Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fruits of Labour

Currently reading: Rough Guide to Florence
Just finished: Janet Evanovich, "Twelve Sharp" (made me laugh out loud on the train - JE books should come with a warning)
Currently listening to: Tiny Dancers, Hannah We Know

Zonked out feeling from last week mutated into a ferociously scary cough over the weekend (obviously the cotton-wool brain was incubating something naaaaasty) - actually my coughs are generally scarier for those within hearing range than for me. I sound as if I've been smoking 40 Woodbines a day for 30 years, when in reality I've never smoked a thing, and it also sounds painful, but once you've had pneumonia, being able to cough without pulling a muscle in your back is a bonus. So, it may sound bad but believe me, it isn't as bad as it might be.

Anyway I have a theory:* when you've been investing a huge amount of energy into an activity, you ignore any signs your body sends about taking a break, but once you've achieved whatever it is you need to achieve, your body goes "OK, had enough, stop. Lie down now". And in order to make you lie down, your body succumbs to any germ in the vicinity.

However (and this is the bit where we stray into anecdotal over empirical evidence), there are benefits to being laid flat with a bug/cough/whatever. Your mind wanders (especially after a generous dose of Benylin) and - "kerching" - up pop all these ideas. Some of them are a bit mad, but some of them turn into something, and the upshot is, I got an idea which turned into a script which turned into a BSSC entry. It's a daft little story, quite sweet I think and it made me laugh (and it's also based on fact) and even if it doesn't get very far I feel happy that I managed to get something submitted.

The next thing on the list was to wake up a chunk of a play from last year to work on it and get it submitted for the Verity Bargate award. Problem - can't work on something that isn't there. I know that 25 pages of this play exist - thought the document was on my datastick - nope -unfortunately I suspect the pages exist on my old hard drive which is somewhere down south waiting for a chunk of money to pay for document recovery. Don't have the money so documents won't be recovered. Oh well. Who is it that writes second drafts without looking at the first, on the basis that if he doesn't remember it between drafts, it wasn't that important? One of the Three Amigos I think ... that seems like a good enough reason to me to go forward on memory only. Interesting experiment if nothing else. And if the play doesn't work, there's always the novel - most of that seems to have survived the crash.

Having given it some serious thought, I'm not going to the Screenwriters Festival in Cheltenham. Partly because its very expensive, and my email about bursaries to Screen Ywhatever last week hasn't been answered; partly because I'm off to Italy with A next week for a few days of culture, sunshine and food and I don't want to take any more days off from the research project (which has finally turned a corner); and partly because if I had a chunk of money spare to spend on going somewhere I'd rather go to LA, or at least to a film festival. But I hope everyone who is going has a lovely and fruitful time.

And for something completely different - here's what I picked from my garden earlier:

Can't beat strawberries and raspberries eaten within ten minutes of being picked. Tomatoes and courgettes are shaping up pretty well so far too, as is the basil, and the three types of pepper (hot chilli, medium chilli, and sweet). Now all I need is the goat to (a) keep the grass down (b) provide the wherewithal for cheese.

*I am using the word theory here in its proper meaning, i.e. a system of ideas intended to explain something; a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena - and not in the way idiots use it.

**thanks to the online dictionaries of Oxford, Cambridge and Princeton

***apologies for being in one of those "don't bug a research scientist with inaccuracies" moods.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quick round-up

I know I need to do a proper post (and also some blog housekeeping) instead of these little updates but I'm too tired to think up smart and clever things to say about the stuff I want to review. I finished the rewrite of the futuristic thingy, and then rewrote part of the beginning again to make it even better, and though I say so myself, it's bloody good now. And so it should be after 8 drafts. Upshot of an intense writing spell is that my brain is totally devoid of ideas, so it looks like I won't have anything in this year's BSSC, which is a big shame.

As for reviews, start with the easiest first: "Ocean's 13" - saw it this afternoon. It's not as good as 11 but it's better than 12, and while it's by no means a classic (too many plot holes and silly implausibilities - and if they wanted one of the team to be a black Brit why didn't they just get someone British instead of pretending Don Cheadle can do the accent?), when your brain feels like the definition of "brain-drain", on a cold and wet East Yorkshire day, its perfect. Sunshine and Mr Clooney, followed by half a bar of chocolate. I feel better already.

At the weekend, saw "Philistines" at the National, Gorky's play updated by Andrew Upton, directed by Howard Davies. It's long, and very Russian. The set is great, like "Three Sisters" a couple of years ago, making good use of the Lyttleton stage, and in parts its very funny, but there's just a bit too much shouting about the same old things. Like the short version of "Three Sisters" - "oh how I wish we were in Moscow" - "here's a train ticket" - the short version of this could be "I'm so bored here" - "bye, then". So I'm probably a philistine myself, but I would've liked it more if it had been half an hour shorter and tighter and a lot less repetition of the same arguments. It's getting good reviews so I'm probably in a minority; if you fancy it, it's worth checking to see if you can get stand-by tickets, I did and ended up with a £39.50 seat for £18.

Then in total contrast saw "Betrayal" by Harold Pinter at the Donmar, directed by Roger Michel, with Toby Stephens, Dervla Kirwan and Sam. Short sharp play, great dialogue and an almost bare set - much more my sort of thing. Having seen the play once this year (in Chicago) I knew what to expect in terms of the backwards structure, sadly this seemed to confuse the couples either side of me who whispered all through every scene shift ("does that say 1973?" "Yes" "But didn't the last one say 1975?") Rather more annoying was the man who obviously hadn't realised that the actors are supposed to pause (it's Pinter, for goodness sake!), so filled in for them, until jabbed in the leg by his girlfriend, and told to shut up. Good on you, girlfriend. When is it going to be legal to take pointy sticks to theatres to deal with morons like him?

Oops got distracted. The play is fabulous and the acting was simply leagues ahead of anything I've seen so far this year. Jerry (Toby Stephens) veers between smugness, coldness and brash confusion, and Robert (played by Sam) is as repressed as an Englishman could ever be until undone by a lunchtime glass of wine, while Dervla Kirwan's Emma is almost pushed out of the picture by their intense friendship despite being the one they both love (or loved). If this isn't up for awards at the end of the year, I'll eat ... a plate of something nasty. And if you want to go and see it, you'll have to queue for returns because it's totally sold out. But I'd go and queue, if you can.

OK, so this turned out to be not such a little update after all. I'm going to eat cheese then go to bed, in the hope that I have some decent dreams that will turn into stories. What?? It's happened before.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back to the theatre

Currently listening to: Sarah McLachlan, "Surfacing"
Currently reading: "Pinter in the Theatre" by Ian Smith

To a scaffold-and-fabric clad Sheffield Theatres last night, to see "Top Dog/Underdog" by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed in The Studio by Allison Troup-Jensen with Gary Beadle as Lincoln and Shaun Parkes as Booth, two brothers trapped in a hopeless situation but longing for a way out. It was fantastically well acted, but rather long, IMO - could be a lot tighter, and the ending is telegraphed right from the beginning - names, anyone? - plus the Chekhov rule - if a gun appears in the first act, it must be used by the third act. But knowing the ending doesn't matter if the getting there is interesting, and in this case, it is very interesting. Though overlong this is well worth seeing - it runs in Sheffield til Saturday, don't know if it goes anywhere else after that but as it was produced in association with Birkbeck University one would rather hope so. Go see it if you can.