Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

Words will get written here and some videoblogs will appear. You don't have to look but it would be nice if you did.

Doing Things Theatrically Differently With @Soup_ToNuts August 21, 2012

One of the scripts I’ve been trundling along with nicely is a commission for new theatre company, Soup To Nuts, which now has a name after being a heart symbol quickly followed by the word ‘play’ for an extended period of time. The play has now been christened, ‘The Thump You Feel When You Fall‘ and has been through many incarnations from the start including a completely new narrative. Soup To Nuts is a new writing company formed by Jayne Edwards and Laura Atherton, who met whilst studying at Bretton Hall College. Their mission is to develop work in an open forum similar to devising where the creative process is shared and discussed. As part of their ethos I’m allowing them to be parry to the writing process of the script so they can both see the decisions/changes as the script progresses from being a nub of an idea to a fully grown finished version through the different drafts. This is really interesting because where my role of a scriptwriter has normally taken me before is handing over the finished product at the end ready for rehearsals. So it’s a nice working relationship where the respect is noticed from the beginning and we’re all learning how we develop ideas in our own creative roles. What they’ve learned from me is that I write stern notes chastising my stupid ideas and demands to rectify them.
 

This is from another script but in the same vein.

 
The writing process is a lonely one. You spend an undisclosed amount of time trying to fling your story onto pages and hoping that it will stick. Then you have to make it interesting. And then you have to find some actors to read it. And of course find someone to stage it. Soup To Nuts’ ethos of opening up the development process to all those involved is not only informative but incredibly useful. After talking to many actors it’s clear that they have many questions about the simple task of writing but never have the real opportunity to act on them. Having the opportunity to open up the development at such an early stage in the writing experience was slightly daunting but extremely helpful. It’s rare for a playwright to still have the script in an undeveloped state to produce before actors. And it’s even rarer for actors who it’s written for, to read it and give feedback. The initial anxiety of handing over a script knowing it’s not finished soon vanished after the readthrough started. It was actually quite thrilling having an open discussion about the themes, narratives and characters with the actors as if we were further down the development path. The feedback was being explored knowing that the script was in a state of flux and sometimes it’s good for an outside eye at such an early stage to point out slithers of plot that have been forgotten or not tied up. Being so close to a script can blinker your ability to see what’s going on. By having actors who are invested in these characters that you’re still forming, it gives you the incentive to carry on. But more importantly it allows the writer to have an explorative relationship with the actors without the constraints of a rehearsal period and the end goal of a production. In no way was this new method restricting or hindering on the overall genesis of the script, if anything it’s added depth to the writing process.
 
Soup To Nuts can be found on Twitter: @Soup_ToNuts and Facebook here

 

Theatre503 Lab Round-Up January 15, 2011

The last few days I’ve had the opportunity to not only feel the burn of on-peak increased rail fares, but to have one of my plays workshopped. Melissa Dunne led a stella cast at Theatre503 to discuss, develop and explore the play, “I Still Get Excited When I See A Ladybird“.

The cast discuss what order the monologues could go in.

(We were having to run the workshop around an existing set, so although set in a stationery shop the photographs will feature heavily a double bed)

I felt many things over the workshop days. To be honest I’d not delved into this particular script since roughly around this time last year. I’d become so distanced from it, that I’d forgotten characteristics of the monologues – essentially I had fallen out of love with the whole notion of the script. And this wasn’t because I was displeased with the outcome or because I saw no merit in the work (I still think this is some of the best work that I’ve challenged myself with), it was because nothing had been done with it. I’d written it, sent it to places and competitions and got a whole lot of rejection. This is part and parcel of any creative routine, actually it’s part of any routine in any industry.

Director Dunne watches them rearrange the monologues.

So when the opportunity came up to explore aspects of the scripts and format I jumped at the chance. The text is presented to the cast and director with the freedom to present it in any way in any order. This is something that is extremely intricate and there are purposeful meta-narratives evident in the text, but there are also thematic devices running throughout all 7 monologues. This is something that we somehow managed to explore in the short space of time we had and this is due to the cracking speed and insight the actors all brought to the table.

Claire (Manager) and George's (Deputy) relationship is explored.

Without getting too slushy about it all (and that’s a blatant pre-emptive signifier that I will), it was extremely humbling and exciting. I’m the quiet type of writer in rehearsals to sit at the back and listen to what the others have to say… Then offer up my own insight, but never to impinge on the process or make slight of what the actors have said. I believe strongly in collaboration and thinks it’s an important strand that we shouldn’t forget. And I don’t mean purely in the sense of once the script is written you then hand it to a director and actors and the job’s done. I mean the process of before, during and after.

Judith (Weekend Sales Assistant) and Chloe (Full-Time Sales Assistant)

It’s still a thrill to see these characters that you write come to life and be embodied on stage. It’s even more thrilling to lose sight of the character that you wrote entwined in the words on the page and be surprised by what you’re seeing on the stage. This is where it’s important to trust your co-conspirators. A surprise doesn’t necessarily mean a detrimental action that jolts you from what you once thought something was going to be. The surprise is that you realise something is working and someone else is exploring it in the same way as you, but it feels fresh and thorough. I had no idea what to expect from this workshop but after the three days of rediscovering these characters I felt in awe of not only the hard work and time that the actors had given up to go on this journey with me, but at the strength of my own writing. This is not me being egotistical, it’s me being honest. The last year or so I can bravely say that my writing is so much better than it used to be. This is partially down to giving myself the time to dedicate to writing, but also in part to the people I have met and been inspired by. I’ve blogged about this before I’m sure, or it’s definitely something that I’ve spoken about, but in allowing yourself to be artistically free in your chosen subject you have a richer dialect with your audience. I wouldn’t say I’m a genre led writer and I definitely wouldn’t say I’m the writer that draws on their own life all the time (I’m young, live in a village and lack real emotion, go figure). What I mean is that by not panicking about my family thinking everything I write is a result of some disturbed childhood or fellow creatives thinking everything is representative of what I think, I have allowed myself to strengthen my writing because I want to.

Will (Supervisor) and Claire (Manager)

There’s a difference in accepting notes and feedback and actually applying it when it matters. There’s debate and discussion and there’s being easily led and trying to please other people. A thick skin is needed but you also have to stay true to your own intentions and not be led by other people trying to convince you that they are right about your work.

Stuart (Part-time Sales Assistant) and Chloe (Full-Time Sales Assistant)

I didn’t intend this post to be so verbose, apologies. But what I’m trying to say is that the past three days have been so beneficial to me regardless of what stage the script is at. The script is finished and has been for a long time. But by taking it to the next stage by having a director lead a group of actors in exploring their characters it just goes to show that the expectancy of a script is surprising and fruitful. By building on that conversation you become enlightened about aspects of your characters that you didn’t realise, but also about your writing. You’re a part of the process and you feed into it regardless of how much you’re presence is felt in the rehearsal room or how true to your life the script is.

Chloe (Full-Time Sales Assistant) with George (Deputy Manager)

This script is still circling festivals/competitions/blah so as usual it’s a waiting game. But it was such a great experience to hear my work being put to the test by high calibre actors. The depth of their understanding and facets they brought to the surface of their characters stunningly amazed me and I’m thankful for the collaboration process for highlighting that. Many thanks to:

Jonathan Christie

Melissa Dunne

Jayne Edwards

Nigel Mattison

Tim O’Hara

Zimmy Ryan

Jessica Sîan

 

Cambridge Beckoned… I Went. February 23, 2010

Whittled down to the ‘cream of the crop’ twelve writers met at The Junction theatre and set about writing a five minute piece to be performed on the radio. After having a great workshop with Fraser Grace the first day we were given a line of dialogue and two sound effects to weave into our idea or use as a springboard. I decided to make magic with what I was given and ended up writing a five minute dystopian-post-apocalyptic-love story between two butchers that involved a dentist’s drill. Yeah, I know. And the general theme was ‘Insider/Outside’. Then we went and did it.

 

 

 

This was my humble abode for two nights. I say humble… over-bearingly cosy and a bit broken.

 

 

 

 

Then day two where we were left to write some more. To be honest I wrote mine on the first night, I was merely delighting in having Internets on my laptop. Sad I know. But I did do some tweaks and the like.

 

 

 

And then it was the last night I was staying over so decided to do yet more tweaks and eat some hot food rather than Sainsbury’s cold pasta and Tesco’s cold sandwiches for a change. I had a steak and ale pie with chips and peas. Mmmm, you really wanted to know that.

 

Now I shall lay on some photographs of how the rest of the day went. I do have to point out it was rather hectic at times, but in an exciting kinda way. The actors did fantastically brilliant considering they read through the scripts once when they got there and then a second time when they performed them… I did mention it was hectic right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now we wait to see what writers are selected to develop their ideas further and write for the radio. Now, we wait…

 

Chipper Dandy, Thanks For Asking… May 15, 2009

Forgot to mention about ‘editing’ now being referred to as ‘perfecting’. This new phrase has come courtesy of Helen Thornber whose blog can be found (looky, looky) here. Whilst in good ol’ Twitter formation today she casually threw this into conversation. It’s a term I very much prefer because it means that what you have is already of worth and you are tweaking to craft it better. And in writing that sentence and generally watching these videos back of myself, I realise the word ‘craft’ is said, written and thought of a lot. I should start to keep track of my own vocabulary. So just so you can all spread this new terminology, it’s not an editor you’re after, it’s a perfector. Perfect.

p.s. Yes, my phone does bleep at the beginning, what can I say… I move with the times.