Kilcreggan April 21, 2009
This is where I am right now and all I can say is that I’m surrounded by wonderful people and a beauteous backdrop.
I had my first tutorial today with Polly Clark and we’ve got an idea of the plan I’m going to follow the next two weeks. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands dirty and whittling away the deadwood and breathing life into the story. The general feedback I’ve received is that the dialogue and characters are strong but it’s the structure that holds it back. What’s hard to establish from that is they don’t expand on what’s the problem so it’s going to be one of those situations where I’m going to have to travel around different routes with this story and see where it takes me.
Right, we’ve all got indian takeaway (which is a complete and utter luxury seeing as we’re in the middle of nowhere) so I’m off to go munch.
Two Weeks In Glasgow April 19, 2009
I’ll be taking a two week interlude on my blog as I’m flying up to Glasgow to indulge in being included on a writer’s residency as part of The Fielding Programme. I’m working on my first play, “Thursday’s Child” and hope to come back with a more rounded draft that I can build on and fingers crossed get optioned for a production. But let’s walk before I peg it. I’m hoping that upon my return I shall have some new shiny things to tell you and I’ll finally get round to putting my thoughts down onto this here blog.
“Maggie’s End” April 15, 2009
“Maggie’s End” was performed at the Shaw Theatre of which I’ve not been to before and luckily it’s a stones throw from King’s Cross which makes my life a lot easier.
I was really looking forward to this production and I wanted to see an audience with fire in the pit of their belly. And I did. It just seemed that it surfed on that idea and plot was a glimpse of an unachievable idea.
“Maggie’s End” presents us with the (extremely plausible) idea that Margaret Thatcher dies and is granted by King Charles to have a state funeral. This announcement divides the country (as it does now) as to how her death should be commemorated or celebrated. The premise I find fascinating because it’s something that the country will have to deal with sooner or later. The strong performances suited the piece with Mark Wingett leading the way as Leon with his superb portrayal of a man passionate about politics but also broken by his beliefs as well.
What I really enjoyed about this play was the guts it had to pan the story out, its cavalier approach to making a stand for strong politics and comeuppance. But I think that’s what my problem was. It was all swagger and no fully thought out plot. The twists and ‘surprises’ were delivered in such an underhand way that you rarely cared for the characters in question or were even given a moment to consider the consequences. The lack of relationship status between Leon and his daughter, Rosa, (who coincidentally is the New Labour MP in charge of the funeral and sleeping with the Home Secretary) means that you see no change in her moral standards. If there were an ounce of chemistry within the script to direct us to at least believe some of the spiel Rosa deals her father then it would be another story. If there was more of an emotional lure then the fall would be greater; the lack of crescendo leading to characters’ arrest made it fall flat and missed vital impact which would have made this piece perfect.
Structure wise it lacked cuebite as the scenes got shorter and the phonecall scene where four characters spoke separate conversations lacked energy when it should have been one of the more exciting parts of the play. The use of music worked wonderfully with The Smiths, Billy Bragg and Beats International harking back to the past but ever so relevant today but even that irked as the decision to use the same snippet of music to aid the scene changes was repeated more than enough times. At times sluggish with the Home Secretary’s scenes being played out as if the room took over the whole stage but on the flip side Leon’s living room was self contained and really dropped you in it, completely believable.
The passion was there; it’s a touchy subject. What message it portrays is inevitable, Thatcher will get the state funeral no matter whose watch she dies on. Audience members joining in with the heckling and venom made the atmosphere electric but you can’t rely on predictable passion to make the play flow till the end. Infuse it, thread it like a throbbing vein but don’t push it so the audience are holding the crux of the knowledge. As a twenty-five year old viewing the play it did little for me emotionally except tell me facts and give me insight to her complex reign. But trying to throw thread bare human relationship stories and seeing if they stick don’t make it a fully rounded performance. It’s a half-baked family drama with a strong undercurrent of politics. Leon as a has-been politics lecturer seems too convenient, his daughter being the Home Secretary’s secretary seems too fitting and keeping it in the family the step-mother is an avid and staunch campaigner. It’s all too neat and sailed on regardless due to the fact that when the Thatcher-bashing ensued you were guaranteed the audience would respond with distinct volume. There were some fantastic dramatic moments that will stay with me such as the audience joining in when characters sang protest songs and the ferocious verbal attack Leon directs at the Home Secretary. But they were few and far between. I wanted more of the guts and angst that you heard from the audience, that was alluded to on stage. But it came across in fits and bursts which disappointed me because it was there. It just didn’t seem to fit the plot.
It’s steeped in memories but rams them down your throat rather than invite. It’s as if a bunch of people wrote their memories down and the playwrights have regurgitated them and pinned them on relevant pawns they needed. Whilst I willed this play to be more slick and grip me it lost its way when he story got too big and relied on the two-dimensional characters. When a play throws the mercy of its characters to the audience they have to at least care about them. It lost its steam and way through the convoluted plot and there was only one way for the play to end; the plotters plan is foiled and New Labour wins. Personally it would have held greater resonance if they succeeded in marching alongside Thatcher’s funeral; the two classes side by side causing disruption but as it happens it’s decided that the focus of attention is on the human element. Sadly, the weaker characteristic of the play. Leon and his wife are carted off under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and it just draws a line under the fact that this play is a bundle of ideas and rants and not coherent enough to stand proud throughout as the lead up would expect.
At first the feeling is so strong and it wimps out with a depleted ending which mars the overall outcome. See it if you know nothing of what tyranny played out in the past and learn… but don’t see if if you’re expecting a slick production with a strong emotional and moral punch plot wise. I know some people will dismiss my remarks as missing the point but I’m not knocking the content, there’s no way any playwright can avoid that essence. What jarred for me was the portrayal of the message and how tightly wound and restrained, almost tangled in itself with the myriad of narratives, it played out to be.
A Miracle April 9, 2009
I took my mother to go see this play because not only does she think Russell Tovey is “sweet and adorable” but to show her around the Royal Court and give her a taste of what I want to actually do. She’d never been to that theatre or in fact to that part of London; then again why would anyone who doesn’t have a few tonne in their pocket to burn. The place is littered with boutiques and big name brands that you can only afford to say rather than indulge in.
I’d already seen the set for “A Miracle” because a friend had their reading of their play there the week before. You walked into the Jerwood Upstairs to be confronted with seats lining all four walls and the ground covered in soil and grass as if you’ve just stepped out into the park. There was a roundabout, a single bed, a kitchen sink, oven and a table (and also five tonne of soil scattered around the place in bags). The atmosphere was one of anticipation; you didn’t know where the actors were going to surface from. What I enjoyed about taking Mother to see this piece was the different approach to theatre it would show her. My Mother does not scoff at theatre but she’s used to the more traditional proscenium arch format where the village hall will do or musicals (I also am a fan of musicals before anyone thinks I’m scoffing back at her). This piece was to challenge the standard sitting back and watching the drama unfold. One of the first things she said to me was, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to the stage before, it’s like I’m a part of the play”. This comment from her pleased me because that’s how every play should be, involving and pushing the boundary of what’s considered safe. We saw the action unfold and felt every movement and nuance of their characters because we had no choice but to. No doubt there were some young girls there to admire the named star Tovey (who giggled in the lead up, but were silenced by his blunt and emotionally charged character) but I was just happy that there were a different crowd in the audience.
The play was a slow burning production about a young girl, Amy, whose mothered a child she cannot connect with and who is more of less brought up by her grandmother, Val. Amy encounters and reconnects with Gary whose been away in the army for two years and has come back to see his father, Rob. Through a series of contained and painful naive moments we see each character’s ripple of effects on each other and the lies that link them together. The play touches on disappointment,the labour of love and the brutal facts of work and survival.
Whilst I enjoyed this piece I walked away feeling a little empty. The performances were cracking. Kate O’Flynn was the socially inept Amy who teased the humour from her uneducated and emotionally redundant character highlighting every up and down she felt along the way. Her interaction with Sorcha Cusack, who played the grandmother, was electric and the two women thrashed the emotion (or Amy’s lack of) into their scenes bringing real naturalistic intentional pauses down to their knees. Gerard Horan, Rob, was brilliantly complex and closed off as the troubled farmer who following the foot-and-mouth outbreaks had encountered personal and financial problems. His scenes with Russell Tovey not only punctuated the rocky father-son relationship they harboured but the similarities the two men had and their nonchalance for not admitting their mistakes.
The characters were electric and the plot steady and intriguing but the way the story was pieced together made me want more. Not necessarily a bad thing but when you’re clapping the actors and you’re stuck in the queue to get out it’s not what you want to be feeling when you’ve still got questions. I wanted more to be teased out of the characters, I wanted to really be run through the mill of all of their actions. There seemed to be no distinct high points where you as a member of the audience think, “woah, what are they going to do, surely… oh no…”. Of course there were consequences for each character’s actions but they seemed to be treated with kit gloves on, no real flinging of words or under the belt punches thrown. I suspect that the undercurrent was to reiterate how life carries on and how each character was fooling themselves and saying the right things at the right time… but it seemed to stop short of making that message strong.
This isn’t meant to come across as overly negative, I thoroughly enjoyed Molly Davies debut and want to see more of her work. What she captured brilliantly is the domesticity each of our lives are reduced to and certain roles that we’re meant to fill and ask no questions about. She also highlights the plight of every person whose suffered from life’s daily disasters and doesn’t follow suit of exposing it to the downtrodden stereotypes. I had a discussion with someone the other day about wanting people to turn off their televisions and take a trip to the theatre. There are cracking emotional dramas that people laze about and watch at home but if they could only rush to the nearest theatre and experience it in real time face to face they would enjoy it more so. Theatre still has the stigmatism of being for the middle classes but I hope that with time and the emergence of new playwrights such as Molly Davies, we can turn that theory on it’s head and dispell it once and for all. I for one have started small by taking my Mother, the bigger battle is my Father…