23 June 2006

The Miniaturists, No.3

It's all pretty much a blur, but it went off like a bunger (Australian for a firecracker of some sort, I believe - hello OG). We sold all the seats, the performances went without a hitch, no small thanks to unflappable stage management from Tash and Jenny, and the silky skills of my estimable producer Flavia Fraser-Cannon. Besides which organisational miracle there was actually rather a lot of art on display, judiciously lit by Mr Richard Howell. So congratulations and thanks to the writers (and directors): Moira Buffini and Daniel Brennan; Elizabeth Kuti and, er, herself; Judith Johnson and John Burgess; Penny Black and Ellen Hughes.
My own piece Porno Girl was beautifully realised by Lucy Skilbeck. The fact that I'd scripted in a rather complicated sound design, not to mention a heap of personal props, fazed her not at all - she trumped me instead by adding in an uncalled-for pushchair and a bead curtain. This last stood for the entrance to the back of a Manhattan sleaze parlour, and was just so. Thanks very much to the actors Zehra Naqvi (Charlotte), Oliver Senton (Richard) and Tunde Makinde (Rodman) for helping me bring Merin Wexler's story to the stage.
Moira Buffini's play The Games Room was on at Soho a few years ago, but she herself was indisposed for the duration of that short run, so Sunday night was the first time she'd seen the piece performed, under Daniel Brennan's smart direction. Wendy Albiston and Ben de Halpert were Barbara and Tom, locked in marital combat, to the death. They were terrific, exchanging barbs and taunts and verbal punches, finally falling in love again during a game of Russian roulette.
The last time I worked with Elizabeth Kuti, sixteen years ago if you please, she was in two plays at Edinburgh (Equus, and Brimstone and Treacle), and I was one of the stage managers. This time round, she was directing her own work, while I was overseeing things in a different and slightly less hapless way (not too difficult to outdo my younger self). Time Spent On Trains is a deeply affecting piece, about love and communication, about the terrors of childhood, the mystery of time. The performances from Lindsey Bourne and Robert Price gave full expression to the writing, which is freighted with pain and tenderness. It's a very fine play.
Judith Johnson's Believe Me is a brilliant tale of the unexpected, and it was given beautifully detailed direction by John Burgess. It couldn't be simpler in its set-up, two women sitting in armchairs getting sloshed and talking about family and friendship. But the twist, which I can't give here, is horribly good, and gave me goosebumps even when I saw it in the technical rehearsal. Paula Hamilton played the vicar's wife tormented by something she's seen, and Nicola Sanderson her friend, who loves her but doesn't believe her.
The kicker, quite literally, was Penny Black's See No Evil, a short sharp piece featuring Arabian Queen (Sibylla Meienberg), Beauty Queen (Bettrys Jones) and Football Queen (Anna Scutt). Startling to see FQ careering around the space in her wheelchair, chanting One Nil, In The Bernabeu!, to the tune of the Pet Shop Boys' Go West. One of our senior number was moved to say of See No Evil: 'I've not seen such exciting experimental theatre since the seventies.' Nuff said, I think, and job done, till next time.

17 June 2006

It's Miniaturists time again, believe it or not...
Technical rehearsals start at the crack of ten a.m. tomorrow, and the perfs are at five and eight. If you fancy coming there's a little bit of room left for each show - just go here and you'll find all the details.
Much fun at the rehearsals for Porno Girl today. Looking forward to seeing it.

Meanwhile, the World Cup marches on magnificently. Today, I loved watching the Ghanaians win their first ever match in the tournament. Great joy, it was infectious. I've seen a fair few Ghana flags fluttering from vehicles in this part of the world. Ditto Portuguese, Polish, Brazilian, Australian (of course) and sundry others.

12 June 2006


Yeah, Grandma. It's the pox. Chickenpox, yeah. Spotty all over, feeling wobbly, the works. Yeah. So you know, if you could see your way clear to bringing me round a present to make me feel better - Great. Thanks. Anything like that would be great. Okay. See you then, then. Here's Mum back. Bye.

09 June 2006

Tad better today, not because of any cooling off in the blinking weather but because of the footie. Wayne Rooney's fit (for now), ditto Stevie G and finally Eriksson seems to have stuck up the proverbial two fingers to Sir Alex and with him all the naysayers. What price a Rooney winner in the final a month from today? In case you've forgotten, he's an Evertonian - Once a blue, Always a blue - no matter that he plays his club football in Manchester.

He's Everton's gift to English football, let's be clear about that. Though of course if he gets sent off for fighting (probably with Jens Lehmann in the second round against Germany) or crocks himself in a reckless challenge with England already 5-0 up against Trinidad and Tobago, he's a dirty Manc and should never have taken the place of that nice Jermain Defoe.

Three hours to go to the big k.o. Today's World Cup bet: I've got £2.50 says Germany will beat Costa Rica by three goals (4-1). As insurance I've got the same amount says Costa Rica will win by one goal (16-1). As the big fella Ballack has been causing ructions in the German camp it could go either way...

08 June 2006

Socks, Pulling Up Of

Headcold and quite low. Black dog barking in the distance. But work continues to be fascinating, and the boys and B are in excellent fettle. So what's ado?

It may be the weather, and some sort of body memory thing. My Dad died in the August 2003 heatwave and it seems whenever the mercury climbs above 25 I'm vulnerable to these after-shocks. I was pretty prone to instability at the time in any case, dying parent notwithstanding. It was a terrible time for me and it had a knock-on for anyone about me.

Cheering about the Market Boy reviews though, innit. I'm going back to see it soon. Meantime I've been asked to write the last show in the Southwark space, something on quite a large scale, but for a short (week-long) run. It's a pleasure and an honour to be asked, and I'm going to get stuck in to that just as soon as I've got my bearings on The May Queen.

06 June 2006

Very happy to report that Liverpool Theatres are having me up for a week in July to work on The May Queen. Just heard yesterday, since when I've been looking at the play, trying to get reacquainted. Since I last looked at it, in prep for a meeting in Liverpool, I've worked on a succession of short things and so it's suddenly quite daunting having to deal with 180 pages. By contrast, Porno Girl is 11 pages (Times New Roman 12 pt double spaced).

Re the miniature, Lucy Skilbeck is directing, and she's cast Zehra Naqvi as the lead (Charlotte, aka Porno Girl). ZN was leading lady in the second cast of the Lloyd-Webber Bollywood thingo, Bombay Dreams. Oliver Senton is playing her husband Richard and Tunde Makinde is playing Rodman. The play is an adaptation of the brilliant, touching, barking story The Porno Girl by Merin Wexler. It's the title story in her collection and you can buy it from Amazon here, like what I did. Or at the online bookshop of your choice. I met Merin at college when she was a Harvard classics graduate over here on a scholarship. Among many kindnesses she drove me and a couple of friends in her rusted 2CV to Stratford to see Deborah Warner's production of Titus Andronicus. It was twenty years ago but I still remember the sound of the dismembered hand hitting the bottom of the steel bucket.

Reviews of Market Boy start coming out tomorrow. I'm nervous for it, have everything crossed for it. Best of British, DE.

05 June 2006

Comedian Richard Herring writes about going to see a play at the Gate (and stalking Michael Billington), in that compulsively readable style of his. Must try and get to see his latest show before it goes to Edinburgh. Which thought prompts another, that I'm not seeing enough stuff in media other than theatre and telly. I wonder in fact if I don't need a break from the former. Market Boy was a wonderful experience, but Phedre at the Donmar left me cold. Clare Higgins is brilliant in the lead, but the production as a whole put me in mind of Paul Miller's neat disparagement of the majority of classical or neo-classical plays when given the "searing" production the artistic team thinks they deserve, when in fact the wonder of plays like Phedre and Hippolytus, its Euripidean model, is their acute understanding of the fragility of everything. So why's everyone shouting?
As far as telly goes, recent absorbing stuff has been 24 (fourth season), Funland, Lost, and Big Brother (at least until we have to turn off so we can eat our dinner). And the sport of course. In the absence of any terrestrial cricket (if you know what I mean) I've been watching some of Channel 5's baseball. But I have been reading a novel - Zola's Therese Raquin. Also compulsive, but utterly depressing.

01 June 2006

Market Boy...

...is a wonderful, hilarious, filthy, sweet, sexy monster. If it's true that David Eldridge has the hopes of a generation of playwrights riding on his shoulders (or at least, their hopes of having a show on in the Olivier) then he's done us all proud. Or put another way he's bust the lock on a Pandora's box - if of a sudden the Olivier becomes the unlikely home of new writing then for some it's surely going to be a space too far. But Eldridge and his confrere/director Rufus Norris have filled the place not just with thirty or so actors but with laughs (huge waves thereof) and dances and love, with sharply and compassionately drawn characters, with proper, dirty British drama. For instance, the opening - no, I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say today I downloaded Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (my vinyl single is long lost) and listening to it simultaneously conjured memories of my own teenagehood, and the thrilling first scene of DE's brilliant play.

Twenty minutes in, a silver-haired old Colonel and Mrs Bufton-Tufton type of couple bustled their way out of their stalls seats and berated the usher - bloody disgrace!
It felt like the start of something. I hope so.