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.

Wyrd Sisters Diary #1 – Setting out on the road to Lancre

I’m not trying to claim any snob value here but I discovered Terry Pratchett’s Discworld almost right at the beginning. Back in 1985 I read an interview with Terry Pratchett, promoting the paperback release of the first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic, thought it sounded funny and bought it soon after. Possibly as a birthday present for my sister Gail now I come to think about it. Turned out we both enjoyed this send up of fantasy novels and it set us, and eventually my whole family, on an enjoyable journey with Terry’s funny, ingenious books for many years.

Wyrd Sisters is the first proper Discworld Witches book, introducing us to the eccentric coven of the formidable, good but scary Granny Weatherwax, the cheerful, earthy, experienced Nanny Ogg, and the naïve, enthusiastic Magrat. As well as Witches, it has a ghost, a demon, lots of dim-witted guards, and a troupe of theatricals who stage a farcical play within the play.

It is in part a parody of Shakespeare, the Scottish Play in particular, but it is also a comedy about power, be it brute force, common sense or the subtler magic of storytelling. In fact I’m pretty sure it was Gail who bought me the script books of Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! for my own birthday several years later. I had no idea they existed until then. By then I had become involved with amateur dramatics, and I loved Stephen Briggs’ adaptations and the idea of realising them on stage. So in time I persuaded my then current group of Mawdesley Amateur Dramatics to stage Wyrd Sisters. The photo at the top of the page is from that production.

Like many groups, a majority of MADS were women, so it was an advantage to have a play with four really good female roles, not to mention a fair amount of characters who could be played by either gender. That 2007 production was my first experience of directing theatre. It helped that we were already a group of friends, so that made it less intimidating that it could have been. We played it on a smallish village hall stage, with much less in the way of facilities at the time than Bolton Little Theatre has. For example the sound system consisted of my laptop computer and a guitar amp at the rear of the hall. I should add that the current hall has had something of an upgrade since. However the show was a success, and I think the local audience enjoyed the fact that we were trying something a bit different from the traditional amateur dramatic fare.

Now ten years later I am about to direct a new production in a fully equipped theatre with a specially designed set and a cast that is an interesting mix of experienced Bolton regulars and newer faces, some for whom this will be one of their first plays. I have Glenn Robinson, Francis Clemmitt, Jeff Lunt and Joylon Coombs providing invaluable advice and help. I have been doing my homework and pouring over the script, plotting out movements, assembling the music and sound effects. As I write this, the first rehearsal looms this Sunday afternoon and I’m hoping I’ll remember how to do this. It’s not just the Witches who are embarking on an adventure.

wyrd-sisters-bolton-little-theatre

For more information and to book tickets, please visit our theatre website

More NODA happiness

I’m interrupting my Out of the Unknown marathon for a bit of housekeeping.

First off, I’ve been updating the Writing and Audio Drama pages on the left, adding web-links so that you find out more about (and maybe even order) some of my work. For example clicking on any of the pantomime scripts now takes you directly to their pages at Lazy Bee Scripts.

Secondly, but more importantly I’m delighted to announce that my lovely actor friend Bridgett Welch has just won the 2016 National Operatic and Drama Association award for Best Female Comedy Performance (Pantomime) after appearing in my own Rumplestiltskin. The show was premiered by Mawdesley Amateur Dramatic Society. She was indeed a wonderful Dame, but then I thought the whole cast were marvelous. It’s especially lovely because I became involved in amateur theater via MADS and I certainly would not have written any of my pantos without their support over the years.

mads

Bridgett is here on the left, next to fellow MADS Debbie and Emma.

mads2

And here in character as Dame Dolly!

Thank you NODA! Rumplestiltskin review

I have been sent a marvelous review by Luke Taberer and Lloyd Bamber of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) of Rumplestiltskin, as staged by my good friends at Mawdesley Amateur Dramatic Society. I really enjoyed their slick production, especially some of their inspired ad-libs and interpretations in the best panto tradition. Such as casting a small boy as the fearsome Bear in Clutchwood Forest!

“The show was well received by the audience, which could be heard throughout. The script was a superb choice, as it had content which could be appreciated by all ages and flowed very well.”

You can read the whole report by clicking on the link below:

https://www.noda.org.uk/events/reports/rumpelstiltskin_1

Many thanks for the kind words guys.

Pantomime season for me starts in the Summer

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.

aladdin_poster

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.