Nick Darke Award

Yes!! Thank you Falmouth University and Jane Darke for this lovely award! It will look lovely on my bookshelf. Unfortunately my speech on the evening was much less eloquent and much more dazed & confused. Oh well. Must remember sometimes less is more.

Here’s me.

The Nick Darke AwardI will be developing my play Made for Him as part of the prize – a futuristic feminist satire. As a result I will be spending a lot of time on sex doll purchasing sites – hard work ahead indeed.

Day #4

There was fantastic work from the actors on Friday – everything came together in the improv sessions and gave me a lot to work with. We worked on the big climax scene and there was a new kind of dynamic going on between all the characters which fell into place. With actors who are so diverse what was really nice was people’s varying interpretations of the characters. Anna and I also laughed a lot – the comedy was kind of chaotic which is what this play needs.

It felt like we had explored all the areas needed and it was a good time to close to the process. Yesterday I felt a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of re-writing but today there are in’s to characters I hadn’t realised before.

Sometimes the strangest things stick in your head – at some drinks after the workshop, one of the actors told me that he found the character quite a challenge and found it hard going and this give me an insight into why. Now I can see the character clearer especially in terms of how the actor felt that to be in that state was hard and how hard it must be for the character – if that makes sense. His struggle with the character also helped me see the character’s struggle.I’m sure more things will crop up over the next few days/ weeks.Sometimes something personal helps highlight something in the character.

So the next step is psychoanalysis of the characters and some reading of Sex & the Psyche by Brett Kahr (a really insightful book – aside from the 19,000 compiled sexual fantasies of Britons (entertaining and disturbing), it has really interesting case studies about how people deal with their trauma)

Some grainy pic’s from the workshop below…we were working on a pre-existing set so had to imagine a dirty public toilet instead of this lovely Parisian apartment…

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Day #3

Things got nasty today. After the fun and laughs, it was time for the actors to show the the ugly bad side of the characters. Nastiness seems to take a lot more energy from actors and there were some moments when things got a bit stuck. It got harder suddenly. I noticed that this happens when I write too – when things are going to get ugly I tend to write in loops/ repetition or skirt over it instead of really exploring it. There’s a tendency to get indulgent too which I hate. So when a scene was coming close to something deeper and exploring the ugliness, it all of a sudden took another direction, swerving right by the difficulty instead of taking it head on. This is a classic problem with my first drafts and it was interesting to see that actors dealt with it in the same way.

But there were some nice moments especially between a character and the embodiment of his worst nightmare: his mother. There was also some nice play from one of the actors playing the Romanian male lead in exploring his uglier less charming side.

Tomorrow we’re working on the big culmination scene. There will be drama…

Day #2

Getting into the nitty gritty now – improvs and status play today as the actors got into the play’s relationships.

There’s a triangle involving the Englishman and the two Romanians. Having two people both high status in the relationship was really powerful – the scenes between them are automatically charged with the fight for domination and I wondered if this is what creates chemistry – this conflict  for power. The scenes between these actors just sparked. Something really interesting happens when the high status actors were forced into a lower status and how they played their way back up again. It’s like watching a fight between equally matched opponents.

We have two female actors playing the main female character in improvs, someone who is comes across feisty and someone who comes across vulnerable on stage – and this was a great way to explore different aspects of the same character as every actor brings something completely different.

Tomorrow I want to do some work on the male characters and where they are emotionally with all their petty jealousies, resentments and conflict – can’t wait! Soap opera!

Day #1

My home for 4 days

After a few delays, we had the first day of workshops today and I wished every day in my life was like this – it was a seven and a half hour session and I didn’t even feel hungry (and I always feel hungry). Having a day job really makes you appreciate the time you can spend on creative projects and eternally grateful to those who value your work and bring it to life.

We started with a reading with the actors: Mark, Jermaine, Claire and Rose and for the first time it didn’t feel like my play but in a really good way. It’s like the characters have escaped and are outside the script. Also I wasn’t cringing as much as I expected to at clumsy sentences – instead it was really enjoyable. I think this is where you really start having fun (after the weeks, months, years of agonising over writing the first few drafts, it was nice to be in the company of creative people reading your work)

Anna, the director, is instinctive and incisive, asking all the right questions in a discussion of the play after the reading. This was really vital for me as it’s good to know how people interpret your play and this is an opportunity to really think about what works and what doesn’t. Then the actors moved into exercises to explore a day in the life of a character. This also helped highlight where there were gaps in the character’s back story and gave an insight into their personal lives that I had never considered before. Afterwards Anna and I chatted about other possible improvisations for the next few days.

The best thing about today was being completely absorbed in the work with a great team, I didn’t even notice time passing by. That and working on something that is really close to my heart.

Goodnight – up at the ungodly hour of 7am tomorrow

Producing and kebab sex

Yesterday I went to the Playwrights Industry Day in Brighton. I went last year and found it really helpful. Instead of it being about writing workshops where the tutors waste the first hour making you do automatic writing, it’s a day of sessions discussing really practical and useful things, like the business of being a playwright and getting your work out there.

The first session was with Kefi Chadwick who produced her own play. She had a producer on board but more as a mentor. She said you need at least £15k to produce a play. Later the man in the leather jacket next to me furiously whispered ‘Bollocks I did it with £3k! And I paid my actors!’ It turned out that she mostly funded her play through donations from rich friends. Need more rich friends, I noted.

But it did get me thinking about what is involved with putting on your own play. And the most useful thing about the day was that across all the sessions they highlighted the massive importance of collaborating and getting a team together, particularly with people who are more experienced than you and who might already be well-known in the industry. And they also need to be getting something out of working with you, especially if they’re not being paid so knowing about where they’re heading in their careers is good too.

The following sessions were about working as a writing in a community setting (apply for schemes on Arts Jobs but you can also just contact your local heritage/ hospital/ prison and come up with a proposal if you get the experience), a talk from some independent producers (basically work with someone you like and pay them), the writer in the devising process (who owns the work, answer: the company) and then a talk from the Literary Managers at the end including Out of Joint and High Tide talking about what they looking for. Out of Joint: Big, political plays with big casts. High Tide: first time writers/ international, and an emphasis on younger experience/ age related plays (from what I can guess from their programme this year).

I also had an interesting conversation with another writer at lunch about how commercial and accessible your play has to be to get an audience. As a first play does it need to be accessible or can it be really provocative or challenging? Kefi’s play was really was really commercial and did really well in a fringe venue. I wondered if people like Sarah Kane would really have a place in the theatre landscape right now with plays like Blasted (which the Daily Mail called ‘This disgusting feast of filth’) or if her kind of thing is a bit, well, 90’s.

Later I caught up with Rob Young, who is a really lovely down-to-earth guy and a successful working playwright and script reader. This guy has read over 2,000 scripts and he was telling me that about 90% of scripts he reads are pretty bad. I asked him what he meant by bad. He said there are lots with gratuituous torture scenes, vomiting and even a guy who has sex with a kebab. I guess as a writer you need to ask yourself if people really want to sit through that?