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A Glass of Nothing Actors Theatre

‘A Glass of Nothing’ still half full

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Beth finds somewhere quiet to apply makeup in the Surgeons’ Hall

So… Edinburgh. Blimey, it was an exhausting. In fact so exhausting, it has taken me two weeks to get around to writing about it… Edinburgh utterly dwarfs the  Brighton Festival, and the competition for bums (on seats) is ferocious. Nothing beats first hand experience of publicising and flying for your play, sticking together as a unit and delivering great performances to all kinds of audiences. Not to mention getting into the rhythm of gulping  post-performance beers and discovering late night Edinburgh delicacies such as the macaroni pie.

We learned lots. Next time we take on Edinburgh we’ll do things a little differently. My biggest learning was that putting a short run play on at the beginning of the festival is disadvantageous when seeking reviews. Luckily we had some corkers from the Brighton Festival, so we did okay. We had a couple of quiet nights but luckily this improved towards the end of the run. I’m always surprised at how different audiences can react so differently to the same play. Lots of laughter on one night, a serious absorption into the dark side of the play on the other. While one night, we were all surprised how everyone took against Kitty’s character to side with Beth.

We all made time to see some other shows of course, but I found it hard to see as many as I’d have liked. Shows had tiny audiences were often excellent too.  We took in several women comedians, and I particularly liked Jane Postlethwaite whose work was full of imagination as well as being extremely funny.

All in all, however, it was a hugely positive experience. We left Edinburgh proud of ourselves. And I was bursting with pride in how brilliantly everyone had done. Beth was magnificent, pouting and flirting with the audience.  Kitty and Matt were sensational, and delivered excellent performances every night.  And a big shout out to Amy who did our tech, and for my wife Lorraine who was our bedrock (plus stagehand). We all lived together in a top of a tenement flat in Leith too, like a thespian Walton family. Maybe next year? Hmm…. Now there’s an idea.

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Amy Freeman on tech
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Matt Colborne, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons August 2017, Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh
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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 Brighton Blonde Productions Theatre

‘A Glass of Nothing’ theSpace@Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh 4-5 & 7-10 August

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Tickets available here

I’ve always liked collaborations. Brighton Blonde Productions, the theatre production company I put together with my stepdaughter Beth Symons has been a particularly excellent one. Our Edinburgh trip will be our third run as Brighton Blonde Productions.

It is good to write with an actor in mind, instead of starting with a blank sheet. For A Glass of Nothing, Beth and I drank beers and discussed the pressing concerns of a woman  woman in her twenties (beyond the next round of course). When writing it, all I had to do was consult my inner Beth and ask myself if she would say those lines. Beth’s influence means that the play deals with social media, and the pressure to conform to expectations of beauty and so on. It has turned out to be a dark comedy for the selfie generation.

It’s nice for us as a family. The ever supportive Lorraine (my wife, Beth’s mother) is listed as our official stage hand for the show. I’ve been to the Edinburgh festival as a punter was great fun. Taking a play to Edinburgh will, fingers crossed, be at least as much fun — mixed with dread and horror, obviously.

I am also mightily relieved that the fabulous and multitalented Kitty Underhill will join us in Edinburgh too. Kitty is a top comedy actress, and her enthusiasm, poise and hilarious ad libs have contributed enormously to the show. For the Edinburgh run we’ve recruited actor and model Matt Colborne to play the male roles. Beth and I have started intensively rehearsing with him, and I’m already excited about the new character dimensions Matt can bring to the show.

Turns out everyone in the show is an actor/model. I also have a tiny cameo in the show — but it will come as no surprise that I am not an actor/model at all. Though the cast are all busy on other work, somehow, we’re pulling it altogether. So if you find yourself in Edinburgh at the beginning of August. Come along!

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A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Brighton Blonde Productions Poetry Telltale Press Theatre

Precious time

I’ve spent the last couple of months with little time. I’ve been commuting to London to work in an advertising agency every day (a four hour round trip). The Gods of Freelance then added in more work for me to do on the train, and in the evenings and weekends and through holidays. By chance this coincided with one of my worst-ever bouts of depression. I rarely get depressed. Glum, sure, but that’s usually over in a few days. But being down for weeks on end was unusual for me, and my respect for people who keep on keeping on, despite dealing with repeated depression, is more acute now.

Now, having thawed from that glacier, I feel myself again. Being depressed for me means having myself at the centre of all my thoughts. And you can take it from me, it is a tedious place. Now I can laugh about myself again,  I can’t wait to get stuck into being creative on my own projects. The enforced ‘downtime’ has given me unexpected benefits. I am suddenly much clearer about two of my projects. Time is often the best editor. I could have done without pouring tea into my laptop the other day, however, but that’s a different story.

* * *

I attended the recent Telltale Press reading in Lewes, which featured Siegfried Baber, mining his love of Americana to enormous effect, Marion Tracey whose poems have an Apollonian dreamlike clarity.  Sarah Barnsley read particularly well I thought. One of her poems, called The Fugitive, I loved. It reminded me of C.P. Cavafy’s wonderful concreteness. I think Sarah’s work is fantastic. Sarah introduced her friend Katrina Naomi who also read excellently, despite being interrupted by the Telltale Stand collapsing dramatically as if some poltergeist had given it a good shake. Katrina’s work seems effortless, both accessible and deep. Everyone lapped up her reading.

I snapped two rather poor photos on the night. One of Sarah Barnsley, and the other of Katrina Naomi. The room was packed, although it doesn’t look like it.

* * *

Meanwhile two of my poetry chums are on the cusp of new publications, and I’m delighted for both of them.

By old pal Richard Fleming is just about to publish Stone Witness, a new collection with the Guernsey-oriented Blue Ormer Publishing. Richard’s box of books has just arrived and his blog captures the moment. It is going to be launched during the Guernsey Literary Festival, and I am really looking to seeing him soon, and owning a copy.

Meanwhile Robin Houghton has had a pamphlet accepted by Cinnamon, called All The Relevant Gods, to be published next year. Robin has an inspiring blog post about the journey to acceptance here. For all kinds of reasons, even for an exceptional poet like Robin, making progress can be tough. But it means getting the breakthrough is even sweeter.

* * *

Beth Symons and I are beginning to sort out our Edinburgh Fringe run. We all have somewhere to stay, which is a start. We are just about to start auditioning for a male actor (preferably Brighton based, or within striking distance) to join the ensemble. So if you happen to be male, in your twenties, and an actor with comedy chops, then please get in touch with me through this site.

My play, A Glass of Nothing, which is directed by and stars Beth Symons, and features Kitty Underhill will be on at  The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall, Theatre 2, 9.10pm on 5/8/17, (free preview) 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th August 17 (4-night run).  Naturally I hope to be blah-blahing about this more ere long.

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Performance Theatre

A golden moment

There is a section of A Glass of Nothing where Beth is transformed into the world’s most beautiful woman and goes into the audience, requests a phone and takes a selfie. I just love this pic taken last night at the Marlborough Theatre.

Our wee two-day run of We Three Kings and A Glass of Nothing is over. Brighton Blonde Productions will be back in the new year, not least with taking A Glass of Nothing to Edinburgh. Running A Glass of Nothing again, in a slightly trimmed version for me was a proof of concept. With Beth shining at its centre, this is a piece I am truly proud of.

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Beth Symons in ‘A Glass of Nothing’

The cast of We Three Kings a few minutes before the start of the show. Left to right, James Kuszewski, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons, and Dylan Corbett-Bader. We Three Kings is a half an hour twisted nativity play with hope in its heart, and these are the people who made its hope shine.

 

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James Kuszewski, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons, Dylan Corbett-Bader in ‘We Three Kings’
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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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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.

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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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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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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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