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

Recommending: Growing your own vegetables

Don’t be boring

I’ve followed Anthony Neilson’s work for a while. Not only did I think it was brilliant by I was intrigued by his method of working as it has almost always had him as writer-director — at least for the play’s first outing.

I think he has once said that the first run of a play should be made in the playwright’s vision. The second or more, presumably, can have the director tamper about more (!) but perhaps I misremember.

When he speaks, I try to listen.

He’s recently done a piece for the Guardian:

“…Unfortunately, despite being pretty sure the next movement will be absurdist in nature, I couldn’t think of a snappy name for it so I gave up on that. Then I thought I’d write a provocative Dogme-style manifesto, but I only came up with four rules, and I’ve already broken two of them in my new show. Then I thought I’d write Ten Commandments for young writers but a) that’s a little pompous, and b) there’s only one commandment worth a damn, and it’s this: THOU SHALT NOT BORE…”


“…The way to circumvent ego (and thus reduces the risk of boring) is to make story our god. Find a story that interests you and tell it. Don’t ask yourself why a story interests you; we can no more choose this than who we fall in love with. You may not be what you think you are – not as kind, as liberal, as original as you ought to be – and yes, the story (if you are true to it) will find that out. But while your attention is taken up with its mechanics, some truth may seep out, and that is the lifeblood of good, exciting art…”

He adds to sub-rules to his not boring rule:

-No poetry

-No long plays

(depending on the comfort of the seats presumably this means plays at the comfy National Theatre seats are allowed to be longer than at a fringe venue, at least relatively speaking)

“…Two asides. One, dialogue: there’s a lot of poetic dialogue around. Sometimes a play is narratively accessible but the dialogue is mannered to the point of incomprehensibility. Some people like it, but I’m suspicious. Poetic dialogue, done badly, leaves no room for subtext. A lack of subtext is fundamentally undramatic. And boring.

And two, duration: many plays are far too long. All writers should be made to visit the venue where their play is to be performed and sit in the seats with a stopwatch. When your arse and spine start to sing, check the watch. That’s your running time. Exceed it at your peril…”

Well, I did have a little bit of poetic language in my latest piece for the Miniaturists, but it was short, it wasn’t boring and I loved my story even though I wasn’t quite sure where it took me. So I mainly passed the test…

Thanks to all those who came along and all those who put such hard work in to the Miniaturists’ organistion. I had a great time.

Miniaturist, Mike’s Wishes or The Broken Necklace

So, it’s all speed ahead with my show for the Miniaturists.

I’ve had a lot of fun doing it and have a great team with Hannah Eidinow (a veteran mini director, who is directing an unprecedented two of the minis this time (!)

The actors, Hywel John and Celia Adams, seem to have a good spark between them.

The play is called MIKE’S WISHES although I was trying for a last minute change to THE BROKEN NECKLACE. Reader, which do you prefer?

I like to think of it as a modern day fairy tale.

If you’ve not come to a mini evening, perhaps you should check it out.

5pm or 8pm this Sunday (25 March) at the Arcola theatre

See link here and directions here

Josie Rourke, Bush Theatre

Josie Rourke has been named the new artistic director of the Bush theatre in west London.

The Guardian quotes her as saying:

…she was looking forward to a “bold and promising future” and  “the Bush inspires, nurtures and champions playwrights and I am thrilled to have been invited to become its artistic director”


Bush chairman John Shakeshaft said: “I’m delighted to welcome Josie as artistic director. There has been considerable interest in this position and Josie’s vision for the future of The Bush was particularly inspiring and stood out from an incredibly strong field.”


I’ve bumped into Josie off and on over the years, but she was responsible for giving me my first directing job at university, at the ADC (The Crucible) and so trapping me into this whole theatre malarky. I remember arguing that you should not cut Miller’s words unless you spoke to him about it first. Ah, the innocence of youth.

I wish her well.

Drawing and memory

I keep a plain page thought note book. This has evolved from an art sketch book, which I’ve kept ever since Art GCSE, hence the unlined plain pages of my books. Images are still quite important at times to my writing and creative processes.
I know some writers work a lot from images either observed or imagined or torn out — I wonder how important it is for others work. Philip Ridley seemed to have his visual art as a whole other facet to his creative expression but still an important component to his writing.

I still scribble and sketch and some times more.

I met up with the director for my mini, Hannah Eidinow the other day and gave her the first draft of my play and as it’s short she sat down and read it in the cafe. I had my pen out.

Her hand moved from forehead to hair. Was she liking it? Did she think it was rubbish? What does that small smile mean?

Some occasions I prefer to remember. Some I like to write about. Some take a photo of. Some I end up drawing or writing a poem.

I have a little pencil sketch, a face impression emerging from a bed in shadow, of the last night I spent with my Aunt. I watched her sleep. A photo wouldn’t have been right. My memory of it is a little fuzzy. I have a poem, but it’s not of that moment. But this small pencil image, not very good as a portrait, captures for me — and probably only for me — the frailty and poignance of that night. The fragilty of life. What we do in the face of our own mortality.

A lament: Generations, debbie tucker green

It’s perhaps a bit much to go to a lament when you have thoughts of death on your mind anyway. However that is what I ended up doing going to see debbie tucker green’s piece, GENERATIONS at the Young Vic.

It was a beautiful and haunting lament. The piece starts with a dirge (completely immersing you in an other world from the start) which continues more or less through out, as various generations of a African (presumably South African) family play out a domestic scene of cooking and debate over whether one can cook. This scene repeats with the younger generations disappearing after each scene. People have attributed the disappearance to AIDS but I think it could be more than that. The young in Africa have disappeared because of HIV but also because of poverty, corruption and other factors.

Structurally, I felt resonances with Caryl Churchill’s BLUE HEART. In BLUE HEART, a scene is played again and again with various different starting points and scenarios. Further, there is an almost viral lost of language in the second play, where words are replaced with a substitute word – “kettle”. I’m not explaining it very well. You should go and see GENERATIONS and the read BLUE HEART and you’ll know what I mean!

It is on until March 10th and is only 30 minutes long. Go see it.

I’m jealous of debbie tucker green as well. She bursts on to the new writing scene with a powerful and fascinating voice with stories and important matters to speak of. And there am I still floundering away trying to find what my “real” voice is and what I truly want to write about.

Currently, I’m writing a poem. Death seems to do that to me. And yes, it is about my Aunt amongst other things. And I recall something that David Eldridge on his blog has said about the SEAGULL:

“And in the company of Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s Trigorin, I thought of a faded playwright of the early eighties who once described to me the guilt he felt becoming conscious in a moment of immense family grief that he would one day use the material…”

  • 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