I finished Team of Rivals by Doris Kearnes Goodwin this week. I started this account of Lincoln's presidency and how he ensured its success by bringing into his cabinet the best men even if they were opposed to him in the summer and and enjoyed it so much that I rationed myself because I didn't want it to end. I could hardly bring myself to read the last 100 pages because I knew that bastard Booth was going to assassinate him. I have a new hero. What a man. If there are other books that will tell me that everything he's supposed to have done was down to blind luck, and that the Gettysburg address was written by someone else, I'm not interested. In common with most nations the UK history syllabus is heavily nationalistic so I grew up knowing little or nothing about Lincoln. This book, so well written, was a revelation. I marvelled at each page, each new act of wisdom or magnanimity. And so astute. So human. I felt bereft as I read of his final visit to the theatre. Come on, America, you had Lincoln, FDR, Luther King, you can't settle for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. Can you? Mind you, who are we to criticize? Thatcher, Blair, Cameron... God knows, we need someone.
So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus
Maybe he can help you out
Come back Woody Guthrie to us now
We had the meeting about where to go with the musical. Fortunately the response to the two performances during the development week were very positive. As Matt says we can now start to take things out that don't work in the knowledge that we know exactly what kind of hole we've left to fill. I think I've mis-quoted him but anyway, it made sense when he said it. Structure ready by December, a script ready for the creative team, designer, MD, choreographer, marketing by Easter and hopefully into rehearsals in the last week of August. No problem. One apartment, two coats, one afternoon.
We went to see Stephen Fearing on Friday night - together with nine other people. He played a great set and his affability and generosity helped turn what could have been an embarrassing evening into a good night out. A great guitarist with some cracking songs. His remarks about opening for Richard Thompson at the Royal Festival Hall and how his next cd would feature Emmy Lou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Cassandra Wilson et al emphasised that he is slightly better known outside Nottingham and probably served to remind him that he doesn't play to a handful of punters every night of the week. Tomorrow I go with Matt to Sheffield to discuss with Karen our director where we should go next with Giants in the Earth , the Buckland musical. Now that the panic of getting it up and ready to perform in Oxford is past it's easier to start to see what should be kept and what should go. All we've got to do is make sure we end the meeting all agreed in which direction we should be heading. I've got some thinking to do and some notes to make.
Back home after a week in Oxford working on the Buckland musical with seven brilliant singers and an amazing MD who doesn't seem to have the same need for sleep as the rest of the world. I watched them do it but I still don't really know how they managed to learn the music, make sense of the script, and all the rewrites and produce a coherent exciting performance in three and a half days. As I expected the main lesson of the week was cut, cut, cut. Matt and I felt that by the end we have a structure that we can build on. Now we have week away from it and then we meet again with Karen Simpson, the director, to discuss where we go from here. It was a pressure having to produce a performance for an audience in such a short time but we did discover that a musical about searching for dinosaurs and fossils in the 19th century might sound a bit odd but it works, it's exciting and those who were there want to see more. Onward and upward... with a year to go! I don't usually move from my usual position of positive pessimism, but, I think, we may, just about, if we're lucky, get it right.
Development week for the Buckland musical starts on Sunday. Next Thursday there will be two read/sing throughs at the Natural History Museum in Oxford and so the pressure is on as we're hoping not only to attract potential sponsors ahead of the cuts that every one is waiting for later this month, but also to interest other companies in a possible co-production. So the week won't only be there to try out ideas and possibilities but it also has to have an end product which is a little bit scary. On the one hand Matt and I are telling ourselves we've identified a number of problems, we are looking forward to discovering more during the week, and then taking the piece into the next rewrite with a year to go before it goes into the production, and that gives us confidence and makes us feel as if we're progressing nicely. And on the other hand, we have to make sure that a show that's not got all the music, has only just arrived at its first meaningful draft, will, in three and a half days, plus several gallons of midnight oil, be ready to go in front of an audience that needs to be convinced that they want to become involved with its future development and eventual production. So you could say there was a certain amount of tension in the air - from all concerned. What's to say but - onward and upward.
GETTING BETTER SLOWLY - Published by Playdead Press
A GIRL WITH A BOOK AND OTHER PLAYS - Published by Aurorametro
THE UNDERGROUND MAN - Published by Aurorametro
A GIRL WITH A BOOK - Published by Playdead Press
MY NAME IS STEPHEN LUCKWELL - BBC audio download
WE DIDN'T MEANT TO GO TO SEA (adaptation) - Published by aurora metro
WARRIOR SQUARE - published by aurora metro
There are currently 16 productions of A Girl With A Book in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark.
Mia will open in Dinslaken in October 2017.
Warrior is Square has a new production in Dresden autumn 2017. A second Bosnian production of Warrior Square (Trg Ratnika) opened in Bugojno at Theatr Fedra. There is also a second Croatian production opened in Juky 2017.