Wednesday, 22 October 2014

This time I win

Helen Griffin, picture by Polly Thomas at Wales Millennium Centre
I can't quite believe we did it. I'm still recovering from Agent 160's Fun Palace, not least from putting up and taking down this tent three times in three was the first tent I'd ever put up in my life, so that was only one of the ways in which the weekend took me places I never thought I'd go. It was also my first proper experience of producing theatre, and GOD it's hard. I'm never doing it again and have hugely renewed respect for producers.

Other things that were new and strange and play ended up being quite angry, partly because one of our inspirations was Joan Littlewood's response to people who said Shelagh Delaney was just like the Angry Young Men; she said she was "the antithesis of London's Angry Young Men. She knows what she is angry about." So I thought quite hard about what I'm angry about, and came up with this little number, and then I called it This Time I Win because if we're going to do feminist rage, let's also shoot for victory.

It was my first time working with director Julia Thomas, actor Helen Griffin and designer Anna Bliss Scully, and a real privilege to work with them all.

But most of all it was just so good to work on something that expressed my values. I talk and think constantly about how shocking it is that only 17% of plays produced in the UK are by women, and what that means for representation—how few roles there are for women, and even fewer for older women, and still fewer interesting and complex roles, but I never get to do anything about it. Working on the Agent 160 Fun Palace meant that I, and the rest of the company, commissioned sixteen monologues, all for women; so we created sixteen heroines. And we did it through collective feminist action. Which really feels like something to sustain me as I go back to solitary writing again.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Agent 160 Fun Palace...this weekend!

I can't quite believe it but we're nearly there! I've written, along with fellow Agents Lisa Parry, Katie McCullough and Kaite O'Reilly, about how we were inspired to make our Fun Palace (and to write, in general) by Shelagh Delaney and Joan Littlewood; it's all here, at Exeunt magazine. If you're in Cardiff this weekend, do come to the Wales Millennium Centre, all day Saturday and Sunday and be part of it.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Starlore for Beginners...halfway through

We're a little more than halfway through the run of Starlore for Beginners and other plays, and it's been completely lovely. Here's a wonderful review by Natasha Tripney. And here are some brilliant pictures by Kate Parkes.
Lucy Conway & Tim Pritchett in Cat in a Sieve
Rosie Thomson & Tim Dewberry in Starlore for Beginners
Olivia Sweeney and Lydia King in Noura
Felicity Davidson & Tim Dewberry in Unfinished

Oh and I very much enjoyed writing this for Exeunt Magazine on the joy of the short play.

The plays are on until the 20th, and if you book in advance online, you can get a ticket for £7. There is also one more pay-what-you-can night tomorrow (Sunday).

And Urgent Theatre's Tim Pritchett has been doing a series of interviews with the cast about life on the Fringe. Here they are, with
Tim Dewberry
Felicity Davidson
and, er, me. I had had a glass of wine beforehand so am not entirely coherent.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Starlore for Beginners and other plays

I'd love to see you at Theatre 503, for these short plays of mine; opening in a week. You can book here.

When Jim Russell asked if I had any short plays he could read, I sent him a whole stack—doesn't every working playwright have a lot of shorts, written for festivals or evenings of mixed work, performed just once or twice, the most ephemeral of plays, and sometimes the most intense.

Jim's company Urgent Theatre celebrates the short form—and I'd already seen and loved his evening of plays by the wonderful Al Smith, and his production of Chekhov's tense, uproarious and rarely performed one-act play On the High Road. He said when a playwright's short plays revealed the depth and diversity of the playwright's concerns; what they really cared about.

We whittled it down to just three, one written for Agent 160, two for The Miniaturists. And then, on a whim, I wrote another, tiny play, the title play. And Jim got together a cast, and I was in rehearsal, thinking hard, like you do in rehearsal, when I saw what linked them; they are all about magical thinking. Not religion—which I've written about a lot—but the kind of grasping at the numinous that we all do, even the fiercest of atheists. Whether it's saluting magpies, avoiding ladders, investing objects with sentimental value, invoking luck or blaming people for things that aren't their fault. Or, in Starlore for Beginners and other plays, inventing cures, fearing witches, wanting to be haunted or feeling homesick for somewhere we've never been. I think it's why I love theatre, because theatre is all about suspending disbelief, coming together in the dark to make magic and to believe in magic. See you there.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Books and plays and books-about-plays

Picture by Chris Close
This picture by Chris Close pretty much sums up what a brilliant time I had in Edinburgh for the book festival. He was doing portraits of lots of the authors, inspired by our books. We did try a shot of me RUNNING while shouting "Heathcliff!" into the lens, but thankfully he didn't go with that. (Actually we tried a lot of mad shots. I had had a glass of wine with Lee Randall and Sara Sheridan and Gillian of Looking Glass Books, so was up for anything.) Other brilliant things that happened at Edinburgh were, in no particular order, meeting Julian Cope, getting everyone in the authors' yurt to say which fictional characters they most fancied (frontrunners were: Juliet, Daisy Buchanan, Heathcliff, Rhett Butler, Lord Peter Wimsey), doing a reading workshop on the Hunger Games where one of the participants came with a full-on (stunning) Katniss braid, finally meeting Rebecca Mead—if you haven't read her book The Road to Middlemarch, I hugely recommend it—and feeling much better about my past romantic choices, because while I may have tried to go out with Heathcliff, at least I never tried to marry Casaubon, and doing a lovely interview with Lee Randall for Writers' Pictures about being bookish children (I even brought in a copy of my most beloved and battered children's book, The Story of Henny Penny).

Of course, as it was Edinburgh, I went to see some plays (not nearly enough though!), which got me thinking about novels about theatre; I wrote a piece for The Big Issue about it, and got a chance to enthuse about Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes and The Whicharts, JD Salinger's Franny and Zooey, Herman Wouk's Marjorie Morningstar, Mikhail Bulgakov's Black Snow, Sadie Jones's Fallout, Lyn Gardner's Olivia series, Elizabeth Jane Howard's All Change and Emily St John Mandel's Station Eleven, out next month, and a particularly fascinating book if you saw and loved Annie Baker's Mr Burns.

Oh and here's my review of Nina Stibbe's brilliant Man at the Helm, which is particularly funny/excruciating reading for playwrights...

I also went to Cardiff with Agent 160 in the run-up to our Fun Palace, which I'm very excited about.

And last, but definitely not least, I went into rehearsals for Starlore for Beginners and other plays, which is opening at Theatre 503 very very soon indeed, directed by the lovely and talented Jim Russell of Urgent Theatre. Please come!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Thank you Jacqueline Wilson!

I'm so thrilled (and a bit stunned) that Jacqueline Wilson chose How to be a Heroine as one of her six best books. Along with some real corkers too; Virginia Woolf! And Sarah Waters!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Katniss Everdeen: a heroine for our times

I wrote this for the Guardian today ahead of my Edinburgh Book Festival workshop on The Hunger Games and loved revisiting the books and films; they're even better second time around. My workshop is returns only but there are still tickets left for my event with Rebecca Mead and Lee Randall. Hope to see you there.