31 July 2006

Back again!, this time from the Isle of Wight, where I spent the last week with B, boys and in-laws. In Ventnor, near the southern tip of the diamond, stayed in a wee house just above the beach to the left of the picture, called, kidding you not, SeaView.

Did very little, pootered about on beaches, dandled the baby, did puzzles with Spike, got addicted to the tuppenny falls in the amusement arcade, that sort of thing. Now I've got a mountain of work to climb...

22 July 2006

Back from Liverpool last night, after the week's workshop on The May Queen. It was an extraordinary six days, and the end result is I've got a better play. The heatwave made the work more arduous of course, and all credit to the team for staying focused and creative. So thanks and cheers to Craig Cheetham, Meriel Scholfield, Stephen Fletcher, Gillian Kearney, Mark Arends, Neil Caple, Annabelle Dowler and of course Serdar. The piece has really got tighter and at the same time broader, as new dynamics emerged between characters and new scenes suggested themselves, taking shape in improvisations. Some of you will be well familiar with the development workshop, and no doubt have stories good and bad about the process, but this was my first such week and it was a very creative experience, a tremendous workout. I felt very spoiled (seven actors, for a whole week!) and at the same time really challenged.
For reasons that need not detain us, my digs didn't work out so I ended up staying with my sister, who valiantly gave up her bed so I could get proper rest. This meant that my journey to the Playhouse began at Roby station, next door to the hospice where my father died in the last major heatwave, 2003. Spookily apposite, as I began the week by explaining to the actors how I'd come to realise that the impetus behind the play was my anger at Dad's death. Regular readers will know that what I've been trying to do is re-imagine the story of Orestes and Electra for Liverpool during the May blitz, in 1941. I'm way nearer that objective right now, thanks to the beneficence of Liverpool Theatres and the industry of the people named above.

In other news...IT'S A BOY!!

11 July 2006

This minute, Radio 3 is playing the full-length version of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd's 1975 tribute to their former member Syd Barrett, who died on Friday. Legend has it that "a heavyset man with a completely shaved head and eyebrows wandered into the studio while the band was recording Shine On. They did not recognise him for some time, when suddenly one of them realised it was Syd Barrett. He was greeted enthusiastically by the band but subsequently slipped away during the impromptu party for David Gilmour's wedding, which took place later that day. It was the last time any of the other band members saw him." (Wikipedia)

In other more cheerful news... Encore Theatre Mag is back! Absolutely marvellous. The new entries are very provoking. It's great to see their flashing blades cutting a swathe once again. Though being a cowardy custard, I slightly blanch at some of their more personal thrusts. Anonymity's a funny thing. Like old man Plato says, if you found a magic ring that made you invisible, you could go round doing good stuff, or you could just be really, really naughty, safe in the knowledge you do so with impunity. Encore though, for me, do plenty enough good to keep them on the virtuous and lovely side of the line.
Also joining my blogroll today, incidentally, the virtuous and lovely (and disgracefully talented, from what I've seen) Tom Morton-Smith.

More on provocations and anonymity. The Whatsonstage messageboard has hosted a fascinating exchange between David Eldridge and a pseudonymous detractor, 'Carl Linden'. Eschewing anonymity, DE sparred with CL about Market Boy, mounting a patient defence against the hysterical accusation that the play is "crap, and totally inauthentic". DE is to be applauded for stepping up to the plate, and if you'll forgive me further extending the baseball analogy, he threw his opponent a curveball (he pitches as well as bats, stay with me on this) by asserting that 'a spirit of generosity' is essential for a dramatist (as CL appears to claim he is).

06 July 2006

Well I told you Rooney would get sent off. No s***, Sherlock, you might reasonably reply.
Reasons to be cheerful: just as Arsenal are my adopted 2nd club team, so I decided to support France after their magnifique win against Spain, led by Zinedine 'The Sorcerer' Zidane. Had England not imploded, and gone on to meet Les Bleus in the semi, I'd've been in footie heaven. As it is, I'm just glad Zizou and his merry men are in the final on Sunday. Had it been Portugal v Italy, World Cup fatigue may have struck, with the finishing line in sight.
*July 12 postscript - too depressed about the final for words. Une catastrophe. Bitter indeed to recall that Materazzi was once an Everton player. The shame.

Been to see three plays at the National lately. Market Boy is considerably shorter than it was in preview!, but it's better for it, smart and fast and funny. The bawdiness, the bluster, the extra-larger-than-lifeness of the market creatures, the sarkiness of the politics - all that reminded me, at last, of Aristophanes.

I'm no student of Chekhov, I take the productions as I find them, so The Seagull was to me not the desecration seen by some critics, but a strange and seductive experience. Soporific, in a good way. There was an ominous soundtrack underscoring a lot of the action, I found that fascinating, unsettling. Sadly for me, the people in front of me broke out in giggles as Ben Whishaw made his preparations at the end of the play. So the climax was kind of ruined. I will say, actually, the tinkering with the last line was all wrong, not on principle, but because it just didn't work.

When I saw The Life of Galileo in the Olivier I was perhaps a bit overtired, distracted. I think it's a great play but it was an effort to join in and believe and be tense and worried and partial, while listening to David Hare's version for over three hours, while perched near the roof of that hangar. There are two intervals, the third act is overlong. Yes, Sir David, it is one of the great plays about intellectual betrayal and all that. But actually, the intellectual in the drama is quite simple, and though the timespan of the action is thirty years, Brecht's play zips along when you read it, sketching its way through Galileo's ups and downs. So why did the third act feel so interminable?

Meanwhile I'm redrafting The May Queen, which is hard work, but I'm sure it's supposed to be. The news is that where I used to say I was writing a version of the story of Orestes set in WW2 Liverpool, it's now probably truer to say it's an Electra. I'll soon be up in Liverpool working on it for a week with Serdar Bilis and a gang of actors. Yikes.