Categories
a writer's life Novels Poetry Prose Theatre

Stick or bust?

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Skelton Yawngrave, by Margaret Hamlin

When is it sensible to give up? Persistence we are told is a characteristic of success. Against this idea, I always think about sunk costs. An agency pal once explained to me there’s no sense pouring money into a project because you’ve already poured lots of money into it. Likewise, there comes a moment to cut your losses on an artistic project, and not pour any more time into it.

I have been writing a novel aimed at a 10-12 year old readership for almost ten years. Having set it aside for four years, I recently had a moment of clarity about how I could fix the problems that had previously stumped me. While I have felt that this story contains my best writing, it also didn’t all hang together. But at the beginning of the year, I bought myself some time and have decided to try again. Because I believe in the project, there can only be one answer – once more unto the breach it is then.

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Grace Brown, by Margaret Hamlin

This time, at least, I’ve a new weapon: the writing software Scrivener. My friend Catherine Pope told me about its ages ago, and I finally got around to buying it. It has been a revelation.  And thanks to Scrivener, moving blocks of text, reordering chapters, keeping tabs on the story flow, characters and so on, in a 60k text is all far, far easier. Something that would have taken me hours to sort out, can now be done in seconds. And the new (eighth) draft of the novel (now called The second kind of darkness) is becoming streamlined into something that seems to me to be much improved.

When I first started working on this, almost ten years ago now, I asked my mother Margaret Hamlin to quickly visualise some of the characters I’d created. One of them, Skelton Yawngrave, is above, and the girl is Grace Brown, the story’s heroine, is the smaller image. It’s nice to be back in their company.

* * *

Since attending the T.S.Eliot awards I sent off for several shortlisted books. The first one I received was Rachael Boast’s Void Studies and I have enjoyed dipping into her delicate, dreamlike work. Often the poem’s meanings are tantalisingly out of reach, but like dreams, convey a strange significance.  Coincidentally, while reading landscape-1448893172-trumpsleep Void Studies I’ve been going through one of those phases where I remember my dreams on waking. I’ve noticed again how dreams touch on things I’ve tried to sweep under the carpet. Reading Void Studies during the unfolding catastrophe of Donald Trump’s presidency, makes me think about Donald Trump’s dreamlife. Is all that gold compensating for slate grey dreams? What monsters must live there.

What is the relevance of a book like Void Studies in Trump world? None. But that is the exactly the point. A subtle and delicate work like Void Studies is an example of a culture that must be protected from the jackboot of ignorance that figures like Trump represent.

* * *

And while I’m on the subconscious, having decided to relentlessly focus on prose I found myself writing a series of 13 short poems this week. On Thursday morning I wrote eight eight-line poems in an hour. I have never written eight poems in a week before, let alone eight in an hour. It seems there’s nothing like deciding that under no circumstances will you think about something to make the opposite happen.

* * *

All being well, my play A Glass of Nothing will be having a five-night run in the Surgeons Hall during the Edinburgh Festival, in August. More about that later in the year.

Categories
a writer's life Blowing my own trumpet Poetry

In praise of nothing

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Li Yuan-chia, ‘Monochrome White Painting’ 1963

 

I  wish you every happiness for the new year.

On the last day of the year I attempted a deathless piece about 2016. But in trying to write it, I kept descending into pompous windbaggery. My conclusion was that kindness is good, and that treating people with common decency is a rebellious act. And blah, blah, blah-blah… I spare you the long version.

Sometimes saying nothing is okay, isn’t it?  Preferable when what you have to say is barely worth saying. Often I read things in social media, and blogs like this, and I literally would rather have read nothing. It happens with poems sometimes too. It’s quite a good test.

I discovered through the power of google that someone called Sheridan Simove has made lots of money from selling a book with blank pages called What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex. I might think this is a pretty weak joke, but I expect Simove laughed all the way to the bank thanks to nothing.

Is laughing at nothing, the same as highbrow art that frames nothing? Such as John Cage’s 4’33”or the Chinese born UK painter and poet Li Yuan-chia’s 1963 painting above. I know people who have found John Cage’s piece to be hilarious.

One reason I am still under the spell of Samuel Beckett is that his work is full of people in various kinds of limbo doing nothing. In Waiting for Godot or sitting in dustbins like in Endgame or just mouthing into the void in Not I. As Beckett said, in possibly my favourite quote of all time (from Malone Dies), “Nothing is more real than nothing”.

*   *   *

I really liked Robin Houghton’s recent blog post discussing Facebook. She is going on a Facebook detox for at least a month, and gives good reasons.

For my part, when a social media platform becomes an intermediary, with algorithms I don’t understand, it may be time to reassess. Robin talks about having more face time and actual connections with her friends, and I couldn’t agree more.

*   *   *

Curmudgeon that I am, I find January bleak. So imagine my surprise when on January 1st the pleasingly austere postmodern site E·ratio  went live and included one of my, ah-hem, postmodern poems  An explication of three Light Age texts. Also on January 1st I heard from J.K. Shawhan, the editor of another interesting US site called The Basil O’Flaherty  who kindly took four poems to be uploaded in March.

All very weird. Could 2017 turn out fine after all? I hope so.

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Categories
A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Actors Brighton Blonde Productions Guernsey Poetry Theatre

Nostalgia, and other news

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This time last week I was in Guernsey. I loved every moment of it. As soon as I set foot in my home parish of St Martin’s I feel surrounded by magic, and weirdly rebooted. The lanes are sedimented with decades of my memories, which provides the illusion that this is somehow my place. And I feel a love for this tablecloth of land spread over the corner of a little island that can never be erased. It is a piggy bank of my identity into which I have stuffed coins all my life. Above is the view from Icart Point, ten minutes walk from where I once lived.

The word ‘nostalgia’ derives from the Greek nostos for homecoming and algos pain. It is bittersweet, as if the past is a country you might visit. Perhaps one reason why nostalgia is such a close cousin of misty-eyed patriotism.

To my Guernsey family, I was always English. Taxi drivers sometimes ask me on the way back from the airport if it is my first time on the island, and just last week my wife said a cheery hello, to an English couple outside La Barbarie, where I stay. I heard one of them say as they moved on, ‘I do like it when people love our island’. It made me grit my teeth. But I am an exile from the island, and from my past. We all are. We don’t belong anywhere, but we want to belong. That is the algos of nostalgia, and the cause of a lot of nationalistic nonsense in the world. But if I were to belong anywhere, it would be there.

*  *  *  *

I’ve just had a poem accepted by E·ratio, due out in January, which ‘publishes poetry in the postmodern idioms with an emphasis on the intransitive’.  I am attracted to the journal’s rigour, and keep returning to it to be delighted and sometimes enraged by the poems it features. I’ve long enjoyed poetry that confronts you with difficulty,  ever since wrestling with late modernist J.H. Prynne. A long bout I owe to university friend Michael Stone-Richards who bought me a copy of Prynne’s The Oval Window back in 1986.

What was dubbed by ‘The Democratic Voice’ in poetry, (famously by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford in their introduction to the Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain since 1945), has appeared to overshadow the more esoteric reaches of late Modernism and Post-Modernism. As usual (and tiresomely) if there is a debate about this, I am in the middle. I wish more mainstream poetry had more ambition, while some postmodern poetry could stop desperately flashing its cleverness at you. Sometimes I feel like thundering at it, ‘yes I get that you’re clever, and that this poem is an artificial construct, now tell me something I don’t know’.  In a world of ironic speech marks, a dash of authenticity doesn’t go amiss.

And talking of authenticity and the middle way, tomorrow I am  going to the official launch of Charlotte Gann’s Noir. A book, a poet and a person I like a great deal.

*  *  *  *

And finally, rehearsals are now well underway for my plays We Three Kings and A Glass of Nothing, presented in a double bill at the Marlborough Theatre on Thursday 8th December and Friday 9th December. Tickets are here. Below, snap from last night’s rehearsal.

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Categories
a writer's life Music

About ‘The Centaur’, an opera written with Helen Russell

I’ve not talked much about the work I am doing with Helen Russell. We met in December 2014. She contacted me after hearing the CD called Clameur I had done with Matthew Pollard, and she needed a librettist for new a project based on a short story by José Saramago called The Centaur. Here is a link to Nadine Gordimer reading the story.

The project was an opera. And its narrative is centred on the last living Centaur. Saramago shows us the struggle of his half man, half horse nature. He has managed to survive by hiding in the woods of Europe over the centuries. Naturally, he is lonely, and an encounter with a woman by a river triggers a series of events where the centaur draws attention to itself. Eventually he falls from a hilltop trying to escape pursuit, and is split apart and killed on a jagged rock.

The story is deceptive, it seems quite simple to begin with, but rewards reading and thinking about. Nadine Gordimer wrote, ‘there’s as much in this little story as in 20 novels and 20 poems’. Certainly the more Helen and I thought about its dramatic and philosophical implications, the more excited we became. In the intervening years we have found ourselves discussing philosophy, mythology and ontology and the whole process has been one of personal growth. For me it also led naturally from poetry I’ve written re-imaginging mythological characters in a contemporary space. My poem ‘Minotaur’, from the pamphlet, The Nightwork  is one such example. Here it is set to music, not by Helen, on YouTube. I like it when your work seems to organically develop like this.

So for the last couple of years I have been popping around to see Helen in Hove every now and again, armed with tranches of libretto, while Helen has busied herself writing a lush and involving score. With now more than an hour of the opera safely on Sibelius software, plus notebooks of musical sketches and our carefully worked out, our vast project is gradually taking shape. Naturally, as it is opera, there’s no need to hold back from passions, and writing on a grand scale. We have written all kinds of scenes, the first we worked on was a love duet between the woman bathing in a river, and the Centaur who chances upon her. All looked over by Selene the goddess of the moon, as baying dogs and an angry crowd gather offstage. Not every day that you put yourself into that kind of imaginative space.

This is a long project, but I intend to put some more about it here. Meanwhile, here’s a snap of Helen Russell at her piano.

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Categories
a writer's life Blogging Poetry Publishing Telltale Press Theatre

A new play, poetry and other news…

I have been a bit AWOL from cyberspace this summer. A blissful two weeks in the south of France with my wife. I had been using Duolingo to try to refresh my French before I went. Not that the French I was trying to refresh was any good in the first place. However I tried to speak to people. Sometimes it worked, other times I would launch my français and watch people flinch as if in physical pain. New for me was attempting to read poetry in French. It helps if you are fairly familiar with the poetry in translation. So I am re-reading Léopold Sédar Senghor and Aimé Césaire, poets who were founders of Négritude in 1930s France. It has been a struggle and I must keep referring to translations for words I don’t get. But I’m getting a better feel for the poems, and it’s an improving experience.

Returning from France, my alter ego Peter Kenny the Writer Ltd has been hard at it, with two pitches won, and clients with whom I hope some work to be proud of is possible.

New play to be staged this December – We Three Kings

As for the plays, A Glass of Nothing will be staged again by Brighton Blonde Productions this December at the Marlborough Theatre, and old stomping ground for me and Beth Symons. More ‘deets’ here soon.

The show will be of two plays: a slightly tightened A Glass of Nothing, (fresh from its Brighton Fringe success) plus a new short play We Three Kings that I am writing now. Also a comedy, in an edgy, existential, post modern kind of way. Loads of laughs in it I hope.

Poets and poetry

I’m having the dissonant experience of writing what I think of as some of my best work, but going through a spate of rejections. To quote Wordsworth ‘The poet, gentle creature as he is…’ [no female poets obvs.] ‘… Hath, like the Lover, his unruly times; His fits when he is neither sick nor well, Though no distress be near him but his own Unmanageable thoughts.’  A glut of rejections and I get if not quite unmanageable thoughts, certainly the odd gloom.

More happily, I went last weekend to Free Verse: Poetry Book Fair where I was on the Telltale Press stand, with fellow Telltale poets Sarah Barnsley  and Jess Mookherjee. It was the launch of Jess’s pamphlet The Swell, which is pretty exceptional. I also bumped into Charlotte Gann, whose book Noir is hot of the press. I greatly admire Charlotte’s work so I snapped up my copy right away. By far the most exciting poet I heard read was Judy Brown, reading from her book Crowd Sensations. More about Crowd Sensations, The Swell, Noir, and John McCullough‘s stonking new book Spacecraft, here at a later date.

Below a snap of me and Sarah Barnsley getting slightly overexcited at the poetry book fair. Then one of  Jess Mookherjee, with Sarah. Sarah edited Jess’s pamphlet The Swell.

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Categories
A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Actors Blowing my own trumpet Brighton Fringe Theatre

Better than I’d dared to hope for

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Peter Kenny, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons and Dylan Corbett-Bader a few minutes before our final performance

So what a week. I’m writing this first thing on a Monday morning, after an extraordinary week. A Glass of Nothing played to three sell out audiences. It garnered some great reviews (which I’ll link again to here and here).

Having now seen the play run in front of living breathing audiences, there are bits I’d like to quickly tighten up, and other bits I’ll cut. I’m convinced the play has excellent bones, however, and it is definitely worth pushing on with.

The cast were a joy to work with. Beth, Kitty and Dylan, were sensational and there were no passengers in this cast. People’s feedback to me on all three has been fabulous. Beth carried the show, had the biggest part and showed enormous bravery transforming herself into a sensational diva, by turns touching and outrageous. Kitty, proved herself a versatile, natural comedienne and won herself an agent through her performance.

The most pressure was on Dylan, who for reasons already gone into on this blog, was featured in the national newspapers. He showed off a delicious comedy timing. He really is a loveable young man, on and off stage. I am sure will go on to achieve whatever he sets his sights on. His family are wise enough to protect him from the weight of expectation and let him flourish in his own way.

I found myself being quoted (as ‘Peter Kenny playwright’) on page three of The Daily Mail. Inevitably in the telling of Ronnie Corbett and Dylan’s story there was a slight warping of reality. According to the press, Dylan had the starring role in the play, for example, while  Beth and Kitty appeared in photos uncredited. That all their photos were on websites and in local and national newspapers, just from having been in a fringe show, is rather splendid though. And I’m naturally chuffed that a play I wrote was the context for all this.

So Beth and I are going to have a planning meeting later this week, to decide our next steps. But I think we’re both determined there will be next steps. And on a rather grubby practical note, having not made a loss on the show is rather nice. Traditionally fringe shows are holes into which money is poured, but when the beans are counted we will make as small profit, we can invest in the next production, such as buying tickets to Edinburgh for example.

Below: the glamorous backstage reality of the fringe.

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Categories
a writer's life Poetry Theatre

Two thoughts on poetry vs theatre

As a poet who writes plays, here are a couple of thoughts about poetry vs theatre while rehearsing my play A Glass of Nothing for the Brighton Fringe.

Control

 

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I love this image of Jackson Pollock, at work above, because it makes me think about control. When people publish my poems I am always chuffed. But if they choose not to, that is their own affair. I can’t control it. The only bit I can control, however, is writing the poem as best I can. I think of this as focusing on the job at hand. (This is not to deny there are other black arts of persuasion, schmoozing, expert social media work etc. to tip the balance.) Though I sometimes share drafts of poems, I never write poetry in a spirit of compromise. There are fashions in poetry, but the poets I most admire write like themselves ; set the style, not chase it.

You can write the first draft of your play alone, just as you would a poem. You might even find that ideas and metaphors you might use in a poem, can also be used on stage. But the moment your ideas solidify into living, breathing actors, you cheerfully surrender control. Your idea becomes enriched as a co-creation. As a born collaborator, I love this process. I have less control, but find it liberating.

I write poems in a tightly controlled way, and working on this play is making me question how I write poetry, and if I can do it in a less rigidly-controlled, more splattery way.

 

Suggestion 

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Here is Beth looking in an imaginary mirror. We’ve just got her a real one to stare at for the show. But in a play I love how a whole world can be suggested with a glance. In my play, for example, a character peers behind one of the flats backstage and says ‘the fire is licking through the forest’. The audience naturally imagines what the actor is seeing, with no special effects budget at all.

Of course poems leave things unsaid and imply things all the time. While there is a visual element to how a poem is laid out, most of the action takes place in the reader’s head. The poet in me is loving the way the theatre allows you to take the action from inside your head, and place it in  real three dimensional space. Unlike film, which often attempts to show you as much as it can, theatre is full of suggestion. It positively magnetises imaginative participation.

Categories
A Guernsey Double a writer's life Guernsey Guernsey Literature Photography Richard Fleming

Home is where the hurt is

JasonWilde-Lower-ResFor someone who hates flying as much as I do, I seem to travel a lot. Countries as far apart as Mexico, Chad, and Japan have seen me emerge from the plane blinking in gratitude to the sky gods for my safe arrival, and ready to explore. But when I return to Guernsey I feel I am coming home. I turn inward to reboot and take a long hard look at myself and what I’ve been up to since my last visit.

Guernsey obsesses me. I want to back people into corners and tell them everything I know about it. Being exiled from the island hurt me into writing poetry when I was in my teens. I’ve written about it ever since, including in A Guernsey Double (2010) with Richard Fleming, and more published work since then.

Last week my wife and I took my mid-20s stepchildren and their partners there for the first time. But I soon realised what I chose to show them wasn’t just the island, it was a covert way of showing them myself. I began to wonder uncomfortably if I was actually seeing Guernsey at all, instead of something scripted by my imagination and my memory. Frankly it was all getting a bit ‘me-me-me’. It made me think how my writing about the island has been received with a suspicion – above and beyond the fact it was poetry – in some quarters. For example when A Guernsey Double was published, Richard and I were welcomed more than once onto BBC Guernsey, while Guernsey Press completely ignored its publication.  I can completely understand this however. It’s a bit like how I was tempted to blah-blah about the island, and show people around ‘my’ island. I fully understand that local people must be heartily sick of folks imposing a narrative on their home.

I couldn’t help note the irony that I was tripped into this realisation by an exhibition by London based photographer  Jason Wilde, whose exhibition Guerns, was running at the museum in Candie Gardens. Jason’s photos captured candid images of local people in their own homes. There was some piercing work in the exhibition, as you can see from the lovely spotty piece above. I loved the absence of sentimentality, nostalgia and how it didn’t over-egg its subject matter. The exhibition has an admirable clarity and truth about it.

This exhibition jabbed a sensitive spot on the island. Guernsey is a small place that was once dependent on tourism and its tomato industry. Guernsey Toms were familiar to shoppers in the sixties and seventies. But when the UK joined what was then called the Common Market, Guernsey Toms were undercut by cheaper Dutch tomatoes. The industry rapidly sank, and for a while this was replaced with flower growing but that withered too. The island that once glittered with greenhouses as you flew into it, is less sparkly now.*

Since that time the financial industry has been Guernsey’s mainstay. To keep it going it has imported lots of well paid folks from the UK and beyond, which is in danger of creating a two-tier society.  The gorgeous parish  I grew up in, St Martin’s, nearby houses were full of my relatives, who were ordinary local people. But the houses have now been gentrified. Now you just have to look at the cars parked in the gravelled front gardens to see how things have changed.

As Jason Monaghan, Director of Guernsey Museums said talking about the Guerns exhibition, “The contemporary photographic archive that is being built throughout this series is invaluable and is something for both current and future generations to enjoy”. I whole heartedly agree, and would add that Jason Wilde has photographed local people at what may feel like a vulnerable and uncertain time in their history.

I have recently finished a long poem about the island, imagining it as a kind of Atlantis sunk in time. It is the culmination of a long sequence of introspective poems that goes back to my teens, but this last one feels like the end of a chapter.

I am already planning my next visit. But next time I am going to go different places, and will speak to different people. There are new stories I’d like to hear told, and Jason Wilde’s exhibition has forcibly reminded me of this.

So it’s a big well done from me to Guernsey Arts and Guernsey Museums. Brilliant stuff.

* I took the snap below last week, there are several ruins of the tomato industry still to be seen.

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Categories
a writer's life

A writer’s progress, in 3 machines

1: the mould green typewriter.

 

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At first it was all pencil, fountain pen, biro and felt tip, until a mould green typewriter changed my life. It had belonged to my Canadian great-aunt and somehow found itself at our house in London. Plonking, one finger at time, I transferred my secretly pencilled hoard of teenage poems into typescript.

Their newfound legibility in the typewriter’s font changed everything. The poems could be held up to the light, instead of skulking in the shadow world of out-of-date diaries I wrote them in. Typed, they suddenly belonged to the wider world. The quirks of my handwriting became irrelevant. My choice of words was the only thing that would make them different from any other page of typescript. It revealed things too. Lines of poetry that were the same length in my handwriting proved annoyingly ragged in typescript.

The percussive snap of the keys on the roller also meant I could no longer hide the fact I was writing. Sometimes I had to explain myself. Part of becoming a writer was that other people had to accommodate the fact that I typed at strange times in the night, or first thing in the morning.

Curiously, at university I never used my typewriter for essays, but reserved my gastropod typing almost exclusively for poems. The lumbering thunk of words accreting letter by letter was far slower than the speed of thought. But I think this laborious process made me notice how some words sparked like flints together, while others lay inert.

I felt bizarrely self-conscious when my first poems were published. The realisation that a few people might actually read what I’d written on my typewriter, stopped me writing for two months. This probably sound quaint. But this was before the internet, where we can tweet the world in seconds. Being published seemed an enormous step.

2: the stepdad’s Amstrad

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The next upheaval to the means of production (in my twenties I was a Marxist) was the arrival of the Amstrad PCW in my mother’s house, one of the bourgeois fruits of my American stepdad’s capitalism.

The revelation of word processing is impossible to overemphasise. In my lifetime it has been the single greatest invention for the writer. There I was using a LocoScript word processor and realising the inexpressible joy of being able type something, then edit it before printing. Although my three-fingered typing technique had speeded up a bit by then, having to retype an entire page because of a mistake was routine. Now the fix took a few seconds. For a writer it was liberating. For a start it did away for daubing Tippex onto your typescript when you mistyped. Change something, and press print and there it was (albeit in a weird and dotty font) right away.

Moreover I had my first glimpse of how a computer could be useful for other things. I got a teach yourself to type program for the Amstrad. Within a week, not only could I type without looking but I had already tripled my typing speed.

Life after the Amstrad was never the same again, and computers very quickly became ubiquitous in the workplace. I found myself working with computer companies too, a seven-year spell at IBM and then working with Dell as a major client. But my chief tool has always been the word processor.

3. my new iMac

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What prompted this post was the purchase of an iMac. My trusty old PC was having dark thoughts and absences so had to go. But my iMac is generous where you want it to be, i.e. the screen, and sleek and petite everywhere else. It is a beautiful object, and the first desktop computer I’ve owned that I admire aesthetically. But the most important job of my  computer is its ability to word process.

Secondly the ability to research things on the internet has revolutionised the process of writing since the Amstrad days. I am of a generation who remembers having to trudge off to the local library to look up facts if you didn’t happen to have the right book on your bookcase.

Naturally blogging, social media such as Facebook and Twitter have transformed the whole environment for writers. Anyone can post about a plate of rocket salad and it instantly reaches 300 of their closest mates. Dispiritingly, I wonder how this compares to the number of people who read a poem that has taken months to write when it appears in a magazine or online.

This compter (and all those other platforms of phone, laptops, tablets and so on) has changed the world in which writers live. Instead of a solitary weirdo in a shared student house typing poems at three o’clock in the morning, the world is full of people with screen glow faces typing endlessly, updating statuses, communicating things about themselves, making connections, learning and uploading all kinds of content. It is incredibly exciting, and democratic.

But if I’m honest, I have a tinge of regret too. When I typed on my mould green typewriter, I felt it was a sort of special calling. Now living as a citizen of the information age, it is impossible to escape the fact that I am one voice among billions. This certainly quashes delusions of grandeur, and is as it should be. But, just once in a while, I miss those times before the bubble was pricked.

Categories
A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Actors Brighton Fringe Comedy

A Glass of Nothing – update

So, this play then… ‘A Glass of Nothing’ Its first staging will be at The Warren, Theatre Box, Brighton on Tuesday 17th, Wednesday 18th, and Thursday 19th May. I will be obviously trumpeting this from the rooftops before it happens.

To give you an idea of what it’s about, here is some blurb:

Have you ever watched an actor on stage drink from an empty glass? See how she wipes her hand across her mouth and belches appreciatively.

When a young woman’s life is blighted by no money, no job and no one to love, what choice does she have but to drink from a glass of nothing? But what really is in this glass? Not nothing, oh no. It’s brimful of imagination and fizzing with dark comedy.

Beth Symons plays our heroine, gulping from a glass of nothing to transform herself into anything she desires. Tonight she is the most beautiful woman in the world, a woman whose love life is a tapestry of intrigue and excitement, whose career ascends to dizzying heights…

But what happens when her imagination invites argumentative, wrong-headed people on stage who refuse to follow her script? Watch as Beth battles to keep her vision pure, and stave off the dangers of self loathing and the banal challenges of life in a rented room.

Dare you join her in a glass of nothing?

The play is a three-hander. Beth, who I am writing it for, is pictured below. Beth and I will be auditioning for two parts ‘1F 1M’ starting this Thursday. Through her networks Beth has arranged for several people to audition over the next few weeks. We’ve booked a room and (among other things) will be asking people to read a snippet of early dialogue (which still needs a bit of polishing). As the dialogue is pacy we’re obviously looking for good timing.

I’m still working on to complete the first draft, which will then be thrown to the actors to see what works, what can be funnier and so on. I am fairly pragmatic about all this. The play has a strong structure, and in my, um, vast experience (of having a few plays performed in fringe theatres) I want the play to work as a drama as well as making people laugh. If the story intrigues people that’s a real bonus. I also like a disturbing current to flow through the narrative so the funny bits sparkle.

Beth’s part will call for bravery. She is going to have to be a complete vamp at times. We have been looking at everything from Burlesque dancers to the amazing Eartha Kitt for inspiration. When people are playing a comedy grotesques is that you can’t do anything with self-consciousness. It communicates itself to an audience, and they start squirming on your behalf. And we can’t have that!

I’ll let you know how the auditions go…

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