to see On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco – Forward Theatre Project are inviting writers to submit a companion play to this Chekhov short.
- Heart Shaped Hole, inspired by Cilla Black’s Anyone Who Had A Heart, is performed at Theatre503.
- Rehearsals start for Blood & Money going to Prague.
- Trickle is shortlisted for the Nick Darke Award. Woop!
- Blood & Money previews at Live Theatre.
- Rascally Scoundrels make their debut with Blood & Money at the Prague Fringe Festival. It is all hideously stressful while at the same time being marvellous fun. In the run up I was having terrifying anxiety dreams and breaking out in eczema, but it all worked out and we board the plane home still speaking.
- My play Can Cause Death is shortlisted to the final four as the companion play for Chekhov’s On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco.
- I write a monologue for the Newcastle-leg of Paines Plough’s Come To Where I’m From project. I also perform it. Which is an experience.
- Maggie & Mary is performed at the INK Festival.
- Can Cause Death is performed script-in-hand, along with the other shortlisted plays, at York Theatre Royal.
- Rascally Scoundrels are invited to take part in the launch of Writers Block North East. Which is nice.
- Can Cause Death is selected to be the companion play for Tobacco. I am now on a double-bill with Chekhov. Never a sentence I expected to write.
- Trickle does not win the Nick Darke Award. Close but no cigar. Never mind, those 20 pages and that synopsis will not be wasted … I make a start developing the idea into a one-act play for Past Glories. When one door closes, etc. I also start keeping a blog diary of the play that will chart it right up to performance, starting [here]
- I am approached by Live Theatre, asking if I would be interested in developing my Prague play Blood into a full-length play. I am. So I make a start.
- I stumble across a recording on YouTube of Maggie & Mary – not being performed at INK but the 2009 Gi60 Festival in Brooklyn, New York! See, sometimes Googling yourself is not a bad thing … 😉
- Yackety Yak wins Live’s A Million Short Cuts event. There is no prize, just the warm glow of victory!
- I go to London to workshop Can Cause Death with director Charlotte Bennett and actor David Bradley.
- Deadline for Past Glories first draft – Never Rains But It Pours is up on its feet and wings its way to the powers-that-be.
- Finally I can reveal that Tobacco/Can Cause Death will debut at the National Theatre in November. Yowzah!
- A round-the-table-read-through of the first drafts of all four Past Glories plays at The People’s Theatre.
- Booking opens for the Tobacco double-bill at the National Theatre. It sells out within days. I do a little dance.
- I am invited to take part in Ignite, a programme by Old Vic New Voices for alumni of The 24 Hour Plays. I head to London for the workshop weekend.
- Can Cause Death is performed at the National, starring David Bradley. A highlight of my career to date, without a doubt.
- Ignite – first draft deadline.
- Ignite – final draft deadline! (did I mention the project had a tight turnaround?!)
- But Otherwise Went Well is performed at Waterloo East Theatre as part of Ignite1.
- I deliver Never Rains But It Pours rehearsal draft – auditions are scheduled for January.
- Podcasts of the Paines Plough Come To Where I’m From monologues go online.
- Tickets go on sale for Can Cause Death at Northern Stage in February.
- I pitch, and am subsequently commissioned to write, a monologue for Live Theatre’s Boys on the Edge event in March. Writing from the perspective of a teenage boy … this one’s going to be a challenge! I set off writing Clint.
Ambitions for 2011 …?
- complete, and see performed, my full-length play
- do more with my free time – ie, don’t spend it either a) feeling guilty about not working b) napping c) watching The Crystal Maze on Challenge TV d) all of the above
- more Rascals funtimes with them there Scoundrels
- make further headway into radio drama
- work with Julie Walters
- eat less cake & more vegetables (let’s not get ahead of ourselves!)
So, all that’s left to do is bid a hearty “Happy New Year!”. 2011, eh. Here’s hoping it’s a good one … xx
Wishing you all a great Christmas … x
Back in June I took part in Paines Plough’s Come To Where I’m From … 61 playwrights from 14 cities across the UK writing about their hometowns, the places that shaped them.
Click [here] to read an article on The Guardian website by James Grieve and George Perrin about the project.
Click [here] to read my blog about the experience, mainly involving biscuits and near hysteria.
Subsequently, we were invited to record our monologues that would then be posted on the Paines Plough website. A chance for a UK-wide project to come together as one … and another chance for me to panic about having to ‘perform’ my own piece … gulp.
The podcasts are being made available a city at a time, a day at a time … Newcastle took to the online-super-highway TODAY!
Listen [HERE] to the dulcet tones of Mr Michael Chaplin, Sir Dick Curran, Lady Tracy Whitwell and myself … waxing lyrical on topics ranging from memories of the Tyne, American tourists in Jarrow, living in a caravan and the perils of low ceilings …!
If you think it was all glamour – a plush recording studio with them fancy-pants giant headphones like Beyonce would have – then think again … I recorded my play in my bedroom on my MP3 player and emailed it to the offices!
Just a quickie to say that tickets are on sale NOW for ON THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF TOBACCO / CAN CAUSE DEATH at Northern Stage.
The dates are Wednesday 16 & Thursday 17 February 2011, 8pm. You can book via the [website] or call the Box Office on 0191 230 5151.
For more details on the play, click [here]
Suffice to say, it would be super aces if there were more than just me and my folks in the audience, so do come along if you can …! xx
The best part of six hours to get there. The best part of four hours to get back.
Get there and back I did and, somewhere in the middle of the snow-induced-travel-disruption, I managed to see my play But Otherwise Went Well.
Hearty congratualtions to the team … Alex, Charlie, Deirdre, Lorna, Daisy, Ben and Ian. A talented, hard working bunch who pulled it off with aplomb … xx
Congratulations also to the other productions: Custard by Ella Hickson, Defined by Design by Arinze Kene and Sex Toys by Gabriel Bissett-Smith.
You know at the end of the film Babe when the farmer says “That’ll do pig, that’ll do” … well I felt a bit like that last week.
I spend an awful lot of my time worrying – I worry if I will ever be able to write another play; if I do then I worry it will be awful and no one will stage it; if they do I worry it will be awful and no one will like it; if they do I worry if my next play (if it’s any good, if anyone stages it, etc) will live up to the last one. As such, I spend a lot of time sitting in a darkened room frowning and biting my nails.
But last week I emerged from said room to go down to London to see my play Can Cause Death performed at the National Theatre. And for those 24 hours between boarding the train to go and boarding the train to come back I was determined to enjoy the moment. I allowed myself to be happy and – rarer still – I allowed myself to feel proud.
I wish I could bottle the anticipation I felt from about 6pm the night before … to know what was coming, to have it ahead of me. I must be honest, even the night before I felt a little sad knowing that it would be over the next day. Of course I was nervous, but something inside me was telling me to make the most of the experience and not be overwhelmed by The Fear.
I had not seen the play since workshopping it at the beginning of September with Charlotte and David. Since then David had been in Dublin performing in Endgame at the Gate Theatre, returning about a fortnight earlier for final rehearsals. Chatting to him after the show, it was weird to think he had been learning his lines for my play during the run of that one.
I knew he would give a good performance – it’s David Bradley for f’s sake – but I couldn’t have been happier. It’s quite an ask – play both husband and wife – and there was every chance it wasn’t going to work. But David’s performance, along with Charlotte’s direction, meant it absolutely did – and the change from Nyukhin to Popova was a highlight in itself.
As often happens with me, as I waited for the play to start I found myself thinking back to the beginnings of it – 1 May going to York with my friend Sarah to see On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco and getting the brief for the project for the first time. Snorting with laughter when the deadline for submissions was announced, given the short time frame and the fact I was in the midst of rehearsals/organisation for Prague at the same time. Heading home on the train thinking it had been a nice day out but no way was I going to have time to write something for it … but not being able to get it out my head for the next week. Writing the first line of a first draft – “while the eldest I was the last of my sisters to tie the nuptial noose around my neck and kick the matrimonial stool from under my feet” … a line which remains having survived my rewrites. Such thoughts make it all a rather out-of-body experience but there it was in the flesh, out-loud, on the Cottesloe Theatre stage at the National – Can Cause Death by Alison Carr.
All of the feedback, I am happy to say, has been positive. The audience reaction on the night was great. The first laugh it got, I relaxed. One line got such a belter David had to take a pause while it died down – I couldn’t help but grin.
I can’t praise Forward Theatre Project’s Artistic Director Charlotte Bennett any more highly, not only for her direction of the plays but for making it all happen in the first place. And the rest of the team – it is all quite an achievement for everyone involved.
And that is not the end as the double-bill is heading up to Newcastle’s Northern Stage in February. And who knows what else the future holds for it …? Regardless, I can safely say the whole thing is up there as a highlight of my career to date.
So how am I going equal and/or top it? Oh cripes. Back to the darkened room … back to the fretting and the anxieties. Next up is But Otherwise Went Well, part of the OVNV ‘Ignite’ programme … click [here]for details.
Nice feature in The Journal today by Sam Wonfor … click [here] to read
I met the opening words “If Alison Carr was a rabbit…” with a mixture of horror, intrigue and great amusement … luckily it carries on to make sense!