Cannot get enough of Aladdin

That plucky young lad from Ancient China seems to keep crossing my path at the moment.

For a start I’ve just been making a video trailer for Bolton Little Theatre’s production of Aladdin in December. This one is based on a script by Alan P Frayne, who has previously provided scripts for BLT’s Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella.

Once again I was in the Forge studio theatre, improvising with the cast, but this time the emphasis was on laughs rather than menace. I had expected to be filming the cast in their civvies, but the wardrobe mistress was marvellously able to dress everyone who turned up in appropriate panto gear. We worked pretty fast, keeping the camera in one place this time and moving the actors in and out of the frame. I did not have much time to work on a polished script or too many takes because the cast were due to hold a full readthrough that evening. Then it was time to put the footage into the ever reliable Cyberlink Power Director to add some effects and a Chinese overlay downloaded for free from the company’s website. Hope folk like the result. It will be going live on Facebook next week.

For more details and to book tickets please visit Bolton Little Theatre’s Aladdin page

Meanwhile I am delighted to announce that there are two productions of my own Aladdin, co-written with Adrian Barradell, coming this Christmas.

November – St Anselm’s College, Wirral, UK
December – 2nd Comber Drama Group, County Down, UK

More details when I get them. If you would like to know more about my take on the famous tale, please visit my page at Lazy Bee Scripts

 

 

 

Downtime: The Lost Worlds of Doctor Who

Before I get into this review I ought to declare an interest. Many years ago I wrote or post-produced or acted in several of BBV’s productions, so consequently I am amongst the many contributors Dylan Rees has interviewed for this book about the intriguing parallel realities that Doctor Who passed into whilst the BBC was not making it. But I my experiences were just a small part of the story, and it has been fascinating to find out more about the bigger picture. Not to mention discovering certain repeating patterns of behaviour when it came to BBV’s driving force Bill Baggs, such as peculiar film editing choices.

As the author remarks in his Afterword, a book like this is long overdue. For quite a while fans believed that Doctor Who would never return to television. In the Nineties Star Trek may have seemed licensed to print spin-offs forever, but felt that our show was destined to remain unloved by the BBC and the Not-We. So we built our own little universe of Doctorish films and radio plays, and for a while it seemed fresh, vital, the future of the show. Then Doctor Who came back with a roar and the VHS era of The Stranger, PROBE and Mindgame seemed to be swept under fandom’s carpet. So “Downtime” feels very fresh, a decade or more of brand new script origins, behind the scenes information, funny anecdotes and let us the honest – gossip.

Credit to the author for pulling together so many threads into a narrative too. Bill Baggs’ filmmaking career becomes the spine of the book. Ambitious, energetic and with a knack for getting people to follow him and make his projects happen, the book produces a fair picture of the way he ultimately sabotages himself by taking too many shortcuts, and too much advantage of others’ goodwill.

There’s plenty of great material here, such as Nick Briggs recalling John Levine’s determination to take the leading man’s responsibilities seriously and entertaining the crew whether they wanted to be or not. Mark Ayres working with Jon Pertwee on his last dramatic role in The Zero Imperative. Colin Baker’s early role as an unofficial agent and cheerleader for spin-off videos, persuading other name actors to take part. Lots of stories of small groups working long hours in uncomfortable locations, kept going by their love of the show and camaraderie. And always the constant hope that this video will be the one that gets them into the professional TV and Film industry. In fact some of the stories seem to echo the BBC anecdotes of Doctor Who itself. Dylan Rees mixes interviews of the time with brand new interviews. Those of the time are keen to be positive and build up the image of whatever the current project is. The tone of the contributors today is generally fond, if rueful.

My only disappointment is that I had hoped to learn some new facts or other people’s impressions of the productions I was involved with. Sadly, aside from the contemporary reviews which I had not read before, most of the information about the likes of The Pattern and Do You Have a License to Save This Planet? comes from my own interview. So I am my own unreliable narrator it seems.

Also welcome are the reviews of every production, which are fair and well argued. It certainly made me want to go back and watch some of them again. I’ve really enjoyed reading this book and I can fully recommend it to any Doctor Who fan.

 

Available as a large paperback or ebook from Obverse Books. Visit their website

 

Dead Guilty

As Bolton Little Theatre’s new season hoves into view, so does my side job of making promotional trailers for the plays in the 2017/18 run. Sometimes an idea for the trailer comes to me easily and other times it is a real struggle to think of a 30 sequence that will sum up the story and make it appetising. It’s a bit similar to writing in fact.

With Dead Guilty, the psychological thriller by Richard Harris which opens our season in September, the idea took a while to land, then I thought about a close-up on Julia’s face. She is the main protagonist and it is a story in which she is confined and oppressed. I thought she could give a speech to camera taken from the script. With the help of director Peter Scofield and actress Kim Amston, I developed this idea into a series of mid-length and extreme close-ups of the whole cast, delivering selected lines of dialogue. It took about two hours to film, using the Forge studio theatre. A lot of that time was taken with finding interesting angles to film Kim in Julia’s wheelchair, followed by several takes of each line. The result has been well received and hopefully will sell a lot of tickets. If you are intrigued then please visit Bolton Little Theatre’s website

Now I am turning my mind towards the second play Rabbit Hole. I have vague idea, again using actors rather than a slide show. Below is the trailer for the whole season, which is a good example of the latter style. Thanks for reading.

Rumplestiltskin in Lancashire

I went to see Mawdesley Amateur Dramatics Society last Saturday night to see their excellent production of Neighbourhood Watch by Alan Ayckbourn. I used to be a regular member of this group and it was there that I cut my pantomime teeth, both as a performer and later a writer. The visit reminded me that my MADS friends have also set up a website with an excellent gallery of past productions, including the first ever performance of Rumplestiltskin and other scripts of mine, including Dick Whittington where I played Dame Dollop. My last Dame role up until now.

Check them out below:

Rumplestiltskin 2015

Treasure Island 2013

Aladdin 2008

Dick Whittington 2007

Good memories and if you are in the Lancashire area, their productions are well recommended. Next up I believe is King Arthur, written by my former collaborator Adrian Barradell.

Red Rising – Sons of Ares

In a distant future, man has colonised the solar system, but this brave new era of exploration has led in turn to a tyrannical caste system of genetically modified humans, ruled by the Golds. Down in mines of Mars, a young Red called Darrow decides to fight back. So begins Pierce Brown’s bestselling series of YA SF novels. However I must admit though I had not heard of them until my friend Rik Hoskin told me about his current comic project – Red Rising – Sons of Ares.

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Published by Dynamite Comics, Sons of Ares is a prequel series, exploring the early life of Fitchner au Barca, the leader of the resistance movement calling themselves the Sons of Ares. The first two issues are out now and it has been well received by fans of the series. Rik is working closely in collaboration with author Pierce Brown, just as he did with Brett Sanderson on last year’s graphic novel White Sands. The splendid artwork meanwhile is by Eli Powell.

You can see a few preview pages and find out more details on this page. The series is available in comic shops and also on the Kindle.

More recently Rik has been interviewed by Dynamite about his latest series, and looking forward to issue four.  Its a great read too. You can find it here. I’m hoping to post some impressions of it soon.

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Talking about my old mate Rik also prompts me to talk about the latest addition to this blog. If you look to the left of the screen, you will notice I’ve added a new permanent section, containing downloadable copies of our original audio series – Agents of Psyence. These MP3 files used to be available at Westlake Films’ site, until I took them down during that site’s revamp. Now I’ve brought them in-house so to speak. At the moment the page is fairly bare-bones but I intend to expand it in time.

Agents of Psyence is an action adventure series based on Rik’s early self-published comic Psyence Fiction. Set in present day Britain, an enigmatic billionaire called Sebastian Hayward has assembled a team of unusual specialists, including a cybernetic warrior, an ex-MI6 agent and an occult expert, to investigate supernatural crimes. It’s mixture of horror and SF, with an emphasis on pace and thrills. My own approach was definitely influenced by the work of radio director/producer extraordinaire Dirk Maggs (Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Radio 1 version of Batman: Knightfall amongst many others)

The first story Truth and Bone was adapted by Rik from the pages of the first two issues, and the second, Bloodlines, written exclusively for audio by Rik and myself. I think they’ve got some of my best production work in them and its always been an intention of mine to continue the series. Several other scripts were written by ourselves, John Isles and Peter Grehen. I released the series under the label Phantom Frame, which is where the title of this very blog comes from.

You can experience both stories for free, playing them on this site or downloading them. Hope you enjoy them, whether you’re a new listener or a returning fan.

Discover the Agents of Psyence by clicking this link

For Battle and Glory – Recording Sontarans

I was just looking through some old CDROM backups last night, when I rediscovered this behind the scenes BBV podcast from 2000. Recorded and edited by Paul Griggs on the day of the recording of Conduct Unbecoming, it features myself, Paul and actor Anthony Keetch talking about Sontarans and the day’s work bringing my script to life.

Few people like to hear their own voices (am I really that nasally?) but it is an entertaining snapshot of a time in Doctor Who history, when BBV and other independent companies were carrying the show forward into the 21st Century. The podcast was originally released in the now obscure VQF format but I’ve converted it to MP3 for convenience. Enjoy.

Amazing artwork by Simon Hodges ( http://hisi79.deviantart.com/ )

This spinoff is still available to order from Galaxy 4 and can also be found on Audible.

 

Downtime out now, Wyrd Sisters soon

When I started off directing Wyrd Sisters I’d hope to keep a production diary up on this blog. Predictably this ambition was quickly eaten up by the time and energy involved in actually realising the play. So you’ll have to look forward to a retrospective article instead. However I can report that we are at an exciting phase where the books are down, the movements are being fine tuned and the set is almost in place bar the painting, thanks to the marvellous efforts of Jeff Lunt and his team.. Not to mention a whole wardrobe of costumes which have largely been designed and made from scratch by Francis Clemmitt and her team. I’ve also been out banging the drum and trying to get people interested in coming. Marketing a play is a job in itself. We’re having some publicity photos taken tomorrow which hopefully will excite the local media. I went on Bolton FM radio a couple of weeks ago and I’ll be popping up again on their frequency on Monday during the drivetime show in the evening. I’ve also made a short video promo for promoting the show on social media.

It’s going to be a show that’s different from pretty much anything Bolton Little Theatre have put on in a while. The cast are getting better with each rehearsal and its great to work with them. Best of all is Terry Pratchett and Stephen Brigg’s script, which is funny and wise. You can find out more and book tickets at http://www.boltonlittletheatre.co.uk/terry-pratchetts-wyrd-sisters/

That’s Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters 7.30pm 6 – 11 March 2017, Bolton Little Theatre!

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I’ve also learnt that Obverse Books have just published Downtime – The Lost Years of Doctor Who. I am amongst the forty people interviewed by author Dylan Rees about the remarkable collection of independent productions, both video and audio, that appeared in the Nineties and early Noughties attempting to fill the Doctor Who shaped hole which the BBC had created.

Of course my part relates to my work with Bill Baggs and BBV. I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet but as someone who was very involved in that particular pond, not just as a writer but as a fan, I’m look forward to reading it. Within its 400 pages Dylan Rees promises many facts and stories that have never been printed before. The book is available for £9.99 as an e-book and £19.99 as a large format paperback. You can learn more by visiting http://obversebooks.co.uk/product/downtime/

Thanks for reading. Hope to be in touch again soon.