Several incidents have tumbled into my view the last month and all of them chime with each other in a manner of ways. We had to put our beloved dog down which still hurts – the hardest and easiest decision I’ve had to make. With a constant swathe of self-reflection taking over the home it’s been a case of paddling in the past trying to make sense of the now. It’s a time when the hours seem longer and the jobs seem constant and everything in the zeitgeist is out to get you.
I recently had an old piece of work performed for the second time, but two years apart from its first airing. Whilst watching it I found moments I’d forgotten and other elements which jarred. But all in all it was a pleasure to see a different interpretation of the script and it showed my work to have a pulse longer than the few moments it was written. It was extremely well received by the audience and a big thank you must go to Oryx Productions who paired me up with director Ahmed El Alfy and actors Emma Darlow and Tom Phillips who were all ace. Here’s a lovely review of the night: (it’s quite a good one)
In my other job I had a meeting recently with a young filmmaker and we ended up talking about our past work and the notion of rewatching it through older eyes. She felt too close to her previous work and had distanced herself from it, going as far as to actually withdrawing it from public viewing. We talked about how we can see what was going on in our lives because of the content of our work, but only in retrospective. It’s true. For me I can glance back at stuff I’ve written and see it as useless because it’s not come from me now, it doesn’t have the same urgency that I strive for presently. Other times I re-read old material and question why I didn’t realise I was on to something back then and commit to the end. I always end up trying to think back about a lot of things when I get to bed.
It’s a conversation I’ve had with many and I’m sure some of the folks who read this blog will have had it too… New writing rarely gets restaged in London and it makes me wonder, why? London thrives with new writing but as soon as it’s gone anywhere near a stage it loses its shine, its ‘new’ tag, and it’s onto the next piece from someone else. Sure plays go on tour, but it makes me realise with more strength that London is possibly not the ‘new writing’ friendly place that it’s been talked up to be. You get the initial excitement of finally having some work on… But as soon as it’s gone up the first night you’re constantly having to prepare yourself for it to end because then it’s gone. Scurrying back into your computer folder to be forgotten about because you’re being ushered into writing something new, something current, something now.
I’ve dipped into my old folder of writing to uncover how different I am now so I can understand what I’ve achieved. I’m a person who can only figure out what I’ve done by glancing back to see what went before. It’s never as galling as you think it will be because let’s put it this way – if your previous work was bad, you’ve learnt something and if it’s not then you know you’re doing something right.
You keep going, you keep learning and you keep going. It’s not so bad to take a breather and look at where you’ve come from to see your achievements. I just know that I’m glad that I’ve not given up yet.
Looking Backwards But Moving Forwards September 30, 2012
Miniaturists 33 January 31, 2012
Coming up on Sunday 5th February at The Arcola is The Miniaturists, a collection of short plays that have been written by playwrights who have been invited to do so. And I have been kindly invited to write one and do so. Working alongside my brilliant director Abigail Graham and the superb actors Geraldine Alexander and a Josh Darcy, we’ll be airing an experiment of an idea that I really want to explore further. The piece is called ’18+’; Tom and Lily’s daughter was a porn actress until she was hit by a car. Tragic. The only way they can remember her is watching her back catalogue. It was her job, they are very proud of what she achieved. Disconnection of intimacy and how grief can alter our relationships with each other not just with the person in question. It’s a snapshot of a larger idea that I want to spend time really delving into, but at the moment I want to take the idea out for a spin to see if it’s got legs. And what better way to do it than this.
I’m in good company with the other invited writers being Jon Brittain, Brierley Thorpe, Kate Russell-Smith and Al Smith. I’m really looking forward to this short being put in front of an audience. The last few short pieces I’ve written have been a step apart from what I usually write in terms of chronological narrative and style, but I’m really enjoying this approach.
There are two performances, one at 5pm and the other at 8pm. Do come along and say hallo.
5 February 2012
5pm and 8pm
No One Writes (Them) Like That Anymore January 2, 2012
The role of Terry (the half-hearted suicidal man) will be played by James Pellow, Gareth (the hen-pecked argumentative husband of Suzie) will be played by Trevor Murphy and Suzie (slightly bored housewive of Gareth) will be played by Shamaya Blake.
The film above is the piece I’ve written my response to. What I like about Alex’s visual and aural representation of the letter written by Vittorio Gassman is that we can subconsciously relate glimmers of what we see to a narrative we are being fed. It’s a psychological dot-to-dot for me and further underlines the power of the written word and how fertile the human imagination is. So I’ve approached my response in a very surreal fashion, but I’m quite proud of it. Lifting the idea of how we treat silence and noise within relationships I’ve set the piece in a grotty B&B where the walls are thin. I’ve also explored the influence of popular culture through the TV set and how we relate this to memories subconsciously. And how nobody writes letters anymore and the influence of technology having an effect on something as straightforward, such as the suicide note. As I said, it’s a whole collection of surreal ideas presented in a bizarre manner.
Wednesday 11th Jan
YARN presents… An Evening of Cinematic Soliloquies
£6 tickets, available in advance here
My Play At The Arcola February 14, 2011
It doesn’t matter how many times I write or say that, it still feels special. Things have been progressing and London has been seeing more of my work steadily. And this particular play holds a special place in my heart. The reason? It was the first commission (in London) I was asked to do by the wonderful Box Of Tricks theatre company. These Lovely people approached me and I said yes. Because that’s the kind of person I am, and of course, what a brilliant opportunity.
I’ve mentioned these folk before because they were asking for donations to help put this night of new writing on. Through the WeFund website they hit their target of £500 to aid the five night run in Studio 2 of the new Arcola site. For those of you who donated you are made of special stuff, special stuff that only special people can love. And collectively we all love you. (On a side note, for those who donated and are coming along to see the show, please let me know when and you’ll have to allow me to verbally thank you, possibly even stroke your tender loving face).
As I prepare my train times to get into London tomorrow and see the first rehearsal of my play, “Let Them Eat Cake!” and meet the actors, I feel a wave of something wash over me. It’s gratitude. And I’m feeling it on so many levels with regards to Box Of Tricks, the actors, the Arcola, to the impending audience, to many things. It’s a nice feeling to have and one that will drown out the nasty sting of other things as I chug along on the train listening to Tame Impala early tomorrow morning. I’m very happy.
Asking For Your Support January 22, 2011
I’m here as an artist asking for your support. Last year I received my very first London commission which made me as giddy as a schoolgirl. It was from a Lovely company run by Lovely folk called, Box Of Tricks. The script has been written and the casting wheels put into motion. I will be shouting about this nearer the time with regards to dates, places .etc., but right now I have something important to discuss. As any of you will know the arts took a beating when it came to the cuts from the new government. Seeing as, ‘we’re all in this together‘ I thought I’d ask you for help. This isn’t just for me, it isn’t just for Box Of Tricks, but it’s for the arts in general. Y’see people think that the arts don’t touch them and question why they should even consider thinking about art. Art isn’t just paintings or some shonky expressive dance group – it’s that and much more.
I’m an avid believer that art exists in education more than people realise. Sure we have TIE (Theatre In Education), but we also have science videos which have been crafted and acted and filmed and created for a class, scripts that have been written and printed and cast in schools, c’mon the very act of being a teacher is a form of art. It gives people a voice, something to nurture and gain confidence and skills. We learn to speak through watching others, playing with objects that help us understand colour, feelings, emotions, all the senses.
The visceral act of writing is a performance that everyone learns in primary school. Some could say I’m being overly poetic about it, but think back to when you learnt to write. The act of wielding a pen and drawing these strange hieroglyphics and everyone being so proud of you. Everything does not boil down to an exam paper and a chewed biro. Being creative is not limited to tools such as a paintbrush, crashing two symbols together or cradling Hamlet’s skull. The essence of being creative is crafting a thought, processing it and acting upon it. Everything is creative that we say, do and feel.
(for the first Ken Robinson TED talk click here)
Now of course I’m coming to this particular point as a playwright. But I’m sure that all of you reading this will have attended, say, a music concert at some point in your life. Whether it be to see your favourite band or because your child was picked to play the lead recorder part in the end of year play. Everyone having this opportunity is something that we should cherish and utilise. We shouldn’t sneer at something that we think doesn’t directly refer to us.
I optionally chose to work in a profession where there is very little money, but a tonne of reward. And one of those rewards is getting to see your work performed by professional actors for an audience. For Box Of Tricks to put on their work they rely on fundraising, which is of course something that is common knowledge and I don’t need to explain. For this particular production of Word:Play 4, Box Of Tricks are using the website WeFund to gather donations. What WeFund does is allow you to promote your cause and achieve a target sum. What this entails is the idea that people can pledge their money and it will only be taken off the donator once the end result has been achieved. If the end result isn’t achieved, no one’s money is donated. Box Of Tricks need just £500 in total to create a fantastic show that is promoting 6 new playwrights in one of London’s renowned venues, The Arcola. It’s not a lot of money in comparison to other London productions, but it’s money that unfortunately isn’t there right now.
I’m asking you to pledge whatever you have spare. This could be one pound, two pounds, possibly even five pounds. Anything, anything you can spare. If you’re feeling extra generous there are certain privileges you can garner from the more larger donations (which are detailed on the WeFund Word:Play4 page). I always bang on about collaboration and like I’ve said before, it’s not limited to people within a rehearsal room. To create theatre you have to have an audience, your audience are your co-conspirators. It’s a nice flourish that the new writing night is called, ‘Revolution’. Be part of the process and show your support, and let others know what they can do.
Food For Thought December 17, 2010
So on 7th December at the Tristan Bates theatre in Covent Garden my short play, “Food For Thought” was involved with Papercut Theatre’s cycle of plays entitled, “Cut Off”. And it finished after a successful run on the 11th December. And what an experience it was.
I had the wonderful experience of working with Maja Milatovic-Ovadia as my director who in turn introduced me to my equally brilliant cast members: Russell Anthony, Ishai Jacob, Lucy Roslyn and Alexandra Thoros, not forgetting fantastic designer Vanda Butkovic.
The Tristan Bates treated us well and also arranged for myself and Melissa Dunne (the curator and brains behind everything) to be interviewed by their resident blogger Adam Smith. The results of which can be seen here: (Lovely interview/review)
“…Katie McCullough’s intrigue is dramatised in her play… it contains some expert observations and a creative approach – as a short play it attains the respectable position of a fun satire…”
Thank you for the kind words Adam. He also blogs for a website I follow closely anywho called, “Notes From The Underground”. There he’s posted a different version of our interview.
And now for some photos (all the good proper ones are taken by Michael Wharley)…
I’ll freely admit that I was anxious not only about this being my London debut, but also because of the particular subject I was tackling within my short play. Right up until the middle of the run I thought I was stupid to satirise theatre commissioners because I’m a playwright at the beginning of my career and these are essentially the people who decide whether my career goes anywhere. Okay, they’re not the be all and end all deciders, but they are one of the hurdles to overcome. But as audience responses came flooding in my mind was put at ease. People were understanding my allegorical approach and actually agreed, it paved the way to a discussion, a debate as was intended. (See interviews for a brief explanation of my piece.)
So I would like to say thank you to Melissa Dunne who sprung this on me about a week before the script was needed and for Papercut Theatre for hosting my proper London debut. Let’s hope this isn’t the last time I’m acquainted with London in a theatrical manner.
Cut Off November 25, 2010
I was approached by Melissa Dunne after working with her on my London debut, “Love-Aged-28” about writing a short play in response to the arts cuts. Earlier this year she curated a collection of plays in response to the arts cuts at Theatre503. This time it’s transferring to the Tristan Bates Theatre for a longer run and it will include a play written by me called, “Food For Thought“.
“Art is not an add-on, It never has been. It has always been central to our existence and understanding.”
- Lee Hall, Guardian Theatre Blog earlier this year.
This year an announcement was made to cut £19m worth of funding to the arts. Some people thought this was for the best; some thought it was for the worst. Six writers give their response.
Plays by Ben Blaine (BAFTA Short-Listed Film Maker), Peter Cant, Sarah Grochala (Winner of the Amnesty International Protect the Human Playwriting Competition for S27), Katie McCullough, Heather O’Shea & Rebecca Walker (Winner of BBC Writersroom Five Days in May Competition)
Directed by Melissa Dunne, Antonio Ferrara, Abigail Graham, Jamie Harper and Maja Milatovic-Ovadia
Curated by Melissa Dunne
Produced by Nicola Biden
7th – 11th December
Tristan Bates Theatre
Box Office: 020 7240 6283