“The Pitlochry Play” #2: ‘Skin in the Game’

Due to some unexpected cancellations in the diary, and some jiggling about of other stuff I am a major over-achiever: October’s expenses are begun, there’s mugs soaking in the bubbles, and here I am.

I’ve just sent another thank you letter to one of my funders for the “Pitlochry Play”, and as I wiped the suds from my hands, thought that some of what I wrote would be apt for here.

Without their (secret; modest) support, I am not sure I would have been able to justify the spend. But their kind cover for accommodation and travel meant that the project is truly growing. I had…

  • 100 hours thinking about & developing the show, meeting local organisations and experts
  • a “sharing” with the theatre’s associate directors, to review progress, get a sounding board, hear their thoughts
  • one of the ADs has very kindly agreed to be a mentor for the project’s future development (I won’t name them ’til I’ve checked they’re ok with that, though)
  • I’m working towards a February all-day workshop and “script in hand” in Bath – details TBC
  • Although I didn’t secure ACE funding for the residency, ACE have been really helpful since my return about planning phase 2 (writing) and building to a potential tour 
  • It’s now an exciting adult fairytale show about the climate emergency and that perennial human comedy: “personal agency”
  • I know my characters (damn their eyes) and I can hear the music… oh, yes.

A huge thanks to all so far. Names will come when I know you’re OK with it! (Photos if the machine ever permits….)

The Pitlochry Play #1: the sound of water

I’m here in Pitlochry, land of Pitlochry Festival Theatre and much, much more. Today’s day 3 of my playwrighting residency at the theatre and I’m rolling around like a pig in poo at the luxury of all this writing space and thinking time.

I’m not here to share anything about my “process” with you, but I can’t keep all this to myself, so I thought you would like a local waterfall.

It’s great to watch in real life (not so amazing in my rushed wee film from my August holiday here), but it’s stunning to listen to. Sound and water are featuring heavily in the project so far; trees and mountains are too, but let’s save that for another day.

Let me introduce you to the fantastic, the inimitable, the one and only: Black Spout:

Black Spout waterfall, Pitlochry, Aug. ’19

Do Not Disturb: an arts satire

“A satire about arts and funding in a post-BBC, post-sterling world. Two civil servants hunt a dangerous script to stop it infecting a world that’s free of disturbing theatre. They disguise themselves as theatre types and get enmeshed in the glamour. Everyone’s lying for accolades, acceptance and – er – maybe art.”

architecture room indoors auditorium

This is the blurb for Do Not Disturb, the latest to leave my redrafting fingers, ready for a wild world of producers and partnerships. Huge thanks to the talented and generous professionals who gave me a table-read in the summer and those others who’ve given thoughtful feedback on this pacy, satirical beast.

I’m heading into my next work – a very different thing – with Pitlochry Festival Theatre soon, but when I come back, Do Not Disturb will be looking for collaborators. If you think you’d be interested in hearing more, please drop me a line. Be great to hear from you.

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

Wanted a Genie, found a Muse

Lovely news – I’ve just been awarded a writers’ residency at the fantastic Pitlochry Festival Theatre to start work on a new play. And it all started because I couldn’t get to Mull and in the (relatively) short time my child was away with relatives.

In July, I’d been facing the standard single parent dilemma: while you child’s off on adventures, should you do the DIY or have a hol? Validated by friends’ and parents; encouragement, “Have-a-hol” scraped through – largely ‘cos it whispered “Inspiration!” in a way that a “Paste-The-Wall” mini-staycation just can’t.

I’d had a great break in Orkney 10y ago, and while I’m desperate to return, I need to explore. My quest for rural adventure started with a day of crying into my computer because National Rail Enquiries refused to offer magic carpet options so I could see family & friends in Glasgow and nip casually to Mull. Four days’ travel in a 7-day break? I needed a Genie…

…But I found a smashing travel agent. Who suggested Pitlochry. And its theatre. EVERYBODY mentioned its theatre. EVERYBODY.

I didn’t need a Genie. I found the muses; or they found me. What a place. And what a theatre. By which I mean history, building, location, leadership, ambition, heritage, talent, teams, reputation… If you don’t know of it, check it out – only a few (gorgeous) hours’ train from Glasgow, there’s quality theatre in the stunning hills: go on, click!

And so on a long walk, a story bit my bum and wouldn’t let go. I came back and worked it up and worried – and then leapt: I sent it in to PFT’s artistic team and they have very kindly given me a residency this autumn.

Apart from my parents’ bemused pride, they’re also looking forward to my return – with a lot more Edradour Malt marmalade.

Glittered Knickers…

I love it when a plan you never knew you had comes together.

An old friend up at Bath Uni decided we needed an International Women’s Day entertainment night in Widcombe. It’s over 20 years since I did one of these, back at the students’ union, so when she said,

“Want to do something for International Women’s Day?”

something in me shouted back – all the way from 1995, and surprisingly quickly,

“Heck, yeah!”

And by 8 March, that “HECK, YEAH” became this:


Oh, look. There’s me, at the start of the adventures of Glitter Knickers, the eponymous anti-heroine of my main stage show in 2016 (which meant to tour and then – far too true to character for my own liking – skidded on a banana skin).

The audience was very decent in every important sense: size and manners. They hushed, listened, laughed and even gasped. There were those lovely moments of 1- 2- 3 – “oh, no!” realisations (thank the gods) and plenty warm words after. (Thank you, Widcombe Social Club). But the funny thing was, next morning. I woke up and thought,

“Weird. I’ve never performed my own (grown-up) work before.”

And wondered why I’d never noticed.

In The Artists’ Way, Julia Cameron talks (with lemon-on-paper-cut insight) about how we often protect our creative selves through distancing. We might become teachers of art (of all kinds); encouragers of others; arts administrators; avid readers or theatre buffs –

ANYTHING BUT BE AN ACTUAL (SCARY) ARTIST – WHO MIGHT VERY WELL

FAIL.

It’ll astonish you if you know me (that doesn’t even need a footnote) that I performed endless amounts of my own work until I was about 14. At uni, I sang solo stuff a fair bit, but never acted or wrote. It wasn’t til I was 34 that I threw my bank account at the dream and wrote my first full-length play for any kind of sharing.

Now, now, though, there’s a wicked smile on my face. I like doing my own stuff. And I’m very willing to do more and get better at it. (Yes, see what a kindly audience can do?)

I made the, “never performed my own work before” comment on facebook and a friend overseas said,

“Bollocks. I’ve listened to your kids’ audiobook.”

You see, we forget the creative stuff we leave all over the place. We don’t always count or value the art we say is “work”! (My audiobook’s from my weekly after-school mythology club and I’ve only got round to recording one). But it’s just as valid a creative endeavour or risk as the “heart and soul” work. Others experience it as as much an expression of you as they see everything else.

Hmmm. My tone’s felt preachy. I’ve been reading too much on Medium, clearly. There is no lesson. Maybe just a thought, or a question: have you discounted your own creative outputs as “just work” – and would you like to do more?

Glue: a short film

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this. Anyway, it’s brilliant. I’ve been working since autumn with a smart young director called Isabelle Larché in Bristol. We worked up an idea. I wrote a script. She’s pulled together a cracking team and this weekend, filming began. There’s a crowdfunder (which has hit its very modest target very quickly – but all the perks are still there for the taking, and your support would be very gratefully received!).

In short, watch this space. And here’s some blurb….more will follow!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/glue-short-film#/