30 September 2006

I've not been to the theatre - not counting my Southwark things - since Under The Black Flag on August 15th. Time was when I'd go six months between shows but since shaking off my black dog I've been a regular playhouse creature, so a six week hiatus feels weird. I'm supposed to be going up to Leeds next week for a two-day thing with 'The 50', masterclasses and whatnot, including a visit to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to see Colin Teevan's new play. But my Dad-in-law the retired GP says it's a trip too far for someone post-viral, and I should probably listen to him. But I've booked for the Maly Theatre's King Lear (click on play titles for some glorious production images), and will of course be heading to my local, the Arcola, to see pm's production of Robin Hooper's Not The Love I Cry For. And in spite of Richard Herring's hilarious preview, I'm interested in the version of Metamorphosis starting up at the Lyric.

Meanwhile though, I'm showing up to the page. Have almost finished reworking the last scene of The May Queen (all twenty-seven pages of it) and will be rethinking earlier scenes in the light, or should I say gloom, of the now pretty damn pitiless ending. Saying nothing of its quality - I've worryingly little clue as to whether or not it's plain rubbish - in terms of classification the piece has shifted from an experimental, mixed-genre type thing, influenced by late Euripides (Ion, Orestes) and medieval fables, to the harsher landscapes of Sophocles and the Elizabethan tragedians. God that sounds grand. All I mean is it's got a lot darker.

25 September 2006

They've announced the five winners in the inaugural Bruntwood playwriting competition, and it's nice to note that two of them had work on view in the latest Miniaturists show. Duncan Macmillan picked up second prize for his play Monster, and Ian Kershaw wins the 'North West Writer prize' for Candy Land . Couldn't have happened to nicer fellas.
Details of all the writers and synopses of their winning works are on the Royal Exchange site.

20 September 2006

Couple of things

Me old china Erica W's got her reign at Newcastle off to a flyer with a production of Dennis Potter's provocation about Jesus, Son of Man. Only sorry I couldn't get up there to see it - it closes Saturday. We did a Potter double bill at Edinburgh once upon a time (1997). She directed Blue Remembered Hills, and a piece I wrote about Potter's genesis as a writer, called Tomorrow Is A Lovely Day.

Meanwhile Maxie has mused about theatre blogging on the Culture Vulture site. Nicely turned, interesting links, and gotta love that picture.

19 September 2006

Got a diagnosis, at last. It's good to know what the hell's knocked me over for a month.
Getting over the bugger, but slowly.
Now that's the last you'll be hearing about it, promise.

18 September 2006


Farewell then, old tea and coffee warehouse in Dickens's 'hood, I loved you even though there was no running water in the bar and I could never remember where was the switch for the emergency exit lights no matter how many times people reminded me. Because theatre is a good, and you served up the goods on a staggeringly regular basis. From Erica Whyman's Winter's Tale, to Maria Aberg's production of FX Kroetz's Stallerhof, through Peter Gill's The Sleepers' Den as given by Thea Sharrock, and The Woman Who Swallowed A Pin (still the only really successful promenade thing I've been to). Summer Begins was a highlight in the past year, as was Ed Dick's scorching production of 'Tis Pity She's A Whore. (This last piece the only one of those I mention directed by a man, by the by...) I also take away and place in a shoebox my memories of four lots of miniatures - Rod Smith dancing to the Floyd in the play by Sebastian Baczkiewicz, Glyn Cannon's eerie piece about a murder during the Katrina disaster, so on.

You see me pictured as I arrived for the last night. Kernackered but excited. There was a lovely buzz about the place, just the right mix of celebratory and wistful. Fulsome tributes to Juliet, who set up the place way back when, with husband Tom and Mehmet (yes, that Mehmet). She's retiring as chief exec, to be replaced by the extremely able general manager Chris, who's been steering the ship towards new waters. Cracking show, incorporating some great singing, some hilarious corpsing and some random crisp-eating (what was that all about, Mairead??). I won't write more about the play - if you'd like to read it drop me a line. But I was pleased with it, it gave me pleasure as always to see my very own thoughts enfleshed, mixed with the abiding terror, the habitual, that someone would stand up and say Hang on, this is rubbish, can't you all see? Stop it immediately, it's embarrassing.

So after, drinks and nibbles (water for me, for a bloody change). Chatting with pm (oh yes. but don't scurry over there for a review, he's far too discreet), Ellen, Charlotte, Erica, Steve, Rupert, Michael, Laura, Lucy, and sundry other lovelies. Including my good lady, released into the community for one night only thanks to a crack team of grandparents holding the line at our place. Operation Milk Out Of A Cup.

I'll wait till it's all properly public to talk about what's next for Southwark Playhouse. Should be good, though! Here's to the next thirteen years.

14 September 2006

Everything Must Go...

Ventured down to the Angel this evening to get one or three presents for Spike - the beautiful little man is 4 tomorrow. Anyhoo I'm coming through the door when my phone goes off. I leave it to go to answerphone and when I check it it's a message from a stranger asking me to call my father-in-law. But nothing sinister - I knew Richard was at the show with B's Mum, and soon realised I knew the voice as that of Simon Hughes MP, Southwark patron (and an acquaintance of Richard's through London politics). I called back and had my ears tickled with praise, the show had obviously gone very well tonight.
As indeed it did last night, when I was there with my Mum. I'll give a fuller account soon, but for now I must say all thanks are due to Charlotte. She's given the play a zing and a swing that keeps it funny and fresh and smooths over the blemishes in my plotting. And the kids! I was bowled over by the kids. Three teenage girls and one younger boy, Hectoria, Kadiatu, Josephine and Charlie were simply brilliant. Flawless and funny and so very engaging - and so a credit to Ellen Hughes, youth director on the show. Looking forward to seeing it again tomorrow, on this bitter-sweet night, when we must say Goodbye, Southwark Bridge Road...

11 September 2006

Reasons To Be Cheerful

The highlight of the weekend was of course this:



Mr Andrew Johnson, Saturday lunchtime, signalling the fact that Everton were now three goals to the good against deadly rivals Liverpool. Hurray. I thought of how Dad would've enjoyed it. Embittered by many an unjust defeat down the years, he'd've been staggered by the fact that, for once, we had all the luck.

Friday, had lunch in Stokey with my good friend L. We sat outside Fresh and Wild eating overpriced food and having a good old moan about everything. Marvellous.

Yesterday, went en famille to the park, sat on the grass in the rose garden drinking tea and watching Buzz roll about. Oh yes. He's six months now and is acquiring new superpowers. Others include pursing his lips so's to look mildly scandalised/titillated, and sitting up unaided (for half a minute).

And there's the show of course. Never has a play seemed quite so far from me in rehearsal, but I'm ever so slowly getting over this thing (whatever it is), so I'll be able to get down to the Playhouse for opening night (tomorrow) if not before. Not been out in the evening since the Miniaturists, three weeks past. But then if I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself I remember B hasn't been out for an evening without Buzz for his entire life.

05 September 2006

Well this is not how it was supposed to go. With three and a bit weeks to go till my May Queen rewrite deadline, I'm still unwell. Nice Dr Sayer gave me my test results today from the chest x-ray and blood taken on Friday. No conclusive diagnosis, but signs of liver inflammation. So she took more blood, this time to be tested for the hepatitis virus, and other things. Needless to say I'm fed up with all this. But it could be worse, in that many nasties have been ruled out.
Confinement is really getting on my nerves now. But actually, after today's news I realise I can't afford to wait till I'm 100% before I get writing again. The deadline is fixed. So if you need me I'll be in bed, working.

02 September 2006

Miniaturists 4

Too long after the event perhaps to give a thorough account of Miniaturists 4. But I must record my thanks to everyone involved. The five writers - Daniel Gritten, Charlotte Allan, Duncan Macmillan, Ian Kershaw and Sam Holcroft - are on this '50' bursary with me and were among a number who took up my offer to write a miniature (I drew five names from a notional hat). The plays were realised by Gemma Kerr, Ellen Hughes, Jason Lawson and Rachel Parish, four directors associated with Southwark Playhouse, and Gordon Murray, veteran miniaturist.
In Dan's play Shark, Paul Croft was monstrous vaudevillian The Great McGinty, and Chris Klein his devious agent, Nebbie.
Suzy Harvey played 'director' Cathy in Charlotte's Heathcliff Number Three, auditioning Michael Lovatt, Milo Twomey and Grant Gillespie for the lead in her interpretation of Bronte.
Ian's play Mr Blue Sky featured Suzanna Hamilton as Jude, and Paul Murray as the telly repair man who comes and wipes all the programmes she's lovingly recorded.
Sam Holcroft's piece Old O'Malley saw Keith Cormican, Daisy Ashford and Erin Hunter get physically involved in an old people's home and covered in stage blood in the process.
And not least, Rosie Thomson made a list of a million good things, in Duncan's play Sleeve Notes .

I can't get my head round the fact that this was the last Miniaturists in that building, but fact it is.