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.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Agent 160 Fun Palace

I'm so happy to be working with Agent 160 on a Fun Palace at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. When Lisa Parry first suggested setting up a theatre company led by women writers in order to do something about the depressing statistic that only 17% of plays produced in the UK are by women, there was no question that I wanted to get involved. But what I didn't realise was how amazing it would be to be part of a supportive network of female writers. Since the company launched, I've met writers from all over the world, and had really fascinating, challenging conversations about how to make gender parity in theatre happen. And I've been really moved by the way a group of very different women, living very different lives, have come together to make something.

When I heard that Stella Duffy was going to try to realise Joan Littlewood's dream of a Fun Palace, I knew I wanted to be part of that too. Littlewood's long been a heroine of mine, and anyone who's read How to be a Heroine knows that she changed my life. I was having a very mixed-up time, in my twenties, wanting to be a playwright but doing all the wrong things to make it happen. I was scattered and confused, and I came across a piece about the premiere of Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey. The critics said Delaney was just like the Angry Young Men, and Littlewood said no; Delaney was different, because she knew what she was angry about. I decided I needed to know what I was angry about, and to channel Delaney and throw everything into my work. So there was no question, also, that I wanted to make a Fun Palace.

And now I'm really thrilled to be helping Agent 160 to make a Fun Palace at and in partnership with the Wales Millennium Centre. We're commissioning sixteen short plays by women, directed by women and starring women. And yes, that's sixteen heroines we'll be writing. I can't wait. You can find out more (and support the crowdfunding campaign) here.

Also, really excitingly, Urgent Theatre is producing some short plays of mine at Theatre 503 this September. Starlore for Beginners and other plays will include a brand new play, as well as some of my shorts for The Miniaturists and the one I wrote for the Agent 160 launch. Oh but it's nice to be doing theatre again.