Friday, March 31, 2006

Movin' Out: Not Quite Starting The Fire

Movin' Out: Not Quite Starting The Fire
As promised here's my review of Movin' Out. It should probably be noted that as I went opening night I saw a preview performance which means that the etiquette of professional reviewing is that reviews aren't published until after Press Night (as things may still change in the production up until this point). But this is DA not the Guardian and having paid my money to see it there's no way that I'm not going to have my say. Aherm. Normal rules apply.
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The numbers speak for themselves - 100 million dollars taken at the box office, over 1,300 performances on Broadway and even two Tony awards have been flung towards Movin' Out. But with its clutch of Billy Joel songs and a story orienting itself around Vietnam I approached Movin' Out with something resembling the slight suspicion one might approach a piece of foreign matter. Because it's not very British is it?

And indeed it wasn't. Telling the story of five friends and their changing relationships over the course of three decades through the medium of dance and Billy Joel's back catalogue, Movin' Out -somewhat thankfully - employs a twist on the usual familiar songs fashioned into a musical format. Here the songs come not out of the words of the characters but from James Fox's Pianoman, who oversees proceedings perched with a full band on a moving platform above the stage. There is no doubt about the infectious nature of Fox's - and the band's - delivery of Joel's music which had the audience happily clapping and bouncing throughout. But the Pianoman is the narrator who must - or should - ultimately blend with the story being delivered.

The substance of Movin' Out therefore belongs to the dancers who display the kind of energy and enthusiasm that often manages to rival that of Fox and in places even eclipse him. In particular Laura Costa-Chaud as Judy manages to effectively convey the crushing devastation Vietnam brings upon her whilst Ronnie Todorowski is outstanding as the bewildered, almost broken Eddie on his return from military service. Separately they account for much of the production's emotional heart and it is in these characters that Twyla Tharp's choreography - which is interesting, vibrant and often prone to spontaneous moments of applause from the audience - shows its most clear flashes of brilliance.

But therein lies the flaw. Flashes. In many ways Movin' Out is something of a disjointed production. At its best Tharp's choreography seamlessly melts with the music and story; all too often though the show is hampered by too literal interpretation of the lyrics of Joel's songs and the fusion fails to occur. Certainly it is noticeable that none of the Tony awards were for Movin' Out's book which, especially prior to the characters leaving for Vietnam, is rather patchy. There is an interesting story within it and whilst Vietnam may not have the emotional pull for us in Britain as it does in America the production might well have had something to say about our own current military preoccupations. Sadly, all of this remains buried.

Movin' Out is certainly not without its merits - it has an energy and vitality about it that is difficult not to like and Joel's songs performed as they are with gusto and passion are immediate crowd pleasers. On the whole, however, it remains a production of black and white; there is no delicate shading or probing of the issues at its heart and consequently it ultimately seems rather glib. Movin' Out definitely lights some sparks but it doesn't look like there's going to be a fire at the Apollo Victoria for the next few months.

Movin' Out, Apollo Victoria Theatre, 28/03/05

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Without the pull of Fox would I go see Movin' Out again? I think that would have to be a no. But it is a fun evening - especially if you're prone to a bit of Billy Joel - and a bit of theatrical fluff never did anyone any harm.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A West End State of Mind

A West End State Of Mind

I may understand having albums out, appearing on Top of the Pops and hearing people sing the words of your songs at gigs as major events courtesy of my having been on the outside looking in but I can only understand as far as I can look into someone else's dream. I can, however, fully understand appearing on the West End. Not because I want to do it myself - the thought in reality would terrify me - but because it's in my very veins. Just like I understand the terror of Press Nights, of wanting an audience to love the production you've worked on (to just pay for the tickets is usually a good enough step to start), of wanting that applause. So the thought of Fox, on a West End stage, with his name in a big font on the poster outside - I understand that. And it thrills me.

Given this shared ground I couldn't have imagined not being there for Fox's opening night in London on Tuesday. And I equally couldn't have imagined not dressing up. Because I need no excuse. And I spent literally weeks pulling together the outfit:

Girl Band


Which, admitedly, suggests that I spent a lot of time looking for a dress, but let me tell you there were many, many hours involved and several purchases that haven't made it on to camera. If you're wondering that's also Cat, Nik and I in Girl Band mode. We're a rocky-indie-pop trio (a more credible female Busted if you like) who spent our formative years at Girl Band School. And we play our own instruments.

But this isn't about our burgeoning fame, it's about Fox. And needless to say I was a little excited about seeing him after so long (not since we all won Elle Style Awards in Cardiff for our co-ordination) and given that train trips with Cat and Val involve wine (something which I wasn't previously aware of) I was moderately hyper prior to even leaving the hotel room. So being greeted by the sight of the theatre was rather awe-inspiring:

Apollo Victoria


Because it's real. And if I needed any more proof it came in the shape of Fox wandering down the street just as we were attempting to work out where to eat. And whilst he seemed thinner than I remembered (I clocked this even as Nik and I were running down the street towards him) he got immediate kudos for greeting us with hugs and "I didn't know you were coming"s. Because we like the love. And there's no doubt that Fox is good at sharing it. He hadn't quite had the pleasure of reading our good luck card yet having not been to the theatre in days (so much for rehearsals then...) but was already convinced of its comedy genius ("I wouldn't expect anything else"). And there had to be a photo:

Movin' Out


If you look I am conveniently wedged in Fox's armpit. I had thought that I'd been particularly good having not ended up touching him inappropriately during general conversation but clearly I wasn't as well behaved as I thought. I will, clearly, be mutilating the photo to rid Fox and I of the other participants.

After photos of Fox's trainers (strangely the same as a pair that Griffin used to wear), it was time for Fox to go and see if his piano had been removed and for us to try and find somewhere to eat WHEN EVERYWHERE WAS FULL. Once we'd had a rather strange encounter with some comedy waitressing it was back to the Apollo where I found myself being hugged by more people than I have been hugged by at any Griffin gig in the history of Griffin gigs. Maybe it's something in the Fox water. It makes you hug. It was also here that I discovered that there wasn't proper programmes. Now I know that this was the first preview for Movin' Out but this is NO EXCUSE. It just creates reasons for me to go back.

Then there was the show - of which I will write a proper review tomorrow - a good chunk of which I watched obscured by a man's head. It was also interrupted by a slight wardrobe malfunction that will be complaining to Zara about at the first possible opportunity. Needless to say I glanced at Fox a few times and got over excited when I saw him: looking excited, laughing, pointing, tapping his leg and playing air drums. I loved him just a bit when he milked the last moments of the show for everything they were worth (a "London state of mind"). And - despite the fact that I DO NOT STAND unless I consider a production to be in the top five percent of shows I have ever seen - I stood for Fox. Because I recognise just what last night was, after everything Fox has been through, and that thoroughly deserves an ovation. It also convinced me of the need to get 'I am standing for ...' cards into production for theatre snobs such as myself and Val to aid us with the standing thing.

When Fox left the theatre afterwards we were greeted by his discovery that the comedy genius of our card was Griffin's insulting message. Which had clearly been reitterated on the phone that day. All I can say is that Griffin needs to wash his mouth out and Fox needs to, well, stop doing things that can't be mentioned on a family friendly blog like DA. After Fox had checked that we were going to come again (erm, are we? it seems that we rather have to now) we left Fox intending to head for drinks with his family, Nik headed home and Cat, Val and I ended up drinking in a strange little pub not far from Dury Lane. And it all seemed rather perfect.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

If Only I Couldn't Remember This

If Only I Couldn't Remember This

I think this firmly stands as a conversation not to have when the primary object of your non-stalking over the past two and a half years is sitting at the next table:

S: Have you emailed John Barrowman yet?

C: [loudly as blood is 50% riccardi and coke] No - I thought I'd leave that until I've actually met him - I don't want it to come across as stalking yet.

Hushed silence in horror of what I've just said.

V: You might not want to say that... [gestures to adjacent table]

C: [loudly again because I have no volume control when it comes to embarrassing situations] It doesn't matter - it's not like I'm talking about STALKING HIM. I just stalk other people.
[beat]
This isn't sounding good is it?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Brought to you without the expletives

Brought to you without the expletives

It's generally a Northern Division rule that we send very witty cards. And Fox has really got one to look forward to when he goes to the Apollo Victoria next week:

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Unfortunately all of our messages were trumped by Griffin's - moderately rude - contribution. There's always one who has to show off.

The Stars and the Gutter

The Stars and the Gutter

I am unashamedly a city girl. I like big buildings, concrete pavements and the buzz and bustle of life. I do not like mud, wandering cows or scary moors at night. So I'm sure you can imagine that The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge - which bills itself as "Englands [sic] Remotest Music Venue" - was a prime location for me to go see Griffin. Because if apostrophes haven't reached there then you've also got to wonder about running water.

I put my fears aside and ended up having High Tea with Val in Helmsley. Which largely involved us feeling very smug, eating too much and wondering if we could take a doggy bag (sadly we couldn't and the pieces of cake were bigger than my hand bag). We continued our mini pub crawl - dissecting lots of theatre in the process and starting me on the riccardi and cokes before embarking on the final trek towards the outer reaches of civilisation. Not that I am one to panic but there was nothing on the road in front of us. Just snow on the side of the road. Snow. When it stopped snowing over a week ago. After trundling along in the dark we saw a light on the horizon and started hoping that it wasn't merely a mirage but the venue.

Thankfully it was - though I was very vocal in a city-girl way about the carpark and how dark it was. But the pub itself was rather fab - full of lots of hidden rooms, a roaring fire, cheap alcohol and comfy seats. Soon we'd taken up a corner in one of the little rooms - complete with a little portable tv showing the Boro match. And when we were joined by Cat, Gayle and Shona we settled in for the next few hours with much random conversation. And it was one of those nights where I laughed so much that I thought I'd pulled a muscle in my stomach. I'm not sure exactly what we talked about (though I know it included but was not limited to: stalking John Barrowman, Regency picnics, Gay Best Friends, using the gents, not using the gents when Griffin was in them, the pull of the Northern Division, Fox's Good Luck card, Gayle's bladder, Shona's birthday, Cat and Val's priorities the day I almost-broke my leg and my flexibility) but - let's be clear here - whatever it was it was comedy genius.

Some time after Boro had powered their way to a nil-nil draw we took our cue from Griffin to go to the room where the music was being performed to find it full and rather warm. And then came Griffin's performance. It was a raft of new songs - and new-new songs - and he sung them with the intense belief and passion that seems to be characterising his recent performances. I don't know there's much more I can say about the performance other than that he fucking rocked. And I believed so much in him as I jumped around, arms and legs flailing in all directions, that it actually hurt. I had that feeling that creeps up on me every so often. He has to make it. And somehow, deep down and burried, chipped away with events and reality as it might be, I believe that he will.

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And yet I felt the undercurrent as painfully as I ever have. Because how do I take Griffin's comment that the bank of cameras that greeted him were like the paparazzi? How do I take the urges to bounce and dance which never amount to much? How do I take these on the back of Griffin wanting us to dance at all the band gigs; the almost frustration, which I'm no longer sure is mine or Griffin's, that people don't? I feel these stings, do others? And I want more for him; I want to be covered in sweat, sing myself hoarse, dance like an idiot and live the moment. I want to do all that as Griffin stands on stage and gives that little piece of magic that he's so clearly capable of. Because I've come to understand that - just as theatre is all about the audience - so is a gig. It's a joint performance that feeds off each other. And not just when Griffin forgets the words to 'Semi Charmed Life' and has to listen to us to get his way back into the song.

After the gig had finished - and I'd almost bounced my way to a serious injury - we retreated back to our corner where we were quized by a a nice woman as to who the band who'd just been playing were. There followed another hour or so where we generally put the world to rights (including: what would have happened if Cat followed her urge to crowd surf during the gig, the 'I've Lived' fast or slow debate, dress code for the next Griffin gig [Britpop], how drunk I was, blogging and who exactly Alan Smith is) before we made our ways across the scary moors and back to civilisation.

I suspect that the night will live long in the memory for many reasons. Firstly for the fact that even if Griffin hadn't have been there it would still have been a night bordering on the status of the mythical night we went to the club in Whitby and tried to write a postcard for Fox for how much fun I had. Secondly it's gotten me all excited about Griffin and what he's doing and where he's going. And I am now ridiculously excited about the Boro gig at the end of next month. I'm going to practise my bouncing in preparation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Are You Scared Yet?

Are You Scared Yet?

You know when I had that incredibly stupid idea to write a play from scratch in 12 days (13 at the outside)? Let me just say that I will not be doing this again.

But whilst I am stressing about final scenes and whether it's a cop out to have one of my character's hit someone offstage (thereby depriving everyone of a good fight) it's time to reveal the rough edit of DA's extra-special-very-exciting-new-feature:

*drum roll please*

DA now has its own podcast! DACast to be precise (that's D-A-Cast if you're wondering, rather than da-cast). You can download the mp3 from DACast's blog here. And no, you don't need an ipod to listen to it, just download as you would any sort-of-legal download from the internet.

Now I have to go because a charcter is bleeding over the sofa and I can't have that.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Mini Adventure (Part Two

A Mini Adventure (Part Two)

I think it's officially time for an update on how my somewhat-misguided writing challenge is going. You can read part one - where I explain what I'm doing - here.

Monday:

As asserted no writing today - well, no writing of 'Corinne's New Play' [CNP] but I manage to blog, work on DA's new project and come up with a monlogue in ten minutes during SYWTBAW?. Which means - in my head at least - I am forgiven.

Tuesday:

I've got to get some other writing related things out of the way today. I type up notes and monologue from last night's class and have a bit of a play with 'the Ballad of Alan Smith' while it's fresh in my mind. I also sort out and send my entry for the Young European Playwrights' Forum which amuses me greatly if only for the fact that I'm going international for the first time. Germany admittedly, but international nonetheless. And - if you hadn't noticed - I blog. See how good I am?

Which all leaves me with about an hour to write CNP what with having to get ready to go to the WYP. Which might not be quite as good. I press ahead, however, and write all of three pages. Hey, every little bit counts.

Work 'Three Sisters' at the WYP which amuses me given that CNP is about, well, three sisters. I don't know Chekov's play but assume from the fact that this version is set in Trinidad during the second world war that it's not a literal translation. I enjoy the first half but the second half seems to dribble away to nothing - and I'm dissapointed because I managed to work out what the ending was going to be about five minutes into the play. And I can't quite work out if this is because the production was too heavy handed with the clues or if I've seen too many productions of this type of play. But I think it's been a nice run of programming to have had Hedda Gabler, Nights at the the Circus and Three Sisters at the WYP which have all mused on question of female power and freedom. And I know that they've all played their part in CNP.

Wednesday:

I write the annual Griffin blog-letter which takes longer than I thought it would because I become oddly tongue tied in the middle of it.

Then I - finally - finish Act One of CNP. I decide to keep the big obstacle at the end of this act as it helps the momentum of the play. Watch out all you characters in Act Two.

Work 'Scuffer' - it's Press Night so the theatre is filled with all the people who work upstairs in the WYP and who we rarely see on any other occassion. As I have a long talk with my boss on my future at the WYP [thankfully not in a 'you don't have one' kind of way] I don't see any of Scuffer. But what's that? Free wine? Free Food? And karaoke? Oooooo. I like Press Nights.


Thursday:

Up late today, for self explanatory reasons. I am, therefore I blog.

Start Act Two - the last character I've to introduce makes his appearance. Write ten pages without a problem. Plan to write some more in the evening but find myself inexplicably tired [am I getting the flu that is currently afflicting every other person in my house? ] so I don't.

Friday:

Despite some good progress in the past two days I've now got the fear that I'm not going to finish this before I go a-stalking next week. But I refuse to be defeated, even by my own procrastination. Write another ten pages, all of which are meaty, interesting stuff and I'm pretty pleased with four of the five characters in the play who are starting to push me in certain ways. I can't work out what's going on between two of the characters and I'm not sure what kind of conclusion I can give it. But I'm still in the mire of the second act, so I shouldn't worry too much about that. Yet.

I re-read the first 50 pages of CNP out of fear that it's going to be too disjointed and - after quite liking it - I discover what happens when you do all the planning and writing for a play in 12 days - INCONSISTENCES. A couple are just little slips, easily fixed [like someone being alive in the first scene but then supposedly having been dead for a few years in scene three which takes place approximately three weeks later] and a more major one [a change in character, given that I decided midway through writing to turn a character upside down in a bid to see if I could write a sympathetic Tory]. As I've been writing I've become progressively aware that I'm pulling together lots of different threads together and I think it remains to be seen if I can do this in a satisfactory manner within the realms of the play.

Eek, I don't blog.

Which brings us to today [flu situation: chest very tight, which clearly means my hopes of a Commonwealth Medal are to be dashed] when I've got Act Two to finish.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

You'd Never Guess He's Been Dead 200 Years

You'd Never Guess He's Been Dead 200 Years

Number of people commenting on my reading material whilst being cloakroom queen: a million.

Best quote: [from the cutest old lady ever] "Byron - that's going to be spicy!"

Best story: An American telling me he'd been to Greece and seen the 'Hellespont' which Byron famously swam - and being genuinely impressed at how far it was.

Least amusing quotes: everyone who asked if the book was just for show.

Favourite Spotted:

D: "Did you see that man, he looks just like Byron"

Me: "Where?!"

D: [not so discreetly gesticulating in said man's general direction] "Look at his profile"

Me: "Oooo, he's got Byron's nose!"

Award for Byron Mania:

D: "Oscar Wilde had green teeth"

Me: "I didn't know that"

D: "Green teeth and a flat face"

Me: "It doesn't surprise me - I mean from the photos - he's no Byron"

D: "Byron. Is anyone?"

[Let the records show that we love Oscar as well, but - it has to be accepted - Byron wins on this count]

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Run Away and Chase the Moon

Run Away and Chase the Moon

Dear Griffin,

In general I think that reality tv has a lot to answer for. And reality tv where there's a competition involved, well you might as well wave a big red Boro flag at me and ask me to pretend to be a bull. Being only human, a pretty face (not to mention some snazzy clothing) will always help but when it comes down to it I'm a sucker for some talent and a dollop of charisma, something which you demonstrated in abundance during your time on the ice. And the outfits! How was any musical-theatre loving girl to resist?

What? This isn't a blog-letter to John Barrowman? Griffin? Who? Oh, him. He was on Pop Idol wasn't he?

Seriously, Griffin, I don't know if this is going to become an annual event (writing a blog letter to you, rather than pretending you were on Pop Idol when we all know it was X-Factor) but somehow it seemed right to continue the trend this year. I realised about a month ago that the anniversary of my last blog-letter - not to mention the You & Me [Tonight] release - was coming up. And I knew that I wanted to write again, maybe only as a record of the last year and its changes. Though I know that as a big fan of DA you'll have been counting down the days.

Certainly we've seen a lot less of each other - literally in a 'you've kept your trousers on' and 'I've kept my breasts covered' type way - in the past 12 months. And in general the whole experience is much more hazy than it used to be - largely it floats in and out of memory (though some things, I confess, are as painfully vivid as they were at the time). But it does seem ridiculous that it's two years ago this week that we bought you the paddling pool. I hope you're saving that - and the leeks - for your memoirs. I think they make good stories.

I'm not sure how much concrete stuff there is for me to look back on. Because I was worried for a while. Worried that 'working on the second album' was a euphemism for playing golf. And I'm sure that there's nothing wrong with playing golf - other than the fact that it spoils a good walk - but this is me. I love aspiration. And I wasn't quite ready to give up on you. Because - heck - I believed. And for reasons that I can't quite quantify I still believe in you as much as I did the night of that final. Do you think I'm stuck with this for life? Because it's an odd one.

So I was incredibly chuffed at the last three gigs of yours that I've been to when the new material started slipping out. Because I really loved it. Even the second verses. Though - please - bring back 'Why?' which I possibly adore most of all (as a side point I desperately want to know what it's about). You know what struck me most about the new songs? That they were noticeably different from those that had come before. And that's what made me most excited.

Away from the songs and to the general Griffin circus I think I feel a lot easier with it now than I did 12 months ago - though I still can't begin to imagine how you feel about it. Maybe because I don't feel so much part of it anymore it doesn't drive me as insane as it used to. I'm not saying that I don't cringe or get annoyed or get crotchety - because I do. And I still feel sorry at times for some of the things that I think we inadvertently caused. And I'd really like you to know that. But I can't help but smile at the thought of you playing the impromptu second set at the Melbourne last year. I can't express just how much it meant to see you do that, to see that you felt that you could, even after everything.

I like to think that in the last six months or so I've learnt a little bit more about you as a person [though, really, Mr Darcy...] and you've learnt that I don't have a small child. I wondered for a while when I was writing Four Chords why I felt so compelled to write it, was it - I feared - going to turn into some horrendous love letter to you. It didn't - and I'm sure you'll be (almost) as glad as I was - but maybe it's a love letter to the whole situation, to everything I think you represent. Because I know that in some respects you've come to represent all of the reasons why I decided that I had to have a shot at writing. I've got huge admiration for the fact that you're still - well - here.

Again I've no idea what kind of blog-letter I'll be writing you (or John Barrowman) or what will happen in the next year. Who knows, I might even take you up on your offer to star in one of my plays (maybe I should have tested your acting ability before I caved in and said yes). But - wherever you will go? Oh, yes. And hopefully it'll be somewhere we can dance in front of the stage.

love Corinne. x

PS. You'll never beat Al Griffin.

PPS. Obviously not counting pub quizes.

PPPS. We're all in the gutter just some of us are looking at the stars.

PPPPS. From a phonebooth in Vegas...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Ballad of Alan Smith

The Ballad of Alan Smith

Getting to know you games all over in the first week last night's SYWTBAW? session was more about our writing. And what animal we see ourselves as (as a side point I hate those kind of questions, predominantly because I'm useless at them and ended up largely plumping for things that amused me rather than having some reflection on who I actually am).

First up for disection? Monologues. We rehashed some of the important rules that are relevant to monolgue writing ('don't write on the nose', 'subvert expectation' etc etc) then Cately read a couple of cracking examples out - including one of his own from Sunbeam Terrace which I rather loved. After a bit of analysis it was over to us to write a short monologue in ten minutes.

After talking round three of the monologues that had been written we were sent home to polish, re-write and generally produce a little bit of wonder on a side of A4.

For record purposes - and indeed my own amusement - here's my ten minute, pre-polished monologue. And, me being me, I didn't work out what the twist was until I was half way through it:

So I'm late. And it's not something that I usually mind but this time I do. Big time. It's not like when I slept in and missed the train to see Charlotte that time. Because that was alright. And Charlotte didn't mind. She said she didn't. So being late then that didn't matter.

This time it's more like when I was late going to Elland Road and I missed Smith's goal. Can you believe it - I'm sat in the back of a taxi with Jamie on the mobile and the next thing I hear is this fucking massive roar. And Smith's only gone and scored. And not just any goal. We're talking once in a lifetime, wonder goal stuff. And I'd paid forty pounds to miss it.

So this time - it's just like that. Only Smith's not scoring goals. And Jamie's not on the phone. And I've run out of battery on the mobile so it's not like I can call them and say - look, I'm going to be late - will you wait for me.

If I had a story that might help. If there was a reason. I could say someone got knocked down at the junction at the top of my street and I had to wait and help the Police. 'Cause there's always an accident happening up there and I'm sure the Police would make you wait. Maybe I could say it was a kid. A kid might get the sympathy vote. He was on his bike - delivering those free newspapers that everyone gets and nobody wants and one of those huge people carriers came round the corner and hit him. Head on. Messy. Bits of kid all over the road.

Yes, I think that will work.

God, I'm really late now. Do you think that the kid's going to be enough? I could throw in an OAP for good measure. That little grey haired man who plays bowls in the Park. Yep. The paper kid and the grey haired man.

I can see the door. This is it. Now or never stuff.

Shit.

They're all looking at me. And Charlotte - her dress, it's...lovely. And I know that this is where I should say about the police and the free papers and the little old man who plays bowls but I can't. And even though I know this might be the place but it certainly isn't the time - I can't help myself, it just comes tumbling out -

I DO.


Needs a bit of work, but I kind of like it. I think.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Mini Adventure (Part One)

A Mini Adventure (Part One)

Inspired by another blogger's escapades on writing a script in four days I thought that I might attempt something similiar. Not identical because I'm under no illusions about the ability I have to get distracted. But I thought that I might try a slightly extended version of the task, just to see how reasonably quickly I can write a full length play, even given distractions like paying work, non-stalking and google. I was going to keep the project entirely quiet until the time period was over but - as is my perogative - I changed my mind. Plus if it's on here then I have to finish the bloody thing or you will all point and laugh at me.

So - armed with the two sheets of A4 that had been the product of those days when my brain was trying to avoid having to start the re-write for Four Chords and a further two sheets that gave a scene breakdown - on Friday I started work on 'Corinne's New Play'. Now I don't feel bad about it not having a title - even though SSoB and Four Chords had one at this stage (though SSoB's was slightly different, fact fans) - because until the day before the print was due for Closer the official title of the play was 'Patrick Marber's New Play'. And if it's good enough for Paddy then it's good enough for me.

My timescale for something resembling a first draft is March 21st. Given that I'm going a-stalking on the 23rd that gives me one day if-I-really-need-it. But hopefully I won't. Every couple of days or so I'll do an update on here. So to get you up to speed:

Friday:
Ooo, I'm a proper writer. And I've got three whole days ahead of me with no commitments other than to write, write, write. I wake up thinking about the structure and whether I need to push one of the major obstacles I'm throwing at my characters back an act. I decide I'll see how things are going when I reach the end of the first act where the obstacle should be.

I write the first 16 pages without a glitch. I can't quite work out what's going on between two of the characters but - hey, they'll hopefully divulge it to me in time. Or if not I'll beat them with the threat of the delete key.

I go to bed happy. And slightly smug.

Saturday:
I don't manage to hit the ground running today as there's sport on the tv. And I can watch any sport - excluding golf, boxing and curling - for any amount of time. I'm good though and stop watching the Chelsea/Spurs game at half time and manage 8 pages in the afternoon. Plus it doesn't matter because I can press on in the evening now that Strictly Ice Dancing has finished.

The press on turns into a dribble as I find myself updating - and adding - various bits of software for George. This takes a while and slows down George so I listen to a couple of podcasts instead. I end up writing a couple more pages at speed so I can claim that I actually did take advantage of the post Strictly Ice Dancing lull.

Sunday:
Ah, there's Manchester Utd vs Newcastle on the tv. And - hey - Declan Donnelly's in the crowd (laughing and clapping when Gary Neville gets hit in the face with a ball). Newcastle play like my local park team and I say insulting things about their defence.

Still got ages to write after this though - so it won't matter if I write some emails, or play with some of the new software. Two hours later when I'm in the midst of planning DA's next assault on world domination (you should be excited, I am) I realise that 'Corinne's New Play' isn't going to write itself so I write enough pages to get my total up to 30. And then accept that I want to do more work on DA's new project so give in for the day.

Which is where we stand now. I'm not writing today - in preparation for creative bursts at tonight's SYWTBAW? class - so I'm spending the next couple of hours on getting the rough version of the new project (did I mention it?) ready. But I'm quite pleased as those 30 pages equal a good chunk of Act 1. So I'm almost a third of the way there.

To be continued...

Friday, March 10, 2006

"the tears ran down my face" - Never Let Me Go

"the tears ran down my face" - Never Let Me Go

Six years ago I was instructed to buy a copy of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. It was one of our set texts at A Level and when I started reading it I was surprised at what an odd little book it seemed. Here was a novel written from the point of view of someone who thought it wise to go on for countless pages about polishing silver. There were already grumbles coming from my cohorts in the classroom about the nature of the book and its general alien status to a group of 17 year olds at a school in the middle of Leeds.

But something about the book had captured my attention. I'm not exactly sure what it was but something compelled me to read it. And when I'd finished I read it again. And again. Reading it was to know that here I'd just found one of those books that would have a hold on my imagination for the rest of my life. Because - and there is no other word for it - The Remains of the Day is a beautiful novel. It's elegaic, gently amusing and quietly heart breaking and as is so often in my favourite novels it is the unsaid which matters. It's all about the reader infering, seeing the shades beneath the words, detecting the real story. And there's something about it that is painfully, indefinably human.

After reading The Remains of the Day I've held up Ishiguro as being possibly my favourite living novelist. None of his other books has come - for me at least - quite up to the power which that original read did, but then none of Fitzgerald's novels comes as close to me as the Great Gatsby does either. But I was excited about the release of When We Were Orphans and I've been waiting with something bordering on indecency for the paperback version* of Never Let Me Go as I'd heard very, very good things about it.

And, finally, when I got my copy this week I discovered that the wait had been entirely worth it. Because it did to me exactly what The Remains of the Day had all those years ago. It left me awed. It also left me a sobbing wreck because of how acutely painful - and heartbreaking - it turned out to be. And it was that ever present watch word of mine - beautiful. It was so beautiful that it actually hurts. And I can't - and suspect that I never will be able to - get the final images of the novel out of my mind.

Ishiguro - thank you.

*Possibly as a remnant of being a student I never buy hard backs. Even for Ishiguro.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Postscript

Postscript

Dear the-other-Corinne

So it turns out that I was letting you off lightly with the Coreen thing. You are in fact a Cerinne. Which means that you can't move to France. Or you could but it wouldn't help you with the pronunciation thing. It might help my rapidly decreasing grasp on sanity though, so please don't dismiss it out of hand.

I would request that, given the urgency of the issue at stake, you rectify the situation within the next 24 hours to avoid further distress.

Yours sincerely,

Corinne.

P.S. If you could also make sure that radio presenters don't refer to you as a 'posh sounding Corinne from Leeds' I would be more than grateful. My ego will only allow for there to be one of us out there.

I Bet Corin Redgrave Doesn't Have To Put Up With This Crap

I Bet Corin Redgrave Doesn't Have To Put Up With This Crap

Dear the-other-Corinne,

I think that it's fair to say I've dealt with the whole issue of name theft in a sensible and mature manner, at least after the initial bout of swearing and tantrums anyway. Because, if I'm honest, I like your music. And you have a funky website. So I - rather magnanimously I feel - decided that I would allow you to keep your name - providing that you became known either as CBR or the-other-Corinne. I'm nice like that.

So we've been getting on well recently with this new arrangement. I'm even going to come and see you on your tour. And, what with all the googles I've been getting on your behalf (most often with a mis-spelling), I've warmed to you further. But then this morning it was brought to my attention that you were on national radio mis-pronouncing Corinne. I'm hoping this was a slip of the tongue or a weary bowing down to inevitablity in the same way that I have ceased to correct people on the pronunciation of my name otherwise I'd spend at least ten minutes of every day doing it. If the mis-pronouncing thing is for neither of the above reasons then we have a problem - one which no amount of fancy websites will get you out of.

I'm going to say it quickly, like ripping off a plaster. Are you a Coreen masquerading as a Corinne? Because if you are this has serious implications. Especially with you getting properly famous first. Without glossing over the issue - this will put the cause of Corinne Pronunciation back by at least a decade. All of the work that I've done in educating people will be lost in a wave of Coreens. More people than already do will call me Coreen. And it will be your fault.

Having thought about what action you can take should this be the case, I can see three possible solutions:

1. You stop being famous. Withdraw the album. Cancel the tour.

2. Move to France and become a French citizen which would mean that you can have the French pronunciation without inflicting it on us Anglo-Saxon Corinnes.

3. You break your twenty something year habit and adopt the correct pronunciation. Co-rin. You try it. See, it's much easier - not to mention phonetically correct if we're going by the rules of English.

I accept that solution one may be a bit harsh - though I'm sure you'll understand that such desperate times need desperate measures - and I'm not sure how you stand on France in general (though it is a good place to buy badges with my name on if you didn't know) so I'm leaning towards solution three. Not only would it prevent me combusting it would also allow you to continue my education mission.

If I may be so bold, once you've confirmed your intention to adopt solution three I think it would be a good idea to issue a press release with the pronunciation details on, just to clear things up once and for all. Of course, I am available for consultation on this should you so desire and am willing to offer any support that I can during the adjustment phase.

Yours,

Corinne. (the real one)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pinter? Have They Actually Seen His Plays In A Theatre?

Pinter? Have They Actually Seen His Plays In A Theatre?

I've played enough getting to know people games during play rehearsals to be slightly suspicious when someone announces the intention to play such games when I'm sat in a room of strangers. I immediately scan the surroundings to make sure that there isn't a broom handle lurking nearby which they're going to make us decapitate each other with. Thankfully I didn't manage to locate any supposedly innocent looking weapon with which to break my thumbs. Instead these are going to be mental games. And I'm mentally thankful that I'm in a room of writers rather than actors.

We separate ourselves into pairs and get our first question. Name our favourite animated film. Ok, easy enough - The Little Mermaid. My partner says Yellow Submarine. Ok on that score too - I can remember that.

Then we swap partners. Next question. Name your favourite Elvis song. And this is where I start to think that these questions are not exactly tailored to my needs. I maintain that you either belong in the Beatles camp or the Elvis camp and I am firmly sitting in Penny Lane on this one. I don't have a favourite Elvis song. I don't think I could name that many of his songs. Just to avoid looking like a chump in the company of all these new writers - who are clearly Elvis fans - I settle for Suspicious Minds because it's either that or Jailhouse Rock. My partner plumps for Burning Love which I haven't even hear of.

Another partner swap. Name your favourite writer. Ah-ha I'm back on track. But this is hard in a different way. Favourite novelist, playwright or poet? I mean how is a girl supposed to pick favourites from her Icons? I say Ginny Woolf, because it feels right. My partner says Reginald Hill. I haven't heard of him either - and I thought that I'd do better on this round. I'm informed he's a crime writer, but an intelligent crime writer as he went to Cambridge. I have to swallow the urge to offer my commiserations.

Another swap. Favourite monster. Again - I don't have one. I don't like horror. I plump for Frankenstein just because of Mary Shelley. My partner says Igor from Young Frankenstein.

Final swap. One thing that you would you put in room 101. And I remain more unsure of this than the Elvis one. Because I can't chose something so idiosyncratic that no one will understand [thus ruling our rhetoric, deck shoes and the vast number of people involved in the tortuous-reality-tv-show], in my head at least the rules of room 101 mean that you can't put in something like war or famine and it's probably too early on in the process to say people who over use apostrophes. So I go for slugs on the basis that I don't like them and can't really see their point in the great scheme of things. My partner says school and, despite the fact that I am clearly the third youngest in the room, I feel old.

Then it's back to our seats and we go round the circle with people having to shout out the answers for each person. Me being me I find the answers to the writers question most interesting. I immediately feel warm towards the owners of 'Jane Austen', 'Evelyn Waugh' and 'Roald Dahl'. I do a double take at 'Jilly Cooper'. And I feel deeply suspicious of 'Harold Pinter'.

The second half of the evening is spent bashing through the fifteen or so rules of writing drama. I've got a semi-obsession with reading 'how to' books so I've heard a lot of them before but it's nice as refresher and there are a couple of really interesting diversions that I hadn't come across. I can already see people in the group slipping into roles. There's the guy who is clearly looking to disprove what Cately is saying - and for some reason can't get round the fact that all characters in a play must want something. And because it's probably the first thing I learnt - the thing that I take for granted - I stare at him as if he's just asked for a refresher of the alphabet. I can already tell that as a group we're working at different speeds, possibly because we don't have the same frame of reference (the girl next to me has never even started a play - I've had one staged; however seemingly small in the great scheme of things it's an undeniable gulf) and I get that creeping feeling of impatience that I haven't felt for such a long time, certainly not since I finished sixth form. Faster, faster - more, more. And as I know that this says more about me than about the others in the room I'm a little annoyed at myself.

Then we get to the big issue of structure - and I've forgotten my impatience because this is good, intriguing stuff that I didn't know about. Basically we should all forget those 'there are only five storylines in the world' things. On a structural level at least, there is only one.

Every story might be subtitled 'The Quest'. In short a story is always about a character wanting something and their journey to either get or be denied this want. And this fits into a five act structure:

Act 1 - The inciting incident. Dorothy crushes the witch. Oliver asks for more. Romeo meets Juliet. Hamlet speaks to the Ghost.

Act 2 - Things go ok on the quest.

Act 3 - Things start to go downhill.

Act 4 - Nightmare time.

Act 5 - Resolution. Which usually involves the character finding out that what they want may well be different to what they need.

And then we had to fit our own film examples to this. I cheat slightly to start with and fit Othello as a practice run. It works. So I try Four Weddings (which is quite interesting in that it starts with a character wanting to not get married. A not want we might say) which also works. I struggle a bit to make it fit for Closer (the first inciting incident, after all, happens off stage - if not off screen - when Alice gets knocked down and consequently meets Dan) but if I take each of the characters as being the main character then each has its own version of the structure. Possibly the closest I can get to plays which I consider to work but which don't either use or reverse the structure entirely are big ensemble pieces - like Talking to Terrorists, or The Permenant Way or, to a lesser degree, Stuff Happens. But then the structure is implicit in each of the individual character arcs - as it is in something as spectacularly unlinear as My Mother Said I Never Should...

So I left the room pondering the new pieces of scaffolding I'd just been given. And wondering only a little about what the heck I'm going to write for the showcase in five weeks time.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bother Snape - If You Dare

Bother Snape - If You Dare

Last night was my first So You Want To Be A Writer? class. But you're going to have to wait for me to blog about that until tomorrow as I've got to get myself ready for the second round interviews at the WYP rather than sitting with George on my lap blogging about Elvis songs, Harold Pinter and the fact that there is only one story in the world (and when I tell you what it is you will spend the rest of your days trying to find something that doesn't fit. If you succeed I want to know about it).

For now I'm just going to share this with you. As a word of warning if you don't like Harry Potter you might want to give it a wide berth. For all of the rest of you, when you've followed the link you want to click Bothering Snape. Trust me, you'll love it. Even if Snape doesn't sound like Alan Rickman.

Monday, March 06, 2006

If I play rugby does that mean I've got to wear a gumshield?

If I play rugby does that mean I've got to wear a gumshield?

As is undoubtedly obvious I'm a tad partial to the celebrity circus. I may know my way around a piece of Old English poetry but I also know my way around Heat magazine. I like to think of it as being multi-faceted. Others might disagree, but I don't listen to them. Which is probably the long winded way of getting to the subject of Victoria Beckham. Now I think I know as much about Vicky as the next person (providing that the next person also reads Heat, knows who the 3am girls are and bought the first Spice Girls album). And I have to confess that she's never really bothered me. In her Spice Girl days I rather liked her. I wouldn't say that my feelings stretch towards 'like' now (the clutch of solo singles would have been enough to stamp out even the biggest fan I'd have thought), but at the very least I'm ambivalent. She's harmless (as long as you don't get me started about her not reading thing).

But if there is one way for Vicky to plonk herself firmly on my radar it is to allow herself to be interviewed in such a manner that the writers can come up with 'VB's 10 Fashion Commandments'. Because - and let's not beat around any bushes here - Vicky is on the outer edges of the fashion solar system. If Kate Moss and Sienna Boho Princess are little astroids closely orbiting the sun then Vicky is Pluto. And that's before we even take into account the - in my opinion - more pressing notion of the Style universe. In that one she's not even in the same galaxy. Vicky has no real style - no real look that makes you think immediately 'ah-ha' - more often than not she looks as if she's walked headfirst into a designer shop and come out with everything that landed on her, coat hangers and all. She is the ultimate example of why money cannot buy you style. If anything the more money she has the more nondescript she's become. It's one thing to go with a look, it's another to wear the catwalk design from head to toe. You know those pictures of her on the ski slopes head to toe in Chanel? They actually made me want to vomit. It screamed money, over styling and LABEL LABEL LABEL. And we are not in the 80's any more. As a general rule of thumb if Vicky's wearing some trend it means that it's time to jump ship.

In the interests of fairness, however, we should take a look at what Vicky has got to say:

1. Visualise your overall look.
This one's about not just looking at a huge pile of clothes but working out what you want to look like. Right. I'm sure most people do this anyway - in the way that you wouldn't go clubbing in a suit or to an interview in hot pants (erm, depending on what type of interview it was). When you start thinking about what clothes go together, and what -in your head at least - it should look like - you're visualising.
Overall View: True but stating the blinking obvious like it's a piece of new information.

2. Shop The World.
Ok, hang on here Vicky. You might be able to shop the world. I might like to be able to shop the world. But the truth is that the vast majority of us are somewhat constrained to regional boundaries and what we can find in Primark. We might get one chance a year to pick up something nifty from abroad, but that's most likely to be a spot of heatstroke.
Overall View: Back in the real world...

3. Borrow from Another Era.
Now I like this. Until that is Vicky says "I favour 50's styles". Now stop me and hit me over the head with a Roland Mouret dress if the '50s isn't the current fashion staple. Which would be ok if Vicky had been wearing it last year. But no, Vicky was wearing huge peasant skirts, skirts that were about as far away from restricted waistlines as you can get.
Overall View: The words 'jumping' 'on' and 'bandwagon' spring to mind.

4. Invest in timeless classics.
Like those peasant skirts and the cowboy chaps, eh Vicky?
Overall View: Please...

5. Find a Fashion Fail-Safe
Ok, I'll give Vicky this one. But again it's hardly radical.
Overall View: Well done Vicky.

6. Accessories are Necessities
About ten years ago I had a pencil case that said 'A girl can never have too many hats, bags and shoes'. It's been my - and I suspect many other girls - motto ever since. On Vicky's side though, she does know how to chose a pair of sunglasses.
Overall View: Yes, yes, yes but tell me something new.

7. Dress from the inside out.
Seems like Vicky and I have something in common - we are both girls who wear underwear that doesn't match. I've learnt this doesn't often matter, unless you've gone to York Theatre Royal's Wardrobe department and you've got Val as your dresser.
Overall View: Trinny and Susannah put this better.

8. Be brave and customise.
I'm sorry or did I miss those pictures of Vicky in homemade skirts and shirts with their sleeves cut off? Can you really imagine Vicky sitting down with a needle and thread and some sequins? No, thought not.
Overall View: Yes, and when Dante went down to hell he noted the ample opportunities for ice skating.

9. Trust a few faithful opinions.
Like the D&G catalogue?
Overall View: If only Vicky did.

10. Breasts/Legs never both.
When we were rushing off to all those Griffin nightclub gigs we had a rule 'low or tight' but that never stopped it being both. But I'd agree that we need some decorum - and next time Vicky's wearing two little pieces of material she might remember that herself.
Overall View: Please come and say that to the taxi queue outside Leeds station on a Saturday night.

So I think I have proven - with almost scientific technique - that the idea of Vicky having fashion commandments is something that you have to laugh about or you'd cry. Because if Vicky's a Fashion Icon then I'm a rugby player.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

2006: The Year of the Icon

2006: The Year of the Icon

The more observant amongst you may well have noticed a new section amongst the various DA links. Have you seen it? No? Well go and look and don't come back until you have.

Are you back now? Yes, that's right there's the new DA Icons section. And I really couldn't put it in without commenting properly on it, not least because it throws up some questions. The biggest of these (other than 'have you lost your marbles?') is undoubtedly - what is a DA Icon?

When I chose the people who currently make the list (which is not yet complete as I just haven't had the time to find websites for them all) there were a few minor specifications. Firstly they had to have appeared in DA in some way, shape or form. Nice and easy that one. Secondly they had to be iconic within the terms of DA. Which is much more waffly and hard to define. I think the major point here is that not all of the people on the list are icons in the big wide world away from DA (injustly so in my opinion) and just because someone isn't on the list doesn't mean that they're not an icon. There are indeed lots of people I consider iconic who won't make the list simply because I've never been moved to blog about them.

To help us along maybe we should use the great fallback of all English students - looking the definition up in a dictionary. Obviously I would go to the OED - the gold standard by which I judge all words - but as I'm no longer blogging on their internet system I no longer get free access (again, unjustly so in my opinion, especially given that I'm a one woman promotional circus for them). So I used google:

1. also i-kon (kn)
a. An image; a representation.
b. A representation or picture of a sacred or sanctified Christian personage, traditionally used and venerated in the Eastern Church.

2. An important and enduring symbol: "Voyager will take its place ... alongside such icons of airborne adventure as The Spirit of St. Louis and [the] Bell X-1" William D. Marbach.

3. One who is the object of great attention and devotion; an idol: "He is ... a pop icon designed and manufactured for the video generation" Harry F. Waters.

4. Computer Science A picture on a screen that represents a specific file, directory, window, option, or program.

It is probably safe to say that we can discount meaning 4; unless, that is, someone has a computer icon of Sienna Boho Princess that they'd like to give me. The closest fit is clearly number 3, but when I say icon I'm undoubtedly evoking the ghosts of definitions 1 and 2. For example when I mention Byron (who seems to be getting a heck of a lot of blogging time at the moment) I'm not just evoking the man but everything he represents. All of you readers are bringing your own impressions and associations of Byron to the party - he's a cipher, a symbol as well as an idol. And if you were to doubt the quasi-religious nature of my devotion to Byron then you should have seen me on my pilgrimage to Newstead last summer.

So, in basic terms, DA Icons have to meet definition 3, and a significant number also fit with 1 and 2 (though the vast majority of these are, it has to be said, dead). Possibly most importantly they have to contribute to DA. Not in the literal way that all my guest bloggers did back in January. But in a way that DA has constructed a little bit of the way that you think of them, or they have certain associations on here that they maybe don't have elsewhere. There are some people on the list - such as Sienna B-P or Byron or Ginny - that I can't imagine DA without. There are others who have crept up in certain entries - such as Richard Curtis or David Hare - a reference point for my experience. Others - such as John Barrowman recently and Paddy Marber this time last year - have had intense periods of blog interest without (yet) making the major league of the Siennas and Byrons of the DA world. But they are all part of DA's fabric.

At the moment I've kept my icons to actual people (thus ruling out two of DA's great fictional icons - Gatsby and Severus Snape - not to mention a couple of iconic places - specifically Evil Eye, The Bedford and The Globe) but that may change when I eventually work through all of the people who - at this stage - I think should be on the list. Once the list is complete I'll be - intermittently - blogging a DA guide to each icon (which should keep me going through those days in the next few months when I've not done anything stupid enough to blog about). And, because I'm nice and like to keep up the pretence that DA isn't a totalitarian regime, I'd like to hear either suggestions for people who should make the list on DA or people who would make your list if you were to create one.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dear Lord Byron...

Dear Lord Byron...

Having been working my way through Four Chords, not to mention a collection of trashy magazines, I've settled in to reading Byron: Life and Legend at a relaxing pace. Because Byron isn't someone you can rush. He needs to take his time and be given focus or he'll get grumpy and you'll lose track of which servant/married woman/boy he's shagging at any given point. And once you've lost track there is no hope for recovery - you know that the numbers are too big to ever get on top of - so to speak - ever again.

If the book is doing nothing but confirming my love affair with a man who has been dead for going on two hundred years then it's also got me thinking. Not about his work, which I've thought about rather too much if the truth be told, but about his status. And I'm absolutely fascinated by the number of women who read his poetry and then wrote fan letters to him. It's astounding how many there were - all those Regency women doing something that seems incredibly 'modern'. And the letters are fascinating in their own right - not only in how they talk of Byron, but in what they reveal about all these forgotten women. Some of them give snippets of their lives, some even include their own poetry, inspired as they were to write it. Some see themselves as the people in Byron's poetry, some claim to be able to understand Byron as no one else can. Most of all they tell of secret internal lives - lives and thoughts clearly hidden away and expressed to no one other than a man whom most would never come into contact with other than through the words on a printed page.

And this all got me thinking about all of these stories, all of these women who were probably not that different - in essentials - to you or I. And if some day I'd love to write on the Byron Myth I'd also like to know more about these women. I'd like to be able to read more of their letters.

A collection entitled "Dear Lord Byron..." anyone?

Friday, March 03, 2006

You Know They're Going To Want This For A Movie

You Know They're Going To Want This For A Movie

It's odd how some events - intense at the time - slip away in a haze almost as soon as they've finished whilst others cling to you, refusing to let go. The Griffin experience - the fan experience - is made up of a combination of both. There are some gigs I went to, some things that I did that - without the aid of my copiously written 'reports' - I struggle to recall. There are equally others where I can't believe that it wasn't yesterday when the event took place so ingrained are they. When I posted up some reports for my mini google season last summer I mentioned that there were two reports that were missing and now I sense that it's time to deal with one of them. One of the memories that refuses to go away, memories that will undoubtedly still make me giggle when I'm pushing 100. In other words? The institution that is the Radio Tour.

Radio Tours usually consist of an artist - with a single or album out - traversing the country appearing on local radio stations, playing sets for Radio people and generally trying to charm the pants off everyone in a bid to make them play their record. Obviously, given my lack of records or albums, I've never had to do this myself. But Griffin has. Just over a week after I first met Griffin - not to mention my travelling companions - I ended up making my way with Cat and Ali by train, car and people carrier from Liverpool to Leeds to Newcastle on our radio station treble. It was the day that, on a bumpy train to Liverpool, we christened ourselves the Northern Division. It was also the day when we properly met Steeeve, Griffin started to wonder how we managed to get to everything and Bring It On was confirmed as being number one on the Box Music Channel. And the day that we got proper hugs from Griffin. And when I say proper hugs I mean hugs that were offered by him not demanded by us. And in fan terms, let me tell you, that's a pretty huge thing. I'm not sure exactly why we decided to complete this manic tour, especially so early in the story, but each of us felt that we needed to show our support for Griffin, to show him some of the stuff he'd been isolated from whilst locked away in the tortous-reality-tv-show. And, with its pro-plus and monster munch, it worked.

So when the radio tour for 'You & Me [tonight]' was announced we were itching to get on the road. Only this time it wasn't one day of radio stations. Oh no. This was a full three days encompassing thirteen different stations type tour. Forget the treble. Once we'd planned the logistics that would allow us to go (deep breath) from Newcastle to Stockton to Century in Manchester to Key 103 in Manchester to Blackpool to Warrington to Century in Nottingham to BBC Nottingham to Birmingham there was even more reason to get excited. On the Saturday before the tour started Fox got selected in MYMU to represent us at Eurovision (Griffin naturally in the audience cheering him along), on the Sunday Boro - with Griffin watching in Cardiff - won the Carling Cup before Griffin rocked, erm, Butlins that evening*. There were two weeks to single release, it was heady stuff. And we were about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of the entire story.

It started with a ridiculously early start in Boro, complete with some homemade Northern Division flags and bottle gift bags containing leeks, before taking a train up to Newcastle where Cat, Nik and I were met by Alix. Then on to the first radio station which was situated on what appeared to be a one way road. Naturally we waited outside the wrong entrance, Griffin's plugger drove illegally up the street and we would have missed Griffin's arrival entirely were it not for the fact that he stopped and whistled at us to get our attention. When we gave him the leeks I imagine he wished he'd gone straight in.

Alix drove us on to Stockton (who wouldn't let us use their loos), Val joined us and Shona picked up Budweiser and more bottle bags so that we could scare Griffin into thinking we were giving him even more leeks. There was snow here which proved to be useful to Griffin as we seranaded him with Fox's 'Hold On To Our Love' and he threatened to snowball us. Whilst Griffin was inside we played bull fighting with one of the flags (managing to break it in the process) and Nik built a mini snowman. After finishing in the station Griffin pointed out his video playing on the tv in the reception, inadvertently ended up signing a Newcastle Utd programme and promised to share some of the Budweiser with us.

Now in Val's tank we ended up having what stands as the most hilarious journey in the history of hilarious journies. Because if we were going to Manchester then so was Griffin and his plugger Gavin. And we were obviously going to use the same road. Courtesy of some road works we ended up spending most of the journey in close proximity to Griffin's octavia, he waved more than we did (we were obviously playing it cool) and pointed out helicopters to us before we got all competitive and began writing signs to say that we were beating him. Indeed I think he and Gavin should have hung their heads in shame that they were being beaten by a pink lorry and a car full of girls.

We lost Griffin somewhere on the way to the station meaning that when we arrived (to be greeted by a trail of pink post it notes left by the Manchester Division) we assumed he was already inside. He wasn't. Which led to our deduction that he'd cheated and stopped at Burger King when we hadn't had time to eat. Subsequently when he emerged from the car with a McDonalds meal our first thoughts were to harrang him for such blatent cheating. Whilst Griffin was in the building we had one of our defining moments - the recreation of the You and Me [Tonight] video, performed several times, once at top speed whilst Griffin was in the loo. I still hold my performance as Disinterested Blonde as one of the highlights of my career. Afterwards we all got our pictures taken and ended up appearing in the local press with Griffin, he got more leeks and we stuck post it notes on his car.

At the second Manchester Radio station we had a picnic prepared with much aplomb by the Manchester Division and Griffin's unconscious slipped out when he was supposed to write 'the Northern Division are not mad' and ended up writing instead 'the Northern Division are not bad'. Griffin had to rush this time for a date with Manchester Television and we said our goodbyes, making it pretty overt that this was as far as we were going on the tour.

The mention of Manchester Television, however, brought out the army side of the -erm - army and Willow performed the greatest blag I have ever had the honour of witnessing to find out where filming was taking place. And as it was in central Manchester and we were headed there for food we toddled along to discover the member's only club (complete with certain former members of the Coronation cast inside). We also managed to discover internet access in McDonalds - which freaked me somewhat - before leaving a trail of post it notes for Griffin along the wall near the club and down the street to where we assumed the Octavia would be parked.

After nearly getting stuck in an NCP carpark we made our way to our hastily booked B&B in Blackpool where we were the only guests and the heating clearly hadn't been switched on for at least the last decade. There followed a night of girl band poses by the sea and unsuspecting doubles in what can only be described as an old man pub.

The next morning we were up early to arrive at Wave FM for Griffin's appearance on their breakfast show. Within ten seconds of us getting out the flags we'd been mentioned on the radio. After wondering where everyone else turned up we were soon joined by several members of the army, including G***e who was entrusted with welcoming Griffin to Lancashire (which she achieved by enveloping him in a huge hug). When Griffin did arrive we were greeted with possibly the best quote of the trip - 'what are you doing?'. I think it was a fair question. As Wave FM clearly loved us we got mentioned lots, Cat appeared on air in honour of the "mighty Boro" and Griffin picked Oblivion to be played to us - singing the final 'Here I Go Again' for good measure. Afterwards the presenters came outside to have pictures taken with us and we all appeared on their website and Gavin offered Nik and I the job of chaffeuring Griffin around. Despite the fact that neither of us could drive we accepted. We also got asked if we could get people to turn up to the radio station in Bristol the following day to create a good impression. Could we? Of course we could.

We skipped the next station to go straight to Warrington, where the sun had finally come out and we made a sign to reserve a parking spot for the Octavia which would have worked were it not for the fact that we had to put a reference to us winning the race on it. When Griffin arrived he mock refused to get out of the car, I was dared to yell that he had to and Griffin ended up hiding behind a newspaper. This time the leek story made it on air and - somehow - Griffin reasoned that we'd be screaming at our mentions. When Griffin emerged I got horrified at Val's assertion that it was ok to leave a child in a pushchair alone as they wouldn't go anywhere (!) and we got a little quizzed by Griffin on how we'd managed to leave all the post it notes down the street in Manchester (which we studiously avoiding answering given that it doesn't do for all our techniques to be made public knowledge).

Once we'd said our goodbyes to Val and the tank, Cat, Nik and I ended up on a train ride to Nottingham which - somehow - managed to go via Sheffield. We were still the first to arrive at Century though, and we were informed by the very, very nice people there (who would let us use their loos) that if there weren't too many of us we'd be allowed to come inside and watch Griffin's acoustic performance. Griffin again took an age to get out of the car when he arrived - this time largely due to the fact that Nik and I were pulling mock strict faces at him for not having worked his way through the red folder of stuff we'd given him for entertainment purposes (though he had found - and eaten - the chocolate). Once Griffin had been on air we were invited in and ended up sitting, cross legged like school children, at his feet as he sang some songs. And it was emotional, sweet and rather magical. Magical that is until Gavin started telling people at the radio station about us and our exploits and I had to tell him off.

It was a hop, a skip and a jump down the road to the the BBC - who kindly let all of us camp out in their reception. Griffin got given one of the best presents ever in the shape of a bow and arrow and Nik and I immediately started planning as to how we were going to get our hands on it. We also flashed our BIO knickers for photos and Griffin battled with the formerly traditional 'how many rs does Corinne have' game. This time we didn't even try to pretend that we weren't going to come back the next day, so settled instead for 'see you tomorrows' and singing the words to 'Little Miss Disaster'.

That evening we were so tired that I thought that I might well be drunk but we still had enough about us to get a man chucked out of a bar in central Nottingham and decide that we were going to go and see Fox and give him presents for Griffin**.

The next day it a taxi from Niknak Towers which propelled us to the final stop on the tour for us - Heart FM. By this point we were already a little sad that the journey was coming to an end - and we wouldn't get to see how it turned out in Bristol. Gavin thanked us for being 'part of the team' (even though the smelly leeks were still in the car boot) and Griffin informed us of what it really meant to be shameless and had to concede that Nik and I moving in with him and Fox 'would work'***. After hugs we gave Griffin the ND flag that wasn't damaged - a few weeks later it turned up in a photo in a Sunday magazine of Fox and Griffin's flat with our names visible.

Maybe the reason that those three days - that culminated two years ago today - stick in the mind is because there are so many tangible reminders. Not just the stuff we collected, but the Radio interviews that bear witness to our presence, the press photos, the thank you from the Street Team:

Of course we owe all of you who have been grafting on this already a HUGE thanks and especially a big shout out going to Ali's Army (you know who you are!) who have been following the lucky fellow round his recent local radio dates!

A final thanks here to all of those who turned out to meet up with Ali on the dates… I know he was very happy to see you all there.

And, of course, the photo -in its framed and signed version - that lived for a while in the hallway of Fox and Griffin's flat:

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As a marker I feel I should put up the radio tour awards I wrote at the time - so you can, if so inclined, read them here.

And if I've felt compelled to write this then it stands as a celebration of everything that trip was about, everything that we laughed at and all of the people involved. I may never embark on anything as frankly insane as that ever again but it doesn't matter. I will always be intensely proud of those few days in March 2004.

*Yes. Rocked and Butlins. In the same sentence. Would I lie to you?

**So we did go see Fox but we liked him too much to just give him presents for Griffin.

***Admittedly that is slightly out of context. But this is my blog. I never claimed to be an impartial witness.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Smoke and Mirrors: Nights at the Circus

Smoke and Mirrors: Nights at the Circus

Last Friday I went to see a show as an almost proper audience member at the WYP for the first time since I started working there. And it seems right to mark this with a proper review. Normal idiosyncratic rules apply.

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The mere mention of Knee High Theatre brings with it certain connotations. Onstage anarchy. Offstage anarchy. Audience participation. And grubby white y-fronts. It is undeniable that Knee High's production of Nights at the Circus brings with it all of these, throwing in - as the show warning posters proudly declare - the usual romp of nudity, violence, bad language and - erm - socks for good measure.

Nights at the Circus is an adaptation of Angela Carter's novel telling the story of Fevvers (Natalia Tena), a women with - as her name suggests - wings. Jack Walser (Gisli Orn Gardarsson), a journalist with the New York Times, comes to interview her after a performance in a London music hall - intending to expose her as a fake - before being forced to question whether Fevvers might actually be for real. It is through Jack's eyes that the tale unfolds as the audience stand with him, left to deduce whether we are presented with nothing more than "smoke and mirrors".

Certainly Carter's novel seems tailormade for Knee High, what with its emphasis on spectacle and the nature of theatre. And in turn Knee High have made an effective job of the adaptation; condensing, changing and creating a production that is true if not to the actualities of the novel then to its spirit. There is no fourth wall, given the pre-show antics in the theatre bar there is not even a theatre, and the audience are played to, splattered with water and even appear reflected on a gigantic circular mirror which pops up from time to time on the stage. Multiple roles are the norm, the MD gets the biggest laugh of the night and song about a puppet pig gets the biggest cheer. Needless to say the audience of diehard Knee High fans and high school students lap it up with delight.

If Knee High's visual tricks are their dramatic currency then the sheer quality of the actors shouldn't be underestimated. All seven have their stand out moments and Tena exudes exactly the right amount of brash, posturing confidence needed for the role of Fevvers. It is in the subplot however where the gently heart breaking performances occur - Ed Woodall as the almost pyschotic and yet strangely sentimental clown and Amanda Lawrence as his numb, almost speechless, battered wife provide an unexpected - and painful - twist to the merriment of circus tricks and grubby pants.

To not enjoy the techniques and audacity of Knee High is to not enjoy the notion of theatre and everything which it offers. Spectacle and famous Shakespeare quotes alone, however, cannot hold a play together. Knee High's previous production, Tristan and Yseult, suffered in this respect through lack of connection between the revelry on stage and the story that it was supposed to be telling and - at least for the first half an hour - Nights at the Circus suffers in a similar manner. When action is established in St Petersburg and the question comes down to what is at stake for Fevvers and Walser rather than what tricks are going to be thrown up next, the production finds itself on much safer ground. As obvious as it may seem, when the play starts asking questions about love and freedom in a concrete way it becomes infinitely more satisfying.

Are Knee High too clever for their own good? Possibly in places, yes. But if you can see one of their shows and not experience a rush of excitement or find yourself rolling around your seat with laughter at least once then there really is no hope for you and you should give up going to the theatre and take up golf instead. By no means perfect Nights at the Circus is still an exciting, enjoyable and - ultimately - moving production. And if Knee High doesn't get people into the theatre then nothing will.

Nights at the Circus, West Yorkshire Playhouse, 24/02/06

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Whilst I don't worship at the alter of Knee High one thing remains - these guys are good. And getting free ice cream is even better.

Pretender To The Crown

Pretender To The Crown

Corinne: I didn't realise that it was MYMU night on Saturday!

Obi 4: (whilst pretending to be Peter Crouch heading a soft ball into our sofa-goal)MYMOO - Sponsored by cows.

How come my brother is a lot funnier aged eight than I was? And can multi-task? Given that I've not quite forgiven him for being a mathematical genius when I'm emphatically not he'd better watch out.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Some Other Beginning's End

Some Other Beginning's End

I sort of feel as if I've been living in a hole for the past week or so. A hole with a comfy chair, a laptop named George and a baffling supply of salt and vinegar crisps admittedly, but a hole nonetheless. Because it remains that if I haven't been at the WYP I've been losing blood, sweat and tears over the second draft of Four Chords. There has been more than one occassion where I would gladly have abandoned the entire thing and started training as a Quantity Surveyor. But there have been many, many more moments when one of the characters has made me excited because they're doing something that I hadn't envisaged, or I've seen something new in the play, or I've written something that I abso-fucking-lutely love. And as of Monday afternoon Four Chords's second draft is officially finished. In an hour or so it will go out into the world on its own for the first time. Which is both incredibly scary and totally exhilarating.

For all the mental block that I had at the start of the re-draft in some ways its seems like a different play now. All of the characters have new shades, one has had an almost total makeover (and a totally new monologue!) - there are new ideas, a new shape to it. It is existing on its own now, away from the facts of my own story. It doesn't belong to me as much, it belongs to Ben, Jude, Ella, Paul, Jess and Hannah. It's by no means perfect - it's pushing 140 pages for starters and there are undoubtedly spots of over-writing - but it's alive. I'm at least as happy with it as I am with SSoB's script as it stands. Which is comforting because there were moments when I didn't think I'd get there. And as I read the final scene aloud yesterday I found myself a little choked. Because I believed in Ben and Jude's story and because the ending I'd always thought that I was writing isn't the one that they've chosen. They've opted for something different.

I could continue faffing, start the next draft, but a deadline is a deadline. And I instinctively know - as I did with SSoB - that I can let go of it a little. Given that I've got some of the building blocks of a new play and I'll hopefully have some building blocks for whatever I end up writing for the WYP's SYWTBAW? I think I need to give the new ideas space. But I'll be back. Because I love Four Chords too much for me not to.