I’ve always said I’ve got a face for radio

Remember me?

I have been very remiss in my website-ness of late, for which I can only apologise. My reasons are few and honest

  1. I have been very busy
  2. Due to the improved TV signal in my new house my magic Freeview box is back able to record all my favourite telly programmes

Anywoo, on with the news … 

No sooner had I written in my New Year round-up that one of my 2011 aims is to “make further headway into radio drama” then a producer from BBC Radio 3 was on the phone I was invited to appear on The Verb.  Maybe next year I should write “win the Lottery” and see if lightning strikes twice?! So, I’ll be reading my play Yackety Yak on the airwaves. Yes, I WILL be reading it … me, myself … yowzah! I am heading down to Broadcasting House next week to record the programme with presenter Mr Ian McMillan and it’s being broadcast on Friday 28 January @ 9.15pm.

My brand new shiny monologue CLINT will be unveiled at Live Theatre on Thursday 3 March. It’s part of a night called Boys on the Edge – one-man plays about boys of the cusp of adulthood. It follows on from the success of ‘Girls on the Verge’ last year and also features new works by Bridget Deane and Laura Lindow.

I was a bit nervous about writing for this one, I’ve not written a lot of male characters and certainly not teenage boys. But, set me a challenge and I’ll do my damndest and I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it difficult to get started, but once I found Clyde’s ‘voice’ he became a joy to write. We’re at the rehearsal draft stage with it so I don’t want to say too much, but suffice to say it’s a bit of a crazy-ass concept and quite possibly goes down some of the darkest roads I’ve ever traversed.

Thrillingly, Boys on the Edge is already sold-out. It sold out so fast I didn’t even have a ticket. But, if any seats are released or extra performances added I will let you know. (**UPDATE 25/1/11 – second date added, Fri 4 Mar @ 8pm **)

 Past Glories; Day 181: It might seem to have gone quiet on this front but it hasn’t … but the things that are happening are things out of my hands. Namely, auditions have been held and casting is imminent. So, soon there will be actors attached to the characters – I can’t wait. Draft #2 was met with approval so will be the draft going in to rehearsals, but I’ll be there for further re-writes. You get to a point when you need to start hearing it and seeing it to know where and what needs cutting and changing.  Rehearsals start in mid-Feb and I’m looking forward to this next stage with it – I enjoy collaborating with actors and the director, seeing the play bed in with the team and grow and develop.

That’s about the size of it. The Tobacco double-bill is selling well at Northern Stage next month, but there are still tickets available so do come along if you can.

Toodle-pip for now … xx

snow is falling, all around me, children playing, having fun (cos the schools are closed) …

Now this might surprise you – cos it’s not like there has been blanket (no pun intended) rolling news coverage – but it’s a bit snowy up North right now.

It was fun. For a day or so. But the novelty has well and truly worn off.

The guttering has been pulled off the side of the house from the weight of falling sheets of snow, walking anywhere takes frickin’ ages and my boots are really starting to chaff, the post is not being delivered and there is a package I need by Thursday, 3 of the 3 things I had scheduled to do last night were cancelled and I am sick of being bloody freezing.

On the plus, I got to wear my ear muffs today but even it has a downside cos the subsequent slightly-clammy-ears were no fun.

AND there is the possibility that my train journey to London at the end of the week to see But Otherwise Went Well is going to be disrupted. Whaaaaaa?! Fingers crossed, though. Fingers. Crossed.  All the reports from HQ seem positive, the director and actors seem to be enjoying working on the play. Which is good. I just hope I get to see it …

Stupid warm front hitting stupid cold front … **shakes fist at sky (from which, surprise surprise, more of the stuff is currently falling)**

What else? Well, there is loads else but it’s mostly work-in-development and you know I don’t like to go in to that in great detail (jinx).

So. Erm. Rascally Scoundrels won an Award recently. Best New Writing at the Ovation Awards, don’t  you know. Not for a play of mine, but ‘Trust’ by fellow Rascal Roz Wyllie … but I’ll hang off the coat tails until they notice and boot me off.  I couldn’t go to the event in Whitby cos I was in the midst of moving house but they brought home the bacon (aka a small trophy).

Past Glories; Day 129: I delivered Draft #2 yesterday. Based on the read-through my aim was to tighten it all up, esp the last section. I managed to get rid of 7 pages worth, which was pretty good going. Just waiting on getting a meeting together with the director Kath Frazer to discuss it further and see if a final re-draft is required before auditions etc grind in to action. Exciting …

Past Glories; Day 114

… in which tickets go on sale

The running order and dates have been confirmed and announced, and tickets are on sale … NOW!

The 4 one-act plays will be presented as double-bills over a fortnight from 5-16 April 2011. The dates for Never Rains But It Pours are Tues 5, Thurs 7, Sat 9, Wed 13 and Fri 15.

For the full running order, plus details about all four plays, the writers and info on how to book, click [here].

It has been a busy time lately, but this is still very much on the radar. Have not had much to update as have not started on Draft #2 yet but it is imminent …

Blimey O’Reilly, where do I start?

Ok, so, the last blog entry was the “BIG NEWS” re ‘Tobacco’ double-bill at that there National Theatre

Well, since then the big news has got bigger in as much as people are actually coming to see the show. A capacity amount of people, in fact, because it’s now sold out. Huge excitement in Carr Towers, especially when our tickets arrived and I got a NT brochure and it had my name in it in black and white (well, in red)! Of course, all the while that knot of terror in my stomach is getting bigger and bigger …

And what a massive achievement for the team headed by Charlotte Bennett and Forward Theatre Project, having a show on at the National within two years of forming is no mean feat. And a sell-out show at that! Just over three weeks to go … gulp.

Alongside all this excitement, of course, I am juggling my other ongoing projects. Lest we forget Past Glories (Day 85, for those keeping track … no? Just me then). Monday was the day of reckoning, or at least the day the first draft of the play was read by The People’s Theatre. The Friday before had been the turn of Sue and Philip, whose plays Wordworth’s Sister and Keeping Up With The Joans were read for the benefit of the writers, the directors (John MacDonald and Kath Frazer), the production manager (Maggie Watson) and mentor-although-he-does-not-want-to-be-called-mentor, Michael Chaplin. I was all cool-as-a-cucumber that evening, cos it was not my play under the spotlight. I was just there to have a listen (read: be nosey). Monday though, a whole different kettle of bananas. First Tony’s work-in-progress A Spoonful Of Honey and then … me.

Hearing your script read is invaluable for a writer, especially at this early stage when there is still plenty of time for that all-important re-write. It exposes the draft in a way that nothing else can – you can stare at your script on the screen/page for hours, days, weeks and not see what a reading flags up. But it’s scary – you’re putting your work ‘out there’ … what was safely hidden away on your computer is now being read out loud and pondered and judged. You are being pondered and judged. There was a time when the mere thought would have made me ill. Silly, really. It’s a draft. It’s not set in stone. But The Fear is ever present, this time manifesting itself as a six hour headache … which was delightful.

As it goes, it went well. The play was nicely read by Maggie Childs, Anna Dobson and Emma Watson (not off of Harry Potter) and I have plenty to work on for the next stage. Mainly paring it back, especially in the later scenes. Less is more and all that. The same applies to the next draft of another play I am working on … as previously touched upon, draft #2 was a bugger but happily draft #3 not so much. Draft #4, pending, is all about stripping it back. So I’ll be making good use of the Delete button over the next few weeks …! 

Talking about less is more (smooth link, eh) I will be greatly inspired by David Harrower’s Good With People that I saw as part of the Play, Pie & Pint series last week at Live. Short, snappy dialogue; as much in a look as a speech; not every question answered and the audience allowed to do some of the work and fill in some of the gaps. Terrific performances from Blythe Duff and Andrew Scott-Ramsey didn’t hurt either. It’s off to the Traverse next week … highly recommend it. You get a pint and a pie, too … so really there is no excuse.

  • In other news … I am about to embark on a brand new project. It’s with The Old Vic. Suffice to say, my old mucker Kevin Spacey has obviously missed me since we last met and wants me back on board. Understandable. Am off down that London soon for the first workshop … more details as and when …
  • And finally … I met Blythe Duff on Thursday and did not say “there’s been a murder” in a terrible Scottish accent (nor any other accent) … this was a huge accomplishment. I did not gabble or curtsey (big fan) or make a tit of myself (much). She, in return, was gracious and friendly. Which was nice.

Past Glories; Day 50

… in which I cross my fingers and click ‘Send’.

Done. For now.

Never Rains But It Pours Draft #1. Tick.

Of course, Draft #1 is never actually Draft #1. For me, I have 10 versions leading up to this point.

Not all 10 are full versions, I hasten to add, but 10 documents in which I have picked up from where I left off and moved forward and/or made changes. I don’t believe in deleting or writing over stuff too much. You never know what might come in handy later, so I try not to discard anything in case I want it further down the line.

10 seems to be about the norm for me … looking back, Mam, Dad, Monkey & Me got to 10 for the first draft, then a further 6 until the rehearsal script.

The next stage is a reading of all four scripts together. This is pencilled in for October, if memory serves. It’ll be exciting to hear what the other writers have come up with and how it compares in topic, style, tone, etc. And there’s always the worry I’ll be the rubbish one. But for now, today at least, I will savour the joy of getting the thing in on time. I’ll start fretting about the rest of it all tomorrow.

A bit like the Blue Peter tortoise, NRBIP can go in a box for a bit and I’ll dig it out in a while … in the meantime I have radio pitches to write and a third draft to crack on with elsewhere.

Because there’s nothing like a countdown to put the fear of God in you: 206 days until Past Glories opens at The People’s Theatre …

Anton & Me … (+ Past Glories; Day 46)

Howdy. How are we all? Good? Great. Let’s get back to me …

I am delighted to report that the workshop for Can Cause Death went incredibly well. Charlotte, David and I went through the script bit by bit and by the end were left with a rehearsal draft I think we’re all happy with. David is heading off to Dublin to perform at The Gate Theatre until the end of October, so he’s taking the signed-off script with him to learn. How very thrilling.

I also got the chance to meet Sophie, the producer; Fabrice, the designer and Phillippa, the composer.  AND, saw my piece alongside Chekhov’s Harmful Effects for the first time since York back in June … which suddenly made it all very real.

Me on a double-bill with the mighty Chekhov, who’d have thunk it?!

We rehearsed at Paines Plough, and below are a few poor-quality shots of David and Charlotte in action …

Just a quick word about David Bradley. A legendary actor, we already know this. But what a damn nice man, to boot. Generous, gracious, patient, funny – he and Charlotte made me feel so welcome and I am delighted to be part of the project. David didn’t even mind when I asked him about Harry Potter. Well, it didn’t seem like he minded but then he is an Olivier Award winning act-or … oh dear …

 ‘When’s it on?’, I hear you ask. ‘Where?’ Patience my friends. Announcements coming soon … [Update: announcement announced – click here]

Past Glories; Day 46 

Just a mini-update on this one … the feedback from Michael Chaplin is in and it was all very positive, with useful suggestions of things to look at again/consider. Armed with this – along with an informal reading last night by some friends – means I am on the homeward stretch towards the official Draft 1, to be handed in on Mon 13. Hearing work read out loud is invaluable, it flags up so many things, so to be able to do that even at this early stage was great. Thanks to Kath, Jo and Alisha.

  • In other news … I WON!!! My play Yackety Yak triumphed at Live’s A Million Short Cuts event last week. 57% of the audience vote, I’ll have you know. There is no actual prize, just the warm glow of victory! For details about the night, click [here]
  • In other other news … disappointingly I was unable to record my Come To Where I’m From monologue. Dull story, don’t ask. All is not lost though and I am hoping to get a recording organised on home turf and send it down to them. Fingers crossed.

‘Past Glories’; Day 17

“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.” – Nicholas Sparks

Well knock me down with a feather and all that guff. I have finished Draft 1 of  Never Rains But It Pours. Let me say that again … I. Have. Finished. Draft. 1. I am as shocked as you, believe me.

My excursion to the cottage-on-a-hill was a disaster work-wise, although there were omens dotted about. The play features a rubber duck in a bucket, and not only was there a duck-shaped hot plate in the cottage-on-a-hill, but from the patio you could see a row of trees that look distinctly like a duck. No, really. (What do you mean, grasping at straws?)

Anyway. Omens or no, the rest and relaxation gained by a week away in peace and quiet seems to have paid off.

It’s been a busy year – I’m not complaining (when I say ‘not’ I mean of course ‘sometimes I do but who doesn’t’) … we all know it’s better to be busy than bored and so far this year I’ve been anything but bored. Long may it continue. Fingers crossed. Sometimes, though, I can’t help but feel I’m churning the work out and it becomes a bit … I don’t know … the spark can get lost. I’m lucky, the projects I do tend to be varied and recently I’ve been challenged with new stories and new ways of telling them, but there are times when it wears me down. Creating a world of people and their words and plots in my head, but sitting alone in a small room typing them up.

Hm. That all went a bit maudlin.

My point is … THESE moments are when it’s all worth it. Batteries apparently re-charged and able to say “that there Draft 1, it is in the bag”.

Good job, like. Today was the last day I had to work on NRBIP before devoting the next 7 days to the second draft of a different script.

I’m having a packet of crisps to celebrate. Seabrook Salt and Vinegar. Really, it deserves more but it’s all I’ve got in. The glamour.

The last-minute spurt was born from the stuff last-minute spurts tend to be born from – necessity. All the faffing about, pussyfooting on, was out the window. It was business time. Business time is usually heralded by one thing – getting up at 7am. I tried this in Scotland, but apparently it does not work across the border. Back home though, it worked a treat. Isn’t it scientifically proven or something that our brains work better in the morning? Mine does. And then it’s so proud of itself, when it returns to the computer later in the afternoon for Round #2 it can cotton on faster to what it was doing those few hours before.

Don’t get me wrong. Draft 1 is by no means perfect. It’s messy and inconsistent and overwritten and vague … but that’s first drafts for you. Indeed, in the words of Ernest Hemingway “the first draft of anything is shit”.

But it is not nothing. There is a framework, albeit loose. There are characters and a story, and a start and an end. A foundation, I suppose, to be knocked down and rebuilt.

But it’s not a blank sheet of paper. It’s a start.

‘Past Glories’; Day 10

… in which I don’t get off to a very good start.

So, today was the day. I was going to start, gosh-darnit. After a couple of days exploring the cottage-on-a-hill and the surrounding areas, today I was going to knuckle down and get going.

I ensconced myself in the conservatory – a ramshackle set-up; garden chair carried in, table from the living room lugged through, laptop balanced on a hamper lid and a couple of telephone directories. It didn’t last.

I decamped to the kitchen table. Hoisted up on a couple of pillows it was much more comfortable and conducive to work. I lost the lovely view and gained the (frankly amazing but potentially distracting) clock that plays a different bird call each hour.

Ok. So. Sitting comfortably? Ish. Cup of tea? Check. Ready to start … Ready to start …??

That was six hours ago.

Because I am developing an idea for which I already have some of the script written (see ‘Day 1’), the trick is getting back in to the mind-set of that play I started six months ago. I have managed to write nothing new today. What I have done is edit and trim and explore the 30-or-so pages that were already there. Not ideal. I wish I had made some headway instead of revisiting old ground. I feel dull and uninspired, with a numb bum and too much tea sloshing around inside me.  It feels like a wasted day. Not happy.

On the plus, I have learned the bird calls of the Chaffinch, the Cuckoo, the Great Tit (snigger), the Great Spotted Woodpecker and … as 5pm strikes … the Song Thrush.

Past Glories; Day 7

Erm … right then … *looks sheepish* …

On Saturday I confidently wrote the headline ‘Past Glories; Day 1’.

Sadly that blog remains the sum of work that I have managed to do on the new play.

Well no, I tell a lie, I have decided on my title – Never Rains But It Pours. Which, as it goes, came from writing that aforementioned optimistic blog, so it hasn’t all been time wasted.

I have not been lazing around sipping piña coladas or whatever it is my housemates think I do all day, but sometimes you just can’t rush these things. I have been working on other plays. And if you’re not ready then you’re just not ready. Which can be a bitch. I have been doing some good ol’ thinking, though. Thinking really really hard …

(hopefully not this cottage)

I am going to a cottage on a hill for a week. The intention is to get lots of cleansing fresh air and write myself stupid. I will come back with a first draft. I. Will.

‘Past Glories’; Day 1

A while ago, I can’t remember exactly when … hang on …

** trawls through diary **

… April 5, fact fans … I attended a meeting. At said meeting I was finalised as one of four writers commissioned by The People’s Theatre to write a play for its forthcoming Centenary Season.

The writers – myself, Tony Gannie, Philip Meeks and Sue Saunders – all have a connection (either past or present) with the People’s, which is one of the largest and longest established non-professional theatre’s in the country. 100 years young in 2011, the Theatre is lining up a celebratory season of events, including a fortnight of new writing in its Studio Upstairs venue.

I can’t remember exactly when involvement with the People’s began. I’m guessing 2004 because I originally joined with an eye on The People’s Play Award. This is a biannual competition run in conjunction with New Writing North to discover and develop new writers for theatre.

As ever my timing was impeccable … I had just missed the deadline for submissions. But. I was there now so why not kick about til the next one rolled around. You don’t have to be a member of the People’s to enter for the PPA, but I love theatre and all things theatre-y so this was a chance to pitch in and get involved, something I hadn’t done since Uni.

I did some backstage work (my table moving in A View From the Bridge is still talked about … by me); got a gig as Second Asst. Director; helped out with publicity matters; and first ventured on to the stage when cast as third hobo on the left in Little Shop of Horrors! So, I kept busy.

Time ticked by – I wore a wig in a Panto that made me look like Pat Sharp – and before you could say “Fun House!” it was time for submissions for the 2006 PPA.

My play My Mam Was An Ice-Cream Blonde was primed and ready – I wasn’t going to miss that deadline date again.

I am delighted to say that I won and the play was produced for a week in May 2006 in The Studio Upstairs, with a fantastic director, cast and crew. I made some fabulous friends during the process and since, and have kept up my involvement with the People’s to this day.

So, when I was asked to be one of the writers for the Centenary new writing season I was delighted. The brief is as vast as it is constricting – each of us must write a one-act play on the theme of Past Glories, with a cast of no more than four, all women.

At the time of the April meeting I had an idea and a bit of a script I’d started dabbling with at the beginning of the year. With work and development it could work for the brief.

What I didn’t bank on was that very script idea being short listed for the Nick Darke Award, something I had entered it in for and then promptly forgot about as other work and deadlines took over. So, my idea was in limbo and – while excited to be short listed for the NDA – I was a bit scared if it was selected, I’d have to come up with another brand new idea for Past Glories and have two plays to write for September. It never rains but it pours, etc …

So, it was with mixed feelings I found out a few weeks ago I did not win the NDA. Close but no cigar.

So, I have my broad idea. I have an opening few pages. I have three possible titles.

Now, to stop writing this and get on with writing that …