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Monday, 19 September 2011

Where Do Babies Come From?

It's one of those difficult questions that writers get asked: "Where do you get your ideas from?"  Actually, I usually get asked: "What the f**k were you on?"  To which the reply is usually tea or coffee, rather than proper drugs.  I started drinking coffee at about six years old, in emulation of the great prophet Garfield.  As I sit, slouched on a sofa, watching a flicking computer screen, and drinking my tenth cup of joe I see that I still follow his wise teachings.
But I digress.  Where do my ideas come from?  Where do they not come from?  In the case of some plays the plots are direct knock offs of mythology, which everyone does at some point in their life.  With a bit of luck you grow out of it.  It's either that or a random thought or line that has tickled your fancy.  I was once sitting at a bus stop looking at someones shopping, abandoned in the shelter.  I wrote a few lines about them containing an unexploded bomb and how I really can't be arsed to raise the alarm as it's obviously not.  These pages became Fantasy Terrorist League.
A play like Shoes That Angels Fear to Wear was born of an idle thought of what someone would do if an old woman attacked them for possessing evil shoes.  It's an average day to day thought and it was expanded into a play.  Unfortunately for me, the image of a battle for a pair of shoes was also the subject of an episode of Cybill, which was being repeated at the time, and this may have got jumbled up in my mind.  Luckily no other componant of that show was repeated, so that's fine.  (That said, I had a terrible moment of doubt watching Drop The Dead Donkey the other day on 4oD - there was a passing reference that did sound like the seed for Bink! - luckily I know that there was no connection between the two whatsoever.  Slightly scary though.)
The current play I'm writing, Complicated Pleasures, centres around an idea I had about a particular line of dialogue.  It came to me as an nicely abigious phrase, that had great potential.  A whole scene grew from that line and has acted as a spring board for the whole play, which is increasingly turning into satire about how much we've all sold out to market forces; how the market reaches throughout everything we do, to the point that our collective souls are now on ebay.  I won't tell you the line of dialogue, or the other ideas that abound.  Not yet.  That's the problem with writing stories / plays etc. - if I tell you what happens, why would you want to come and see it?  
The creation of wordage on the new play has now slowed, as the initial excitement of writing has lessened and I'm crawling along a bit.  But with 13,000 words down on the page, I'm happy for the last 5,000 or so to come out a little more slowly.  And then the horrible bit starts - the re-writing.  Long months of agonising - see my earlier blog on Despair.
So, where do babies come from?  From little random explosions in the night - but they're the easy bit.  It's the nine months of waiting, eating, sitting and vomiting that makes them really come to life.
[P.S.  I dedicate this blog to my friend Sophie, who hasn't given birth yet - I know she hasn't given birth yet, because she hasn't mentioned giving birth yet and I know that if I asked whether she has given birth yet, I would lose a limb.  Have you tried jumping up and down? xx]

COMING SOON:  THE LONDON RUN OF
The Natural History of Trolls
Tickets Available Now! 

Tuesday 29th November to Friday 23rd December 2011
Tickets £12 / £10 Concession
Three stories covering 150 years of history, two Queens, orange penguins and the fairy kingdom.  Midst this is the story of an ordinary commute gone wrong, when a troll-like tramp on the Underground turns out to REALLY be a Troll.  Not suitable for children.


Tuesday to Saturday starts at 7.30pm – doors open 7.15pm.  Sunday at 7pm, doors open 6.45pm.
Box Office: 020 8932 4747
Barons Court Theatre, “The Curtain’s Up”, 28A Comeragh Road W14
Nearest Tube:  Barons Court (Piccadilly/District Lines)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Laura Marling Ate My Cat

By cat I mean Bagpuss, and by mine I mean Oliver Postgate, may he rest in peace.
But it cannot be denied that the work of Laura Marling has been deeply indebted to the Bagpuss team - especially the house band led by Charlie Mouse and the amazing mechanical mouse organ.  Take a track from her last album, I Speak Because I Can, the very lovely Goodbye England - where a little after 2.41 you can actually hear the Charlie Mouse Six supplying backing vocals, a section that is a direct homage to their classic hit We will fix it, we will fix it.  Listen out - it is there.
In a recent interview on 6 music, Marling acknowledged that her guitar playing has improved over the last few years - what she declined to mention were the frequent lessons from folk rock god Gabriel the Toad (and boy am I looking forward to the soon to be released EP of banjo classics that Gabriel and Marling have been working on).
I won't strain the point much further - but to note the vocal techniques learnt from Madeleine, one of the sweetest voices in the business, and that Marling has learnt deeply from Professor Yaffles many wisdoms; but the most influencial of all the Bagpuss team has to be Bagpuss himself - otherwise known to Marling as THE BEAST.
Next Week:  Lady Gaga and her stylist Mr Benn & news that Rolf Harris is to cover a song from Let England Shake as a B side to the dub step re-mix of Two Little Boys.

NORMAL SERVICE RESUMES BELOW...

This week I've become a vampire.  No, I haven't been attempting to extend my life through the ingestment of blood products (an act that will only make you sick, it's like drinking sea water, the body just can't hack it, leave it to the undead folks) I've just been living in the hours of darkness.  My average day now starts in the afternoon, and the time of work starts mid evening.  From about 11pm I start cooking with gas and work solidly till about 6am when I slow to a stop and sleep.  Here's my vlog all about it.



Sometimes this kind of thing happens to me, and I know better than to fight it.  If that's what 'the muse' wants to do, then that's what I do.  (That said, there's a lot of balls said about art and the muse, if I had to write / rehearse from 9am till 5pm with an hour for lunch I'm sure I'd manage it and I doubt the work would be much worse.  Probably a bit though.)  I've been struggling for the will to do the work at present, the idea of sitting down and writing or rehearsing has made me feel quite ill.  But one gets on with it anyway because it is a job as well as a calling, even if what you do turns out to be a big steaming pile of poo.
But the last couple of nights, headphones on, listening to the Mercury Prize Shortlist one by one (surprisingly I found Katy B very good to work to - who'd a thunk it) and the new Laura Marling album, (thank you Guardian website for streaming that all week, boy did I milk that particular music cow dry! (I will buy the album anyway, so I'm not a stingy music scab)) the notepad and the keypad and the kitchen pacing and the coffee boiling has been to a glorious purpose.  It's been great because it means:
1.  GhoStoryteller is done.  Printed.  Off to full on rehearsal.  Which in turn means:
2.  No need to write more monologues / stories for 2011.
Yes, I know, this is a big shock - the Storyteller blog has lost it's remit.
Well no, just because I've written it doesn't mean the show's over.  For example, I'm not just getting to grips with the staging for the London (and Suffolk) performances of The Natural History of Trolls.  I'm creating the visual side as I type.  It's going to be a more complex affair to the New Wimbledon run - but more on that in the future.  But if I'm not writing more stories - what am I typing away at?
3.  A new play.  It's been a long time coming but I'm actually writing dialogue again.  For the last three-four years I've been mostly writing monologues or the vast Amleth play (two parts, cast of thousands, no one in their right mind would stage it, what was I thinking?) so to be able to sit down and write 3000 words of a new play in a few days is very nice.  I've got two weeks set aside in October, once GhoStoryteller has had it's premiere, to sit down and really thrash it out, at the moment I'm doing fits and starts as I do admin work and other boring stuff.  The play has a working title of Complicated Pleasures and is about some very odd relationships, or rather I set up the circumstances for odd relationships - we'll see how the characters come out of it all.  As ever my motto during writing is: how can I make this worse?  How can I make the situation more difficult, how can I really put these characters through it, how much pressure can they take before they go pop or the situation becomes too absurd.
Now one of the things I do when I start a new play / story I always go through my notebooks and any half written projects that have been abandoned, looking for any material which might fit the new work.  Much of this involves transcribing a lot of good one liners, picked up from people around me over time.  Shoes That Angels Fear To Wear was written that way - many of the lines that were said to be too absurd by the cast to be real were direct from life.  It does also mean I come across a lot of my past, things I don't even remember happening.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Writing in the Rain

Following a relatively light Summer workload it's back to the grindstone.  Big things are afoot in the world of me, and Storyteller.  I'm about to finalise the line up for the London run of Storyteller and have now gone into rehearsals for the Ghost Stories show.
It's been raining again.  Good writing weather, rain.  I'm fond of rain, it stops any of those unnatural urges to go outside and accumulate vitamins.  So, progress on GhoStoryteller - as this many titled beast is generally known.
Well, for the first show the line up goes - The Ghosts of Lavenham, which unexpectedly burst into new life yesterday.  It was originally a very dark, atmospheric story - and a little self indulgent.  There also wasn't much of a story - a mysterious figure wandered the town and stuff happened.
Now, there are characters - characters with names and lives, hopes and dreams, desires and expectations.  The story contains the line: 'Alexander played Risk and ate cheese'.  It has both humanity and the ghostly realm living side by side.
That follows a lengthy opening section all about 'real' ghost stories from the area and there's room for another section of similar local information - should it appear.  Getting reliable stories is proving harder than I thought.
The second half is mostly concerned with poltergeists - because they are the most active and interesting kind of manifestation.  One long story, featuring a character called Molly, and then at least one short, about the haunting of a house by the spirit of Mrs Ludlow.  There are lots of short stories coming together - but I'll probably save those for later shows, to fill in any gaps which are created when I drop the local ghost element after the first show.
But for those who don't like the rain - here's my latest blog where I wander Lavenham in the sun.  Enjoy.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Milk Bottle September Newsletter

For those not on the mailing list - here's the newsletter.  If you'd like to be on the mailing list do send an email to contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk with the subject heading, Mailing list.

The Milk Bottle Newsletter - September 2011 

As Summer (what Summer?) fades away, it's time to look ahead to future coming attractions.  For those in Suffolk we've two exciting shows for you - the new and exciting ghost story show and the arrival of The Natural History of Trolls.  All the information is below.  The ghost story show has, by a series of odd events, ended up having a number of different titles.  It starts off in Lavenham with The Ghosts of Lavenham and that will be the basis for all the following versions of the show.
For those in London, you'll just have to wait till November 29th when Storyteller (containing both Trolls and Ghost Stories) comes to the Barons Court Theatre for six weeks, more information on that coming soon - best place to look is our website or blog.
As always it’s at these times we need your support all the more.  Your help is vital.  Please, spread the love.  If you’re on facebook please join our group Milk Bottle Productions or follow Robert Crighton: Storyteller. If you already do, then share these with your friends.  Or if you’re a twitter person @RobertCrighton:Storyteller.  Help spread the word about the work we do.  It really does help.
And, of course, there's always our blog, where regular updates arrive: http://robertcrightonstoryteller.blogspot.com 
Or the website: www.milkbottleproductions.co.uk


Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Robert Crighton:
STORYTELLER
The Ghosts of Lavenham
Written and Performed by Robert Crighton

Multi Awarding Winning Storyteller Robert Crighton is returning to his roots with a new collection of stories for 2011.  Featuring his trademark wit and dark humour, Storyteller will draw you into unusual worlds and introduce you to people you’d not normally meet.  In short: not to be missed. 

This autumn he is touring ghost stories which will chill you just that little bit more in the darkening nights.  It opens with a special ghost story, written for and about Lavenham.  From the ghosts of empty houses, to the personal ghosts we carry around us, The Ghosts of Lavenham is a mixture of the fantastic and the “real”.  As he tours Robert is collecting new ghost stories – from his audiences, searching for the stories of real people. 

Funny, chilling and occasionally not a little sad, let award winning storyteller Robert Crighton lead you through a world like ours – just a little off centre. 

GET INVOLVED:  If you have had a ghostly experience, why don’t you share it with us – it may even end up in the show.  Just an outline is all we want as Robert will create a story round the idea – full written stories will not be used.  Send suggestions, with contact details, to contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk – all contributions will be attributed in the show if used.

To find out more visit the Milk Bottle Productions website www.milkbottleproductions.co.uk – or follow Robert Crighton: Storyteller online on facebook, twitter or YouTube.

Friday 14th October at 8.00pm
Tickets £7.50, available from the Guildhall, Lavenham (open 11am till 5pm)

Robert Crighton: is an award-winning storyteller, writer and performer, whose last big project was performing every Sherlock Holmes story back-to-back over the Christmas season.  He is only entrant in the 25 year history of the Lost One-Act Festival to win three awards in successive years and is sadly no longer eligible to win anymore. 

Praise for Robert Crighton in previous Milk Bottle Productions...

THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES - 2010 / 2011
★★★★  London Theatre Network: “Crighton is an accomplished story teller... Immersive, enjoyable and cosy, you will leave the room with a satisfied smile on your face, as if you’ve just visited some old friends.”
The Stage: “... a seasonal treat.”
★★★★  Remotegoat: “Robert Crighton gives you a unique evening of storytelling... It is easy to see why Robert Crighton has won awards for his performance.”

Milk Bottle Productions Presents... 
STORYTELLER 
The Natural History of Trolls 
Written and Performed by Robert Crighton


“Whatever you do, don’t think about orange penguins!”
Multi-Awarding Winning Storyteller Robert Crighton is returning to his roots with a new collection of stories for 2011.  Featuring his trademark wit and dark humour, Storyteller will draw you into unusual worlds and introduce you to people you’d not normally meet.

This first show is the world premiere of the ‘The Natural History of Trolls’, three stories covering a hundred and fifty years of history, two Queens and their subjects in the fairy kingdom.  Midst this epic timeline is the story of an ordinary commute gone wrong, when a troll-like tramp in an Underground carriage turns out to REALLY be a Troll.

Funny, thoughtful and with occasional attempts at wisdom, let Robert Crighton lead you through a world like ours – just a little off centre.

The Natural History of Trolls
Sunday 20th November at 7.30pm - Tickets £7, Friends of the Quay Concession £6
Box Office: 01787 374 745
The Quay Theatre, Quay Lane, Sudbury, Suffolk.
Copies of the text of the story can be pre-ordered or purchased on the night.  You can buy it now - at lulu.com - where it retails at £9.99 plus p+p, or for much less if you download it to your kindle.  The easiest (and cheapest) way to buy the play is to come to the show - where we will sell it to you for only £5.  But numbers are limited, so if you want a copy you can reserve one by email - just send your name and night you're coming to contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk and the book will be waiting at the show - pending payment. 

Praise for Robert Crighton in previous Milk Bottle Productions...

THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES - 2010 / 2011
★★★★  London Theatre Network: “Crighton is an accomplished story teller... Immersive, enjoyable and cosy, you will leave the room with a satisfied smile on your face, as if you’ve just visited some old friends.”
The Stage: “... a seasonal treat.”
★★★★  Remotegoat: “Robert Crighton gives you a unique evening of storytelling... It is easy to see why Robert Crighton has won awards for his performance.”

TEACHING GODS & OTHER STORIES... - 2009
Fringe Report: “Verdict: Funny, fast-paced, with depth... There are a lot of good reasons to see the show. It's funny, fast-paced... surreal fantasy, with an edge of revenge... Robert Crighton performs with great energy and no little charm... well viewed after a drink, before a bigger one and some cheese, in celebration perhaps of strange dreams and the campus cat.”