Categories
Actors Autobiographical Comedy Theatre

First night tonight at The Marlborough

So the first night of our double bill, We Three Kings, and A Glass of Nothing is tonight at the Marlborough Theatre. Till the evening comes, I feel in limbo. We’ve had long rehearsals over the last few days. Our tech rehearsal was last night. It certainly focuses your mind and clenches the bowels when the stage is lit and dressed, and people are in costume. Tonight sees the first performance of We Three Kings so I am slightly terrified. Being very confident about A Glass of Nothing helps a lot, however.

There are still a few seats available on the door should lovers of dark comedy want to come on impulse. The Marlborough Theatre deets are here.

Being in The Marlborough theatre reminded me of the first time I was there seven years ago for a meeting about something completely different. I snuck onto the stage, and just soaked up the atmosphere of the empty theatre. Unexpectedly, I had a powerful feeling of homecoming.

My first flirtation with writing for theatre was sparked by my friend Timothy Gallagher. It culminated in us staging plays we had written at the Water Rats Theatre in London. Tim was like an infuriatingly talented older brother. But as his death loomed (of AIDs at the age of 37) I shelved my work and focused on helping him stage his own plays. Sometimes he would check out of hospital, get a cab and perform at a venue I’d helped sort out, then go back to the ward. His performances, seen by very few, were electric.

I took me about fifteen years to realise I had been experiencing survivor’s guilt. I didn’t understand at the time, why I was no longer able to face theatre or even poetry readings for about ten years. So I will be thinking of Tim tonight, but in a happy way. And thanking my lucky stars that I worked my way back to theatre again. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of witnessing an entire world being conjured up on stage. It an act of magic. And when people are laughing at a line you’ve written, to be the writer sitting in the audience is a fine thing.

A snap from rehearsals two days ago. James Kuszewski fascinating Beth Symons with a walking stick.

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Categories
Brighton Blonde Productions Comedy Theatre

Time to shine

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After a six hour rehearsal, a snap taken last night in The Duke of Wellington whose rehearsal room we are using. Left to right, James Kuszewski, Dylan Corbett-Bader, Kitty Underhill and Beth Symons all with well deserved cookie accessories. I think their performances are peaking at just the right time. Beth has struck the balance of ensuring the cast is well rehearsed, but not jaded. We’ve got some intensive work this week, before our shows at the Marlborough Theatre this Thursday  8th and Friday 9th. Please come along if you can. A nice preview of our Brighton Blonde Productions show can be found here in BN1 Magazine.

The older I get, it becomes clear that time is the most precious resource. In my experience, no kind of art happens in a vacuum. Everyone else in the cast is juggling work and other commitments. As for me, in the last two weeks I’ve been visiting my mother’s husband who has been in intensive care in  a London hospital following a triple bypass. This kind of stark contrast, moving from intensive care ward to rehearsal room, increases my  determination to take every opportunity I can. I hope not an out of control egotism, just a desire to say everything I have to say that’s worth saying, while there’s still time.

That four such talented and hilarious actors are happy to give up their time, effort and energy to make these two dark comedies live and breathe is something I’m extremely grateful for.

Categories
A Glass of Nothing Theatre Uncategorized

A Glass of Nothing & We Three Kings

The, ah-hem, sophisticated Brighton Blonde marketing machine is grinding into action. Here is the flyer for my plays at The Marlborough Theatre (tweaked for the interweb). Tickets are available at The Marley’s website here.

I am very proud of A Glass of Nothing. I am not someone who lovingly strokes my old work. But plays are a bit different. Each time you perform it, it is reborn. Beth, Dylan and Kitty continually unearth new approaches. I’m discovering that a successful script, is one that’s a firm launchpad. I’m also discovering the importance of a good structure. The play seems to have taken on a life of its own, driven by Beth’s direction and the lovely ensemble acting. I’m continually surprised at how well it works. We Three Kings is shaping up nicely too. It is about half an hour, and I think of it as a Christmas Entertainment, but a very Brighton one. A little bit nervous about this, just because it is so new.

PS: If you are tweety sort of person you can follow Brighton Blonde Productions at @BrightonBlondes

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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.

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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.

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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
Actors Performance Reviews Theatre

Nina Conti on the edge of darkness

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I saw Nina Conti’s In Your Face tour at the Brighton Dome last Saturday. The climax of her show, when she had seven people up on stage, wearing her masks on demonstrated her sheer bravery, improvisational skill and speed of thought in remembering all the accents and attributes she had given them.

She had three moments of darker theatre in her show with Monk, her glove puppet. This monkey has such a strong identity, that despite frequent postmodern allusions to it being a puppet, the audience believes in it all the more strongly.  The shorter first half ends with Nina being hypnotised into sleep by the monkey. Of course when Nina is asleep, the monkey must remain silent and they are carried off stage.

Later Nina climbed into a black sack, with just Monk visible, and the puppet fielded audience questions. This was brave, especially in a large place like the Dome where it is hard to hear everyone, without first having climbed into a sack.

But most of all I loved the end of her show, when she puts the monkey away, then talking to her naked hand finds the monkey is still present, and beginning to take her over and puppet her. This was all over too quickly for me, but was nodding to a darker, more absurd territory that is clearly present for her. I’d be fascinated to see her enter it.

 

Categories
Brighton Blonde Productions Theatre

Tickets for A Glass of Nothing & We Three Kings…

Tickets are now available for my plays  A Glass of Nothing, and We Three Kings here.  You get two plays for the price of one. A bargain, even if I say so myself.

We are doing a two nights at The Marlborough Theatre, (an old stomping ground for Beth Symons and I) on Thursday 8th December, and Friday 9th December. The Marlborough is a small venue, seating only 50-ish, and we expect tickets to move briskly. We plan to take A Glass of Nothing to Edinburgh next year. So grab this chance to see it in Brighton if you can.

We are rehearsing upstairs in the trusty Duke of Wellington. Luckily we’ve retained the same cast and Kitty, Dylan  and Beth seem to coast through lots of it in our first rehearsal. We’ve also recruited the multi-talented James Kuszewski to join the cast for We Three Kings too.

I’m racing to finish We Three Kings, we had a read through of my first draft this week. I’m describing it as a twisted nativity play. Expect gender blurring, and quite a bit of Drag for a proper Brighton Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year, so thinking about it everyday to write this play puts me in a cheery frame of mind. Cheery, and dark of course.

Below: a snap just before we opened the doors when we did it in May.

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Categories
Brighton Blonde Productions Comedy Theatre

The play’s the thing

Last night Brighton Blonde Productions regrouped.  Our next shows are on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th December at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton.

It was good after the success of the summer (four star reviews and all) to read through it again making cuts and tweaks. We want to get it so tight it squeaks.

Plus we are going not launch We Three Kings, a short 30-minute piece I am now writing like mad, as we want to start rehearsing it shortly. It is a kind of twisted Nativity. I love Christmas, so doing a play about the three kings is a bit of a bucket list thing.

As you an see, we’ve got a new multitalented recruit, James, to our lemonade-powered cast.

Below left to right: Dylan Corbett-Bader, Beth Symons, Kitty Underhill and James Kuszewski. More news here soon.

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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
Brighton Fringe Theatre

Interview on the New Writing South site

An interview here on the New Writing South site, where Neil Noon sent a questionnaire to five writers, including me, about their pieces in the Brighton Fringe. I talk a bit about A Glass of Nothing.

Categories
A Glass of Nothing Theatre

How to get the best from the Brighton Fringe

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Beth outside The Theatre Box a week or so before we started our run

To my surprise, I was recently asked if I had any advice for putting a show on in the Brighton Fringe, after A Glass of Nothing went down so well. So I thought I’d share some learnings here.

Back in 2010 my pal Matthew Pollard and I took a show called This Concert Will Fall In Love With You, to the Fringe. Although that show was a success, here’s what Beth and I did differently this year (having learned from this earlier experience). I should warn you that some of these practical points are statements of the bleeding obvious:

  • Venue is vital – earmark your venue ahead of time. Beth visited The Warren’s Theatre Box last year and loved it. So we knew where we wanted and went out to get it. By attending  the Brighton Fringe venue pitch presentation some time before the official launch, we were able to corner the lovely Otherplace people behind The Warren and  secure a slot at the Theatre Box early. Knowing where we were going to be doing our thing in advance was hugely beneficial both in early rehearsals, and when I was finishing the script. Due to The Warren’s good organisation our shows had great publicity, and attracted reviewers. The venue was easy for people to find when they came to the show, and was close to Brighton Station.
  • Trusting the people you work with is all important – Beth and I are an unusual team in that she is my stepdaughter. The fact that we know and trust each other is a great platform to start work, especially something potentially risky. In my previous experience This Concert Will Fall In Love With You I was similarly blessed by having a collaborator Matt, who I completely trusted too. Without trust I’m not sure how you can do it.
  • Getting an audience – putting on a new show is a risk. Luckily the four people involved all had different friend groups and were all based in Brighton, so we had quite  a few friends and acquaintances attend our shows. But there were also a good number of people who none of us knew. Being in the Fringe programme  is a must (although I don’t find it the easiest publication to navigate). Also being online with both the Fringe and Otherplace websites, and using social media, old fashioned flyers and posters all contributed to winning an audience. The combination of this somehow resulted in us filling our house for three mid-week nights.
  • Own your own definition of success.  I think it is important to know what success looks like for you as a person or a company. For me, as a pessimist, it was if we could get more than an audience of 25 people each night. In reality we managed 60-70 a night. But once the ticket sales  crept past my pessimistic low I was able to focus all my neuroses on what was happening on stage. For the four of us involved in A Glass of Nothing, it was highly successful. As well as the play itself winning four-star reviews, and warm acclaim from the audiences, Kitty got an agent, Dylan was able launch himself as an actor, and Beth showed herself as the truly fine and courageous comedy actress I know her to be. For me, as writer, it was a much-needed confidence boost too.
  • Don’t let it stop there. This one is all important. Don’t let it all end with one run. We are in discussions with a director to work with us on its next staging. Brighton Blonde Productions will definitely stage this play again, and work on new ones.
  • Just do it. Finally I think if you’re ho-humming over whether you should do a Fringe show or not, if you believe in your ideas I say just go for it. There’s no learning curve steeper than staging your work in front of a paying audience. Of course it is a risk, but one that makes you feel alive.