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Trace R and D.

Trace Cast

So the Trace team are very excited to start our research and development period this week. We’re going to spend nine days refining the script, inviting our activity partners in to help with our research, finding the physical language of the play and adding sound.

We’ve already had a full three days and been busy discovering new ways to bring the story to life.

Beatriz Romilly and Amanda Shodeko. Photo by Lexi Clare

I’ve been making changes to the script, as it’s so useful to see the play on it’s feet and to really determine which parts need to remain, and what else may need adding.

Anna Clock is creating some beautiful sounds that explore the themes of loss and dementia that add a very moving layer to the story.

Dudley Rogers and Saul Marron. Photo by Lexi Clare.

Today there’s been some exciting people in the room as Julian Hulme, Avian Palaeontologist has been helping us with with all things Dodo related.

We learnt so many interesting facts about the Dodo that can be so useful when actress Natasha Bain is finding the character. Added to this, we have had movement director Steve Kirkham in who is helping us with the physicality of the piece.

Director Alice Fitzgerald, Steve Kirkham and Actress Natasha Bain. Photo by Lexi Clare.
Nadia Albina, Saul Marron and director Alice Fitzgerald tackle scene one.

Today we were lucky enough to have Dr Chris Hardy, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Co -Director of the Dementia MSc (Neuroscience) in the room who gave some invaluable insights and knowledge about dementia and the many forms it can take, which we hope will give authenticity to the piece. This fed into some ideas we are testing with the character of Albert in the play who is in the late stages of dementia.

Alice Fitzgerald and Dr Chris Hardy

Over the next couple of days and part of next week we will meeting more dementia specialists and developing our ideas further. It’s very exciting to see what happens over this period and how enriched the play becomes being given the space and time to truly explore.

On a practical level I’m learning how to stay still as the writer, (never easy if you have ants in your pants as I do) as normally as an actor I’m the first to get up and want to move around. I find that even when I’m wanting to try a new line out, my instinct is to want to try acting it out first.

Oh and it was my birthday. Strange one this year, as my two Grandmother’s have both very recently died within weeks of each other, one of whom was in the late stages of dementia like Albert. Odd not to receive their cards, odd not to hear their voices. By some strange form of fate, I’m in the midst of exploring grief in my creative practice too.

Team Trace however, really know how to look after you and if it wasn’t gift enough this year that Lexi Clare and Alice Fitzgerald have helped bring my play to life, they also brought fizz and cake (not drunk in rehearsals…). Thank you both, it meant a lot.

Chasing time.

So myself and Alice, the director, started our first script session this week with the play, which is refreshing and invigorating for any playwright. We are tightening the dialogue and making sure the scenes have clarity and pace to them. It’s easy to get too close to the lines you’ve written, often months or years before, and whether they make sense and so another eye on them helps immeasurably, even at draft ten, eleven or twelve.

There’s often big gaps in developing stages with a play and even since we had the rehearsed reading at The Tristan Bates Theatre a little over a year ago, personal life, the political climate, new insights, and changes have taken place in real time alongside of Trace’s timeless story.

Little did I know that when writing the character of Albert who has dementia and is dying, and his son, David, who is struggling to say goodbye, that I would fast forward six years to a real life situation where I would find myself in the same situation with sadly the most authentic research to date.

This week, I had to say goodbye to someone very dear to me, My dear Granny. She struggled so much near the end with Parkinson’s disease, Dementia and other infections.

It only served to remind me that we are telling an important and universal story of loss and transformation and the fragile process of letting someone go. When someone has dementia you are constantly looking into their eyes searching for where they are and wondering if they know themselves where they are. I was one of the lucky ones. I had the gift of one brief moment of lucidity before she left, the recognition and the most positive exclamation that it was ‘marvellous’ that I was there. These morsels make all the difference.

One thing we know for certain in this life, is that Grief will visit us time and time again. It is a painful process, and different for everyone. For me, time seems to stop when someone dies and I am suddenly travelling to periods of my life when they were most present. For me, I became a child again, thinking back to all the love she shared when I had lost my father, her son so young. Grief visited her sharply, but even in pain, she chose to keep loving.

My children in real time were only seven and nine when I first started developing ideas for the teenagers in Trace and now as the years have gone by, I find myself with teenagers of my own which takes on a whole different perspective when looking at their narratives. Also with technology rapidly advancing and slang terms and language constantly evolving in the teenage world, it’s amazing how minor adjustments need to be made there too.

I remember working at the Arcola Theatre on the Playwrought programme with another play and being asked to think about how your play has moved in time, and wasn’t sure that it was relevant, but I totally understand it now.

It’s not necessarily about news or themes no longer relevant, but more to do with how you might have changed over time, and what you may have experienced, how that may change your attitude to the play or it’s characters. Possibly it is about the things you have gained in that real life time in-between, but also the things you have lost – both to be learned from.

I wasn’t sure how to write this post, the play being so closely linked to my current feelings, but felt the only way was honesty. Most of my work has always sprung from feelings or fleeting thoughts, or dreams and why should I try and pretend anything else?

The idea for Trace began with a dream I had of my Dad, who I lost many years ago returning to me with limited time to speak. The play then became a collections of other characters, also in the process of losing things or trying to find their way back to themselves.

I’m so excited to finally explore this play, so grateful to Alice and Lexi who secured the funding from the Arts Council, and this week came back to this quote again that I found when first exploring the themes in Trace

‘Your soul doesn’t care what you do for a living – and when your life is over, neither will you.  Your soul cares only about what you are being while you are doing whatever you are doing’Neale Donald Walsh

RIP my Beautiful Granny Richards. Daisy Beryl Richards 1928 – 2019.

Trace gets funding.

We are absolutely over the moon to say that we will soon be awarded Arts Council England funding to research and develop my play Trace. Lexi Clare, our producer, and Alice Fitzgerald, director, worked so hard on the application and four attempts later we have secured it.

First steps include checking availability of our Space, casting, planning and contacting our existing activity partners who we have engaged with already when doing the application. Alice and myself have set up some script meetings and we also hope to meet with some of those activity partners who are specialists in the field of Dementia and loss ( Big themes in the play).

Image by Andy Hall


You can follow more about Trace and our journey with its development on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tracetheplay/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Also on https://twitter.com/tracetheplay

It’s come a long way as a play and we cant wait to get started on it! Watch this space.

Here we go again!

So is it already a year since I last embarked on writing a play every day for a month BUT also ran every day too? I can be pretty extreme at times it has to be said, and have always loved a challenge, but am I about to do a crazy thing like that again? Surely there’s no time for that. I have two full length plays to concentrate on ( One coming up at The Space arts centre end of May https://twitter.com/clock_flowers plug plug) that need fresh drafts. I have other work on and other paid work to write for…. and responsibilities and kids and let’s face it the flat hasn’t has a good clean in like…well cough cough..a while. There are no good reasons to be doing this apart from this fact. I felt like in amongst the chaos that is life, this small 28 day challenge kept my mind and mental well being on the straight and narrow path of purpose. That, and a feeling of achievement and completion that you often don’t feel as a self employed artist. Hell yes I’m doing it again. List of reasons why:

  1. It was a good habit to get into. Even when you didn’t feel like writing you know you have to. There’s a deadline. There’s not time to think too much. You have to write, whether its crap or well vaguely alright.
  2. ‘There’s no time’. I did some of them in my notes on my Phone, uploaded them at home and then didn’t feel tied to one spot. So that was a few lines of dialogue on the tube, bus, lunch time etc. They’re short plays. Not three acts.
  3. A lot of them were rubbish, but that’s not the point, some of them had and have real potential. So many competitions now ask for short plays, and there you have them marked in your ’28 plays’. With a bit of refining, some are good to go.
  4. It keeps me sane. Writing can be a lonely old business. Through social media channels and other writer friends, I felt connected to a bigger thing, a writer’s community where a collective movement was keeping us buoyed up together. So what you waiting for? Still time just about to sign up and who knows this time next year one of them may be the best thing you’ve ever written! More info here : http://www.theliteralchallenge.com/28-plays-later-entryh   

See you on the other side. Oh and there’s few on here from last year.!

More info here : http://www.theliteralchallenge.com/28-plays-later-entryh 

28 plays later and 28 runs later completed!

How foolish I was to think that I could write a play every day, run every day, but also then upload a blog post every time I did it. Once again, what was I also thinking initially about the idea of doing a painting  every day too. I’ve already uploaded 12 plays and posts,  (see previous posts) but then it became too much. However….

Moving on to what I did complete.

I’m pleased to say, not without it being a little tricky at times I  completed both the Playwriting and the running challenges and it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in a long time!! 28 plays later and 28 runs later.

There were some pretty shoddy plays at times ( There was the very bad episode of Holby city and the ‘bad play week’) and some very slow, short runs, but equally there were a couple of gems in the writing that I could develop further and I managed a personal best on the local Parkrun.

This was never going to be about making money ( Thank God I have some work coming in) but always about stretching and moving  the two muscles to uncharted places where I had to think outside the norm and change my routine. This was about the act of doing with no excuses.

There was something very comforting and purposeful about the ritual of both and I definitely think it will encourage me to write stuff that doesn’t always have to be right and run not always for miles, but just to feel a bit more awake.

I loved and dreaded being sent the 10pm prompt every night wondering what the next writing challenge would be that would have to be submitted in 36 hours. Invariably the ones that I thought I would never be able to write were the ones I enjoyed the most. Again, I think I needed to get out of a safe place with my writing and explore a bit more. I even re-drafted my full length play Fire blight during the challenge as suddenly there was the permission to write without having to be perfect or please anyone.

And so…here are some of them with the daily runs they accompanied. They are not masterpieces, the runs or the plays, but I think in these times of austerity it is harder to celebrate failure in the arts and so I’ve created my own corner of rebellion. What the hell, I just ‘did it’. If your’e very bored on the train one day, you might want to read them and I’m interested whether the picture and run persuades you to have a peek. Thank you Sebastian, 28 plays later and Theatre deli, it’s been fun.

13. Water

 

 

 

 

14.The bones of you

 

 

 

‘Borderlines’                                                                16 Heat

 

 

 

 

 

18 Decipher

The one we had to write incorporating emojis

 

17 Noise

 

 

 

19 I’d do anything for love ( But I won’t do that)

 

 

 

20 Getting Date night right 

 

 

 

23 ‘Home’ the offensive week                                                              22 Two kinds of immigrants

‘Home’ the offensive week…so bad I can’t share it

‘Two kinds of Immigrants’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 Where no one dies  

Where no one dies

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Cuts in hearts

‘Cuts in hearts’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Analytical engine’ working on this as full length piece

 

25. Analytical engine – about Ada Lovelace and computer addiction. Making into full play.

 

 

 

 

26 In the mouth of the river

‘In the mouth of the river’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27 Date night mark two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, the last one with beautiful snow to match.

28The moat around the castle.

And that’s it…at least until the next challenge…hmm where are those paint brushes?

 

 

28 Plays 28 runs Challenge 11. ‘Multiplication is vexation’

I hate Maths. I failed my Maths GCSE four times! Numbers make me anxious. Did I say I hate Maths? Ironically, my Mum was a maths teacher and my eldest is a whizz at it, but whatever genetically makes us up, then the Maths gene skipped a visit to my brain.

My poor Mum would invest hours of energy trying to help me with really simple tasks, but it would always end up with me storming around and shouting  ‘I just cant do it, I just cant understand’.

So imagine my joy at challenge number 11. Write a play about numbers or Maths. I’ve spent of the day ( As I did when I was 15 revising for My GCSE) avoiding the task such is my hatred for maths

Give me words any day over Long division. I’ve often had to ask people when I’ve worked at the market how much change I owe them. Yup. It’s that bad. So a play about Maths…hmm. Distract yourself some more and put a post on facebook. And in response to the post  my wonderful friend Kay had the best idea ever. Don’t write about Maths, write exactly what you’ve said, your struggle with it. Thanks Kay. This one is dedicated to you. Just don’t tell your kids in school tomorrow.

So here is the play for the day ‘Multiplication is vexation’  click here : Multiplication is vexation

Running was short but fast today, 22 mins but a much faster pace. We’d already had a long walk this morning so I couldn’t manage anything longer. I didn’t actually run what the picture shows, that was the walk but it was a better one than anything I could have shared from the run, dodgy poo encrusted pavement or a very baggy eyed, sweaty faced me post run. And so on to half term week. Plays and runs will have to be squeezed in as and when I can. And to think, I really want to write a play about Ada Lovelace, computer and maths genius…..time for a re- think? Or maybe this scene should be in it?

 

28 plays 28 runs. Challenge 10. Park run and ‘K pop off’

Today’s challenge: Write a juke box musical or be inspired by ‘K Pop’ Or combine the both?

I had no idea what K pop was but it’s this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzJvBgsFjvQ

I honestly didn’t know where to begin, but arrived at a ‘K Pop off’ where rival teams compete to be the best K pop. The story and dialogue are pretty bad but I was chuffed to use the google translate tool, which I only normally use for my kids French and Spanish. I’m not going to share my play as it falls into the ‘shite play’ prompt from the other day but here are a few of the lyrics of one of the songs I put in it in the beautiful Korean text . That was definitely my favourite part of this challenge. Look how delicate and artistic the Korean language is! Love it.

B: 우리는 도망 간다.우리는 도망 간다.우리는 마침내 자유 롭다.

ulineun domang ganda.ulineun domang ganda.ulineun machimnae jayu lobda.

 Park run day today and my 10th run in a row, which I was looking forward to as it’s an opportunity to catch up with friends. This  running on my own every day has been a bit lonely and it’s a great way to connect with friends who I don’t get to see in the week anymore due to all our different commitments/work etc.Actually started to feel the benefit today of increasing the amount of runs I do and felt strong, endurance levels improving today. I’m still not sure if you should do it every day. I must ask my go to advice and all round running guru Tina Chantrey aka #shewhodaresruns.  Will update next time. Chatted to a mate all the way round. Park runs really are a great invention. Although some people do chase their PB’s ( My husband has very smugly got 23 mins today and keeps looking at his result) it is more about being part of a community and running together. Half term now so things are going to get tricky with the running and the writing. Late nights anyone? Lets set up a #28playslaternocturnalgroup for this week?  Wonder what the next challenge is?

28 plays 28 runs challenge 9 ‘ Just lying there like a beached whale’

 

Challenge no 9. Go dark. Inspired by the Blue Whale challenge that sadly led, it is said, to many suicides or just write about a blue Whale. This family have found themselves on a Caravan site in Dorset…or have they?

Just lying there like a beached Whale

My running pace is soooo slooow but hopefully pick up with the park run tomorrow. My posh hair made me feel more posh so fingers crossed I get the job.

Did I say I liked this new app? Fit snap?

28 plays 28 runs Challenge 8 ‘Scrumptious’

Today’s challenge. Sport. Something sporty. I’d already done the rubbish running one so went for what I know. Rugby. Its called ‘Scrumptious’ and features two competitive Mum’s on the sidelines of a Rugby match. The game gets a bit nasty.  Here is: Scrumptious the short play about Rugby…well it’s not really. For any Mum’s out there who’ve over heard the ‘which schools chat’, this will resonate.

Running was tough. No energy, a gruelling 20 mins up hill. Started to wonder if this running every day was a good idea.  The prize, a Haircut at the top. Needed to look posh for a casting the next day. Usually leave it 6 months to get it ‘Done’ but thought I’d best make the effort. The hair was bouncier than my run, but he hair isn’t bouncy today. Ooh and I’ve stolen an idea from my friend Richard and got the ‘Fit snap app’ do love a new app.

28 plays later 28 runs later challenge 7 ‘Expo in a position’

So today’s challenge was to write something totally crap. Like the worst thing ever, with no auto correct, typos still in, the worst possible thing.

Mine was about three runners at a marathon ‘Expo’. It was called ‘Expo in a position’. Yes. I know. Good hey? No.  They talked about running, talked more about running. nothing much happened. They talked about what colour trainers they liked.  There were some really clumsy flash backs, a contemporary dance expressing one of the characters feelings, I left all the mistakes in before corrected and then they talked about running some more. There was zilch subtext, every character expressed everything they were feeling and then the other character repeated that.

It is shite…but quite funny…but I’m  not happy about sharing it. Maybe one day if I get published with something better.

It was an  interesting prompt though as actually the harder I tried to write total shite, the more it got quite surreal, and actually morphed into a comedy sketch, so who knows, there may be a place for it somewhere.

Real running was short and sweet but I’m proud of how I’ve managed to keep it up. Not quite Eddie Izzard efforts but I’m still committed. A respectable 25 mins or so.