Tag Archives: playwright

Humble Pi

Pi Theatre's homepage. Go check them out, theatrelovers!

There are days when you make silly mistakes, aren’t there? We’ve all done it, I’m sure. Well, the other day, I made a classic mistake. You’ll know from reading my letter to the Inland Revenue that I’m prone to sarcasm and verbal attacks when irritated, and when I was at a fairly low ebb (gloomy about the struggle to complete the latest play, if you must know…) I received an email from Pi Theatre.

Now this was not spam mail. I signed up for their newsletter a long time ago. They were asking for money, it’s true, but they were asking for donations to help fund a workshop to develop a play by a local emerging playwright. It’s one of the things they do there. However:

I didn’t read the email properly. I glanced at it and took in that a theatre company was asking me –  a cash-strapped, under-performed playwright –  to cough up cash so a bunch of actors could fanny about making up another incomprehensible mish-mash of a play that pleased no one but themselves when certain playwrights have a whole bunch of plays in their back-catalogue that are just WONDERFUL.

See, hardly a balanced, sane response, was it? I’m utterly, utterly ashamed. If I had only gnashed my teeth in frustration and shouted at the computer, that would have been bad enough. But no. I wrote a sarcastic, cruel and rude rejoinder.

And sent it.

Pi Theatre have a brilliant general manager called Becky Low. She would have been within her rights to cut me off from their lists, respond with a rude email of her own, badmouth me around the theatre community and make small dolls in my image to stick with pins. She didn’t.

Instead Becky wrote a careful, calm and grown-up response that had me red-faced and cringing. She was exactly as courteous and professional as I hadn’t been.

I wrote back with a much more considered apology, and thanked her for her time. She was kind enough to wish me all the best with my current projects and encourage me to stay in touch.

So, if you’re considering taking in some theatre in the Vancouver area, may I recommend PI Theatre? They have a good roll of productions, and they work hard to encourage new local playwrights, like Sean Devine . And they’re forgiving and understanding of old, crochety ones.

While we’re on the subject of Theatre, those lovely folks over at MonsterVintage are still interested in your input about using their stock of vintage clothing for costumes in Community Theatre productions. Obviously, being based in the US would be preferable, but they are wondering which plays out there would be best suited to their range of clothes. Take a look at their website and either contact them direct, or leave you suggestions in the comments below. Thanks!

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Can “Save The Cat” save my screenplay?

I've been saving this one for years, but it hasn't helped anything yet....

The first half of this year has been a bit odd. Not in a “Two-headed dog” kind of way, but because I’ve concentrated a lot of effort in writing and publicising this blog. It’s been fun, developing a network of fellow bloggers, meeting people on purpose by commenting on their blogs, and meeting people by accident through blog strings or comments. While I know my parents would think that’s all plenty odd, that wasn’t what I was thinking about. It’s odd because this blog is meant to be my shopfront, my public face, the place where I promote my plays. That’s what it’s all about, telling people I’m a playwright, that I write good plays that community theatre groups would enjoy performing. Plays that have won awards.

The odd bit is that, thanks to this tireless work on my blog, I haven’t actually written any new plays, as such. I’ve chipped in my required scenes for the latest TLC Pantomime, “Snow White and the Magnificent Seven”, but even there I was slower than usual.

Of course, it’s easy to blame the blog, but maybe it’s something more sinister. A lot of blogs about writing discuss writer’s block. It’s a bit like the Loch Ness Monster, I think. Some folks believe in it absolutely, can tell you the history of it, show you their photographs. Others deny it exists and won’t hear anything to the contrary.

A one-in-a-million shot, I know : who do you know that still wears a cagoul?

I keep telling Mrs Dim that I’m not bothered. That if something occurs to me and I want to write it, then I’ll write it. But time’s gone by and I’ve reviewed dozens of other people’s scripts for my publisher, run others through the Script Appraisal Service, and seen friends like Richard James produce two full length plays (good ones, curse him!) in the time I’ve written…er…well, a couple of cheques and a lot of shopping lists.

And there is something I want to write. Something I’ve been wanting to write for around five years now. But it’s not a play, or a pantomime, or a sketch. It’s a screenplay. And I really, really want to get it right.

More than any other type of writing, screenplays have rules. There’s the format, where you put the character names, what gets put in CAPS, the stupid typewriter font you HAVE to use or be cast into outer darkness. There’s the mysterious three act structure, the beats, the scenes, you mustn’t give camera directions, don’t use more than four lines of descriptions, more dialogue than direction, on and on and on and on.

I’ve read about five good books on screenplay writing. They all made sense, right up until the moment when I tried to use their advice to write the story I was thinking of. My story was already too complete to fit their model, and I was too set, too determined to allow any changes. That’s why, after five years, I only have two drafts, and the second one drifts off into drivel.

Blake Snyder is my last chance. It’s a lot to ask of someone who died two years ago, but his books live on, and they’re friendly and encouraging and THEY MAKE SENSE. I’m reading “Save the Cat!”, his first book, and I think the combination of good advice, friendly tone and five years of bending the story back and forth may finally allow me to rebuild it according to Blake’s model.

I really hope so. The ever-saintly Lucy V Hay was kind enough to report on the first ten pages of draft two and called it a “very original” idea. From someone who reads scripts for a living, that’s high praise. It’s a little late in the day to be making New Year’s Resolutions (and you know what I think of them anyway – see here) but I’d like to end this year with a shiny new draft of “Tribute”, written with the posthumous help of Blake Snyder.

Ask me how I got on in January, will you?

What project has taken you the longest? Do ideas age like fine wine, or do they go rotten like old running shoes left in the schoolbag over the summer? My e-book “Writing a play for community theatre” only took a year from beginning to end, even though you could probably read it in an afternoon. If you’d like to read it in an afternoon, why not download a copy from the TLC website?

This looks familiar…..

At the edge...Land's End, in this case....

Well, the picture won’t look familiar. That’s me, on a rock at Land’s End, more years ago than I care to think about. I’m the one in the stripey shirt. I was looking for a picture to illustrate the post and this one was the closest I could find without riping someone off, copyright-wise, or going out and taking a picture. I only have half an hour, so that wasn’t an option.

This looks familiar, because there have been many times in my life where I’ve been at this point: On the edge, about to dive in. It’s the day before I start a new job.

Some people may think that DamnNearlyForty is a stupid age to be getting a new job. They’d be right. They’d also have thought that having a job which involves saying “Hello” to people as they enter a store while wearing a brightly coloured apron with my name on it was demeaning. I won’t comment on that.

Yesterday's man....Unless things go horribly wrong in the new job....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many ideas about what you should do before starting a new job. I’m horribly aware that I am doing NONE OF THEM! I haven’t researched my new company on the internet. I haven’t googled my new manager to see if he’s on Facebook (Or the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted). I haven’t planned my ensemble for the morning to make sure my shoes don’t clash with my tie. I haven’t even assembled some family photographs, holiday keepsakes and a fluffy toy to decorate my desk. Yes, there are many ways to go into a new job, but I’ve never heard anyone recommend ‘Half-arsed” as a good method. Still, that’s the one I’m going with.

There is a difference between this job and the others I’ve taken in the past. For one thing, this job is a step up from the one I’ve been doing (No disrespect to The World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailer, but this actually requires a skillset beyond smiling and remaining chipper despite an eight hour shift…) I haven’t moved up a grade of work since my days in the Civil Service.

*Question: How many people work in the Civil Service?

Answer: About half of them.*

I wasn’t promoted on merit back then, it was just that a permanent job came about for my grade, and I moved up from temporary to permanent status. Good, but not the same. In this case, I took the first job I could to help the family with mortgages and bills, and now I’ve found a better paid job with fewer expenses, and as a bonus it requires me to do something I’m quite good at: proofreading.

The big question is, what happens with the writing? In my previous working life, I had days off during the week. Once the Weasels were in school, I was at leisure to knock out the odd sketch, or a play, or a panto. With my new job, I’m in the office Monday to Friday, 9-1. That does leave about an hour a day before I have to collect weasels, but will I use it wisely?

Given that I’ve spent most of today surfing the net, laughing at other people’s blogs and watching YouTube, I have my doubts.

What’s been YOUR weirdest employment experience? Do you write more when you have a day job, or less? Have you ever worn an apron to work? Was it on purpose? In the days before I took up working for a living, I wrote an e-book on writing plays, called “Writing a play for Community Theatre” and you can download it from www.tlc-creative.co.uk  . If 25,000 people do that each year, I won’t have to go to work at all. There’s a nice thought.

 

Talking out of my….hat

Why are they all standing? Are they about to leave?

So, on Sunday I’ll be giving a talk to the good people of SMP Dramatics. In my defence, it was their idea. The Chairman emailed to ask if I would come along to their AGM and talk “about the life of a playwright”. Now I come to think about it, maybe they’re expecting me to give a bio of Shakespeare or Pinter…Uh oh!

SMP are a special group because they’ve been extremely helpful to me. Long before we met, they performed a couple of TLC pantomimes here in Vancouver (on the North Shore) and when Steve and David came to visit last year, we saw the posters for the SMP production of Fawlty Towers, which Steve and David had just finished producing with MKTOC. When Steve saw the name of the group, he recognised them as previous customers. We got in touch, and were invited along to one of the rehearsals (since Steve and David would have returned to the UK before the performances.) It was a very pleasant evening, reminding me of the fun and cameraderie of a community theatre company, and Steve and David got to run through some of the moves they had developed for their production.

Naturally we talked to the good folks there about projects past, present and future, and I mentioned “Merely Players“, saying how I was pleased with it but unsure if it was worth taking further. SMP kindly agreed to stage a reading of the play and give me their feedback. I talk about that experience in THIS post.

But now they’ve asked me to come and talk, and I’m finding the same issues with writing the talk as I do about writing this blog. The life of a writer is much like the life of a plumber. The actual work isn’t that interesting. In fact,maybe that’s not fair. I guess sometimes the life of a plumber can be quite exciting, with flooded houses, exploding toilets and gushing washing machines. Hmm, maybe I’ll retrain… Where was I? Oh yeah.

The life of a playwright is just regular life, only with some time spent writing plays. But writing plays is just sitting at a keyboard, daydreaming and taking dictation. Maybe if I was one of those playwrights who turn their grim life experiences into plays, if I was a refugee who had to work thirty seven hours a day making ping pong balls in a underground sweatshop in Littleknown, Exoticville, then made my way to freedom aboard a boat made from rice paper, maybe then my life would be worth talking about.

But I don’t write about that.  Some days I can’t help feeling a complete fraud (back to the discussion of FEARS, here) because I write plays that are aimed to entertain. Some of them have questions at their heart, ideas that I wanted to explore, like “The Red Balloon” and “A Time for Farewells“, but that doesn’t mean I have some mystic method. I don’t summon the Intergalactic Hivemind during mystic yoga sessions to inform the questions at the heart of my work. I wish I did, because then at least I’d have something to do on the days when I haven’t the faintest idea what to write next.

The point I’m edging towards in this increasingly desperate sounding post is that I’m going to talk to SMP about Community Theatre, which sounds like a dumb idea. After all, they’re a Community Theatre group, aren’t they? Surely they’re pretty familiar with the whole thing. Well, yes, they probably are. But I want to talk about why I write for Community Theatre groups instead of trying to write a play that’ll be put on in the West End of London and leave the critics faint with ecstasy. Obviously one reason is that my publisher has a marketplace almost entirely composed of Community groups and schools, though there’s nothing to stop a professional company buying a script there. No the main reason is that I have spent time in Community Theatre. I remember the joy of a good play, the feeling of infinite possibility granted by an empty stage. I remember that part vividly, the feeling that you can make this space into anything, anywhere and people will believe it. For the length of a play, your audience will come along with you on your adventure. All they ask is that you put your heart and soul ito the performance. and you know what? Most of the time that’s what you get with Community Theatre. People are there because they love it, not because it’s another tick on their equity card, or a third-rate part they had to take when they didn’t get the lead in Hamlet again.

Yes, people in a Community Theatre group may fight like a bunch of cats in a sack over all kinds of things, but when it comes to the production EVERYONE puts their heart and soul into it because that’s why they’re there.

What drives YOU to write? Have you had any experience with Community Theatre? What organisations helped you recover afterwards? Do you know ANYONE who has bought my book “Writing a play for Community Theatre”? What organisations helped them recover afterwards?

Could you spare some time?

Have you got time to sit down?

All writing seems to be done against the clock. You won’t hear any writer say “Oh yeah, I have plenty of time to finish this piece.” If you’re not racing to beat a publishing deadline, you’re rushing to get your thousand words a day finished before the kids come home from school and start demanding unreasonable things like food and clean clothes.

The hardliners will tell you that if you don’t MAKE time to write every day, then you’re not really a writer. You have the same number of hours in each day as Earnest Hemingway, William Shakespeare and Julius Caesar. (Granted, Caesar didn’t write novels, but he did find the time to conquer Gaul and still write up his adventures: “What I did during the Summer, by J. Caesar.” Mind you, he also wore a bedsheet and always had leaves in his hair, which I think should rule him out as a good example.)

I’ve found the idea of writing every day to be a good one in theory, but harder to follow through, unless you bend your definition of “Writing”. I certainly get to the keyboard pretty much every day, but I don’t produce what I would count as writing. Up until last year, that didn’t matter much, because I had all the time in the world (between 9am and 3pm) to produce my masterpieces. For more information on how masterful they are, go look me up at www.lazybeescripts.co.uk . But with the arrival of our mortgage, I was thrust back out into the wicked world of work, and my writing time (and my Halo time, Facebook time, Twitter time…..) was severely diminished.

At least, it was from one point of view. From another, I still had time to write, I just had to work a little harder to make the most of it. During last year I wrote my full length play “Merely Players”, the first full length play I’ve ever written. I’d love to say I did it by getting up at five in the morning and getting in a good hour’s writing before the day began, but some of you know me quite well by now. I have only recently heard about five in the morning. It sounds intriguing, but I don’t want to go there. No, what I did was write a little here, a little there. Sometimes I wrote in the evenings, sometimes in the afternoons when the weasels were playing. Sometimes I had days at home when I wasn’t in work and the washing was done (or piled up in the basket accusingly.)

All this is not bragging. All this is me worrying, because it looks like I have found myself a new job. Better, in many ways than my last, because the hours will be more regular and there will be no weekend work. but it will be every day, with no wacky midweek breaks. I may get around thirty to forty minutes in each day when I will be home and the weasels will still be at school, but the washing, cleaning, cooking and shopping will still have to be done. If I want to stay a writer, not become someone who used to be a writer, I will have to work at it.

So tell me, how do YOU fit writing into your life? Or do you fit your life into your writing? Do you have weasels to wrangle, or have you got a dedicated weasel wrangler to take care of that? Have you read my amazing book “Writing a play for the Community Theatre”? It could change your life, you know, or at least fill some of the empty hours of it with witty prose and handy advice about writing plays.

All the latest from Lazy Bee Scripts!

Me, when I used to blow the trumpet (aided by Photoshop...)

It’s considered bad form to blow your own trumpet, at least where I come from, but it’s ok to allow other people to sing your praises. So, sparing my blushes, I’ve decided to reprint the latest Lazy Bee Scripts Newsletter (The Buzz) which happens to include some mention of the latest full-length play by…ahem…well…ME!

Most of the following information can be found via theWhat’s New by Categorypage of the Lazy Bee Scripts web site 
The Royal Shakespeare Company‘s Open Stages Project
Open Stages is a collaboration between the RSC and community theatre groups.  As part of the project, the RSC has teamed-up with the National Drama Festivals Association to introduce a Shakespeare category into one-act and full-length play festivals in the UK.  The category is intended to cover Shakespeare plays and material related to the plays (this could include historical drama with Shakespearean connections, modern language interpretations of the plays or plays commenting on the plays.)
Hang on a minute!  Weren’t all the bard’s plays on the long side?  So where do you find one-act Shakespeare plays?  That, of course, is (one of the places) where we come in.  Bill Tordoff has been working his way through the canon, creating abridgements of the plays  These preserve the original plots, characters and language, but condense the plays to durations of between thirty and fifty minutes – ideal one-act festival length.  We have published 24 plays in this form along with a lot of other material relating to Shakespeare.
As an aide to people searching with this particular purpose, we have created links to summaries of the Shakespeare material.  (From the web site home page, follow the links to the One-Act Plays and Full-Length Plays main pages.)
Why not take Hamlet to a one-act festival?

Scripts for Kids (Schools or Youth Theatre)

  • Geoff Bamber has been busy. More accurately, we have been catching-up with our backlog of his scripts. In the last couple of months, we’ve published The Pied Piper of Hamelin – A Question of Rats, a highwayman romp called Stand and Deliver [Kids Play] (to distinguish it from a pantomime of the same name), Smugglers, and Oh, Mr Shakespeare!, all comedies, and the relatively serious Five Days in May, dealing with the relationship between three secondary school children, one of whom is confide to a wheelchair.
  • A Journey to Oz is Richard Coleman’s rhyming (non-musical) version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.
  • Whilst it may seem a little early, we’ve added a couple of pieces to our Christmas selection. Firstly, Bill Siviter offers God’s Messenger Department, an irreverent approach to the nativity (the story is all there, but the perspective is unorthodox and so likely to appeal to older children). A cast of 16 or more.
  • Then there’s A Double-Decker For Santa Claus by Olivia Arieti which leans to the secular side but takes a moral approach along the lines of A Christmas Carol (only without the ghosts!)  A cast of 6.
  • Maria’s Mask by Andrew Weaver is a play with suggested songs (that is to say, we don’t supply music, but the script includes suggestions for appropriate songs). A haunting, lyrical love story overlaid with knock-about comedy! A story of a ghost haunting the theatre where she used to dance.
  • On the more educational side, there’s Sue Russell’s Divali Assembly, a piece for a full junior school class, with a good balance between straight information delivery and drama around the Indian festival of lights. Sue’s Pirates Ahoy! is also surprisingly educational, covering a history of piracy.
  • Peter Bond delivers Androcles and the Lion as a short rhyming fable for a cast of 8 or 9.
  • A Forty-Minute Antony And Cleopatra is Bill Tordoff’s latest Shakespeare abridgement (as discussed above), and comes complete with literature’s second-most famous snake.
  • What would happen if a teacher was supplanted by a fairy with a magic wand? That’s more-or-less the premise of Ambition by Tony Best, a simple, short comedy play for a cast of four or five.
  • Nicholas Richards delivers broad-brush, knock-about comedy set in a restaurant in Everything All Right, Sir?  This is a flexible piece with two alternative ways of staging (and castin) the protest by the kitchen staff!
  • The King’s Spell by Sherrill S. Cannon & Kerry E. Gallagher is a class-sized play for elementary schools, embedding mixed-up versions of well-known nursery songs.
  • According to Louise Arnold, Everybody Wants to be a Cat.  It’s a short play about friendship for a cast of 6 to 9 actors.
  • Finally, in this section, there’s James O’Sullivan’s Once Upon A Time In Fairyland, a comical twisting of some well-known tales.

Musicals

  • Gerald P. Murphy’s The Fish and the Ring – The Musical is a one-act musical fable for kids – that is to say, it is designed to be performed by a school or youth theatre company. A fable about meddling with destiny. (For a company of 17 actors or more.)
  • The Pirate Queen by Tim O’Brien is intended for performance to a audience of children by an older company. A time-travelling musical with a healthy dose of piracy thrown-in! (Requires at least 29 actors.)

Sketches & Very Short Plays

  • I’m Famous is a Gerald P. Murphy adaptation of an Anton Chekhov short story, for anyone who thinks that celebrity culture is a recent invention! (2M, 2F)
  • Carol Kline’s Bud and Jewel – Busted and Bud and Jewel – Predictable could well be the start of a character comedy series. I do hope so. A well-drawn, bickering middle-aged couple.
  • Damian Trasler has produced Looking for Mr Evil (an interview for a galactic dictator) in his own right and, with added puns by David Lovesy, Shakespeare Re-imagined. Each one is a comedy sketch with a cast of two.
  • Every now and again, I tie myself in knots trying to characterise a piece. This is a case in point. What is Jonathan Edgington’s Quanto Sei Bella? A Short drama? A light romantic comedy? A play about relationships with a mild dose of magic realism? An interesting piece for 2M, 1F.
  • Windmills and Millstones by Louise Wade explores the life of fictional characters in the great maybe – before they have been committed to the page. (Minimum of 2M, 2F)
  • Mike Smith has contributed two delightfully odd shorts. There’s Lost and Found where the starting point is a pair of matching ‘small ads’ from a newspaper (1M, 1F), then there’s Point of Departure which sets off from a chance remark as a passenger leaves a car (1M, 1F, 1 Either – the cameo by the passenger who lights the fuse then stands well back.)
  • All Your Future Endeavors is a ten-minute bitter-sweet comedy by Molly McCluskey for a cast of 1M, 1F, in which an employee being ‘downsized’ after 20 years is not going to go quietly.
  • Multilayered is the word for Polytel by Nicholas Richards. We’re watching a couple discussing Polytel, the new revolution in technology… No, wait, we’re watching the filming of a commercial for Polytel, and the actors are rebelling against it… No, wait, we’ve been watching a short film arguing against modern technology… Haven’t we? (3M, 1F)
  • Peter Stallard didn’t think we’d publish Diary Of A Squirrel Hunter on the grounds that the irony is so heavy that it might be mistaken for extremely bad taste!  Essentially it’s a monologue, with an offstage police voice at the end.
  • Coming Home by Roger Woodcock is set in a private room in a nursing home.  A short, poignant drama in which a father’s failing memory throws up some surprises for his son. (2M, 1F)

One-Act Plays

  • At the beginning of March, we published Watch This Space [Comedy Play] by Karrena Dewhurst. (The bit in brackets is to distinguish it from the [Pantomime] with the same title by TLC Creative.) Karrena’s piece is a comedy, set on the bridge of a spaceship. This was followed-up by her friend Leo Finn who added to the comedy with Watch This Space Too, set on the same spaceship and largely using the same set of characters. Six characters in each case, including the voice of FRED the ship’s computer. The first script runs to a shade over 20 minutes, the second to a shade under.
  • George Freek’s Catch As Catch Can is a comedy, which is not what one expects from Othello. An alternative history, playing with our preconceptions of Shakespeare’s characters. (4M, 3F)
  • We published Baby Sparklers some time ago, but it’s listed here as a new script because Frank Gibbons mounted his own production for a drama festival and found that it was running slightly over the 50 minute limit, and therefore he revised it down to 45 minutes. A nostalgic evocation of childhood in the northwest of England. (4M, 4F).
  • Stewart Boston’s Problem In Judaea is an Easter Play, which gives some clue as to who is causing the problem. Three sets, but designed for minimal staging. (Needs 12 or 13 actors.)
  • A Trifle Unwell by Jane Lockyer Willis is difficult to categorise, but offers plenty of scope for characterisation. Set on the periphery of a party. (1M, 3F)
  • Duncan Battman has delivered two new plays. The Substitute is a long but dramatic monologue delivered by Frank, an ex-footballer who is now confined to a wheelchair. As he packs up his room he relates the ups and downs of his life, right up to the startling conclusion. Consequences, by contrast, has a cast of four (3M, 1F). A very theatrical presentation, without being melodramatic. A young policeman and his older sergeant discover a dead body, along with a letter that casts new light on a long-closed case.

Full-Length Plays

  • Geoff Bamber’s The Second Friday Of The Month is a farce in two short acts. Dan meets the psychologist who lives in the flat above him on the second Friday of each month, but their routine is broken by the arrival of some of Dan’s diverse acquaintances. A clever, funny play, exploring some rather unconventional relationships. (3M, 4F)
  • Merely Players is, surprisingly, Damian Trasler‘s first solo full-length play – and it’s brilliant. It morphs from light back-stage romantic comedy into a murder mystery and back again. Starting with a bare stage, under the guise of tidying the theatre’s store of props and costumes, the characters accidentally build the set of a drawing-room murder mystery, which then comes to life. (3M, 2F)
  • The Ghosts Of Halfway House by Richard James is a play for Halloween (or a play for whenever else you want a ghost story) with a single, haunted, set. (4M, 3F)
  • Sarah Reilly’s A Mug’s Game Poses questions of inner versus outward beauty (in the guise of a dinner party with drunken revelations). (3M, 4F)
  • A very dark tone is struck by Jessica McHugh’s Fools Call It Fate in which threads of tangled lives are interwoven with scenes in a form of purgatory. An intriguing, challenging and very well constructed play with lots of depth to the characters. (Needs at least 9 actors, of whom at least 3M, 4F)
  • Nursery Crimes – The Catnap Kidnap Caper is a full-length addition to TLC Creative’s popular Nursery Crimes series. A daft detective story set in the worlds of Fairytale and Nursery Rhymes. Think of it as Charles Perrault meets Raymond Chandler. Not a pantomime, but in the ‘family entertainment’ category. (10 characters, of which 5M, 3F).
  • Likewise, A Taste of the Orient by Vivienne Wilkes is a family show which could fill a similar slot to pantomime in a theatrical season. Includes two optional storytelling sequences (with roles which might be mimed by younger cast members). Large cast (at least 8M, 13F, with lots of chorus roles)

Pantomimes

  • Peter Bond’s The Magic Tinderbox is a panto based on a Hans Christian Andersen story (although the conventions of pantomime means that the story moves quite a way from the original, containing, for example, considerably more pizza.)
  • Rapunzel II – Back To The Tower by Sian Nixon also moves a fair way from the original story, but also contains appropriate dollops of pantomime fun and mayhem.
  • Our latest version of Cinderella comes from Mark Jack, and, because of the distinct period setting, is identified as Cinderella [Sixties] – Groovy!
  • Then there’s Peter Pan – see below

Peter Pan with a new pantomime edition, a few remarks about the Peter Pan range seem to be in order…

  •  Peter Pan (The Panto) is James Barry’s full-length British pantomime treatment of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Whilst it’s done in a modern panto style, the story remains faithful to the original. Includes flying sequences.  (Needs a cast of at least 16)
    In the original professional productions in Aldershot and Winchester, the initial flying sequence was done with the actors behind a gauze onto which a video sequence was projected so that the characters appeared to be flying over and around a London cityscape.   We will shortly be able to offer the video sequence as an optional extra, and I’ll put a demo video (from the Winchester production) on the web site as soon as I can sort the technology out.
  • For companies looking for a version of Peter Pan without the flying, Richard Coleman’s Captain Hook’s Revenge is very popular. (All the flying takes place off-stage, mainly indicated by the sounds of collisions with trees). Richard has also written a short rhyming version called Rhyming Captain Hook
  • Then there are the musical treatments – firstly a musical ‘prequel’, in the form of Hook and Peter Pan – How it All Began (Songs by Helen Dooley and Bob Walsh, book by Giles Scott). This was published in December, and we are just in the process of compiling a backing CD for it.
  • The second musical version is George Douglas Lee’s Stinkerbell which takes a much less reverent approach, and we meet the brother of Captain Hook who also lost a hand, but had it replaced in a slightly different way.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet Captain Plunger.
I wanted (this is me again, by the way!) to add links to all these plays individually, but that would be horribly time-consuming and make the page very blue-heavy. Do feel free to use the easy search facility on the Lazy Bee Scripts website to track down any of these fascinating and extremely performable scripts. Remember, they can all be read online, complete and free of charge, then all it takes is a short process to have the complete script downloaded to your computer.

Real Theatre: “The Trespassers” at The Vancouver Playhouse

Tickets, programme, brochure....

Today’s secret is a biggie, one so shocking, I really had to think about confessing or not. Folks, I don’t go to a lot of live theatre.

I know, a lot of you just fell off your chairs, or stormed out in indignation. “Why, this fellow claims to be a playwright and script reader, yet he does not regularly attend stage performances of a theatrical nature! Disgraceful!’ Please, calm down, mop up your coffee and I’ll explain.

When I was small, my father wrote plays for our church. They were (and are) very good, and I got to act in them. Since I was around the house a lot, I got to help with making the props and scenery. I acted in Dad’s plays all through my youth, and then joined a Youth Group that also put on Pantomimes. I joined a couple of village Community Theatre groups, one of which performed “Charley’s Aunt”. See me in that production below, second from right.

TOADS - The Old Alresford Amateur Dramatic Society

When we took up our nomadic RAF lifestyle, I joined the Royal Air Force Theatrical Association (RAFTA), and entered a couple of their One Act Play Competitions. This was my first attempt at writing. Of course, along the way, my wife and I attended many performances of many great things at various theatres. So, to be fair, I’ve had a lot of experience of live theatre, both on and off stage.

Perhaps I should have said I don’t get to see as much live theatre as I feel I ought to. This last week I got to go to “The Trespassers” by Morris Panych at The Vancouver Playhouse, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law’s generous Christmas present of a gift certificate. Mrs Dim and I picked the production almost at random, and I did not have high hopes.

You see, I dread the theatre sometimes. People so often write plays to communicate with melodrama, to wring the last drop of angst out of a dire situation. Sometimes, yes, that’s effective, or moving. Often it’s excruciating. In “The Trespassers”, we were promised a “poignant, thought-provoking and sardonic drama”. I would have said they missed out FUNNY. Not clown funny ( or clown CREEPY, more like) but with genuine wit and warmth. The lead character has a condition, but we don’t get medical analysis, or hand-wringing over diagnosis and treatment. We see Lowell is different, but since he’s our guide and narrator, we take him as he comes and see the story through his eyes.

You want to know what it’s about, well, go see it. If you’re in the neighbourhood, you still have time, it runs till the 16th of April. What I want to talk about is the brilliance of it.

A single set, with one central exit on the back. Light bulbs overhead that could simulate the peach orchard when necessary. A stool on one side of the stage that was Hardy’s shed from time to time. A table that was in Lowell’s house, or Roxy’s house, or the interrogation room of the police station. What was brilliant about the staging of this piece was that there was no attempt to define individual locations in space or time. The police officer (while in the interrogation room, we assume) would ask a question and Lowell would begin to answer. But because he was relating what had happened in the past, the characters he was talking about would interrupt him, explain things. One part I remember vividly was a section where the police officer had no role in the scene, but he was still onstage. He simply sat on a stool to one side, but when Hardy talks about the view from the orchard, pointing off into the distance over the audience’s head, the policeman looked back too, as if he was watching like we were. Which, in a sense, he was.

What excites me so much about this play and its presentation is that I read so many scripts each month that don’t do anything as challenging as this. I wondered if I had read this piece, would I have been able to envision it as clearly? Morris Panych (an experienced actor, writer and director)has written a play about a complex series of experiences leading up to a difficult choice. He has five characters interacting, creating multiple locations and months of passing time without set changes. Watching the play, it’s easy to overlook the simplicity of the set, but this play could be performed in a school hall, or a church – you don’t need any moveable flats, you barely have any props, the only special effects were for grace touches.

I doubt I’ve managed to convey the point I wanted to make. Too often, we view plays as a kind of movie. We forget what theatre IS, what it can be, that audiences at a play will accept quite radical and strange ideas because this is theatre. I didn’t want to stand up during the poker game and yell that they were playing cards on the interrogation room table. For that scene, it WASN”T that table anymore, it was in Roxy’s house. Everybody knew that, everybody accepted that, and we didn’t need anyone holding up a subtitle s card to explain the change of location.

No, I don’t go to live theatre often enough. And if plays like this are everywhere, then I am really missing out.

What was the last piece of live theatre YOU saw? Did it challenge you, or disappoint?