Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Just when you think you've got it cracked...

I knew I shouldn't have got so excited about sorting out the German play. This morning I was talking to a friend about it and I said 'It's all there - all I've got to do is write it.' This afternoon I got 2 e mails. One from my agent in Germany and one from Heidi, my German director, and surprise, surprise, the play's been dumped. A new artistic director has come in and told Heidi that she can't programme the 10/11 season because he hasn't made up his mind if she's still going to be there. What a way to treat your staff...

I knew it felt wrong. I couldn't get a contract, Heidi kept being given different reasons why it was not quite ready, at the same time as being told that everything was fine. And now they've screwed her, poor woman, and for all she knows, having only been appointed about eighteen months ago, she could be out on her ear and looking for a new job. Wonderful. I feel more pissed off for her than I do about the play I've almost written.

I was in Sheffield on Friday last to see the Rotherham kids present their take on The Tempest at the Lyceum and they were brilliant. I'm not sure how many boxes they will have ticked on the national curriculum and I don't imagine what they achieved would have impressed any OFSTED inspector I've ever met, but how many times do you come across a theatre full of ten year olds who know, because they and their teachers weren't afraid to attack the text on their feet and not behind desks, that it doesn't matter how long ago he died, because they love the language and they know Shakespeare is speaking to them? Dump the pointless testing, get rid of SATS, let the teachers out of their straitjackets and let them and the kids rediscover the excitement of learning.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

How long does it take you to write a play?

How long does it take...? It's the most frequently asked question, particularly from novelist friends who all secretly harbour a bitter resentment that we lucky playwrights only have to write a handful of words and our work's done while they are still struggling with chapter four. And when I'm asked about a particular play I can never remember and mutter something about it not taking very long once you've got it all sorted in your head. And I think that's because once I've really got into the piece and produced a first draft - after which the writing starts to become fun - I wipe away all memories of how desperate it was trying to find my way into what I wanted to write. Yesterday afternoon I sensed that I might have found a way into the play I'm writing for Hannover and this morning I think I have.
I have thought this several times before in the last few weeks only to discover that all my great ideas folded under pressure. But this time... This time I feel all I have to do is write it. And when I get to that moment it usually means the first draft is on the way. So how long? From the first thoughts, through the first meeting in Hannover, to now, today, has been eleven months. And I really thing that at last it's there, and now I'm scared that if I rush into the next section I might mess it all up so I'm going to do the only thing possible and leave it until tomorrow afternoon when I get back from the RSC Tempest Playback session with the kids from the Rotherham schools at the Lyceum in Sheffield and go and cut the hedge.
I saw The Tempest again last week because I wanted to see it with a full audience, not in a rehearsal, and it was as brilliant as I thought it was going to be. I also went to the young peoples' version that Kate Hall was running on the Thursday afternoon and that was really good too. I've been avoiding reading the adaptation as I'm doing one for a Nottingham Playhouse co-pro but as I'd finished it and sent it off I felt it was safe to go. I find myself missing loads of stuff, films, novels, plays, if I think there might be some thing in there close to the work I'm doing - terrified of copying someone else without realising it. And that's what I did all the time, for years, when I was trying to write, let myself be influenced by someone else - trouble was I didn't know I was doing it until too late and I'd written a second rate version of someone else's play.
Had a good day on Sunday too down at the Trent Navigation. Matt Marks, who I've worked with a lot, was playing there late afternoon and Andre the percussionist from the Tempest company came down to sit in on drums. I watched the three of them Matt, on keyboards, Steve on bass, and Andre negotiate their way through the first set. The grins became wider and the music more adventurous as they started to play off each other you could feel their pleasure in what they were creating. I wish I could manage more that C F and G.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

It's hard to get started.

I started this morning on the piece I'm writing for Hannover absolutely certain that I knew where it was going. That confidence lasted for about ten minutes. Then fear set in and I retreated into games of spider solitaire. Eventually I forced myself to think of something useful I could do and I went back to the adaptation of The Tempest. I took it into the garden and read it through. One, it didn't seem too bad, and two, the bits that needed changing were immediately obvious. So that took me through to lunchtime. After lunch I went back to Hannover and this time I realised that half of it needed to be cut and I worked on it more or less successfully until about five.
I wish I knew how I arrive at an idea that works. And why it takes so long. And why it doesn't seem to come at the end of any logical thought process that I can identify. I have discovered that two things seem to work. Despair. And a fast approaching deadline. Not an original thought but it gives some comfort.
The last series of The Wire arrived this morning and I haven't watched any of it yet - and that is impressive.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Krazy Kat and The Tempest

I've set up this blog because the news section of my website has become too cumbersome. It takes forever to load and I can only access it form one computer... to try and explain any further would only emphasise my own inadequacies. Basically it's down to two things, one, my lack of expertise, two, Paul Nix, the kind man who set it up for me is longer with us and without him I don't know how to alter any of the settings. So if you've navigated here from my website that's why.

I spent last week working at Nottingham Playhouse on an adaptation of The Tempest - a co - production with Krazy Kat a company who work with hearing and deaf audiences and actors. I'm only starting to get a taste of the politics of the deaf world and I don't understand all of what I'm learning, but I know that the company doesn't have the approval of all because of their inclusive nature. I took the job because it was unlike anything I've been asked to do. I discovered too that the artistic director, Kinny Gardner, has spent the last twenty years working with Lindsay Kemp whose company left a great impression on me when I first saw them when I was student.

We spent the week playing with the text, different performance styles, signing, design, music and puppets. We ended up with a feeling that all the different aspects of the production were facing in the same direction. My job is too provide a textual framework around which everyone else can work. I got the groundwork into place fairly quickly and now thankfully I've got a couple of weeks to try and shape it into something the company can use.