Hello all again. I’m still trying to get at least one blog a week in, so here’s this week’s entry. I do think that blogging actually does help me organise my thoughts, as well as help friends and family far away catch up with me, so though my blog is quite a little read one (in terms of the interweb as a whole) I still think it’s a really good tool. Keeps me limbered up.
So yes, until yesterday I had very little to put in here, but over the past 24 hours all manner of things have been happening (don’t get too excited, nothing massive) so I shall get on with it, in a semi-chronological order.
So last night I went to see the Hounding of David Oluwale. I thought that overall it was a very good piece, in terms of the writing, it was a brilliantly structured and inventive way of adapting the story of David Oluwale. The set was good, but I felt that it wasn’t useful enough, they pulled bits out, and changed it, and used different levels, but some of that felt forced (particularly a scene in a car that I wont go into, but skated a very thin line with the audience’s suspension-of-disbelief). I’m not entirely sure how that could have been remedied though, I think I just wanted it to be more fluid – it was static but could move, it didn’t look as if it was meant to. And then there was the performances. All in all the cast of 8 (6m 2f) did very well with the variety of parts and ages. I thought the two women particularly, although mostly playing bit parts, had a wonderful degree of subtlety. The two central performances on the other hand are my biggest bugbear with the piece. I felt (and perhaps this was because it was the end of the run at the REP) that it was all a bit over-practiced. A bit hammy. Towards the end this made sense, in extreme emotion and story-telling, but I missed the journey to that point. The main inspector seemed a little too much like a character built of gestures, (and actually, in general, a little too moral to be true), and David Oluwale himself, although definitely very convincing towards the end, seem to switch all of a sudden, for no big reason. This is a bit of a nitpicking comment really, as it really is a very good, powerful piece. I just think the piece would have been all the more grounded had the physical ticks David develops had each stemmed from a visible moment – I.E. if a staff to the leg caused his bad knee, if the shock therapy caused the twitch of his head, if each of the wrongs done to him further degraded him, and made his pride a more and more ridiculous thing. The piece finished with real power, however, as a David Oluwale, whole, as a younger man stares at his misspelled grave, and the inspector reads the painfully lenient verdicts against the two police officers who hounded him. David takes the papers gently off the disappointed inspector, and reads the judges comments, looking at the two men, standing facing the audience. That direct eye contact draws the action out, reminds us that this play exists in a public sphere, and that we should bear witness, lest this kind of thing be allowed to continue.
Just to finish on The Hounding … with a couple of other small points, my dad was in the police for about 35 years, so I grew up meeting quite a few of them, I missed out on that (horrible) low level disdain your average working to middle class person has for them (which always confused me, I’m sure the police would be the first people they called should anything untoward happen to them.) So I approached this piece from a slightly more… delicate angle. It hurt to see the uniform doing that kind of thing, though of course I know it happens. As I grew older I think I could kind of see that two kinds of man joined the police; those who liked helping people (and liked the idea of a public sector pension) and those who liked hurting people. I remember leaving a police ‘do’ in Lincolnshire (probably late 80s early 90s) with my family, who had walked out because of the racist jokes of the comedian they had booked. I don’t idolise the police, and I do know that (like society in general) the police used to be a lot more racist, sexist, homophobic and generally prejudiced than it is now. I think the race thing has improved, I’m not sure about the other two. The Hounding presented people at extreme ends of the scale, this is drama, that is how you generate dramatic characters. But I think I would have liked to see more of the man inspecting the abuse/murder of David Oluwale, as a little more grey, a little more, perhaps, of the police service now, struggling with its future as well as its past.
The racism/sexism scene was perfectly shown in one small, and otherwise insignificant scene. A black officer, a female officer, and two white male officers are in the office. The female officer is only spoken to to be asked ‘make us a cup of tea, love’, she sighs, and generally stomps off. But knows this is her Job. The black officer is spoken to like a child throughout, and then, also asked to make a cup of tea. He looks unsure, and then meekly follows the order. He doesn’t know what his job is. He just knows that he has do everything expected of both a man, and a lesser man (woman). She knows there will be no change, he doesn’t even know what the state of affairs is to begin with. Later on he is promoted, and she leaves the force and has a baby.
Interesting, no? Superb writing though. Do go see it if it’s coming near you.
So yes, onto other exciting things! I have had 3 messages today, all full of exciting things! Firstly I had an email from Script Yorkshire, who I applied for a 1 day a week tech job with, they said I wasn’t close enough (fair enough) but have since been in contact with me about their wanting to set up a North Lincolnshire branch! I got an email about a conference today, I unfortunately can’t afford to go to it, but that they’re staying in touch is promising at the least. Secondly I got a lovely email from Catharine Ashdown the new literary associate at Theatre Writing Partnership. She dropped me a line to say that she’d had a quick read of Being Someone Else (the virtual reality play) and thought it had lots of potential – and she told me about a conference happening at De Montford Uni in Leics about Sci-Fi writing. I had known about this because the lovely Lucy works there, but alas I (again) can’t afford to go (it’s £65 for the day). I replied, thanking her for letting me know, and saying I was redrafting the piece this week, and she likes the direction I’m think of going for the redraft, and sounded eager to know what becomes of it, so that’s good! Also, Kate Chapman, who was a producer for BBC Radio Drama, and also directed some of the pieces at the Mphil Playwriting Studies showcase, has been appointed CEO/Director of TWP. Which is excellent news. Kate is lovely, very switched on, and an excellent director. It’s really good to see TWP getting back on it’s feet since the Esther/Sarah handover, and I shall be glad to move back East and start getting involved with them again. And Thirdly (finally) after hearing of all these excellent conferences I can’t afford to go to I tweeted my general dismay, and to my delight got an extremely kind offer from Marcus at Pilot Theatre. Pilot Theatre are a brilliant company based in York who are running a two-day conference in June about technology in theatre, some really big name theatres/critics/writers etc. there. Shift Happens 2.0 will take in all aspects of the use of tech in theatre, from live streaming and social networking, to genuine interactivity with the creative and performative processes. The conference is happening in York, costs £100 including lunch and an evening bbq on day on and lunch and breakfast on day 2. Bearing in mind I’m considering applying to do a PhD in theatre and technology, this is definitely Of Interest. So yes, Marcus from Pilot Theatre is on my twitter account, and sent me a PM offering me a free two day pass, and my travel paid in exchange for helping out at the thing! I’m going to get involved in streaming the event, live tweeting of the different speeches/presentations, and editing together a ‘best of’ kind of thing at the end of it all. And for that I get to go to the whole thing FOR FREE! How amazing is that? Really brilliant. They’re even offering to pay for my travel ^_^
So yes, all round a good day for making contact.
Oh, I have also managed to get a painting commission! A canvas portrait for a gift, nothing too flashy, and from a photograph £50-75ish. Not bad :-)
So finally (I know this has been a long one so I shan’t go on) The Big Redraft. I am using up some of my annual leave to take the next week off work, with the intention of doing a ‘new document’ (IE blank slate) redraft of Being Someone Else. Lots of ideas bubbling away, I intend to give Monday-Friday over to it and see what happens. The general direction I’m going is much more claustrophobic, close, and more confusing. I’m going to try and make it muddier in all respects, in terms of morality and reality. I want the audience to sometimes not know what ‘reality’ (real or virtual) they’re in. So yes. We’ll see!
And on that, I should really get on! I want to get my website up to date, and generally prettier tomorrow, and today have a bit of thought to put into a short story submission. Before getting down to it on Monday. So yes. Onwards!