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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

An Historic Day

Another project over - another show down.  Historic Crimes went live last night as an audio play, performed in front of a live studio audience.  Which is a slightly odd way of recording it, as the show wasn't a comedy (there were a few jokes but mostly it's serious) so a live recording with an audience would perhaps be a bit pointless.  Well, not so, because I needed an audience to pay for the recording / live streaming / cast - so they were all part of the same package.
We all met up in the late morning and, after a brief hiatus printing the final script, got down to work.  My fantastic cast were Pamela Flanagan and Philippa Tathan - who I have occasionally worked with before.  A read through, some general exposition about the play and the characters and then a break.  After the break our tame photographer John Bethell arrived and took some completely unfaked shots of us rehearsing.

Philippa Tatham, Robert Crighton and Pamela Flanagan
Then a slow run through of the play, stopping and starting - adjusting timings and generally tightening up reactions to specific lines.  I tried to compress a lot of info for the cast quickly - there's a lot going on in a play of about 45/50 minutes, so we had to turn some sharp corners in terms of emotion and argument.
I suppose I should elucidate to you what the play is.  If you want a one line pitch, I'd say it's the script I'd write if I were writing for Black Mirror - albeit for a radio version of the series.  (In fact, while we're here, come on Charlie Brooker - I could write you a treatment for it if you're interested?  Oh, you've got that covered?  Well, worth a shot.)  The play is as much about technology and the implications of it as it is about Shakespeare and the cultural capital we have tied up in him - so perhaps you could call it science fiction.  It's filled with references to sci-fi, but then I usually hide a few in jokes into my plays.
Anyway, back to Monday.  Evening approached, so we set up the space and Peter Morris, our sound engineer, set up the mics.  We then recorded a dry run of about two-thirds of the play, before running out of time as the audience were arriving (pesky audiences, arriving on time).
And they were a lovely audience, they listened - and that includes the online people, one of whom listened twice.  Some audience comments: "Historic Crimes, a very enjoyable event." "Most enjoyable evening. Glad it was only conjecture!! Well done to you all." "Excellent presentation, keep the shows going, thoroughly enjoyable."
Eventually I will tidy up the recording and make it available as a digital download - but for the next month (until 13th November) the live stream will be available to listen for free here. [No longer available - but should have it available for download asap. Rob]
I'll be publishing the script of the play shortly, as well as a combined edition of the complete Shakespeare Trilogy.  I have to say that of all the projects this year, most of which have been a success, this trilogy of plays have made the biggest impact and I am quite proud of them.  I hope I might be able to stage them all together next year, probably not on one night (it would be a looong evening) but maybe a mixed bill in rep.  But we'll see, the Seldom Plan might strike again.  It usually does.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Once, twice, three times a bard...

I'm currently in bed pretending to write words, taking drugs and trying to learn lines.  It's been such a nice couple of weeks and being ill is very annoying.  Last week was the first revival of The Juliet Inquiry which we first did in April.  The cast were keen to do it again and a couple of venues came up so off we went on a two day mini tour of village halls.  The first was in Lavenham, where we were in competition with the local cub scouts.  The minutes silence at the beginning of the show was less effective with the herds of elephants next door and above us.  After a while they calmed down a bit and it was business as usual.  The next day we played Offton, which also went well (everyone was very welcoming) and we left with promises to return one day - so that's got me thinking about doing a bit more touring.  There are a lot of towns and villages in my part of the world that don't see theatre, live theatre, on their doorstep.  It'll probably be a pain to organise, but I see big rewards artistically.
The Juliet Inquiry is a bit of a beast of a show to organise, as it requires a lot of equipment - projectors and television screens.  My next revival, The Shakespeare Delusion, is quite the opposite.  I can tour the show with a small bag and have done.  This I'm doing on Saturday in London (Dr Theatre will be on call) at the LOST Theatre for the third time this year.  Then I whizz back to Suffolk for a Waiting for Godot rehearsal and the world premiere of Historic Crimes on Monday.  These are the three plays that make up my Shakespeare Trilogy (excluding Godot, obviously) and, all in all, I'm very pleased with them.  And if I wasn't ill, I'd be making a bit more of a fuss about them all.
One thing I did do, whilst updating my CV, was have a little look at how many plays I've ever written.  I've never counted them before.  So I did.  Historic Crimes will be number 42.  Now, some of these plays are shorts, so we have to knock that number down a bit, (if we were to say how many evenings entertainments I have created rather than individual works) and a good quarter of them are either shit or lost (or both) - but if I were to curate a season of my work I could happily programme a full three week schedule with a different play / cluster of plays each day - without too much shite.
When the fuck did I get round to doing all this writing?  Seriously, I've only really been doing this properly for ten/twelve years.  There are a couple of pieces that pre-date that, but I found my voice around 2003 when I sat down and adapted four or five Greek tragedies in the space of a month (workman like, but not without merit in places) and haven't looked back since.  Except now, now I'm looking back.  This year I've written half a dozen plays - mostly one-acts - and I've got at least two full length plays drafted to write next year.  But now I'm worried about my style.  I'm worried about my dialogue, I'm worried that there are a few too many patterns.  If I were to (don't worry, I won't) put all my plays back to back, how long before the patterns show up in a bad way.  Have I got lazy?  Am I set in my ways?
I've tried to avoid that by dancing from one genre to another - by changing the kind of play you write you have to change your style.  But there are only so many genres and even then... I can see tropes returning.  Cut, cut, cut.  Freestyle it.  Start again.  But should I start again, destroy a draft, just because it is similar to something gone before?  Just because it is replaced by something new, doesn't mean that new is better than the old.  Maybe I'll kill good work just for form.
These are the thoughts dancing around my fevered brain as I try to put the last polish on Historic Crimes.  I know I can't take it much further - so I mustn't mess it up by playing around too much.  But the next play?  Who knows?

Milk Bottle Audio Presents...
Historic Crimes
World Premiere By Robert Crighton – the Quay’s Artist in Residence

What would you want to see if you could look back in time and watch famous events in history?  And what would you do if they greatly disappointed you?  Or you discovered a hidden crime?  Would you tell the world if you discovered that Shakespeare no less was guilty of the worst of crimes?  Could you ever read his plays again?  Or allow them to be staged?  World premiere of a modern morality tale about Bardolatry, sex and lies – staged as a live radio broadcast and streaming live online at
Performing at the Quay Theatre, Monday 13th October at 7.30pm - and live streaming online.