Thursday, August 30, 2007

Alright, I'll come clean. I've been back for a while but just hiding. It's got to that stage again where things have backed up so much that blogging seems like a mountainous chore.

When this has happened in the past I've found it best to just wipe the slate clean and start again from where I'm at. After all, you won't miss what you never knew about will you?

So, it was back to work with a bump this week. Rehearsals have started for We Are Shadows, my latest play for Half Moon. The first day was as exciting as first days always are, helped along by the discovery of an excellent cast and brilliant original score intelligently put together by Leeds-based composer Ed Thomas, who also turns out to be a thoroughly nice bloke. I prefer to let the company get on with things without me in the early stages of rehearsals but I'll be popping in for the first stagger-through in a week or so.

Work is also well under way for my as-yet-untitled modern Jacobean play. A couple of heavyweight plot meetings this week with Matt Peover and Mark Bell have crystallised the story no end, and I'm now ready to pull together all our Jacobean pontifications on modern life into a treatment. (I'm quite schematic in this respect, and always have to map out the play before writing a word of dialogue, all the more so when it's a collaboration like this).

I'm also in the early stages of planning a couple of postgraduate modules which I'm teaching for John Ginman on the Goldsmiths Playwriting MA this term. My old course has gone from strength to strength and can now boast alumni in TV, radio and theatre, as well as having bagged a couple of awards. It'll be a new year and a new intake next month, so it'll be exciting to see who they've got. If you're enrolled, see you there.

Whilst we're on universities, I've been asked to deliver a short paper and talk on a panel at the forthcoming conference Between Fact And Fiction being hosted by Birmingham University. I'll be talking about the process of 'creative research' in relation to my own work, so I might post the paper on here afterwards, if it turns out to be at all coherent.

Then there's Mehndi Night. Ah, bless Mehndi Night. I love that show so much. The girls and Jools did such a brilliant job up in Edinburgh and the whole thing was a joy from start to finish. I think I enjoyed doing that play more than anything I've ever done - seriously. I suppose with professionals you expect them to do a good job, but when it's such young performers with so many variables involved then it's doubly brilliant, especially when you see them coming out of themselves and flowering as young adults throughout the process. The change in some of those kids has just been extraordinary, and reaffirmed all my belief in the power of drama to instill confidence, assert identity and cultivate growth and understanding between groups of people. Looking around the auditorium when they were in full flow was like being at a Bengali party with Scottish grannies, American students, and executives on lunch break all on the guest list. There were plenty of damp eyes in the house too, as the actors milked that heart-breaking little story for all it was worth.

To top it all, the press response was universally positive and we started to sell out towards the end of the run, and could easily have filled another week (though of course everyone was knackered by then so I think a week and a half was about our limit). I'm due a meeting at the school next week, as there has been talk of reviving the play down here. But we're running up against what I think it's safest to call 'cultural complications' in doing the play closer to home. I'm afraid I can't really say much more than that, but if we get to do any public performances you'll be the first to know.

In other news, I'm delighted to report that the brillaint Ellie Jones of How To Disappear fame has been made artistic director of Southwark Playhouse. Hooray! And as if that wasn't enough, the formerly threatened John Whiting Award (which rescued my career not so very long ago) has been saved by a consortium of theatres with the generous backing of the Peter Wolff Theatre Trust. So good news all round.

I think that's all from me for now. I keep meaning to get on the case with scouring autumn seasons so that I can publish a list of forthcoming recommended shows, but any advance tip-offs from those of you a step ahead of me would be very welcome.

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