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 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'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.
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.
Please Please Please let Me Get What I Want
created by Eve Nicol and Mark Durnin
"Did anyone manage to take any photos of The Smiths at Manchester Academy on the 10th March? I was on stage. Will pay for photos/negatives. Michelle 0629 57257"
Wanted, seeking and hoping. The small ads of music magazines hold the last ditch dreams of diehard fans. Will they find the missing piece to their collection? Lord knows, it would be the first time. A new collaboration between words and music, playwright/performer and singer/songwriter.
6 November 2016, Tron Theatre
I had a really enjoyable time with Mixtape.
Please Please Please was the twelfth bit of new work I've shared this year and I have become a bit fatigued with scratch performances. My frustration is down to me chasing
The Mixtape process of creation, rehearsal and performance was facilitated by Erin and Nico of Mixtape. It was really refreshing how hands on they were. There was wine involved, which is always appreciated. The aim of Mixtape is to smush together writers and composers of different forms and see if together we can bridge the gap between play and musical.
I was really drawn to the stories contained in the small ads of old copies of NME and Q. People looking for Christmas episodes of Top of the Pops because their dad had recorded over their VHSes. People looking for pen pals. People looking for connection.
There's an interesting performance that exists in another timeline that only uses the words contained in the small ads. But this was a one off scratch about investigating Mark and I's collaboration and it was simpler to create new text around our imagined lives of the people who took out ads in the paper.
I aimed for a kind of Solomon Grundy or cautionary tale feel - like the cartoons shown alongside Ivor the Engine on TV about kids who got trapped in fires all because they didn't eat their vegetables or something. Man. They were scary. So I was looking to write a cautionary tale about putting all your hopes and heart into completing a collection WHEN THE REAL SATISFACTION IS INSIDE YOU ALL ALONG! So don't, you know, become a skeleton waiting for something/one to come along.
We produced a bit of work that had me doing my best Mike Skinner impression with words that I had written and Mark encorporating sounds from his acoustic guitar and a bit of the Smiths - Please Please Please.
This year I have discovered that I really enjoy performing my own work. It feels like pushing a huge bolder up to the top of a moutain (writing it) and then rolling down the mountain (performing it). Just you rolling down the mountain. No boulder. Leave that fucker behind. Wheee!
I enjoy performing my own work. I'd like to get better. I get stuck in my own head far too much. Sometimes the boulder follows behind me and squishes me. Ow.
There’s a rehearsed reading of a new play I’ve written at the Tron on Thursday 25th August at 6pm.*
It's billed as Scorched Earth but I think it wants to be called Fubar now. The previous title came from a time when the play hinged on someone getting their feet set on fire (which I think I stole from another play) and when they came back in a second act as a robot angel.
Neither of these things are still in the script.
Probably for the best.
My interest recently has been in non-traditional texts so it is satisfying to draw a line under this Play (which a capital P). It's been sitting around with me for a while. And now it doesn't have any notes in it that say I DUNNO or OH LOOK IT JUST ENDS or ARRRRGH WHAT?
Which is good.
It’s hard, man. I’ve found it far easier (though still not simple) to stage a thesis or create a bit of atmosphere than to wrought something cohesive with its own internal logic. A kick ass lighting design or a clever chorus line of ukulele playing tadpoles can't make it interesting. It’s out on its own. Playwrights. Respect.
I'm looking forward to watching director Alasdair Hunter work on it. Al's pulled in a great cast Tori Burgess, Janette Foggo and Alfie Wellcoat.
This will be the first time I’ve had a full length Play (note the capital P) read in public. I’m not sure what to expect from having a room full of other people sitting inside my head for an extended period of time.
Can you tell how tentative I am?
A few things that have informed the piece
Here's some pics I took from a research trip to Kew.
* Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to come along.
I had an experience taking part in Asylon Theatre's 24 plays project as a writer. It was tense, man, was it tense but the quality of work by all parties by the end was brilliant and ultimately rewarding.
I enjoyed the ambition of kitting out each piece with a complete design on £50. I really enjoyed working with designer Alisa Kalyanova and was hugely impressed by her approach and what she rustled up in a short time
It was nice to get a wee mention in TV Bomb's review of the event; "What makes this piece stand out is the writer’s skill in portraying arresting human relationships in such a short space of time."
When the news came in that the world was getting a little smaller with the UK voting to leave the EU, I wanted to spend the day in bed. But I'd already made plans. My friends at Leylines Theatre had a night on as part of Refugee Festival, an evening of sharing and conversation on the theme of "calling a new place home:". Retreating under the duvet was the wrong thing to do on a day like that. Spending time talking and listening with new people was the right thing to do on a day like that.
I've always lived in Glasgow (aside from a stint in the SE for uni but leaving home for uni doesn't count). Staying in Glasgow is a choice for me. I love it here and I still feel there is much more to discover about the city. Though I've stayed still, I've seen the city changing over my lifetime. It is in part to the people who have also chosen to call Glasgow their home. The city has adapted. The city has evolved.
At the event, I spoke about another change to the city, the urban gulls. The gulls that clean up the mess in the city centre are natives. They've been born here. They've never seen the sea. They like where they are. The city has adapted to them. They city has evolved. I've posted the poem on the Royal Court's platform More In Common, "an immediate, inclusive, non-border space for everyone to share their reactions."
Thanks to Helene, Vasso and Elliot at Leylines for hosting us. It did my heart good.