In the eye of the storm and after…

It’s taken a little while to process…

This time last week Cathy and I were in the last throws of the rehearsal period for our plays.  And we were sweating because three days to rehearse two 45 minute plays is a huge ask.  A huge massive ask which our director Tom Hogan and actors Julia Nelson, Josh Moran, Zoe Iqbal and Abdullah Afzal took on themselves and excelled in.  But it took nerves of steel all round to get there.  So the first thing I’d like to say here is a huge thank you to them.  The second thing I’d like to say is that next time we’ll budget for more than 3 days!  Because, at times, the process was stressful.  It was particularly difficult to find ways to represent the world in my script because so much of what happens needs a budget to make it happen.  So in the end after much exploration we went for a ‘read the stage directions out’ approach.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that the point of this evening was not to envisage the text but to represent the script.  That was hard for me and Tom – we wanted to do more but it just wasn’t’ possible. I want to say a huge thank you to Cathy here too, who showed incredible generosity.  My script took longer to rehearse and she never batted an eyelid.  She just smiled and said ‘we’ll be fine’.  There are not many people like Cathy Crabb.  I feel lucky to be working with her… But I am not calm like her.  I always get scared before shows.  I always find myself in the toilet staring at the cubical wall telling myself that this is the last time I will write a fucking play. That this is the last time I do something so stupid as to write down all this secret stuff that is in my head and which should stay there.  “From now on” I tell myself  “It will, because really, what the fuck were you thinking Emma?”  And the fear goes round and round my head.  Only last week it was even worse than normal.  This time I was thinking ‘HELLO?! So you and Cathy have invited tons of people to come and see work that isn’t finished and the actors and director have had a tiny amount of time to sort it and WHAT?  Have you lost your mind?”

I’m paraphrasing, but this is roughly the kind of thing I was thinking as audience members began to arrive at the theatre…  These are the second lot of people I would like to thank.  We had an amazing turn out.  Just over 60 people came.  That’s a lot of generous people.  And they were a great audience.

So the lights went down… And somehow all my fears faded because between the actors and the audience an energy flowed and both plays got to take flight.  It’s the strangest thing to see your work living in other people’s minds and bodies and voices… I learnt so much from seeing the plays up on their feet.  I learnt so much from watching them in rehearsal.  There are lines which I loved on the page, which as soon as I heard them spoken I suddenly knew they were WRONG.  Why does that happen?  Why can something look right on the page and be so wrong in the mouth?  It’s a mystery but the process threw up plenty of that kind of thing to help my along the way with the rewrite.

But then there was some stuff I hadn’t thought about too.  Some incredibly useful thoughts came up in the feedback session after the show… I loved the vibe at our Q+A it was gentle but also critical.  It felt safe but challenging and that is a real gift.  So thank you to everyone involved in the audience for you thoughts and also Iain Bloomfield AD at Theatre in the Mill who chaired it and really did such an ace job of keeping things flowing and making it feel like a conversation.

I got up the next morning and sat in my jimmies writing down all the points I could remember from the night before.  And all through the morning I was getting tweets, texts and emails from people who had more thoughts about the plays.  As I write, a week later today I received a postcard in the post too with thoughts about ways forward.

There are two many thoughts to write everything down here, but something heartening which came up over and over with people’s feedback was that they loved the journey that Cathy and I are on and they want to see the plays develop into a full production.  So many people said ‘can’t wait to see what you do with these plays next’… That doesn’t mean that they all thought everything was finished and fine.  But to go into a rewrite feeling that kind of positivity is something special.  It feels like we have a reason to keep working hard.  It feels like there is a good reason to fight to find the funding to take this work into production.  That feels good… That’s the thing I’ll remind myself of next time I’m in the toilet cubical wondering why the fuck I do this to myself…

Because we haven’t had enough yet.  We’ve just started…

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Yes- what Emma said and onto the next adventure.

Cathy mentally prepares for the week to come…

In the past I haven’t usually had a great response from sending scripts out to people and places. I usually get more interest from the play being seen.  Reading a script for me- it’s like showing someone the ingredients for a cake and asking them to imagine what it would taste like.  So I was anxious about the reading room night at The King’s Arms approaching. It was a good idea because we have been sharing and open with this project and it was the most open we could be; to give our scripts to be scribbled on or taken away or questioned.  Emma said she felt more nervous than the Shipley diving board, I was trying to swim in the shallow waters of my brain over it.

We were there early to set up the pens and feedback sheets in the snug, and I moved the board games off the piano to put two piles of scripts on. We couldn’t get the big light on,  and the beautiful intricate wool chandelier that the knitting club (who meet in the snug on Tuesdays) covering  it made me chuckle, and made me think about how well utilised The King’s Arms is and anyway it was cosy with just the side lamps.  People started arriving quite early and by 7:15 the room was full. It was full!  As Emma said it was a great night and inspiring and I felt we were supported. There were a lot of writer’s in that room and we ARE stronger in numbers.

Earlier when I was walking the dog, I started to think about what the feedback may be like on Friday. Would I feel embarrassed if someone asked me something I didn’t know about the characters? Or- what if someone said to me- do you think that someone who had mental health issues would be offended?  I feel I need to prepare for this one especially, maybe we both do as the psyche is integral in both plays. It’s a tough one because with thinking about my own mental health- on a good day I may not be offended even if people tried, but on a bad day inanimate objects could offend me, on a bad day the world is wrong and I am misunderstood. I think I will answer that one with ‘I hope people can see that I have presented a terrible occurrence that resulted in good.’ You have to be ready and thoughtful about these things I think.

I’m so looking forward to this- and I am moved and excited by how different  the plays are and yet how they fit together perfectly.  The ingredients are ready, it’s time to bake the cake!

Upcoming Enough Project events

Friday 9th September, 7.30pm

Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Tickets to this event are free and can be reserved from the TiM box office by telephone 01274 233200 or email theatre@bradford.ac.uk (remaining tickets will be available on the door on the night).
Directed by Tom Hogan, this rehearsed reading of the two new 45minute plays comes hot on the heels of a twin event at Studio Salford and is a unique opportunity to grab a preview of these two new works.
The writers will be propping up the bar after the reading to talk about the work and discuss  what happens next with the production. Join them for a glass of wine and to put your two-penneth into the conversation.

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The Means Are The Ends – Emma’s Thoughts After Our Script Reading Event at the Salford King’s

Last night, as part of the Enough Project Pan-Pennine Playwriting experiment Cathy and I invited the public to come to the King’s Pub, have some wine, read our plays, and then tell us what they thought of them.

If I’m honest I did spend most of yesterday prior to the event thinking – ‘Why the hell are we doing this?’ Because I wouldn’t usually dream of sharing work this early on, unless it was with really trusted friends.

So, why do it?

Having survived the experience – here are a few things that now make me think it was worth doing…

It was quite beautiful to peep into the pub’s snug filled with people intently reading with their glasses of wine and their best ‘concentrated’ faces on. How often as adults do we get to do that? It was lovely.

One of the readers, Jimmy, said afterwards that he had loved the feeling of sharing what is usually a solitary experience with a roomful of people.

Another reader, Pete, looked me in the eye and said ‘Your script is like Abigail’s Party on acid’ and that made me feel girlishly happy.

Another reader (whose name I didn’t catch, I’m sorry) wrote notes all over my script. She wasn’t convinced by some of my decisions. But the way she shared those thoughts was honest and supportive. I’m still thinking about what she’s written. I’m not sure if I agree with her yet or not, but the spirit in which she shared those thoughts is something that means a lot to me.

Another reader called Lucia asked one of the most important questions of the night for me. She asked about whether the two plays were designed to ‘always’ be performed together? And how much Cathy and I knew about one another’s plays as we were working on our own?

I found these questions really pertinent. While on the surface our two plays are stylistically very different and both could stand up on their own, both Cathy and I feel they are stronger when experienced in conjunction. And yet it’s strange that it has worked out this way. We both knew nothing about each other’s ideas as we were writing. All we knew was that we were responding to the word ‘enough’ and that we had 4 characters to play with. And yet what we have both come up with resonates as a ‘whole’ somehow. My play ‘Good Enough’ is a surreal dark comedy about family life and how personal choices impact on others and ultimately ‘the world out there’. Meanwhile Cathy has written ‘Worms’ a naturalistic comedy drama about how political ideas impact on the individuals in a family and the choices they make about what is important in their lives. The differences between the plays create a kind of symmetry and I find this really exciting. We’ve always loved each other’s work despite our differences, but now it feels like our work together is better because the differences have become its strength…

And to me that is why last night really mattered… in these frightening days of cuts where artists are being asked to justify their existence, the temptation is to try and safeguard our own position by undermining others. It’s called divide and rule and while it’s tempting, we all go there at our peril. Because the ONLY thing about art that really matters is that it creates windows of understanding between people. And so surely it follows, the more voices there are, the more understanding there has to be. Surely? And the more understanding there is, then the more we remember that for all our differences we are all one… Remembering that stuff feels really important at the moment.

I had an amazing conversation at the end of the night with Jimmy who said something I’ll never forget. He said ‘When people say we’ve no need for subsidised art, tell them to go home and strip the wallpaper off their walls, and take the lampshades down too. Tell them to throw all their clothes away and to put on a boiler suit. Tell them to turn the telly off and never go to the cinema again. Tell them that’s the price of not supporting artists.’

So, yes, last night mattered. It mattered to me on a personal level. The feedback about Cathy’s work and mine was so useful. The positive energy in the room. The interest people had for what we are doing. The challenges and questions. The doubts about whether some of our ideas will work or not…. All of these things are fantastic.

But for me, the most powerful thing about last night was that I got to share a moment of communication that was fragile and beautiful with a room full of strangers. And in doing this, in coming together in this way it feels to me that we’ve already experienced something incredible. It’s something to do with the generosity that was generated. It felt caring and real. And right now that generosity feels like it matters. It feels the right way to go. It feels like it could be where that elusive thing called ‘enough’ might actually be hiding?

Thank you to everyone who came last night. Thank you for your thoughts and ideas. It is really appreciated.

Upcoming Enough Project events

Friday 9th September, 7.30pm

Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Tickets to this event are free and can be reserved from the TiM box office by telephone 01274 233200 or email theatre@bradford.ac.uk (remaining tickets will be available on the door on the night).
Directed by Tom Hogan, this rehearsed reading of the two new 45minute plays comes hot on the heels of a twin event at Studio Salford and is a unique opportunity to grab a preview of these two new works.
The writers will be propping up the bar after the reading to talk about the work and discuss  what happens next with the production. Join them for a glass of wine and to put your two-penneth into the conversation.

Stage one of the Enough Project and has been supported by Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts.

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The Enough Project… A Pan-Pennines experiment in playwriting

About 6 months ago, Bradford based writer Emma Adams and Oldham based writer Cathy Crabb found themselves pondering ‘what would happen if we found one thing to respond to and then both wrote a separate play about it?’  After a lot of chat and even more thinking, what developed was ‘The Enough Project’.  Here in the first of a series of blogs, Cathy Crabb explains how the process began. This series of Blog posts first appeared on Culture Vulture as part of an online residency.

We sat in Chet’s Library, Manchester, probably on our about fifth meeting- we couldn’t sit where Marx and Engels sat as a member of staff was having a break in those seats (bastard). He was probably writing his blog about how he loves to hog those seats to annoy visitors who reckon they are thinking big things, making them sit on the old hardbacks, staring at nothing, whilst he lavishly enjoys the big thinker’s window seat, eating a Ginster’s and denying them.  It mattereth not as we were full of it anyway.

So bursting with ideas and thoughts we were that our whispers were that weird high pitched type people do when they don’t want to be seen scalding children. We grappled with our fascinations and focus, we were nearing a time to make a decision or we wouldn’t get to work together this year. Emma and me have been friends and followed each other’s work since we did a week’s workshop together at Contact Theatre, Manchester some six years ago. We’ve kept up with each other, and have attended each other’s plays and always talked about working together. So, the past six months has been an exciting time for us, hatching plans, but pinning down a subject we could both get our teeth into had took time. It needed to be something with huge scope but something we both felt inspired to do.

All our ideas previously to Chets were streams and trickles leading to the lake of the theme we were really discussing above all- what does it mean to have enough? What is enough? In a finite world what makes us think of progress infinitely without a cap, and without restraint? Is the human race just a big greedy pig? (Pig thing is probably not what we said and now Emma is wishing she’d wrote the first blog). And on a personal level what does enough mean? Can it still have a positive spin in 2011? Does ‘enough’ pose a negative or positive in our lives?  Maybe it’s was the smell of old ideas and leaved through historic texts that helped us set in stone our subject. But here it stood amongst us, ‘enough’.

In the coming month or so Emma pursued funding as I had a nuisance womb removed, keeping me informed of our advances. Finally we – grateful and a tad guilty in the current climate-were successful in our bid and are now advancing, (almost advancing, nearly finished first drafts) brandishing our scripts to our peers and contemporaries at two significant future dates-  1st September in Salford where scripts will be strewn amongst wine and nibbles to be devoured and discussed and 9th September at Theatre In The Mill where proper actors and a proper director (Tom Hogan of Aqueous Humour) will have rehearsed for three days hence to present our murmurings as scripts in hand performances.

We’re keen to know what people think of the work so far.  We’re keen to know what people think enough is.  Keep tuned for more info on the Rehearsed Reading event at Theatre in the Mill, Bradford and the ‘Meet the writers’ events in Salford in September…

Upcoming Enough Project events

1st September, 7 pm
Kings Arms, Salford
11 Bloom St, Salford, M3 6AN
This event is free, just turn up to the pub.

In the Snug, Script Event
On this evening copies of our scripts will be available to read and comment on (whilst drinking beer – it is a pub afterall), both Emma and Cathy will be there to talk about them informally and get your feedback. An hour will be given from 7.30-830 for people to sit and read the scripts (they are only short!) and then scribble on, discuss, drink, chat, for the rest of the evening.

Friday 9th September, 7.30pm
Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Tickets to this event are free and can be reserved from the TiM box office by telephone 01274 233200 or email theatre@bradford.ac.uk (remaining tickets will be available on the door on the night).
Directed by Tom Hogan, this rehearsed reading of the two new 45minute plays comes hot on the heels of a twin event at Studio Salford and is a unique opportunity to grab a preview of these two new works.
The writers will be propping up the bar after the reading to talk about the work and discuss  what happens next with the production. Join them for a glass of wine and to put your two-penneth into the conversation.

Stage one of the Enough Project and has been supported by Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts.

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