Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sometimes the theatre's the best place

I had a couple of days down in London last week and I went to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I've never really liked any of the films or the couple of productions I've seen, so I went on the strength of the cast. What a play. What a great big compassionate play. What a journey. I know it was made in 1958 but how did such an ordinary film come out of such a wonderful play? I was shocked, I was moved, I laughed, I was exhausted when I came out and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. And it made me cry. The cast were excellent, not a single weak link from James Earl Jones to the smallest child.
The only production I've seen to compare with it was the New York Waiting for Godot. Both paid the same rigorous attention to the text. And the rhythms in the writing were astounding. Because I doubt there will be a sudden deluge of excellent Tennessee William's productions I shall have to start reading my way through his stuff. Which will mean more books to add to the pile.
I've also just finished Christopher Reid's The Scattering, and I think I'll be dipping back into it for a while yet to get the most out of his writing. It's a wonderful collection of poems. Probably not a good idea to read it on the train as I did unless you want to spend a good deal of the journey staring out of the window trying not to weep. It's not all doom and gloom despite it's subject but it captures the moments of love so precisely that it hurts.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

You can't please all the people.

I got an e mail back from the company in Berlin who were considering doing it in English this morning. I was going to paste their reply in but for some reason I can't which is probably just as well. The gist of it was that they didn't like and they didn't see it as a stage play and they didn't see how it would how the attention of an audience. It lacked a strong conflict and a turning point.
I sent back a very polite e mail thinking them for their comments and saying that I understood that because a play has been successful in one country that doesn't mean it is suitable for another.
In fact I was less annoyed than I might have been because I have got used to the German habit of direct speaking. Germans don't go back after a disastrous show and faff about like we do, they get straight in there. The text was rubbish, performances were poor, the set unusable etc etc. And also because I said to me German agent that I didn't think it was a play he would go for because it lacked a strong conflict and a turning point. It's true what works in one country doesn't always work in another and there is a tendency in some of the German theatre to shoe horn in plot twists and conflicts so the audience won't go away feeling that it has missed out on its' regulation does of angst. That statement is of course very unfair and unjustly stereotypical, but I don't care because I'm miffed that they've turned it down.
When the Hans Otto Theater in Potsdam got me to write a play about a group of kids putting a band together - About a Band, as yet to be produced in the UK, 5 actors, 2 acts, available for me - for them I asked why me, why not a German writer? They talked about the English attitude towards music being more fundamental, and admitted that they'd asked a number of writers but hadn't found what they were looking for. Then Andreas said 'We know you will write a play about a group of kids who want to make a band, not a play about a girl who gets cancer.'
You win some...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Low Road.

I got up early this morning sensing correctly that the silence meant that more snow was falling. I made a cup of tea and wandered upstairs to look out of the top window at the gardens running up the hill. Quite a reasonable covering but for those of us who lived through the day Sheffield was cut off from the world in 1976 (I think) it wasn't that impressive. After breakfast I realised I was wandering round the house singing 'You take the High Road and I'll take the Low Road' in a pronounced English accent. I learned it from the Singing Together booklet when I was at juniors. I thought it was stupid song all about the rather obvious fact that if you wanted to drive to Scotland in the shortest possible time you'd get there quicker if you kept to the A roads. I can't remember when I discovered that removed from it's Heather Club tweeness it was a bleak and moving acceptance of death.
I watched David Tennant's Hamlet before it disappeared from i-player. Brilliant performances all round I thought. A Hamlet who could have taken up the bare bodkin at any moment. Wish I'd seen it in the theatre.
Once when feeling very fragile I was walking above Hebden Bridge taking a break from an Arvon course and I heard the unmistakable clink of climbing gear. I followed to sound to the edge of a small cliff and as I got there I knew it was the wrong place to be and I had what I later found out was a panic attack. I ran as fast as I could across a field towards a wall. I vaulted over the wall and collapsed on the other side my heart beating, head whirling and feeling sick. I closed my eyes and tried to hang on to the earth and reason. After about five minutes I opened my eyes to discover I was lying in a graveyard. Suicidal thoughts can't survive feeling slightly ridiculous. I saw that in Tennant's Hamlet which made his final remarks to Horatio before following Osric to the fencing contest - If it be now, 'tis not to come... - all the more moving. Great stuff.
Hey Ho. Cheerful thoughts for a snowy morning. Time to walk the dog.

Monday, 4 January 2010

And so to work - possibly.

Today I officially went back to work. And I did some too. I sorted out the rewrite of the schools' piece for York Theatre Royal, and worked on the Stephen Luckwell proposal for Radio 4. I had three attempts to get something down on paper and failed each time, then I decided I would stop trying to make it sound like something I was ending in the the BBC and write what I thought I'd like to do with it instead. And that got me started. And then I went for a swim. Halfway down length seven I thought of an ending of the SL radio version and now the notes are scribbled down ready to look at tomorrow morning.
I checked my e mails when I got back from the pool and there was one from a bi-lingual theatre in Berlin wanting to see the English text of SL. That would be fun if they decided to do it. And an excuse to go to Berlin again because I feel that I'm overdue a visit.
I worked today to Test Match Special which in all honesty wasn't an unqualified success. Several times I found myself listening to Geoff Boycott with my mouth open and my fingers resting on the key board with no idea of how much time had passed. I think tomorrow I will not go swimming at the gym but find myself an exercise bike. They have Sky Sports and much as I resent and despise Murdoch and all his works there is nothing like watching it live, and if I combine exercise with watching cricket which will relax me, get me fitter, and get me ready to go back to work invigorated, that's good, isn't it?
Tomorrow is more snow so there is a chance if it is really nice that a walk might be called for - especially if I can't get up the hill that leads to the gym - and I can always start later and continue into the evening. Yes, of course I can.
This year I will attack my work with resolution and vigour. I will.