29 February 2008

I took a trip to Liverpool yesterday to try and find some research material for a short piece I'm writing. The day started auspiciously, with me bumping into Serdar on the train, he was on his way to work at the Liverpool Theatres, where he is an associate director (regular readers will remember he directed my play The May Queen up there last year). When we landed I walked with him to the Playhouse to say hello to my friends there, then I headed off to the Maritime Museum at the Albert Dock, more in hope than expectation. But I got lucky. The extremely helpful archivist-librarian Lorna dug out a document that was absolutely perfect for my purposes - a transcript of a docker's work diary for the first few months of 1923. Written in a prose that is at once mundane and vivid, the diary details the crappy working life of the dock labourer in the days before unionisation had properly begun to improve pay and conditions, and when "health and safety" was not for the likes.

15/2/23 Thursday
I had a bit of luck this morning and got on at a boat discharging a general cargo. We were getting rice & I was at the door landing & helping to put 5 bags on each truck in their separate marks for which I get 6d a day extra. The job is hard enough when there are a lot of different marks to be turned over. However it is a bit better than walking the streets so I suppose I must be thankful for it.

Thankful, because he knows the following can happen...

22/2/23 Thursday
Went out again this morning, but after being on 3 stands & failing to get on I went to the Clearing House & signed on for unemployment pay and went home, wet through. Same again in the afternoon.

23/2/23 Friday
Same experience as yesterday. No work.

24/2/23 Saturday
No work.

26/2/23 Monday
No work.

27/2/23 Tuesday
No work.

28/2/23 Wednesday
No work. this being 6 continuous days of unemployment I am entitled by the generosity of the government to 20/- to keep my wife and I from going into the workhouse, where it would cost them 30/- each for us.

No work.

Got on this morning at a boat discharging cotton trucking over a floor thick with dirt and slime. A heavy job all day, but better than walking round the streets.

Hard times. To think, my Dad's Dad lived and worked in that world.
I found this entry particularly touching...

Got on again this morning at the same job as yesterday. The ship being nearly out, a lot got broke at dinnertime, myself among the number. I tried another stand at 1 o'clock but failed to get on, so being a cold wet day I went home & settled myself down to read.

I wonder what he was reading?


26 February 2008

Fame At Last

Like most playwrights who've not got there yet I dream of seeing my name in orange neon on the facade of the Royal Court, or in massive dots on the NT billboard. Until that dream flowers or dies, however, I have the West End Whingers review of Cloudcuckooland to keep the fires of ambition stoked. I was sitting just three down from Andrew in the front row, reminiscent of the night I sat in close proximity to Michael Billington scribbling away during the Euripides I'd done for the Gate. On this occasion though, any latent anxiety had no time to rise, as we were all too busy blowing up balloons, calling out the names of dinosaurs and pledging allegiance to the city state of Cloudcuckooland (complete with actions). But I was sorry Andrew didn't have time (or enough hands) to whip out a notebook, as I'd primed Spike to march up to him and demand to know "What are you writing?".

21 February 2008

E is for Eventually

It's with some degree of shamefacedness that I acknowledge and accept the award of an E For Excellence plaque from Ova Girl. Since I started blogging almost three years ago I've been through some ups and downs, some lean patches and some purple. But I have been less than prolific for some time now, and marvel at the consistent brilliance of the likes of The Whingers, Helen Smith, etc, and of course Ova G herself. I still like posting, though, still get a buzz from getting the odd comment and I shall endeavour to make myself a tiny bit worthier of Vanessa's accolade. Onward!

The kids musical comedy version of Aristophanes is up and running. It's at the Riverside Studios this week and got itself a nice little review from Daily Info when it opened in Oxford last week, at the North Wall Arts Centre. I was very taken with this new-ish theatre (after an initial feeling of being trapped in a world of brown, my eyes adjusted, and under the theatre lights - as opposed to the working lights - the brownness is transmogrified into a comforting, warm browny hue). I saw two dress rehearsals on the Tuesday in Oxford, and was back for the Thursday perf, which was attended by Professor Oliver Taplin (who helps run the Onassis Programme with director Helen Eastman) and his daughter Charis. Charis is just about the target age, so it was a huge relief that she seemed to have enjoyed herself a lot.
Daily Info by the way is an Oxford institution - when I was a student at the university you'd see it pinned up in every caff or bar or common room, the ubiquitous daily digest of Oxford student life, an A3 version of Time Out, and its theatre reviews were widely read and influential. Well like the rest of us it's gone digital - can anyone tell me if the A3 version still goes up? I have half a feeling I saw it in my old college when I wandered through, but that could just be the nostalgia playing tricks on my aged brain. Incidentally my first play Mahler's Unfinished was favourably reviewed in Daily Info and the bullet of pleasure I got when I read it posted up somewhere is lodged in my heart forever. It was actually my second play as I'd worked with my friend Michael on an adaptation of The Picture Of Dorian Gray in 1989 that played at Balliol College then went to the Edinburgh Fringe. I wrote about that elsewhere in the blog, I realise. Must try not to repeat myself. But here's something new - starring in both Dorian Gray and Mahler was Claire Hoult, and in true blast from the past fashion Claire reappeared in my life at the Riverside Studios on Monday, she is now Head of Classics at a school in Oxfordshire and was bringing a class of her pupils to see Cloudcuckooland. Wonderful to see her.

04 February 2008

After a day fussing about behind the scenes yesterday, and the usual relief post-Miniaturists show, and a morning with Bernard, it was back to the keyboard this afternoon for some rejigging of Cloudcuckooland.
Amazing how rehearsals make the play.
Now I'm packing up to head off to the NT, seeing War Horse at last.

03 February 2008

A despatch from the front line, haha. As if putting on a night of short plays in Dalston were ever at all by any stretch comparable to an actual front line.

Third play is teching at the moment, two more after lunch, doors open at 4.30. Frantic rigging this morning by our valiant crew. Angie and Simon, Paul, Ruth and Emma working well and with admirable focus for a Sunday morning. No one on f.o.h. ergo none of the usual caffeine facilities available... till Gemma clocked on at noon and all was well. I was just told that Vanessa Bates's play At Sea, fifth in our line-up so going up at about 6.30 this eve, again at 9.30, is also, this very day (give or take a dateline), on at the Short and Sweet festival in Sydney. Well I'll be.
Okay time to go see how Gordon's tech is going, should be winding up soon...