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Poetry Uncategorized

My reading for The Island Review

With my brand new, and attractively-priced Blue Snowball Ice microphone I recorded a reading for The Island Review, with their hashtag #islandreadings. If you’ve not visited their site you should do. It harbours all kinds of good things there.

The Remembering Cliffs is an old poem, in fact one I wrote in my twenties, eventually collected in A Guernsey Double (2010) my collection with Richard Fleming. It was also republished online by The Island Review a few years back. If I had to pick my handful of my poems which were most heartfelt this would be one of them. Funnily enough it was written at a time of great personal anxiety, back in the 80s, and it has a self-soothing quality which I hope works for other people too.

I hope you like this. The island review page is here. Big thanks to its editor Jordan Ogg.

And here is my reading.

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Poetry Uncategorized

Sin Cycle in E·ratio

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Detail of Infant Sorrow by William Blake

Happy new year!  I already have enormous amounts to be thankful for this year.  Chief of these is the editorship of Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, the editor of E·ratio Postmodern Poetry Journal based in New York. Gregory’s own work, as I have written about here is extraordinary, and challenging and should be explored.  

E·ratio itself (and the 29th issue I find myself in) is a fascinating place to visit. The magazine is crammed full of bracing work in a postmodern idiom from writers around the world. It is one of the best magazines I know.  I have been a regular visitor ever since I found the site a few years ago.

I had suspected my 24 poem sequence Sin Cycle was always going to be hard to place, especially in the UK — and so it proved. Luckily for me Gregory was happy to risk giving a platform to the unreliable, raw and disreputable voice of this sequence.

The eight line poems in this sequence emerged naturally and quickly, and I was lucky enough that three poets I greatly respect, Robin Houghton, Charlotte Gann and Sarah Barnsley read these poems as they started to take shape.  I took a good deal of advice and I should thank them again here for their brains, friendship and support.

William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience lurked in the back of my mind when I was writing Sin Cycle, and the sequence starts with a four line quote from Infant Sorrow.

I was struck by the realisation that I had spent much of my writing life subconsciously wanting to be seen as nice. On some level I realised I had always wanted people to think how clever, or sensitive or aesthetically evolved I was. In these poems I abandoned any idea of smelling of roses or of people thinking well of me. I found it very liberating.

Sin Cycle
Sin Cycle in E·ratio

 

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Edinburgh: dress rehearsal and preview night

Tickets here for A Glass of Nothing – a show where dreams come true

Friday 4th open dress rehearsal. At our team breakfast we decided that whatever happens in Edinburgh, we are already winners by being part of it.

For a winner, however, I felt twitchy. Doing things helped. Flyering and dropping posters of at various venues, and collecting stuff from printers, takes your mind off the existential horror of it all. The rain fell greasily on us and the luvvie legions running around town. I noticed one or two had Sandwich boards. A new game:  match the rain-bedraggled figure with their photos on the board.

Our performance in the Surgeons’ Hall was excellent. Matt, our new boy, killed it. Beth and Kitty at their best. We came in at 50 minutes on the nose too, and managed to dress and undress the stage in the five minutes either end. Amy did all the tech faultlessly, and Lorraine ran front of house perfectly.

As it was unadvertised, we weren’t really expecting an audience, luckily a large cast of Swiss actors attended, who chuckled a lot. Confirmation that the play’s three wish format works well, even if everyone didn’t understand the wordplay. All of us on a high afterwards.

Saturday 5th — Preview night. Beth and I off to the meet the press session at one o’clock. It was advertised as a chance to pitch your piece to the press. Naively I had seen this as a few minutes to a room full of journos etc. The reality was an enormous queue snaking out of a university building down the length of a street. After an hour or so, you made it inside, and then each publication had a desk, at which there were fifty deep queues like an airport when all the flights are cancelled. After hours of standing about, we managed to get to speak to people from a few publications. Beth and I split up after the first one, to double our effectiveness. Fascinating to see who else was there and chat to a few people.  Talking to two young women from Ireland, talking about ticket sales. Last night they had two people in their audience. The reality is that with hundreds of shows going on at any time, you’re lucky to get any kind of audience. Gender and identity seemed to be on the majority of performer’s minds. Lots of student age folks doing Edinburgh, apparently with enviable bullet proof confidence.

While Beth and I were doing this, Kitty and Matt were flyering their hearts out.  So it began again. To the Surgeons’ Hall. I didn’t feel quite as nervous as last night, but still, as a card-carrying  nervous. Heartened by seeing a few friends and relatives.

The performance itself was nervier than last night, but I was very proud of Beth, Kitty and Matt. It’s easy when the audience is fully behind you and you’re coasting along. This was one of the nights when the tough got going, and we learned lots from it.

Afterwards a really cheery night. We went to a bit party for theSpace performers, which started at 11:30, and heard the band Blueswater, performing. Huge amounts of fun, and a late, late night for all.

Sunday 6th — this was a day off before the run next week. Gradual recovery from the party the night before. Into town to actually see a show, Nasty Women on the Fringe, which was a cabaret of women stand up comedians. Really funny stuff.

Below the foyer of theSpace Surgeons’ Hall, and then a couple of snaps in those twitchy seconds before the audience to comes in, Amy Freeman, doing our tech, in the corner.

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Brighton Blonde Productions arrive in Edinburgh to stage ‘A Glass of Nothing’

Tickets here for A Glass of Nothing — a dark comedy about the selfie generation.

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Above Matt Colborne spots one of our posters outside the Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh.

Up at an ungodly ten past five, a taxi to Brighton station to catch the 06:19 up to St Pancras. At King’s cross we met Kitty and Matt at Kings Cross zoomed through downpours and sunny spells for four and a half hour up to Edinburgh. Amy Freeman, an old friend met us on the platform, and we cabbed to our digs in Leith, an air b’n’b flat at the top of rather posh tenement buildings. A nice smart interior, but the sixty timeworn stairs leading up to the flat.

So our tech rehearsal at the Surgeon’s hall this afternoon. This is all about sorting out the light and sound cues, meeting the Space team at the venue, and being talked through safety stuff.  A nice little venue, and just perfect for us. The Surgeons’ Hall is really near the heart of where the fringe action is. And already Edinburgh seems stuffed to the gills with luvvies and really buzzing. Our taxi driver said there was a yearly invasion from England for the month.

The tech was fine, but there was only just time to get everything sorted.  The Space crew really helpful, and it is a kind of military operation, with each theatre being used multiple times during the day. It certainly helps you keep a sense of perspective when you see the bazillions of posters for events. Still, Beth and I schlepped about after the tech and distributed our posters and flyers to other Space venues. It is a bonus that in effect each space venue is able to advertise your show.

I’m really happy we decided to take the plunge and go for it this year. I’m chuffed to have a play on, and be part of this huge cultural event.

A quick, discounted once we showed our lanyards, beer at the Surgeon’s hall then eventually back home to Leith where we are staying. We found an Indian restaurant nearby called Shri Bheemas, with good food. Then back to our air b’n’b, home and happy to be there. Loads to do tomorrow, everyone crashed out early.

Below a snap of a nervous-looking Beth, Lorraine and I at ungodly-o’clock on the train, a selfie outside the Surgeons’ Hall, one of our posters (yay!) and Beth on stage during the tech.

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Blonde Productions Theatre Uncategorized

Final preparations for Edinburgh

So we’re taking A Glass of Nothing to Edinburgh. Exciting, yes of course, but the truth has dirtier fingernails. Our previous shows have all been close at hand, so organising a run in another country is harder.

Only one final rehearsal to go now down in Brighton. Beth and Kitty now imperious in their roles. And our new man Matt, has worked his socks off to get his part down. We’re proud of him. Due to our slot timings, we have had to trim the play by five minutes. I made the cuts a couple of months ago, of course. In this week’s rehearsal, however, we did a full and fluent run through. Argh! Still five minutes over! It is mystifying. Beth and I did some extra last-minute trimming, not easy on something already greyhound lean. Then the next run-through squeaked in under the desired 50-minute mark. Whew. When you think of how even Shakespeare gets cut and refashioned, there is absolutely no room for writerly flouncing about this sort of thing. But how you can cut loads out of a play only for it to stay the same duration is a bit weird.

So it’s up with the sparrows next Thursday. We are training up to Edinburgh from Brighton, laden with a cases and a few props and some costumes via Kings Cross. No mean feat in itself, especially as we’re off to my stepson’s wedding in Leeds immediately after we’re done in Edinburgh, so we’ll be carrying wedding clothes too.

We aim to hit the ground running in Edinburgh. There are props to be bought, a tech run at The Surgeons’ Hall shortly after we arrive (meeting old friend Amy who will do our tech for us), the press office to visit, flyers and posters to collect (I have bought outside and online  advertising, sent out dozens of press releases etc.) and do other bits.

We have rented a house twenty minutes away from the centre, where Beth, Kitty Matt, Amy, Lorraine and I will be a Theatrical Walton family for a week. The next day, Friday, we have our open dress rehearsal, where folks can come in at a reduced rate. The Saturday is our Preview, the following week our run.

Worst fear? Playing to an empty house. In Brighton, where we know people, we sold out a 70 seater three nights in a row. Playing to one person and a dog would be a challenge. Greatest hope? That we all come home having learned lots, and made audiences laugh and think — and that this isn’t the end of the road for the play we’ve worked so hard on.

So wish us luck! And should you find yourself in Edinburgh, do come along.

Here’s a short monologue from the play performed by Beth…

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Blonde Productions Theatre Uncategorized

A dark comedy for the selfie generation

My play A Glass of Nothing starts with Beth Symons, below, searching for likes online. Other than that, what else can a lonely twenty-something woman with no money, poor housing, and dismal prospects do? She has to stay at home and gulp a glass of nothing, that’s what.

A Glass of Nothing is built around a classic three wish structure. Beth wishes for beauty, the perfect partner, and a great career — having decided that ‘nothing is more real than advertising’.

Here’s a wee trailer… click here to book a seat at the show.

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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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Guernsey Guernsey Literature Novels Uncategorized

Occupying Love by Marilyn Chapman

Marilyn Chapman‘s new story Occupying Love is a popular novel set on Guernsey during the occupation. It blurs the barrier between romantic and historical fiction and begins with the bombing raid by the Luftwaffe on St Peter Port and becomes a pacy (and not saccharine) romance about a young woman called Lydia Le Page who, having returned to Guernsey just before the German invasion of the island in 1940, commences star-crossed relationships with two men against a backdrop of the Nazi occupation.

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I can’t resist comparing Occupying Love with  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer (completed by Annie Barrows) which was set in wartime London and in Guernsey. I felt decidedly curmudgeonly about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because it demonstrated little or no knowledge of the island of Guernsey, its people, ways of speaking and so on. Of course a popular novel doesn’t have to groan under the weight of its research to be enjoyable, but a convincing dash of local colour can only add interest to the work.

It greatly benefits this book that Marilyn Chapman was actually born in Guernsey and Occupying Love demonstrates her thorough knowledge of the island, and its years of occupation. Although she has done lots of research, it was enriched by having heard lots about the occupation from her own grandparents.

Probably more important to the reader, however, is that Occupying Love has pace and an involving plot as well as an intriguing backdrop. So read Occupying Love if you like romantic fiction with a gritty undercurrent, read it too as historical fiction or if you are interested in the Channel Islands. This is a labour of love, and it shows.

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A Guernsey Double Poetry Uncategorized

The Remembering Cliffs in The Island Review

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Always nice to see a poem I wrote years ago, crop up again. Of all poems I have written  this is a firm favourite, and comes straight from the heart. I wrote it in my late 20s and it has been collected in A Guernsey Double. The photo is me a couple of years ago on a Guernsey cliff path.

See the Remembering Cliffs in The Island Review.

 

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Two photos by David McHugh

David took photos of ‘A Glass of Nothing’ for the Argus and the Daily Mail. He has kindly let me use these.

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Beth Symons in A Glass of Nothing,  Pic by David McHugh http://www.brightonpictures.com
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Kitty Underhill and Dylan Corbett-Bader in A Glass of Nothing. Pic by David McHugh www.brightonpictures.com