Monday, 28 December 2009

of little consequence

Ah, the blogs I was going to write...

On Pitmen Painters (brilliant) and War Horse (more brilliant in some ways - puppetry, camp nazis - and less in others).

On discovering a proper, actual story in my script a mere 18 months after I started scrawling (yes, I learn quickly).

On finally writing something new.

On exciting theatre plans for 2010. (Very excited about Midsummer coming to Soho. Very.)

On the importance of theatre-going buddies and fellow writers.

On the difficulty of finding any spare energy to tip stuff out of my brain and onto paper and thence to screen.

But instead... Well, work got in the way. Not just in the usual way of keeping me busy. But in a new way of infecting my every waking minute and hour and not, generally speaking, in a good way. Even now, in the midst of Xmas hols.

And there, in a nutshell, is also the reason I haven't been doing this blog as regularly as I could have. Because it would be one long, tedious moan. And I don't really want to inflict that on the world, any more than I am, um, doing now.

Some good news? I'm off on my holidays in a couple of days. A proper holiday. To a far-flung destination. Where my poor tired brain will hopefully recover and regain some cheer. Some much-needed cheer.

In the meantime, can I just wish anyone who has taken the time to read these meagre ramblings a very happy new year. And although I don't do new year resolutions as such, I will strongly attempt to be less moany in 2010. And, who knows, I might even write a review of a play in the opening week, as opposed to the closing week like what I have been mainly doing this year... But I'm not making any promises...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Further to my last post, when I was having a little moan about various confusing bits of advice I received, I wanted to clarify that I'm immensely grateful to people who can be arsed to read my random nonsense. I'm just a bit not sure what to do with it all sometimes.

But hell, I need to get a grip. My job is all about frickin' editing. No reason I can't edit my own stuff. Just need a bit of clarity...

Next up, when I have some spare brain, an exclusive review of the latest show in town!

(Not really, it's this, which has been on for a million years, but I'm not going to let that stop me chipping in my two-pennorth. Whatever a pennorth is.)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


What not to do when you return to writing a script after several months of not writing:

Don't under any circumstances get over-excited by your own brilliance and show your script to other people. And definitely not to more than one person.

And if you are foolish enough to do these things, don't encourage people to give you advice or comments on what you've written, because they will inevitably provide contradictory and downright confusing advice along the lines of:

'I love your main character don't you think you should change the entire narrative arc because the ending doesn't work...'

'I love the narrative arc but why doesn't your character have a more distinctive voice?'

'Your main character has an amazingly distinctive voice but why don't you set it in Grantham?'

(I don't why I said the last one. Clearly it's not real. Who would give you this kind of advice? Unless, perhaps you were writing a script about the early life of Margeret Thatcher and thought it would be thrilling to set it on Mars in a brave stab at a kind of counter-historical/fantasy genre. In which case it might be sensible advice.)

So when you sensibly haven't shown your script to anyone, and haven't had the remains of your brain power utterly scrambled by bucket loads of advice, you presumably won't feel confused and unsure and generally a bit stuck about where to go next.

I imagine.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Comedians by Trevor Griffiths

Comedians was written in 1975, but it's a very timely revival, what with the recent Jimmy Carr/Frankie Boyle nonsense.

It's a play that looks at the purpose of comedy and what the things we laugh at say about us. For a comedian, what is the real cost of going for a cheap laugh?

It's brilliantly structured over the course of an evening: firstly, the nightclass where a number of aspriring comedians prepare for their big break - a showcase at a local club attended by a talent scout/agent. Then, the routines themselves, then the post-mortem of how it all went.

There's one pretty compelling reason to see this production, namely the cast, which includes Matthew Kelly, Mark Benton and Reece Shearsmith (ex League of Gentleman, total genius, and disturbingly attractive in full 70s get-up, including greasy moustache. I digress.)

I don't know if Keith Allen is a deeply unpleasant individual or an exceptional actor, but he's certainly very convincing as the arsehole agent.

I was going to have a whinge about how David Dawson hadn't had enough recognition for his frankly amazing performance as Gethin, but then I read the reviews properly and it turns out everyone thought he was great, not just me. So that's alright then.

This is an intelligent, thoughtful production that generates some decent laughs along side some genuinely uncomfortable moments as racist jokes of (hopefully) yesteryear make the audience wince.

After the mystifyingly well-received Punk Rock at the same theatre, this is a play that has something to say, and says it well.

This is the latest in my continuing series of reviews that go up just as shows are about to finish, but if you can get tickets for the last week of the production, it's well worth seeing.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Sometimes I like to do a spot of fortune-telling via my ipod nano. It's pretty simple: as I sit barely awake on the bus on the way to work, I hit the shuffle option, and decide what the day will be like depending on the title of the song that comes up.

It's a fairly inexact approach to predicting the way the day's going to go, but it amuses me.

One memborable morning, the signs weren't looking good. This is what came up:

Welcome home, Loser (Broken Family Band).

Not great. Sod it, I thought, I'll skip, and see if it gets better.

Snakes in the Grass (Essex Green).

Still not great. Skip!

I see a Darkness (Bonnie Prince Billie)

Oh, for fuck's sake...

I decided to give it one more shot. Yes, my music taste tends to the downbeat, but surely, I'd exhausted all the titles on my ipod that portended doom and gloom. Surely.

The fourth song that came up was a very nice tune by Roddy Woomble, off of Idlewild. The title came up:

As still as I watch...

Oh well, I thought, that's alright. Pretty harmless. Then the title continued scrolling across the screen.

...your grave.

As still as I watch your grave.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Of course, when the day turned out to be only averagely bad, it felt like a real result. Yay (ish).

Saturday, 10 October 2009

commitment, lack of

There are people, apparently, who sit down to do a task and do it. They plan it, and then they start at the start, and they keep going until they finish.

I think this is true. It sounds a bit like an urban myth to me. But apparently it happens.

I sit down to write something. And if I'm lucky, and I have a lot of ideas they all spill out in a big mess on the page and I get really excited.

This can continue for several weeks.

And then I look at it all, gathered up, and become overwhelmed at the thought of sorting it all out, and not really having any big purpose or reason to keep going.

And so I start something else.

And I end up with 5 beginnings of potentially interesting stuff that I'm not really sure of what I'm going to do with.

Which is more or less where I'm at right now.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Punk rock

I think Simon Stephens may be stalking me. Every flipping time I go out, there he is.

Ok, to be fair, it is just the times I go to the theatre.

...and see plays that are written by him.

Is it just coincidence or do playwrights all go to every performance of their stuff?

Whatever the answer, it does make it sodding hard to fully critique the play in the bar afterwards with when the tall, affable writer is lolloping around and hugging the cast and generally popping up just at the point you start to loudly discuss all the bits you didn't like.

Now, at Pornography, this wasn't so much of an issue. Had Mr Stephens troubled himself to listen in, he would have heard (almost) nothing but glowing praise and positive comments and gone away quite contented, in the unlikely event he cares what random, picky punters think.

At Punk Rock, however... not so much.

Now, I went on the Lyric website, and apparently the play 'expose[s] the violence simmering under the surface of success'. This is news to me. It's also pretty telling that I had to go and check what the play is saying its supposed to be about because it's not exactly clear from watching it.

Here's what I can tell you: Punk Rock is set in the library of a fee-paying school in the north-west. New girl Lily arrives from Cambridge. Kids hang out. Drama doesn't really ensue. Not for the first hour at least.

A cursory glance at the publicity reveals that this is a play about teenage violence, so I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying it all ends in a hail of bullets. So the first 20 minutes is spent as a kind of exercise in who will do it:

The nervy eloquent one?
The bullied maths geek?
The outwardly confident new girl with self-harm tendencies?

Or one of the other ones.

Frankly, it's hard to care.

It all builds towards the violence with a minimal amount of drama, or tension, or action of any sort. Nervy boy asks new girl out. She's already shagging the sporty one. Twatty bloke is twatty. Maths geek has slightly pointless speech about, well, the pointlessness of it all. Someone spits in someone's face.

I don't know if I caught an off night, but the whole thing felt flat.

There are some decent things about it. The dialogue is sharp, if oddly timeless. Apart from the odd chav'n'climate change references, this could be set at any point in the last 40 years.

Some of the performances are great. Tom Sturridge seems to be getting a lot of love in the reviews, but I found his wandering accent far too distracting to fully appreciate his work. But I did like Katie West and Harry McEntire who gave unshowy performances in difficult roles.

And, er, the set was very atmospheric.

(I think the point at which you start praising the set is probably a barrel-scraping moment for positive things to say).

But the fundamental problem with the whole thing was the complete lack of a point. There was no believable build-up to the act of violence. And in an odd coda, the reasons variously tossed at the audience without any discernible commitment ranged from mental illness to celebrity culture to just because.

It wouldn't be so bad, except one of the characters speechified in a very mouthpiece way about how 99 per cent of the yoof are absolutely fine, it just never gets noticed.

If this is what the playwright really thinks, then I wonder why he decided to write a play where one of the other one per cent shoots a load of people at the end.

But maybe that's just me.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

please please please let me get what I want

Something else to add to the list of things I'm learning about myself through the medium of trying to be a writer: if I can leverage in a gratituous Smiths reference in, I will.

(If I can leverage in a Belle and Sebastian reference, I'm flipping ecstatic. But it's a bit more challenging).

And so, with crushing predictability, I'm giving in to the inevitable and rewriting some serious heartfelt words and reworking it all as a laugh every few minutes (I hope) comedy. Honestly, this is an absolutely last ditch attempt to make use of all these sodding scenes I wrote and liked, and tried to make into a play and failed entirely.

So we'll see if it works, or if this writing quite simply belongs down the dumper (copyright Smash Hits circa 1992).

And with a startling lack of imagination, I've been listening to the Smiths as I edit, and so I'm calling it after one of my favourite songs they do.

The fact that I'm sitting in on a Friday evening writing and listening to the Smiths probably tells you everything you need to know about the chances of me ever please please please getting what I want.

But that's another story.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

shakespeare round-up

Why do I always end up going to see Shakespeare? Because the productions are so plentiful, and the tickets are cheap, and the theatre-going friends are eminently more persuadable along to these than the experimental site-specific verbatim installations. Ah well.

I went to see half of Romeo and Juliet last Friday at the Globe. It wasn't supposed to be only half, but those standing tickets for a fiver that seemed like such a good idea... well, let's just say after a first half that lasted an hour and three quarters, and a bastard week all round, we hot-tailed it to the pub. As my wise friend said, it's not as if we don't know how it ends...

I should say the first half we saw was on the whole very good. I liked the leads, although I was in a minority of one about Ellie Kendrick as Juliet - the other three-quarters of the group were less impressed, proclaiming her too goofy and annoying. I thought she was charming, and had a real freshness. And hey, I'm a tough crowd. But we all agreed that there wasn't brilliant chemistry between the leads, however, which undermined it rather.

In fact, if I was going to criticise the production, I would say it didn't hang together brilliantly. There were lots of individually good performances -
Rawiri Paratene as Friar Laurence and Penny Layden as the nurse particularly charmed - but somehow it didn't gel. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable enough first act, and I'm sure the second act was equally good, and honestly, if I'd had a less crap week at work and/or a proper seat, I definitely would have stayed. Honestly.

I also went to see All's Well that Ends Well at the National Theatre recently. Now, the sad truth is that
I am horribly jaded by 15 years of going to see Twelfth Night and As You Like It and Midsummer Night's Dream (because these are the perennials that always get staged, and because I studied English Literature and so I've been to see them all about a million times and am very over finding the business with the yellow garters very funny).

So I like going to see comedies I don't know very well, and deliberately don't read summaries of the plot to make sure I can still speak Shakespeare without the York Notes. Yes, I am a bit tragic. I know.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the production, with it's fairytale setting and stylised, er, style. I liked the story too. Helena earns Bertram's hand in marriage by curing the king. Bertram buggers off to war, which in ye olden days was quite the lark, apparently. Pretty much an 18-30 holiday. Anyway, Helena pursues her errant hubby, tricks him into having sex with her, and er, all's well that ends well. Sort of. (Yes, I should be doing programme notes. I'm just waiting for the email from the National...)

So anyway: it's good. Sweet and funny, and a little bit saucy. Michelle Terry seems to be the go-to girl for the feisty Shakespearean heroine, and very good she is. George Rainsford is suitably floppy-haired and twittish as Bertram. And the set is fantastic, veering between Edward Scissorhands gothic and sunny Italian orchard.

So there we are. Almost relentless positivity about these productions I'm afraid. The thing is, I know it's much more interesting to write (and read) bad reviews, but what can I say? I keep seeing good stuff. I will aim to see a stinker soon... Well, I won't aim to, that would be foolish, but the law of averages suggests it could happen.... We shall see...

Thursday, 6 August 2009

some more random thoughts

I am writing again. Here are some things I am learning about myself through the medium of writing:

a) I don't like men. That is, I don't think I must do, because all my male characters seem to turn out as bumbling idiot-holes or raving tossers or both. Yikes

b) I'm not very good at writing in southern. All my people seem to turn out a bit northern by default. Not in a 'Ey-up our kid, Ah'm off down t'ferret factory to buy a t'pasty kind of way.' Just generally.

c) Everything is about class. Everything, everything, everything.

That is all. (For now).

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Pornography by Simon Stephens

Pornography by Simon Stephens has just come to London for the first time, and I highly recommend you get your ticket now, because I predict (deservedly) good reviews on the strength of tonight’s (first) performance.

This is a difficult play to sum up or reduce to a simple plotline. Suffice to say, the action is set in London in July 2005, and weaves in and around three major events: the 7/7 bombings, the Olympic 2012 annoucement and the Live 8 concert.

It’s not really about any of these things, as such. And it’s not about pornography in the traditional sense of the word, you’ll be disappointed, I mean, ahem, relieved to learn.

(The last time I had such an accidentally exciting time on Google was researching Shopping and F**king by Mark Ravenhill back in uni days. Talk about pop-ups...)

All smut aside, this is a very moving play, with great performances all round. I’d heard good things about this play from a friend who saw it in Edinburgh last year, and despite going in with very high expectations – usually the kiss of death - I wasn’t disappointed. This is a very gripping 90 minutes of theatre.

Oh, and it even has some nudity. (Again, all credit to Anthony Welsh that I was so busy listening to him that I didn’t even notice Sam Spruell stripping off in the background. Well, not at first. There was a point when it became impossible not to notice. In a good way. I think I better stop this tangent now before I get into trouble…)

In short: go see.

Oh, and here are some links about it, although I don't recommend you look at them before you see the play.

(This is just a suggestion - I hate reading too much about stuff before I see it. Also,most of the coverage focuses on one aspect of the play, but I think it's a broader piece than you'd realise if you just looked at advance press. But do look if you want to. I'm not your mum.)

So, here's a typically hysterical headline from the Telegraph in an otherwise quite sensible piece on last year's production. And an interview with the author from the grauniad.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

I'm going to tell you some stuff about my writing that may or may not be of interest

So I'm writing some stuff again, which is Good News.

To get started again, I had to give up on some stuff. Namely, this sort-of play I wrote that was aimless and directionless and storyless. Trouble was, I fell in love with some of my clever lines, and forgot to get on with the business of story and dramatic tension and all that stuff. Ahem.

(Yes, rubbish I know, but it was my first attempt at this sort-a thing).

So, there we are.

I do have some other things on the go:

I have a couple of episodes of a sitcom - which, as I've blogged about before, made it through to the finals of the Sitcom Trials no less. Not that I'm boasting. Oh no, hang on, I am boasting. Sorry about that. Anyway, that's kind of in limbo, so I should do something with it but not entirely sure what.

(I normally Know What To Do with these things, and am quite driven and ambitious and get-ahead, but I'm not with this, and I think it's because I loved writing it so much I can't quite bring myself to ruin it with misplaced attempts at Trying To Make It. It's complicated.)

I have a new project, which is something I've been thinking about for a while. It's a play, it's set in an office, it's based on a true event, and it's just starting to emerge. (It's a good sign when the characters turn up, properly turn up that is, and start being arsey and not quite how you first thought. Mind you, I'm all of 5 pages in, so there is some considerable distance left to run.)

And I have an idea for another comedy, if I feel like venturing into the competitive world of the Sitcom Trials again next year. All my comedy ideas are a bit high concept. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. I should probably try and write about two people on a sofa and keep it simple, but no, that's not where it all leads me.

Oh, and I have the not inconsiderable demands of a day job too, so this is all going on in my so-called spare time.

So now you know.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

oh well never mind bye

I'm an idiot hole. I went to see a great new play recently, and I forgot to blog about it until after the run had finished, which is to say now.

Oh well never mind bye by Steven Lally takes the Stockwell shootings as a starting point, but is really about the state of modern journalism (not great, being the verdict) and the vested interests that shape news coverage and its supposed impartiality.

It manages to be an intelligent, thought-provoking piece that tackles the big topics, without ever feeling worthy. The conclusion is quietly devastating. And I loved the Union theatre, where it was well staged in the round.

So anyway, you can't go and see it because it's finished, but - y'know, for info - it was excellent.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

everything's going jackanory

So I'm watching Blur at Glasto on the telly, and they are very ace. And in addition to being ace, the whole thing is kind of transporting me back to the mid-90s and it's all a bit weird.

I had a look through some old diaries the other day. I tend to remember the good bits of being a teenager. It was quite instructive to remind myself how gruesome and painful it all was. For every 'This is a Low' there was a 'Country House', if you will.

But when I remember the olden days of the 90s, I remember it in vivid colours. I remember feeling very, very alive.

And there was this point, later on, when everything went crappy for a while. There were some very dark days in Peterborough, when everything was grey and monochrome and dead.

(I fucking hate Peterborough. If I ever write a play and I want a metaphor for something very shit and depressing and deathly I will call it Peterborough. I could say 'no offence, Peterborough!' here, but I think I do mean some offence.)

And thankfully, living in London has kind of helped to regain the colour. Some of the colour. And yes, I have less energy than I did when I was a youngster, but I am also now much less reliant on snakebite during my leisure time.

I don't know what my point is here. I'm not sure I have one.

I'm writing again, a couple of pages at a time. Trying to remind myself that it doesn't matter about being good - not in the first draft - it just matters to do something. Not very profound I know. Still true.

Good God, are they really playing Country House? Yes. They are. Yikes.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


Earlier this year, I decided to give up the booze for a while. This was for various reasons, but in short the hangovers were getting worse and worse, and the alcofrolics were getting less and less entertaining.

I imagined leaping out of bed with boundless energy, enjoying instantly fabulous health, and eliminating all those idiotic things I say and do whilst under the affluence of incohol. Not to mention getting up to do charity work with orphans before breakfast, running the odd half-marathon of a weekend, that kind-a thing.

Obviously, this has not happened.

Unfortunately, it turns out that alcohol is not the primary cause of saying idiotic things in social situations. The primary cause of that is me, plus nervousness, plus people. Which covers most going out scenarios.

Alcohol is also not the reason I'm shit at getting up on time. Or the cause of staying in bed till midday of a weekend. I can do that just fine on my own, thanks I think, to the excellent sleeping genes I've inherited from the Irish side of my family. (Who are champion sleepers. Honestly, Olympians.)

Alcohol is not the thing that stops me getting up and doing all those London things I mean to do, but instead get as far as the local coffee shop for papers perusal.
That's just laziness.

So, what is different?


Well. It's nice not to have hangovers. (I found myself getting nostalgic for hangovers the other day. Weird weird weird ness.)

And it's nice to know, I suppose, that if something fuckwit comes out of my mouth it's entirely on my account, and not the fault of the Malbec I've been inhaling for the evening. Just for information.

And, ok, I don't have boundless energy - who does? But more than before.

I realise I'm not selling the whole giving up alcohol thing. But four months in, I'm aiming to do it a while longer, and hoping that at some point I will feel unbearably, smugly healthy. (A friend who gave up the booze for two years has assured me the benefits are cumulative, rather than instant.)

Till then, on with the substition of alcohol with other vices!

(Mainly coffee, sadly. Dammit, why aren't I better at vices?)

(Note to self: work on more interesting vices. Maybe develop a crack habit. That's well renowned for renewing artistic vigour. I think. )

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Open mic

I wandered past Tate Modern recently, and there was an open mic thing going as part of some kind of art installation/performance type thing. It was very nice:

A group of Egyptian tourists got up and did some dancing.
A cool New York hipster did some very nice singing (to some awful sub-Alanis Morrisette song, but you know, excellent voice).

I stood by the side for half an hour - genuinely, half an hour - listening to songs on my ipod and trying to work out if I dared to get up and sing.

I really, really wanted to.

There was a moment when there was hardly anyone around, and the compere was entreating people to come up and bring their ipods and perform in some way. And there was this golden opportunity to get up and sing some obscure Broken Family Band song and it would be this really brave, interesting thing to do.

I paced. I listened, again, to various songs to see how caterwaulingly bad it could be if I tried to sing. I paced a bit more. I got within about 10 metres of the stage.

And... I didn't do it. I walked away. So the tourists stolling by the Tate Modern were spared from my delusions of musical ability. Which is probably for the best.

Now I'm going to do an awful tenuous link to writing (bear with me):

I keep thinking about writing and not. I keep thinking what's the point of writing something if it's not going to be good? And so, I don't write. I sit around, not writing. And it's all a bit depressing.

Never mind, eh.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


I am super double skint.

So in the spirit of credit crunch chic (ha!), I am enjoying a holiday at home in good old London town. Here is a list of some things I thought I could do:

  • Visit art galleries/museums and be very inspired, and probably finish up trying to look intellectual over coffee and cake
  • Go to yoga every day (I haven't been to yoga for about 6 months, so I don't know who I was kidding by putting this down.)
  • Catch up on all the films/boxsets I own and never watch because I'm too busy watching Friends for the 6th time (seriously, I don't know what is wrong with me. I'm not proud.)
  • Do an ambitiously long river walk
  • Read an improving book or three in the sun.
  • Bake a cake and related domestic goddess nonsense.
All sounds lovely, doesn't it? This is how day one shaped up:

Get up really late.
Think about going to the gym. Decide against it.
Lounge about for a bit. Head out of the house.
Decide I need a Project for the day. Buy dye for my curtains.
Come home.
Put curtains and dye in machine. Realise machine has stopped working mid-cycle. Spend several hours alternately panicking that my landlady is going to go apeshit about this and trying different programs to get it to work.
Google the fault and decide to try to fix myself.
Attempt the unblock filter, whilst holding up washing machine tilted at an angle as gallons of lilac water swooshes out onto the kitchen floor - my baking tray wedged ineffectually below to try and catch some of it. It doesn't.
Clear up related mess, and run the washing machine again (which I have to do so it cleans the dye out of the machine and can be used again.)
Accidentally put on the two-and-a-half-hour programme, which means the spin cycle is still going at 1.30am as I try and fail to get to sleep.

The good news is the curtains are now a lovely shade of lilac, as intended.
The bad news is my week has signally failed to get any more exciting than this.

Next time, I'm putting some big fuck-off holiday to the Maldives on the credit card and being done with it.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Displacement activity

Here are a selection of things I've been doing lately instead of writing:

  • Watching episodes of Friends I've seen at least 4 times before. (Honestly. This is tragic behaviour. I just don't have the energy to watch good stuff sometimes.)
  • Drinking coffee. (I drink a ludicrous amount of coffee, in the frankly delusional hope it will give me the energy and momentum to write loads of Exciting and Amazing stuff. It doesn't).
  • Looking with mild despair at the last few boxes of god-knows-what that I didn't feel able to throw out before I moved but have no actual idea what to do with.
  • Reading really rubbish magazines that make me feel a bit dirty for caring about the weight fluctuations/relationship ups and downs of very minor celebrities. And yet... really quite enjoying them. (Sorry.)
  • Looking at holidays and wondering how/if/when I'll ever be able to afford them. And wondering if my camping tolerance threshold will ever lower enough to consider it as a credit crunch alternative to a proper holiday. And mainly concluding, no, not in this lifetime.
As you can tell, these are all immensely useful and rewarding activities to enjoy during the bits of my life I'm not doing my real, proper job. But, y'know, it would be really nice to get writing again.


Thursday, 23 April 2009

An embarrassing incident (or two)

Something a bit embarrassing occurred last night. And I've spent my entire day trying not to think about it. And as generally happens when you try not to think about something, it kept popping into my head. 

As a special bonus, I also had some flashbacks to Very Embarrassing Moments from the past. As if my inner psyche decided that this would be a good time to remind myself of all the shit, stupid things I've ever done. Thanks psyche!

So, here they are, some of those embarrassing things...

1. What I did in my friend Natalie's garage at that student party.
I didn't even know myself what had happened for a year. I was too embarrassed to ask. I was rightly too embarrassed to ask. It was far worse than I imagined. 

2. What I said to Neil Hannon, lead singer of the Divine Comedy, when I hung around after a gig at Leeds Met.
In my defence, he was only 5 ft 4 or something.  

3. The awful, wine-fuelled weirdness that happened in that bar in that town in the East Midlands. Note to self: don't get involved with middle-aged am dram chaps in small towns.  Awfulness on lots of levels. 

4. The white wine incident at the Soho private club I accidentally got into.

5. ...and what I said to one of the founders of Comic Relief on the same night.

6. Oh, and actually, the taxi thing on the way home from that. That was a bad night. 

7. What I said to the very senior manager at the bona fide glitzy awards do. While his girlfriend was standing next to him.

8. And what I told my flatmate at the same do, and forgot I'd said it, and said it again the next day. Twice the embarrassment!  Brilliant.

Man, I'm crap at stuff. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


I moved house last week. When you live in shared houses, moving house is more than just going to a new place, it's about creating an entirely new domestic set-up, generally with someone you found on gumtree and met for 10-15 minutes, and hopefully got a strong enough non-serial-killer vibe. Hopefully. And hopefully those instincts were correct, because now you're living with this stranger.

I don't really feel like I know about my new housemate yet, but so far the prognosis is as follows. 

Reasons to be cheerful:
The house is very clean.

Reasons to be concerned:
The house is very clean. I think she cleans the entire bathroom with bleach twice a day. She used a knife of mine the other day and then washed my entire cutlery set, just because

So who knows. And as I gradually try to unpack my millions of boxes of not quite sure what, I just hope that I'm not having to pack to leave any time soon. Sigh. 

Thursday, 2 April 2009

hey jealousy (see footnote)

So, am packing my room up and it's a bit weird and a bit sad because I've been here for three years (not the whole time in this room, obviously) and it's quite strange having to leave.  

Most of my brain has been taken up with finding a new place to live lately, and one thing of the various things about this that is mildly rubbish is my utter lack of writing. All I've been doing is reading about other, very successful writers and getting quite jealous. And much as I'd like to say I've taken my jealousy and directed it towards writing something really amazing... I haven't. I've just festered a bit and muttered about 'ckin 19-year-olds with Royal Court commissions and the like. 

I was working in Virgin Megastores in the home town when I was 19, and it was not a happy time, let me tell you. The most exciting aspect of the job was occasionally being able to choose some music to play as were clearing away after the shop had shut. I put on some Belle and Sebastian. Obviously. And I had a mild crush on a boy with long hair for the first and last time in my life. (The long hair bit I mean.) 

Oh yes, those were the days. 

Which is just about enough packing avoidance for now, so I better get back to it... Such a glamorous life I lead. 

*I was going to try and make the title to the Gin Blossoms doing Hey Jealousy from the 90s, in an attempt at an indie-pop one hit wonder reference, for no good reason at all. But YouTube has taken its ball home and won't play no music no more. The thought was there.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Some years ago, I had a flatmate who had decided she was a bit bohemian. A bit arty. A Free Spirit. 

The form these aspirations took were mainly the gathering of pine cones and leaves and other delightful detritus, which she then proceeded to scatter merrily across the coffee table, leaving to become dried out and dessicated; adding to the collection without ever getting rid of any of it. 

Reader, it was a right old pile of dirty-looking crap. 

Some friends came to visit, and seeing the table, offered to clean it up for me. I glumly explained that it was there intentionally, albeit not on my part. 

Ah, they said, sympathetically. 'Forest Murmurs'.

This (and I am getting to the point any second now), was an Alan Bennett reference, from a Talking Heads monologue. It's a small detail, about a church flower arrangement that consists of pine cones and ferns scattered 'artistically' on the altar. And somehow this detail was just this perfect reference that exactly summed up the situation.

I mention this not to be wilfully obscure, but to point out my deep admiration and envy for Alan Bennett and his turn of phrase, his ability to capture so much in a small word or phrase. It helps, I suppose, that I'm from a similar neck of the woods, and on many occasions wonder how he manages to write things that are exactly how my family talk. 

Which brings me to Enjoy, which I saw t'other night. 

I really liked it. 

It's set around an ageing married couple in 1980s Leeds and it's about the dangers of nostalgia and the horrors of family. And it's funny, and rude, and Orton-esque.

Towards the end, there was one of those moments you get, when theatre works, where everyone is still and hushed and you can hear a pin drop because there's just this sense of uncertainty, of what will happen next.

It was memorable and moving and all the acting was excellent, even the poor bit part people who really had very little to do. (I don't think you could get away with writing so many bit parts these days, btw. Far too expensive.)

As you can probably tell, I thought it was excellent, and much better than a very lacklustre History Boys I saw towards the end of its run last year (maybe the year before, memory not what it was.) 

Shall I finish on some kind of pun around the title of the play and it's appropriate nature for my experience of the production?

No. I won't.


Thursday, 5 March 2009

Not a review

Something quite disturbing happened the other night. I went to see a play and came out with no real opinion about it.  

This is Not Like Me at all. I never have a shortage of opinions. On anything. And certainly not plays and films and bands. 

It was Twelfth Night, produced by the Donmar, and it starred Derek Jacobi and some other people whose faces you would probably know but not their names, not without a bit of an explanation about what they'd been in. 

And it was... You know, sort of... Well. If you pinned me down the most I could really say is that it was alright slash quite good. 

I think maybe if you've never seen Twelfth Night, it would be quite good slash great. But I've seen it loads. Well. At least twice before. Maybe more. It's one of those plays that's always on. 

I've even seen it done by the same director (Michael Grandage) when I was studying in Sheffield. And I remember that production really vividly. It was in the round, and energetic and fun. Whereas t'other week it was all just very pleasant and competent, but you know... meh. 

Although here is a much less cynical view of the production.

Sunday, 22 February 2009


So this week has been crap. Really crap. Starting with a Monday morning phone call from the letting agents to inform us that the mentalist landlady wants me and my housemates out, so she can try to make even more money from her crumbling, decaying property that she refuses to keep in good condition. She is greedy and grasping and deeply unpleasant, and the only good thing about being evicted from the house I've lived in the last 3 years, and come to think of as home, is that no longer will I be putting any money into her pocket.

(Anger issues? Me? Maybe a little...)

Bright side? Um. Not sure there is one. Except - and this is tenuous - all my writing last year happened cos I was so fucked off with the world, so you know, anger is good for creativity, if not for stress levels, heart rate, general health etc. Maybe now is the time to write the high-concept vampire landlady script where the eponymous villain is killed in a variety of outlandish and quite satisfying methods. It's a thought at any rate...

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Some words about some stuff

So, you know, winning isn't everything.

By which I mean: I didn't win. But that's ok. 

This is what I learned from the whole experience of having my comedy selected, performed and judged in a competition:
  • Writing is fun. I forgot that for a while. (By a while, I mean about a decade.)
  • Every line counts. And the bits you think are clever rarely are. 
  • People laugh at the reaction, not the 'funny' line. 
  • It's not just about the words. And less is probably more. 
  • Rewriting is essential. But also one of the most interesting parts of the process. 
  • Success is subjective. (Short homily follows.) I reckon that if you don't love what you're writing, you could win an Oscar and still not be happy. Conversely, if you enjoy what you're writing, you can get knocked out of the first round of a competition and still feel pretty darned okay about the whole thing. 
  • And - did I mention? - writing is fun. Not always, not every second. But it is. 
(Herein ends this short attempt at wisdom.) 

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The big night... tomorrow! Am so excited. And greatly cheered by rehearsal tonight. Props and costumes and all that do make a difference. And while I fear my carefully crafted gags may get upstaged by a comedy prop, I don't flipping care, so long as people laugh.

Anyway: mood is one of cautious optimism. Which is a definite upgrade on the weekend. So that's good.

Sunday, 8 February 2009


Ugh. Is this the worst time of the year? I think it might be. Miserable weather, no light, and spring still seems like such a long way off. 

I'm always a bit grumpy in February. The long winter has taken its toll, and a birthday at the beginning of the month makes it worse, not better. This year, a milestone birthday. Which I spent, snowed in, on my own. I hope this is not an omen for the decade to come. Who knows?

I feel there should be a comic endnote to this, but I'm struggling for one, if I'm honest. Suffice to say the comedy thing is happening soon, and even though I stopped finding my script funny a long time ago, through sheer familiarity, it seems to be working ok now that the actors are involved and doing their cool funny stuff. So that's good. 

Thursday, 5 February 2009

the sitcom that dare not speak its name (aka pride/fall)

Here's the thing: I was starting to think my comedy script was quite good. I'd had some pretty nice compliments: good characters, nice dialogue, 'fawlty towers'. 

Oh yes. I was riding high.

And then. In one simple moment. It all came crashing down. One of my actors said, innocently enough, I suppose, "it's a bit like xxx". 

By xxx, I don't mean that weird American ratings thing they do for sex films. I mean, 'insert the name of a really terrible sitcom' here. No, I'm not saying which one. It's too awful.
Hints : it's not a famously awful one. It's one you thought you'd forgotten about, or blocked out for post-traumatic reasons, or - if you're lucky - never seen.  If you do remember it, it's for that guy that was previously in that cult one with the weird fans that was actually quite funny for a while.

It's not 'Two Pints...' either. I'm probably the only person in the UK who is prepared to admit to quite liking 'Two Pints...' offa BBC3.  Decent characters, funny and filthy dialogue - c'mon! What's not to like. 

It' s not that. 

Anyway. Suffice to say. Ego duly in check. Pride duly bruised. Back to concentrating on just trying to be funny.


Saturday, 31 January 2009


Re-writing is fun, I think. But it's bloody tiring. I keep going to bed with stretches of dialogue in my head and waking up with them in the morning without seemingly having resolved anything at all. In 10 days time some actual real live actors are getting up on stage and saying some stuff I've written and I just have to sit there and hope to god people laugh, because of course I've invited everyone I know, of course, and so no bloody pressure.

Right, I have to go and sort that scene with Luke and Lady Violet and the hedgehogs. It will be funny, trust me. It will be funny if it kills me. Or at least makes me an insomniac... 

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


After a brief foray into the wider world with the last post, it's back to some writerly navel gazing. Oh yes. 

The comedy competition I entered is about to kick off... It's on over a series of nights - mine still hasn't been scheduled. But just reading the synopses of the first four is getting me fired up in a mix of apprehension and, well, more apprehension. Frankly, it's terrifying that some people are going to get up on stage and say something I've written and god only knows if anyone will laugh. It could be absolutely awful on every level. 

Good job I'm also trying to redraft my play like a mad person. That's keeping my mind off things. 

Done something slightly radical and changed the name of my main character. She started off as 'woman' (I know, I know, but it makes it easier to write if you don't have a name when you're starting). But I needed people to call her by her name, and so I had to find one. And so I settled upon Jane, as a name that's relatively free of baggage. I wanted a nothing-y name, that didn't instantly and obviously betray age or class or any of that business. (No, I don't think class is dead, btw, but that's a topic for another day). 

But something strange happened once I started writing for Jane. She become a bit limp and passive. Not all kick-arse and angry how she started off. 

So I've called her Claire. And Claire is quite different. Pricklier. I have released my inner prickliness to write this, which is not very difficult at all as it turns out.

So it's all going on. 

Sunday, 11 January 2009


I went on the Gaza protest march in London today. It was very cheering in all kinds of ways. There were thousands of people, and  I've never been around such a polite bunch in all my time in London. The slightest jostle brought apologies and smiles. You don't get that on the average commute.

At the end of the route, there was a rally, where various speakers, well, rallied the protesters. It was a timely reminder about this power you achieve when people come together. I nearly didn't go today, it was freezing, and I was worried about getting caught up in violence. (I didn't see any at all - only people being very peaceful and reasonable, albeit angry, and rightly so. I know there was some throwing of stuff etc towards the end). 

It's all too easy to think what does one person matter, to feel like one presence among thousands isn't going to be the deciding factor. But then if everyone thought like that... 

Perhaps you can tell I've been working for a trade union lately. That's all about collective action, standing together, solidarity. And even though I know, in reality, that things are never perfect, that governments don't listen, that it's really hard to achieve positive change... Despite all that, it's really important to try. 

Of course, coming back on the tube I got my purse nicked, so that brought me quite back down to earth. Fuckers. But the essential message of hope and positivity is not lost. Honest.

Monday, 5 January 2009


Aargh! So I just looked at my play for the first time in a couple of months. It was quite scary: last time I looked at it I was still a bit in love with it all. And I hoped that a few months away from it would bring out all the flaws, like when you bump into the badboy ex and wonder what you ever saw in them in the first place. 

Reading it again sort of did that. There are lots of bits in there that I still like, but it's hanging them all together which is the problem (and quite a serious one at that). I mean it's all very well being innovative with your structure, but I don't seem to have a structure at all. I'm all for blagging it, but even I don't think I'll get away with proclaiming grandly 'oh, it's Beckettian' and hope to get away with it.

Also my main character is more annoying than I remembered. This is ok. I don't think characters have to be likeable, but... But I'm not sure what. It just changes the whole thing is all. 

So anyway, I have these 54 pages and I know they're not quite right, but I'm not sure I'm any further along on how to make them better. I'd sort of hoped a break would just present the answers to me, which I now realise was hopelessly, stupidly optimistic. 

OK. I'm going to read it again and see what happens. 

Thursday, 1 January 2009


I've lost my voice. Not in an arty, literary, don't know what to write kind of way.  I've literally lost my voice. And I'm a bit fed up. I feel like Gromit, forced to communicate through a series of shrugs and eyebrow raises and the odd bit of mime. I can just about whisper, but that doesn't help. I can't go out to meet friends and I can't even ring people without them thinking I'm an inept stalker and/or ghost. 

I had to venture out to Morrisons yesterday for supplies, and entirely failed to communicate to the checkout person that I didn't want the satsumas because I'd just noticed they were mouldy. She didn't understand, and looked at me quite pityingly, which made the whole supermarket experience even more depressing. It was already pretty depressing, since everyone else was buying champagne and party snacks for new year, and I was buying orange juice and broccoli and planning a not-very-wild-night in. Sigh. 

Och. This time last year was considerably better than this but had gone significantly to shit within 5 weeks. So let's hope that the opposite will happen in 2009 and it will be absolutely splendid. There's nothing like a bit of optimism to start the year with, non?