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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Dancing, dancing, dancing...

So, after a burst of creative energy, I've gone into a bit of a slump this week.  Partly because there isn't much more to be done to the first "Storyteller" show.  What has happened since last I blogged?  Well, Encounters with Trolls has a new title and has been completely restructured.  It now involves fewer magical creatures and is firmly rooted in a more real world.  Okay, there are still creatures called - at the beginning - Trolls.  But they are just another form of life.  They are not wholly magical.  Thus the new title... drum roll...
The Natural History of Trolls.  Which is more appropriate.
What this means is that in changing the nature of the Trolls I had to rip the original core idea out of the story.  Ow.  As it lay bleeding on the floor, looking up at me with angry eyes, screaming out: "why me!" I realised all was not lost.  I had ripped it out to put a new story in it's place, but the old story could be re-tooled and put back in as a parallel story to the main one.  Story 1 and story 2, running on parallel lines. 
But, that meant the show would be longer.  My second half would have to go.  Bye bye "After the Fall of the Gods of Commerce" it was nice knowing you. 
So now, instead of getting other storytellers in to join me and tell stories in the second half, now they will join me in Trolls itself.  Story 2 has been broken into chunks and will be that opportunity for new people to join me onstage.
And - and - we will still have a bit of time at the end of the show for a couple other stories that will be completely random funny stories that I like.
There, done, not complicated at all.  Phew.
So that was all done Tuesday / Wednesday when I was posting the vlogs 6 and 7. 
Then, as I rewrote the story to fit in the story 2, story 3 jumped up and said Hello, before going for my face.  So, not so close to finishing this draft, but the show is not definitely one story - plus the odd encore story - and that story (stories) is called The Natural History of Trolls.  Definite. 
And when I haven't been tearing my hair out?
Well, I had some people down on Saturday for a read through - thank you guys - of Amleth, part two, which went well.  It isn't a perfect play, but I went away and was inspired to do some good work on it during the night. 
And we approach closer to the launch of the Teaching Gods CD in May - the launch will be held in London on the 22nd May at our Ultimate Selection show.  Just been doing the posters.

Which are just a rejig of the old poster, but I'm sure no one minds that.  So I've also started rehearsing that in a fairly holistic way.  We'll have a lot more to do on it later, as the show approaches. 

Oh, and I'm also rehearsing at production of Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel for performance in May.  I was going to write more about that, put up the poster and tell you lots of funny stories but that'll have to be in a future blog - I've just run out of time today.  Looking fab, that's all I'm going to say.  Lovely.

Blatent Plug Alert: You may notice it's on on a Sunday, following a two week play called The Revengers.  This is no coincidence, as Mr Nader - who performs Keynote Speaker in TG - is directing the play and allowed us to take the spare night at the end of his run.  Not only that, you can get a discount to the one if you also see the other.  Both The Revengers and Teaching Gods for a snip.  Go, book your tickets now!

Okay, done now.  There are still lots of things I can't write about, so I'll stop now.  Hopefully I'll have a whole lot more to tell you soon.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Teaching Gods: The Ultimate Selection

Written and Performed by Robert Crighton
With Special Guests – Catherine Eccles and Simon Nader.

For over two years Milk Bottle has been touring the multi-award winning Teaching Gods storytelling show – but all good things must come to an end.  Prior to the launch of a new show in the autumn Milk Bottle presents the very best stories from Teaching Gods for the last time.  Including the hilarious tale of The Alternative Seagull, the charming children’s story (not for children) Bink! and the madcap title story Teaching Gods itself.  ABSOLUTELY THE LAST CHANCE TO SEE!

Tickets £10 / £8 concessions
Special Ticket Prices for attendees of The Revengers (10th to 21st May at Barons Court) – Details below.
Show starts at 7pm – doors open 6.45pm.
Sunday 22nd May at the Barons Court Theatre

Monday, 21 March 2011

Storyteller Line Up

This blog follows the highs and lows of a week of writing and is a companion to the video blogs 6 and 7 (currently being edited) which appear on YouTube.  Blog 6 is a general round up, blog 7 is a series of clips from the re-writing process of the opening of the new story - Encounters with Trolls of the Northern Line.

Tuesday - late at night...
Right - got it - this is the line up!  Know what the show looks like now.  I've been rehearsing and timing material and I know what the show is.
First Half: Encounters with Trolls of the Northern Line - a fifty / sixty minute monologue which covers lots of themes and ideas, a little sad, a little sweet, a little bit naughty.
Second Half: After the Fall of the Gods of Commerce - a forty minute collection of seven / eight short pieces, all set sometime in a number of possible futures.  They'll all be loosely linked, all set in what becomes of the United Kingdom, and all essentially fantastic in tone.  They're mostly funny, as I want to draw the show towards a light conclusion, even if we pass some darker places.  There's only one of these now to write - though I might jettison one of them, as it's written in the third person, and all the other second half stories are written from one persons point of view.
I now know precisely how I want the show to move - but not only that - I know how I want to stage it.  The second half I'll act as the link between stories, but I want to involve other storytellers and actors in the show.  Hopefully I'll be able to pull together a team of people to do all those stories - though I will have to rehearse them all myself just in case that cannot happen.
This only came to me Monday, recovering from a pretty heavy days drinking at a lovely wedding.  I've spent all of Tuesday pushing the pre-written material into shape, and adding in new stuff where needed.  Now I'll be looking for actors to help me test the material - especially as the deadline for Storyteller has moved ahead by many months.  I was planning to have it done by September, for the main dates.  It is now looking more like July - for reasons which I will explain later.
More follows...

Thursday - lateish...
Spent all day marking up edit points on the audio book recording of Teaching Gods.  Want to get on with other stuff now - like recording the next one.

Saturday Night - similarly late...
Okay - so I wrote that on Tuesday / Wednesday.  It's now Saturday and I've suddenly become unsure.
For why?  Because I've been working on the idea - and then a new idea came up.  An organic idea, so maybe the winning idea.
To explain I must tell you more about Trolls.  It's got a back story to the main action, which I can't tell you about.  But there are two people whose lives effect the story greatly, but who we never meet.  And now, I really want to fit their story into the story of Mr Griffin and his bizarre encounter with a group of Trolls he meets underground.  BUT - to do this I would have to jetterson the second half - "After the Fall of the Gods of Commerce" - which I don't want to do. 
I've been cutting Trolls down, rewritten the opening and removed some of the weirder bits.  It's becoming a bittersweet, sad - hopefully funny - story.  If I were to add another element, the back story, it will become a love story.  So that is now getting there - and I'll keep working on that. 
That doesn't mean I will give up on the Gods of Commerce - I will continue working on those stories and finding a way to do them.  I want to do them because they're a way to share lots of stories at once with lots of other storytellers.  So I'm really torn now and I hate my brain.
I've also been recording some of the word runs I've been doing - so hopefully I'll post the opening on the video blog, in the various stages it has reached this week.  It has changed quite a bit.
Right I'm off now.

Monday Night - reassuringly early...
Having spent a lot of time on Trolls I'm confident that it will reduce well into a fifty - sixty minute piece, including any new material.  That means I'm still on track to create the second half, as noted above.  So this coming week I'll really get stuck into that material, and probably do the same kind of video / comparitive run blog as this week.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Building the show...

First off - the musings of my week.  In between actually doing work I do a fair amount of thinking.  Often, when it looks like I'm watching television, eating toast or shaving, I am simply not there.  Which is why I shave so badly.  This first bit is based on those thoughts about the work in hand.
Right - now I've got a whole load of material, it's all about putting together a coherent show.  It isn't enough to put a load of random stories together and call them a show.  There needs to be a shape.  And there needs to be more than one version of the show.  Some venues will want a shorter format show without an interval - for which the structure of the show, story order and selection, would have to change dramatically. 
I also want to structure in a couple of shorter stories within the show for others to perform - for two very good reasons.  1. Variety.  2.  It gives me a few minutes break.  It also means I get to meet other performers and swap ideas and ways of working, which helps keep me fresh.
So, the bulk of the show will be one large monologue - filling the show in the way Teaching Gods did for the last show.  At present the front runner for that is the newly completed Encounters With Trolls of the Northern Line - which is sweet and a little sad, with not a bit of humour too.  So, how do I arrange the material around this?  Do I use it as a load stone and orbit the shorter stories around it - or do I open with short bits and end with a big slab of story - or visa-versa? 
There is the other contender for long story - The Ghosts of Lavenham - which is slated for performance in October with the other material.  Will I bring that into the touring version, or leave it as a one off for the Lavenham Guildhall event?
I'm also looking at the material and hunting for a theme - something the whole evening, if not hinges on, at least reverberates to.  Maybe the shorter stories should be linked thematically.  At present they don't. 
As I write these shorter pieces, adjust them, rework them, start new pieces, then I hope a theme and angle for the show will appear.
I also have another one-off piece to write - which is a mix of memoir and spoof detective fiction.  Titled "The Adventures of Shermes Hollocks" it covers the funny side of my recent reading show from Christmas.  I'll be doing it June and it might find a place somewhere in the future.

Now, what have I actually been doing.  Well, rehearsing for a start.  Yes, as you will see in the new video blog, out soon, I have moved from my little study into a garage.  This enables me to speak the text aloud, move about a bit and generally through the new stories up in the air.  This is the middle space between writing the show and rehearsing in a proper space, with directors and photographers and other people generally judging me. 
Unfortunately, this means that nothing appears to have happened.  I've read through the stories as writ - but I haven't changed anything yet.  The move has simply enabled me to take in the reality of a spoken text (as opposed to a load of words on a page) and I haven't got to the stage of ripping it to shreds yet.  Yet.  Give it a few more days. 
I also spent much of the last week helping tech a production of Separate Tables, which was jolly nice, as it did get me out of the house.  At this stage of working, you can get a bit house bound.  On Sunday I travelled to London to catch a production of The Seagull, which I was once to have been in.  It was a really sad experience, because - enjoying the show as I did - I felt the loss of being a part of it all quite intensely.  I had started rehearsals, got to know the cast, and then had to leave because of circumstance.  And I hate circumstance.  But the world, and I, move on - and I dived into rehearsing Teaching Gods for recording on Sunday.  I've only got a couple of hours, so I can't risk a few bad takes.  And when that's done, it's off to a wedding.  Which I love to cry at.  Oh no, that's not me, that's a song.  Always getting the two mixed up.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Ultimate Selection!

I'm a little late again this week - but I think mid-week postings will become the order of the day, as I tend to be much busier during the weekends than on weekdays.
Been working on the story "Much Like..." and "Trolls" this week.  "Much Like..." is very short so I have been able to finish it.  I will leave it now until the next phase - the rehearsal/writing phase - where it will get polished and worked.  So, with "Sleep Inc.", I've got two shorts complete now, and hopefully a couple more by the end of the week.
The way I work on monologues is fairly lengthy - though I have written some pieces very swiftly indeed.  It isn't the writing of the monologue that takes the time, it's the re-writing and rehearsal phase that takes forever.  Let's put it this way - at the moment I'm enjoying writing because the pieces are just coming out, fairly swiftly and without fuss.  However, once I start saying the words outloud, then it get HARD.  There are quite a number of agonies that I will have to go through trying to make a load of words work.  Then I move to phase three, which is the rehearsal proper phase - preparing the stories for performance and fit them into a vaguely unified show.
"Trolls" is taking longer, partly because it is longer, and partly because it's just more complicated.  It is about lots of things - themes, ideas, characters and emotions - whereas a short monologue tends to work on just one or two things.  In the last week I've nearly completed a first draft - any day now and all the sections of the text will have been drawn together.  The only problem is that the rewriting will now take forever.
But I need to get ahead, as the closer I get to summer the less time I will have each day - as other projects butt in and administration for the autumn rears its ugly head.  Advertising, publicity, design work - plus the rehearsals themselves.  No time for writing - or much rewriting - then.
Had a little meeting or two to confirm a few other shows I'll be directing in Suffolk between now and the Storyteller shows, as well as confirming a cast member for "The Ghosts of Lavenham" special in October.  I can now start plotting out the story and look for details from Lavenham's past to create the character of the Ghost herself.
And here's a little departure - I've started to think out a plotline for a story working titled "Just One of My Little Hobbies" which is going to be based on this photo, which was taken (while Mr Simon Nader and myself were mucking about) in a photoshoot for the first Teaching Gods run.  It's sat there, smiling at me, saying "use me" and I've never quite figured out how.  I think I have the germ of an idea for it now.  It should be quite fun.
And, breaking news, there will be a one off, end of the line, performance of "Teaching Gods - The Ultimate Selection", in London in May.  It'll be a farewell to some of my favourite stories for a while before I move onto the new set I'm writing now.  It will also, by an amazing co-incidence, coincide with the launch of the Teaching Gods audiobook, which we're recording at the moment.  In fact, my big task this coming week is to re-rehearse "Teaching Gods" to get it ready for recording, as a couple of slight adjustments may need to be made to carry the meaning in the audio format.  Details on all this will follow shortly.