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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.

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A Glass of Nothing Comedy Theatre

Rabbiting about The Warren

Beth and I went to the opening of the Warren theatre complex. A fabulous and buzzy atmosphere, good beers, and the unmistakable Fringe vibe. Frankly we’re buzzing too after seeing The Theatre Box where our show will be held. It is red and strangely compelling. And that’s just from the outside. Sipping a pint of East Coast IPA, and looking at the various venues and people beginning to stream in, I began to feel excitable.

I’m very confident about the show at the moment. Being a neurotic, I’m trying not to over-analyse this in case my tranquility collapses like a house of cards. But it is an empirically verifiable fact that tickets are already selling like rather toasty cakes, with our last night looking particularly healthy. And rehearsals are excellent: this play is a living and breathing entity with its own soul and momentum. All that and laughs too.

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In rehearsals, interesting how progress happens in fits and starts. A great surge of progress can be made in one day. An onrushing deadline and the prospect of public humiliation certainly focuses the mind when it comes to learning lines. I know both Beth and I have had ghastly being on stage having no lines type dreams. At least Beth will be on stage, with Kitty and Dylan. I’ll just be twitching in the front row.

Beth has a complex, multifaceted part and in the last week suddenly the strands of the character fell together into one convincing and hilarious whole. It was a privilege to see this happening. I can’t wait for the play, and Beth’s role, to be unleashed on the world.

A Glass of Nothing is on 17th 18th 19th May, at 8:30. The show runs for an hour, and we should be done by 9:30-ish should you need to escape the fleshpots and temptations of Brighton early. Here’s a wee bit about us on Brighton Bites Reviews Hub.

And here’s the obligatory ‘tickets from here’ link. 🙂 Please come…

 

Categories
A Glass of Nothing Actors Brighton Fringe Comedy Performance Theatre

Build it and they will come… we hope!

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On the top deck of the bus, travelling to rehearsals yesterday, I took a blurry snap of people assembling The Warren where our show will be staged. Seeing The Warren being built, focuses the mind more than it would if it were a permanent theatre. Bum-clenching proof that there are just three weeks till the show’s opening night.

Happily enough, we’ve already sold dozens of tickets which is making the Kenny twitchometer slightly calmer. If you’d like to come, and please do if you can, find a link here to tickets. The comedy play runs at about an hour, which is enough to fulfil Beth Symon’s three wishes of absolute beauty, having the perfect partner, and a glittering career. She’s ably abetted by the Kitty Underhill and Dylan Corbett-Bader who are playing several figments of her imagination with gusto and versatility.

Rehearsals have been excellent. Thankfully we’ve got to the point now where the stabilisers are coming off the bike, and we’re freewheeling through entire show in rehearsals. Lots to be done in the next few week, and I’m still tweaking the script, but we’re on track. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Below… Beth, Kitty and Dylan.

 

 

Categories
A Glass of Nothing Comedy Theatre

Tickets on sale for A Glass of Nothing

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So I finally finished writing my play ‘A Glass of Nothing’. Quite handy really, as the first actor’s read through was on Saturday afternoon. Unlike Douglas Adams, I hate the whooshing sound deadlines make as they go by. In fact even thinking about missing a deadline makes my toes curl in horror so I was mightily relieved to get there with 24 hours to spare.

Beth, pictured above with our listing in the magazine, will be starring-in and directing the play. We toddled off to the official Fringe launch on Tuesday. Great fun it was too, with free drinks (two words that go wonderfully together). This helped everyone enjoy a long speech thanking people by the fringe director, the charming Julian Caddy. The likeable lady mayor, Lynda Hyde, gave a speech too about the economic benefits of the Fringe, adding a couple of knob gags for good measure. The fringe contributes millions of pounds to Brighton’s economy apparently. There was some entertainment too: a magician, someone offering a comedy tour through a museum of thermos flasks, and female versions of male drag Queens, (logically enough called Kings), which was interesting and (of course) very Brighton.

The first read through left me buoyant and cheerful. The play is going to be even darker and funnier that I had imagined. Not to mention burlesquey (if that’s a word which I don’t think it is). We have clearly chosen two splendid comedy actors in Kitty Underhill and Dylan Corbett-Bader, and the script has a shape and cohesion that I am proud of. Most importantly there are a few really good laughs in it, and as rehearsals start in earnest this week, we hope to tease out many more.

Tickets are now bookable here on the Brighton Fringe box office.

 

Categories
A Glass of Nothing Actors Brighton Fringe Theatre

Gut decisions

Beth and I have our cast!

The audition process was fairly smooth. Slightly tangentially I found myself interested by where the auditions were held. The Brighton ones were done in the basement of a restaurant bar Neighbourhood on St James Street. The metal bull’s head on the wall felt, for me, like some kind of a good omen as we sat underneath it. The London auditions were conducted in the tranquility of the Kingston Quaker’s Centre. Entering the door code made the doors open automatically and all the lights turn on brightly, but there was nobody there, but the residual stillness of a place where people come to pray and meditate.

When the actors started doing their thing, I sensed little ripples in placid atmosphere. The actors however, seem to me to bring their own portable imaginary space, a bubble of energy to perform in. Some actors had energy that filled the whole room.

All actors were asked to read a section of the script and do some improv with Beth. From the snatch of script, we got an idea of people’s timing skills (essential as this is a comedy). Watching people improvise, however, gives you a rapid snapshot of people’s skill set.

Everyone we saw was talented. One or two people didn’t show up to their audition, however, which I found a bit surprising.

We chose two actors: a male and a female. Kitty Underhill, seemed a great fit for the parts we want her to play. She came to her audition fully prepared and totally switched on – she was hilarious and bitchy when the part called for it. A real live wire.We also chose Dylan Corbet-bader who is 18, but revealed a lovely depth and core to his performance. Some actors just have lovability, and Dylan is one of them.

There are few other walks of life in which you happily expect the success of a production to rely on people who are almost strangers. But in theatre that leap of faith happens all the time. Perhaps this is why Beth and I let listened to our guts when making these decisions. It affirms your faith in other people when it works.

Below: a space to be heard.

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Categories
Actors Comedy Performance Theatre

A space for Eddie Izzard

I saw Eddie Izzard on Saturday night. I love the proliferation of characters (all played by himself) that populate his stand up act. He carried the audience with him on fantastic imaginative journeys. I particularly liked the death of Caesar scene. Stabbed twice by a Roman called Tenacious and his dying gasp misinterpreted as ‘remember me as a salad’. Always impressed to see how one person can hold a whole theatre for the evening. And despite it just being one man with no props, it managed to be a properly theatrical experience.

He had a lovely stage too, simple but with its chessboard-like design gave him areas to work from or cavort lengthily round on an extended riff on Dressage for example, which he described as ‘non-mammalian’ sport. The backdrop made me think 1960s TV series such as The Time Tunnel. Pretty much in tune with Izzard’s brilliant time-travelling, polyglot, culture-hopping comedy. Certainly gave me a much-needed laugh.

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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…

Print - A Glass of Nothing - Theatre

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A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Poetry Theatre Working

Life in splinters

All work at present with a forest of deadlines. This mixed with unpleasant things like a house flood and the death of an old friend, means my life is being lived in weekend splinters.

So a few of the splinters:

My play with Beth Symons, A Glass of Nothing will be staged at The Box Theatre, The Warren in May as part of the Brighton Fringe. There is lots to be done between then and now, casting starts in a few weeks. More details here when we, quite literally, get our act together.

Had the Telltale Poets AGM two weeks ago. It’s a privilege to be know such a talented group of poets. More news about forthcoming Telltale announcements shortly. I did a reading with them at the beginning of January. I felt the force wasn’t with me that evening, however one of my poems Ernstophilia was filmed by Robin Houghton which can be watched here… along with a performance by the splendid Jack Underwood.

I finally read all of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen having been very taken with her performance at the T.S. Eliot wards. It seems to me to be concerned with how history amplifies everyday slights and unfairness, and gives them a resonance for people of colour in the US and elsewhere. A legacy which will take a lot of healing. This is illustrated through chunks of elegantly  anecdotal prose, an essay on Serena Williams, photographs and so on. It is an interesting miscellany (and IMO only poetry if you cast your modernist net wide enough). An important work, but did I enjoy it? Frankly not much. When poetry is dealing with really difficult subjects it can make the heart soar and affirm life. I personally didn’t get this from Citizen. But I am certain there are loads who will – and I am pleased I read it.

As usual I’m reading several things at once. Life, the biography of Keith Richards, I’m listening to as an audiobook. I’m not a massive Rolling Stone’s fan but as a glimpse into hedonistic life lived with gusto it is bracing and strangely cheering. And quite funny too.

A Year with Swollen Appendixes by Brian Eno is a book I return to when I need to refocus and remotivate. For those who have not read it, it is essentially Eno’s diary for 1995. Or to look at it another way, a prototype blog. His engagement with creativity is utterly inspiring, as well as his friendships with so many amazing people. Including David Bowie. But Bowie is another blog post, bless him.

Enodiary

 

 

Categories
Comedy Theatre Uncategorized

A Glass of Nothing

Just wanted put something on here about a comedy I’m working on for the Brighton Fringe Festival next year. Last year I went to see a rehearsal for a production and grew fascinated by watching an actor drink endlessly from an empty glass. I wrote a bit about it here and now that random thought is turning into a production, a piece that will showcase the comedic chops of Beth Symons. We have an embryo Facebook page here.

Beth’s role is split into three sections, one of which keeps reminding me of Dame Edna Everage. I’ve always admired the way the Dame can talk down to an audience and yet still be utterly endearing. An amazing balancing act.

Also I’ve had to do some research of burlesque dancing, as Beth stipulated there might be a bit of burlesque in it. My knowledge of burlesque is minimal, but I quickly discovered the talents of a dancer called Pepper Sparkles, whose tribute to Marta Hari can be seen here and is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Watch this space, as they say…

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