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 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 …

‘Past Glories’ – the preamble …

Writing a play is a strange beast.

Every time I sit down with a new idea to start a new script, I always seem to have forgotten how it went last time. If it’s going well I think back to the ‘struggles’ of the last one. If it’s going badly all I can recall is the ease with which the last one came and how I must certainly have lost the ability to write since then.

Sometimes I am writing to a brief, sometimes an idea has just compelled me to get typing.

Often the run up to starting is as fraught as the actual starting – I can sometimes tell I have an idea brewing when I find myself watching my box set of Victoria Wood’s dinnerladies. While I am a huge fan of Wood and she was an inspiration to me when I started out, I don’t write like her so this need to watch her sitcom is pretty odd. But.

Sometimes I get totally overwhelmed by an idea and think about it morning, noon and night. Others, I just sit down with a bit of a thought and start. I rarely know what the end of my story will be as I write the first lines. I can’t settle without a title and, on a bad day, can convince myself that altering the font size and paragraph spacing does definitely count as work.

But why am I telling you this? Well. I am about to start writing a new play for production in April 2011 at The People’s Theatre. I have a brief, I have a deadline for draft #1. I have watched dinnerladies (again) so am good to go!

I have decided to keep a record of the process this time. From first draft to production, providing I have enough to say on the matter.

If no-one reads it, then it’s a useful tool for me to look back on. If they do, it might (I hope) be an interesting insight.

I’ll be as honest as I can – there will no doubt be days when I decide I am a talentless imbecile and days when I think it might, possibly, be ok maybe (the highest praise I am likely to afford myself). One single day might encompass both – it’s a very up-and-down thing, I find.

Right then. That’s enough preamble. I have a play to write.

Wish me luck …