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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.

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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.

 

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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 Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Theatre

Dylan rises to the challenge

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Dylan Corbett-Bader, grandson of comic legend Ronnie Corbett performing on stage in A Glass of Nothing, a comedy running as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival in Brighton this week ***Pic by David McHugh / Brighton Pictures 07768 721637***

Here’s a nice piece in the Daily Mail about Dylan. For an 18 year old, he is already extremely mature and professional. His grandfather, the much-loved performer Ronnie Corbett died during the period we were rehearsing the play. Although very sad, if anything his grandfather’s passing made Dylan more determined to succeed.

This week was so important for Dylan for all kinds of reasons. And as a cast, Beth, Kitty and I are really proud he did so well.

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A Glass of Nothing Theatre

Four stars from Arts Award Voice

Really happy that A Glass of Nothing received another four star review from Isabelle Emma Stokes, who writes: “…dark humour playfully dances on the thin line between imagination and reality. Drowning in beautifully written monologues – it charms, pouts and glitters.”

Read Isabelle Emma Stokes’ review on the Arts Award Voice site.

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Comedy Reviews Theatre

Four stars from BroadwayBaby

Absolutely chuffed by a great review of ‘A Glass of Nothing’ by Charley Ville.

“Writer Peter Kenny’s and actor-director Beth Symons’s A Glass of Nothing knows exactly what it’s doing – and who it’s doing it for. The very first lines pop like a Formula 1 celebration and we are delightfully bathed in a stream of deliciously fizzing jokes and observations. Featherweight bliss, this is a real Babysham of a show.”

Read the full review here.

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Comedy Theatre

Smashed it!

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Too twitchy to take photos, but I snapped Beth moments before the doors opened. She is set on stage as the play begins, and as people file in. In retrospect I think this is quite a sadistic thing to inflict on an actor, but then she directed it so she only has herself to blame. Of course everyone was nervous. My own approach was a kind of numbed pseudo-calm. I sat rigidly watching the actors (in the bare few minutes we had left after setting the stage) pacing about on stage muttering lines to themselves.

I find it hard not to resort to X Factor cliches, but the cast undeniably smashed it . We had a great audience – warm and supportive – and a full house. Thank God people laughed lots when it was funny, and got sucked into the drama of the darker bits. An absolute result for a first night.

Everyone gave it their best. With the pivotal role, Beth was daring,hilarious and chameleon-like. And she kept the play glued together. Dylan exuded humour, confidence and is completely loveable. While Kitty was note perfect in the weirdly bitchy parts we’d inflicted on her, and her own improvisation of a hungover office worker was really funny. I managed not to screw up my tiny role too.

After the audience had gone, I poked my head into the tiny wing and found Beth, Kitty and Dylan sardined into the tiny stage wing, giggling hysterically about having made it through the first night.

A fantastic first show. But by God I needed a beer afterwards. Seems the next two nights are full houses too so bring ’em on.

And last, but not least… The Argus has picked up on Dylan’s story here. We’re all proud of him too.

Categories
A Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Comedy Performance Theatre

First show tonight

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Beth and Kitty and A Glass of Nothing

This morning I thought I’d write an update from the safety of the duvet.

At the end of our last rehearsal (we crowbarred four complete run throughs plus a tech rehearsal into the weekend) I told Beth, Kitty and Dylan how proud I was of them. They’ve  expanded the play and added so much. Beth has the pivotal role, and is onstage most of the time, but she still has been able to direct proceedings, with me also chipping in. Casting Kitty and Dylan was a big win, and spending hours in rehearsal rooms is much easier when everyone is so easygoing and professional.

Happily, we’ve pretty much sold out the Theatre Box. This means we will have covered our venue costs, promotion costs and so on. There’s little money to be made from this malarkey, but doing better than breaking even means we can put the money towards our next venture.

After we sold the bulk of the tickets there has been a small wave of publicity surrounding Dylan, who is the late Ronnie Corbett’s grandson. The Daily Mail, the Argus and no doubt some other places are picking up on Dylan’s ‘taking to the stage’. We all had a laugh at the photo from when he was about 15 that the Mail used for him. Dylan has a naturally loveable presence, a fine asset for an actor – and has been entirely professional about carrying on despite being very sad about his loss.

My nerves are just about under control. I’m trying not to twitch like Herbert Lom in the Pink Panther movies. Naturally my excitement is seasoned with the odd flash of panic… Visions of everyone forgetting their lines, a stony-faced audience, haywire sound and lighting, and then how an unexpected tsunami rushes in from the English Channel and washes the Theatre Box and the rest of Brighton away mid-performance…

One good thing was that Beth, Kitty, (see above in their white coats) my wife Lorraine and I went about the Warren at the weekend asking people if they’d like to drink a glass of nothing. Several people drank it and commented on its flavours. That the glass could be full of possibilities, imagination and fabulousness seemed to be readily understood. Get that, you get the play.

Right. No more displacement activities. Better get up, and get on with the day. We’re on at 8:30 tonight. Breakfast, then a spot of work, then gym then… YIKES!

PS:  I did my first meme last night…

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Categories
A Glass of Nothing Actors Comedy Theatre

A shiver of anticipation

 

Last blog about this show till the first night, which is Tuesday 17th May. All fairly calm offstage, while onstage things are hotting up. In two days our tech rehearsal, then a few more run throughs… Then we’re on. Typically, it was only last week that we discovered the perfect place to rehearse: Copperdollar Studio. Heartily recommend for other actors, photographers, dancers and anyone else who needs a clean, atmospheric and warmly-organic feeling place to work.

At the time of writing, the last night of A Glass of Nothing has sold out, and the other two nights are going well. My private OMG-please-let-the-audience-be-more-than-x number was passed a long time ago. Much to my relief.

Rehearsals fall into the usual rhythm of excellent and challenging. Fortunately, our last one was a cracker. I actually got shivers down my spine as we were running through it. The play seems so much bigger now than when I wrote it.

Last minute tickets from here, and a few more snaps of our cast below.