Monday, 24 December 2007

Royal Mail

Received a letter from the Royal Court this morning, after having sent the script off only last month. Praising the script as "irreverent and charming", it also highlights the unoriginality of the setting, which is a fair criticism - especially coming from a theatre renowned for seeking to break theatrical barriers.

By Royal Disappointment

With letters like this expected to be the norm until that box of A4 jiffy bags is empty, it will be nevertheless important to stay positive enough to keep sending scripts out. I'm not expecting anything to happen (and am proud of what we did achieve), but it at least seems sensible to try.

But things have moved on since H&M's Summer run, and even I have been busy being evocative in another show during the last three months - which has sated my theatrical appetite somewhat.

This blog is almost a year old and the sunny, funny evenings of July have now given way to frosty pavements and mulled wine. But as my energy towards H&M settles, so too is an impetus to write burgeoning again. One should take heart from letters such as this from the Royal Court - even though they reveal that H&M is not the greatest play ever written.

That'll be my next one...


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Theatre Theatre

Got emails today from Soho Theatre and the Royal Court, both acknowledging receipt of the H&M scripts I sent them last week. Any feedback will, understandably, take three to four months. And, being realistic, there's only a minute chance of anything happening, but the acknowledgements are appreciated.

I've never been to the Royal Court but I used to work in the next street to Soho Theatre, so as well as seeing a couple of things there, I walked past it loads of times. Wonder if I'll get to walk in next time too?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

French Letter

It's been a while (so long that since the last post, in that time, TLPA has even given up smoking!), and thoughts have largely moved away from H&M. The Crescent's new season is in full swing and I'm in rehearsals for the ever-popular Wassail.

In addition, I'm also researching a play I hope to propose as part of the theatre's 2008/2009 season. That sounds a long way off(!) but these decisions start being made in January, just two months away.

Despite all that, a couple of things have happened recently to prompt me into accessing my PC's H&M folder again.

The first is that Samuel French replied after having written a while back to say they would be assessing the play. Predictably, they declined to take the play on - citing its sexual frankness as having limited appeal for Amateur companies - but complimented it as an amusing and well-written piece.

Secondly, the Crescent released its Annual Report last week, and it shows H&M in top position in terms of Studio Box Office performance. A nice little pat on the back and evidence of the wide commercial appeal that I maintain the show has...

So, with a box still half-full of A4 jiffy bags, the printer is back on overtime and some freshly-inked copies (with the barley joke put back in at TLPA's behest) will be going elsewhere. I have vowed to not give up on finding if there is life in this play until all those padded envelopes have gone!

Monday, 24 September 2007

From CD to Stage

One of the most successful elements of our debut production of H&M was the music which was provided by Bellowhead and haunted the various scenes throughout the play. Last night, KateD and I had the chance to catch them live in Wolverhampton during their current tour.

Hopkinson's Favourite for Real

The gig was great - their unusual rampant, eclectic sound running riot through our ears - and afterwards I got to say "Thanks" to the band's manager with whom I'd been in contact during H&M when he expressed his support and even got us featured us on the band's Home Page.

With most of their "Burlesque" album being featured, there were many occasions when a melody or refrain provoked a memory and a smile from the show which used extracts from almost all of its tracks. But the highlight of the night came from the fact that the songs chosen to finish the main set and then at the very end of the show - "Fire Marengo" and "Frog's Legs & Dragon's Teeth" - were the same two songs I had chosen to end Act One and Act Two of H&M.

A big, familiar finish - and a great sense of affirmation...

Monday, 17 September 2007

LTG Away Day

After all of last week's planning, on Saturday Team H&M made their way down the M1 to Welwyn Garden City and the Little Theatre Guild's inaugural New Writing Seminar. Keen to support everything being shown during the day, I made an early start and, together with KateD, hit the road shortly after 7am.

The Barn Theatre Auditorium

The sun shone on Welwyn's stab at Utopia, and the incongruity of a theatre in a suburban housing estate was matched only by its prettiness. A warm welcome awaited, along with tea and biscuits, and it wasn't soon until the first play began. Called "Dumbing Down" (with a proven pedigree and actually from 2005, so not exactly "new") the play about the state of state education set an unnervingly high benchmark for the day with its immaculate presentation and trio of great performances.

This was followed by "Arrivals", the first of four rehearsed readings - and its inappropriate use of the word "orifices". Honestly, no-one goes to the theatre to hear that shouted at them. Jesus...

As lunchtime approached, our tummies started rumbling and the others called to say they were nearly with us. So, our attention was taken away from the stage and put towards getting things ready for our performance.

When lunchtime duly arrived, so too did the first members of Team H&M. We were treated to a lively and entertaining address from playwright Steve Thompson, but not even this could stop the urge for our cast to head for a nearby KFC.

With everyone now back at the theatre, thoughts turned to our own performance and so we got to see very little of the other rehearsed readings. I did catch all of the 2005 play "The Regina Monologues" though, which had a very nice set but was only about as good as you'd expect half-a-dozen instances of self-pitying exposition to be.

Our Day in the Sun

Away from the darkness of the auditorium, Team H&M were enjoying the sun and being with one another as they ran their lines. In truth, this was the highlight of the day - the chance to be together, to be in a nice place and feel that sense of excitement again. Soon, costumes were donned, props readied and a final practise was taking place backstage.

In The Back of The Barn

At 5.40pm we were up, 70 minutes behind schedule.

With my diligently-prepared cue sheet shunned by The Barn Theatre's SM, I was operating the sound, which I hadn't expected. So, Team H&M Associate Member Paul kindly volunteered to do our pre-amble which I had written into the actual performance for myself to do. However, when I was told that I couldn't have house lights as I'd instructed, he remained in total darkness and despite his best efforts, our entrance wasn't quite as grand as I'd imagined.

But then our Groom ran on - and Hearts & Minds was back!

The team did a great job. We were all impressed with Tom especially, who had joined us and achieved so much in such a short space of time. I think we got more laughs than the rest of the day combined and I smiled throughout as I watched from the wings and enjoyed being in the company of these great people again - cast and characters alike.

One wobble occurred when the on-stage CD player broke. Of course, this was always the intention, but it actually broke forty seconds before it had been scripted to. Nevertheless, Team H&M covered and continued brilliantly. Bravo!

The day was, in theory, a good chance to showcase H&M and The Crescent, but it's hard to know what was achieved - or who the audience was. Being last on should have been a great climax to a day of support and unity, but with things running over an hour late, the crowd had dwindled. Worse, I don't think anyone involved in any of the other shows had stayed behind to support my script - even though I'd been there all day. Indeed, it was so sparse that no-one caught the bouquet - all of this was quite a change from our 100% sell-out record.

We were treated to a free drink and a bit of cheese afterwards, but there were only a few people left in the bar. That said, everyone was keen to know exactly why Dan had called the wedding off, so we certainly engaged those who had seen our 30 minute extract.

There was a lot of fun and camaraderie - this was what we achieved. But as an aspiring writer, I got little out of the day, other than a few snippets from Steve Thompson's lively speech (everybody at the Barn seemed to be called Thompson). I couldn't watch a lot of the other things because I was busy preparing ours, and of those I did get to see, what possible conclusions could be drawn - apart from not to ever use the word "orifices"...?

Ultimately, was there anyone in attendance who could take H&M on further or be interested in putting it on?

So, as we gathered behind the theatre to ceremonially let our balloons fly up and disappear into the sky, I wondered if this was the last we'll see of H&M too?

Friday, 14 September 2007

No Looking Back

I'd almost forgotten what it was like - to have so many things to pick up, and be constantly worried about Traffic Wardens as the car's left precariously (and illegally) during a mad dash into the theatre or Confetti.

Alright in the Back?

But we're virtually all done now, and with the car all but loaded, one side-effect of wanting to put on a good show is that the rear-view mirror is going to be useless for our trip to Welwyn Garden City tomorrow. I should have thought of that(!)

Or maybe I can let the balloons out of the sun-roof as we do a smooth 70 down the M1...?

Thursday, 13 September 2007

LTG Seminar Rehearsal 2

We finished preparations for our imminent jaunt to Welwyn Garden City tonight, and despite being a bit short on numbers, things went well in the Committee Room. I introduced a new element to what we'll be doing which will showcase a different aspect of the script and a lovely bit of of Louis' performance as Chris.

The H&M Committee

We had cake, strawberries and TEBSLPA (The Erstwhile But Still Lovely Production Assistant Producer) even popped in to say "Hello".

This and Tuesday's rehearsal have been as much about logistics as they have about refreshing everyone's memories and allowing Tom to acclimatise. Despite only doing a couple of scenes, there's been lots to gather, and plenty more to do tomorrow. We've also had to sort out lifts and who is bringing what - and, more importantly, who.

I'm a little worried about space in my car. With KateD, costumes, props, and the elements of scenery that Confetti are so kindly providing, it will be a squeeze. But despite not really knowing what to expect, I'm sure this and the work will be worth it.

We could have gone into this half-heartedly, but that's not Team H&M's style. The cast are going to be great, we're going to have fun and provide a fitting end to what I hope will be a good day...