Viking funeral

IMG_0837So. Not everything works out the way you want it to. That’s hardly news. But what do we do when it doesn’t? When the grant application is turned down and the project shudders to a stop?

The temptation is to push on regardless, to take a ‘we’ll show the bastards’ approach. There’s so much time and effort invested in the work that stopping appears inconceiveable.

Except it isn’t.

For the last eighteen months or so I have been working with a handful of other theatre-makers (Tuesday’s Childe) on Hero in a coma, our first full length play. We workshopped and devised, wrote and re-wrote, had a rehearsed reading and took it to scratch nights. Then we applied for funding for two weeks of rehearsals to get it on its feet and towards full production.

We didn’t get the funding and then one of us got a job which clashed with the planned rehearsal period. We were left baffled and gloomy (but still all very pleased about the job).

We had a big, very honest debate about where we stood with the project. We decided that it is not time to press on regardless. It is time to create an event which will reflect and honour the piece and our work so far.

So on Wednesday 14th October we will (big metaphor warning) lay it out in the long boat, and pile its treasures around it. We will set fire to the boat and push it out to sea. As the flames spring skyward we will celebrate and remember. We will allow ourselves to feel sad as the fire dies and the boat sinks is a gush of steam.

Then. Ah, then, we will start work on something else, using all the skills and experience we have gained from this one. And this new work will be glorious.

The final performance of Hero in a coma will be in The Bewick Hall, Newcastle City Library, Wednesday 14th October at 6:30 pm. Free admission, but it would be helpful to book via the library on Eventbrite.

Soup of the day

So. Having given Hero in a Coma a first public reading we (Tuesday’s Childe) are working out what to do with it next: how can we get it up to a full performance. As part of that we are reviewing the audience feedback and thinking what needs cutting, changing or developing. Now, behind our play lurks The Odyssey, which means one of our questions is ‘how closely are we following The Odyssey?’

That is a difficult question, as some members of the group would say ‘not very’ and others would say ‘quite closely’. I’m looking at it like this: imagine you’re making soup (that’s not too hard for me as I do that most weeks). You have a rough recipe, so you chop and fry and stir, switching a few ingredients around (why are there no green lentils in the house this week?) and pour in the stock you made last week. But on the back of your stove is a stock pot which has been bubbling away for close on three thousand years. It’s been added to and drawn on for all that time. The stock is thick, highly flavoured and something of a familiar taste. You add a ladleful from that ancient stock to your new soup.

As your soup bubbles away the flavours of that old stock work their way round and through your new ingredients. When you serve it, the diners catch a waft of that old, familiar flavour as the steam rises from their bowls. When they eat it they get your soup, but an undertone of that ancient stock. Some of them will recognise it and smile to themselves because they do. Others may never have come across it before, but they’ll enjoy the soup as soup.

That’s what I’m aiming for: a good soup.

Hero in a coma

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So. Tuesday’s Childe held the first public reading of our new play Hero in a coma at the Bridge Hotel. It’s an intriguing piece (I know, I of all people, shouldn’t really say that: it’s just true) which covers an awful lot of ground – and a fair bit of sea. As we described it:

Hounded by his investors, Oliver Decius sets sail across the Atlantic in a bid to save his boatyard. We travel with him as he runs into a storm of mythic proportions which threatens to cost him not only his business but his life.

‘Hero in a Coma’ examines our conflicting desires to sail away from the struggles of life or to stand and fight the monsters around us.

We’d gathered our cast, adjusted the script for a reading rather than a full performance, rehearsed, and now, at half-past seven we were ready to go.

I was nervous. Partly about the acting – I’m not primarily an actor and unlike the rest of the cast I’m not trained – but mainly because this was the first time anyone outside the group was going to see the whole piece. I had a lot of time to listen to the audience and in my mind every creak of a chair was someone disliking the piece and shifting their position in disgust. Were they enjoying it? Why were there so many words for the cast to get through? Surely no one could bear to listen to all this talking?

Then we got to the end of the first half. The audience clapped. They clapped even more at the end of the second half and gave us positive, usefully-critical feedback. Of course, being a nervy writer I usually only hear the words after the ‘but’. Yet there were people there who would like to see a full production.

Now that feels good.

Tuesday’s Childe

Today being Tuesday I was at Tuesday’s Childe again: that’s the collaborative theatre collective I’m part of. It was a time for re-appraisal and a spot of re-grouping, but we came out of the end of the meeting with a much clearer idea of where we were heading and how we were going to get there. We also agreed to get our wordpress site up and running: tuesdayschilde.wordpress.com

And to round it off, we learned a song: Cold blows the wind. You can hear it – rather better than I can sing it – on John Boden’s A Folk Song A Day. It is a morbid, gloomy song, but absolutely perfect for our work in progress.

Westron wind

So, there we are, looking for songs or poems about the four winds. The North wind is easy, for it doth blow/ and what will poor robin do then, poor thing? The South wind, well, Blow the wind southerly wraps that up (and, yes, there is a faint Kathleen Ferrier-eque lilt in my head as I type the title). But what of the West wind? Nothing. We scratched our collective head, until a search turned up this beauty:

‘Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow,
The small raine down can raine.
Cryst, if my love were in my armes
And I in my bedde again!’

There’s a backstory to it, but it surprised me as I knew the last three lines, but with a different first line (which I can’t now remember).  But that anonymous verse is a perfect fit for our West wind.

Still looking for the East wind.