Thursday, 22 April 2010

I do like designers.

Designers are great. At least the ones I have been lucky enough to work work with are.  You can do the most outrageous stuff and they don't object.  You can put in a stage direction like 'The whale surfaces and the boat is sunk.' and while the director might go hairless the designer reaches for their sketch pad or the back ot a fag packet, depending on their working method, and gets on with it.
Kelly Jago is the designer on Looking for the Rainbow - a play for tinies that goes into rehearsal with Big Window next month and when I wrote it - and I am still amazed that anyone lets me lose to write for this age group - I filled the text with stage directions like 'and then they find something and something happens'  then went and talked to Kelly who would immediately come up with the solution.  I did it like this at first because we have  a small budget and the design and what can happen within the set will be an integral part of the experience so the obvious thing was to discuss the possibilities with the designer.  After our first meeting I did it because she had such bloody good ideas.  The picture below doesn't give any idea of all the things the set can do as Kirsty and her Mum go on their search for the end of the rainbow.  Creatures will appear, it'll become a cave and then a river, and finally of course a rainbow, and all done so simply and for next to nothing.  Can't wait.

Model box for Looking for the Rainbow - designer Kelly Jago.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Next Stage.

Yesterday we finished the draft of Buckland/Giants in the Earth by getting it in a state ready to be sent off.  This was more complicated than I realised - it being a musical with songs and music and lyrics and everythig.  The text had to re-formatted to accomodate the lyrics, Matt and his partner Catherine Boot have recorded the songs and we also recorded some scenes as well to help make sense of what looks quite confusing on paper.  I offered to sing but my offer was politely rejected, but I did get to do some dialogue.  Matt puts everything through a program he's got on his Mac.  We record something, then he mutters way to himself for a few minutes whilst whizzing the cursor around the screen and it comes out with all the words and the music in the right places.  Mystifying. 
It isn't completeley finished. Some of the songs are only repesentations of what they will eventually  be and some scenes are only suggestions or experiments.  And in Part Two the music and lyrics only exist as a series of notes.  But the arc is there and our intentions are clear.
I'll pick up the disks this morning, print out the hard copy, add my own notes and send it off.  Matt will disappear to China to work on a show until the beginning of June, and we'll meet up again when I get back from the States at the end of that month, and provided our director hasn't rejected the whole thing as a huge mistake, we'll get on to the next stage. Taking it all apart and starting again. But at least this time we'll have something tangible to work on.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I'm in the process of preparing My Name is Stephen Luckwell for options, the final stage in the lengthy and mysterious process by which plays are produced on Radio 4.  The idea has made it's way through several stages, the last one being pre-options and now this week it will go into the final stage and the decision to produce or not will be handed down sometime in July.  My producer will write up the idea and submit it along with the other ideas from other writers she hopes will be taken up, and I will submit sample scenes.  This is the tricky bit.
I get an idea for a play, and an image of how it starts, how it ends, and a feel for where it's likely to go and the first thing I have to do is write a draft to finds out what happens. As S Luckwell is an adaptation from an existing play I thought it would be quite easy to write a couple of sample scenes. Not so.  As soon as I started thinking about it, and I've already written some pages for a previous stage in the process to see how it might work on radio, I found that it had become a new story.  It now has three characters and moves in and out of the events of one day in a way it couldn't on the stage. And I need to write it to find out not what happens, but how it happens. So I've elected to have my sample pages be the start of the play. 
Then it starts to get interesting.  How much information can I give the listener, how much should I give?  What can I sow in the first few pages to use in the later stages?  At what point do I launch into the story?  How can we use sound to help convey an impression of Stephen's autism.  All of which makes me want to write it even more. I was supposed to send my ideas in today and so I worked on it over the weekend and sent it in yesterday before I tweaked it out of existence.  Fingers crossed.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

All Those Buses Coming at Once.

I went to see 11 + 12 this week. Brook's style is something we've become familiar with but it's still a delight to see such focus and clarity. The performances had that effortless ease that only comes after the hardest work. The story is elusive. There is a mistake over the number of times a prayer should be said. The n mistake becomes a cause. Colonial masters misinterpret the signs. A war ensues. Deaths follow. A final death and the dispute ends. A meditation on our inability to avoid violence.
Last night was Chuck Prophet at the Maze on his own. Excellent. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at how lucky we are top have such a small venue that attracts such great performers.
All my buses have come at once again. As they do. We're on track to finish the first proper draft of the Buckland musical on time. The book is done for both parts, the music is place for part one, and more or less for part two, and Matt is cut and pasting the whole thing together. We send it off, we have discussions and notes, and we start on the rewrites.
Over the weekend I'll be working on My Name is Stephen Luckwell for Radio 4. It got through pre-offers and now I have to get sample scenes together ready for the proposal that will go into offers next week. I shan't be crossing my fingers because we won't hear if it's accepted until sometime in July.
And I've just found out that I have to rewrite and expand A Workhouse Christmas for production this year.
So that's a Buckland re-write and two new commissions. And the Beeb might say yes. And this morning I shall be mainly checking proofs of We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea soon to be published by aurorametro press and available from all good booksellers. Oh, happy day.