Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Boy who cried Wolf at Bristol Old Vic

A few weeks ago I went to my writer's group as usual in Bristol. After the meeting I walked past the set of Bristol Old Vic's #The Boy who cried Wolf which juts out in front of the Georgian building onto the cobbles of King Street.

The Michael Morpurgo adaption of Aesop's fables is directed by Sally Cookson.

Seeing the set took me back to my days as a researcher at Bristol Old Vic for the play 'A Town in the West Country' where we dressed the street with sandbags and had a tank parked outside for performances. We led the audience through backstage areas to the sound of sirens. That job, collecting stories from elderly people about their war experiences, and using these in the production is still one of the most enjoyable jobs I've had. Ordinary people acted, making the 'community play' vivid and real.

Scroll forward xxx years to a July evening on  King Street 2013. I heard accordian music and singing as the actors rehearsed.  White paper roses, a sun, a tree loomed out of the wrapped scaffolding that hid the stage.

I danced on the cobbles - as no one was looking - then crept close to catch a glimpse  of the actors, my eye pressed close to the drapes. Waistcoat waiter types with hats were in rehearsal. All I could see was a prominent belly and a side profile, but I was rumbled; an actor spotted me, glancing at me instead of towards the imagined audience. I was clearly a distraction. I did the decent thing and crept away over the cobbles, skipping to my car.

This week the writers' group were sitting outside Renarto's, discussing NP's novel, dripping in the heat. Distracted by the noises of the play in production I spent some time watching a seagull perched on the elegant triangle of the top of the old theatre.

All of a sudden a young seagull with mottled markings flew low above the street and with a swoop landed right into the set. Huge laughter from the audience, then nothing. I sat and watched, alongside a real waiter from Renarto's but no seagull flew out again.

Most distracting. The following day I tweeted @bristololdVIc from my @wordpoppy account and one of the actors explained that an audience member had placed the seagull outside.

Anyway, I've heard the show is very good. And there are tickets left.

Stranger than fiction - if you read this in a novel you wouldn't believe it.

I'm just back from my writer's night in King Street, Bristol where the novelists meet.

Before the meeting I went into the spar shop to get some cash for the meter.

Behind me a man said. I'm not gay you know, staring at the girl behind the till.

She blinked.

'No, I'm paranoid.' He said, 'I take tablets.'

He paid for his apple.

'I'm sorry I'm paranoid,' he said, It's because of a girl. She broke my heart.

On paths, choice and writing

Looking through old photos taken over the last few years I've noticed many of them are paths.

Here's my Australian collection: 

I used to worry over whether I'd chosen 'correctly' - career path, partner, houses, computer, bed, bread or board.

The agony of choice overwhelmed me, and I'd find equally interesting choices and not know which one to take. Perhaps that's why I find re-drafting my novel so hard. Have I thrown away a writing nugget?  For me the fun is in creation rather than shaping. As I type I'm surrounded by stacks of drafts of my novel, and centimetres of feedback from my writers group. I have many versions of my novel. 

Perhaps subconsciously my photos are telling me that I'm still working out the answer to the riddle of what I should be doing, or where I should be going. Maybe I think that once I'm on the 'right' path I'll be happy, or fulfilled, or content.
 Here are a few English paths that I've photographed over the last year.
Animal track

Cornwall, path from the beach

View from Welsh church

Looking at these images, it seems I'm still trying to work it out. I've always felt a 'little out of sorts', taking the role of observer on the edge of things, which is a good state to be in for a writer. Writing for me is far easier than speaking, it's the place where my thoughts live. It is the writing, or not doing the writing that has dominated so much of my life. There's been on-going frustration - as discussed in my very fist blog post about how I wasn't putting my work there, and so wasn't being 'heard'. 

Interestingly, at the end of my thirty day challenge to change things I wrote that I'd climbed the path. Now I'm feeling I'm still half way up - and that's good because at the top of the path, with a clear view the only way is down. And I want to keep on climbing and exploring choice in my writing and life.

The more I write, blog and practice being creative - then the happier I feel and my inner voice  that knows what to do and is instinctive rather than intellectual, is heard. 

The last word belongs to Robert Frost.

Here is a Youtube recording of Robert Frost reading The Road Less Travelled

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Guy Fawkes and Alice at Montacute

A few weeks ago some friends and I visited the National Trust property, Montacute House in Somerset in a converted ambulance called Bob. 

Alice in Wonderland

The day was the first hot day of summer, and the sun was high and still. As we walked up to the imposing Elizabethan Mansion an Alice in Wonderland type girl posed for a photo-shoot. Her face was chalk white and she wore a silk peacock gown. The young photographer. behind  a very large tripod wore a white cotton dress. They were both yin and yang, presumably students, but both looked as if they'd walked out of a film. 

We walked across Montacute's fabulously romantic grounds, with deep borders of roses and dreamy planting set against formal lawns. Pudding houses with beautiful mosque-like structures  stand at the corners of the lawn. This is where diners would retire to  eat quince perhaps ? On the other side of the lawns tall old yews are lopped into topiary, bending and twisting in a formal still life. 

The place is full of atmosphere,and on a whim I took this photo. When I looked at it at the end of the day I couldn't make any sense of the shape our shadows made. I am a petite size 10, but look wide. What was my friend holding? What is the hook that appears on my shoulder? 
The picture seems to hold significance beyond itself. Interesting to now discover that the house was built for Sir Edward Phelips who gave the opening speech at the prosecution of the trial of Guy Fawkes. 

The exterior is imposing and gargoyles and carved statues keep watch over the house.
Pudding House

Inside are some fascinating pieces such as a marriage bed with carvings of women with enormous breasts and bulging thighs. Upstairs  the Long gallery stretches the entire length of the house and contains  portraits from the National Portrait Gallery which include the 'eyebrow collection'  and the 'crossed eye collection' of princes and kings - crossed eyes to show that the monarchs aren't to be trusted. It is a house full of echoes and however much the guides talked the place has an eerie feel to it. This is a view from one of the windows.  

And this is one of the staircases, where it's easy to imagine walking down in the heavy petticoats and gowns depicted in the Long Gallery collection. Luckily trusty Bob was waiting for us at the end of the day.
Down, down