White Sands, Cemetery Club and other shares

Easter has just passed by and I seem to have reached critical mass with a number of little bits of news about what is happening in my world. So here is one of those occasional news round-up type posts of mine.

I’ve been pretty busy down at Bolton Little Theatre in the last few months. We had an extremely successful screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with plenty of the audience in costume and some wild behaviour in the aisles! I must admit I was pretty nervous how this night was going to play, so it was a big relief to hear our guests leaving in high spirits and some lovely feedback on the night. We’ll be showing Dirty Dancing on Saturday evening 9th June 2018. Visit the BLT website for tickets and more details.

But my main job in the last few months has been as sound designer and operator for various productions on both of our stages. Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn was a particular challenge, requiring party sounds every time the kitchen door was opened, and that door gets used an awful lot. Another tricky part was that each act opened with a Seventies Christmas pop song, which faded from normal to mimicking the tinny sound coming from an onset radio. But I pulled that off and this brilliant play about materialism and self-delusion was brilliantly acted by an excellent cast. I thought it was one of our best productions in a while. Although The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall, which I was only tangentially involved with, was every bit as good in every department.

Currently I am rehearsing The Cemetery Club by Ivan Menchell, a witty comedy about love in New York’s senior citizen community. the sound requirements for this are relatively modest, probably the most challenging of which is a whistling kettle and getting the volume of it right. But its still quite a time commitment and will take up most of this and next week’s evenings. I’ve also put together a promotional trailer, which you can watch below:

Overlapping with that production is Agnes of God by John Pielmeier, an intense interrogation drama set in a New York convent. I’ve already recorded some voiceovers for it and will shortly be assembling the choral musical cues with the director. Earlier last year I recorded the three woman cast at a readthrough, and so was able to create a particularly effective trailer, my favourite in a while:

With all this tech work, and editing a monthly BLT newsletter, there has been a knock on effect on my writing but I’m becoming more productive now with a couple of projects. One I can’t discuss yet but hopefully might turn into my biggest theatrical script yet. The other is a short video about my love for Michael Mann’s 1983 horror movie The Keep. I am currently writing the script. This will be the second in a new series Westlake Films is producing. The first episode, in which Carl Bowler rhapsodies about Scott Pilgrim vs The World, has just been released online. Carl does an excellent job in praising what makes the cult comic strip adaptation tick and how it links with his own life. You can find it on Westlake Films’ Youtube channel. Or indeed, right here!

My fellow writer Rik Hoskin has had several exciting projects published lately. His marvellous six-part SF comic Red Rising: Sons of Ares has been collected into a handsome graphic novel. Based on the hit YA series Red Rising by Pierce Brown, the comic tells of the origins of resistance leader Fitchner Au Barca. Born as a Gold, one of the ruling class of a brutal future human solar empire, the misfit Fitchner soon recognises the cruelty of the system. To protect his secret wife and son, who come from the lowest caste, Fitchner’s fight against the Empire leads to tragedy and the seeds of a rebellion. The artwork is engrossing and Rik’s storytelling skills are well in evidence.

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Speaking of graphic novels, the sequel to the New York Times bestseller White Sands, which was also written by Brandon Sanderson and Rik Hoskin, is out now. White Sands Volume Two continues the adventures of a young magician on an alien world where sand can be magically wielded to create and destroy. It is adapted from an unpublished manuscript of Sanderson’s and is a part of his Cosmere universe. Both this and Red Rising: Sons of Ares are published by Dynamite Comics.

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Outlanders may have concluded but Rik is now involved with a new series of action novels – SEAL Team Six, alongside Max KentIt depicts the all action secret missions of a group of Navy SEALS – the proverbial best of the best of the best. Executive Order sees them dispatched to track down a ruthless ISIS group which has got its hands on US drone technology. I’m currently reading it and it’s great entertainment.

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Finally you can learn more about Rik by reading this recent interview, carried out by fellow comic and magazine writer John Freeman for his blog downthetubes.org. Click here for 10 Questions

 

Behind the scenes of “Dinner”

Bolton Little Theatre’s latest production is “Dinner” by Moira Buffini. As with many of her plays it is concerns a set of apparently sophisticated liberal characters brought together in a room. Slowly however their veneers are stripped away to reveal ugly prejudices and other basic flaws and deceptions. In the case of this play, Lars a bestselling author of self-help books and his wife Paige are holding a small dinner party to celebrate his latest publication. But it soon becomes clear that Paige intends this evening to be an elaborate revenge against a group of people she despises for their hypocrisies. Somehow, the mysterious silent butler is the key, but what is his ultimate role?

I have made a short behind the scenes documentary to promote the play, which is being staged 6th to 9th April 2016. For tickets and more information please visit our webpage.

 

Going behind the scenes of “The Rivals”

Bolton Little Theatre’s next production will be Richard Sheridan’s famous comedy about a clash between greed, snobbery and romantic ideals in 18th century Bath. The play is most famous for giving literature one of its most famous comic characters – Mrs Malaprop, a rich pompous dowager who frequently mangles the English language as she lectures all and sundry. “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile!” Sheridan probably based her name on the French phrase “mal a propos” meaning “poorly placed”. Although many comedies had used mixed up phrases before this, including Shakespeare’s, malapropisms has become the popular description of such jokes.

Last week I took my camcorder down to the theatre to interview director Jolyon Coombs about the challenges of staging the play and talk to some of the actors

Hope you find it interesting. “The Rivals” is on 5 – 12 March 2016 in Bolton.
You can book tickets and find out more from the website by clicking here.

 

Dalek Night – Coming Soon!

Later this month, 6pm 23rd September to be precise, I’m going to be taking part in a podcast all about the Daleks. In case you’ve not heard of them, the Daleks are a xenophobic alien race of monsters from British SF television series Doctor Who. They are also a significant part of pop culture and have been since their debut in 1963. That’s what this podcast is all about, the larger realm and influence of the Daleks beyond the television series. I’ll be joining John Isles and Anne-Louise Fortune to talk about comics, novels and merchandise. The all round excellent Nigel J Anderson of NJ Productions will be hosting and filming the event for later release on Youtube. The whole production is part of the ongoing activity of The Manchester Indie Filmmakers Group.

This is a sequel to our first, well received three part podcast on the missing episodes of Doctor Who, which we filmed earlier in the year.

Should be a lot of fun. We’ll be in the performance area of Manchester Central Library, so if you are interested in being in the audience and taking part please come along and join us. I’ll be posting the finished production on the blog later in the year.

Helping Potting Shed Pete arrive on social media

I first met the performance poet Potting Shed Pete about a year ago, when he came along to Bolton to appear at Scott Devon’s monthly open-mic evening George’s. He’s an engaging character, with a fully worked out stage persona of a cheerful Northern bloke in flat cap and white gloves. Most of his poem’s are light-hearted observational fare, but occasionally he’ll reveal a more serious side to his work, which is more effective by the contrast.

A little while ago he got in touch to ask if I could commit a few of his poems to video so he could use them to promote himself. I’ve plenty of experience of filming poets for Live from Worktown and related projects, but these videos are the first I’ve made entirely under my own steam. I think they’ve turned out pretty well. Especially the sound, as I used a cheap tie-clip microphone and a separate Olympus dictaphone to capture it, rather than rely on the camcorder’s mic which also picks up reverberations from the room. Standard practice of course for professional cameramen but it’s a taken a while for me to learn to do it by default.

In addition to the videos I also created a YouTube page for him which you can visit here. Please give them a watch and I hope you enjoy them.

Whilst I still think of myself primarily as a writer, these video jobs are satisfying as another creative string.

Watch the best of our Bolton poetry festival – Live from Worktown 2015

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So after all the stressful planning, the filming and the late nights, the second Live from Worktown festival of the spoken word is over. Well I say over, you can still buy copies of our accompanying poetry anthology with contributions from all over the UK and beyond, not to mention a long overdue reissue of Hovis Presley’s bestselling collection “Poetic Off-License”. Sometime soon the committee will have a review meeting to consider what succeeded and what could have been done better.

Plus you can watch my videos of many of the events, which I’ve been busy editing during the course of the festival. I’ve put them together into a Youtube playlist below. You’ll find local poets like Jefferama and Louise Fazackerly rubbing shoulders with major names like John Hegley and Brian Patten. I think the part of the festival I’m most proud of is the connections it makes between people, connections which might flower into new creative projects, or just make people’s lives a bit brighter.

Highlights for me have been the energy, enthusiasm and sheer quality of the performers on the INSYT Media vs Young Identity evening. John Hegley’s hilarious clever set, and the good feedback I’ve had from the Hovis Presley night. The latter was the evening I was overseeing and it pushed me into new responsibilities and has given me more confidence for future happenings.

Low-lights have been the problems of finding good venues for our festival programme, money worries when it looked like our Arts Council grant application had failed and trying to think of new ways to promote the festival at the eleventh hour.

However I think Live from Worktown as a brand has definitely raised its profile and reputation significantly this year. Most of the credit goes to Dave Morgan, Scott Devon, Paul Blackburn and Louise Coulson for all their hard work. Now its time to put some of my other projects back on the table and get them completed. Hopefully I’ll have more to tell you about soon. Thanks for reading.

For more information about the festival, or if you want to buy a copy of the anthology, please visit http://livefromworktown.org

Lear’s Daughters (or why is everyone so evil in King Lear?)

Hello again. One of the hats I wear is updating the Bolton Little Theatre website. I’m also on the marketing committee. At the last meeting I suggested filming some interviews with the creative souls at the theatre to promote up-coming plays and I’ve just completed the first one, which you can watch below.

It is centered on our forthcoming production in April of “Lear’s Daughters”, a prequel to “King Lear” looking into what made Goneril, Regan and Cordelia the women they are in Shakespeare’s tragedy. The play is written by Elaine Feinstein. But I’ll let director June Grice explain more…

Hope you find it interesting. Here is Ben Latham’s excellent poster for the production too.

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