Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Something New Rising


About this time a week ago I was sitting in London's South Bank with Hannah Nicklin talking about the internet. Because Hannah is not just a friend, she's also ace at theatre and a mega digital brain. And I had gone to her for help. About digital stuff. The internet. Blogging and the like. I was after a fresh eye on what I am doing here online... And she had a load of stuff to say... You will for example have noticed (if you have visited these pages before) that my blog has had a super smart face lift. Well, that's down to Hannah suggesting that I change the 'weird orange and skin colour scheme'…It's amazing how something can look so right until someone points out just how very wrong it is. The orange had to go…

But we didn't just talk about how things look.  Much more importantly Hannah suggested 'you don't always have to write pieces that are finished. You could just share stuff that you're thinking about. People don't always expect to get fully formed reflection. Sometimes they just want to find out what you're thinking about today'...

This had never crossed my mind before.   That it's possible to sometimes use this space as a place to just share thoughts / excitements / inspirations... 

That I could post something about the feeling of being half way there... 

That a half finished nub might be interesting...

That's quite exciting! 

It's like saying sometimes you bake the whole pizza but sometimes it's ok to say 'look, I've been making dough'.

Onward




Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Palimpsest

A manuscript on which more than one text has been written with the earlier writing incompletely erased and still visible…



I’m redrafting my latest play, Home Sweet Home, for Freedom Studios.  I’m thinking about the layers and layers of decisions and thought that led to the first draft, and which have taken me to a point. This point. Even so, a first draft can only ever go so far. There is always a step further to be taken. So now I find myself into the real process of writing: the unpicking, erasing, rebuilding and adding.  I'm into the unfixed liquid moment between drafts. Wading in, still turning ideas. I’m thinking. Should I? I’m not sure yet. Should I? I’m thinking about the moments that will stay, the lines that will go, the new images that are forming. I’m submerging myself in it. Reentering. Refocusing. The hunt for something seamless and whole is on again. A seamless whole, with no loose ends, that will add up to something more than its parts. Something entertaining, fun, moving, exciting but thoughtful and different. Different but familiar. Fine tuning the tone. Making the right choice. Chasing the thing. This thing. Chasing it to nail it. Making a moment in time, a story that can mean something important to me and something important to you, if you come to see it.  And of course you can. You can come. I mean, they started selling the tickets for it already. So this feeling of being between worlds, it can’t last forever. The draft will be done. The deadline must be hit and the story will be told.  It’s an unstoppable thing, once you get this far in. It will happen because it must. 

But there is something magical/frightening/wonderful/sick-making about this moment between drafts. This liquid state, when just for a moment all the layers of old, present and new thinking sit side by side...

Where is Home? 

Coming from Bradford. Having been born in Bradford Royal Infirmary and then having been taken as a baby to live in Shipley where I stayed until I was 18 and then taking myself to Liverpool, then back to Shipley, then to Leeds, Hawkworth Estate, Burley, Headingley, back to Shipley, then to Potternewton, then Gledhow, Gildersome, Saltaire, then back to Shipley, then to Bradford city centre, then back to Shipley, then to Bingley and now Crossflatts… Having moved and moved and moved in and around the same place, over and over again.  Building up layers and layers of knowledge of a few tiny pockets of an 18 square mile chunk of this planet? I have this feeling, that I could run back into myself coming down a hill 5 days, 5 weeks, 5, 10, 20 years previous. All those different versions of myself. All those different versions of family, friends and lovers. Ghosts hanging around. Different then, yet now, still the same...

Being this person who has been around and around this particular part of the world, I was aware of the Ukrainian Club in Bradford. There used to be gigs there, I think, when I was a kid.  I knew that someone from The Wedding Present (an iconic Leeds band from my youth, who I never much liked) went on to form The Ukrainians. So somewhere in my mind, I knew there was a Ukrainian community ‘here’, but in a vague way. I knew but didn’t know. And so, I had to go all the way to London last summer to meet Nina and Maria who have been living in Bradford for the last 50 or so years. Just a few miles from where I live. Have lived. Will live. To come across them. To register them. I was in London to spend time with the Entelechy Older Artists who were hosting this exchange... And then Nina and Maria started to tell their story. And their story was at once alien and mine. They mentioned places I know and where I go. They talked in a broken English that was peppered with Bradfordian words and vowels.  Sounds that only a Bradfordian makes. I can’t tell you what those sounds are, but I know them when I hear them. And so, to hear them speak these alien stories of the 2nd world war, in my home town's accent?  To hear their experience of becoming 'Untermensch', being stolen into forced labour as teens and losing everything? To hear them telling their story of surviving when friends didn’t. And then of coming here to start again… But never forgetting... The then and the now going on together... Well. Sometimes you have to go all the way to London to find out something new about the city you were born and live in. Ever since that afternoon I find myself thinking of our lives, Nina, Maria's and mine, going on, circling, layering, building up a shared experience, which I didn’t know we had. But it was always there. Discovering this is what began to make sense of the heart of this play for me... A play that is set in 3 city's in the UK at the same time. A play that has 8 unique stories which are all interlinked... A play that slips back and forth between the real and the magical...

I am thinking about all of this as I start the spitting, polishing, the head butting and swearing that will lead finally to the rehearsal draft of this play... 

I’m thinking about the things in the script that are quantifiably true and the layers of magic and fantasy that sit side by side with all of this 'real' stuff now.  I’m thinking about the bits that came from nowhere. They just came. They just did. I’m thinking about the other plays and films and TV and music that I was thinking about while I was writing the first draft: As You Like It, Om Shanti Om, Daft Punk, The Tempest, Oh What A Lovely War, Live and Let DieThe Good Old Days and Camberwick Green. To a lesser or a greater extent, all these inspirations are alive in my play. I can see bits of Bradford and bits of London and slithers of Stockton. Everything jostling for attention. The jottings of scientists explanations, the half seen incidents, the smell of piss under Dettol, the cups of tea, the fear I felt whilst being approached by someone with later-stage Alzheimer’s for the first time. The smiles and sad eyes lifted to mine when I was interviewing. The memories entrusted to me by an incredibly generous stranger ‘because people should know’. The responsibility of that. The weight of that. And then the realisation that the only way to do justice to that responsibility was to cast off the weight of it. Otherwise I would never be free enough to write this fucking play.  This fucking play that I want to get right. This fucking play. With fuck in it. The fact that people do say fuck. People do. All sorts of people do. For all sorts of reasons. But in our feedback session last week, many of our older volunteer performers asked me to take the swearing out. Not comfortable with that. No need. Only, is there no need? I have to think about that carefully. The fact, that facts are debatable. Even when they’re not. For some people they are. And always will be. Under certain circumstances. Depending on. What? On things. On other things that have happened to us. That we have thought about. That sway us. That make certain untrue things more real for us than the real things other people see. The way that despite all of this, we long and search for a defined sense of meaning. Out of the layers and layers and layers of now and then and who we are and were, and who you are and were. Out of all of this, we still want to find a moment of clarity. A moment that makes sense. That from a certain angle, at a certain time allows all this palimpsest to somehow, even so, add up to a moment of truth. That is what a story is and why stories matter and why they can come as easily as breath yet can be as hard to nail as quick silver.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Burn Brighter

I woke up this morning thinking about the loss of Nelson Mandela's late last night. I heard the news just before bedtime and went to bed feeling just very, very sad. But this morning, that has changed. Now I am all strange happy sad... Because, yes I am very sad for us, that we have lost him. But I am happy too. Happy and glad that such a decent, thoughtful person was with us for a while. And so loved. And that he didn't just think and feel intelligent heartfelt ideas, but somehow found a way to make himself heard. And so, because of all of this, he was able to do much good in this world. I don't think we need to try & make him a saint. He was a good man. That's good (& hard) enough. I don't expect or need to believe he was perfect. I just know that we are better for having had him around, while we are around... So now, in honour of him and his life, I am going to go grab this beautiful day & try to live it with love and delight and hope and passion and belief, because that's what he did. When we lose such a bright light in the world, the temptation is to say, 'who will fill the darkness now?'. But really, the obligation, our obligation, is to try and burn brighter ourselves. Not easy. But here we are. Onward.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Burnt Cottage - A short story I wrote for Free For All (a collaboration with Conway and Young)

I received an email from the artists Conway and Young, asking if I would contribute a piece of writing to their 'Free For All' project: Here's the info I got about Free For All:


On the 5th July 2013 it was the 65th anniversary of the founding of the NHS; a healthcare system that is free to everyone at the point of delivery, based on clinical need, not ability to pay. In 2013 the Welfare State, including the NHS, faces many and various challenges that threaten its future. What might a future without a public health service look and feel like? ////// THE YEAR IS 2078 AND THE NHS NO LONGER EXISTS //////  To create a collaborative contemplation on the significance of the NHS, we have invited 65 people to speculate about it’s future; to generate cautionary tales, proffer a warning, invent dystopian visions, and offer practical advice on how to adjust to coping without it. (2013) 

Burnt Cottage is the piece I created in response to their email...



Burnt Cottage


20th Sept 2078



Dear Conrad,

Not one sentence into this letter and I realize, I’ve only gone and used your real name. You and Lorraine (there, I remembered to use her code name so that’s something isn’t it?) will be very cross with me. I’m sorry, but I do need to write and I’ve no more paper to start again. I hope by the end of this letter you’ll understand. And you can always burn it once you’ve read it can’t you?

It does feel odd, trying to form words with a pen. I haven’t done it in years. Though I do hear pen and ink are making a comeback with a certain set of young people. The ones who can afford it. I hear they write sonnets about love. Very affected you’ll say, no doubt. But all the same, it’s all the rage. I’ve heard. Love poems written down on paper. For the lucky ones. Well good for them. I mean it. If their parents have enough money to buy pens and paper, so their children can dream words to rhyme with heartfelt feeling? If they can manage that, then we should be glad for them. We should love! I mean it. I know you and your Lorraine think we should all be taking to the streets, throwing stones and goodness knows what else. But that’s not really my idea of a nice trip out and besides, while I know you know a good deal about politics, I really can’t see how the children are the enemy. The parents perhaps, but the children? They’re just kids, love. They cannot all be - what did you describe them as? Over Christshoptime this year? Oh, it did shock me. Didn’t it? That’s right! You said these rich children were ‘all spoilt, spawn of the uber-class, blindly carrying the sins of their parents into the world, propagating death, sadness and class war in a lazy, half-conscious manner, because they choose to close their eyes and know no better’. That’s about the gist I think. Well? Like I said then, that does seem quite harsh. Some of them must be nice. They must. Kindness is natural. I read that somewhere. Some people are good. Even if the moors are burning and the ice of the north is a long forgotten dream. While there is life son, there is hope. The laws of nature say that at least one of those well fed children, strapped into the huge gun turreted tractors their parents drive through the burning streets, speeding them from their violin lessons to their Cantonese-for-business sessions, swaddled in body armour? One of them must be a good-hearted soul who really means well. No matter who their parents are. Do you see? So, bear that in mind before you go planting any of those devices that you and Lorraine were whispering about when you thought I wasn’t listening. As it turns out I was. And I have to say, I do not approve. Though I know you’ll do what you think is best.  You always do.

That was not what I sat down to write to you about. This is the problem with marijuana isn’t it? It really helps with the pain but it just makes you feel all floaty and smashing. And then you forget what your point is. Or was. Anyway, this last batch you managed to get for me is excellent. So much better than the sawdust from last time. But I must be ‘coming up’ as you call it, because I don’t seem to be able to keep focus. 

Oh but it is nice not to have to worry about my back for a moment or two. 

Anyway, getting back to the point before it sails off again. 

I don’t want you to get cross. I just want you to sit down and read this all calmly and to try ever so hard not to fly off like you do, with your tit-for-tat violence. The bloodstains I’ve had to try and wash out of your shirts over the years! If you think about it? None of those killings ever made things better Conrad did they? So, for once in your life, just stop and listen to your Mother.

My back is the problem, as you know. And it’s not getting better. So I decided to start saving those coke labels. Do not worry; after you explained things, I never drink the disgusting global-capitalist fizzy muck anymore. I promise. I just went through the bins near that new apartment-blockade. It didn’t take many months to save up. Last week I finally had enough labels to claim my 5-minute introductory session at Medi-Coke. The boy I saw was lovely (I was lucky, I got one who is very close to graduating) and he gave me 10 minutes instead of 5, which was very kind. Remember that, if you do go planting bombs. Don’t you dare do it at Medi-Coke because that boy is trying hard to do what’s right.  Anyway, he checked me over. And then he got quite upset. I don’t think he can have got to the bit in his course about dealing with sad news yet. Which is my way of saying that the problem is bigger than we hoped love. And Marijuana isn’t going to be able to help what I’ve got forever. You understand?

I think you do. 

I got up this morning and I was thinking about how to tell you. I can’t try and tell you in person. You’ll just get cross and start shouting about how ‘life isn’t fair’ and how ‘the system has to change’ and of course, you’re right, but all that shouting is very tiring when you’re feeling unwell. I would have sent you an email but my free Google account got swamped by junk mail again last week. I’ve no access now until next month. And this can’t wait. Luckily, I remembered I had some Basildon Bond. This notepaper. That’s what it’s called. My dear Gran used to write on airmail. Blue Basildon Bond airmail. I don’t know why. She didn’t know anyone overseas and only ever wrote notes to the neighbours complaining about the excessive level of noise they made while having sexual intercourse. She was a livewire. You would have liked her. When she died I got her pads and pens as a memento. One of those things you don’t know why you keep but you can’t throw away. And then years go by. Lately I wondered if the lot might have become valuable, what with the youngsters going back to paper. But no. ‘Too thin, mildewy and stained’. That’s what the man in the pawnshop said. So the pad just went back into my draw. And then this morning I remembered it. My handwriting is terrible of course. But here we are. Here I am. The moors are on fire, the birds that are left are being shot for pie and your old Mum is dying. They think they know what it is. They think they might be able to slow it down. For all that uncertainty it would still cost a fortune. We don’t have one. And if they don’t do anything, it’s going to be a very slow end. Which doesn’t bare thinking about does it? So, when I say I’m dying. What I actually mean is that by the time you read this letter, I’ll be dead. To be clear, I’m dead. I know you hate it when I get sentimental. So there you are. I’ve said it. I’m dead. And besides, you have wonderful eyesight, so you won’t have failed to notice me hanging from the apple tree in the garden before you got to the cottage and found this note. 

Unless of course it’s nighttime when you come round next? 

If that’s the case you may have missed seeing me hanging from the branches. The streetlights are forever on the blink with all of these power cuts, and you can’t see a thing out there when they’re not working. 

Oh Conrad, I wish I’d thought of that before I started that last paragraph. I’d have built up to it all a bit more gently. But there we are. I only have these few sheets, so there’s no going back now. The fact is, I’m dead and I’m hanging in the garden waiting for you to find me. 

So now you know. Please don’t be sad. I want you to know that I went very happily. I’ve got a plan. I’m going to finish this letter, build a huge joint just like you taught me, and then I’ll pop out to the garden and float up the step ladders (the ones your Father used to use for decorating) and then we’ll have done. Honestly, it’s for the best. I’m going with a total sense of calm and well being. I am! And none of this would be possible if it were not for you and Lorraine introducing me to illegal pain relief or a little thing called Die-Easy loan assistance. Which is the thing I wanted to mention to you. 

The important thing, which I think you might not like.

The Medi-Coke boy helped me apply for it. And I must say they’re so efficient. I got accepted just like that. So perhaps the government isn’t all bad after all? Conrad, I know you want to change the world and I love you for caring, but it’s exhausting love, when you’re ill. It’s just too much. Trying to imagine how things should be, could be, fighting for this and marching for that, instead of just making the most of the way things are. So the truth is, I know you won’t approve but I’m grateful for the assistance the government’s made available for ones like me and your Father who never saved. Or should I say, did save but who lost it all when Google got hacked and we all had to chip in to get the nation rebooted. Too big to fail said the P.M. and I’m certain he should know. Though I know that’s what you say was your ‘radicalizing moment’. But there we are. Officially it looks like me and your Dad never saved a drop. And that’s not fair but in the end Conrad, you have to just pick yourself up and smile. Dad’s not here to help now. Sometimes you have to face facts. The savings are gone. Deal with things as they are. And that’s what I’ve done. Because the diagnosis I was given last week, well, none of my options were looking very hopeful dear, until the lovely boy at Medi-Coke says ‘have you heard about the government’s Die-Safe Assistance scheme?’ Oh he did well up when he started to tell me about it. I do hope his lecturers help him toughen up a little. I think he’s going to struggle if he can’t say the word ‘cancer’ in his line of work, don’t you? But anyway, finding out about the scheme changed everything for me. I want you to know that it lifted a huge weight. 

It means I’ve been able to afford a new dress for the occasion. (Oh it is nice. I got it in a colour and style that I think Lorraine will suit, and I’ve left strict instructions with the Die-Safe people not to bury me in it. So make sure you get it for her, won’t you?) Also, I got get myself a five-year plan for the landfill. (The Medi-Coke Boy says 5 years is plenty. Paying for any longer is just a rip off. Which was kind of him, I think). And they even threw in a free 7-step guide to making a good clean drop, once I’d signed up… So it’s a very, very good deal Conrad. All that, in exchange for my little Burnt Cottage. Which seems very reasonable. Especially as you said you don’t believe in owning property. I thought, well if you’re not going to use it, the government might as well have it.

I hope that was the right thing to do? And you weren’t just saying that to impress Lorraine? I know she’s quite ‘straight edge’ as you call it.

All right then, I’ll start to sign off now. Be happy love. The most important thing in the world to me is that you, Lorraine and the Cats, sorry, the Kids, have a wonderful future.

All my love,

X Mum 

PS. I’m sorry I wrote the Cats instead of the Kids. That was a silly slip.

PPS. Conrad, I may as well just tell you. I couldn’t ever think of the Cats as your children. I know that will hurt you and Lorraine, but they have always just been Cats to me. Very nice ones, but just Cats all the same. I know you worry about breeding more humans into this world and have great faith that animals are the future, I know that. But I don’t think you can blame people if they try to shoot them for food. Times are difficult. I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to get hurt. It’s been worrying me and if I don’t bring it up now, when will I? 

PPPS. But that doesn’t mean that just because I don’t understand, I don’t love you. I’m your Mother. I love you whatever. If you choose to have a non-traditional family life it’s no ones business but yours and Lorraine’s is it? 

PPPPS. Please don’t go and find the Medi-Coke boy and hurt him. This was my decision. All mine and the Medi-Coke boy, was just trying to help. Sometimes hope comes in a strange package. But it is there. There is truly hope in every situation and I found mine in that young man. So be happy for me Conrad and don’t be sad. And don’t go getting angry and planning anything stupid or rash. And most of all, don’t forget to get the frock back for Lorraine. You may want to supervise me being cut down, just to make sure they don’t snag the material. I hear these landfill boys can be a bit slap dash. But don’t hold that against them, they have a lot of units to deal with. That’s what the Medi-Coke boy said. Try and remember people mean well, even when the best of them is not showing. 
PPPPPS. I’m sorry I couldn’t manage a sonnet. I tried but all I could think to rhyme with ‘dead’ were shed and bed. I’ve no mind for such things.  But I have got a heart full of love for you. 

I’m really going now.

X Mum


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Accidents And Emergencies R&D at West Yorkshire Playhouse... Blog 2: Post-It Notes were invented by accident.

I've just finished a weeks long R+D at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Working under the title of 'Accidents and Emergencies' Sarah Applewhite (who directed Freakoid -see earlier posts) and I set out to spend a week playing with the idea of 'what happens when you find yourself out on the boundaries of your comfort zone? What does it do to you as a person and to your creativity?' We wanted to do this work because of our experience of making Freakoid earlier in the year.  While making that show was a fantastic thing and while great things have come from it, it was by far the most scary creative thing either of us have ever done. We both had to learn producing on the job. I had to perform. Sarah had to learn lighting design and sound and tech operating... In short there were times, hidden times largely, when we both felt entirely out of our depth...  But something amazing happened in those moments. It wasn't always fun but it was interesting... So we thought we would take that thinking forward and explore it more. But this time in a slightly safer setting... The only rule of the week was that we would try as far as possible to work in ways we do not usually work. And we did. We played out. We did stuff we never do. We did stuff we do sometimes but tweaked it to make it feel different. We went into the room and I lay down my playwright hat and Sarah's took her director hat off too... And then we worked... We talked honesty. We did dancing. We made Youtube videos. We played drama games to see if we could find a point for them. We could not. But we did find a way to bring a positive ending to Romeo and Juliet by hot-seating the monk. We did making music, formed a band and created a theme tune. We discovered the world of Prepping. We did things that frighten us. We talked about what we want to do with our work and what we fear might be stopping us from being as good as we want to be. So, yes, we learnt a ton... At the start of the week we didn't know if this work would mark the beginning of a new piece of work or would be something else.  It turns out it was something else. We have learnt so much about what we want to do next but it's not a devised piece. We realised that despite the fun/fear/learning there is to be had working outside your comfort zones, sometimes its good to focus in on what you do well and love to do. So we have decided to focus on reworking Freakoid. But this time I'm going to focus on the writing and Sarah's going to get to direct a performer who really wants to be on stage... We think this way we will finally make the play we were always dreaming of making. There will be more on this if we can get the funding. Watch this space as they say. Anyway. Having moments of R+D like this to take time and explore is absolute gold dust. Huge thanks to Amy Letman and West Yorkshire Playhouse for having us for the week... 

We did MOUNDS of writing exercises during the week. Here's example 2: 


Sarah and I were thinking about happy accidents. Things go wrong but sometimes out of the mess of wrongness good things happen...

Post-It Notes were invented by accident



Post-It Notes were invented by accident. I read that somewhere and I’m sure its true. The act of reading something seems to leave me with the sense that the thing I’ve read is a fact. Seeing things in black and white gives it a power. Which is why I’ve taken the decision to keep away from texts like Mein Kampf. 

Having said that. My memory for the actual detail of what I’ve read isn’t great. So here’s what I can remember … The happy accident that brought Post-It Notes to the world.

There is this fucked up scientist, right? He or she, though in most stories he is a he because it makes the story better. More believable. Men you see find it difficult to associate themselves with female characters. They can fear them, be intrigued by them or wish to fuck them, but they can’t make that transition to feel like the thing that is happening to ‘them’ is happening to ‘me’. Supposedly. Meanwhile, women and girls have the ability to associate strongly with all gender characters. They can take on their point of view and feel it as their own. This is why women like stories about men but men don’t like stories about women. Generally. Talking in brushstrokes…  Of course it could be that women have simply learnt to find a way to be interested in the vast pile of stories that only have men in them. Or only have women in them with character names like Whore 1 and so on. It could be that it’s a response to the way stories about men have been normalised as universal stories, as relevant stories, as interesting stories (as opposed to women focused narratives which are seen as niche with limited appeal). Perhaps women have just kind of learnt to find the joy they can, in the stories that surround them? 

Fuck knows. 

I mean I’m speculating here. 

However. Who wants speculation? In this day and age?  What we want are badly remembered facts, read in articles and regurgitated as gospel. 

Probably.

Anyway, lets get back to the post-it note and the scientist. Right?  

He’s working away on this adhesive. For the motor trade. Or something. I can’t remember exactly what. Something that needs sticking in a new way. But the adhesive isn’t working. It wasn’t working. Right? It was shit. It was a total waste of fucking time. This is his life’s work. But everything was fucked. And his wife was sick of hearing about the glue and all his promises that “This time, this gule was really going to work”…

And his kids were like 

“You are a fucking loser, glue-man!”

That’s what they called him. “Fucking loser glue-man”

Imagine that? Your own kids.

And he’s struggling to pay the mortgage and now he’s heard that the car manufacturer is on the brink of trying someone else’s glue because it’s not just his wife, they too are sick to the back teeth of the scientist’s promises about 

“This time the glue will really work. It will! It really will stick the bit of the car to the other bit of the car that really needs sticking”

So then the day comes. The day comes when enough is enough and the car manufacturer, the boss of the scientist, right? They/he rings up and says

“Hey fella!”

Because this is all happening in America. All the best stories happen there. 

So yeah, they said, he is saying, on voice mail as it happens. They are leaving this message on voicemail. They are not even bothering to tell the scientist this in person. Because this is capitalism in America. This is Capitalism at its harsh, sharpest edge. And so they are screaming at him. They are sacking him. On the voice mail. He said. They say

“Hey Fella! We are outta time here already. Your fricking glue sucks and we are finished with you. Finished man. We are going with Zak Boulder-Heim’s outfit as of now. Period.”

They say period in America. They do not mean a bloody discharge. They mean a full stop.

And then there’s a click. And the phone goes dead…

Have you noticed in American stories how the characters always have names like Zak Boulder-Heim? 

I like that.

Anyway. Our scientist, he hates Zak Boulder-Heim. He hates this fucker. He is his arch nemesis and also his wife’s former lover. And possibly the real father of his eldest son. I mean the thought crosses his mind. It does. It did. His eldest kid. He’s called Randy. Obviously. His eldest son. He looks just like Zak. I mean he really does. The eyes. Everything. And it’s Randy who started with the ‘fucking loser glue-man’ thing. They’ve just never bonded. Failing to bond. It’s the story of the scientist’s life.

So, on this day, hearing this voicemail. Hearing that he has lost his job to the man who is still sniffing around his wife and probably the father of Randy. It’s the last straw.  He looks at his life and he thinks 

“What the fuck is it worth? Really? What the fuck is my life worth?”

And so the scientist decides to end it. I mean he’s been thinking about it for a while. On and off.  It’s not a new thought. But now. Right now. Then. The thought becomes possible as something that could become an action.  He realises that he really could put his colt 45 in his mouth and squeeze the trigger. Because he obviously has a gun in his top drawer. This is America. Of course he has a gun. All American’s in the best American stories have a gun. 

So he decides to write a note.  He’s not certain why because he’s not certain if his wife or kids will even miss him. But he’s a traditional kind of man. A decent, traditional man who’s tried all of his life to do the right thing. And this attempt to write a note feels like the right thing to do. So he writes, wrote. He writes:

“ Dear Mindy (Mindy is his wife), Randy, Bradford Jnr (That’s his middle boy) and Summer (his youngest girl. She’s 5 and loves her Dad and never calls him a fucking cunt, douchebag or loser glue man), I love you guys with all my heart. I tried stepping up to the plate but that plate? Well that plate was a hell of a step a way. And? Well guys it turns out your Dad’s not a real man after all. You’ll be better off without me.”

And then he’s pretty much ready.  He’s pretty much ready to blow his brains out. He just needs to find a safe secure place to leave his note… 

The fridge would be the smart place. The place where the family would be sure to find it and see it and read it before coming into the living room where he intends to blow his face off. He doesn’t want Summer to see that. He needs to be certain that his note will be seen before Summer reaches the living room and starts looking for the TV remote and instead finds her Daddy with his brains all smushed into the carpet and all over the wall… 

Only, he’s looking and he just can’t find… No… It looks like there is no tape in the house… And the blue-tac all got used up at Christmas and "Damn it all, for sweet Jesus sake!" There is nothing in this damn Condo that will stick his note to the fridge… Which is when he, the scientist, gets the idea, got the idea, to use his glue. He has a little pot of the latest formula in his basement lab… And then, you guessed it… On applying his glue to the note, he can’t help noticing the excellent tacky quality. The light touch stickiness of his note. How it peels on and off the fridge so easily… This weak bond quality, so disappointing and so looked down on by his bosses and Zak when it came to gluing car bits together, now seems/seemed excellent.  So there he was. Is. Standing. Sticking, unpeeling and sticking again and again. Over and over. 

And then for the first time in months. He smiles.

That’s how it happened. That’s how post-it notes came to be. Or. That’s the gist anyway.  A happy accident. Not that it saved the scientist’s marriage.  But at least he was alive to see Mindy return to Zak. And at least he was alive to finally notice that Randy so had his oddly shaped toes, so must be his. And at least he wasn't dead so got to spend time with Randy, Bradford Jnr and Summer every other weekend, enjoying soda and shooting hoops or targets at the shooting range. Summer is a sniper in the making. Makes her daddy proud. And in short, he got happy. Or happy enough.

And that’s the truth. And if you don’t believe me? Google it.

Accidents And Emergencies R&D at West Yorkshire Playhouse... Blog 1: People Who Are Going To Die

I've just finished a weeks long R+D at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Working under the title of 'Accidents and Emergencies' Sarah Applewhite (who directed Freakoid -see earlier posts) and I set out to spend a week playing with the idea of 'what happens when you find yourself out on the boundaries of your comfort zone? What does it do to you as a person and to your creativity?' We wanted to do this work because of our experience of making Freakoid earlier in the year.  While making that show was a fantastic thing and while great things have come from it, it was by far the most scary creative thing either of us have ever done. We both had to learn producing on the job. I had to perform. Sarah had to learn lighting design and sound and tech operating... In short there were times, hidden times largely, when we both felt entirely out of our depth...  But something amazing happened in those moments. It wasn't always fun but it was interesting... So we thought we would take that thinking forward and explore it more. But this time in a slightly safer setting... The only rule of the week was that we would try as far as possible to work in ways we do not usually work. And we did. We played out. We did stuff we never do. We went into the room and I lay down my playwright hat and Sarah's took her director hat off too... And then we worked... We talked honesty. We did dancing. We made Youtube videos. We played drama games to see if we could find a point for them. We could not. But we did find a way to bring a positive ending to Romeo and Juliet by hots-eating the monk. We did making music, formed a band and created an 'Accidents and Emergencies' theme tune. We discovered the world of Prepping. We did things that frighten us. We talked about what we want to do with our work and what we fear might be stopping us from being as good as we want to be. So, yes, we learnt a ton... At the start of the week we didn't know if this work would mark the beginning of a new piece of work or would be something else.  It turns out it was something else. We have learnt so much about what we want to do next but it's not a devised piece. We realised that despite the fun/fear/learning there is to be had working outside your comfort zones, sometimes its good to focus in on what you do well and love to do. So we have decided to concentrate on reworking Freakoid. But this time I'm going to focus on the writing and Sarah's going to get to direct a performer who really wants to be on stage... We think this way we will finally make the play we were always dreaming of making. There will be more on this if we can get the funding. Watch this space as folk say. Anyway. Having moments of R+D like this, to take time and explore is absolute gold dust. Huge thanks to Amy Letman and West Yorkshire Playhouse for having us for the week... 

We did MOUNDS of writing exercises during the week. Here's example 1: 

Sarah and I were thinking about things that make us feel safe. We both realised that we put great store by certain people out in the world that we have never met, but who feel like friends to us. And then, being us, we started to worry about what would happen if those people were taken away...



People Who Are Going To Die:

It’s difficult to think about, but Tony Benn is going to die. One day pretty soon. He’s going to die, partly because he’s a million years old now, which isn’t his fault. But also, he’s going to die because he’s a pipe smoker. It’s part of his brand isn’t it? Though he would never use that kind of jargon. He would hate that. But anyone who loves Tony Benn knows he’s a pipe man. He smokes. It’s part of his M.O. And yet. It’s a problem. 

And I don’t want Tony to have a problem. I love Tony Benn. I have done for as long as I can remember. 

I have a recurring fantasy about him.  It goes like this:

We meet in a hotel room in Morcambe bay. It’s a single room with a purple nylon bed coverlet that sits on the little single bed. There is 70’s wallpaper. A teas-made. Some cheap mahogany veneered furniture. 

Tony arrives. I arrive. We don’t speak. Tony just lies down on the bed. He then removes his pipe from his lips. I take off my glasses and then Tony opens his arms and I get onto the bed and cuddle in. And we just stay like that. Cuddling for the longest time. Nothing else happens. Sometimes we might hear the seagulls crying outside the room…

Eventually of course we have to part. Tony picks up his pipe and I know its time for us to go.

I find this fantasy very comforting…

Anyway.  The point is. Anyone who loves Tony Benn knows that he has smoked his pipe forever and that he loves a cup of tea on the hour every hour and that he has a peculiar form of Leukaemia that is slowly killing him.  And I can’t help feeling livid with Tony. Because smoking kills. And it probably kills more if you have leukaemia already. So I want to find him and say ‘Tony! Stop smoking! Stop helping the leukaemia spread. We need you!” You are our talisman. We don’t have the vision or passion or commitment to actually attempt to do anything about the shit-fuck-mess that we are all in. What we have is our love for you. And our knowledge that you are out there fighting for us, dictating your diary and basically being alive and brilliant. Simply by being alive you are making the world better, more bearable place. And if you go and die on us now? If you die on us? On me? Then I’m going to have to start thinking about doing something about all the shit-fuck-mess myself. 

And that is avoidable. 

You are a selfish bastard Tony. Stop fucking smoking and don’t die.


This can be read out by anyone. They should read it while being stood up... A piece from 'The 7.30 News Bulletin' which was performed at Theatre in the Mill on Saturday 4th May 2013


I wrote this piece for a show curated / led by Daniel Bye called 'The 7.30 News Bulletin' which was performed at Theatre in the Mill  on Saturday 4th May 2013.

The show was made / performed by Dick Bonham, Evie Manning, Dermot Daly, Iain Bloomfield, Daniel Bye, Josh Coates and Lizi Patch. I did some writing as did Dominic Grace.  The set up consisted of folk coming together (I wasn't even meant to be there but, happily, got kind of dragged in) reading 3 days worth of newspapers and then responding by making a show...

On the night, the piece that follows below was performed by Dermot Daly.  I wish I could have seen him do it. I hear he was fantastic, but for reasons that will become clear, I couldn't be there...

Dermot Daly (photo by Jonathan Turner)

This can be read out by anyone. They should read it while being stood up

Hello there. I’m Emma Adams. I write plays and I’ve been working with the 7.30 news team over the last few days. So, just to let you know a little about myself, I’m 43 years old and I have lived around Bradford and Leeds all my life.

Also. To put all of your minds at rest. I’m white. And I don’t mean the Eastern European kind that is becoming such a worry for people writing in our papers. I’m absolutely the right kind of white that has always lived upon these shores. In so far as I have Scottish ancestry and so have a bit of Celtic blood. Probably. Anyway, Celts are white and have always lived upon these shores. Though it’s also probably fair to say that my DNA may have Norman and Viking tendencies too. Normans and Vikings were white but they invaded these shores. Plus, I have a great grandmother on my paternal side who was a Native American. But I think you’ll find I’m at least as white as all the other white people worrying about the over abundance of non-white and/or the wrong kind of white people who are invading our country. 

I say this because context is important. In the news. Isn’t it?

Anyway, I’m here, possessing the body of Dick/Evie/Dan/ Iain/Dermot Josh or Dom because I can’t be with you in my physical form tonight. This is because, at this very second I’m watching a different theatre show called ‘The Thing About Psychopaths’ by Red Ladder Theatre Company at The Lantern Theatre in Liverpool. This isn’t because I got kicked off Dan’s show by the way. Going to see the Red Ladder show is a long standing engagement. I wasn’t really even meant to be in this show. 3 days ago I came to Theatre in the Mill on a different errand but then got sucked into Dan’s evil web of creativity and never left. Until now. Obviously. 

Anyway, what else can I tell you? That’s important? That’s news? 

Because Dan asked that I write something for you. A news flash from a female perspective. Most of the people who applied to come and do the show with him this evening were, by coincidence, blokes and so he thought a female voice, here on stage could be important.

So what else? What’s news? From where I’m standing. As a woman.

Well, having read the papers over the last few days, I’ve realized, that the most important thing you’ll want to know is that I’ve got frankly enormous tits. 

I wouldn’t usually mention this in conversation, but it feels only right to put this out into the room. My juicy jugs are fucking titanic. And just to put all of your minds at rest, I’m going on record here tonight and am saying categorically that my great big hooters are all natural and have not been surgically altered.  Though because I’m a lesbian these lovely big handfuls are all of course going to waste.

That’s the headline dealt with. Is there anything else you need to know about me and the news? As a woman?

I have a fang. A weird tooth. It sticks out a bit. I quite like it. Mainly for the following reason. My fang means that in every single primary school I have ever visited doing creative sessions, at some point, a little group of children has gathered around my ankles and asked ‘Miss? Is it true?  Are you a vampire?’ 

I don’t believe in lying to children so I explain as calmly as I can ‘Yes children, you’re very, very observant. I am a vampire. All artists who rely on subsidy are fucking vampires, sucking the life blood of productivity out of this great nation of ours, destroying the entrepreneur spirit and weakening the gene pool.’ 

That’s what I tell them. Word for word. Apart from I don’t say ‘fucking’ when I’m really talking to primary children. I just put it in for you, just now, for effect, so that you’ll think I’m cool. 

And also so you’ll be distracted and not notice that the bit above, inspired by the Maria Miller speech from last week, was strictly speaking, old news. And old news is rubbish. But if you say fuck or fucking a bit, it freshens it up. Makes it feel more now. 

What else? What more can I flash at you from my personal female perspective? 

Because having said yes to Dan. Having said yes, I will do this piece for the show. The thing is, now that I’m sitting down to write. And to be clear, I am sitting. I know I look like I’m standing. But I’m not. I really am sitting down. But it probably just looks better to stage it this way, with me standing. And that’s fine. Isn’t it? To change things a bit. If it makes things look a bit better. I think so. Anyway I digress… The thing is, that now I’ve sat down to write, it’s all feeling like quite a big responsibility. I mean I may not have the skills and experience to talk for all women. And I don’t want to fuck this mission up. Now that I’ve accepted it, I want to get it right. You can understand that.

Or that’s how I felt when I was sitting down to write the piece. But of course now I’m sitting over in Liverpool. Watching Red Ladder’s show. And from what I can see here, I’m beginning to realise I needn’t have worried.

Because here in my audience, I notice that there are many, many women in the theatre. And if you look around yourselves, well look! There are many, many women sitting in the room here in the Mill too. Being silent. Watching. So instead of writing something on everyone’s behalf, I thought we could turn the lights on the audience and ask some relevant, pertinent questions of the women amongst us.

So lets get started. Ladies in the room, lets get right to the heart of it. Because it’s time to find out what everyone wants to know.

Have you started getting your bikini body ready for the summer yet?