Hello, hope you’re well and keeping busy. I am delighted that four productions of my pantomimes are underway this Christmas season.
The Bodicote Players in Banbury and Woodhouse Phoenix in Hatfield are staging Rumplestiltskin. You can watch the former between 3rd December and 7th December, and the latter in the new year, January. Meanwhile, down the road from me, in Oldham, there’s a production of Aladdin in January.. Wish I could tell you more about that production but I have not been given any more details. Finally Winterslow Drama Group, in Wiltshire are staging Dick Whittington. Intriguingly their website tells me that they have been filmed by BBC1’s The One Show for a feature in December. You can rest assured I’ll be reporting on that when I know when it’s being broadcast. Many thanks to all these groups for showing faith in my writing, and that of my co-scripters Pam Hope and Adrian Barradell.
Plenty going on at the moment, which has left me trying to find the organising equivalent of Hermione Grainger’s magical Time Turner gadget to fit it all in.
Most pressing at the moment has been compiling and operating the sound effects for Bolton Little Theatre’s production of the WW1 play “Private Peaceful” Running 10th – 17th November 2018. It’s the story of Tommo Peaceful, a British Army private facing the firing squad for mutiny. As he waits for the dawn, he looks back to his childhood in the Sussex countryside and his hellish experiences in France. As sound design I have created a trailer as well.
It’s always interesting to find the effects and then edit them to fit the director’s intentions. Not all my sounds are authentic to the period but they fit the model of what the audience will expect to hear on a battlefield. When I was first learning audio drama production, I soon appreciated that there are certain conventions about sound, such as arriving lifts which ping ,that are vital shorthand in telling a story. However whilst its good to keep my audio skills fresh and to help create a theatrical play, I do intend to pull back from this kind of role for a while after Private Peaceful has finished.
Why? Because there is plenty going on elsewhere. For a start I have begun a part-time degree called BSc(Hon) Digital & Technology Solutions Apprenticeship at Manchester Metropolitan University. I do believe that decisions and people can connect in unexpected but beneficial ways. So although there is not an obvious crossover between fiction writing and programming / web development / business information systems, part of me thinks what has started as an opportunity to update and increase my technical knowledge, might help my creativity nous too.
Recently I was approached by my old friend Nigel Anderson, director of Angel Snow amongst others, too take part in a new exciting project. Six Million Voices is a short film inspired by the classic book about the Holocaust – The Diary of Anne Frank and is being made in cooperation with the Anne Frank Foundation. It is built around the album of music and narration produced by Chris Williams. You can listen to some of her music via her Soundcloud page.
I have been asked to play Anne’s father and the founder of the organisation, Otto Frank, which is a great honour and I am looking forward to working with Nigel and Chris soon. I’ll be able to tell you more about this film and my role in a future update. In the meantime for more information about Anne Frank and the work of the charity set up in her name, visit their website.
The sound of sleigh bells is in the air and I am delighted to announce that four theatre troupes have chosen to put on productions of the pantomimes I have written/co-written. Knowing how much work goes into any panto production, it is always very gratifying when people choose my work. I hope they all have a great time and if I get hold of any posters I’ll share them here. So coming soon for Christmas:
Aladdin, Spotlight Performing Arts, Middlesbrough, UK
Aladdin, All Saints’ N20 PCC, London
Rumplestiltskin, Fairlight Pantomime Group, Fairlight, UK
Treasure Island, Whitefriars College, Northcote, Australia
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.
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.
It’s been an encouraging time for me lately on the pantomime front. This year I published my first panto as solo writer – Rumplestiltskin – via Lazy Bee Press. It’s always nerve-wracking to send my work out into the world, waiting to see not only if people like it, but will some people actually put real money on the table to stage it. My last panto, a version of Treasure Island co-written with Adrian Barradell, had failed to attract much interest. So it was a pleasant surprise when I received my latest sales report and read that a Washington based group called The British Players had chosen it as their pantomime for this year and will be staging it 4 – 20 December at Kensington Town Hall. Many thanks. Back in the UK, my old comrades at Mawdesley Amateur Dramatic Society are also kindly staging a production of it too. Another community group had bought a review copy, whilst Lowdham Pantomime Group has generously chosen Aladdin the version written by Adrian and myself a few years ago.
Pantomime are curious beasts to write. On one hand they are very formulaic and indeed their audience expects them to be so. A familiar folk tale. a silly dame, heroic boy and girl, completely evil villain, usually with two useless henchmen, and a monster at some point to chase the cast around. On the other hand a good panto also surprises us with its contemporary jokes and its magic. There must be a moment where all seems lost and the bad guy will win. It must entertain children of all ages and their parents too. Plus I know I am writing for companies where not everyone is a great actor or comedian. The characters must have strong identities of their own that can support anyone brave enough to step in front of an audience. There’s real pleasure to be had when I see someone get a big laugh with a joke I wrote for them.
At the moment I am trying to write in a different genre but I may well return to panto in a year or so’s time and choose another fairytale to retell both in my own style, and also with all the trusty pantomime tools in the box too.