Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation

Recommending: Growing your own vegetables

Talawa lookinng for new Executive Director

This would be a very exciting post for some one up to a challenge. Talawa is to a large extent re-inventing itself. See here. The Executive Director will be instrumental in the renewal process.

For an informal discussion, call Nadia Stern, interim CEO on 020 7251 6644

The closing date for applications is noon on 17 February.

You can download the information pack here.

Coming alive

Currently suffering from bronchitis, so life is punctured by fits of coughing. The girl baked some lovely meringues over the weekend that made up for being ill.

Saw the actors in costume fitting. It’s amazing as the characters in your head and on your page, start to play out in reality.

Also, if you haven’t seen it, Emma John interviews Shunt in the Guardian.

Thoughtful articles

Independent’s Paul Taylor on the Royal Court.

David Hare is quoted:
“a place of intense contradiction. A writers’ theatre whilst plays are chosen at the whim of directors; a political theatre which has often violently eschewed politics; a theatre which once had the strongest aesthetic of any in the country which nobody could define – except by what it wasn’t; and a theatre with a genuine sense of family, so long as your idea of family includes dysfunctional. Half in the mainstream, half out…”

The David Harrower play Blackbird heads for the West End – again the Indy interviews

Knives in Hens by Harrower is one of my favourite modern plays. It is “modern” but some how timeless and “old” too.

“Blackbird is the story of a 41-year-old man who had a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl and their subsequent meeting 15 years after they ran away together.”

And from the observer… a golden age in tv?

Theatre vs. film

There is so much good stuff which came out of the Improbable day on Theatre -

I really suggest you take a look

Here’s something reported:

Theatre can compete with film as an exciting artform (get more people out of cinemas and into theatres.) — I think blogs can play a part in this…

Convener(s):Rebecca Brown

Participants: Lawrence O’Connor, Tiffany Ball, Jamie Smith, Natalie Schwartz, Mark Conway, Catherine Eccles, Rich Rush, Anna Newell, Mark Wakling, Suzanne A, Isla Tangsett, Will Bock, Ian Bevins, Chloe Simto, Esme Appleton, Phil E, Morrn Macbeth, Sharon Thomson, Michael Dempsey, Trish Lee, David Mc Groarty, Sharon Kean, Sarah , Sussanne C? , Simon Casson, Lisa Hammond, Maddy Costa

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
Compared with film, in live theatre you can create certain kinds of illusions, the audience are involved in a more immediate way.
There are things done in film which you cannot do in theatre due to practical constraints but there is magic created in theatre that cannot be created in film.

- The audience are thought to be more passive in film and less passive in theatre (although this was debated). There is a sense that when you are watching a film the film is a finished object whereas the theatre is unfinished and unfolds infront of you. To this end, one suggest made that, perhaps, more heckling should be done in theatres because you can have an impact in what’s being presented.

- A lot of debate arose around children being taken to the theatre, schools & school groups. Suggestions were made that it would benefit the future of theatre if children were taken to events that were more meaningful to them, and helped to form an in-terest and habits for the future in terms of developing an interest in theatre rather than a sense boredom and resignation in terms of having to see works based on set-texts. Money was a factor in this in that some theatres supply cheap tickets to schools for shows which aren’t doing well and/or and ‘good enough’. An example was given of a child being sent to see Giselle for these reasons rather than something of genuine relevance or appeal to the chid. Bad theatre is more cringe-worthy than bad film as the audience and the practitioners are able to experience ‘Live Embarrassment’.
Why are pantomimes so popular? Because they’re fun!

- Experience
Important to the experience of theatre:
Making the audience feel that their prescense ‘counts’.
That they are included.
That they are welcome.
That they have opportunity for discussion.
Part of a community.
Shared social experience with the actors.
The audience is NOT just a consumer they are PART OF an ephemeral community.

There was a general idea that going to the cinema was easier and more fun than going to the theatre. For example: popcorn & drinks. There is popular sense of ‘The whole experience’ of attending cinema but it was debated whether this ‘sense of experience’ exists for going to the theatre.

We all should look at the image of theatre in society: what does it mean to go to the theatre? And a participant made the point that in encouraging children to go to the theatre they felt that there are barriers to their attendance (she was asked by one child ‘but what should I wear…’) whereas these barriers are not present in attending the cinema.

- Theatre is considered to be ‘work’ i.e. often more is required of the audience whereas film is often to be considered to be ‘pleasure’ i.e. passive.

- Theatre restricts itself to a ‘standard audience’ whereas film can market to a much wider audience. This was attributed to mainly economic factors.
Theatre is, typically, thought to be a middle class ghetto-ised cultural pursuit.
Information if often spread by word-of-mouth amongst 1) ‘the chattering classes’, 2)’people-in-the-know’, 3)those who read the ‘right magazines’. Theatre and its audience form a ‘subculture’. It is elitist & exclusivist.
Suggestions were made to resolve this.
It is all of our responsibility to Establish new initiatives to promote theatre to a broader audience through:
New Web sites
New Magazines
‘Spread the word’

- Point was made about a participant who went to see Richard II as a child without expectations or prior-experience but for whom the experience was powerful & memorable.

- If theatre seeks to approximate to cinema’s popularity it has to take itself to people who would not otherwise go.
This does not have to mean compromising the content of the theatre or condescending to a new audience.
Theatre has to get out of its ghetto and shamelessly promote itself by putting itself in front of people where THEY are.


- Recognise cinema as a creative resource. E.g. take from films to ‘enhance within theatre’ such as ‘slow motion’.

- There was an interesting point made that individuals are intrinsically conservatism. People do/don’t what they have always done/not done and theatre should challenge those habits.

Abigail Morris to leave Soho Theatre

After 13 years, she is moving on. Will this signal a change of direction at Soho?

I think after 13 years, this change will be good; 13 years is a long time to run any theatre…

Overwhelmed and articles of note

Am feeling completely overwhelmed by upcoming play (for those of you who don’t know: YELLOW GENTLEMEN at the Oval House, 14 Feb to 4 Mar – see I just write it automatically it’s so on my mind) – I should try not to be involved in too much production stuff, but inevitably I do…

Still, anyone want to come to my gala night or help organise it?!

There are quite a few shows I am missing and many articles of note. Here are some:

Michael Coveney on the RSC
. He asks and maybe answers “the fundamental question remains: what is special about theatre made by the RSC? Why should the taxpayer support a large-scale institution that is fighting to justify itself, rather than a newer, more radical one that a new Peter Hall might be hatching?”

Two things on the Improbable event. Susannah Clapp’s take on it. Improbable’s first notes on it….. 56: What can audiences do?
57: Conflict Management
58: Who We Fancy In The Room
60: How can practitioners who work with people with challenging and volatile be-haviours be better prepared and supported?….35: Why do we need a separate theatre for Black work?
36:The Mainstream does not exist….
…89) What would happen if we closed all proscenium arch theatres for fifteen years?

More from me on this later.
Dominic Cavendish on Mehmet Ergen and the Arcola, although there’s no way that photo was taken on Arcola seats…

Love and religion in the age of neuroscience

Dawkins gets a bit upset with religion.

Mickey Craig and Jon Fennell are worried about love in the age of neuroscience.

On the surface of it, these views seem incompatible. However, I think there is room for love and faith in the age of neuroscience.

If you meet someone you like (and who might like you) about an hour after exercise, the lingering endorphins make it mean you are more likely to form a bond and fall in love.

If you meet too soon after exercise you will attribute the “buzz” not to the person you meet but to the exercise. If you meet too long after, you won’t have any more buzz.

This conjecture, which has some evidence to support it (but by no means absolute), doesn’t to me interfere with the complex process of falling in love. There are so many other elements to it.

Many of our reactions may be learnt and may be similar to animals in isolation, but behaviour in the environment generally has so many complex interactions. The parts as examined by neuroscience are not the same as the whole and I think most intuitively understand this.

The Sistine chapel is made out of lots of individual brush strokes, the complex whole makes some thing more. The leap from one to the other still takes soul.

Adapting a book to a film

Thane Rosenbaum talks about the process of adpating one of his books to a film…

“Ultimately, feature films cannot replicate the experience of reading, nor can everything about a novel end up being adapted — nor should it be. Filmmaking is about compromise and concession. It’s a miracle they don’t toss the book right out the window.

With a novel, the author forms an implicit partnership with his audience. He provides the story and its voice, but the reader adds the visuals. The power of a novel’s description is often tempered by sketchy details. Much is left out in order to leave something to the imagination. The reader is free to conjure the characters in his own way, to picture how they look, because the mind’s eye has a way of assembling an image that is quite different from how a character might appear on screen. In the end, the novelist surrenders his book to his readers. Thereafter it becomes theirs, and his proprietary interest ceases.

Movies, by contrast, are more controlled; the director calls the shots, and the camera focuses the point of view. The eyes of the audience are being drawn in a certain direction, but not necessarily from left to right. Which is, after all, what central casting looks for in a reader.”

Marchmont films calling for scripts

Marchmont films are calling for scripts.

Deadline is fairly soon on 31 Jan.

“Following the success of our previous projects, we are currently developing a slate of feature film and single TV drama material for 2006. This is an exciting time for us, and we believe, a great opportunity for talented writers to participate in our advancement”

Download detailed submission guidelines here.

Happy New Year

Have been so incredibly busy this beginning of the year.

Production stuff with YELLOW GENTLEMEN. We’re mentioned here in the China in London events and hopefully we’ll get some other publicity.

Also, I just heard today I won a commission at Radio 4 for the afternoon play. Yay!

There’s a very intriguing article in the Guardian with views from Chris Goode, Mick Gordon, Phelim McDermott and John Fox.

I’m going to have to think about it. The thrust is that British theatre is stagnant at the moment but there are many points they make and some intriguing ideas.

  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen