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Monday, 23 January 2017

Rehearsal Spaces and Lateral Thinking

I promised I was going to share an online diary about making a solo poetry/theatre show so here it is:

Last week I was walking up Saint Martin's Lane. I was on the way to Soho Theatre to see Marisa Carnesky's show about menstruation when I noticed a sign advertising 'Room for Hire'.
Marisa Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding
Women show was passionate and powerful.
It cost £55 for four hours and could be used for anything from meditation to life modelling. I started pondering whether this was expensive when a woman popped her head out the front door. We started discussing how I needed a rehearsal space when she encouraged me to step inside the building. She was quite insistent that I go in then and there and my knee-jerk reaction was to say I didn't have time, in case she was from a cult. She explained that the only caveat for me to view the space was I had to stay for a minimum of three minutes and sit in complete silence. She further explained that a silence-in-the-city session was going on and it was this that convinced me that maybe I did have time to go in and see this room.

Screenshot of The Rabbits,
Inland Empire series of films by
David Lynch
Sometimes I embrace life when it makes a suggestion of David Lynch. So, in I went to find a long oval shaped room with five strangers sat motionless, eyes closed. Immediately upon entering the sound of silence, I sat and closed my eyes in relief. Then when I opened them there was one man with his head resting sideways on a rucksack, another with his shoes off, twiddling his socked toes. The only woman was dressed in a timeless old lady outfit; old woollen coat, buttoned up collared blouse, navy shopping bag, nothing to pinpoint which decade she was in. She was wringing her hands silently, almost, but not quite in tears. A balding pink fat man with his bare white tummy sagging from under his t-shirt was sleeping, happily, with his head dropped towards his knees.
I became unsure how many minutes I had been there, but guessing it was at least five I left the room to find digestive biscuits on a saucer. Tea cups were turned upside down side by side arranged for a meeting. From the leaflets I realised I was in a Quaker meeting house and as I left the same woman who'd brought me in reappeared in the doorway. She said, thank you so much for sitting in. I thanked her back, genuinely pleased I had stopped for a spacious moment. I rejoined London and was planted in it, rather than skirting through the street in a headless rush. I had a smile on my face. I hadn't found a rehearsal space, but I'd connected with strangers. This long winded approach to discovery is how I approach most things. I wish I had a quicker process, but often I find what I'm looking for when I've stopped searching so hard.

The rehearsal space question still wasn't being properly addressed so, I decided to ask people on Twitter and Facebook. Stella Duffy did not dissapoint when she came back with an immediate suggestion of Arch 468 I've now hired the rehearsal space for my first work-in-progress rehearsal in April as, not only is it very affordable, but it has black out facilities and is conveniently situated in Loughborough Junction. I like to keep to South London if I can and have re-remembered that it's important to ask for help, rather than going it alone.

Last Monday I went to Camden People's Theatre to attend a 'marketing your show' talk. You really
Camden People's Theatre near Euston
could do a full-time MA on this subject but we had only an hour and a half. In this we covered how to put together a marketing campaign. The most important thing is that you have a PLAN and a time frame, something quantifiable that you can measure your project against. It's not just a question of whether you're making good or bad work, it's much more useful to apply lateral thinking. What are you trying to do and who is it for? What is the aim? Do you have a message? Is the message that there isn't a message? What is your mission (statement)? What's happening in the world that makes your show so important? Remember your aim at each step of the way. Keep going back to your mission (statement).

Ask yourself 10 questions
Another good thing to try to understand your practice is interview yourself (in the bath works for me). Barbara Taylor Bradford said on Woman's Hour last week that she had started four novels but not completed any of them and put them all in a drawer. This was all before she wrote 'A Woman of Substance'. One day she decided to take out her yellow pad and pen and as a practicing journalist decided a good thing would be to interview herself. She asked, "What do you want to write about? What kind of novel? Where is she going to be set?"

I came away thinking about what kind of world is it that I am producing this new show in right now. What is it about human identity, selfhood and failure that I think is so important to talk about in a supposedly post-truth world?
Is it enough just to create laughter? Am I asking to admit my connectivity?

Put yourself on your own map
 When the script's finished I'll send answers on a  postcard to myself, or rather, maybe a series of  letters. I bought this set at the British Library as  an early birthday present to myself.
 Maps: a writing kit with 50 stickers.
 Penge is even on the map on one of the sheets  of writing paper of London in 1887.
 Thanks for reading.
Up next on the blog: The script writing  process and Scratch Showings

Monday, 2 January 2017

Time for the Solo Show - The wind of change blows up 2016's Brownskirt

GMT in Greenwich,
the birth place of time
So, last year is over and next year has already become this year. 2017 as a number is much sharper looking than the more curvaceous but ultimately bitter-tasting 2016. Not that I think too much can be attributed to a man-made concept such as a year. I think, even though we believe time runs forward, ahead of us like an arrow or a garden path, it is probably more like circles built on circles. That's why we use phrases like 'comes round quickly' and 'it'll be upon us before we know it'. We move forwards, we move back, we've had the time of our lives, time moves soooo slowly, we twist quickly through it and find ourselves blank from it. It sits in a clock and the clock is round, and the clock is the moon and the earth and all that is spinning. Spinning plates. We know something about those, don't we? I have often wondered how we are supposed to remain upright what with all this motion. 

Cindy Sherman pondering on success
Last year was about trying, failing, and trying again until I succeeded. My skin is getting thicker. Like when last year we pitched a TV idea to the BBC comedy department and they came back almost immediately and said it wasn't right for them. I shrugged it off without a sting. My producer friend said, 'It's not over. Loads gets rejected all the time. We'll just come up with something else.' 
'That's the ticket,' I thought.

The book mentioned
Last month Penelope Lively described how she thought the short story form had left her for good. For twenty years she hadn't had one urge to write short stories and then, she had a series of ideas, bolting into her mind, coming to her in her eighty-first year of life. It reminded me of when I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book on creativity called 'Big Magic' and how she thinks artistic ideas are forces that can arrive at you at any moment but if you're not open to them or grab hold of them they'll bob on until finding someone else who will make with
them. I like this, as if we're all live aerials.

Visiting Edinburgh Festival as a punter last summer taught me that so much art is a conversation with the audience. That people are learning on the job. They are seeing what works whilst working on it. And I'm all for taking off the pressure of being perfect first time round whenever I can. 

New pop socks for a new year
Finally I want to let you know that this blog is changing direction. This year it'll work more like an open journal. Late last year I was awarded an Arts Council Grant to write my alter ego Barbara Brownskirt's first solo stage show, 'WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Barbara Brownskirt.' I caught hold of the idea about a year ago and have been nursing it ever since.
So from now on I shall be describing getting the solo show together, warts and all via this platform.
I want to chart the highs and the lows, not just because I said I would to the Arts Council, but because sometimes I'll arrive
somewhere without knowing how I got there. So, stick with me. It's going to get interesting. Also hopefully this charting will be a source of inspiration or motivation for any of you considering putting together a new project in this new clean sheet of a year. We're all in it together, after all.