Unpacking the Pack of 3

The Pack of 3 nights at the Marlborough at the end of August were well-attended and well-received. In fact Tarik, one of the Theatre managers, has asked for something for the fringe next year.

The second night of Pack of 3 evening was better than the first. The fact that there was so much going on in everyone’s life: me moving house, the actors all off to study: Beth and Callum acting and Mark writing plus holidays, work commitments and so on meant that rehearsal time was very compressed. Also our sound and lighting person was only able to give us an hour or so before the opening made for a nervy first night.

The evenings featured three short plays, Wrong, our strongest piece from the March shows. We ended the March shows with Wrong, and where it was recieved as a pure comedy. This time, as an opener, the darker existential side of the play seemed to come to the fore. The characters of two young people deciding to become actors, who then find a corpse under the table became less comic and more darkly absurd. The audiences were absorbed.

Mark wrote the second piece Pirates Anonymous, and I am full of admiration for him. A fine piece to have written at any age, let alone 19, was about a dysfunctional family whose son takes on a Pirate persona to express his filial rage is a wonderfully theatrical device. The second scene was a self-help group for Pirate obsessives, with the boy attending and reaffirming his vow to be a pirate. Mark used a good deal of pirate language to spice up the text and this gave a really good flavour to the piece. This combined with Mark, Beth and Callum’s huge piratical roaring enlivened the audience somewhat (and made the endless piratical roars of rehearsal well worth it).

The last piece Betty the Spacegirl drew some lovely physical performances from the actors. I had written it in a hurry, but it worked. The actors brought some excellent physical comedy to it too, and the costumes were fantastic. Essentially the story is that Betty the Spacegirl lands on a plant containing only male, somewhat rubbish looking aliens, with antennae. After a while the action is stopped and you see the characters bickering in the guise as actors. The piece is about communication failing, and slightly mocking the idea of Men are from Mars etc. It also had Callum as a transvestite alien, which was good value in itself.

I am working on another play for Christmas, called Sophie and the Angel, which has a strong concept. Next time I am going to more hands on about managing the play and its marketing, as the theatre did next to nothing to promote it until the last few days. My key learning: try not to do everything at the same time.

The great redeemer in all of this were Beth Symons, Mark Gandey and Callum McIntyre. The cast brought enormous energy, enthusiasm and managed to pull the show out of the hat brilliantly. I am fairly certian that when I am in my dotage, I will be croaking to anyone who will listen from my bath chair that I once had a couple of plays performed with these three stars in it. And nobody will believe me.

A bite to eat

Here is one of my sketches from the first half of the Wrong show. Beth Symons and Mark Gandey are the Zombies. Callum McIntyre is the corpse.

‘Wrong’ at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton 1st & 3rd March

Have finalised dates for these evenings at the Marlborough. Betty and Mark, with their pal Callum doing ‘Wrong’, which is my short farce involving a corpse, plus another wee piece I wrote recently called ‘A bite to eat’ which is mainly to do with zombies. Mark is writing some material too and it should be a feast of black comedy.

Tickets available here http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/154027

Success

Of course the trick to having a successful year is to decide what success looks like on your terms.

For me to be successful this year I have sought a happy medium between business and other creative projects. It’s simple: if I neglect one, I don’t eat, if I neglect the other my head explodes.

Happily I have eaten and my head is still intact. So here’s what a successful year looks like to one Brighton-based writer.

  • I have earned enough money through my work with agencies to finance my craving for time. This year agencies have tended to invite me to work on pitches or as cover for absent creative directors. A few months ago I was offered a creative directorship but turned it down. I was flattered but not tempted.
  • The publication of A Guernsey Double, written with Richard Fleming, was supported by the Guernsey Arts Commission. For a writer, the buzz of seeing your name on a book’s spine is hard to underestimate. And it has directly led to several radio appearances, and readings with Richard booked for next year’s Guernsey’s first Literary Festival. Also it compelled me to spend time in Guernsey, the place I love most in the world
  • My collaborations with the composer Matthew Pollard have given me the opportunity to work in a completely different field. Our first work together, called This concert will fall in love with you is due to be recorded next year after its premier in the Brighton Festival Fringe this May. More performances are also planned for next year. Our second work together a short piece called Found written for Brighton’s Rainbow Chorus, and given its premiere in the World Aids Day concert on December 1st. Matthew and I are now working on an Operatic piece around a doppelganger theme which will be performed next year. Learning these new skills is rejuvenating and fascinating. While working with classical musicians has been an extraordinary experience, and the prospect of becoming a recording artist at 51 is extremely cheering.
  • I have put in the hard yards on my children’s novel Skelton Yawngrave. I had the opportunity to workshop it in two Brighton schools, Downs Junior and Stanford Junior, has proved a fascinating experience, leading me to drastically revise the story. The experience of talking to children about literature and the process of creating characters has led directly to me also being booked to lead some children’s sessions at the Guernsey Literary Festival.
  • My short play Wrong will probably be given another short airing in Brighton this February. I am particularly looking forward to this as it involves working with young actors.

So there you have it. Although this may seem self congratulatory, there are plenty of things that can be done better, a theme I shall return to.