Hectic couple of months working on musical, roleplay, programme writing and one or two speculative projects. Where does the time go???
November 17, 2013
What could be nicer than an entertaining family lunch with a brother and his brood - especially as he's cooked the pork to perfection? Delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon...
November 13, 2013
Press night at The Swan in Stratford for Antony and Cleopatra sees several famous faces - I love spotting them and occasionally drumming up the courage to say something complimentary! While I thoroughly enjoy the production, others are less than generous - not least Charles Spencer in the Telegraph, who damns it with one star and calls it "a complete dud". Not so, dear sir!
November 7, 2013
The Habit of Art is the latest National Theatre show to be broadcast to cinemas, this time a recording from several years back of the great Richard Griffiths and Alex Jennings in Bennett's imagined meeting between Benjamin Britten and WH Auden. I'd seen it live with Malcolm Sinclair so it was good to catch up with it again - especially as it seems to have worn particularly well in the intervening period.
October 22, 2013
The first serious production meeting for Tess since Michael's devastating personal tragedy earlier in the summer. While it's difficult for him to make long-term plans, he's as dedicated as ever to completing the musical, and work moves up a gear. I might just have to pull my socks up a bit.
October 18-19, 2013
A trip oop north to Daniel Evans's wonderful Sheffield Theatres, where Claire Price is playing Hermione in the evocative new production of The Winter's Tale. It's lovely to catch up with friends and there's even a little frivolous shopping along the way!
October 17, 2013
After the hugely impressive Hamlet a few years back, it's intriguing to see David Tennant back at the RSC with director Greg Doran for the new Richard II. It's an enlightening and entertaining production, but I can't escape the nagging annoyance at the play itself, dating back more than thirty years to my A-level English class. As my wife might say, come on, let it go...
October 14, 2013
Very constructive meeting with Aimee Wilkinson from Writing East Midlands about the possibility of teaching for their Writing School programme. Lots of prospects for the Spring and beyond, and nice to be back in Leicester, my alma mater.
October 12, 2013
A matinee performance of Birmingham Rep's new production of 12 Angry Men augurs well for its West End transfer. Having interviewed Martin Shaw for the programme notes, it's great to see him in the Henry Fonda role, with superb support across the company.
September 26, 2013
Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear are both in superb form for the cinema transmission of the National Theatre's Othello. It's not quite the same as being there, but for a tenner and a short drive home, I'll happily make do...
September 21, 2013
A bit of a blast from the past with a trip to see the stage version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - featuring much of the original radio cast! Great fun, very silly and a fine tribute to its extraordinary creator, Douglas Adams.
September 20, 2013
Soweto Kinch's The Legend of Mike Smith (see August 14) lives up completely to expectations - it's accomplished, superbly staged and full of inventiveness.
September 19, 2013
It's back to Birmingham Rep, this time to interview a childhood hero, Martin Shaw. I manage to impress him with my talk of having seen much of his stage work, including A Man for All Seasons, then blow it at the end by confessing I used to play The Professionals with my little brother - even though I was always Ray Doyle. Looking forward to the show, 12 Angry Men.
September 8, 2013
Lovely lunch with best mate Keith and his lady Irene to celebrate his recent fiftieth birthday. Mine may be approaching all too quickly, but he'll always be older than I!
September 5, 2013
First meeting with musical co-writer Michael Blore since the tragic loss of his husband, very suddenly and shockingly, four weeks ago. As described in the latest blog post, he's still committed to the project but we may need to take a little time.
August 30, 2013
It's switch-on night for the Blackpool Illuminations and, thanks to a stroke of genius from my other half, we watch Gary Barlow's concert and Jonathan Ross perform the ceremony from the warmth and comfort of the Tower cafe. That's the way to do it...
August 28, 2013
Oh, the variety of life! I spend the morning speaking (through an interpreter) to a group of 25 Chinese doctors about the use of roleplay in clinical communication for the University of Birmingham. In the afternoon I'm involved in assessing medical students in their third year exams.
August 27, 2013
My first visit to Broadcasting House for a meeting with a Radio 4 producer about pitches for the autumn commissioning round of afternoon plays. We spend a relaxed hour or two in a nearby coffee shop, talking about a number of ideas which she wants to take forward, so the trip to Big London is well worthwhile.
August 14, 2013
As a white, middle-aged, grey-haired old fart, I must have been the obvious choice to interview MC and rapper Soweto Kinch for his new show at Birminmgham Rep. Whatever the reason, the experience proves highly enjoyable, not least because he is also a jazz saxophonist and Oxford History graduate, which all makes his influences for The Legend of Mike Smith utterly fascinating. He's erudite, intelligent and endlessly entertaining, and I'm looking forward to the show in September.
August 9-11, 2013
A bit of a trip down Memory Lane as we take a weekend in Norfolk, where many happy childhood holidays were spent. This is partly business, to catch the Seaside Special pier show at Cromer, but also a chance to revisit Bacton, Mundesley, Happisburgh (where I was once dropped down the steps of the lighthouse - by accident, I'm told!) and other coastal delights.
August 6, 2013
To the Royal&Derngate to interview the writer and director of the forthcoming adaptation of To Sir, With Love, Ayub Khan Din and Mark Babych. They're both good interviewees but I manage not to record the session, so have to rely on the back-up of the R&D's own cameraman to rescue me.
July 31, 2013
The second meeting of the Royal&Derngate Writers' Forum is a fascinating affair, with four of us concentrating on a new adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah's novel for teenage boys, Teacher's Dead. It's been adapted for the stage by forum member Christopher Gorry and is full of verve, invention and pace. Although he's already gone through two development stages with it, he asked us to offer our feedback - which we were delighted to do, and he was professional enough to take on board willingly and welcomingly. The discussion was lively and constructive, and he's gone away with half a book full of notes, so I hope he's satisfied with the process. It's also given me the confidence to put up my own latest play, Reality, for their feedback next time round.
July 24-26, 2013
A couple of highly enjoyable days in Stratford, where we take in A Mad World, My Masters (not the Jacobean theatre's finest hour, it must be admitted) and a fine, clear staging of All's Well That Ends Well at the RSC. Coupled with a relaxing stay at the Holiday Inn and a charming cream tea on the river, it's a delightful little theatrical break.
July 22, 2013
Possibly the most bizarre evening I've had in a theatre for a very long time. Not only are Tricia and I almost certainly the only straight people in the audience for Up4AMeet at Birmingham's Crescent Theatre, we also have the decidedly disconcerting experience of watching our friend and colleague Michael Blore performing in the buff for much of the show. He'd promised us it was only his co-performers who would be going completely au naturel, so of course this comes as some surprise. I am not at liberty to discuss the content (or otherwise) of the piece, but suffice it to say that it will be hard to look him in the eye next time we see him at roleplay...
July 21, 2013
News arrives of my former MA compatriot Paul Williams having his Doctors trial script accepted - he's now in a position to pitch ideas for actual episodes! The twinge of envy is far outweighed by delight at his fantastic achievement, and I look forward to seeing his first episodes on screen before too long. Well done, matey!
July 18-20, 2013
All Barded out after three consecutive days of Mr S. Thursday was Joss Whedon's imaginative and inspired black-and-white film of Much Ado at the new Errol Flynn Filmhouse at the Royal & Derngate, complete with leather armchairs. Friday is a live, outdoors production of Romeo and Juliet courtesy of the ever-inventive Heartbreak Productions, staged in the grounds of Baddesley Clinton country house on a beautiful summer's evening. Finally, it's the master himself, Kenneth Branagh, in a live broadcast to cinemas of The Scottish Play - stunning and impressive, as expected.
July 17, 2013
More new work with another new roleplay company. Great to be spreading our wings - diversity is certainly the key in this game.
July 13, 2013
Highly entertained to be in the audience for Liz John and Julia Wright's new comedy Invisible, ending its brief Midlands tour at the charming Market Harborough Theatre. The show is enormous fun and it's good to catch up with Liz, as well as leading ladies Ali Belbin and Caroline Nash. All power to their elbows for their determined support of new theatre writing!
July 5-6, 2013
To Sheffield for the delightful combination of a schools performance of Sweeney Todd in the Crucible main house and Tim Firth's stunning new musical This Is My Family in the Studio. Can't really say which I enjoyed more, but so glad we made the journey north to catch them both.
July 3-4, 2013
Two days working with senior fire officers as part of the Warwickshire brigade's assessment and development programme. They're great fun and full of anecdotes, as are my fellow roleplayers, but little of it is really repeatable!.
June 26, 2013
Tonight sees the first meeting of a new writer's forum attached to Northampton's Royal & Derngate theatres. There are five of us in the group and we begin with some readings of scenes. The variety is fascinating and the mix of writers well composed, so I look forward to these monthly sessions with interest.
June 25, 2013
A day's work for a new roleplay company. Let's hope it's the first of many.
June 19, 2013
Another day's work on the new musical with Mr B, and another blog on the state of play (see How Not to Write a Musical). Yet again, the collaborative process seems to be working rather well, and we're both happy with progress so far. But now we're into actual writing of lyrics and music, this is where the real work begins...
June 17, 2013
And back to reality. Two quick turnaround pieces for theatre programmes, a major treatment for the musical and some imminent high-profile roleplays. Busy, busy, busy.
June 13-15, 2013
Fascinating few days experiencing a wide range of theatrical events. First up, The Audience, transmitted (almost) live from London's Gielgud Theatre to our local Cineworld and, as I've noted elsewhere, it's a hybrid that's bizarre - neither theatre nor cinema. But the performances are superb and Peter Morgan's writing simply sparkles. Then it's Daniel Radcliffe in Michael Grandage's The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Coward Theatre, perched on an upper gallery seat for another terrific performance, even if the play's a bit of a mystery. And finally something completely different: A Chorus Line at the London Palladium. Marvin Hamlisch's songs are wonderful, the staging very evocative and the players just mesmerising, not least John Partridge as the director Zach. What a few days...
A slightly crazy few weeks with multiple hats, from reviewing the excellent Fifty Words in Bath to writing thousands of words for a variety of forthcoming theatre programmes. In between, there's the little matter of a musical to be written (check the Blog if you've missed the story so far), roleplaying work to be done and gigs to be performed. So I may be a bit breathless but I'm hugely enjoying the whirlygig.
May 18, 2103
First Eurovision Song Contest in years (we're normally out gigging on a Saturday night but managed to remain unbooked this year). For a show that manages to attract such opprobrium and mockery, it's a suprisingly well-0staged affair courtesy of Sweden, and has some (IMHO) rather tasty tunes. The best one didn't win, but there you go. Radically, there's now talk in our household of a trip to Denmark for next year's event. Now that would be something special.
May 13, 2103
And so to Day Three, which involves more Post-It notes, more cups of tea and more scratching of heads. Act Two is now under our belts, at least in structure form, and now, as the words man, I've got to go away and knock it into shape as a synopsis. Meanwhile, music man Mr B is merrily tweeting about being "full of tunes". It's easy for some...
May 8, 2103
Day Two of The New Project (see April 18 below), and some serious structural shaping gets under way. A full day's work, despite Mr Blore's man-flu, and we've still only got a rough plan for Act One. Perhaps recklessly, I've also launched a new blog to allow anyone who's interested to follow the writing process. Find it on this website at the Blog page, entitled How Not to Write a Musical. And please feel free to comment. Politely, preferably.
May 6, 2103
A day out in the big city to catch the Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern. The show is fabulous, the artwork sublime and the curation both thoughtful and intelligent. I wish I could enthuse as much about the Tate itself, which just seemed grim, unwelcoming and oppressive. But in the outdoor cafe I did a bit of celeb-spotting - Colin Salmon and Saskia Reeves were enjoying a coffee break from some filming nearby, presumably, as she was in a WREN's costume. Unless it wasn't them at all and I spotted a WREN having a coffee with her Colin Salmon lookalike friend.
April 24-26, 2103
Successive nights see us at Stratford for a delightful As You Like It, in Milton Keynes for the energetic Starlight Express and in Northampton for Gary Sefton's triumphant Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a great life if you don't weaken, as my father used to say. On a related note, quietly proud to find my programme notes in several productions we've seen this month, including the High Society tour, Curve's The Hired Man and Northampton's Dream. The bank manager's quietly pleased too.
April 18, 2103
And so it begins. Day One of a new project, this time a co-writing effort with m'colleague Michael Blore, actor, composer, musician and roleplayer. An extremely productive first day sees us settle on our objective, our route and our timetable. Sounds like a mountaineering expedition, and it probably will be.
April 14, 2103
Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds was one of the first long-playing albums (yes, I'm that old) I ever bought, so it was delightful to see it played out live - albeit on a cinema screen projecting last year's touring production. The music was as evocative as ever, and watching Wayne himself conduct the orchestra was great fun. A little bit of nostalgia never does you any harm - at least, it didn't in my day...
March 30, 2103
Reflecting the full spectrum of our theatrical exposure, this week has seen the final performance of Rasputin's Mother, the press night of Jonathan Slinger's Hamlet for the RSC, a thoroughly enjoyable Madam Butterfly from Welsh National Opera and today a matinee of the sublime Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw in John Logan's delightful new play Peter and Alice. Now all I need is something fluffy and musical. Oh, that would be Hairspray on Bank Holiday Monday...
March 22-23, 2013
For me, the big one - Rasputin's Mother gets three performances at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham. The weather is very St Petersburg (heavy snow and very cold) but many people still make it to the theatre for three impressive performances. At the Saturday matinee, I am presented with the Ronald Duncan Playwriting Award by the chair of the trustees Krysia Cairns, who is delightful and very encouraging. Pictures in the Gallery...
March 19, 2013
Reviewing Alan Ayckbourn's Mr Whatnot at Northampton's Royal Theatre, it's a delight to catch up with the author himself, for whom I performed in his Man of the Moment back in 2009. He's on good form and about to start rehearsals for his latest, which will include the incomparable Kim Wall. Kim was also in Man of the Moment and has since become a good friend, offering excellent notes on both my play scripts. There's something to look forward to.
March 9, 2013
We take a trip down the M1 to Sheffield, where we catch up with Tricia's drama school buddy Claire Price in The Crucible's The Daughter-in-Law. Then back to Leeds for RM's second night there, and my son Ethan joins us for dinner and the performance, along with an old schoolfriend kindly lending his support.
March 8, 2013
Having abandoned plans to return to the Hilton in Bradford (see below), we check in instead to the Wakefield Holiday Inn for a much more restful night, travelling to the lovely Seven Arts venue in Leeds for the next incarnation of Rasputin's Mother. This one is a front-on stage, rather than three-sided studio, and the actors use the space well, with the show well received.
March 2, 2013
So much for the Hilton. A group of students has taken over the hotel and party until 6am, despite repeated callsto reception to try and control things. The hotel's handling of it is as outrageous as the students' behaviour, so we decide to check out and will travel home after tonight's performance. Said performance goes well (despite another thin audience) and Walter extends an invitation to send him my new script. Then the long drive home. Thanks, Hilton.
March 1, 2013
It's off to The North for the world premiere of Rasputin's Mother. Check in at the Hilton in Bradford (nothing but the best!), then on to the Ilkley Playhouse, where we meet its charming artistic director Walter Swan and discover the Encore crew setting up for tonight's show. Dinner with friends helps take our minds of the impending drama, then it's back to the Playhouse and curtain up. The audience is unquestionably thin, but they're receptive and include a reviewer, who is appreciative and warm about the production - www.pickledegg.info/2013/03/dark-eerie-performance-rasputins-mother/
And there's more tomorrow...
February 26, 2013
Things start to go a bit mad as newspapers, blogs, tweets and emails all generate a buzz about Friday's premiere. The Yorkshire Evening Post has this - http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/premiere-at-two-leeds-venues-for-play-by-a-newsman-1-5444158 - while luxury Birmingham hotel LaTour blogs thus - http://blog.hotel-latour.co.uk/?p=3124
- and lots of lovely messages come pouring in from all over.
February 25, 2013
Somebody once described Rasputin's Mother as 'Brechtian'. I wasn't sure what that meant when they said it, but I think now I know. Just seen Mr B's A Life of Galileo at the RSC and the dramatic consanguinity (is there such a word?) is remarkable. Let's hope RM works as well and proves as popular with audiences - it was, of course, written with the Swan Theatre in mind, so if you're reading this, Greg Doran...
February 22, 2013
Final artwork for the Rasputin's Mother programme is delivered to the printer today. Production company says it's 'the best looking programme Encore have ever produced', so let's hope that bodes well for the show itself!
February 18, 2013
There's less than two weeks now to the opening night of Rasputin's Mother in Ilkley, and I've been busy with the flyers. The programme is finished, too, and will be off to the printer's this week after proofreading. The word from up north is that rehearsals have been going well, and I've seen a couple of photos that seem to back that up, so digits are duly crossed.
February 5, 2013
Laughter and tears side by side this evening as Laurie Sansom bids farewell after seven years at the helm of the Royal & Derngate. His directorial swansong, Willy Russell's One for the Road, is appropriately excellent, but it's a night of mixed emotions. Laurie has been a superb custodian of the chair vacated by Rupert Goold, and between them, they're going to be a tough act to follow. But chief executive Martin Sutherland is clear-sighted and highly skilled, and one can only look forward to what is to come.
February 1, 2013
I can only say I'm shocked. Having been invited to view the esteemed Phil Jennings's performance as Malvolio in Blue Orange's Twelfth Night in Birmingham, I feel violated - or should that be Viola-ted? Not only does he give the famous yellow cross-gartered scene in full drag, but he displays alarmingly good legs for a man of his age. Or any age, come to that. A little warning would have been nice. That aside, the production was warm and witty, and Phil's Malvolio genuinely moving. Which is only to be expected.
January 31, 2013
Wonderful day out in London with my delightful agent, Rob Wilkinson. A couple of meetings and visits during the afternoon before the main event, a reading of m'colleague Gavin Harrison's brilliant comedy Killing Edward. I first read it a couple of years back and it's matured nicely since then, and the wonderful cast - including Downton Abbey's Phyllis Logan - did it proud in the ambient setting of French's Bookshop. The night was hosted by the delightful Sarah Berger, of The So and So Club, and the supportive guests randomly included Jeffery Holland. And me.
January 25, 2013
It's Burns Night, I'm married to a half-Scot and there's a house full of post-Christmas Scotch. But none for me. This January is dry, and it's the toughest test yet.
January 24, 2013
Word arrives from LA (yes, that LA) that a good mate and fellow scriptwriter, Gavin Harrison, has landed a top-level pitch meeting at a major Hollywood studio regarding a TV series he's putting together. Aside from being very jealous, I'm wondering if, with more than 100 episodes foreseen, there might not just be a little work opportunity here? You go, Gav!
January 19, 2013
We fight through the snow to Stratford for a matinee of The Orphan of Zhao and an evening performance of Boris Godunov (reviews at www.stagereviews.co.uk). I am reminded of just how perfect The Swan would be as a venue for Rasputin's Mother - it has exactly the ambience, size and stage facilities that would make it ideal. Now, how to get a script to Greg Doran...
January 16, 2013
First posters for Rasputin's Mother delivered to The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham. They're rather fetching, I think. See for yourself on the RM page here.
January 10, 2013
I learn that the first couple of rehearsals of Rasputin's Mother have involved 'textual analysis'. I'm not sure my writing has ever been textually analysed before and I'm rather intrigued by the idea, but I'm a bit too nervous to ask.
January 6, 2013
First rehearsal day and I'm not there. I can only hope that everyone enjoys the process (and the play). It's going to be a strange couple of months. Incidentally, for info about performances, go to www.encore01.com - where you can also hear a radio interview I did about it.
January 3-4, 2013
Starting the new year as I mean to go on, I begin with preparing much of the publicity material for Rasputin's Mother. There are posters, flyers and programmes to be created, and it's great to be back in designer mode, reminding me of those days putting together newspapers and magazines. The end result is - well, I like it, but I guess audiences will be the final judges. Rather like the play itself.