Monday, February 27, 2006

The One With Four Parts: "We're Going To Take Chris Back To Topshop!"

The One With Four Parts: "We're Going To Take Chris Back To Topshop!"

Somehow, over the course of some text messages exchanged when I was on a train to Manchester, it was decided that 2006 would be the year of the non-stalking of the Radio One Breakfast show. Non-stalking in the way that only someone who has previous form of loitering near Radio Stations can say is non-stalking [it's a fine line].

So this is the reason why Nik and I ended up encountering Kanye West and his entourage [who were all incredibly badly dressed]. It's also the reason we encountered Jo Whiley. But I'm not blogging about that as I'm emailing it to Heat's spotted page. It was also the reason why on Tuesday morning I remembered just how god-damn-scary this non-stalking lark is. After all this is cold calling and I haven't had much experience of that. Maybe the night that we trailed to the hotel where the Boro Christmas Lights Dinner was taking place and I pretended I was from Southampton counted as cold calling, but, hey, we'd been schmoozing with Griffin backstage for all of two and a half minutes earlier on in the day so we were all practically best friends. The first time I met Fox doesn't really count either as he'd been told that we were coming to see him [thanks Val] and he kind of knew who we were anyway ["the Northern Division!"]. So we're talking a clutch of stage doors, most of which don't count as that's stage dooring. And lots of people stage door. It remains that lots of people do not loiter in a cafe near to Radio One.

As it was it was incredibly cold. Which made hanging around more problematic than it's been at other radio stations [yes, there have been many, many other radio stations]. Which meant that we were rather lightweight in our non-stalking efforts, lasting just over an hour.

But an hour is all it takes to have seen other stalkers ["Is he waiting for Kanye?" "From one stalker to another, yes"] and managed to tick five of the nine people involved in the Breakfast show off our list. That we were principally interested in the four we didn't see is neither here nor there, because we are nothing if not patient - and what is a New Year Resolution about if you don't have all year to complete it? Plus we now have new best friends in the shape of Joss and Tash who work on the show who were absolutely lovely, and Tash had a fab spotted headband on which is always going to garner respect from me.

So, as with all good stories, watch this space...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Some Sort of Anniversary

Some Sort of Anniversary

There are undoubtedly many things I should be doing than writing this, possibly not least working on Four Chords as I have less than 48 hours to finish the second draft. I also owe you part four of my London adventures. But both of those things will have to wait. At least for a few minutes. Because today is an anniversary that I need to mark and as I'm going to see Posh Young Farmer Boy tonight I'm going to have to mark it now or it will slip - like Alan Rickman's 60th birthday* - into the realms of things that I really should have blogged about but didn't get round to.

Which possibly makes you wonder what the heck I'm talking about. Four words for you. Some Sort of Beautiful. A year ago today was SSoB's final performances in the Old Fire Station Theatre. I spoke to judges about politics and, less convincingly, Greece. Nik and Gayle gave me a piece of table-cloth as a present. I recognised Paddy Marber from the back of his head. SSoB won awards. Its direct rival didn't. Some of my favourite people in the world came to see the evening performance. It finally sunk in that these were my words, my characters, in a theatre played to an audience who actually responded. It marked the end of an incredibly exciting, sometimes bruising, few months of my life. And I came out of it with some incredible memories, a bit more belief and Jay's empty whisky bottle.

There have been numerous moments over the past five or six years of my life where an event, or decision, has sent me spinning in a different direction to the one I could ever have imagined. And I think I owe a lot of where I am now to SSoB. Not only did it allow me to swing a few metaphorical doors shut but it also gave me the confidence to be doing what I'm doing now. At its most extreme, without SSoB I might have been two thirds of the way towards being a teacher. I certainly wouldn't have been pondering about some more pesky characters, or deadlines, or working at the WYP.

And if SSoB's anniversary makes me look back then it also makes me look to where I am now. Four Chords has come to life. In just over a week I start the 'So You Want To Be A Writer?' course. On Tuesday morning I've an interview for a job at the WYP that would still give me reams of writing time but would allow me to say goodbye to the Admin Monkey stuff. Nothing may come of any of those things. But they're all part of why I'm hugely excited about where I'm going and what I'm doing. And none of it would have been possible were it not for SSoB.

So, Julia, Sophie, Jay, Harry, Kate and of course Will - thank you. Whatever I do subsequently you will always have a special place in my heart.

*How is he 60? How? And is it wrong that I still would?

Friday, February 24, 2006

The One With Four Parts: "They're Going To Think We're Stalking Him!"

The One With Four Parts: "They're Going To Think We're Stalking Him!"

Over the last couple of years there have been numerous people of a famous or semi-famous variety who I've inadvertently seen/met whilst chasing around after one of my popstar boys. Will Young (grumpy, ignored his fans), Mark Owen (signed lots of autographs), Jamie Theakston (was a bit of an arse but then I think we scared him), Cliff Richards (he was just Cliff, I might have been able to say more but I spent most of his performance in the bar), the cast of Heartbeat (who are to football what their programme is to quality television), Jamelia (good legs, good tour manager), Atomic Kitten (Natasha's son is incredibly cute), The Fast Food Rockers (Phnarr), Mel Blatt (tiny, great handbag), Guy Chambers (pretentious French music). Often their fame has eclipsed that of the people we were interested in but very few of them have made their mark. Which either proves that I am not a moth drawn to the celebrity flame or that my levels of discernment are worrying.

It is fair to say, however, that of this list (which is by no means exhaustive) there have been very few who have won a Brit the week before I saw them, and even fewer who have ever won a Grammy. Or caused there to be proper-zoom-lens photographers waiting. Or had an entourage that was bigger than Steeeve and/or Daddy Griffin.

It is also fair to say that - under normal circumstances - I wouldn't have known the person concerned if he'd have danced naked in front of me whilst chanting his own name. I may know reality tv 'stars' from fifty paces and be able to recognise playwrights from the back of their heads but international stars? No.

And you know what? Even now, having been a few metres away from Kanye West, I still don't think I'd recognise him.

The One With Four Parts: Rock Chicks R Us

The One With Four Parts: Rock Chicks R Us

It having been all of two months since I went to the Bedford Monday night marked a welcome return (once again to see Riccardi) , with my giving a little nod to Kate Moss by wearing a waistcoat because I do like to pretend that I am a Rock Chick.

Nik and I having arrived, said some of the quickest hellos known to mankind and ordered the Bedford staple of chips we settled down at Becky's table which was soon filled with band members. And where Ricci Drums got to proudly announce that 2006 is to be 'the year of the gig' and - after much griping from us - that they were going to properly come north, and not just Peterborough north as was once suggested. Louis Vocals also managed to express concern about the fact that I have a computer named George, but I took little notice of this from a man who can speak for 25 minutes without interruption on the subject of sudafed.

Possibly because of all the talking for the second time in as many gigs we managed to miss a large chunk of the first act's set, making our way into the Globe just as Tony was making his way to the stage. Having had more luck with hearing Rosabella Gregory I was somewhat impressed, it was Dawson's Creek music at its finest. And from me that's a compliment. Next up were Riccardi, as Nik and I stood on the seats in our usual spot. And if Louis Vocals seemed slightly more insane than normal and Ricci Drums was wearing an interesting trilby then the set went by far too quickly. Thankfully there was just enough time for Nik and I to manage to synchronise our whooping and for Becky to do a scarily accurate impression of Billy Bass during 'Friday State of Mind'. And I realised that I do rather love the boys. Because they rock. I felt a little sorry for the girl who sung after them, who had a striking voice (if not particularly captivating songs) but who seemed a little lost after the dancing and shouting that had been going on prior to her arrival on stage.

After being quizzed by a man wanting to book Riccardi ('you're fans, right?' 'Is it that obvious?'), posing for extremely flattering pictures wearing comedy glasses it fell to spending the rest of the evening somewhere between bar and seat. The evening also managed to yeild some information about drummers forFour Chords, the informing of Simon Guitar that by default he had won 'best dressed' and that Billy Bass doesn't question my assertion that I am the 'sensible one' and that he would let me stay at his house (unlike Nik). How sensible I was being fifteen minutes or so later when - for no clear reason - my right leg managed to go into spasm when I was hugging Louis and I ended up hopping around the gutter.

But such is the life of a Rock Chick.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The One With Four Parts: Edutainment

The One With Four Parts: Edutainment

For a long time all my numerous trips to London when I really should have been essay writing or learning chunks of middle english were courtesy of the big red Oxford tube. For a few pounds you got a seat, an almost inevitable traffic jam on the way out of Oxford and the opportunity to point at Oxford Brookes students. Now my trips to London when I really should be performing open-heart surgery on Four Chords come courtesy of GNER and their constant refrain of "there will be an at seat service for First Class but anyone travelling standard will have to bugger off as we are understaffed". This time, armed with a fifteen pound return ticket courtesy of one of those collect tokens from the paper offers, even I wasn't going to complain. Because fifteen pounds - off peak it costs me nine for a single to York, twenty minutes on the train from where I live. They could shove me in the luggage rack and I'd still be moderately happy. When this was added to the fact that Nik and I had managed to get a hotel in Kensington for fifteen pounds each it meant that I had to acknowledge myself as a bargain hunting expert. Especially when the location of the hotel meant that we could give over Monday afternoon to suitably tourist preoccupations.

Once again I did the utmost to disprove the myth that my directional prowess is somewhat limited and would firmly lay the blame on strange street numbering systems and the dark for any failures of my part to correctly identify the hotel. After being bemused by the lifts which had carpet on the walls (I'm sorry, is this 1975?), faffed with the electronic key card and found the twin which had about 2cm squared of floor space I concluded that there might have been a reason for the fifteen pound thing. As a general rule though, I think I'd take the small room in the nice hotel in the nice area over anything which certain travel lodges and B&B's in London offer.

After a bit of winter olympics and a quick clothing dump we ended up talking to dinosaurs in the Natural History museum, as Nik took hundreds of photos and I attempted to perfect my dinosaur impression last seen post 'The Reduced Shakespeare Company' outing last year. As well as the bones and the casts there were also a number of electronic, moving dinosaurs, a couple of which I was particularly suspicious of as they kept looking at me in a funny manner, much in the same way that cows look at me. The big T-Rex was less of a problem in this respect than the little buggers up by the fancy walkway. T-Rex probably wanted something more substantial as a meal but I was undoubtedly prime feeding material for the pint sized ones. Then it was off to the giftshop where I tried not to trip over stray children or come out with anything which made a noise. In the end I settled for dinosaur stationery because a girl can never have too many pens, especially ones which come from giftshops.

A quick walk down the road and we were in the Science Museum and Nik was heading with previously unseen focus to the space section. Because - if this were not clear before - Nik likes space. A lot. Me? I can take or (mostly) leave it. I was, however, greatly amused with the spirit of much of the space section and its unflinching look at the practicalities ('how do astronauts go to the toilet?'). Plus I managed to learn lots of new facts that may one day prove to be of use in a Pub Quiz. Most importanty I managed to get another pen from the Museum giftshop.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning - after the Riccardi gig and a trip to a wonderously located 24 hour Tescos - it emerged that my stay-in-London-have-radiator-problems were continuing. When we went to see Riccardi at the Puzzle in November 2004 we ended up staying in a room where the raditator leaked - all over my hoodie. And I can safely say that I have done few things which annoyed me more than having to handwash radiator water out of it. When we went to see Griffin at the Bedford last year the heating in the travelodge refused to work, leaving me wrapped in two duvets. Fittingly, this time the radiator refused to turn itself off. So I suspect that I sweated off the weight I'd put on from eating a chocolate doughnut before going to bed. It was rather like the episode of Friends where Ross breaks the radiator. But without the comforting presence of Matthew Perry at the end of it all.

After approximately two hours of sleep and some accidental A List Star stalking we completed the tourist section of the trip on Oxford Street, where I managed to gorge a hole in my thumb in Borders with, of all weapons of choice, a book and before experiencing the wonder that is the flagship Top Shop.

Which means that I can confidently say that stalking is not my only fully functional interest.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Text, Context and Blatant Theft

Text, Context and Blatant Theft

I've come to accept - albeit with some sadness - that in a redraft it is necessary to kill bits of writing which you love. These are usually lines - sometimes whole speeches - which are essentially good bits of writing but which are just not right for the play they appear in or the character they belong to. And it breaks your heart a little when you have to bash them over the head with a candlestick holder. But you have to.

In SSoB's first draft Will had a lovely little speech concerned with his experience of teaching students Russian history and in particular about Trotsky and Stalin. It was nicely written, made some good thematic patterns and felt true to Will. But it slowed down the action at the point when the play should have been hurtling towards its climax. And in a play which is still top heavy with writerly symbolism (oh the chess, and the water, and the Byron and Shelley, and the Gatsby etc etc) it was - even for me - a step too far. So it had to go. But I still mourn it. There was another line - this time belonging to Harry - that I equally knew should go but I didn't have the heart to press the delete key. It was stolen and twisted from a line in The Waves *as Harry talked to Jay about his inspiration for painting. It was probably the closest to poetry that I'm ever going to get. But - even for Harry at his most pretentiously artistic - it didn't ring true as speech. It was too conscious. Because I loved the line I tried to keep it in, embedding it in others, hoping that it would slip through. When I went to see my first rehearsal of Act Two the line had gone. The director and actors had been able to do what I couldn't - but what needed doing - and throw the line into the bin.

In Four Chords I knew the section which was going to be problematic from the beginning. And such is the power that these sections present I still put it in knowing that further down the process I was going to have to potentially remove it. I wrote the outline of the passage over a year before I started Four Chords and I loved it. I loved what it was saying - I loved what it wasn't saying - and I loved how it said it. Again I had some Woolf in my head**, this time a vague memory from Jacob's Room, and again it tended to the poetic. But the 'constantly beating refrain of war' speech, which had worked in a prose context felt too ordered and decorative in the speech of one of my characters. And as the play had no real time context its reference to Saddam Hussain's capture stuck out like a Mcfly fan at a Slipknot gig. Why was this man a figure in the play? Four Chords doesn't have politics. It has music. And if Hussain went, then the refrain of war would have to go too.

But this brought the question of the play's timing. I'd plotted the action so that it was possible that Hannah saw Ben and Jude gig for the first time on the day of Hussain's capture, a good three or four months before the actual start of the play. Whilst my notes reveal that the events of the play go from March 2004 to January 2005 within the play itself there is very little which solidly pins down the time. Seasons pass in clothing, a date of release is uttered, but no more. Could the story in Four Chords happen during any year? Was there something within it that meant that it had to happen in 2004? And why had Hussain popped up?

If I've discovered that Four Chords is asking questions about faith in our society then surely the context of that society has to be established. In that respect 2004 is important. How loaded are the terms ' religion', 'faith' and 'belief' in Britain in this timescale? If SSoB was attempting to assert what it might be like to live in Britain post 1997, is Four Chords attempting something similiar for a different group of people in the middle of the noughties?

So I began to look at what was going on whilst Ben and Jude were releasing their album, performing at their gigs and playing 'marry, shag, kill'. And I built up a little timeline of the year and suddenly there was a context. The refrain of war speech had a purpose. It still needed dealing with but its essence could stay. It became clear that I could now plot specific dates for each scene and the play seemed to widen out again.

I won't know until I've slotted all of the pieces in whether this context will ultimately feed the ideas within the play or squash them. But it has yeiled one of my new favourite sections:

Ben: What does it say about us as a society that - in whatever way - some guy thought that it was ok - that it was the thing to do - to go and shoot someone standing on stage playing a guitar?

Ella: Ben, it's a society where footage of music videos can be on the same programme as footage from hostage videos.

Ben: That's different - that's terrorism.

Ella: I don't think it's that different. You can't spin yourself somewhere cosy and warm away from the world by playing a guitar or banging some drums. There isn't that divide.If the reality of this world is children being blown up on their first day of school or of people being beheaded because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time then it follows through that this is a world in which someone can be shot whilst standing on a stage.

Ben: But this was in America.

Ella: And that makes it more real? Like the trains in Madrid made that more real? This is how it is. We're not safe from life. We never have been.

So I feel, at the least, it's been a worthwhile exploration.

*As one of my favourite poets said 'immature poets imitate, mature poets steal'.

**Don't think that I only steal from Ginny. No writer is safe.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

We shared a moment that will last to the end

We shared a moment that will last to the end

When I came home from the WYP last night I switched on to Sky News in a bid to find out some of the results from the Brits. Instead I was confronted with footage of a car travelling down a road. I'm aware that watching such footage is almost a national pastime in the USA but I'd hoped that along with baseball, families in matching tracksuits and having the letters 'e' and 'r' the wrong way round in words* this was something that we'd wisely decided to ignore. Half an hour later and the car was still on my screen. And I was more worried about the American system of justice than ever before. Because whilst I couldn't have told you who won awards at the Brits I could have told you the ins and outs of the evidence in a case that hasn't even gone to trial yet. It almost feels like they might as well go down the whole Queen of Hearts route and remove trial and verdict altogether and go straight to sentence. The could even make it a primetime show.

At something to midnight, having gathered from the rolling news along the bottom of the screen that my almost neighbours** the Kaiser Chiefs and my certainly not a neighbour James Blunt had won awards of some description, I gave it up as a bad job, figured I'd hear the results on the radio in the morning and went to bed.

So this morning it emerges that there have been no surprises, and certainly nothing as exciting as Jarvis Cocker's arse appearing on stage. And if Sir Robert of Williams has had a place in my musical heart for over half of my life then I was still pleased about Blunt winning best male solo artist over Rob. I was pleased after all the snipey, half baked insults that had been directed at him over the last few months. It annoys me intensely that because someone is popular to a particular demographic and subsequently sells a hell of a lot of records they can be shot at from seemingly 'credible' people. Blunt is in no sense 'cool' [horrid word that it is], but a heck of a lot of people like him. And whilst a heck of a lot of people by the same reckoning must like the crazy frog and/or Akon Blunt is different. And not just because I'd rate his 'Back to Bedlam' as one of my favourite albums of the last year.

There are largely two reasons why I like Blunt so much, the result of which being that I suspect that his album may end up in the small selection of albums I play long after I first buy them. Firstly - I like his voice. It's unusual and slightly quirky if possibly *whisper* a bit nasal. It moves me. Secondly - his lyrics. Because he does that thing that I think all writers should do. He's honest. When you listen to his songs it feels like he's lost something of himself in writing them. They've cost him something. And I love that.

There are some things that I don't understand about the Blunt fanclub - largely as to why 'You're Beautiful' has ended up as a wedding song stalwart. It's an incredible song - powerfully hopeful and intensely beautiful - but it's also painful and about pure but ultimately unrequited love. Word freak that I am it makes me want to scream that people should listen to the lyrics, not to what they want it to be saying. In general to look beyond the obvious in Blunt to the idiosyncratic.

But I was pleased for Blunt. Pleased and a little shocked that for someone with such a received-pronounciation accent he talks incredibly quickly.Seriously it's a combination I've never heard before. And I confess it freaked me out a bit.

* I'm sorry 'theater' or 'center'? Never mind the phonetics, it's wrong.

**Neighbours in the sense that they're from Leeds too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

At Least You Can't See Where My Rose Was...

At Least You Can't See Where My Rose Was...

When I read Nik's blog this morning it sent me running immediately to that soppy, smiley, happy place of 'the [Griffin] nightclub gigs'. Because Nightingales was one of the particularly special ones. If only for the fact that it had streamers and balloons. And I didn't find my feet sticking to the floor.

So, for posterity:

Image hosting by Photobucket

And the final lines of the report I wrote at the time?

"Loved the club. Loved Al. But, most of all, loved the Army".

And I still agree.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

And A DA Style Award Goes To...

And A DA Style Award Goes To...

Image hosting by Photobucket

Sienna - DA salutes you.

And as if that and my having discovered that John Barrowman is on my 'Songs from Broadway' CD wasn't enough, when I was googling for the picture above I discovered Sienna Online.

How long to the restraining order do we think?

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Great 2006 List

The Great 2006 List

There are many ways to cover the events of a year and I can think of few that are as satisfying as a list. So consider this the list of my 2006 which I'll update throughout the year.

Links are to relevant entries in DA.

Plays Seen:

Alice in Wonderland [WYP]
The Magic Paintbrush [WYP]
Dead Funny [WYP]
Yellowman [WYP]
East is East [WYP]
Hedda Gabler [WYP]
Nights at the Circus [WYP]
Three Sisters [WYP]
Scuffer [WYP]
Movin' Out [Apollo Victoria Theatre, London]
Edward IV [WYP]
Richard III [WYP]
Soundplay [WYP]
Henry VI [WYP]
Ignatius Trail [WYP]
Blood Brothers [Empire Theatre, Liverpool]
West Side Story [WYP],
Foxes [WYP],
Stories in Red [WYP],
Janus [WYP],
Bus [WYP],
Whistle Down The Wind [The Palace Theatre, London]
Titus Andronicus [The Globe, London]
Bad Girls The Musical [WYP]
Fairy Tales From The Streets [WYP]
York Mystery Plays [Various, Central York]
Spoof Mystery Play [York]
A Midsummer Night's Dream [Kirkstall Abbey, BSC]
Romeo and Juliet [Kirkstall Abbey, BSC]
Pride and Prejudice [Harewood House, Illyria]
Ladies Day [WYP]
To Kill A Mockingbird [WYP]
The Man With Two Gaffers [York Theatre Royal, Northern Broadsides]
The Overwhelming [WYP]
How Many Miles to Basra? [WYP]
Cymbeline [WYP]
The Caretaker [The Crucible, Sheffield]
The Duchess of Malfi [WYP]
Trouble [WYP]
The Wolves in the Walls [WYP]
Thatcher - The Musical [WYP]
The Wizard of Oz [WYP]
Tangle [WYP]
The Merry Wives of Windsor [RSC, Stratford]
Flat Stanley [WYP]

Places Visited:


The Middle of Nowhere
Fountains Abbey
Dalby Forest
Belton Hall

Books Read:

How To Write A Selling Screenplay, Christopher Keane
A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby
The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith
Virginia Woolf Icon, Brenda Silva
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Byron Life and Legend, Fiona McCarthy
The Beautiful and Damned, F Scott Fitzgerald
On Beauty, Zadie Smith
Stories We Could Tell, Tony Parsons.
Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare.
Watching the English, Kate Fox
Girl With A One Track Mind, Abby Lee.
As You Like It, William Shakespeare.
The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger.
1599: A Year In The Life of William Shakespeare, James Shapiro
The Understudy, David Nicholls.
The Gospel According To Chris Moyles, Chris Moyles.
New Selected Poems 1957-1994, Ted Hughes.
Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes.
Saturday, Ian McEwan.
The Sea, John Banville.
Eating Fire, Margaret Atwood.
Untold Stories, Alan Bennett.
Shakespearean Afterlives, John O'Connor.


The Four Right Chords [second draft] [third draft]
Corinne's New Play
'The Ballad of Alan Smith'
'REM's Back Catalogue'
'Bus Stop'

Gigs Attended:

Riccardi - The Bedford, 20/02/06
Griffin - Blakey Ridge, 23/03/06
Riccardi - The Mixing Tin, 6/04/06
The Other Corinne - The Lead Mill, 9/04/06
Kaiser Chiefs, Birmingham NIA, 26/4/06
Griffin, The Crypt, Middlesbrough, 30/4/06
Fuse Festival, Leeds, 11/5/06
One Big Weekend, Dundee, 13/5/06 - 14/5/06
Griffin, Black Sheep Music Festival, Masham, 18/6/06
Ocean Colour Scene, Middlesbrough Music Live, 18/6/06
[The Mighty] Snow Patrol, Millennium Square, Leeds, 15/7/06
Posh Young Farmer Boy, The Colloseum, Coventry, 23/7/06
Griffin, Purple Mountain Acoustic Night, Dalby Forest 18/8/06
PYFB, Leeds Met, 4/10/06
PYFB, The Sanctuary, Birmingham, 7/10/06
Orson, Newcastle Academy, 12/10/06
Embrace, Birmingham Academy, 18/10/06
Lily Allen, Birmingham Academy, 4/11/06
PYFB, Leeds University, 8/12/06
Griffin, The Independent, York, 17/12/06

Famous, Semi-Famous, Niche Famous and Infamous People Non Stalked/ Spotted:

Kanye West
Jo Whiley
5/9ths of the Radio One Breakfast Show
Twyla Tharp leaving the Apollo Victoria Theatre
Every man, woman and dog working at Radio One in Dundee.
Frances Barber being animated and eating near the Globe.
Jimmy from Emmerdale seemingly in a hurry.
Paddy from Emmerdale being sweet and dropping his change over my feet.
Stan from Dinnerladies wanting to know where the nearest HSBC was.
David Hockney watching his friend Wayne Sleep in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Imogen Stubbs bemoaning the fact that 'no one goes to the theatre anymore'
Timothy West and Prunella Scales eating in a bar opposite The Crucible.
Sam West talking animatedly to someone in the audience at The Caretaker.
Nigel Harman laughing and looking decidedly merry in The Long Bar at the Crucible.
Imogen Stubbs buying microwave meals in M&S.

Once More Unto The Breach

Once More Unto The Breach

Because I am never one to let random websites pass me by (especially when it involves Comedy Dave from Radio One) I wasn't going to disobey Nik's command to to go and join My Space. So after work today I found myself up to my eyes in DA's first colony. I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that unlike colonisation in the real world, I was able to proudly walk into this new area of cyberspace and plonk DA's flag down without a murmur from the locals (other than the odd 'server busy' thing). Obviously I don't know whether this new colony is going to propel me to riches with diamond mines and cowboy boot factories or yeild nothing more than a broken flip flop and an empty bottle of Baileys. But I'm all up for the spirit of adventure. And being one of Karl from Neighbours's friends.

So, you can also find me here. If you're already a member you should add me to your friends as I promise not to stalk you (unless you become famous in which case all is fair in love and stalking) and if you're not then you should join up and add me to your friends because you know that you want to. Team DA Needs You!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Postman Pat

Postman Pat

If today is a mixed bag what with there being the John Barrowman-less Strictly Ice Dancing [I know I've got The Sound of Musicals to help me cope but, frankly, it's not enough] and the distinct possibility that we will have no electricity for a couple of hours [it's a long - not to mention slightly tedious tale - which involves the local substation having had a fire, us losing all electricity for 20 minutes on Thursday night and them needing to correct the problem tonight], then I got a couple of bits of good news courtesy of Royal Mail:

1. My Romantic booklet - in tv tie-in type way - finally arrived, something which I'd begun to expect wouldn't happen until the next millenium. And I am always going to get excited in regard to anything which concerns my Romantic boys. It has pictures of Byron in it, afterall.

2. With unexpected promptness it emerges that I've got a place on the WYP's 'So You Want To Be A Writer' course. Which means five classes with 14 other wannabe playwrights under the guidance of Mark Cately [whose latest play I will undoubtedly be FoH-ing in a month or so] and then a mini showcase of writing at the WYP on the 13th of April. I probably don't need to emphasise how much this excites me, though - thankfully for all concerned - I did manage to hold in the desire to whoop.

Which possibly shows that I shouldn't moan about our Whitby-Gazette reading postman quite as much as I do.

Friday, February 10, 2006

In Twenty Years Time Students May Have To Study This. Or Maybe Not.

In Twenty Years Time Students May Have To Study This. Or Maybe Not.

I am always slightly wary of blogging about my writing just because I'm not sure how much of an interesting topic it makes. I know that if I write about a gig I'll get a mini surge of hits and I can understand why - wanting to find out how I've embarrassed myself this time is a valid form of entertainment. Equally if I blog about popular culture (that would be the John Barrowman, Big Brother, Smash Hits et al entries) I know I'm going to get comments popping into my inbox. There are those of you reading this who come here on a pretty regular basis and read a lot - if not all - of what I write. Then there are my casuals who pop in and out. And because - as was pointed out to me the other day - I "write to be read" then there is the looming fact that I don't want to bore you. Regulars, sometimers, googlers and all. Every so often I might want to whitter on about Byron to you - which some might argue amounts to the same thing as intense boredom - but I always want to entertain, or make you smile, or ever so occassionally make you think. If I could sing I recokon I'd make a good popstar in this respect - I've an inherent desire to please an audience. That whole thing of art for arts sake, of writing in secret and then having the manuscripts burnt when you die - one of the biggest pieces of crap I have ever heard. Me? I want the glory. I want the reviews and the applause. I want to see my stats growing and comments in my inbox. And beyond DA - of all the mediums that I could write for - I've chosen the one where you can actually see people's reactions to your work. As a playwright you can sit at the back of the theatre and watch - not your play - but the audience. It's an egotist's dream (or nightmare depending on the amount of non-returners post interval). Like a certain Sir Robert of Williams, I want to entertain you.

So I do worry that when I write about my writing (meta-writing if you will) I'm kind of excluding you from the party. Because I'm writing about something that i)has slightly pretentious overtones and ii) not many of you will come in contact with. In ten years time this might not be the case (for the second part at least, meta-writing or auto-lit-crit* will always be slightly pretentious in anyone other than a Romantic or a Modernist) but for now it remains a solid, indisputable fact. Only a small percentage of you have read Four Chords, even fewer have read or seen SSoB. Conversely, however, I keep finding myself wanting to blog about them, wanting to write about Four Chord's development and the ideas running through my head. Maybe it's because my head is starting on the process of New Year Resolution Number 7 ("Be able to say 'I'm a writer' even when sober"). Maybe it's because as I write ideas and problems down I manage to process them through and see where they're going. And Ginny Woolf did it to bits in her diary. So, whatever the reason, I think you'd better hold on tight.

Given the resources of a stage production you simply have to make every character count. They have to be on stage for a reason, not just for your whim that you'd like a non-speaking barman, postman or goat herd (obviously these rules don't apply to Will Shakespeare because who would be the person who sat him down and gave him the rule book?**). As well as the obvious financial implications (actors may be cheap but they're not that cheap) there's also a moral one. No actor wants a 'knitting part'***. In the midst of SSoB's run I found myself apologising profusely to the actress playing Julia. For while Julia isn't exactly a knitting part - she is integral to the themes and ideas of the play and in reading very few people realised how little stage time she gets - it remains that her two moments in the play come: 1. when I needed to get Will offstage and 2. when I needed Harry and Kate to have a 'jury out' moment in their conversation. In short her stage presence is purely as a theatrical puppet. And I still feel bad about that.

So every character has to have a story and a reason - a proper one, not just structural - for being in the play. And then there's that horrible phrase 'character arc'. Which is basically the progress a character makes over the course of the play. It might be that they start off liking deck shoes and then - after much battling and soul searching and pressure from society - they end up realising that deck shoes are the product of the devil and hence start up a national campaign against them. Inherent within the 'character arc' has to be the possibility of change. Views, opinions, character have to be tested and, be it for the worse or the better, a change has to be possible. It's why a storyline pitting me against the judges of 2003's tortous-reality-television-show wouldn't work, because however witty and honest the script was, and however appealing the blow torch rampage at the end of it would be, it would fall down because the ending would always be predestined. I would continue to dislike them from act one, scene one to the final line and there would be no chance of forgiveness. Hence the script would be lifeless and - however cathartic - ultimately pointless.

If I've one overiding aim in the second draft of Four Chords then it is to give all of the characters a proper story, with its equivalent resolution. On the surface of the read through Paul, the band's tour manager, didn't stand out as a problem. He had a distinctive voice, a purpose for being in the play and he, well, worked. What emerged to me though was that he didn't have a story. He was an accessory to someone else's story but he himself had nothing at stake. Nothing to gain or lose from events in the play. And whilst he certainly isn't the play's 'knitting part' he doesn't matter enough within it for him to ultimately keep my interest. Which is a shame when he provides a voice which is noticeably different to any of the other characters. So Paul needed a story.

As I pondered this problem it occured to me that his status on the margins of the play might be the key to his character. Because Four Chords is a play of aspirations equally as much as SSoB is a play of thwarted aspirations. What does it mean, therefore, for someone to chose to live on the periphery of such a world? Why would someone chose such a lifestyle? Why did Paul chose it? As anyone who has read Gatsby will know, it's as bold a statement to chose to be the watcher in the shadows as it is to chose to be the person who is watched****. Because the world of Four Chords, the environment which potentially causes Ben to lose everything which he holds dear, has to cost Paul something too. His problem may be the opposite to Ben's, but it still should make its mark. He too should have to question himself.

In writing Paul's story into the narrative it had something of a knock on effect for Ben. The more time I spend with Ben the more I come to think of him as another character on the aspirational, almost mythic, deeply flawed Harry SSoB spectrum. Or, as it was put post read through, a 'bit of a git'. Now I'm going to have to pay attention to this git-dom to which I seem to condemn my leading men, but it stands that - albeit in a secret whisper - I do rather love them. I love them for what they would be, what they could be, rather than what they are. I may not entirely buy into how they see the world, but it doesn't mean that I'm not partial to their view. I'm looking at that green light at the end of a dock too*****. But a Ben condemned to git-dom poses more problems for Four Chords than a Harry condemned to git-dom does for SSoB. Ben carrys the weight of the narrative more than Harry does. I have to make an audience want him to succeed, even if only a little bit. And in giving Paul a story, in voicing an alternative narrative - one which stands opposite to that voiced by Ben - I'm giving Ben an opportunity to change. To see what life could be like for him. And it also means that Ben, finally, gets to express empathy for another person's position. Because Ben's major flaw is that he is too self involved, too preoccupied to ever look around and wonder what's happening to others around him. He's the artist; his feelings are the most acute, the most intense, the most painful. For Ben's story to be completed he must come to see that this might not be true. And it's with his new relationship with Paul that the possibility for this arises.

NB: As an afterthought I'm going to stick up basic synopses for Four Chords and SSoB just so that anyone who wants to have a vague idea as to what the heck I'm talking about.

*Oooo, I just invented that term. I think.

**There is such a thing as epic theatre still - particularly outside of London - but it would be suicidal for me to attempt a cast of thousands at this stage. Just you wait until I get to write for the Globe.

***So called because the actor gets a lot of opportunity to, erm, knit during the show.

****The narrator of Gatsby, Nick Carraway, is the ultimate watcher, whilst he would have us believe that Gatsby is the ultimate subject.

*****Yep, another Gatsby allusion.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Scampi Fries - You're Going To Call Your Blog That, Aren't You?"

"Scampi Fries - You're Going To Call Your Blog That, Aren't You?"

Just over a month ago I posted my New Year Resolutions and because when I have something in my head that I want to do my sense of focus becomes scary on a level which even I can acknowledge, last night I started work on number 4 ("Find a new Quiz night") with a little help from Val.

A quick scout round the local evening paper revealed that publicised quiz nights were a little thin on the ground. There was however one at the Melbourne, a venue which Val and I are starting to get something of a history with so, having checked that they weren't attempting to fool us and had moved the quiz to Friday night*, we decided that would be the venue for our first Pub Quiz of 2006. Which meant us settling into our Melbourne routine, a routine which principally consists of:

1. Val driving us into York (through the slightly more scary route).

2. Us going to Wetherspoons and having meals from the 2 for five pounds section.

3. At something to nine driving from Wetherspoons to the carpark of the Barbican Centre.

4. Having a Fox flashback in the car park as the Barbican was the scene of the first time we saw him perform.

5. Having a Griffin flashback whilst crossing the road.

6. Walking to the Melbourne and being able to sit in what is almost becoming our corner.

And because we had a bit of time before the quiz started we also got to have an almost as tradditional conversation on Shakespeare, because, hey we're Shakespeare annoraks and proud.

Having collected our quiz sheet [both of us noting that this was the first pub quiz we'd ever done where the quiz sheet hadn't been brought to us] we started to prepare with the sort of Olympic Athlete style preparation that comes when you give two competitive people a quiz.

Then the first blip came - the quiz was to be multiple choice. Now, I'm sorry, but multiple choice does not come into pub quizes. Multiple choice means a game of chance not of skill. And I will always chose skill over luck. Luck is out of my control. Skill isn't.

It was as incredibly difficult - in a random, how on earth could you possibly know that kind of way - as the multiple choice thing suggested. And for the second time in just over a month I was mildly traumatised for having been born in the eighties [I was possibly the only person in the pub who was, so I reckon we should have got a couple of points in lieu]. Without the multiple choice answers I'd have been able to answer outright a grand total of one of the questions [which Beatle has 'Winston' as their middle name] with Val polling a better 3 or 4.

When marking time came it quickly emerged that we'd done quite well with all the questions we could rationalise down [the name of the secret police in Iran, what 'utopia' means in its literal form, the Addams family pet] and had gotten a worrying number down to 50:50 and then plumped for the wrong answer. We'd fallen down quite impressively on the pot luck ones [the year of the first royal ascot, Larry Grayson's real name, what Keith Richards's job was before he joined the Rolling Stones]. But I felt that however far we'd fallen, we had at least not slumped to the level of the people whose quiz paper we were marking who had written 'eutopia' in the top right hand corner. Had I have been in charge they'd have lost five marks for that alone.

When it came to final scores Team Northern Glory** managed a rather impressive second to last with 15 out of 40, though since the margin of victory wasn't much more than that I wasn't too miffed. Plus I'd done well with the tiebreaker question [the cost of the new Wembley Stadium***] so really we were only a couple of chance questions away from a much more respectable placing. And as everyone got a prize we were presented with a packet of cheese crisps - and to my delight - a packet of scampi fries. I didn't even know that such a thing as scampi fries existed, so to now be in possession of such a culinary delight made the evening worthwhile.

As it was almost time for my last train home we left after this with my managing to assert my rampant intellectual snobbery [what can I say, it's something I've honed over the years] and us deciding that we were going to continue the search for a pub which might yeild better results. Better results meaning somewhere where they ask us about Shakespeare.

*This is, sadly, not a joke. They once did this with a gig.

**There were a couple of horse racing questions and if the Northern Division had a real horse - as opposed to fake fluffy keyring ones - we'd call it Northern Glory.

***So - almost - working in the construction industry does pay off.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Show me the money!

Show me the money!

It is fair to say things that a girl never wants to hear. Along with 'is that a grey hair?' [the answer would be yes, it's undoubtedly caused by something I did in a previous life] and 'I'm going to save Stefan' [look, I'm not getting over this any time soon. I know how to hold a grudge] this week has also managed to yeild:

"You'd make a good quantity surveyor!"

[from look of total horror on my face]

"You would. And they want women to join the construction industry".

Needless to say I have never considered a career which principally consists of telling clients that we need more money and telling sub contractors that they need less. Plus the suggestion means that I haven't managed to hide my scary side well enough for a career where there is an award for 'Most hated QS'.

"Somehow I don't think so".

"You do know it's £40,000 a year?"

"Where do I sign up?"

Monday, February 06, 2006

"This is the story of the day..."

"This is the story of the day..."

As I've been working on the re-draft of Four Chords there's been one thing that's bothering me. Well two, but we don't need to go into my stinking crush on John Barrowman again. The problem's been that for all that I think that Four Chords has a much sturdier, more diverse first draft that SSoB did I didn't feel that it had some great magic moment that tips the story upside down and makes it wider and bigger than the words on the page. SSoB always had one of those moments. In the final act Harry and Kate - potentially on the verge of getting back together - talk about a trip to Paris they made together in 1997. I love their conversation just because it says so much about them as individuals whilst it collides with the much bigger, national story of that particular April. It gives the play a scope beyond the room it inhabits.

Four Chords has always been physically bigger - ten months as opposed to one evening, characters where there's a twenty year age difference between the oldest and the youngest - but its story is, conversely, more localised. It is about Ben, Jude, Ella, Paul, Hannah and Jess. It's a bit about me and my friends and some of the people I've met along the way. But the first draft was never more than that. And my reticence for undertaking the second draft has undoubtedly had something to do with that. In SSoB I could make changes that I now can't imagine the play without (Harry wasn't an artist in the first draft; it now seems unthinkable that he could be anything else). I can't change jobs or motivations or major actions in Four Chords, at least at this stage, without starting the play again. So I knew that for the play to work, for it to progress, I had to find out what it was really about. What it was trying to say away from the wrapping of my experiences over the past two years.

And this afternoon I found it. It had always been lurking in a half comment in the middle of the play, neatly hidden away in Jude's bluster:

Ella: "You talk about it as if it were a religion".

Jude: "Maybe it is. But with more opportunities for casual sex".

Without really recognising it I had been writing about Faith. And I mean Faith in all its guises. Maybe it was the Romantic ramble yesterday that led me in the direction (in which case, Byron, I owe you another drink). But I realised that what it's asking, what the play is really yearning for, is to know where - in a secular society - we channel our faith. What does belief mean to us?

It was the question that I've needed all along. Suddenly there's a new direction, new openings, new life for the second draft. And I realised in the same flash why I will have to do this for the rest of my life.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

"My epitaph shall be, my name alone" - Byron

"My epitaph shall be, my name alone" - Byron

I was always going to get over-excited about a programme about the Romantics. Especially when it had multiple parts, a website and even a free leaflet (which, incidently, I am still waiting for). I missed all but the last sixty seconds of the first part but I've watched parts two and three with a level of excitement that was was possibly slightly indecent.

And as was always fated to happen I loved it and was dissapointed in it in equal measures. Possibly most importantly I loved the argument behind it - that we wouldn't be the people we are today without the Romantics. That so much that we take for granted - notions of the individual (on both a pyschological and political level), the way we view nature and childhood, the freedom with which we chose to live our lives - might not have been possible were it not for a disparate band of writers at the turn of the 19th century. They literally changed the way that we think. And they remain achingly, poignantly relevant to this day.

The programme itself was fast paced, visually interesting and having actors playing the poets was a masterstroke (they were all perfect for my vision with the exception of Wordsworth, who - as I like his early work best - I always imagine as being younger than he was portrayed). The content itself was interesting and a more than competent 'Rough Guide To...' but I couldn't help screeching at the tv at various points. Because there were aspects and subtleties that Ackroyd was never going to be able to fit into three hours of tv.

'The Romantics' is such an easy title for a group of people who were never in the same room together, had widely different views on many things and wrote startingly different poetry and so I mentally cringed every time there was a sentence beginning 'The Romantics thought...'. Often without even the distinction bewteen a first and second generation Romantic. Even when you pair up the ones who were hugely influential on each others work on a purely practical level (Wordsworth and Coleridge, Byron and Shelley) it's not a surprise that they had somewhat stormy relations and didn't agree with each other a lot of the time.

It was where the views diverged, where their ideas really got interesting that I wanted more than the programme could offer. That it quoted from both Wordsworth's 1805 and 1850 versions of The Prelude without docking its hat to what are radically different texts, saying radically different things about what we consider to be the basis of 'Romanticism'*. That it looked at Frankenstein as part of the second generation's view on nature but didn't note that Mary Shelley wasn't just writing after being influenced by ideas expressed by Byron and Shelley - she was, at least in part, writing against ideas expressed by them**. That in all the take on the 'Keats Myth' (which was very nicely done) it was not noted that Shelley's reason for creating the myth of the tragic, ineffectual poet doomed to die without being heard or understood was undoubtedly grounded in the fact that he himself was genuinely unread - and died knowing this***.

But I could forgive all of that for the constraints necessarily placed upon Ackroyd. What I couldn't forgive was the angle at which Byron was viewed. In the final programme on 'Eternity' Byron got a good chunk of screen time with a short guide to some of the facts - or rumours - of his life and he was viewed squarely in the - very interesting - light of being the first recognisable media 'celebrity'. Which is what he stayed in the terms of the programme - a 'celebrity' with a one liner for every poetical occassion (without noting that he was equally scathing about his own work). There were some lovely quotes from his letters but only once was any of his poetry quoted in this programme and it was read squarely in relation to his own life. I agree these are important aspects of Byron but in a programme that was discussing death, afterlife and immortality it missed what it ultimately means to be 'Byronic'. In the terms of Byron's poetry, to be Byronic is to defy. And the ultimate defiance that Byron envisages is to defy death - that Manfred, in his take on the Faust story, can refuse to be taken by the spirits and can die on his own terms. It is to be triumphant and live outside and beyond the body. But I couldn't help but feel - as the camera stayed on Keats and Shelley and their intertwined myth - that the impression created was, as one critic once stated, "if Byron is great it is for reasons which are not primarily poetic".

The series, though, did make me excited - and pleased that BBC had chosen to make it. Maybe in twenty years time I might get to make my own version. It also struck me of how intense a period the era of the Romantics was. At best we can consider it to have been just over a three decade movement - Byron is, neatly, its beginning and end, being born during the French Revolution and his death in 1824 marking the end of the second generation. Thirty six years. To make the mark that they did. I find that pretty incredible. And definitely just a tad Byronic.

As a final point - if only to be pendantic - Ackroyd noted that Shelley drowned after his boat Don Juan sank off the coast of Italy. And anyone who has read/ seen SSoB will know that Harry intends to 'Go to Livorno and sail back to San Terenzo' in a boat named 'Ariel'. The name 'Don Juan' would have made lovely thematic patterns, with Harry thinking that he is Byron and whatnot, but I couldn't use it. Because Shelley's boat wasn't actually called Don Juan. It was going to be, but its name was changed. To Ariel. Which some how seems more fitting.

*Wordsworth got all conservative in his old age and re-wrote the life out of his great poem. From that you can probably guess that I'm an 1805 fan.

**Ok, proper involved footnote here. Frankenstein is also called the 'modern Prometheus' on its title page - and the myth of Prometheus [who defied Zeus to give fire to humans] was one which all three of the Romantics in the house that night were preoccupied with [both Byron and P B Shelley wrote about him]. Byron and P B Shelley liked the myth as it removed the power of a God. If they could dismantle Christianity then they still needed something to put in its place - and the figure of Promethesus, who becomes almost Christ-like, is one which can be fashioned in their own likeness. Mary Shelley's take on the story, however, has much darker consequences - Frankenstein becomes a God with devastating results. It would be fair to say she hadn't quite bought into Byronic philosophy.

***Shelley never made a penny from his poetry in his life time - he self-published all his work and, in contrast to Byron's Harry Potter status in publishing terms, very few people read it. It was one of Mary Shelley's great achievements that she edited and published his work after his death, otherwise it would have remained unpublished at the very least until the 20th century.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God - John Barrowman just got voted out of Strictly Ice Dancing*. And I found myself, head in hands, screaming at the television. Because he was far too flippin' good to go out. And even if he hadn't have been, he was my favourite so I'd have wanted him to stay, regardless.

I think I may have had a lucky escape. And given the inevitable stalking, so has John.

*Yeah, I know that's not its proper name, but I'm with Heat on this.

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men

So I'd planned to have yesterday off work in order to bash through another version of Four Chords but as I seem to have found myself with the inability to say 'NO' to either of the places I work I ended up working instead, being very grumpy for the first four hours of the day in the process [especially to everyone who told me to think of the money, because I assure you that only depresses me further]. Because, hey, I should have been writing not typing letters and managing to roll the shredding machine OVER MY FOOT.

Given that I lost yesterday entirely I probably should have gotten up early and ploughed ahead with the re-draft. But I didn't. I slept in, ate lunch ridiculously late and then whiled away the afternoon watching Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Because there are days when you have to accept that you have all the creativity of a slug. Today is one of those days.

And c'mon - Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in a fountain. It's going to cheer any girl up.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I wouldn't say that I'm predictable, but...

I Wouldn't Say That I'm Predictable, But...

And so it was commanded on high (by Billygean) that I answer what is officially DA's first meme:

Four Jobs I've Had:

1. Admin Monkey (Keeper of the Shredder and double sided photocopying queen) - this one covers a multitude of sins, from having to use a portaloo on a building site where I was the only person with two X chromosomes, appearing on Radio Five Live to ask Griffin if I could write on his chest when I was supposed to be showing off my telephone voice as a receptionist and being the fastest drawing scanner in the west.

2. FoH Attendant. I've been paid to watch plays, deal with ice cream that doesn't have spoons and plan 'Green Room - the Musical' at the WYP for six months now (and still no one has thrown up on me though I have had: fainting, lost bags, screaming children, a child's nose exploding when she fell down a step, lots of men who are old enough to be my father - and then some - flirting with me when I do cloakroom and someone crying over on-stage nudity). Needless to say I've done this for free in the past and would do so again.

3. Drama Assistant. Once upon a time I wrote, produced, directed and generally was Queen of the World over my Sixth Form's annual Entertainment Show. And whilst I am not one to boast, let it be known that I rocked. So much so that they invited me back the next year to do it all again. And then the year after that they actually paid me to do it.

4. Unless we count the Gov't paying me to go to Sixth Form then I've reached the end of my paying jobs. So we'll go to one of the many voluntary 'jobs' I did when I was hacking my way through University Drama - Sound Desk Woman. A big black desk with lots of buttons (only 2% of which I knew how to work), some techno music and my finally managing to get all of the cues right on the final night. Ah, well.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over Again:

1. FWAAF - possibly the definitive Hugh Grant/ Richard Curtis film (they could have all made the list but I thought I'd limit myself just to the one in order not to bore you all too much). And, despite the fact that I can quote the entire script, I still cry when it gets to Auden's poem.

2. My not-so-guilty-secret, Titanic. Don't let go Rose!

3. The Hours. Based around a Woolf novel with a screenplay by David Hare - I was always going to love it.

4. Shakespeare in Love - sheer genius in a Will Shakespeare mug. And it's even got Rupert Everett as Kit Marlowe, which possibly made my life complete.

Four Places I Have Lived:

1. A two bedroom house 20 minutes from where I live now, which faced on to a square where I once fell off a skate board and grazed all of my leg.

2. My house in Crossgates. Or Cross Gates. Or Cross-gates depending on your preference.

3. Halls of residence in Oxford that looked like a giant sixties egg box, and probably smelt a bit like one too.

4. My beautiful blue plaqued house, with its view of the Radcliffe Observatory on Woodstock Road.

Four TV Shows I Love:

1. Neighbours. Twenty years and counting and it still makes me laugh, shout at my tv and, more often that it probably should, cry.

2. Friends. Oh Central Perk, how I miss you.

3. Dr Who. Because its clever, fun and I want to marry David Tennant.

4. Blackadder. For giving the world the true meaning of 'wibble'. And meaning that I can't say 'Bob' without laughing.

Four Places I've Vacationed:

1. New York. My 18th birthday present, scene of my first - and only - ride in a limo and my getting to go into the holy grail of Bloomingdales.

2. Rome. The first thing I stumbled upon on my walk out of my hotel was a statue of Byron. It's a wonder I didn't move there then.

3. SSoB's Scotland. A rented car, me map reading and the lochs at night. Utter bliss.

4. Budapest. Heart soaringly beautiful. And filled with extremely flirtatious waiters.

Four Of My Favourite Dishes:

1. Tiramisu. I would willingly sell some of my blood relatives for a piece.

2. Fish and chips at the seaside (East coast obviously) because there is really nothing which compares.

3. Chocolate cake of any kind. On this basis it's a wonder I don't weigh 20 stones.

4. Chinese Lemon Chicken. With prawn crackers. And squid for starters.

Four Sites I Visit Daily:

1. At least one of the 5 or 6 forums I'm a member of (only 90% of which are stalking-related).

2. Pop Justice.

3. All my favourite bloggers (sometimes multiple times a day if they haven't updated).

4. Mugglenet. I'd kick the habbit, but I can't.

[I've excluded the websites of necessity, like gmail, blogger and google because then you might realise, if the HP site didn't hammer it home, how geeky I really am].

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

1. Sitting at a table outside a restaurant somewhere warm enough for me to do it at this time of year, eating tiramisu.

2. Watching the preview of Brenton's 'The Romans in Britain' at the Crucible.

3. Erm, sitting on a bed at the Evil Eye, because when wouldn't you want to be doing that?

4. In bed watching Pretty Jude Law in Closer or Hugh and Alan in Love Actually.

Four People I'm Tagging:





Thursday, February 02, 2006

"She Gets All Her Facts From The Latest Smash Hits"

"She Gets All Her Facts From The Latest Smash Hits"

If I never expected to end up on the business end of fully blown fandom (lightweight stalking in other words) then this is not to say that there weren't signs of what would happen when I had the time and - almost - resources with which to follow my pop affections to their logical conclusions. And during those teenage years if we put to one side all the Take That posters that littered my room, Boyzone's entire back catalogue and forget the signed Ant and Dec CD (and everything else) the biggest sign was probably my unadulterated love of Smash Hits. Because my relationship with that magazine was love. It was a love for the music it featured in all its pop glory, but it was also a love for the magazine itself. When I was asked at 15 what I wanted to do when I grew up there was one simple answer - be Editor of Smash Hits.

I got my first issue somewhere around the time of Jason and Kylie's prominence, carried on through the momentous years when pop music was in such a state of disrepair that SH famously had to put Sonic the Hedgehog on its cover, passed through Take That and pop's resurgence to be greeted by Britpop and those Blur and Oasis covers. Then came more pop, more boy bands, Mark Frith's departure as Editor, The Spice Girls, new glossy pages and finally when I was about 17 and had to concede that I was no longer reading it, just buying the magazine for nostalgic reasons, came the inevitable parting of the ways. But for five or six years in the middle of that Smash Hits was my magazine, I defined myself a little by it. It made me listen to music, it made me want to write.

Given its current state which - last time I read it - seemed to have been watered down to such an extent that I couldn't reconcile it with the magazine I'd enjoyed it might be a surprise that SH made me want to write. But it did. Because when it had thin pages and a proper Editor at its helm, it was witty and irreverant and intelligent. Yes they wrote on pop, printed songwords, asked people what they would be if they were a type of biscuit but they did so in a knowing - but wonderfully affectionate - way. To this day one of my favourite articles - and it was an article not a interview - was when they sent a writer who didn't like boy band pop out to spend a week in Australia with Boyzone. It was a culture clash that was wonderful in its ridiculousness, a piece of writing that didn't play to the lowest common denominator or pretend that all the bands they featured were innately wonderful. At its best SH suggested that, hey, people with an IQ of more than 90 might like pop music. And even if you liked pop, you might not like it all.

The last couple of times that I bought SH was because Griffin was in it and if I was proud that he'd made it into one of the markers of my childhood then I was also a little dissapointed at the interviews it contained. Because there was little residue of anything ironic, anything even affectionate. It seemed no different to any other magazine.

Now the spot that SH once filled in my life has been replaced by Heat [how many Heat addicts were former SH readers, I wonder] and, to a lesser extent, Pop Justice. But I was still saddened this morning to discover that SH is soon to be no more. And because of the affection which I hold it in, for the years of rushing out to buy it, of watching Mark Owen win every award possible at the SH Awards screened on BBC1, of pulling out those song words and posters, of saving - to this very day - those large cardboard 'Cult of Ant and Dec' masks that came free with one issue it seems right that I should dock my hat to its passing. Because it is an icon. And on the 13th, when its final issue comes out, I will once again make the pilgrimage to the newsagents.

And for old time's sake, if I were a biscuit I would be a chocolate digestive*.

*Thank you to Nik for providing me with the answer ("you have a dark side!") after much soul searching.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Almost Famous

Almost Famous

So I was lying in bed, knowing that I had five minutes before I REALLY had to get up when the infamous CBR came on the Radio One. Then...

"That's the girl from Leeds isn't it? I'm from Leeds and I've never met anyone called 'Corinne', 'Bailey' or 'Rae'!"

Well I can't help on the last two, but just you wait a few weeks for the first one, Chris...

NB: While I'm here I have developed somewhat more sympathy for CBR despite the aforementioned name theft on account of the sheer number of hits I've had for her with the wrong spelling of Corinne. I guess there are some things which don't change.

"You hold my trousers, I'll hold your baby!"

"You hold my trousers, I'll hold your baby!"*

Before I sat down, two and a half years ago, to write SSoB the ideas behind it had been circulating in my brain for months, some of them had probably been there for years. With Four Chords I knew the subject matter for nearly a year before it occurred to me what form the play should take. And I've had an inkling of another play - less concrete than the planned story for Four Chords - for some time now, a knowledge that along with my burning desire to write 'Green Room - The Musical'** I wanted to write a play with some cracking female characters. Call it the after effects of multiple viewings of My Mother Said I Never Should or simply a burning desire to create a female character I hold in as much reverence and delight as I do with Will in SSoB or Jude in Four Chords. And, as it always is and I hope it will be for a long time, this isn't just a desire, it's a compulsion.

Just as before when the initial idea has slopped around my brain to be eventually born into something with shape and form, yesterday afternoon, just after I blogged, I found myself with some dialogue that may well be at the centre of this new play. And it was big dialogue, dialogue of the type that David Hare once noted "needs room to breathe". It struck me in the lines that seemed to flow effortlessly, as if I were simply catching them and not writing them, in this half heard conversation between two sisters I can see the play I need to write. A play I've probably needed to write for a very long time, even if I hadn't realised it. Once the lines had come, a product of some lightning bolts after work on Monday night, more has followed. Now I have names and ages and likes and dislikes and story and shades. I suspect more will bubble up in the next few days.

But I know exactly why my brain is trying to divert its entry to its new Ur-Play. In a not so subtle manner it is attempting to channel me away from the more difficult - but infinitely necessary - job of my Four Chords re-write. Because that is messy and complicated and involves getting covered in ink and print and words. As the structure is relatively tight a re-write is major surgery. None of the body parts remain untouched. So I've been procrastinating about the moment I finally start. I've made notes, asked myself questions, gotten my red pen out. I've also taken to compulsively soliciting opinions. This has resulted in numerous degrees of helpfullness - from the panicking (5 people declaring that they hadn't heard, let alone played, 'Marry, Shag, Kill...' and thus the opening section where Jude and Ben play this game being practically uncomprehensible - "I thought it was a thriller and they were going to kill someone"), through the pause making ("Is he gay?" - erm, I'm not so sure what Steeeve might say about this development to his alter-ego) and the extremely useful (the noticing of my tendency to write "down lines" after I finish chunks of conversation, I hadn't been aware of it but, my God, are they there) to the incredibly sweet ("Act One, Track One - I love it already", "I laughed five or six times during this much [holds up first few pages of track one]...and I can really 'see' the characters already"). Jez, the owner of the last comment, was immediately made my favourite person of the week but even with all the comments and notes it remains that I have to settle down and do the writing.

I've got one more day of work and then for the first time in months I've got three days set aside for nothing but writing. Which means I'm going to force the new voices out of my head - or at least into a side room - and concentrate on the surgery. Because Four Chords means a lot to me and I want it to rock.

*Possibly it would have been better if that sentence hadn't been said to me on a full bus. The baby is Four Chords, if you're wondering. The trousers were, erm, trousers.

**So it might not be an actual burning desire as much as it was a very funny joke after several hours in the WYP. But I reckon it'd be a winner at the Edinburgh Festival.