Since the start of the 2017, I've been co-coordinating a social play reading group and am looking forward to meeting back with the group for our first session of 2018.
I'd been involved in similar informal groups through the National Theatre of Scotland and Lyceum and the days they took place were often my favourite days. Sitting around with a bunch of cool people. Drinking something nice. Talking about plays you loved. Finding your own way in to a play you're not mad about by hearing someone else talk about why they love it. It's great. More please.
There's a network of about forty-five theatre professionals who have signed up to the mailing list, with a different group of between 3 - 12 at each session. It's really great to talk about plays from a distance from the source. To imagine what our own productions would look like. To just hang out for the love of the thing.
More information or join in here.
Me and Laurie made a thing.
We’re both playwrights. We’d been feeling as if there was a bit of a gap in the current provision of new writing nights in the central belt and mystery around the work that actually gets commissioned/programmed. We’d spoken a lot about what our version of a new writing night would be – we ended up making a wee publication instead.
Our zine, Sugar, is focused on celebrating the processes and successes of playwrights working in Scotland’s central belt. It’s an opportunity to share our ideas, the work of peers, gain insight from established writers who inspire us. Then comes the most important bit – shoving it in the faces of other people and saying LOOK, LOOK, LOOK HOW COOL THIS IS! SCOTTISH PLAYWRIGHTS ARE AAAAAMAAAAAZING.
We only gave out the zine by hand. Having conversations was important. I did whack a few copies off in the post but on the proviso that they send something back in return. My favourite was An Oral History of Pirate Radio in Hull, 1993 -2005 from Jamie Porter. I wouldn’t have stumbled across this topic in any other way. Brilliant.
Zinewright is the new playwright – there are lots of great examples of literary and art based publications in Scotland but its fun to see more popping up in our own industry. Our local pals Andy Edwards & Gareth Vile have made great publications. Further afield there is Exeunt’s membership publication, and The Dionysian and OG theatre-zinewright Megan Vaughan’s creations. We really love creating something with love and care that can also be torn up, scribbled on, photocopies, destroyed.
Aye, we’re going to make another one.
I supported Georgie Mac in making a show only Georgie could make. Our enjoyment of fantasy tales to tell big, complex real world emotions (particularly The Never-ending Story - seriously, watch that as an adult. Mind Blown) was a jumping off point.. Just enjoy a story. Nothing fancy. We accompanied this with Georgie’s talent for drawing to create a storytelling show with live illustration. - Hero.
My job was to write the script. I found the writing this show a challenge emotionally as I endeavoured to be more open and straightforward with talking about the consistent anxiety and periods of low mood I experience. It's cool, it's chill. It's just how I operate. I've been learning how to stop battling it but to recognise it and to embrace its energy. A nice thing about getting older I guess. Can we stop pretending that we don't all deal with this side of being human on some level, please.
Once the show was up, I was hands off which was a bit of a strange but welcome feeling. I'm usually also collecting tickets or running the lights or pouring out the post show wine. My job was done and someone else can get on with theirs. The ambition of the show was to make something that only Georgie and I could make, to see what they experience of doing a full run during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is like and to loose as little money as possible. It was quite nice to elect to not worry about inviting potential partners, hustling for reviews, crossing fingers for awards. The show Just Was. The size of the potential market meant that audiences still found us.
One guy - who saw the show twice - would months later complimented Georgie on the show in a random supermarket encounter in another city. We got a lovely email from a family whose young kid was inspired to tell stories of his own. These two connections makes me feel like we found our audience for whom the show could speak for and to.
We had a lot of support to put this show together, particular from Ross, who created our beautiful score and drilled Georgie in his recorded performance; Georgie’s parents who constructed our “set” and brought it to us in Scotland; my family who served as local transport; Lea who took great photos in rehearsals; Shilpa who provided an outside eye as we worked through our ideas; and the other participants of Black Market Room 3 who really pulled together in creating a great performance space out of nothing.
Georgie Mac paints brilliant characters and scenes from a new story in front of audiences. Hero is an uplifting, live illustrated, storybook adventure that embraces fantasy to address issues about anxiety, depression and learing to live with sad thoughts. Follow the adventures of Cavalier, a young boy plauged by nightmare, who lives at sea on a ship stuck in still waters. He travels with the nightmice to reach the Horizon and try to bring life back to The Doldrum.
Created and performed by Georgie Mac
Written by Eve Nicol
Music by Ross Clark
5-26 August 2017
Part of PBH Free Fringe
Sketchbooks and recording of show
I spent a busy three days with the Lyceum Theatre directing a “theatrical exploration” as part of a partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival - Playing With Books.
Playwrights had been paired up with authors to create adaptations of recently published books. I was working with Stef Smith on Amy Liptrot’s memoir, The Outrun. Nature and too-muchness. Territory I love exploring.
Stef had produced a great response to Amy’s book in a 30 or so page script. It remained utterly recognisable to the book but also created imagined conversations and presented completely different perspectives on the feelings explored in the memoir.
Frances Thorburn and John Kielty powered through the three days of rehearsal/experimentation, playful, smart and craziy skilled musically.
I enjoyed working with Cat Reilly, awesome human being and DJ, who joined us to score the piece. I was interested in how the registers of dance music can be felt in our bodies. Tremors. I’m learning that I really love working with someone who speaks a different creative “language”. You can’t get away with bullshit and it opens up so many more possibilities to explore. Working with people who don’t come from a theatre background also helps me to focus on my own skills and recognise the value I offer the partnership too.
The actual event was sold out months in advance. There was lots of interest in Amy’s story and the audience who joined us to see what we were working on clearly had a lot of love for the book – and now also any potential theatrical adaptation!
The whole Playing With Books project was a right cracker and I enjoyed seeing how the different teams approached the different texts. It was my first contact with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I think it may have spoiled all other festivals taking place in August for me. That place is serene but vibrant and oh my word, dude, if only my life was an Authors’ Yurt.
All Edinburgh Theatre wrote a write up of the event as part of the opening celebrations of the festival.
I've just come off the back of working as Assistant Director with the Lyceum Theatre thanks to support from a Federation of Scottish Theatre bursary and the openness of David Greig to let me hitch my wagon.
I met with David after his prompt in his inaugural season announcement that as a community we need to "encounter each other off social media". Social media has been my main source of income over the past six years, creating opportunities for me to work with theatres in an area I had been passionate about. But I've been progressively getting more and more disillusioned by social media. This little nugget to get offline and go outside felt like asking for a coffee chat with David was a fine thing to do. I'm generally awful at asking to meet people as I assume I'm hassling people. Which I KNOW is counterproductive because how are people going to know what you want/need if you don't tell them. And if I find a path to stability in theatre, I would want to pass the ladder down. So ask. LET PEOPLE HELP YOU, EVE. Sake.
Anyways. I was really keen to connect with a company at an exciting stage in its history. I'm coming more and more to terms that what does it for me in theatre is stuff which is often dismissed as being traditional - characters, narrative, dialogue . It doesn't feel cool and often isn't the work which gets me most excited (hello guitars and glitter and noise and declamatory text!). But when you hit the sweet spot (as the Lyceum has consistently been doing in David's first season) you can stage big works in a proscenium arch and for it be hugely modern, smart, generous and connected to the world outside its walls. So, yeah. This felt like a really good place for me to be. And it was. A ball.
It's the largest scale piece of work that I've been involved with. I adored learning so much more not only about the process of working with a playwright and directing a brand new piece of writing but also about the relationship with the creative, technical and administrative teams who all contribute to a production. There was loads to do and I loved doing it. Yeah. This.
We were invited to share Heroes' table top production of Sea Wall as part of INCOMING Festival, a co-production between A Younger Theatre and New Diorama Theatre, London.
It was an opportunity to test my if theory that this show could go to any pub proved true. The fact that the entire show can fit in a box the side of my head is pretty exciting and pro-touring. Let's go!
The venue was ace - props to the INCOMING team for setting us up in a great bar. We didn't have any technical specifications but I gave them some vague guidelines for the kind of vibe we found worked well - the kind of place you'd go to the pub quiz with your pals on Wednesday and get lunch with your parents on a Sunday.
Once Alan and I arrived In the basement venue, we dragged chairs around, fiddled with the dimmer switches, lit some candles - set the mood, baby. I kept finding lots of little secret stories in the decor around the space which supported the production. I like that as humans we look for connections and patterns in things. Always looking for the story in things.
Alan performed three shows back to back. We were delighted to have a large ex-Glasgow contingency show up to support us away from home which was ace. But it was also great to try out our ideas for the production on more people who don't have a personal connection to us or Heroes.
A great little jaunt with a great script and performer.
I've been supported by external bodies to develop work for the first time and it is good.
Most of the time has been spent writing, redrafting, on dramaturgy work or in rehearsal room, but here are some of the other things I was able to do that I wouldn't have time/resource/confidence to do without external support and it's all stuff to feed the well. Don't run dry.
Took a break from my day job
Played electric guitar loudly and badly
Cut up the script
Read old diaries
Read old LiveJournals
Did Higher Biology revision papers
Bought 10 year anniversary vinyl
Went to gigs
Went to theatre
Went to Sea Life centre
Looked at old photos
Read books on marine life
Thought I was brilliant
Thought I was shit
Took the pressure off myself
Bought a mic stand
Trusted other people
Made beat sheets
Punched myself in the face (accidentily)
Cut my hands numerous times (it feels so good to use my hands)
Watched hours and hours and hours of Youtube
Listened to months and months and months of podcasts
Began to understand what my myth is. Which is pretty great when development on one project can help to put all my work into a bit of perspective.
Georgie Mac and I spent three? four? five? hours generating material together.
I wrote words responding to his drawings.
A computer read my words to him.
He drew responding to my words.
I wrote words responding to his drawings.
And so forth.
And we livestreamed it because we're curious about the theatre of something being made.
Georgie created a beautiful collage of strange and wonderful images that was almost as big as he was.
I created eight pages of fractured fantasy.
Together we created nightmice and a hero called Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who finds solace in caves.
We'll do something with this. Dunno what yet.
I have a list of qualities/themes/stuff that I use to prioritise my projects. There are 42 priorities that contain things like;
I really wanted to do Sea Wall as it checks off my main priority with Heroes of staging brilliant contemporary plays. But how could I make it more in line with my other priorities?
The “beer” and “new structures” boxes were currently unchecked. They seemed to go well with “looking people in the eye”, “heartache” and “wounds” boxes that Sea Wall was currently filling.
Staging Sea Wall as a pub crawl of Glasgow bars, gathered around a table in the venue and asking people to chuck whatever they wanted in a box afterwards felt like it would work for both the type of play Sea Wall is and for the production I wanted to make. Beer. New structures. Boom.
Here’s what I found from our experiment. There’s not much in the way of analysis – I’m still trying to work it out and I’d be happy for a coffeechat to go through my budgets and our box office. The production was all in response to ARC’s Pay What You Decide toolkit. It’s invaluable. Go read it.
Average ticket price across the run was £8.40.
Show to show, this varied between £3.75 - £13.10
I’d budgeted in line with ARC’s findings of average ticket yield of £7.20 and a 30% drop off (we had a 20% drop off) so I was pretty happy with this.
If we had performed in a theatre space, our ticket price would be set in line with the rest of the theatre’s offerings, typically £10 (£7.50 concessions). With Pay What You Decide, there is no capped ticket price but there is a risk that you might sell out and still make a loss.
With this model I liked that some audience members could pay more if they were in a position to do so and their contributions would bolster up folks who couldn’t/didn’t donate more. A fiver is worth something different to everyone. Christine Irvine had some thoughtful comments and critiques of the pressure she found as an audience member in her review of the production for Exeunt.
We did take reservations for bookings which took us to 110% capacity. There were quite a lot of non-attenders but we did take additional business on the door and played to 80% capacity across the run.
There is an audience development model that exists for this production in another universe where you forgo any traditional marketing channels and rely solely on drumming up interest from the folk who happen to be in the bar that night. This would be my preferred model as we had a great time with people who decided to join us on a whim. I really like the idea that person’s day ended in a completely unexpected way than they wouldn’t have imagined. That’s kinda magic and wonderful. Actually. It is just wonderful. Unfortunately I am not the person to do that. I am shy. I am S-H-Y.(it’s probably why I have to make theatre. I’m trying to make myself understood and understand other people).
Usually we'd present work in theatres with a 60:40 box office split in our favour. With Sea Wall, we had a range of deals with the venues;
Pub theatre isn’t a thing in Glasgow, which makes me really sad as a lot of my favourite work I’ve seen has been shared in pub theatres and studio spaces. Some artists who I look up to say there isn’t an audience for it but I dunno. We’re also the city that routinely sells out lunchtime theatre with UK’s largest producer of new writing in A Play, A Pie and A Pint and has a National Theatre that is more at home in towerblocks, barns and ferries than in theatres so it’s not as if we aren’t up for a range of opportunities to have a good time.
This model worked for us on this production. I was able to pay living wage, cover our costs (a pint of beer a night) and offer audiences more options by having flexible pricing and a range of performance times in different venues around the city. It was a win: win with wine. The licensor was very helpful in being flexible and offering us a good deal that enabled us to work this way. Thank you.
The level of risk involved was really low. There was only two of us on the project and we made the most of our week's rehearsal that the budget allowed. If you wanted to do anything other than have one person telling a story, this model wouldn't be as effective for you as it was for us. And theatre needs range.
Our model didn’t differ from the hunners of folk who do the Free Fringe in August and versions of that. The difference here was the context, producing something outside of that oversaturated marketplace I think made audiences more generous and perhaps surprised by our stripped back staging (we didn’t even have a stage, sake.)
With just the two of us on the show, some things were a bit sticky as we adapted to a different method of presentation than we were both used to. We got better at it as the run went on. A third team member would have been useful to take care of front of house, make sure I didn't forget the gorgeous handmade freesheets designed by Georgie Mac, hustle the venue for audience members. But one extra person would drastically inflate our costs and mean no-one was getting paid properly. Better for me to roll up my sleeves and get-over-myself.
We learnt loads. Stuff like what sort of collection boxes to use, how to sign post venues, setting up a free online box office that doesn't list your event as "free", how many or few people should be in the audience.
I think we'll be back. We leaned on the strength of the writing, stripped everything back and found a model that provided security for us as artists and removed risk for audiences.
Most of us continue to survive because we’re convinced that somewhere along the line, with grit and determination and perseverance, we will end up in some magical union with somebody. It’s a fallacy, of course, but it’s a form of religion. You have to believe. There is a light that never goes out and it’s called hope.
And so says Morrissey.
Seven Minutes in Heaven was the eleventh new piece of work I created this year. Well, it was 85% percent new. The rest stemmed from an earlier piece of work that I developed during my postgraduate studies.
Seven Minutes in Heaven is also the piece I've worked most on redrafting. The piece comes from my investigation of asexuality but I didn't want to make a play ABOUT asexuality. So I needed to rework, redraft. Keep asking myself what is the play literally about (getting to space), what is it metaphorically about (you're always going to be you, ain't no changing).
It's feeling healthy. The first draft had the word "sex" in it 45 times. The most recent draft has none. The first draft followed a different character. My recent draft gave E.T. a speaking role. It's been really fun being able to see the current version as a palimpsest. I know what characters are now not saying. And that's also making my heart ache a little. In the first draft I didn't care about my characters. My recent draft - I really do care about them. And they're sad. So I'm sad.
Seven Minutes in Heaven was presented as part of In Motion's Winter Words Festival, I was happy to sit back and spend fourty minutes in the company of my favourite artists - Paul Brotherston directing with Alasdair Hankinson, Meghan Tyler, Ross Mann, Scarlett Mack, Alan MacKenzie daeing the actin. Thanks folks.