30 July 2007

Shut Up And Dance

I don't recall ever before buying a piece of music based on a reviewer's rave recommendation. But so I did, and lo, it was transplendent.


29 July 2007

You Wan A Piece A Me?

Alright, Stave Three of Christmas Carol drafted. The famous Cratchit Christmas dinner included. I've switched a few things around and written some new things for them too. But of course as we change the bathwater we need to be careful the baby's safe and well.

Anyhow, here's something daft, an outtake from Seinfeld.

25 July 2007


Oh, the tedious business of waiting for reviews after press night. The early morning texts telling you not to buy this or that paper. The staggering about after reading your work described as "genius" (it happened once, thank you Jonathan Myerson, dramatist and critic). The nice ones fluttering through the hazy air of recollection, the stinkers still staining the nostrils of regret years down the line.
Yesterday I read a just glorious passage in Peter Ackroyd's monument to the amazing life and work of Charles Dickens, concerning reviews. Then a little while later I clicked into JMC's place to find he'd reviewed The May Queen. I know a couple of teachers who've used bits of my work in writing classes - exempla of how not to, possibly - but James's short piece is the first public critical appraisal, to my knowledge, of a play text by me. He's very kind about it, for which I thank him.
Here's that passage from Ackroyd. Dickens is 45, globally famous, something of a juggernaut, monstrously healthy ego, and has just published Little Dorrit...
'Blackwood's Magazine called it simply "Twaddle" (a reference which Dickens saw by accident and which upset him for at least a moment). And one of his first biographers, writing a sixpenny pamphlet which was published in the following year, said of Little Dorrit and Bleak House that they "have not been greatly relished by the public any more than they have been praised by the critics". It was in this period that a handsome Library Edition of Dickens's novels first started to be published, and one of the reviewers of that edition suggested that "it does not appear certain to us that his books will live..." But what did Dickens make of such criticism? A few weeks later he was walking with Hans Christian Andersen, who had been hurt by the reviews of his latest book (in fact he had been found lying face down, in tears, on the lawn of [the Dickens family home] Gad's Hill Place) . "Never allow yourself to be upset by the papers, " he told Andersen, "They are forgotten in a week, and your book stands and lives." They were walking in the road, and Dickens wrote with his foot in the dirt. "That is criticism," he said. Then he wiped out his marks with his foot. "Thus it is gone."'

23 July 2007

The caretaker put the papers in his pocket. The barrow had ceased to trundle. The mourners split and moved to each side of the hole, stepping with care round the graves. The gravediggers bore the coffin and set its nose on the brink, looping the bands round it.

Burying him. We come to bury Caesar. His ides of March or June. He doesn't know who is here nor care.

Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? Now who is he I'd like to know? Now, I'd give a trifle to know who he is. Always someone turns up you never dreamt of. A fellow could live on his lonesome all his life. Yes, he could. Still he'd have to get someone to sod him after he died though he could dig his own grave. We all do. Only man buries. No ants too. First thing strikes anybody. Bury the dead. Say Robinson Crusoe was true to life. Well then Friday buried him. Every Friday buries a Thursday if you come to look at it.

O, poor Robinson Crusoe,
How could you possibly do so?

Poor Dignam! His last lie on the earth in his box. When you think of them all it does seem a waste of wood. All gnawed through. They could invent a handsome bier with a kind of panel sliding let it down that way. Ay but they might object to be buried out of another fellow's. They're so particular. Lay me in my native earth. Bit of clay from the holy land. Only a mother and deadborn child ever buried in the one coffin. I see what it means. I see. To protect him as long as possible even in the earth. The Irishman's house is his coffin. Enbalming in catacombs, mummies, the same idea.

James Joyce

Ulysses, ch.6
While we were away a friend left a message saying there was a photograph in the Saturday Guardian Weekend mag of Colin St John Wilson in the British Library, showing off the place that he built, and wasn't that me in the background?
So this morning I fished a copy of the mag out the recycling at our building and yes, there I am! Having lunch. It must have been taken pre-May Queen because there's a script in the clear plastic bag at my feet. Would post it here but alas can't find it on tinternet (yet).
Here's a very interesting, and touching, tribute to Professor Wilson, who died in May.

22 July 2007

Uncanny resemblance, today has, to a day last year. Back from the Isle of Wight, SeaView, lovely time, boys tremendous fun, much niceness, mountain of work waiting when I got back. Unlike last year though I'm not feeling sudden crisis-y and my general wellbeing is, well, well.

I confess.
I'd never read or seen a play by the extremely well-regarded writer Robert Holman, until yesterday. RH's work has elicited sighs and purrs of admiration from many a theatre person I look up to, and my secret ignorance of the talent that inspires them had been weighing me down. So I've made a very belated start, on the protracted journey back from IOW last eve. (The protraction, and the fact I was travelling sans famille, is a whole other quite uninteresting story.)
Other Worlds is set among the fishing and farming communities in North Yorkshire at the end of the 18th century (as you probably already know, but bear with me). Stylistically, the writing is light on its feet, the dialogue true and full of intention, they are really speaking to each other. In this play at least - I don't know if it's typical of his work - Holman has no truck with the shadow-boxy kind of playwriting, or the drama of isolation, and while yes people do have secrets and tell lies, the principle at work is that people want to be true, they want to love and be loved, they want to speak to each other, they're just finding it tough, and the reasons why, the obstacles, are the engine of the play.
I found it all very moving, in the sense that I felt for the characters and responded to the action, sure, but also that it sparks the imagination, it reaches the critical mass of imaginative force that only the truly talented writer is capable of, tipping the spectator, auditor, reader into another state, such that he is alive to that other world, feels its potentialities and its sorrows. What can I say. I loved it, and as with so many other things I'm discovering in my early middle age, I'm only sorry it's taken me this long.

12 July 2007

The Gallery

Finished a draft of Stave Two, and since today is the occasion of Richard Herring's 40th, what better daft thing to post than a sliver of Fist Of Fun? Magic and hilari-oust. (And Stewart's quite funny too.)
Mud in your eye, Mr Herring.

08 July 2007

Right, finished a draft of Stave One. Poor Marley!

So here's the something daft. Well not daft, exactly. It's pop music of the purest, dance music of the most contagious, and there's a kind of irresistible mania to the performance, they way they ride the euphoric waves of noise, seriously focused, under the spell of repetition... lovely. Ladies and gentlemen I give you, Hot Chip, giving a recital of Over And Over at this year's Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Arts.

Update... The Glasto link kaput so here's HC in NYC. And if you Just Can't Get Enough you can revel in the studio-fied track and video over here.

07 July 2007

Stephen is...

...in the library, listening to African music on Resonance, working on the first stave of A Christmas Carol, struggling with a head-cold. Yeah I was supposed to head off to Bristol on Thursday, just as soon as I checked out Spike's primary school - he starts at Grazebrook, across the park, in September. A couple of politicians and the fashion editor of a national newspaper are among our fellow parents, it seems. What comes of living just east of Islington, I guess. Anyway in Bristol I was to settle myself in at B's parents' holiday flat and unplug all communication devices and just write. Adapting Dickens. What a lovely job. But instead, as I say, I've been kept on a low energy setting by this stoopid common-as-muck cold. Don't want to stray too far from home. It means I get to see the boys and hang out with B in the eve, of course. Productivity is currently, however, not as stratospheric as I'd been planning for my Brizol sojourn.

So instead of nosing around Facebook I shall go back to the play.

Oh and after I finish drafting each one of the five staves I'm going to post something daft here as a present to myself (which you can share with me, if you like)...

05 July 2007


The Miniaturists show this Sunday gone was tip top. Thanks very much indeed if you were among the very discerning, appreciative and distractingly gorgeous audience. The plays took us on an even more varified tour of Storyland than usual, from the playfully disturbing nowheresville of EMBODIED (Glyn Cannon), to an adolescent's eye on the world in FROM BOMBAY TO SANTA FE (my contribution), detouring into a land of grief and sibling intensity with KIND OF DARK (Lance Woodman), before popping in to the twistedly funny REASONS TO SETTLE FOR LESS (Nancy Harris), then finally grabbing a hotdog and a grandstand seat for the almost illegally hilarious MATCH PLAY (Frederic Blanchette).

So many people to thank, as ever. Sarah Jane Shiels and George Dives were last minute recruits to the tech crew and were faultlessly on it. Marilyn and Roger from Arcola beavered away behind the scenes. Tash and Ruth, legendary SMs. Suzanne Bell did terrific work with Lance's play, which was satisfyingly dark and had echoes of Electra (my favourite nasty story). Team Woodman were a joy to work with. Director Elgiva Field took to Miniaturism like the proverbial thing that goes quack, as did her writer Nancy, whose piece, like all the best shorts, was a complete tale in itself but reverberated long after the blackout.
Glyn put together an unusual little number, a ten minute audio piece at the top of the show that begins with the ringing of mobile phones, in the way of those little warnings you hear in theatres to turn off your own. Then an announcer speaks. And away we go. I happened to be sitting next to an Arcola person for the first show, and their momentary disorientation when they heard the ringtones was priceless: 'Is this ours?' As for my play, what can I say but cheers to Lucy and the actors (especially the newly cast Stephen). It was supernice to have another go at it after Liverpool, I made a few tweaks here and there that seemed to work, and I'll be damned if playing in the round at Arcola didn't help our little story get told. Frederic Blanchette's Match Play brought up the rear and was quite simply, to borrow a favourite Stephen Fryism, bowel-shatteringly funny. Lucy (yes her again) did a wonderful job, it was beautifully performed (take a bow Gareth, Ben and Robin), it brought the house down. Job done. It was also a great relief to me personally, finally to see the thing staged. Chris Campbell sent it to me aeons ago, whereupon I showed it to Lucy, who snapped it up and then became too busy to direct but refused, quite understandably, to let anyone else have it. So Chris has had to be the soul of forbearance, for which I thank him, over and beyond the thanks owed for a smooth and witty translation.

And not least. Thank You F.

(Besides running the whole thing with me Flavia took some fine pics, some are over here - click a pic for a gallery view - and there's this one of the writers below... O yes that's right. This is what some playwrights look like. And before you start with any pc musings, we've only had a 4m/1f combo once before, and the last time I wrote one - Miniaturists 3 - I was the odd man out...)

l-r, Lance, Nancy, Glyn, me, Chris