When I heard that my friends at Short Attention Span Theatre were putting together a mixed bill of new stage writing inspired by David Bowie, I had to ask to take part. I love responding to music. Plus Bowie is my ultimate (problematic) hero so I couldn't not.
I offered a loose response to Moonage Daydream, attempting to limit myself to the duration of the song and reflect the structure of the piece.
Moonage Daydream is all sex. Those opening chords, that build. It whirls and spirals to transcendency. This is prime Ziggy, prime Bowie going down on Ronson’s guitar, prime teenagers getting their minds blown, moving into their own lives and finding out what they want. So here's what I offered with a big of not-great audio of it to the music because, really, that's what it's all about.
I’m sitting at Liam’s feet in a room full of people who have twenty years on me.
Their smoke slips over my lips and I lick them, trying to keep the taste on me.
I’ll have a cottonmouth in the morning.
Liam’s hand is wrapped in my hair. His fist is my hair, my hair his fist.
It all feels likes it fits when he gives it a gentle tug.
Reminding me he’s there, reminding me of my place, on the floor, at his feet.
Had to beg to get my place here
as he squirmed
in his ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt come-nightshirt twisting in his hands as we lay in bed together.
Want his hands to twist me like that shirt.
At the start
First seduced were my retinas
All that confidence.
All the confidence of an average middle-aged man.
I’m the only girl with a camera. The rest men, sweat slick photohogs
Who only stay for one song.
Get their image and get down the pub.
I’m the only one that stays.
Trapped in the trench between the stage and the sea behind me.
There are five people in front of me, but my lens only sees one.
All that confidence.
All the confidence of an average middle-aged man.
I want some of that.
He’s noticed me.
And I’ve noticed that.
That he is noticing.
Being looked at instead of looking for once.
So why after the show when he acted like he couldn’t care less did I care all the more about getting his attention?
I’m slung up the brand of average middle-aged charm that makes me hate him to the hills and back and want him just as far.
The niece he talks about is his daughter, I’m sure of it.
If it makes him feel happy to pretend…
I can’t make my eyes wide enough to fit him all in.
I can’t sleep that night for thinking of all his average middle-agedness.
I have cotton mouth in the morning.
I’m an agitator.
My mum always tells me that I’ll be the end of her.
When Liam moved in across the road from me
Two months later.
That should’ve been the point
When he invaded my space like that
See me in the front garden
Still in my skirt from school
Should have pulled away rather pressing closer to him.
But his oppressive presence is a weight on me I can’t do without.
I have his weight on me.
He gets pissed off when I fake it.
Says he can tell.
He can’t tell.
He presses his face next to mine
Surface of his skin, sandpaper.
The scratch of it over my eyelids.
He’s hard where I’m soft and I want to be harder.
I’ve asked him to push me
Want to be pushed further.
He squirms like he squirmed when I asked him to keep me on the floor in front of his friends.
This kind of fierce doesn’t come naturally. Likes to imagine he’s the good guy
If it makes him feel happy to imagine…
My insistence on his dominance makes him uncomfortable.
‘Stop it, girl’ he says
Make me, I say.
Breath catches as his teeth come down over my neck
Feels fine to be held this way
Slope my shoulders down
Give into average middle aged confidence.
Just feels easier, warmer, slicker that way.
The sweep of his fingers over me lifts me.
Like I’m skimming on violin strings.
A fruit fly whines over our heads, fat from something dead elsewhere. Spinning circles around the centre of the room.
Funny how they always do that
when there’s an open window right there.
My mum’s ringing on my phone but I let it carry on.
Lays a pillow over my face
And it feels
Phone buzz and fly buzz fade back in my skull as I black out .
Liam’s freaking out
‘you didn’t move, you weren’t moving’
Kinda the point I tell him
Kinda made him feel ‘like a –‘ he tells me
Like a what? I snarl
His light is diminishing as I rise on a feeling of my own.
Transference has happened, and I have control.
I’ve been pants at keeping up my blog during 2018. For good reason. I’ve been busy. It’s the best reason to not be able to do something.
I keep my blog to remind myself of the headspace I was in project to project, think about what I’ve learnt and go into more detail than my CV allows for curious eyes. So it’s been a bit of a bummer not to keep it up. Rather than retrospectively trying to fill in the blanks, I’m going to keep moving forward.
But there are a couple of cool creative things that happened this year I’d like to log for myself.
Being able to leave my day job.
That’s cosmic space star ordering stuff.
I’ve been working professionally in supporting other people in their artistic projects in some way since 2010. Six of those years was working at National Theatre of Scotland. Which was an education in theatre like no other. It made me proud of Scotland whereas growing up I was always suspicious of the quality of anything that came from close to home. Working a desk job introduced me to producers, administrators, marketers. Some of the most creative people I know and I wish our industry gave them more room to innovate, contribute to programming and trust their instincts. Working with people who approach their role with as much heart wrenching, sleepless night passion as I write or direct is a gift. We’re very lucky to have people like this championing our ancient and hobbled industry. It was a real wrench to say goodbye – for now.
I was able to take the leap into full time creating thanks to the commission from Middle Child. This gave the lump of cash I needed to support myself in a more flexible way similar to how my salary did. Creative bursaries and rehearsal fees allow only a hand to mouth existence. But in making myself available, more opportunities and jobs have opened up to me. So I’m grateful for the risk Middle Child took on me to an obscene level that I know they’d shrug off as not being a risk but being their job and whole reason of existing. Wish we had more folk like this team operating. So full time creative freelancing has been good and looks set to continue to be good – for now.
Enough chat. Here's some playlists from shows I worked on this year. Cause music is the best. Catch you in 2019.
I took part in a panel of young(er) theatre makers for Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland’s TalkFest at Traverse theatre.
The other participants and I were all high on general festival giddiness and it was great fun to hear about their shows and their different approaches. At over 30, I was probably the oldest guest on the panel. I wondered how much my experience was different from the nineteen-year-old beside me. I probably share more points of reference and perspective with people ten years my senior than my junior.
We’d been asked to think of a moment in our lifetimes which defined our influenced the work we do. I chose the arrival of an iMac in our house, and more widely the spread of the Internet as a basic amenity and not the preserves of libraries and military bases.
The early, less commercial, Internet was a place of democratised content, where the Louvre occupied the same profile as The Beano. Where the Harry Potter fansites were better than the official channels. I could develop niche interests, learn basic code, install mpreg mods for The Sims, manage communities and perhaps, most importantly, find likeminded individuals who I would write in partnership with throughout my high school years.
The mix of high and popular culture, the sense of entitlement to appropriate and rework artworks is burrowed deep into the heart of my work. It’s neat to be prompted to consider how and what I make.
I didn’t think music was for me. In the same way that PE wasn’t for me. I couldn’t keep up with the class so I was mostly ignored by the teaching staff. Allowed to sit on the steps and reread Gormenghast whilst the others got their swimming badges and cycling proficiency certificates.
Music at school was the same Bonkers happy hardcore 3CD compilation that got passed around the class. When we got older it you either went to the Archaos Unders (dance) or the Cathouse Unders (gothy emo pop punk). Both terrified me but at least at the Catty you’d get ska-punk covers of wedding party classics you could sing along to. I never knew all the words. I didn’t have the right clothes. I didn’t want to kiss any of the boys.
My friends and I would go see the boys we fancy play in bands. Stand at the front of the stage and try to make eyes with them. We’d make their merch for them. Take their promo shots Put them up in our spare bedrooms. The most music we ever made ourselves were unamplified jam sessions with a dad’s borrowed bass and an Argos catalogue electric.
It wasn’t for us.
When someone asks me what kind of music I dig, I get the same nervousness when I’m asked what if there’s anything I can have on a not-so-vegan-friendly restaurant menu. Don’t want to be difficult or for folk to think less of me because of my taste and choice.
The music I love, I LOVE. It’s a layer of my skin. It stops the stuff that hurts from getting too deep.
I think this is a very usual response to music. Just for ages I got it in my head that I wasn’t feeling these things for the right kind of stuff. Which, aye, is nonsense. But I picked it up from somewhere and dragged it along with me for thirty years.
The past year I’ve been working with people whose minds, living rooms and harddrives are a vast catalogue of Western pop, rock and orchestral music. They’ve made me realise a very obvious basic fact about myself. I FUCKING LOVE WORKING WITH MUSIC. AND I'M ALLOWED TO LOVE IT.
Working with Middle Child on One Life Stand in particular opened up avenues for me. Each new album or artist they presented me with like a precious treasure felt like a gift. Even the stuff I didn’t respond to. Each suggestion was a creative response to my ideas that nudged my heart open a little more to the idea that MUSIC IS FOR ME.
So, with that, I’m revisiting some work that I began before spending so much time with musicians and music lovers over the past year. Work that was cautious, embarrassed by its tastes, that didn’t let the girls to the front. And I’m so ready for it.
I had my first experience working with a community cast and what a whopper it was. The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Otherengaged with 100 non-professional performers from across Edinburgh over three months with the full might of the Lyceum Theatre behind it.
I was one of two Assistant Directors, working with the directing partnership of Wils Wilson and Janice Parker.
It was also my first experience of working in the wings whilst a performance is happening on stage. It was really wonderful to see how the stage management and wardrobe teams negotiated the space and facilitated the smooth, seamless movement of people, props and costumes upon costumes.
I think we’re all knackered. We were all doing something new, something big, and something wonderful.
Social media has been difficult the past couple of weeks. Rage inducing, confusing, fearful. I desperately wanted to have face to face conversations with other people. Create something together as totems are being torn down.
Huge thanks to my colleagues at the Tron Theatre who responded with openness and support to my ask to host a 12 hour zine jam, an open invitation to members of our theatre community to respond to abuses of power across our industry. We didn’t know who would turn up.
I got a lot of external support too in terms of setting up the space, establishing a code of conduct and gathering together resources to sign post people to should they need them. Thank you.
I gathered my collage making materials and waited to see who would arrive.
Some people stayed for a couple of minutes, some stayed for a couple of hours and some stuck it right out to the end with me, determined that we’d get our zine to print by the end of the day, ready for distributing the next morning. Across the day we welcomed a range of collaborators from across the industry, actors, writers, directors, playwrights, administrators, producers, administrators, men and women. The conversations that took place across the table were perhaps the greatest thing to come out of the day, but our collective zine is a beautiful thing to share with you.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
A rapid response zine created by members of the Scottish theatre community addressing abuses of power within our industry.
The following pages represents a range of people who work in theatre who attended a zine jame on Thursday 26th October 2017 at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow.
Over the course of twelve hours, we cut, pasted and chatted about our response to revelations related to Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement in relation to our own industry.
The resulting zine is intended as a rapid response to mounting conversations about sexual harrasment and abuses of power in theatre. It documents where we are after two weeks of seismic ground shifting.
We hope that readers of the collected responses will find solidarity, provocation or insight amongst these pages.
- Eve Nicol
This zine was created by workshop participants who responded to an open invitation. The opinions expressed here are their own and not necessarily those of the Tron Theatre.
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.