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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Shakespeare Delusion

It's time to talk about the 'new' show - I normally write the Shakespeare blog on a Thursday, but my big Tuesday think piece got behind schedule, so here we are!  The Shakespeare Delusion has taken some time to come into being and hasn't had the best of me.  It was supposed to have been premiered in April, but then I fell ill.  It was going to be performed in London as part of the Christmas run at Barons Court, but I've had to scale that back having finally acknowledged that I now have to manage my life.  There are only so many spoons in a day.
So, poor little Shakespeare Delusion has had a bumpy ride - but it's all for the best in this best of all possible worlds.  This one-off performance will not be the end, for the show will return in 2014 for as many performances as I can manage.  I'm even thinking of going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival again, something I haven't done since 2005, though I will need to get the financing together for that.  This means that I've got a good year or so to adjust the play, tweak, learn the words, devise actions, create newness out of whatever happens on the one-off show.  Like Ghost Storyteller which started out as The Ghosts of Lavenham twelve months ago, the year off allows for a more condensed, tighter, more focused piece of theatre.
But first I have to get everything ready for Friday 12th October, I have to give myself to the delusion.  Followers of this blog will already know that I have a beard now, grown specially for this one-off show.  There is a picture, but I wouldn't want to scare the horses.  I am disturbed to discover that people LIKE the beard, that there have been calls for me to keep it.  I think these people must be as mad as the person I am playing for the show.
So, what is the show about?  It's about a man who tries to follow the anti-Stratfordian take on Shakespeare - those people from the last hundred and fifty years who try to tell you that Shakespeare didn't write the plays.  I could rant for a while about why this is just such bullshit (in fact, reading on, I find I do), but it's much more fun to do it in performance.  The character, 'Professor' Ashborn, follows exactly the trains of thought that the ant-Stratfordians of the past have taken - he recreates the supposed cyphers, he digs for clues and lost manuscripts, he sees around him a conspiracy of academics, he goes - slowly at first, and then with increasingly speed, completely off the printed page of sanity and into the shredder of madness.  Because, broadly speaking, most of the theories against Shakespeare actually writing the plays are the purest madness.  They posit that dead people wrote the plays, that people who really couldn't have had anything to do with them wrote them, that to deny the reality of their theories is a form of discrimination and bigotry and WHY AREN'T YOU LISTENING TO ME!  Talking to an anti-Stratfordian is remarkably like talking to a religious fundamentalist, only more sad because the issue, on the surface, is not much of an issue.  At least a religious fundamentalist cares about human souls, the fundamentalist anti-Stratfordian simply wants to take a famous name down a peg or two, usually because of snobbery.
But, there are other more fundamental issues at stake in the whole anti-Stratfordian position, because the tactics they use are destructive.  It is about destroying history - the demolition of peer reviewed academic debate and replacing it with web based PR led posturing, in whose hands only the loudest wins.  It is the same issue that faces science, for which the creationist cause is the best example.  Rather than listen to facts and informed debate, the media in America screams back and forth about intelligent design, using the words of scientists against them by twisting qualified statements of scientists to say that even scientists don't really think this.  Scientists, historians, any sensible academic speaks in qualifications.  Most probably.  Although.  It might be proven otherwise.  Research suggests.  This is because in science and history there are few absolute absolutes.  However, that doesn't mean that the thrust, the shape, the web of theories and consensus doesn't push everyone in broadly the same direction, that the probability that evolution and Shakespeare might not exist is so low as to basically be zero.  But saying basically zero isn't the same as saying zero - so the enemies of reason reason - and this refusal to be absolute is thrown to the media as proof that even the scientists don't really believe what they say.  Those who know the media know how to shout louder and dumber.  And that's when people, who haven't read about either subject, start to believe in nonsense - because they keep hearing it over the background chatter.
I was at a party discussing the new show and the Shakespeare problem and someone who was perfectly well educated and intelligent said to me: "well, you can't say that for certain..." followed by "it doesn't really matter though, does it".  I'm afraid that I did bite their head off.  I was very aware that a lot of people were looking at me funny, that I was, properly, ranting.  But it is important to not give into the position that, just because we cannot be absolutely certain about anything - we all live simulated lives inside our own bodies, frankly, it's a miracle that anything we do or say can connect with anyone else - that doesn't mean that we should accept the perfectly preposterous willingly.  This principle, the principle of fighting for the validity of fact over opinion and to understand the difference between the two, is so important it hurts me inside.
Another thing said at this particular party was: "well, there isn't really any evidence for Shakespeare."  Yes, yes, there is.  There's oodles of it, we've got evidence coming out of our ears.  To close the show I thought I'd do a little fact check for the audience - stepping out of character and reading out every reference to William Shakespeare as playwright made during or just after his death by people who knew him.  Having collated this I found these, when spoken aloud, ran for HALF AN HOUR!  I have had to cut it down for the show - it would have been tedious, it is supposed to be fun - because there was so much.  The problem is it doesn't matter to the anti-Stratfordian that you have half an hours worth of material, they will say: "but it was a conspiracy, of course they would say that."
Just let's take a moment and think about the nature of every conspiracy ever.  I'm not talking about theories, actual, honest to God conspiracies.  They're always found out.  Always.  Usually within months of them happening.  The problem with any conspiracy is that they need to be secret, but they also need people and people TALK.  They always do, in the end.  And that's why the idea that everyone connected with Shakespeare were either lied to or lied about due to a conspiracy is stupid.  It's just dumb.  It wouldn't happen.  It didn't happen.  Look at the evidence.  And the point is that the anti-Stratfordians have no interest in evidence, unless it supports their cause.  The fact that there is NO EVIDENCE AT ALL to support the basic idea that Shakespeare didn't write the plays, let alone any of the various pretenders to the throne, is irrelevant to them.  It has just been hidden and one day they will find it.  Next to the Holy Grail, held up for public display by a bearded Lord Lucan.
The point for this rant, and it is a rant WITH BIG CAPITAL LETTERS AND EVERYTHING, is that the Anti-Shakespeare Delusion is a common one, one that must be fought.  It must be fought in science against creationists, it must be fought in history against Holocaust deniers and it must be fought in literature against the anti-Stratfordians - because all three are the same thing, an ideological attack on facts and reason.
 Oh - and the play is quite funny.  Just thought I'd throw that in - in case this all seemed a bit heavy.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Shakespeare Delusion
A Comic Tale Written and Performed by Robert Crighton

Professor Ashborn invites you to share in his latest discoveries and lead you through the terrible secrets behind the man people call Shakespeare.  Did he really write the plays?  Was he really bald?  Did he like cheese?  Using recently uncovered documentation Professor Ashborn can finally tell the true and completely true, truly true, utterly true, true story of the Shakespeare delusion!
Last year’s show – The Ghosts of Lavenham – sold out, so book early to avoid disappointment!

Performing on Friday 12th October at 7.30pm
The Lavenham Guildhall, The Market Square, Lavenham

Friday, 21 September 2012

What Shakespeare Did On His Holidays

You couldn't get away from Shakespeare this summer.  He was everywhere.  If ever there was a case for a moratorium on Shakespeare, this Summer was it.  There was a time when Shakespeare didn't get about quite as much.  He was LITERATURE, he lived in a big book and was mostly studied privately.  Productions of his plays, though regular, we so often ripped apart and pulled down by additional material that he might as well had never have written them, just left a synopsis.
These days we're as likely to see a ripped apart, 'deconstructed' version of his plays as in times of yore, but that's because there are so many perfectly normal, uncut, uninteresting productions flying about you have to do something to justify the effort of staging him.  He is in every school, on every stage, often revived on film and, much more rarely, on television.
After some neglect of late the B.B.C. decided it was time to get back in the act by broadcasting over a dozen programmes on Shakespeare as part of their Olympic coverage.  We had two 'major' documentaries, from learned academics, and several very minor ones by whoever they could find out of the pages of Spotlight, with the expected mixed results.  And to crown this coverage was a four part series The Hollow Crown covering the history plays of Kings Richard II, Henry IV and V.
Let's start with the best of this coverage - The King and the Playwright, which I have descried about on this blog before, as it was in only three parts and hidden away on B.B.C. Four.  It was, mostly, an excellent documentary about the last and most productive years of Shakespeare's life, writing during the reign of King James.  I say mostly because the third episode found it had nowhere to run with it's central thesis and there was a sense of dead air.  Basically, the series viewed Shakespeare's writing in parallel with the career of the new King, reasonable enough when you consider that Shakespeare's company were made the King's Men and had a far closer relationship with the court than during Elizabeth's time.
There were clearly marked parallels between events and the plays Shakespeare wrote, most clearly in Macbeth where the marks of the Gunpowder Plot run deep into the fabric of the text.  But it was in the second episode that the thesis started to run out of steam.  A few slightly woolly statements about Antony and Cleopatra didn't quite ring true.  By the third episode most parallels drawn were distinctly vague, and the James Shapiro opened stated this.  It became two documentaries, one on James, one on Shakespeare, and the links between the two were getting tenuous.  But it was still an excellent stab and should have been on B.B.C. Two, if not One - anything to save us from another edition of The ONE show.
The second good 'series', and I'm sorry but whilst I can just about accept the idea that three episodes can be a series, two is not, was by Simon Schama.  It was strong and robust in the first episode and, again, a bit repetitious and vague in the second.  Actually, I had my back turned up thoroughly by the first episode when he was rude about medieval mystery plays, making a deeply unfair juxtaposition between those plays and the works of Shakespeare.
Basically Simon said this: the mystery plays were clearly lesser works to those of Shakespeare, they are rough and naive, they don't have the depth of metaphor or simile as in those later plays.  This is bald, judgement criticism; I like this (Shakespeare) because it is more 'developed' than that (medieval drama).  It is similar to attacking medieval art for 'ignoring' perspective.  Really, couldn't they see how badly they were drawing?  This is to ignore the different starting points of different works, to view dramatic endeavour as progress towards psychological naturalism, or some such mythic end point.
The Corpus Christi Plays (CCP) and the works of Shakespeare are completely different beasts and shouldn't be attacked just because they are different.  They are beasts bred for their age and their circumstances.  Let us briefly look at the differences.
Well, you'd think for a start, that they were staged in a very similar way.  Weren't both designed for outdoor performance.  No.  The outdoors of an enclosed circular wooden O are completely different from the great outdoors of the street, where the CCP were performed.  Shakespeare had control of his venue, there was a guarantee of a wall behind the performer to help bounce the voice.  At the Globe he had to be loud, but there was room for expression, for words to carry and complex ideas worked on.  The authors of the CCPs had no such guarantee.  Anyone who has tried to do street theatre or promenade performance will tell you, you're not projecting - you're SHOUTING!  BELLOWING!  So, the CCPs are very cleverly designed to help the performer.  For one, they are repetitious, so that the people at the back have a chance to catch the action, if not the first time around at least on the second or third hearing.  There is no time for extended metaphor.  Secondly, the scripts seem to be impossible to say quietly.  I'm not sure how this is done, it is an astounding technique, but there is no volume control on those words.  You can't help but be VERY LOUD!  It's an amazing, almost impossible achievement.
The form of the text was changed to match conditions - conditions Shakespeare would have found difficult to write his plays in, were he born earlier.  But there are other reasons why the authors of the CCPs do not favour extended metaphors or similes or poetic imagery.  The primary reason is the length of the plays themselves.  Shakespeare had two to three hours of stage time to develop themes, ideas and work them through the plays, making them greater than works of simple entertainment.  The authors of the CCPs could do no such thing as they were episodic.  Each twenty minute playlet had to be self contained - there was no guarantee that the audience for one would have seen any other, so no running theme akin to those in longer plays were required.  There were themes, but they were displayed by the choice of episode in relation to later ones, not obviously within the text itself.  So, though the 'complete' work is a day long, it was impossible to extend themes within them beyond what could be yelled in twenty minutes or so.  And that's without debating how much the church would allow poetic license within the plays themselves (to be fair, looking at the Second Shepherd's Play, with two versions of the Nativity, one comic involving a sheep rustler and another sacred, they could obviously be pushed quite far).
The acid test here is asking, if Shakespeare were to have been commissioned to write a play for a Corpus Christi cycle, or even several, would those works stand up to his full length work?  Probably they would be good, but they wouldn't be King Lear.  The form wasn't designed for that kind of creation.  But that isn't to say that one is better art than the other.  And whilst many of the CCPs were basic hack jobs, efficient but not exciting, some are brilliant creations that will play for as long as the English language allows.  The York Crucifixion is a pretty damn good riposte.  Not King Lear, no - but would you compare the enormity of a full scale communal event with a two/three hour professional one and say that is a fair and balanced one?  No.

This is, of course, a lengthy digression on something a historian I rather like said in passing.  It's the kind of quibble you always get with popular history, especially on television.  There's only so much time to put in the qualifiers.  I rather enjoyed Simon Schama's series Power of Art, but I kept thinking that if I knew more about the subjects I would probably be quibbling away at it rather a lot.  His Shakespeare documentaries did, rather, prove that theory correct.
Whatever could be said against Schama's work, it was always going to be a triumph in comparison with Ethan Hawk on Macbeth - a representative of a patchy series of one-off, personal views on Shakespeare plays - shown variously and sometimes randomly over B.B.C. Two and Four like the programmers just didn't give a shit about the season anymore.  All of these docu-things lived and died by the heavy hands of the series producers, patiently steering the ship of fact along whilst giving the impression the actors / directors chosen to front their particular docu-blob had anything real to contribute.  The experts were the same for each episode, obviously interviewed as a job lot and each episode was so similar in structure to the last you suspect the name of the actor involved could have come in very last minute.  Much as I enjoyed Jeremy Irons discuss Henry IV and V, I can't see him struggling away on the script.  He got to ride about on a horse, sound interesting and generally come across as a nice host - which from all accounts is a pretty genuine picture of the man himself.  With Ethan Hawk, whilst the facts came through clear and strong thanks to those not so invisible production hands, the only fact that leapt out at the viewer that the man should never play Macbeth.  It was a public audition tape, clearly demonstrating that the role is beyond him.  Some people can play Kings.  They are called Jeremy Irons.  And they ride horses.
Unfortunately the invisible hands of the producers and researchers were lost completely for whole chunks
of Derek Jacobi's effort on Richard II, where - somehow - he was permitted to digress onto the Shakespeare Authorship 'question' without any clear editorial balancing going on.  For twenty odd minutes Derek (how does he manage to make the name Derek sound unlike a man with a whippet down the pub?  Is it the funny spelling or the his slightly unusual second name?  He makes Derek sound almost regal somehow...) was allowed to spout the utmost nonsense and the only rebuttal a publicly funded documentary series put in was a brief clip of a seriously knowledgeable expert Jonathan Bate that lasted probably less than thirty seconds.  At no point did this documentary, a television programme that should inform as well as entertain, mention that Jacobi's favoured rival to Shakespeare, Edward de Vere, was dead for the last ten years of his supposed writing life.  NOT ONCE.
Only Jacobi himself allowed a gracious acknowledgement that the theory was not widely believed, only that he believed it.  That is his perogative.  The programme makers, however, should have known better.  If they can make Ethan Hawk sound like he vaguely knows what he's talking about, they could steer some facts past Jacobi in the edit.
I can't comment on The Hollow Crown fully as it has been sitting on my digital box for months now and I've only made it through Richard II so far, so I will write about that in a future Shakespearean blog.

And, just to remind you, The Shakespeare Delusion will be appearing for a one-off performance on Friday 12th October at 7.30pm at the Guildhall in Lavenham.  Tickets available at the Guildhall - booking enquiries to me at

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Beards and The Shakespeare Delusion

Right, The Shakespeare Delusion, the next show from Milk Bottle Productions.  Sort of.  I'm only doing it once - this year anyway.  Just one little performance in my home village of Lavenham.  (Well, technically it's a town, but it's a village, just look at it, it's very picture postcard.)  Then I'm off to do ghostly things till next year, before picking up the ashes of the one off, blowing on them a bit, popping some dry grass on top and hoping for the best.
So what, for those of you coming on October 12th (and yes, this blog is SUGGing you - don't know what that is, look it up, it may help you get through this commercial world), is The Shakespeare Delusion about?
Well, primarily it's about a beard.  An increasingly long and annoying beard.
And hair.  Head hair.  Increasingly long and annoying head hair.
Yes, this is the play that makes me hairy.  And it's annoying me.
Basically, the story is about a man who slowly, practically before your eyes, looses his grip on reality.  He started off as an ordinary man and then, the more he delved into the various 'theories' about Shakespeare's life, began to lose his grip.  By the end of the play he is quite doolally, in a fairly comic way.  Which means, naturally, he must have a lot of hair.
It is a universal law that a mass of hair, back combed and unkempt, possibly dust covered, is clear evidence that the mind has snapped.  Perhaps the longer your hair grows the more of your natural born sanity is pulled out of your brain.  It's either that or hair acts as a cosmic lightning rod for those alien signals that control our brains, unless you have the good sense to wear a tin foil hat.
Like I'm doing now.
I have got quite a lot to say on the subject of the play itself, for a future blog a little closer to the show up date.  For the moment I just want to point you in the general direction of The Space.  It's an Arts Council / BBC project thing online, where a complete set of Shakespeare plays are available to watch here.  Only difficulty for purists is that none of them are in English (the exception being the hip-hop Othello, but I think I'd class that as a new language) as they were recorded at the Globe to Globe season at the... Globe Theatre.
I've watched about a third of them now, whilst recovering from a bout of illness over the summer.  I can recommend heartily As You Like It, brilliant, first ten minutes are a bit dislocating but once in the woods it's a joy; King Lear, fast and loose with the text towards the end but the storm scenes is amazing; Love's Labour's Lost, performed in sign language and truly fascinating; A Midsummer's Nights Dream, which played a little fast and loose with what is one of Shakespeare's few original plot compositions but to a purpose, was quite deliciously scatological and played to the audience very well; Othello, in the aforesaid hip-hop, which I thought I'd loath and really, really enjoyed.
Watch for a few minutes the truly amazingly awful Coriolanus.  He wears a basket on his head for almost the whole play and clutches a french stick.  Skip ahead two hours, yup, he's still wearing it.  (In fact, I heard on the grapevine that the only reason the actor took the basket off for any length of time was because the artistic director at the Globe begged the director of the production... "You know the basket... maybe it would be good if he took it off... occasionally."  "No."  "No, see that it's important, but maybe, once the audience has got the convention, you don't need to have it quite so much?"  "No."  I might be putting words into other peoples mouths, but for once the grapevine sounded oh too true to not be.  And it is funny.)  I've read impassioned defences of this production, claiming we don't get the cultural conventions associated with it and so can't judge.  Oh we do.  The arms of the twentieth century are long and within them cultural exchange is not pretty much standard.  People tour, there are DVDs - we have YouTube.  Trust me, this isn't cultural relativism, it's just very bad.  I know Coriolanus very well, it's one of my favourite plays, and the play was fully subtitled (not all of these are) and yet it was frankly baffling half the time what was going on.  Once the patterns felt into shape, it didn't make it anymore enjoyable.  In fact, I'd argue the staging was fundamentally elitist as only a smart-arse like myself, who knows the play backwards, has a hope in hell of understanding what is going on.  I watched the whole thing, as I'm a masochist that way, and I could see what they meant to be saying (Coriolanus isn't noble, he's a petulant child grasping his french stick... there was more, but that was the basic thrust), and it just wasn't done well.  The same point was rammed home with monotonous rapidity and I lost the will to live.
There are other interestingly noble failures.  Julius Caesar, appropriately enough performed by an Italian company, had some very interesting elements to it, but was lost amidst some very bizarre additions which seemed completely random.  You had scenes from the play, which I recognised and then the show would go on a tangent which made no sense at all - definitely one production that needed full subtitles rather than scene breakdowns.  Again, a sense of elitism (though a more reasonable one, people do tend to know the gist of the story from history as well as literature) abounds, as you are expected to know things without the production explaining them.  For example, the production used a chair to represent Caesar himself.  It solves many problems, not least that the part of Caesar is as interesting as a chair, and it leaves room for satire.  In practice, and theatre is all about practice, this stroke  was ineffective and 'his' death was deeply underpowered.  (The actors 'killing' 'him' were underpowered, not the chair.  The chair sustained its energy levels throughout the performance.)
These criticisms aside, I loved the use of red chalk throughout and, though mixed, the performances were fascinating.  (I'm making a bit of a study of Italian acting at the moment... well, I'm watching Inspector Montalbano on B.B.C. 4 on Saturdays, which is close enough.)  Difficult to recommend, it was hard work, but worth a skim through, if, for nothing else, to look at the arrangements of doors and the death by chalk.
Then there were the productions that we alright... of which the rest that I have watched broadly fall.  I will tweet updates of my viewings of these productions in the run up to the world premiere of The Shakespeare Delusion.
More thoughts and opinions on Shakespeare will follow next Thursday (Tuesday will see my continuing series of blogs with one word titles - last Tuesday was Sex, next Tuesday is Offence), when I will be looking at the general flurry of the bard over the B.B.C. this summer.  Some of us do not come out unscathed.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Shakespeare Delusion
A Comic Tale Written and Performed by Robert Crighton

Professor Ashborn invites you to share in his latest discoveries and lead you through the terrible secrets behind the man people call Shakespeare.  Did he really write the plays?  Was he really bald?  Did he like cheese?  Using recently uncovered documentation Professor Ashborn can finally tell the true and completely true, truly true, utterly true, true story of the Shakespeare delusion!
Last year’s show – The Ghosts of Lavenham – sold out, so book early to avoid disappointment!

Performing on Friday 12th October at 7.30pm
The Lavenham Guildhall, The Market Square, Lavenham
Tickets £8, available from the Guildhall from April. 
To reserve your tickets in advance email:
Or call: 07704 704 469

Thursday, 6 September 2012

I've Accidentally Written A Play!

Writing.  It's an odd activity.  Most of the time you're planning, thinking, procrastinating... and then you have to actually do some work.  I'm currently juggling a lot of writing commitments and they've all come together into one rather glorious mess.  Each day I get up, take the tablets, make myself the one real cup of coffee I can have a day and sit before the laptop surrounded by paper.  And then, because I've got several projects on the go, I choose the one I want to write that day dependent entirely on my mood.  On my moooood.  It is lovely.
Now, one of the reasons I don't solely write (beyond the fact it doesn't bring in enough money) is that this loveliness is entirely transitory.  I'm having a whale of a time at the moment because the writing is going well, the projects are all in a final stage of completion, so it's mostly a job of polishing, spitting and general silliness.  Most of the time this is not the case.
I should be mixing up my day more.  I have to learn some lines for Ghost Storyteller (the first half of the script has been locked and will not change, so I have no excuse not to learn it now) but the writing is going soooo well I just don't want to break the spell.
I'm writing in little bursts only.  I put on an album and work for 45 minutes to an hour (however long the album is) and then stop.  Sometimes I go straight on, sometimes I have a little break.  Food does get eaten.  (I've never understood the whole starving artist thing - food is pretty central to my writing process.  Hunger is not helpful - as the last 24 hours of starvation (and subsequent food obsession) for my most recent sigmoidoscopy has proved.)
The other day this process of random work generation took an alarming course.  I didn't even work on something in progress - it wasn't for the Christmas Storyteller shows, it wasn't even on the long distance radar.  It's just a play I've been picking at for the last couple of years, Complicated Pleasures, which - to my amazement - is up to length, has some great scenes and now just needs a lot of panel beating to get it into the right shape.  In fact, I'm planning on organising a reading of the script next Saturday.  Two days ago I wasn't even thinking of it, now I'm that confident I'll get it finished in a week.  When I picked it up on Tuesday I couldn't believe I'd somehow written a whole play and not really noticed.  I'd even forgotten about a whole subplot.  So, if you're based in Suffolk and would like to help read a play, pop down to the bar at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury on Saturday 15th September at 12.15pm.  I'll put a same float down at the bar for coffee and the like - though this will not be an infinite largess.  It should take a couple of hours to get through and is, I have to confess, a little bit rude.  So, no puritans please.
In other news, last week my cast for The Fantasy Terrorist Variations got together in dribs and drabs to read over the scripts.  FTV is made of three plays - the first is the award-winning Fantasy Terrorist League, which is to be performed by the marvellous Keith Hill - the second is a completely reworked Keynote Speaker, which I had a great session with the fantastic Simon Nader picking the original version apart and putting together again, but better - and the last play, which will feature both the above people of fabulousness, is currently titled The Project After, which is sitting in draft behind me now.  That is the next task.  It's sort of there, it's sort of ready, but it needs sharpening - and when I start doing that sharpening (i.e. when I'm in the mood) I will tell you all about the play.  Let's put it this way, halfway through the read through Mr Nader stopped mid sentence and cried out "Oh, Jesus Christ!"  Which I would hope is the reaction of the audience, if we do our job properly.  I think I've been tempted to produce too much nice theatre recently.  It's time to be a little dangerous.  I mean, it's lovely when a local vicar writes a letter praising my production of The Passion, but it does also suggest that somewhere I've failed.  But this is the subject of next weeks blog - let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Milk Bottle September News: We're Back!

Yes, the Olympics are nearly over, the Summer (what Summer?) has passed and the time has come for Milk Bottle Productions to come out of the duck and cover position and leap up saying "HELLO!"  Yes, we're not dead.  We've three shows coming up over the remainder of the year - one one-off and two full runs for our Winter season at Barons Court.
First up, our one-off, The Shakespeare Delusion, which was postponed earlier in the year due to illness.  This is the first stage in development of a show that we intend to tour much more widely 2013/14 and which involves Robert growing a lot of hair.  Hairy, hairy Robert.  Though he will shave and get a hair cut after October 12th so as to look acceptable for the next show, Ghost Storytelling.

The newly improved Ghost Storyteller is in rehearsal at the moment, having spent the last eight months being polished up shiny and fresh.  It started off as a one-off show The Ghosts of Lavenham last year and has evolved into its current much tighter form.  It is, most definitely, a comic ghost story show.  That is it is more silly than scary - though we have squeezed the odd chill into the air.  We've a couple of tryouts for the show before it returns to Barons Court for the London run.  For those luck enough to catch the new version at Swindon Arts Centre or The Quay Theatre you will get not just the main body of the show, but also extra material that has never been heard before and may never be heard again.  Perhaps.
Lastly, Robert is writing the last play for a trio of pieces collectively titled The Fantasy Terrorist Variations which follows Ghost Storyteller each night at Barons Court at 9pmThough it has its funny moments, more than a stab or two of satire, the Variations are serious, challenging plays about our times, about politics, civil liberties, terrorism and religion.  So, there is a slight possibility that Robert may get himself killed.  More on this in later blogs - which will be flowing in a regular way again from now till Christmas at
Tickets for all these shows are on sale NOW.  Even for the Barons Court run for 27th November onwards which can be bought from our good friends at ticketsource.  We advise booking online and printing your own ticket - it's the cheapest and quickest way.  Box office for those and the other venues are below.

Full line up for this Autumn / Winter Schedule follows below...

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Shakespeare Delusion
A Comic Tale Written and Performed by Robert Crighton

Professor Ashborn invites you to share in his latest discoveries and lead you through the terrible secrets behind the man people call Shakespeare.  Did he really write the plays?  Was he really bald?  Did he like cheese?  Using recently uncovered documentation Professor Ashborn can finally tell the true and completely true, truly true, utterly true, true story of the Shakespeare delusion!
Last year’s show – The Ghosts of Lavenham – sold out, so book early to avoid disappointment!

Performing on Friday 12th October at 7.30pm
The Lavenham Guildhall, The Market Square, Lavenham

Storyteller 2012

Six Weeks of Storytelling at Barons Court Theatre - Christmas 2012/13
A selection of (mostly) comic stories and storytelling from award-winning writer and performer Robert Crighton and his friends.
All Shows - Tickets: £12 / £10 concessions

Tickets for all shows at Barons Court can be bought online at

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Ghost Storyteller
Comic Ghost Stories Written and Performed by Robert Crighton

Returning this Autumn / Winter following the success of the run last year!  Ghost Storyteller is a lightly comic selection of ghost stories written and performed by award-winning writer and performer Robert Crighton. 
From the ghosts of empty houses, to the personal ghosts we carry around us, this collection is a mixture of the fantastic and the “real”: including the tale of a poltergeist hamster and the pub that cried ghost.

Wednesday 24th October at 7.30pm - Swindon Arts Centre
Friday 26th October at 7.30pm - Quay Theatre

Running Tuesday to Sunday from 27th November 2012 to 6th January 2013
Barons Court Theatre, “The Curtain’s Up”, 28A Comeragh Road W14 9HR

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Fantasy Terrorist Variations
Written by Robert Crighton, performed by Keith Hill and Simon Nader

Three Plays - One Subject - Boom!
A series of stories spun from the award-winning ‘Fantasy Terrorist League’.  A man is interned as a terrorist on the flimsiest of grounds, a chancer looks how to make money out of counter-terrorism and the story of the non-existent artwork that might get people killed. The Fantasy Terrorist Variations is a powerful account of fear, the policeman on our streets and the ones in our heads.

Running Tuesday to Saturday from 27th November 2012 to 5th January 2013 at 9pm