Posts Tagged ‘Playwright’

On Winning the Young Stationers’ Prize 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 16.46.15Last night I was delighted and honoured to be awarded the Young Stationers’ Prize 2015, for accomplishment and promise in writing. And then I got very drunk. Watching my third Berocca dissolve in water today has given me time to reflect on this unexpected joyous moment. Bear with me: I’ll try not to be too much of a twat.

I was surprised and chuffed when Kerry Hudson nominated me for this year’s prize, and grateful to Daisy Buchanan, Diana Beaumont, Hannah Knowles and Shelley Harris for their touching supporting statements and letters of recommendation. I would never have made it this far without them, but not simply because of their lovely endorsements.

Writers have a reputation for being loners, and it’s true I spend a lot of time with just my Mac, but inspiration and creativity don’t come from barren soil. My life is rich with the work and vision of journalists, columnists, authors, editors, filmmakers, directors, playwrights, actors, teachers, mentors, friends, and family. I admire the resonant columns of those like The Evening Standard’s Rosamund Urwin, who was awarded joint runner up of the Young Stationers’ Award. I’m inspired by the innovative work of people like BookMachine’s co-founder, and joint runner up, Laura Summers. I seek to emulate the philanthropic dedication of good souls like Ian Buckley of Prima Software, who was highly commended by the judges. And I’m enlightened by the erudite writing of journalists like Henry Foy, the Financial Times Central Europe Correspondent, who was shortlisted for the prize. Our world is full of stimulus. And as David Aaronovitch from The Times noted in his after dinner speech, technological advances, like Twitter, have opened us up afresh to a broader spectrum of information, knowledge, and interest.

To even be on the same shortlist as the accomplished, driven and brilliant professionals listed above was a thrill. Taking in the Stationers’ Hall, which was completed in 1673, I had to acknowledge the work of all those who have come before. Founded to protect, regulate and promote manuscript writers and illuminators tradesmen in 1403, I was walking in the footsteps of those who sought to make things better. I’m very fortunate to win this prize, but I cannot claim the credit: I’m merely constructed from all those who’ve enriched my life and come before me. This one’s for you guys.

Trophy

Thank you to Paddy Belton, the Master, and all at The Worshipful Company of Stationers for a fantastic evening and a truly treasured prize.

 

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Positive at Park Theatre, by Shaun Kitchener

| Reviews You Can Read In One Minute

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Positive tells the story of Benji, a gay Londoner looking to revive his love, sex and social lives one year after testing HIV+. But if Benji’s mantra – If Britney can get through 2007, then I can get through today – doesn’t give you the heads up let me make it clear: this is not a moral depress-fest, but a hilarious nuanced comedy of modern manners. As the writer Kitchener states in the programme introduction: ‘nobody dies’. At one point I laughed so hard my theatre companion had to restrain me from keeling over into Marcio Andrey Santarosa’s clever dual reference giant round pill and plus sign stage, upon which the action is delivered. From the ground up this is a polished, satisfying story: Kitchener expertly teasing at first hilarity and then real emotional depth and punch from his subject matter.pTimothy George’s ‘Benji’ and Sally George’s overbearing mother ‘Margo’ (yes, they are mother and son in real life) give stunning performances, managing to move from an amusing confrontation to genuine tenderness in a devastating second. Yet again I found myself being steadied by my friend, as I attempted and failed to fight back tears. And it is here in the meat of the play that Kitchener’s work really comes into it’s own: this is not a story about HIV, but about life and how we choose to live it. About love and how we choose to give it. Director Harry Burton must be congratulated for bringing the best from his cast, never allowing laughs or sentimentality to get in the way of the real power of the piece.

A special mention for Claire Greenaway’s Health Physician Jennifer, who was the perfect picture of professionalism, concern and genuine care I recognise from my own consultants and carers I see as part of my chronic health condition. Yet again Kitchener’s script shuns the saccharine or obvious, and instead delivers a slice of reality in what is a tightly structured and deftly delivered play. I positively suggest you go and see it.

Positive is on at Park Theatre until the 1st August 2015.

 

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Behind the scenes film of debut play: The Legacy

| Playwriting

Below is a behind the scenes film of my debut play, The Legacy.

Rehearsed readings were staged at Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden in December 2014. The Legacy starred Claira Watson Parr, Lucinda Westcar, and Ray Bullock Jr. And was directed by Michael Beigel.

The Legacy team plan to develop the play and stage two further runs in London in the next one to two years. We’re currently accepting applications for producers, so do get in touch if you have further questions or would like to apply.

With thanks to the talented Michelle Becker for the incredible film.

 

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Can You Be a Writer and NOT Suffer From Anxiety?

| Playwriting, Uncategorized, Writing

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I have found another similarity between writing a book and writing a play: the fear. I’ve reached the part in the process where I lose all faith in my words. I’m convinced everything I’ve written is utter crap. The play will fail. Everyone will hate it. It’s not good enough. What am I putting the poor actors and director through? Now I’m not only gambling with my reputation I’m gambling with theirs.

Most writers I know are anxious. It varies on a scale from distractedly chewing their nails, to those using tools like Mindfullness, medication, or having counselling to help. I myself have explored pretty much every step on that scale. Including that old favourite: wine. Of course you can suffer from anxiety and not be a writer, but I often ask myself (Carrie Bradshaw voice): can you be a writer and not suffer from anxiety?

Write what you know is the oft used tip. If you wish to write a novel set in 18th century St Petersburg then research the city, the era, the clothing, the language, everything: then you will write what you know. You will get it right. In the same way, you can’t write about a broken heart without knowing what a broken heart feels like. You have to draw on the part of you that suffered to make it convincing – even if it’s transferring that emotion to another’s story.

Writers are constantly rooting around in the dark places. Opening old wounds so they can feel the pain, the grief, the despair and, of course, the joy. Simply to drop those feelings into 18th century St Petersburg, like you would an architecture reference or a popular food. It’s hard to turn that off at the end of the day. I see the exhaustion in the actors’ faces when they’ve tapped into that same shadowy place, and I recognise it. It’s like a collapse. Inwards. They’re spent.

In order to write successfully you must make people feel. Of course writers are anxious: we never let our wounds fully heal over. We’re always picking at them. Anxiety and writing go hand in hand.

Will people like my play? Will the audience feel the emotion? I don’t know. But I know I need that fear, that anxiety to keep writing. Without it the words are empty and meaningless.

 

You can find out more about my debut play The Legacy, including how to attend rehearsed readings on the 16th & 17th December at the Tristan Bates Theatre, WC1 here.

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