31 December 2006

In No Particular Reverse Order, Some Favourites of 2006


As evidenced by Spike's calendar, never failingly adjusted before he goes to bed, it's nearly Time. So here's a quick look over the shoulder before we sally forth.

Franz Xavier Kroetz, Southwark Playhouse, directed by Maria Aberg


Steely poetics from a modern German master


Waiting For Godot
Samuel Beckett, Barbican, Walter D.Asmus


The meaning of life - and it's funny

Simon Stephens, Royal Court, Ramin Gray


"The war was all right. It's just you come back to this"


Dying City
Christopher Shinn, Royal Court, James Macdonald


Iraq homecoming, this time US style

Les Enfants du Paradis
Dudley Hinton & Sebastian Armesto (after Prevert), Arcola, S.Armesto


A film about theatre adapted flawlessly, with joie

Howard Brenton, NT Cottesloe, Howard Davies


Unforgettable scene with Emperor Nero visiting the future saint in prison

Therese Raquin
Nicholas Wright (after Zola), NT Lyttleton, Marianne Elliott


Crime, passion and punishment in a bleakly brilliant version

Summer Begins
David Eldridge, Southwark Playhouse, Amelia Nicholson

Summer Begins

DE's play in a vivacious, touching production


from Apuleius/Euripides, Barbican, Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices

Absolutely bonkers - like a lecture on classical drama delivered by the Manson family

Too Drunk To Say I Love You?
Caryl Churchill, Royal Court, James Macdonald

Frightening and fascinating, Churchill decries the 'special relationship' - and years of British complicity in US crimes


There were loads more of course - kicked the year off in fine style by going back to see Richard Bean's very funny Moliere, The Hypochondriac, Market Boy in the Olivier was a right larf, I admired Robin Hooper's Not The Love I Cry For and I was very moved by an early preview of Colin Teevan's Seven Pomegranate Seeds. Dennis Kelly's Love and Money was very fine, as was Martin Crimp and Katie Mitchell's take on The Seagull. And my mate Serdar's done wonders with A Family Affair, Ostrovsky's comedy of (bad) manners and social climbing, still playing at the Arcola. I've actually had a rubbish year with the classics, seeing little Greek (I should really have blogged about Swallow Song) and less Shakespeare. Generally this year's been good but I've not seen as much as I'd've liked. New baby Bernard arrived in March and I had to work harder than for ages on various things, especially The May Queen of course. Resolution? Work much harder still, and see more stuff.

29 December 2006

Pip pip!

Just clocked in at the Library and the gent behind the information desk is wearing a cricket jumper and a monocle.

28 December 2006

I love this. Not sure it can be bettered as an adaptation and I may need to revise my 2007 plans accordingly.

Hope you're all having a restful orgy week.

24 December 2006

Just girding myself for the maelstrom that will be the Wallace and Gromit-themed Christmas morning in just a few hours time.
But before I don the Santa kit, let me point you down the road to Chris Goode's excellent link to a long-forgotten (by me) genius.

Meanwhile the genius responsible for the below is Albrecht Durer (or maybe his assistants!). Go to the page at the National Gallery and you can zoom in on the stunning detail. But is it just me or has the Virgin got the builders in?

So anyway happy Festivus and winterval and nativity of the Christ. As for me, the belief has long gone but the power of the story has me in thrall, as it ever did. The baby in the barn. The kings bow down. The heavens acclaim him. All this stirred up with the cautionary tale of Ebenezer, the terrors and wonders visited on him by the three ghosts. And the fresh hell that is last-minute shopping at four o'clock today, the real Nightmare Before Christmas. The tyranny of our appetites.

Bless us, every one.

22 December 2006

Usual nonsense in the run-up to Chrimbo - all good though. Lamb or duck? Chicken or goose? Handily it's just us so we've gone for our favourite cut from Godfrey's - a nice bit of lamb.
Six years married yesterday and guess what - we both forgot! Don't know what that says. Likely that we were a bit too wrapped up in winding things up for the hols to notice. B was preoccupied by prep for her friend Abi's wedding which took place today at St.Paul's in Covent Garden, aka The Actors' Church - Abs is a writer and comedian and she was getting hitched to R who's in the same line. B's just gone back in to town for the knees-up. For my part I signed off and sent a rehearsal draft of The May Queen in the early afternoon before hot-footing it over to Soho Square to see a man about a book. We had a very convivial time as it turned out, repairing to The Pillars of Hercules round the corner for a drink and a chat. We were talking about the Monsterists, and big plays in general, when he asked me if I saw James Phillips's The Rubenstein Kiss, when it was on at Hampstead. Talking with him about it I was stung into remembering that I'd been none too kind about James's (subsequently award-winning) play on the blog at the time, and though I sought there to mitigate my criticism by pointing up the difficulties of working on a big canvas, and that perhaps we do just learn better by doing, and so good luck to him - even so I've had, and still have, a growing sense of guilt for having been quite so sniffy about a fellow writer's piece in such a public forum. I was further prompted to address this by comments on Fin Kennedy's all-new blogspot blog, in which one anonymous soul is moved by FK's criticisms of two recent new works to say that she does feel it's important that writers support each other. Well I'm down with that, actually, for any number of reasons, not least of which is the principle upheld by David Eldridge in his contretemps with a pseudonymous critic and fellow writer during the run of Market Boy this summer, that a lack of generosity is tantamount to self-harming for the writer. Or at least self-defeating. Related is the quote I think attributable to Nicholas Wright, when enumerating the "enemies of writing". Number one is envy. Number two is success. Both these pitfalls are dangerous precisely because they gnaw at one of the writer's essential qualities, the ability to empathise. I've come to the belief that the antidote to both these enemies is an active kind of openness, and generosity (and I'll fight any b@%*?!& who disagrees with me!). You can see where this is going, perhaps. I would here like to offer James Phillips my sincerest apology for not thinking these things through much sooner.

18 December 2006

To The Victor, The Spoils

Credit where credit's due. Jose Mourinho's got us Evertonians a bit wound up though...

17 December 2006

Birthday Books

In no particular order, I was given:
Under Arrest: A History of the Twentieth Century In Mugshots, Giacomo Papi
Dancing In The Dark, Caryl Phillips
Black Snow, Mikhail Bulgakov
Take Ten: New 10-Minute Plays, edited by Eric Lane and Nina Shengold
The Gift, Lewis Hyde
Cold Calls (War Music continued), Christopher Logue
A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being A Ghost Story of Christmas, Charles Dickens (in a 1946 ed).

Love and thanks to the givers, the Dickens will be a re-read and as a bonus it came with these bus tickets tucked inside

bus tickets

Two, so I presume the Dickens was stowed in a pocket while the reader chatted to his or her companion on the way into town.

The conjunction of Clapham Common and (the end of) wartime makes me think of another great book.

B also got me the dvd of Simon Schama's The Power Of Art - we could never get it together to tape it on a Friday night, let alone watch it, but she observed that when I caught the second half-hour of his film on Mark Rothko and the Seagram Murals I was on the edge of my seat and completely choked up at the end, when Schama paid handsome tribute to the transformative power of Rothko's miraculous pictures:

Everything Rothko did to these paintings - the column-like forms suggested rather than drawn and the loose stainings - were all meant to make the surface ambiguous, porous, perhaps softly penetrable. A space that might be where we came from or where we will end up.

They're not meant to keep us out, but to embrace us; from an artist whose highest compliment was to call you a human being.

Rothko also gave good quote about his own work, in a distinctly different style:

I am not an abstract painter. I am not interested in the relationship between form and colour. The only thing I care about is the expression of man's basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny.


15 December 2006

Lay awake last night worrying whether I've got the tone wrong in a key scene. Playing it over in my numb head, trying to see it in the space as it might happen, but sometimes it's pretty useless until and unless you can hear the actors' pitch and rhythm, see their faces and the way they move in relation to one another. I mean I know, it's a no s*** Sherlock scenario isn't it, it's a play scene and needs to be seen. But the writer's got to see it before it's see-able, innhe.
I turned the radio on - it's next to my pillow for super-quiet Ashes listening - but play hadn't started yet, the frequency was still in the hands of World Service, so I listened to a report on manufacturing in India that was simultaneously shocking and boring. Much like the cricket, some might say.

14 December 2006

We Have Explosive!

Now it's The Future Sound Of London, Dead Cities, goodness me I'm enjoying my music today. All seems to be tessellating quite nicely with what I'm working on. Got to love it when that happens.
Listening to Philip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi, borrowed from the library in Finsbury Park. I'd forgotten how good it is. Frig it's good.
Also borrowed - The Fall, Heads Roll; and Einsturzende Neubaten (as featured in the Night-Light show I wrote earlier this year).

Went to the Royal Court's bash last night at the CC Club in London's glamorous West End and had a really fine time, lots of loveliness (alright yes, luvviness, but what yer gonna do). I even danced!

Beforehand I was in Waterstones in Oxford St and realised I hadn't looked up exactly where the club was - I knew Coventry Street was near Leicester Square but I was suddenly glum about traipsing through the crowds looking for it - then it hit me, at that exact moment I was standing on a giant A-Z, which covers part of the bookshop floor. So I moved a couple of steps to my right and studied and found Coventry Street, linking Piccadilly and Leicester Square.

11 December 2006

dec 06 004

Well it was supposed to go up on the birthday, slight Sharkey tradition, but a day late's not too bad. Note elevated position due to concern that if based at floor level small person would inevitably see it as a challenge to his nine-monther's climbing skills. Also note if you please recently up-putted shelving - not by me you understand but by one of Stoke Newington's wondrous regiment of tradeswomen, in this case Claire the Carpenter.

So yes last week's trip to the 'Pool was quite something for me, a succession of pleasant shocks interspersed with inevitable reflections on my upbringing, education etc, finding myself as I did, cast in the role of prodigal writer in the week I turned forty.
Over lunchtime coffee I was introduced to Liverpool arts correspondents by Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon, respectively the Artistic and Executive Directors who run both the Everyman (new writing, largely) and the venerable Playhouse (classics, largely). After that I spent a wee while in the pub, but not just any old boozer, The Philharmonic, opposite the concert hall of the same name. Used to drink in there on a Monday night with my sixth form pals... Took some photos of which the least fuzzy is this...

more nov 06 020

Yes, it is a stained glass portrait of a Field Marshal. But have a look at the panorama here, and you can see the twin lounge rooms named for Brahms and Liszt.

Then as the light was fading I headed to the Everyman.

more nov 06 026

Did some work on the play in the bistro downstairs, then had a delicious plate of food to set me up for meeting the Ev's young writers' group at six, a couple of doors down. They made me feel incredibly welcome and I hope I get to spend more time with them at some point, their enthusiasm and commitment were properly inspiring, and I was only sorry when their session leader - and Ev's literary manager - Suzanne Bell kicked me out to go down to the Playhouse for the season launch. Gemma and Deborah were already speaking when I got there, to a packed audience of subscribers eager to hear what's in store in the coming months, as well as the plans for the capital redevelopment of the theatres. All the programme details are up on the website of course, with the five 'Made In Liverpool' shows complemented by a mind-bogglingly alluring mix of touring work from the likes of Shared Experience, Daniel Kitson, Out Of Joint, so on and so exciting. And in the midst of her presentation, Gemma talked about my play, and there behind her was projected the image you see below, which I'd not seen before.

So all told, a grand day out.

Head down now to finish the rehearsal draft...


09 December 2006

Forty today!

And enjoying the new decade, not least because it's kicking off with my first production in Liverpool, I can finally tell you without breaching confidence, dear friends and others out there in the wide world, and this play is the dearest thing to my heart of all the things I've written, I've bored regular readers about this before, The May Queen, a big old bastard of a play, an attempt to retell the story of Electra and Orestes for the burning city of Liverpool, May 1941.
It's gone up on the Everyman website and I think the copy they've written for it is fantastic, not least the words 'professional homecoming', How nice is that?

So must dash off to do some cleaning, got people coming round for tea and dinner (southern usage) and look forward to telling you more about the funny week I've had, if time allows, and burbling on about MQ no doubt...

04 December 2006

I Haven't Got A Stitch To Wear

I've switched to the new, even easier to use Blogger, and I like it pretty fine. The only downer being the loss of all the links I've painstakingly added the old skool way, over the past getting on for two years...
Anyhoo I'm slowly adding them back - but if there are glaring omissions, if I've missed you (or a link you like) please just prod me and I'll get to work.

Meanwhile I'm off on a trip to Liverpool tomorrow wherein I'm going to have to look presentable, and my wardrobe is calamitously dishevelled, so I'm off to town a bit later to try and find some clobber wherewith I can be presented, I did try French Connection in the revamped Brunswick Centre at Russell Square on my way here (library) but lovely as some of their stuff is, I'm getting ever warier of looking like a midlife-crisis on (denim-clad) legs - I'm forty on Saturday.

And yes it is a work trip but I'm honour-bound not to say anything yet...

I will say this though, I went to Dennis Kelly's play Love and Money at the Young Vic and I thought it was extraordinary. His writing is so nimble and free, with a sharp sort of demotic wit darting through it, and deep skies of serious thought louring over it. David Eldridge has written a cracking post today about metaphysicalists versus literalists, in response to the heartfelt piece on the subject in Encore. For my (love and) money, DK treads an interesting line between 'isms'... I agree with DE that there's quite a detached quality to Love and Money, and I'd add that there's a Zola-like (Zolaesque??) vein of cruelty there too. But it's grist to his mill, I think, as he grinds out a cumulatively moral tale of materialism and its discontents. And that last scene is moving as well as brilliant.

01 December 2006

Now Look

Sir David's new play has just opened in New York, and it's interesting to hear what the fella's been getting up to over there. Billington's given the play a thesis-length review, with none of those demeaning stars - hope that particular manoeuvre catches on. But why are those reviews of all his old plays still up? It's giving me the Fear, man. I need to go and see Naboo, get him to sort me out.