Friday, March 30, 2007

A French Break

I'm off to France today, back to our goathouse in the eastern Pyrenees. My last visit was a whirlwind week, churning a cough, moving furniture, and finishing my Haldane bio. This time around should be more playful, watching the butterflies emerge; walking the hills in search of native peonies, orchids and dwarf iris; waiting for the lamergeyer to soar above the valley; listening to nightingale song in the evenings.

The place has seen some serious bouts of writing, but it works most happily when I just let some unsuspected piece stir in me. Lighter writing projects reveal themselves in that way. I've a mind to let a poem or two flow. Maybe my partner James will spin out another piece to add to his own poetry sequence notes from a mountain village. And we'll hunt down some new vivid red surprise from our current favourite wine district of Tautavel to accompany the Easter Sunday lunch.

I'll aim to post a bulletin or two, as freedom and a feeble internet connection allows.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wasting an evening in a Martin Crimp world

Years ago BBC's TV dramas were played and transmitted live with no recording. Martin Crimp recreates those conditions in his Attempts on her Life, from 1997 and in a new production at London's National Theatre.

The audience was young, more multi-ethnic than usual, bopping away in their seats before the curtain rose. They probably even enjoyed themselves after that. Me, I was locked in at the end of a long row, the play running with no intermission so with no chance of an early escape from a loud, abrasive, meaningless run of cheap images, verbiage and noise. The actors and stage managers had a ball and performed wondrously, backs to the audience as they filmed each other. Martin Crimp was new to me so I wanted to see his writing, and instead got locked inside some sickness in his head. Years ago my nephew told me no-one wanted narrative anymore, character was unnecessary, a quick succession of graphic images all that was necessary. He might have liked the evening. I hated it. I yearn for a bit of beauty,

Enough said. Lanford Wilson never went out to the theatre, found the whole experience distracting, preferred to stay in his basement and write his own plays. Plays with character and narrative and sense. Hooray for him.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pinter's 'The Caretaker' - a racist relic?

Harold Pinter's The Caretaker is on locally in an acclaimed production. Classic play plus powerhouse performances = a peculiarly enervating evening.

I sat through Samuel Beckett's Endgame last week . . . and at least knew some jewels of lines are buried in the language stream. In its day Endgame was revolutionary. The Caretaker clearly had its own raw impact in 1960, Beckett gutted of the finer existential flights and theatrical comedy and rendered English. There was one fine speech about ECT treatment, but the three characters' voices were pretty much interchangeable. I used to be impressed that Pinter took language as tribal utterance, people steaming with passions they could not articulate, language blunt and repetitive, wielded like a weapon. That's still so . . . but it's a technique that now looks limited. What about some character development, narrative drive etc? The brothers in their shambolic London ruin would not exist nowadays in an age of property development. And the repeated racism against 'the blacks' who share the building is never challenged. If 'the blacks' existed in the same building at the time of the play, why not write them in to the drama? The play's a fairly nasty and pointless racist relic.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sizwe Banzi, The Rose Tattoo and dreamtime

I was dog-tired, John Kani and Winston Ntshoma were acting up a storm in their revival of Sizwe Banzi is Dead, the play they and Athol Fugard wrote in South Africa in the 1970s now showing at the National Theatre. I couldn't stay awake though . . . with the curious result that a parallel play took place in my dreams. An actor would be lying wounded on the stage, I'd open my eyes and he was standing merrily in mid-dialogue, then off I would drift again to my variant production.

I stayed awake for the evening and a gorgeous production of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo with Zoe Wannamaker in the lead, a blissfully camp and fun play. I'm always struck by how much audiences, especially those out on a Saturday night, year to laugh, grabbing any opportunity even in the bleakest of evenings. Here for once we could just hoot away.

Dreams played another trick last night. I'm reading what is likely a rare form of literature, a contemporary novel of Scottish shamanism, Peter Urpeth's Far Inland. It starts well, goes curiously astray for a while for a visionary sequence in the second section (not bad in itself, just loosing its hold on the reader when a firmer grip was needed), then gets wonderfully back on track. I told this to the author in my dream, who turned out incidentally to be a spectacularly fine trapeze artiste, and we had a very engaged chat about writing. I wonder if grants are available for making creative play out of sleeping?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dumay, Kremer and violin curiosities

What a curious species the human is. It struck me the other day, watching the Belgian virtuoso Augustin Dumay lead the English Chamber Orchestra from the violin. How did we come up with this instrument, strings stroked by a haired bow, this box of precise elegance and dimensions, only certain mixtures of wood appropriate, all to make a sound?

Dumay (top) has a peculiarly personal and seemingly loving relationship with his violin, hugging it close to his cheek. His is an extraordinarily sweet sound. Last night I saw the Latvian Gidon Kremer, who has a knack of making everything sound twenty-first century. He's much more of a tuck-it-under-the-chin guy (bottom picture), much more cerebral, though he managed to click his heels and dance to the jig of his Kreisler encore.

Dumay worked the trick of having my eyes smart with tears on his opening notes. The same magic worked at last night's concert a tLondon's Queen Elizabeth Hall, though not conjured by Kremer who left me admiring but unstirred. I was responding to the piano playing of Oleg Maisenberg. I always delight in Schubert's piano accompaniments, the violin pretty much a fill-in for me last night, Maisenberg's face a veritable cartoon show of his appreciation for different elements of the music, his mouth pursing and cooing.

One that got away - the Haldane brothers

As Suffer and Survive powers its way towards its August 6th release date, I've just spent a fun 90 minutes with my editor at Simon and Schuster, Andrew Gordon, selecting photographs for the book. I'm allowed a fairly generous 20+, the logic being that the photographs illustrate the sweep of drama in the story. Picture research has been bountiful, which means letting go of many favourites.

Here's one that got away from the childhood ... my subject John Scott Haldane is the boy in curls, a frock and patent leather shoes astride the rocking horse. His brother George who died at 16 is on the left, and Richard Haldane, set to become Lord Chancellor and Secretary for War, instigating Britain's system of city universities as well as the territorial army, supports the rocking horse from behind.

You see some of the difficulties we've had, when such a picture is against such competition that it gets left out.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gay's the Word

Gay's the Word has been gathering attention of late. The Times ran a feature a while back, and today the Guardian rallies to the cause - that cause being London's only gay and lesbian book shop, needing to come up with 20,000 pounds to stave off losses.

They ask customers to flood in and buy. I've done my bit this afternoon, coming away with three novels. Agustin Gomez-Arcos's The Carnivorous Lamb my most speculative buy in being wholly new to me as book and author, a French book set in Spain from 1975. Paul Russell wrote a favourite novel of mine, The Sea of Tranquillity, so I'm happy to have his new one War Against the Animals. And my most excited find was a new novel by Hugh Fleetwood. Twenty or so years ago he was one of my favourite writers, his book's suddenly taking a darker spin then disappearing, Heading for the bookstore his name came into my head as the author I would most like to find on the shelves - and there he duly was, a signed edition of a new novel from a new press, Big Fib - The Dark Paintings. It's rare for me to browse so heavily and come away with three books that are new to me - often I've tired of them before I make it to the counter - so let's hope 'Gay's the Word' prospers to show me the way to new reading next time I'm in.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

James Salter's black book

While visiting the writer James Purdy in Brooklyn, I was staying in the apartment of a Manhattan poet. Purdy went silent for a while at the mention of the man, then let rip. My poet had suppressed a review of a Purdy novel in the New York Times, thereby casting it into obscurity and preventing the planned sequels. Purdy is great at falling out with other writers - the last time I heard from him was through his assistant, threatening me with a lawyer.

I've got my own black book. Happily I forget the name of the writer whose review of my On Bended Knees in The Sunday Times was the uniquely bad one which helped kill the paperback. I presume she stays nameless in the publishing world, writing screaming vindictives in the torments of perpetual obscurity.

Jams Salter's nemesis is Mrs Doubleday, wife of the eponymous New York publisher. He told the tale at his London Review Bookshop reading last night, his novel A Sport and a Pastime frankly erotic. Though George Plimpton chose it as one of his select five picks to edit, he had no power in the house, Doubleday choosing to run scared of anything not wholly family-oriented. Mrs Doubleday later read Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie and was so offended she had the book withdrawn. (Salter spoke of Dreiser's 'relentless, but toneless, power'.) Doubleday 'smothered' Salter's book.

Graham Greene was the first to promote him in the UK, using his shareholdings at the Bodley Head to convince them to publish the work. Five books have just been launched in the UK - hence this first public UK reading of a 82 year lifetime. The reading drew a full house, helped by Richard Ford's piece in The Guardian recently, suggesting Salter is the finest writer of American sentences. Salter took some time, he told us, to decide that Ford actually liked the stories, and was not in fact condemning them.

The Guardian publishes the Salter story 'Last Night' if you want to judge for yourself. Personally I get the quality of the sentences, but string them together and it does not amount to much. What interests Salter in life, it seems, does not interest me. Heterosexual infidelity is a major theme. Speaking of Irwin Shaw, Salter remarked: 'The great engines of this world do not run on fidelity'. I've no particular moral reading of the theme, simply a lack of interest.

Salter thought Henry Miller was 'a nutty saint'. Nabokov was 'tall, stately, and with very clear wit inside of him and in his dialogue with you. He liked to play around.' Interviewing him in the shabby surrounds of the Montreux Palace Hotel, Salter asked if he liked the company of other writers. 'I don't talk to writers,' said Nabokov. So who did he like to talk with? 'Bankers.'

22/3/2007 The Guardian has just released a podcast of a conversation with James Salter, and a reading.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

On being copyedited

I've gone a touch silent on this blog - nothing stifles the will to write like dealing with copyedits (currently for my new book, Suffer and Survive).

I'm grateful of course - some fine professional has pored over my manuscript in their appropriately obsessive way. I accept most corrections, and buzz away to my stack of papers and books to shore up my own research as necessary. It's last chance saloon so far as getting the details right. Reading the whole thing slowly also lets me catch my own infelicities.

Copyeditors are not meant to enthuse though, which makes for a dispiriting plod through the manuscript. Only possible faults, standardization of grammar to house rules, and questions to be found, never ticks and smiley faces. It means digging your way back into the whole background of the book when you had just laid it to rest.

I've just pulled a bibliography into shape, and now need to take a red pen to the pages of endnotes. I had thought it might be fun to assemble my own fix, but now know better. Let it go, Martin, let it go.

(The picture is of the ruins of the Haldane family castle in Gleneagles.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cover Art

I now have the dust jacket design for the new book. Perfect!

I'm used to putting on a brave face about my covers. It's generally clear someone has put a lot of thought and effort into them, I'm not going to change things, so I might as well pulse some positive vibe into the proceedings and say 'great!' Christopher Corr, for example, did the design for my first novel On Bended Knees - news which delighted me in advance for he was one of my two favourite illustrators at the time. His work was pleasing in itself, but majored on a portrait of the main character in the book. I don't like my fiction being illustrated so specifically, preferring readers to have the freedom to form their own sense of how a character looks.

This new cover does the job thoroughly for me though. I was chuffed to discover this picture of J. S. Haldane: he mentioned its being taken in a letter. The photographer is Sir Benjamin Stone, capturing Haldane in his work clothes before descending the sewers beneath the Houses of Parliament in 1902. The photo's been coloured, and the foreground extended.

The perching canary has for me always been the most emblematic part of the Haldane story: everyone knows about canaries used in mines, but the fact that their introduction stemmed from a brainwave by Haldane has hitherto passed unnoticed. The long subtitle was added at the editor's suggestion, giving the illustrator more to work on . . . avoiding the 'Haldane who he?' reader response. I appreciate the 'Dead or Alive' wanted poster script of the title.

This is one I would pick up in a bookstore. Let's trust others do so too.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

In memoriam John Scott Haldane, 1860-1936

John Scott Haldane passed away on the stroke of midnight between March 14th and March 15th 1936 - 71 years ago today.

His ashes are laid by this memorial stone he shares with his sister Elizabeth and brother Richard, set in the graveyard of the Haldane family chapel in Gleneagles (photographs taken during my research into J. S. Haldane's biography Suffer and Survive).

His inscription carved into the obelisk gives a clear potted biography of the man:

'He devoted his life to scientific research. His work on the physiology of breathing saved the lives of many miners, divers and airmen. As an inventor he devised apparatus which made the analysis of gases and air easy and accurate. As a philosopher he investigated the nature of life. As a man he displayed conspicuous courage, both underground in investigating the causes of colliery explosions and in the laboratory by testing on himself the effect of poisonous gases. By his qualities of heart and human sympathy he endeared himself to all who knew him.'

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

divine mothers

I knew Eileen Caddy, the co-founder of the Findhorn Community up in northern Scotland, from a public talk or two but mostly from a long early morning mini-bus ride we once shared. her husband Peter Caddy was flamboyant, one of the great spiritual showmen of talk, while Eileen was much more of a silent presence. She died in January this year - the ultimate silence.

Ammachi gives those who come to her an all-embracing hug that they find transformative. From India, she also has an ashram near our home in Santa Fe. I went along to a gathering once, shuffled along for hours awaiting my chance to join her on the podium, then just before my moment came I walked away. Music, loudspeakers, bright colours, announcements, laughter, perhaps the whole thing was simply too loud, stage-managed and excited. I didn't want a hug. It was a huge relief to walk away into the quiet and the stars of the landscape once again.

The total silence surrounding appearances of Mother Meera were much more appealing. Intellectual doubts have nothing to feed off in such circumstances. My mind is always looking for some glimmering of the spiritual huckster and manipulator, but calms down in the face of silence and stillness. When I was researching the biography of Mother Meera in India her family told me she had told them she would one day travel more into the world from her base in Germany. Her latest international schedule, with visits to America, Canada and Britain, has just been posted.

A reader recently wrote to tell me of her own best-loved divine mother,
Mata Amritanandamayi. And a newsletter has just come in from Elisis (formerly known as Isis) from her Shambhala Centre on Glastonbury Tor. Elisis rather threw me when we first met, for her talk of planets and space ships and past lives is the sort of cosmological whirl that can send my sceptical mind into overdrive. Yet fondness for her displaces all of that. I admire how caring she is, and her sense of mission. A message comes in and she's hauling herself across the planet to sing some significant portion of it into realignment. It's all the complete opposite of a rational, paternalistic view of life - and when you look at what that prevailing rational view has achieved on our planet, giving the complete opposite a run with the wind in its hair is a good way to go for a while.

It's good to hang out with divine mothers. It's not a bad idea to grab a bunch of flowers and go hang out with your own mother this coming Mother's Day either, come to that. As my own mother was dying I watched light pour out of her. That's the thing about big journeys, I suppose. You voyage around the world so you can bring some sense of proper understanding back to your point of departure. 'You were here all along,' I said to Mum. 'Why did I go trekking round the world in search of divine mothers?'

'I always wondered that too,' she said.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Heard on a Train - Army Cadets

The 'Quiet Coach' from Plymouth to Reading was commandeered by a group of army cadets, aged 18 to 22. I gave up on my book and sat there listening. You don't get many performance pieces giving you the inside scoop on young army life.

The odd good story emerged. One young man aiming to become a corporal in six months told of a time working in a corner shop. A man came in, blood on his hands, asking to use the wash basin out the back.


'Some driver's just run over a cat and didn't stop. I had to wring its neck.'

The man was nodded through to the back on the back of one question. "What did you do with it?'

He gestured to the front door of the shop. Just outside was the body of the newly dead cat. People paused to bend and stroke it, and then notice the bloody reality. Old folk, with poor sight, simply stepped over it.

So that was a fine bit of eavesdropping. Interesting too was the petty, adolescent series of punishments meted out on the cadets - shoes thrown out of windows because they were found to be dirty during inspection, for the cadets to go and collect etc till they were running around in flipflops- and the fun with which the cadets recalled such discipline.

They're young lads, I thought, but they're out to protect me. They guard the interests of everyone on the country. I get naive like that sometimes.

'Have you any gays in your troop?' one of them asked, and the homophobia rolled forth unchecked. 'You have any on your troop you suspect is gay, you've got to keep ragging him. Ask him all the time, get at him, make fun until he breaks.' And they want on to give examples of how they'd done this in the past. Of course they're hiding their vulnerable sides beneath a jock exterior and all that, but it was sad and unfortunate. They were travelling without tickets too, because tickets are seldom checked. When a guard came along, they lied away and joked about it afterwards. At least their boots are clean.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Drum Theatre, Plymouth

The scene: my mother's back garden. The time: some years ago. I was back in Britain on a visit from America and fielding a phonecall from David Prescott at the Drum Theatre in Plymouth.

It was a cheery phonecall, about a play I had submitted ... How fine the play was, he told me. How come a first play was structured so well? After forty five minutes the caveat came in: the decision to produce was not his, and the director of the theatre would never go for it. He liked plays to be 'more dangerous'.

That play became Feeding the Roses, which I posted about last week as the Virtual Theatre Project took it to a staged reading in North Carolina. Curiously just one week on I found myself in Plymouth and went to a performance at the Drum

The theatre specializes in new writing. A rambunctious play was on, Bad Jazz by Robert Farquhar. It was broad comedy about sex and the theatre. A couple fell out at the opening, one of them an actress required to give fellatio on stage. Another scene saw a rent boy buggered while singing Andrew Lloyd Webber. I got a sense of what dangerous means in Plymouth terms.

It was a very good production, acted with real energy and verve. Cast and writer appeared at the close for a talk and chat. Louis Hilyer, playing a stage director of wayward brilliance, spoke about how much resonance he found in the truths about theatre spoken by the his character, voicing the dramatic philosophy of Grotowski. The play was as distant from Grotowski as you can imagine, but I found some resonance in his words. I'd been preaching what I learned from my own experience of a Grotowski workshop on a theatre panel just the previous week.

David Prescott chaired the talk so we spoke for real afterwards. His appreciation was a real step in my play's evolution - it took some time but I went on to add that more dangerous element, the lead couple in the play adding 'serial killing' to their cvs. The Drum Theatre's audience was young, sizeable, and enthusiastic. Simply entering the communal experience of the evening cheered me about being in Plymouth, letting me participate in the city. I look for a lot from theatre, but simply stepping out of myself and sharing a laugh or two makes for a pretty healthy outing in itself.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thomas Ades, Tevot and the Berlin Philharmonic

Simon Rattle calls Thomas Ades 'an immensely friendly, sociable hermit who will just disappear given the slightest chance.' My kind of guy. Last night's UK premiere of his second full orchestral work Tevot, the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle at the Barbican, thrilled the hall with sound. The term 'tevot' includes in its meaning the notion of the Ark, and Ades speaks of the piece as celebrating planet Earth's role as a Noah's Ark, shipping life through the cosmos. The last half of the piece is composed of polyphonic waves, as though ferrying the planet through planetary seas.

My partner James conceived the outing as a celebration of my recent months. It was an extravagant yet perfect treat. The Berlin Philharmonic gave me my finest musical education. I used to run out to every one of their concerts at the Philharmonie in Berlin when I worked there for two periods in the late 1970s (one such trip features in my first, Berlin-based, novel On Bended Knees). Their final performance last night of Janacek's Sinfonietta, its fanfares of brass utterly thrilling, brought back memories of those events. Under Edo de Waart I first saw how orchestral music had a spatial, almost visible side, notes forming creatures that danced throughout the interior of the hall during the Berlin Phil's performance of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. The sound last night filled the Barbican with that same sense of music dancing, bouncing the performers off their seats in their enthusiasm to join in. Terrific all round.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Would you buy a book from this man?

Being driven on a rickshaw through the flooded streets of Benares some years ago, I looked up and saw a man staring down from his balcony. It was the most potent stare I have ever encountered. He could have turned me to stone if he wanted. He chose not to, turned around and stepped indoors.

I encountered that fierce stare again some years later. Oddly, it came from myself. My partner James was taking a series of shots for my author photo on a book. Clearly the situation was not threatening, and I was making some effort to look charming. Most of the images though had me looking utterly fearsome. Punters opening to that back flap would have run from the bookstore.

I had a professional portrait taken for my first novel, at a time when it also served for my career as an actor. Someone later said it looked like a picture of a serial killer.

I'm just back from Hampstead Heath, where James has been manfully photographing away to capture me for the cover of Suffer and Survive. The early attempts were weird. In ten shots, I looked like ten different people. Different appearances do seem to wash over me - I can look radiant with health one moment, and some poor sick bastard the next.

Somehow I relaxed. I even managed this smile at one point. Two different portraits I'm quite pleased with have gone off to my editor. The big one above I post it here as another rare one of me that I like.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Wow .. my very own Haldane haemoglobinometer!

"I've won I've won!" I yelled, then realized I'd better adjust expectations of the household. I hadn't won the lottery or the Nobel Prize after all. "Don't get excited, it's just an ebay thing. But I've won it!"

I've quietly scoffed at ebay's suggestions that successful bids are victories, but I had clearly engaged with the concept deepdown. 'Haldane' is one of my few curious search terms on the site. Suddenly a Haldane haemoglobinometer was up for sale. I bid, entered a modest bidding contest (these things are usually snatched from me in the last seconds of bidding), and the apparatus duly arrived in this morning's mail.

The last haemoglobinometer I saw was in a display case at London's Science Museum. Shamefully it was the only reference to Haldane in the whole place, but the little thing thrilled me. It was my biographical subject J.S.Haldane's first invention to go commercial, a way of identifying the extent of excess carbon monoxide in the bloodstream ... 'Attach gas connection to jet and allow coal gas to play on the the blood solution' says the instruction leaflet.

I see the contraption heading out with me on any Haldane book tour. Whether or not I go by train or car depends on whether ebay offers up the much bigger Haldane gas apparatus over the next few months. Here's hoping.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Pen is a Mighty Sword - Virtual Theatre Project's international playwriting competition

You pay your money, you ship your script, you wonder if you’ll ever hear again – how do you know a playwriting competition’s worth entering?

Well here’s a positive, frontline report from one of them. The Pen is a Mighty Sword international playwriting competition, run by the LA based company Virtual Theatre Project, had good words passed around about it on blogs. Their website checked out as something real. I had what I thought was a great little play that I wanted someone to notice so it seemed worth a punt. Off it went into the 2006 competition. Back came news of its winning (one of the runners up spot, so some prize money and a staged reading) … and I’m penning this in Charlotte Airport, North Carolina, on the way back to England from that stage-reading week.

(Check late February 2007 for tales of the production itself. This posting aims to be more general.)

First, I’m impressed how real the love of theatre is among the company. It’s a genuine operation out to promote new voices in theatre. As Kim Terrell, the artistic director (in centre of picture), tells me, this isn’t necessarily new writers, but new voices, maybe established writers trying out new directions. The judging process is blind, no names attached, and from what I’ve seen no parameters are set over the type of play they’ll choose – the literary manager Whit Andrews (here in black leather jacket), on the back of a lifetime in theatre, is simply open to good writing.

One play nabs the number one spot, a bigger cheque, and gets a full production. Two runners-up get the staged readings, while a number of honourable mentions get real feedback and support. I still want that full production of course, but I’m very happy with the process I had. The whole process was timed to the very day to suit me wonderfully, as I was freed from a rush of other commitments. A long journey flew me into North Carolina, a car journey through a night-time landscape saw me installed in a hotel, and my world was reduced to that hotel room and Wake Forest campus for a week … an epic journey resulting in a focusing-in rather than a broadening-out. It was terrific just to be detached from the normal run of life and delivered into a creative theatrical mindset for a week. The company of people was truly lovely. As a bonus that crucial element of my next play, which I’ve been edging around for years, even slotted into place in my mind. New home, new friends, no outside cares for a week, it made for a fine parallel world.

A bonus of the prize, not trumpeted in the promotional materials as I read them, was the provision of the flight and accommodation – it’s a week of star treatment in that way, being feted for your writing. I was ready to enter into revisions, but that isn’t the way of these staged readings. The compressed time doesn’t allow for it, but the philosophy is more constructive than that. The company aims to take what the writer has produced, even if there’s some instinct to get in there and edit, and work hard to make what is written work just as it is. That’s one of the best results of the process … seeing how effective what you’ve written is in reality. There’s time to go back and change it later if needs be, when it’s back to being just you and the text.

The company runs workshops with drama students and I joined in, sitting on panels and running a couple of workshops. On the final night dance students took an hour’s workshop from me on movement and text, and in an ensemble run by their professor delivered a brisk, clean and enthusiastic dance piece. My own patented drama workshop, collaborative writing and producing of a three act play inside three hours, came next. I breeze into the process, shifting the workshop guidelines according to the group. It’s always worked so far, remarkably, different people writing different voices simultaneously then coming together to find it has all cohered into a play somehow. It’s a fun rabbit from the hat moment, delivering the finished article to an audience – the fun coming from their enjoyment.

Each playwright brings something different and effective to the residency, I’m told. This is theatre, it thrives on shifting dynamics. I can’t see any playwright (well not quite true, belligerent cussing souls might be an exception, but …) not growing and developing through the process. I look forward to seeing where my play goes from here … and where I go too.