So here I am, next post! Only a bit more than a week after the last one, so I’m doing OK! I am going to try and post a few more regular blogs in the coming weeks though, because ACE (Arts Council England, who, if you’re of the uninitiated – the arts world sort of hates in the same way a mardy teenager hates their parents, not without reason but conveniently forgetting the good bits) have introduced a new scheme called A Night Less Ordinary which gives free tickets to under 26s. All you do is phone up the box office of one of the many, excellent, participating theatres, say for what performances you would like tickets and when, provide email and a mobile number, and then it’s all done! So yes, I have tickets to upcoming productions of Don John by Kneehigh, These Four Streets, a play written by 4 local female writers about the riots in Birmingham a few years ago, and The Hounding of David Oluwale. All of which look really interesting. I’m really excited, and despite a small amount of guilt for using the offer, as it’s clearly not aimed at already theatre going young people (though my big problem has always been affording to go), I think it’s a brilliant initiative. I just wish more people knew about it, they should def have an advert on Facebook or something- raise awareness. Anyway, all of these upcoming shows mean something to blog about, and a nice bit of critical thinking, which I generally miss, so stay tuned for some mini-reviews. I only wish I lived in London, and could afford to take up the offers there- at the Barbican, the RSC, the National, the Royal Court, SOHO, all of them! (Maybe I’ll take a holiday after work is less crazy, find a friend to stay with, and go see lots of free shows).
So yes, what’s going on with me? Well last night was the guest night performance of Foursight (the company I do admin for 3 days a week) Theatre’s Can Any Mother Help Me? which is going to be touring from now until May. It was really lovely to see something that’s been worked on since 2007 come to fruition. It’s a devised show, so obviously it will continue to evolve over the run, but everything is definitely in place, and massive congratulations to all of the team! It was also a bit surreal for me, as administrator this show is something that I have been greasing the rails for for my whole time with Foursight, but obviously haven’t seen much of the actual creative side, so seeing the show was just lovely. Although my opinions on it should definitely be considered as biased, those who know me, know that I try to always be honest with my criticism, of myself an others, otherwise it’s generally useless! So yes, I thought the piece was lovely, very respectful of the fact that it was a book. Adaptation is a strange process – you can use the work as a stimulus, or you can use it as literal material – neither approach is wrong, it’s just a choice. This show was more of a literal adaptation of the book, and I think this worked well. There was no larger narrative, as the piece considered a group of over 25 women, from the 1930s, all the way to 1980, these were lives, not narratives, and so the piece sewed together snapshots into a kind of theatrical pop-up book. You retained the well crafted rhetoric of the women’s writing, and the piece didn’t sink into hysteria and psychology, the telling was simple and faithful, and held together by repeated images, sounds, projection, and lighting. I think the design was nice and simple, but the windows, spots of light etc, reinforced the ‘windows into worlds’ as well as letters/book feel which was good. The performances were all very strong too. It did take about 20 minutes for me to get used to the non-narrative style, and at the outset, it took me a while to care about the characters, but around about halfway through, a combination of design, and warmth of direction/performance drew me sufficiently in. SPOILER — One of the women’s stories is sort of a thicker thread than the others – that of Isis, Isis falls in love with a Dr X, though nothing ever happens, eventually she confesses and apologises, Dr X tells her husband, and they both give her electric shock therapy to ‘cure’ her. Every time we began her story a zip of electricity followed her across the windows to where she was on the stage, close to the end you realise that with that, each memory she spoke of was being erased. She had nothing, and they even contrived to take that from her — END OF SPOILER The piece definitely needs tightening up in places, and a few of the character’s stories suffered a little from lack of time/depth, because of the couple of main focuses, but all in all I enjoyed it. If you get a chance to see it (tour dates can be found here) it would be really interesting to hear what you think!
In writing news I wrote a short story last week and sent it off to a competition. It was nice to flex my prose muscles, and I don’t think it was too bad. I got an email from the Royal Court saying that they’ll deliver feedback on our submissions in March. And Scary Little Girls Productions got back in contact with me and offered me a longer workshopped reading in a new writing Salon on May the 1st. I’ll get a day with a director and a couple of actors, and can work on anything I like, I have a new idea simmering around at the moment, just a two-hander, which it might be nice to try and write 15 mins for, and I also have a redraft of Being Someone Else to get on with, so both of those, as well as Eismas are possibilities. I’m going to have a think about it and get back to them. I also talked briefly about the Irish play commission, and should be meeting to talk a little more about that over the next month or so!
Finally, something that has been ticking over in my mind for a the past year or so may have seen some shifting. Recent contact from one of my brilliant lecturers from Loughborough University about the possibility of doing a PHD. Despite a growing longing for academia I have been reluctant to give it a go because of the fiasco that is applying for funding from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council). However there have been changes in how it all works and a new ‘block grant’ system which means the money is doled out to the institutions-and it is they who are now responsible for handing it out to students. I have a lot of questions, I want to know that I could still continue to dedicate as much time to my creative writing as I am, I would want to know that I could work on something that really would hold my interest for three years (somehow combining feminism, theatre theory AND practice and web 2.0), and I could only afford to do it if I got a full grant (fees paid plus £12000 per year). I have mentioned it to people before and they’ve always asked, ‘how could you give up three years of your life like that?’ but I really wouldn’t see it like ‘giving up’-because my plan was always to work flexibly for 3-4 years whilst getting my creative career off the ground. A PHD, for me, would make me feel although I was having a theoretical impact as well as a creative one. Plus £1000 a month is a hell of a lot more than what I live off now, not taking into account hopeful commissions by that point. So yes… many thoughts. And I’m going to go talk with my lecturer about it next month.
I definitely feel like I need to move back East. This side of the country just doesn’t sit right with me. And I liked Loughborough, close to many friends, and two major cities, and everything was only 15 minutes away, the library, the swimming pool, Sainsbury‘s, and most importantly the countryside. There’s a direct line to Euston, and good theatres in the vicinity… So yes… another avenue re-opens. It’s all quite exciting, this life-choice stuff isn’t it?