Tag Archives: Writing

Liverpool Fringe Festival: Hurt and The Man with No Identity – Review

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Liverpool Fringe Festival: Hurt and The Man with No Identity – Review

If you were not in the Casa, Liverpool Friday night between 7 and 10 you missed two wonderful things.  First: the best night of the Liverpool Fringe Festival.  Two: the debut shows of two of the most promising new playwrights Liverpool has right now.

The first show was Hurt by Jemma Buntin.  This groundbreaking play tells a vital daring story of extremism, isolation and radicalisation in today’s uncertain world.

Michael Moran who recently starred as Kevin Moody in ITV’s Little Boy Blue gives a heart wrenching portrayal of John, a 15 year old boy whose loneliness has led him to the world of Islamophobia and Far Right Extremism.

John is alone while the other characters are arranged in pairs, which increases the sense of his isolation.  Lee Morris and Katie Lynn play Isaac and Jenny.  Isaac is John’s best friend and tries to defend John though he doesn’t agree with his views.  Jenny is Isaac’s friend and attacks John and his views.  The three way relationship gives a roundness to the story in a beautifully subtle way.

Zeedane, played by Dimitri Dematteo, who is Muslim has moved to the town with his sister Madeeha, played by Christina Bimpson, and is joining the youth club football team John, Isaac and Jenny are a part of.  John is very upset by this and after an emotional argument leaves the youth club angry and distressed.  This begins a cycle of events that drives John further into the world of extremism and towards the path of anger and violence.  Zeedane and Madeeha’s parents are both dead and John’s father was killed while serving in the armed forces creating a tangible emotional parallel between the characters.

The final pairing are the two adults in the play, John’s mother played by Emily-Louise Lockhart and Eddie played by Louis Cashin-Harris who runs the youth club.  John’s mother is struggling with alcohol addiction making his home life difficult and Eddie tries to keep the peace by removing John from situations rather than offering him the help that he needs.  This leaves him with no mature role model to turn towards.

A loud surreal fast moving Ensemble made up of Joe Massey, Andrew Holliday, Dylan Kealy, Britani Humphries and Kenya Humphries, along with some of the primary cast, make up the last element of an environment in which John is rapidly suffocating.  He is alone in the world and there is nothing anywhere for him.  The Far Right Extremists say they will give him the chance to do his Dad justice and, most importantly, somewhere to belong.

This controversial play is a fast moving, heart wrenching tale of what it is to be young and alone in today’s world, desperate for someone to turn to and something to cling on to.

This show has been performed as part of the Liverpool Fringe Festival.  Some of the performances had some roles performed by an alternative cast.  Michael Moran, Louis Cashin-Harris, Christina Bimpson and Dimitri Damatteo appear in both casts.  The actors were all provided by AllStars Casting and the play was skillfully directed by Sylvie Gatrill.

I managed to catch up with some of the cast and the playwright after the showing.  This is the first stage performance for a lot of the cast including Michael Moran and Dimitri Dematteo.  The cast are all very mature and showed great insight into the issues dealt with in the play and the motivations of the characters.  There was a lot of support for events like the Liverpool Fringe Festival and its ability to promote theatre within the local community and give people within the arts scene the opportunity to network with other local artists.  They feel it is very important to produce and perform controversial theatre as it raises awareness of issues.  Michael Moran said that people are aware of things happening but don’t understand all of the issues involved.  He feels the play will help people to understand hate and presenting the issues as a story paints a full picture of what is happening.  The play was particularly important to Dimitri Dametteo who wanted to play his role after experiencing racial bullying growing up.  He loves the play and feels the message if very important.  He says that doing the play has been an education for the whole cast and changed them all.  Christina Bimpson really appreciated the parallels of parental loss between Madeeha and Zeedane, and John and liked the contrast of Madeeha and Zeedane having religion to turn to whereas John had nothing leading him to turn to extremism.

Speaking to Jemma Buntin, the playwright I learned that this performance was a shortened version of her full play.  She is hoping to find the right venue to perform the full show in and would also be interested in adapting the play for screen and also going into schools with the play as a Theatre in Education with associated workshop activities.  The issues in the play are very important to her and related to her work in Prevent based projects.  She thinks it is important to raise awareness as people talk about the situation behind closed doors but not often enough in public which leads to the isolation that people are feeling.  This stops effective intervention happening quickly enough when radicalisation is taking place.  She is very proud of the whole cast and what they have achieved and has great hope for the future.

Hurt will be reperformed on 29 June at 8:00pm.

IdentityThe second show was the last ever showing of The Man with No Identity by Christopher Woodward which I reviewed after its debut showing in May.  Seeing it again did not lessen its impact and Bob Towers’ masterful portrayal of Edgar J Harris has evolved to become more provocative, more daring and more acerbic than ever.  It is a loss to Liverpool theatre and the world of theatre as a whole that Edgar J Harris will never smile sardonically at his Newton’s cradle again.

Both Christopher Woodward and Jemma Buntin have long exciting careers to look forward to and it has been a privilege to witness the beginning of both.

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

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The Man with No Identity – Review and Interview

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The Man with No Identity – Review and Interview

Tick tick tick tick tick tick.

The sound of a clock is often cited in creative writing manuals and classes as a wonderful way to add tension.  A clock puts your characters under pressure, pushes the crucial moment to the front of your audience’s mind, is so familiar, so haunting.

The sound of a clock is nothing compared to the tension created by a Newton’s Cradle being the only sound on a stage with more props than actors.

The first sound that Edgar J Harris makes before launching into a monologue on detailing his life, his loves, his successes, his failures, is the simple ticking of a Newton’s Cradle which he smiles at enigmatically before glaring down at his audience in disdain.

Edgar J Harris is the man with no identity, the creation of local Liverpool playwright, Christopher Woodward, and an example of what can go wrong when you will do anything to have everything.

The one night show was inspired by George Bouverie Goddard’s painting The Struggle for Existence which like play is painful to look at and impossible to turn away from.  In a world of wolves where the only chance of survival is to destroy, Edgar J Harris, always referred to in full, rants about self improvement in a world that hasn’t progressed and points out that with the right information you can have anything, and everything.

Money and materials are, for Edgar, the root of all happiness.  He is better than his audience.  He is performing a role.  He is a display of money and success and, as Shakespeare said, all the world’s a stage.  He quotes the Bard’s famous monologue, taken so far away from the comedy it normally nestles in, and glances at his pocket watch, a gift from May, the love of his life, who ironically shares her name both the first month of the financial year and the beginning of summer.

May is gone and Edgar is in winter.  Time is the great enemy of all men.  His reflection is empty.  The man he sees is not the man he is.  What can he do about it now?  Surrounded by so many beautiful things, but with no identity to call his own, it seems that Edgar is irrevocably lost.

The Man with No Identity is a haunting look at one man’s struggle for existence, painfully sad and darkly funny with an ending that hits you like a brick wall.  Flawlessly performed by Bob Towers in the Casa, the show was on for one night only, but will be re-performed as part of the Liverpool Fringe Festival on 23 June.  Go see it and become lost within yourself.

Afterwards I was lucky enough to speak to Christopher Woodward about his debut show.  Follow up questions were done online:

DMD: So this is your first play.  Have you written anything else before like fiction or poetry?

CW: Never.  Never wrote until last year, when I got the dream.  So it came from a dream.

DMD: Came from a dream?

CW: Yeah.

DMD: I read in the paperwork that it’s inspired by a painting.

CW: Yeah: Bouverie Goddard’s Struggle for Existence. It’s in the Walker Art Gallery. When I had the vision of writing the play I went.  I was just wandering around the Walker Art Gallery; I like art and I came across the lovely Bouverie Goddard painting and it just spoke to me and that’s where I got the characteristics for the character.

DMD: Yeah.

CW: Yeah it’s amazing.

DMD: Yeah, I’ve done poems inspired by paintings. Are you familiar with An Experiment with an Air Pump? It’s another play inspired by a painting.

CW: No.

DMD: It’s a Newcastle play so it’s quite a nice link with the local play and the painting.

CW: Ah I see yeah.

DMD: Another parallel I noticed was Dorian Grey.

CW: Dorian Grey? Yeah, yeah, I like Dorian Grey. Oscar Wilde.

DMD: Yeah when Edgar said his reflection was empty it reminded me of him looking at the portrait.

CW: The guy who inspired me most to write was Arthur Miller. Death of a Salesmen.

DMD: View from the Bridge?

CW: View from the Bridge is fantastic.

DMD: I’ve seen on your Instagram that you’re reading Henrik Ibsen.  A Doll’s House is one of my favourite plays.  Do you prefer European or American theatre?

CW: I mainly like the American theatre like David Mamett, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams but Samuel Becket is fantastic also.  Arthur Miller is my idol.

DMD: The Man with No Identity can be seen again at the Liverpool Fringe Festival.  Is there anything else in the pipeline?

CW: Yes I’m currently working on my second play which is about the daily struggle of homelessness.

DMD: After seeing The Man with No Identity, I’m sure Christopher will do that justice!

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

GloPoWriMo: Day 15

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GloPoWriMo: Day 15

The Day 15 prompt was to write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something.  The poem could be about being on a journey and stopping for a break, or the gap between something half-done and all-done.  Half a loaf is supposedly better than none, but what’s the difference between half of a very large loaf and all of a very small one?  I have written a poem about the novel I’m working on, particularly focusing on what can happen when you’re a writer like me who doesn’t meticulously plan everything that’s going to happen.

Mid Write Crisis

Two weeks ago, exactly
I was working on my novel
I’ve reached that point now
Where the initial excitement
And fervour has disappeared
And now it’s that push
To tie up the loose ends of the story
And begin that painful process
Of letting it marinate for a while
Then re-reading every single word
With a critical eye
And polishing it up
Into something worthwhile

When my antagonist
Started kicking off
About being made
To do horrible things

I’m not a bad guy really
I’m really not
I don’t want to be this person
My brother, that guy’s an arse
But I can be a better person
I want to be a better person
Why are you making me do such horrible things?

And now, my novel
Half done
Half finished
Halfway there
Has been turned on its head
Everything needs to change
Before that painful process
Of letting it marinate for a while
Then re-reading every single word
With a critical eye
And polishing it up
Into something worthwhile

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

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GloPoWriMo: Day 11

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GloPoWriMo: Day 11

The Day 11 prompt was to write a Bop.  The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet and song.  Like a Shakespearean sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem.  Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition.  In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain. The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain.  My poem features a problem familiar to many people – albeit maybe not literally – being stuck in a small dark place with nowhere to turn.

The End?

I woke up in the blackest darkness
Felt myself bumping along
Tried to sit up and smashed my head
On a ceiling so close, far too close
To be safe in my bedroom
Safe and sound inside my house

This can’t be the end, can it?

I notice I can’t move in any direction
Another bump and I realise I am moving
I must be inside a vehicle, in the boot of a car!
Then I remember when they turned up at the house
Menacing, threatening, saying they would deal with me
Now once and for all. This was going to end
One way or another. They grabbed me, then darkness
Oh God, they’re going to kill me!

This can’t be the end, can it?

I glance over what I have written and sigh
It’s tending towards melodramatic and predictable
Don’t comfort me, it’s what you were thinking
Maybe I wasn’t meant to write thrillers
Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer at all
I select every word and hit the delete key

This can’t be the end, can it?

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

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GloPoWriMo: Day 7

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GloPoWriMo: Day 7

The Day 7 prompt was to write a poem about luck and fortuitousness.  Inspiration included Charles Simic’s “The Betrothal” and Stephen Dunn’s “The Arm”. First of all I needed to create the following lists:

1. List 1 – 3 random objects. (Smaller tends to be better.)
2. List 1 – 3 random but specific locations. (Think in the cookie jar, or under my seat…)
3. List 1 – 2 objects you’ve lost and a few notes on their back-story.
4. List 1- 2 objects you’ve found and few notes on their back-story.

Then I needed to choose an object from List 1, a location from List 2, and connect them in a poem with ideas from Lists 3 & 4.  Here are my lists:

Random objects:
1.   Teacup
2.   Penny
3.   Candle

Random locations:
1.   In front of the kitchen sink
2.   In the wardrobe
3.   The fireplace

Things I’ve lost:
1.  Stories I wrote as a child – I’ve been writing almost as long as I can remember and wish I had those first scribblings
2.   Books – So many people have borrowed my books and not returned them, I don’t lend them out any more

Things I’ve found:
1.   A colleague’s wedding ring – I noticed a glint on the office floor.  It was his wedding ring and it had been squashed flat!
2.   A stranger’s bank card on the bus – She was on her way to buy her kids’ school uniforms so was very grateful I saw it

And somehow out of these lists came this little story, which is sort of about good luck!

 

The Teacup in the Fireplace

The teacup in the fireplace
In my great aunt’s house
Is almost hidden from view
By books
My great aunt’s house is full of books
So many books
My house
It’s my house now
She left it to me
Much to the disgust of everyone
I love books
I’ve written my own stories since I was a small child
I wish I had those first scribblings
I wish I had finished something
Maybe even had it published
Had a book
With my own name on
To put amongst the many books
In my great aunt’s house
She told me once that so many people
Had borrowed her books
And never returned them
That she didn’t lend them out any more
She didn’t let anyone in any more
To be here
With her
And her books
She just stayed alone
Drinking tea out of
The teacup in the fireplace
I see a glint on the floor
It’s my great aunt’s wedding ring
It must have fallen off
When she left
That last time
It has been squashed flat
Broken
Ruined
Like my great aunt
I walk over to the fireplace
The teacup in the fireplace
Is chipped
And coated in fine cracks
Like my great aunt
I hold the delicate china
And let it drop
It’s bad luck to hold onto negativity
And that cup was filled with it
I turn away from the fireplace
And throw the windows and door open
Letting the world come in
Letting the sunlight wander
Amongst the many books
In my great aunt’s house

Copyright, D M Day, 2017

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Refugee – Review

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Refugee – Review

Last night I saw Potentially Brilliant Productions’ second show Refugee at The Casa, Liverpool.  It was a collaborative play devised over 12 weeks of drama workshops.  The show was based on the group’s own experiences and viewpoints and made use of elements found in Greek theatre such as the Chorus and the Messenger as Storyteller.  The material developed in the workshops was amended, fleshed out and put together by talented director and facilitator, Mikyla Jane Durkan.

The cast who formed this play were all dressed in black clothing will slight variations in style, subtly alluding to the viewpoint that everyone involved the refugee crisis, whether they be refugees themselves, aid workers, politicians or whoever, slot into groups of people who are seen to be all the same, whilst also nodding to the reality of their actual differences.  As well as the usual sound effects use was made of the actors’ own voices to provide eerie surround sound leaving the audience surrounded by wind, rain and tears.

There were a number of monologues and performance poetry incorporated into the disjointed and often disorientating story of loss and hope against hope, with many of the actors remaining on stage forming various tableaus, with and without props, cleverly alluding to the fact that people are often asking, begging, shouting for help, but the people around them don’t hear, don’t move, don’t see – just stand there are carry on with their own lives.

The play explored happiness and what it is to be happy.  For some people being happy is having the latest iPhone in their hand and the most popular status on Facebook.  Other people only hope to have a life without pain and fear.  Fear for themselves, fear for their loved ones, fear for their children.  What it is to have, want, desire and not have, need, and crave was shown intelligently and sensitively.

As one of the actors was violently bullied on stage, after speaking happily with his British friends, I was reminded of the story of David Oluwale.  Almost half a century has passed since this man was hounded on the streets of Leeds and it seems that sadly very little has changed in that time.  Whether or not the level of hatred of people coming into this country has lessened or increased over time was something touched upon in the lively Q&A with the cast and director following the show.

Dehumanisation and desperation.  Hate and fate.  Brutality and compassion.  These were all explored with the intensity and understanding needed to show people with everything what it is to have nothing.  While each cast member contributed fully to the quality and emotion of the production, I do feel that special mention should be given to Helen Jackson, George Melling and Martin Zopa for being particularly memorable in a particularly memorable performance.

This was a story of individuals who are among millions of people.  By seeing the person in a problem which is seen by many as too big and too widely spread to do anything about, it becomes clear that we can all do just that one small thing today, and maybe things won’t be as bad tomorrow.  Because “everyone at least should have somewhere to go”.

Refugee was a one night only showing, however you can see a revised version at the inaugural Liverpool Fringe Festival on 22 June.  Potentially Brilliant’s next project will begin with a 12 week programme of workshops exploring mental illness through some of Shakespeare’s characters.

Copyright, D M Day, 2017