I’ve had a lot going on over the past 18 months, both good and bad and it’s culminated in a huge swathe of doubt, bigger than I’ve had before. I’ve been getting this strike of fear that sits between my head and my chest and in the back of my throat. It creeps up on me at the most mundane of moments and swells until I don’t know what to do except embrace it and wallow for a few moments. Then it’s back to normal, back to emptying the dishwasher, cleaning my whiteboard, parking the car.
My fear is that I’ll get a few years down the line and wonder why the fuck I’m still attempting to do what I’m doing now. My future self will ridicule my present self and tell me I’ve been stupid chasing this dream and I should concentrate on other more important things.
I’m being honest. I pride myself on being honest because if I’m not honest with myself who else is going to be.
Here’s an insight into my life: it’s all writing. Scoff all you want, I do very little else. So when I get another rejection, get pipped to the post for another scheme, don’t place in an award it’s a large cavernous dent in my thinning armour. I do not know how to switch off and stop working, I have a fear that I’ll miss an opportunity. It hurts. It hurts a lot to know that my mountains of work, my paper children I’ve birthed, will sit and stack in the corner of my overcrowded room.
I’m running on the spot and I’m not sure if I’m learning anything new apart from years of experience of not being heard. I want to share my work, I do not have money to mount my own productions, I do not have a sponsor to kindly do it for me, I can’t even afford to move out of home. I sit here writing knowing that more people have probably read this blog than seen my stage work and that’s fairly minimal. Why do I do it? Why do I insist on carrying on knowing it’s a waste of time and that there’ll always be someone else who reaches that destination before me? Why the fuck do I think I’m different? And why the frilly heck do I feel the necessity to compare myself to others?
I don’t know. I simply don’t know. I’m tired. My heart aches at the thought of not writing, although I’m suffocated at the prospect of carrying on. I’ve lost the spark that I used to run towards, now I’m frantically searching around for it. Actually, I’ve passed that and I can’t be bothered to look around. This may seem bombastic, but all I do is write because I want to, it’s the only thing I’m good at. Maybe you’ll read this and think, “maybe no one’s paying you attention because you’re a shit writer?” And maybe you’d be right. Maybe that’s the thing, maybe I’m not being honest enough with myself to say that I cannot write well. I don’t know. That’s the worst thing, I do not know how to find this out.
I’m going to be quiet for a while (writing wise) because I’m a bit lost. And when you’re lost you don’t really make a lot of sense. This isn’t a cry for help or the cue for you to send me reassuring words, it’s an attempt at an explanation as to what’s going on, why I haven’t done anything, and to maybe quash the questions for a bit. I know people are only trying to be kind, and I love them for it, you are the people I’m writing for. Real life has meant that I’m putting writing on the back burner for a bit. I’ve lost the passion and I don’t want to force it. I’m pretty sure in a few months this post will be redundant, I would like to think so.
No doubt you’ll see me in real life or on the usual social platforms soon. If you do, let’s talk about anything but me writing. And bring gin.
Riddled With Niggles August 20, 2013
DROPPED SEQUINS for #FUTURESPARK is cast! July 2, 2013
I’m thrilled to say that my short play DROPPED SEQUINS for How It Ended Productions’ FUTURESPARK has been cast! Let me introduce the superb ladies…
First up (above) we have the delightful Stephanie Overington, a fresh young actress based in Luton. I recently worked with Stephanie on a charity video to raise awareness of self-harm. She has the right spark of naturalism and plays that vulnerability to suit the part of Natasha brilliantly. I’m really looking forward to working with her more directly and on some new writing.
Then we have Rachel Jackson who I’m really excited to be working with. I saw Rachel in a Coming Up (Channel 4) episode from a few years back, then saw her in a short play as part of RedFest last year, and both times she’s stuck out for me. She’s got the feistiness in her for sure and the boldness that completes the part of Gemma.
Two actresses who will bring my work to life under the direction from the lovely Madelaine Smith. Niceness.
REMINDER TO BOOK TICKETS! —> here
FUTURESPARK with @how_it_ended June 16, 2013
I first encountered the theatre company How It Ended Productions on Twitter a few years ago. They were on the lips of many that I’d talked to, and I was intrigued by the work they put out. I even pledged some cash in their WeFund campaign to help them get to Edinburgh. I was all for helping out a theatre company, especially when they were so close to home (they’re based in Luton). I was excited to see their work and looking forward to meeting them. Then I got busy. Which meant that I didn’t get to see their work or meet them.
Skip forward a fews years and now they’ve mounting a short play of mine alongside others in their event called FUTURESPARK this July. So I will get to see their work, I will get to meet them and I’m obviously working with them. This pleases me so. My short play DROPPING SEQUINS will be directed by Madelaine Smith who I kind of know already from Twitter firstly, then through a mutual actor friend, and then because I invited her to a reading of one of my other plays to give feedback based on our previous interaction. There you go folks, as they sing in Bugsy Malone, “You give a little love and it all comes back to you (na, na, na, na-na-na-naaaaaaa)“.
So we’re casting this week and it’s quite a rhythmical piece, not intentional but it just came out that way. There’s dancing, some spoken word elements… It’s going to be fun. The springboard stimulus was the word ‘Carnival’. I ended up writing about two girls who are best friends getting ready to dance in the carnival – but they’re also planning something else untoward and the Carnival is the perfect cover. But aside from that, I should probably tell you the date, time, place .etc.
11th July – 8:00pm
12th July – 11:00am
The second performance is FREE and is for ANYONE! (But if you are a school and would like to arrange a group booking contact firstname.lastname@example.org) Both performances will be at the UK Centre For Carnival Arts (UKCCA) and you can buy tickets HERE!
It’s looking to be a treat with 8 short plays, live music and other happenings. I will obviously be in attendance, and if you can get your fine self there too it would be grand. As much as it’s nice getting work on at all, it’s especially nice getting it on so close to home. Come!
LONDON PRIDE is imminent! April 25, 2013
Crikey mikey pudding and pie!
LONDON PRIDE is impending, like a loveable rogue over that yonder hill. I’ve stopped by quickly to tell you a few things…
- You can buy tickets here – clicky clicky, buysy buysy
- On Sunday 5th May from 4-6pm there will be a New Writing Surgery where both of us, myself and MJ Starling (author of Audience With Ghostfinder), will be present to help or just chat about your work. More info can be found here – click for WAFF info
- There’s a post show Q&A with both of us too on the 9th May
- I’m quite excited about everything.
See you there!
LONDON PRIDE is cast… AND ON SALE! March 16, 2013
Yup, it’s all auditioned out and we have our stellar cast. It was great sitting in on the auditions and meeting some of the talent out there. And as always you want to use everyone and have an interchangeable cast because you don’t want to send anyone away… But we whittled it down to a cast that I’m very excited to be working with. The most thrilling aspect of auditions for me, is when it’s the character talking in front of you and not the actor. They make me forget what I’ve written and make it seem like I’m snatching snippets of other people’s conversation. Definitely.
So without further ado, here be the cast:
Details of where and when and how much (including the rest of the programme for the Wandsworth Arts Festival & Fringe) can be found here: clicky linky (we’re on page 15, just so you know)
Tickets can be grabbed here: clicky-clicky-booky-booky
See you there? Mine’s a pint of gin.
Another Collaboration – But Online With @Gerryhayes March 15, 2013
I’ve been working on a thing, yeah another thing. Because I like being busy, but also because I like exploring different avenues of creativity. And I’m a sucker for coaxing people into a collaboration to make them think differently. And one of my victims/co-collaborators is the delightfully grumpy yet loveable Gerry Hayes. Gerry and I got chatting to each other on Twitter many years back now, and were also contributors to an online magazine called Metazen. Whether we found out about each other on there or vice versa has yet to be remembered. We shared mutual writers that we spoke to online and also a sense of humour, which is what Twitter used to be about (!) and since then we’ve embarked on a project that has kept us tinkering away the last couple of years. It’s not a whole wealth of work we admit, but the idea is that the work actually exists. If we hadn’t created this project then nothing that is held within it would come to fruition. So there. Check out the link below for the work that’s been done so far (and obviously keep checking back, we’re both very proud of each one of our nuggets.)
But excuses aside, that’s the very point of this project. It’s unfurling at a deliberate pace because that’s how the project works. These projects never have an end goal of a timeline, it’s meant to breathe and wheeze in and around real life. The Beloved Box was pitched to Gerry by email in March 2011 and as you’ll see by the time stamps on the website, sometimes we’re flowing quickly and other times we’re taking our time. It’s about creating the time and space to fail but also flourish. It’s a creative exercise to keep the brain ticking knowing that there will always be a response but an unpredictable one.
Gerry is a brilliant photographer and has a keen eye for capturing visuals that I find exciting, lyrical almost. After email discussion we decided on keeping the theme open so we didn’t restrict ourselves and also really explored the content we could create. The idea was that we would respond to the other’s piece of work and it could be in any medium – photograph, film, sound, text – but each offering had to have a title and this was as important to the project as the content itself. The title comes from the first photograph that kicked the project off, taken by Gerry.
So this has become The Beloved Box which is a fluxing sprawling narrative based on what has been offered up before. A creative tag-team, a more inventive wordplay game passing on the creative beacon. With Gerry based in Ireland and myself in Hertfordshire, we’ve been in contact by email passing on our creative responses. Gerry kindly created the website and updates it as and when our new works are finished.
What I personally enjoy about this project is that it’s not demanding, it’s a creative stimulus that pops into my inbox every so often and I have the urge to reply. It’s part of a bigger project but I’m focused on the pebble sized chunks and it’s keeping my brain ticking over. This is the main reason why I start these projects with other people – you have the incentive and necessity of not letting someone down and in return produce new work. Everyone’s a winner.
[The above has also been posted by the author Emily Benet on the Mslexia blog here.]
LONDON PRIDE – fancy a pint? February 17, 2013
I’ve got a play on soon… The lovely people who are Blackshaw Theatre Company are to produce LONDON PRIDE this coming May as part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival and Fringe. I’m thrilled that the play will get a proper production (it received a reading at RADA back in 2011) and also overjoyed that it’s to be paired as a double bill with writer M.J. Starling. LONDON PRIDE and Audience With Ghost Finder will be performed at The Selkirk Upstairs in Tooting. I’m also really really chuffed that it’s in a pub as that’s where my play is set.
They’re also casting for both plays so if you’re of the Acting variety then have a ganders at the breakdowns and get applying. And there are also some Designer/Crew opportunities too. More details: here
And here’s a bit more info about the two plays…
LONDON PRIDE by Katie McCullough
In Shelly’s rundown pub dreams are revived, hope falters and someone’s looking for a fight.
A new arrival sends ripples through Shelly’s humdrum life and riles Joe, a regular determined to defend his territory.
Audience with the Ghost Finder by M. J. Starling
1912. To lift a cruel curse, ab-natural investigator Carnacki must tread the border between enlightenment and madness.
Sherlock Holmes meets Ghostbusters in this original tale of William Hope Hodgson’s classic character, Carnacki the ghost finder.
So times and dates are as follows:
May 8th, 9th, 10th, 15th and 17th all kicking off at 7:30pm
Tickets are £10 and that gets you in to see BOTH plays – what a bargain! Tickets will be available soon so keep an eye on the Blackshaw Twitter or Facebook or their website. Niceness.
Writer Collider with M.J. Starling February 16, 2013
Back sometime last year, the writer M.J. Starling approached and asked me to be involved with his podcast about inspiration and be the first creative to launch it. Of course I do love to gabble about writing to anyone who will listen, so I said yes. Writer Collider is all about the generation of concepts, where ideas come from. From a few randomly selected prompts thrown on the table by other people, narratives are formed on the spot and a discussion is opened about the process.
The particular writing prompt I plumped for was the following: “a boxer crying alone in his car on an overpass”
What I found refreshing about this idea of talking about the process, was the freedom to be able to sprawl across all decisions. Play, film, novel, you name it. And I am always telling people that it’s great to vocalise ideas or narratives out loud because you can hear them. Our brains are very clever and will disregard things before the mental sentence is even finished.
So here is the podcast with me murmuring about boxers and film: Katie McCullough on Writer Collider.
Keep an eye on M.J. Starling and the #writercollider series on his Twitter, website and on iTunes too.
The Next Big Thing (of sorts) December 24, 2012
My illustrious and regular theatre-friend Julie Mayhew has tagged me in a meme thing going round which isn’t as horrific as it might sound (it isn’t the novotastic flu thing). The idea is that you can let folks know about what you’re up to and I’ve slightly altered the questions so I can respond to them as a playwright. I feel a little bit of a fraud calling it The Next Big Thing, so humour me for a gentle blog post. I for one know this particular script needs a lot of work. But here they are…
1) What is the working title of your next play?
Thursday’s Child – that’s been the working title for quite some time now that I think I’m going to stick with it.
2) Where did the idea come from for the play?
I work visually so the scene that I saw clear as day and ended up bring the springboard for this play was stark. It was a man pissing in the corner of a run down dated bedroom and a little girl rushing to stop him.
3) What genre does your play fall under?
Hmmm. I think putting plays into genres is a toughy in that I don’t think they’re so strict as in film. At a push I’d say a State Of The Nation play but not as polemic. Maybe a State Of The Nation/Slice Of Life mash-up. Basically it’s a story and it’s a play. A journey through a brother and sister’s life through a lower class situation dealing with the care system, job seeker’s allowance and relationships.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Right. I’ve got four parts in this play…
Sandy (12) Feisty yet naive – Ilana Kneafsey
Terry (29) Bit of a drinker and outspoken – Rupert Friend
Charlotte (29) Bold but bored with life – Olivia Poulet
Wayne (15) Frustrated and spiky – Jamie Borthwick
5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your play?
5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your play?
Two siblings discover what it means to grow up and get real in amongst the comic books and issues in their life.
6) Will your play be self-published or represented by an agency?
As a playwright I’m the first cog of the development. So as soon as it’s done and finished proper like, it’ll do the usual rounds of literary departments and then see what happens. If I had the money to hand, I’d put it on myself tomorrow. Well, maybe after I’ve finished it proper like.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the play?
I did a very condensed vomit draft of it back in 2008 which took me 48 hours. After cringing every time I tried to re-read it since, I took a day or two to do a massive redraft to it a month or so ago. I say massive as in it was set in the 80s and is now current day, was set in the midlands and now set in Luton.
8) What other plays would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmmm. There’s the danger of sounding a bit too pretentious here isn’t there? I’ll tread carefully and speak widely… In terms of story there are elements of Mike Bartlett’s, ‘Love, Love, Love‘ as in the social impact of desires and money through the years. Character wise my male lead is a bit like Jimmy from ‘Look Back In Anger‘ by John Osborne. But I like to think it echoes the childlike innocence yet naively informative tones of Charlotte Keatley’s, ‘My Mother Said I Never Should‘.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this play?
Elements of my childhood, but I’d like to stress that it isn’t drawn from my personal experiences. Aside from that I’d say Leo Butler. He’s been a mentor every time I’ve been at the Royal Court for the writing groups and this was the result of the first one. He told me to be bold, hit the audience on the temple, then see what happens.
10) What else about your play might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmmm. Again, I’d say this is hard when talking about plays. I want to say my play would pique an audience member’s interest because my protagonist is a 12 year old girl who escapes her life through old comics. But then that could be seen as sensationalist because it’s a young girl. Tricky. But it does have a 12 year old girl who escapes her life through old comics and in the process strikes up a relationship with a fifteen year old boy. Yes, it does sound like one of those plays. But I promise you it’s not all doom and gloom, their friendship is beautiful and makes the adults present pale in comparison.
So they’re my answers about one of the plays that I’m redrafting. And in the spirit of things I’m going to tag the following folks: Gerry Hayes, a charming funny man who I’m currently collaborating on a project with and who writes, and Stephanie Ressort, another charming funny lady who I lovingly nicknamed Theatre Devil Incarnate who also writes. Both of these people don’t write enough so I’m being the metaphorical fire under their butt cheeks.
Interview With A Playwright (Part Two) December 7, 2012
Regular readers (if there are such a thing) of this blog will remember that I was interviewed by a lovely French lady called Vanessa Jaunet back in August. The first part can be read here: Interview With A Playwright (Part One)
Maybe because it’s the translation of the French to English, but I find Vanessa’s questions really pure and quite probing. Their simplistic nature catches me off guard, like when you think you know how to get to somewhere but then as you start off your map unravels…
Vanessa has kindly said I could post the second part of the interview up here.
Do you believe that the main character of a story is always connected with the writer’s personality?
Good question. My response is that I rarely put all of my personality into my characters as that can be extremely painful (or at least odd) to hear aloud or see. What I will say is that I thread in elements of my being more than I realise, but I don’t do it purposefully. At a post show Q&A for my play, “I Still Get Excited When I See A Ladybird” I was asked if there were any bits of me in it. And there were – fragments of my life or my thoughts or those close to me. But I’d never flag them up as to what they are because that’s not what a play should be about. It should be about what it reflects onto the audience and what they take away from it. I think the main purpose of writing is to excavate ourselves as humans – we’re unfurling an idea of how we’re trying to understand the world. So to a point you do write with a connection, but it could possibly be the disconnection of yourself to those around you and we’re seeing the exploration.
And do you think we write to speak about something hidden inside us as a therapy?
I think I personally write to understand myself a bit more, to understand myself as a human and the effect we can have on each other. Other playwrights will disagree, but I don’t think you can rely on writing as a therapy. Even if you were to write nonsense you’re still confining yourself to sentences, punctuation, grammar and the urge for a structure. I do, however, feel that you unlock different caveats of innermost thoughts when you write… But it could be that you never use them but the journey was there to inform your writing.
What do you find more fulfilling writing plays or seeing your plays on stage?
Writing plays is a long stint of anything I do and seeing them on stage is the goal obviously. But that doesn’t always happen so you become mother to these piles of pages that you desperately want to morph into real movements on a stage… So I’d say, for me, it’s a strange concoction of the two. I realise the ultimate goal of any script is seeing it on its feet on a stage in front of an audience… But there’s also a perverse notion of whittling down your idea in your head on to the page and the motion you take as a writer to do so.
What do you feel when an actor acts your words?
My brain is always looking to work on the next project so as soon as I’ve finished one script, I’m on to another. What this means is that I more than often don’t remember what I’ve written. Actors could fluff whole paragraphs of text and I may get the notion that they’re saying it wrong, but I wouldn’t be able to tell them what is correct. It is an alien sensation to watch something that you have pinned to the page, as a two-dimensional act of printing words on paper, suddenly unfurl into real living human beings. I feel extremely grateful whenever I’m in that position because the theatre industry is a busy one, and when you get the opportunity to truly see your work come alive, you realise why you still do it. No matter how many times it happens, the first time I watch a piece of my work with an audience my heart sits at the back of my throat and beats loudly, my ears feel like they’re breathing. You’re an unidentified speck in among a crowd and no one knows you’re the one responsible. You try and not make any sudden movements, breathe too loudly to not draw attention to yourself. But at the same time you’re trying to read your audience – are they focused on the action? Are they laughing? Are they crying? You find yourself trying to decipher different types of silences. Your body becomes this sensor and overrides your ability to sit and receive it like the rest of an audience. That’s what it feels like to me and I crave all of that.
If you could choose any actor for your plays who would you choose?
I’ve always wanted to work with Eddie Marsan. I think he’s got such an intricate way of expressing his character, his face especially. He’s a really physical actor I think. I’ve seen him play fragile and also gut-wrenchingly disgusting and his range is superb. I’d be very happy if I got to work with him, I’d be ecstatic!
Peter Capaldi is another actor who I have huge respect for because of his range, his eyes are so expressive. Alfred Molina is someone who I would openly beg to be in one of my plays, his voice is brilliant. Philip Seymour Hoffman is another actor that I would do anything to get to work with. I’m being cheeky here and listing more than one!
Female wise I’d really like to collaborate with Laura Linney, I adored her in The Savages (a film I wish I had written, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays her brother) and she is phenomenal in You Can Count On Me (also a phenomenal film). I’d jump at the chance to write specifically for Julia Davis, she inspires me with her approach to writing when she merges the dark with the tragicomedy of life. Tilda Swinton, now there’s a lady I would sell what little I have to put on a stage with my words, she’s powerful. And who wouldn’t want to work with Olivia Colman? She is superb.
Would you been interested to write a movie? Or even to direct one of your plays on big screen or TV?
I initially trained in writing for film and television at Bournemouth University and would love the opportunity to write for the screen. I’ve dabbled with short films as they’re cheaper to do and more flexible, but I haven’t put my heart and soul into anything larger as my heart is truly in theatre. If someone where to give me the opportunity though I would definitely jump on it. As for directing, I have done some in my time but I would never take on that role right now. Not whilst I’m still trying to make a name for myself with my writing. There are plenty of other people who do that job well and sometimes having a fresh set of eyes on a piece can raise it higher than you realised.
Have you ever considered writing a book using photographs you have taken because I understand you are a keen photographer?
When I write I’m always thinking of the visual impact on an audience, what they will see and always aim for striking images. So I suppose I’m very visually led and I often get distracted by colours or naturally framed objects when I’m travelling around. I’m a very spontaneous photographer. If I tried to go back to using proper cameras and plan things I wouldn’t get what I’m after. I use my iPhone and nothing more. It’s handy because I always have it and I can take pictures of people without them realising too. And if I’m honest I take photographs for my own pleasure, things that catch my eye, and then share them online (Facebook/Twitter) if they’re interesting or representative of where I am. People seem to enjoy them, but they’re just moments that I’ve seen and tried to capture. A bit like holiday photographs really, for some people it’s interesting and for others it’s boring.
I like taking photographs when I’m out and about. I live in a rural village so there’s lots of natural beauty, but I would never call myself a photographer as such. When I was at school I studied it as an A Level topic and the frivolous nature of it all appealed to me. I could wander with a camera and just see what stories unfurled before me. Occasionally I’ll look at a situation that’s going on around me and I’ll reference photographers in my head, “oh that’s very Martin Parr” or “that reminds me of Bresson”. Aside from that I’ve forgotten all knowledge of the darkroom, the chemicals, the lenses. It’s sad really, I’ve forgotten a lot of the things that I used to do when I was younger. I miss painting but my attempts now would seem idiotic, painfully naive. I also miss dance, that too would be a horror to see me do.
If you could be collaborated with another playwright who would you choose?
Good question! I have a feeling that it fluctuates every time I see or read something. But I’ve always wanted to melt my brain with Martin Crimp’s and see what came out. I’m pretty sure I could write a raucous collaboration with Simon Stephens too.