Britain’s Got Fashion

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BGF Landscape Text

It has been a wonderful journey working on this play with Get Over It Productions, the all female London based theatre company who famously perform Shakespeare with female only casts.  I was therefore thrilled when I met Velenzia, the producer, in a networking event a year or so ago and we had an instant rapport as I told her about an all female play that I had written in response to an actress who complained there were never enough good parts for women on stage. I had developed it as far as I could and had had a couple of professional readings, then ran out of steam and passed it over for more pressing projects.

I always felt it had great potential but that there was perhaps a scene or two missing and a satisfying ending, so I was seduced by the idea of doing some development workshops with the company and improvising around the script to see what would come out.  Then they surprised me by jumping the gun with the idea of a showing at the Camden Fringe Festival to see if we could get a producer interested and on board with the project.

It also gave the company something to work towards since they have been faithfully bringing a show to the Camden Fringe Festival for the last eleven years, almost since its inception.

During workshops the cast appeared to embody my characterisations with remarkable ease which was a great relief as I was concerned they would be criticised as two dimensional stereotypes- the usual easy put down- but they assured me they were fully rounded with clear development to their journeys and lives of their own.  It’s sheer joy watching consummate performers inhabiting these characters and bringing them so perfectly to life as I envisaged when writing them. But watching them improvise around the script was fantastic and I filmed the resulting scenes and began the painful process of annotating every word they uttered across each other in a flurry of exchanges.

I was excited to try and incorporate some of these scenes into the existing script so set about the time consuming cutting and splicing of improv with my original. The script swelled to another twenty odd pages or so and was far too long for our ninety minute slot. So I waited patiently and exhausted whilst the team slashed most of the added scenes from the script back to largely how it was before. But the penultimate scene worked much better with the added improv material as I knew I had been too heavy handed and sentimental in my original. Now it was a tender scene with real heart between a caring Gillian and the young model, Leanne. The final scene also worked better and was much cleaner and more focused without the added material.

The tough process of editing has continued in rehearsals as I’ve had the privilege of hearing actors speak the lines and heard where they are sounding a little wordy or holding up the action and then edited in consultation with the rest of the team.

We searched for the right venue and decided it could only be The Cockpit Theatre for what could potentially be quite a big show with a live televised catwalk to stage with a cast of six, costumes and enough space to allow it to breathe. We’ve gone for the 9pm late slot as it has that slightly risque, rude, Burlesque adult body positive vibe in parts.

What, you still haven’t booked your tickets? I also wanted to give centre stage to a leading role for a black female actor who is the designer finalist of the title reality TV show who is hell bent on promoting her collection. But everyone has their work cut out to compete with the celebrity girl about town, Sloane ranger, Monaco, who’s fronting her own show, A Day In The Life of a London Socialite. Though our Burlesque girl, Candy Peel is taking no nonsense from her and is the one voice of reason who is not afraid to tell it how it is.

The young and vulnerable Leanne is a fish out of water and is proving something of a liability on a live catwalk with very little training as a green and fresh faced model from the Agency. And what a day it proves to be with the World”s First Supermodel, Gabriella Sodenburgh, giving her hard boiled, hard won wisdom and words of advice to the wannabe models. Gillian is holding the whole show together just about until events begin to spin out beyond her control but she seizes back the show from the depths of despair to give Monaco a role she can be proud of at last.

This had been a great process and I’m thrilled to have finally finished this play and had the opportunity of bringing it to life with such a talented cast and company for the 2017 Camden Fringe Festival.

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28 Plays Later Challenge #28

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So here we are, after twenty eight gruelling days; the final challenge and a disappointing brief echoing the first, to write a play using four numbers which didn’t inspire anything in me at all. So instead I decided to revisit one of the earlier challenges to write a play about your favourite song using the lyrics.

Mac Arthur Park is one of those extraordinary idiosyncratic masterpieces that has baffled people as to its meaning through its obscure poetical lyrics. I bought the album years ago and indulged in Jimmy Webb’s heartfelt songwriting craft and originality of his lyrics and orchestration. Richard Harris was an unlikely singer and champion of his work but it was one of those extraordinary collaborations that left a unique legacy of hauntingly beautiful songs which were in tune with my own heart break at the time.

As Jimmy Webb has since made clear, the song was about the break up of a relationship where he would meet his girlfriend for lunch in Mac Arthur Park which is in Los Angeles and all the strange references to things like “cake left out in the rain” he saw there. Suzy Horton was also the muse for other great Webb songs “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Where’s the Playground, Susie” and “Didn’t We.”

So I imagined their last meeting in Mac Arthur Park and their farewell picnic together before disappearing from each other’s lives forever. It could do with developing. Remember all these posts were written in one sitting, usually around a couple or three hours work at most.

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28 Plays Later Challenge #27

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So the last four challenges I decided not to post since they were not worthy of it. Some merely instructions or making up a language or reworkings/edits of previous posts. Todays challenge was to chose one of our favourite briefs from the whole challenge and write a new response. I decided to go with the artistic movement one when I last wrote about the early Cubism of Picasso and Braque. This time I wanted to write a piece about British Pop Art. I was searching for a vague idea when I took a bus journey into and back from Waterloo. A very dramatic brooding sky of Prussian blue at dusk on the way in and a soaked inky black London on the return seen through watery windscreen fogged with condensation and the wonderful abstract colours of random lights caught in my camera.If you choose to sit next to the only other passenger who is a madman, you tend to get a more memorable ride.

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28 Plays Later Challenge #22

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Today’s challenge was a little vague- about fan fiction and the idea of taking your favourite existing theatrical characters and making them something else. However I was uninspired by that so decided to have some fun with an imaginary fanatical fan who was just a bit too keen for comfort but very determined to hunt her prey. Not sure of the ending but went with it.

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28 Plays Later Challenge #21

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The last week of the challenge thank God! So today’s was loosely to write about the universe. The stars, planets, scientists fi or the sun and moon etc.

So hedging my bets I  came up with a couple of scenarios which I ended combining for contrast and a warning to those moronic climate change deniers.

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28 Plays Later Challenge #20

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So today’s challenge was to write a play about boundaries interpreted however you wished. This allowed me to write a piece about a subject I had wanted to tackle for a while: sexual boundaries as expounded by that new wave of headstrong, liberated, want it all Millennials on dating sites putting out some hilarious labels and boundaries to defend their self indulgent promiscuity in the name of Twenty First Century online dating etiquette.  Ladies and gentlemen please make room for two people never exactly destined for Cupid’s bow.

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28 Plays Later Challenge #19

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An interesting concept today to go intertextual with a cross over from art movements into playwrighting. What would a play look like influenced by an art movement? So I chose the Cubism of Picasso and Braque around 1910 with those wonderful brown nicotine still life collage’s with bottles, guitars and newspaper print in the Cafe-Tabacs of old Montmartre. How Cubism was about seeing the same objects from different view points at the same time within the same space. I’ve played with structure and form to imitate the art form.

It could do with another couple of sides at least an another couple of hours work but bed calls.

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