Theatre Review: Switzerland

Yep, I’ve been reviewing again. Brilliant way to sharpen the writerly craft (I hope). Sorry to say this isn’t all it could be – running til 1 Sep in Bath, with Downton Abbey’s Phyllis Logan playing Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr Ripley (and much more):

“….Think of a bar-bore in their own cave and that’s the role Phyllis Logan has taken on. It’s a very tough gig and she too is constantly watchable. But Murray-Smith has not gifted her the same character nuances as her counterpart […] With this uneven script, the audience is left with a sense of dangling threads, of creative promise unfulfilled, and a great writer being under-served for the benefit of a lesser one.”

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©NOBBY CLARK+44(0)7941-515770

Phyllis Logan as Patricia Highsmith in “Switzerland”, Ustinov, Theatre Royal Bath. Pic: Nobby Clark


Review: Christmas Eve

I’ve just reviewed the new Daniel Kehlmann show at the Ustinov, Theatre Royal Bath, for Bristol 24/7. In short, this was a tough review – I wish with all my heart I could have written a happier one. Click the pic to have a read:

Baladi Cusack Xmas eve oct 17

Patrick Baladi & Naimh Cusack in Christmas Eve at the Ustinov, Bath – pic, Simon Annand

Other people’s work: review of John Mighton’s Half Life, Bath

I used to do a lot of theatre reviewing – when wed to a person I didn’t need to pay to look after our child! – and always wondered whether I should share them here. So, in a new departure, I thought I’d start. Last night I reviewed Nancy Meckler’s production (at Bath’s Ustinov Studio) of Half Life for Bristol 247. Here’s the article – happy reading (runs til 5 Nov- go!)


Giving good story: it’s all about the posture (but never posturing!)

If you love writing, you just love writing. I’ve got several fresh projects on the go  (film, stage and TV) and it’s a lovely time, tending the garden, straightening the bamboo poles, checking the rainfall, soil and consulting the manual…I also have several (*metaphor switch alert*) fully formed babies out there, trying to find their way to their audiences. Maybe they’re more like eels in the wide Sargasso Sea.  But my point is, how lucky I am to be doing this.

Today, I’m running a course on dramatic structure, enabled by the marvellous peeps at Theatre Royal Bath’s Engage Programme. It’s really about how you, too, really CAN tell a great story and let your mind go wild if your structure works. I love structure: in music, painting, language, life and stories. We all look for patterns (from superstitions to coincidence to aesthetic beauty) and they allow life to ‘sing’, like strange harmonics from violins or the singing sands of the Sahara.

Today’s course all started off with a post here (Mr Benn & the hero’s journey), where I twigged that even kids’ TV – and especially clearly, the ’70s Mr Benn – has the same basic skeleton as The Wizard of Oz, Rocky, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Hobbit… (etc etc). We ran some shorter workshops for the enthusiastic parents of Paulton Junior School back in the summer, and today, I get to explore more deeply with a smaller group of writers.

I’m also working with a couple of other writers on their scripts and sharing my own work with a couple of novel-writing friends, giving each other feedback and providing sounding boards (rather than unalloyed enthusiasm, which is never very helpful). So, thankfully, I am very definitely a jobbing writer once again, working in a community of greatly generous artists, with (luckily) very very little ego on the rampage (none!). And if you are ever interested in the ideas that crop up here, you know where to find me.

If you’re writing, be kind to yourself; if you’re not, enjoy some drama, comedy or a book!


The thing is, too much thought and too little ability to translate that into a regular blog post…

A few fragments, then…Fresh from reviewing “Jigsy” – a Les Dennis one-man show at the Tobacco Factory. Last night was the “world premier”, tonight’s the last show! This was great theatre. My review for is here. Beautiful writing, great direction, superb performance. Phew.

Am working on something entirely new for me and have less than two weeks ’til deadline. In the current Kirk climate, that means c.10 hours’ writing time [9 month-old + pre-teens = say no more]. Need to learn to live like a slattern. (Must try harder.) What? Oh, what is it? A fab commission from Theatre Royal Bath for February’s Shakespeare Festival. The challenge: get the audience feeling confident about Shakespeare in 50 minutes. I’m loving it, as long as I don’t think about it too much!

And then there are The Projects. Someone smartly told me (nailed me) recently that I need to polish my work better, and she’s right, so there are a few important scripts that need polishing (not least the one about a right-wing government, curfews, riots and privacy incursions that I wrote 3 years ago), as well as developing No Milk No Stamps following August’s rehearsed reading.  And that’s all without The Ideas: the things that need writing from scratch; the creative team ideas that won’t go away….

Anglers sign off their notes to each other with “tight lines”. What’d be a good scriptwriterly sign off? Perhaps in this case,

Sleeping Babies


The Ustinov Writers’ Forum Moves to the Tobacco Factory

As you might have spotted if you read this blog regularly, I’ve been a member of a superb group of writers at the Ustinov. This group is now moving to the Tobacco Factory and this statement from the Forum explains the how and the why. If you would like to know more about what we’re up to and how you can support us, please read to the end!


In July the members of the Ustinov Writers’ Forum are leaving Theatre Royal Bath to start a new relationship with the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol.

Why move?
Theatre Royal Bath has reassessed the function of the studio space and its place within the organisation. As part of the strategy devised by Theatre Royal Bath’s Director and endorsed by the Board of Trustees, the Theatre sought to appoint a leading creative artist at the head of the Ustinov Studio to produce six in-house shows a year. Support for playwrights and Forum members was however moved from the Ustinov into the new Engage programme, which supports and encourages the interest, enjoyment and skills of adults in the performing arts at all levels of involvement. Disappointingly, the support reduced or removed some key services and fell below our expectations as a professional group: we therefore decided to seek a new home that we felt shared our commitment to the development and production of new work by regional writers.

Our achievements to date
Whilst we find the circumstances surrounding our departure from Theatre Royal Bath regrettable, we are very pleased to have achieved so much in two years with the support of the Ustinov, which has financed the Forum to provide industry-level development for professional writers; workshops; script reading; collaborative projects; visiting speakers and support for emerging and established writers in their desire to explore original ideas. Three Forum writers were seeded and supported to start new plays, five of the members’ scripts were staged as public readings, seven short plays were produced, eleven plays received half or full-day development sessions and fifteen writers were provided with one-to-one surgeries on their scripts. Four plays supported through Script Factory went on to professional production: COLLIDER and CIRCUS BRITANNICA by Shaun McCarthy, HERDING CATS by Lucinda Coxon and WATER’S NOT SO THICK by Gill Kirk.

Our next steps
We’re looking forward to the next stage of our development as a group. We hope being hosted by the Tobacco Factory Theatre to continue our work will allow us to build a wide range of new creative partnerships with theatres, producers, directors, actors and companies:

“We’re delighted to welcome the Writers’ Forum to the Tobacco Factory Theatre. The Forum’s hugely valuable activities complement our own commitment to the development and creation of new work and we are excited about the future of this relationship.” – Carrie Rhys-Davies, Education Officer, Tobacco Factory Theatr

How will we fund it?
As well as sharing our artistic aims, the Tobacco Factory Theatre has very generously provided space for monthly meetings, one-off skills workshops and bi-monthly script-in-hand readings in return for our support on new writing initiatives such as Script Space. However, we have no capital funding to run events or pay for professional development. We believe in paying professionals for their work and wish to do so wherever possible. We will be applying for project funding from ACE and other partners to help support this work financially from January 2012.

Your support
It is by coming to public events like script-in-hand readings that many of you have supported the Forum’s work in the past. We hope this can continue in the months ahead. If you would like more information on our plans to maintain and evolve a programme of writer development, are interested in discussing ways to support the Forum financially or creatively, or would simply like to be kept up to speed with the Forum’s future activities, please contact the group’s facilitator David Lane at