Monday, January 27, 2014

My hairdresser reminded me that I ought to do something about performing rights in advance of my November show. This, a fortnight ago.

"Didn't you have some issue with performing rights last time?" he said, almost enticingly.

I racked my brain to consider what issue there could possibly have been with considerately long dead Shakespeare. Or that play that I wrote with my own hand? But go back one show further and yes, an almighty fankle to get the agent for Forgive Us to let me know that we could perform the show again not eight times over a weekend in a cool site specific venue as originally proposed but simple once in the end in the Masonic Hall in Dumfries this time last year. Yes indeed, my hairdresser was right.

The inside front page of Festen offers up an enquiries email address (one of those suspicion-inducing "info@" addresses that are likely never looked at, let alone answered. So I sent off a request without much hope of a response. 

Two weeks on. Nothing. The worm of fear starting to nag at the back of my head: well, that would be embarrassing, wouldn't it (delivered in a wormy voice)? So I thought I'd better try a bit harder.

Phone Someone.

The script is published by Methuen. Look them up. Performing rights? Oh, there's an "@info" / email into the dark void of non-response email address. Let's try and call someone.

As ever, the telephone number is tucked away where no-one can find it except the extremely determined. And then there are two numbers, different area codes, placed alongside each other like nestling bed fellows, with no indication of who or what can be found at each. 

I phone the first one. It rings for a long time. Eventually, a man answers. He sounds distant and old. As if he has just clambered creakily down a long long ladder in the darkest, furthest from civilisation reaches of the ancient wood-panelled Methuen library and instructed by the impatient lady of the house, has creaked obediently to answer this new-fangled incursion of the modern day into his Defence Against The Dark Arts reverie.

I explain what I'm after with no expectation of resolution.

"Festen?" he creaks, "oh yes, Festen!" (Let's consider the millions and billions of titles that Methuen, across their myriad publishing divisions must issue year after year.) "That's the one where the rights are owned by a woman, some woman, her name is in the book. I wish I could remember it!"

I pour over the opening pages. Adapted by David Eldridge.  Based on the film and play by Thomas Vinterburg, Mogens Rukov and Bo hr. Hansen. I read these names to the man doubtfully. Bo could well be a girl, of course. The other two, not so much.

"No, no, no," says the man, not impatiently. "There's another name. It's in the script. Have you looked properly?"

I look carefully over the pages. Page one is all about David Eldridge. Page two is blank. Page three is the title page. The three names at the top. Adapted by Mr Eldridge underneath. Page four. Copyright details, the three owners, David, the Danish info address. Page five: a dedication to Caroline. 

But ah hah! Page six. "The author would like to thank Thomas Vinterberg, Mogen Rubens, Marla Rubins and Rufus Norris for their patience and wise advice."

Bingo! says Mr Methuen. Well, he didn't say that precisely but this was the sentiment.

"Marla Rubins. She's Canadian, she's the producer, you need her permission. She lives in South West London. I hope you track her down. Good luck!"

Dear Mr Methuen. I thank you. (I thanked him effusively.) Down with the phone. And the search goes on.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Twelve Years A Slave.

Six happy minutes at the start.

Four tear-soaked happy minutes at the end.

Two hours and ten of relentless misery in between. 

Mind, it's a brilliant film.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I realise it's the height of vanity to post a link to my own blog - on my own blog.

But have a read of the comments here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A launch event last night for the 2014 National Theatre of Scotland programme.

And goodness me, it was like the Oscars of Scottish theatre. Compered by Laurie Sansom, Vicky's successor, we were presented with Kiaran Hurley, Cora Bissett, David Greig, Simon Sharkey, Graham McLaren, Rona Munro, Gary Lewis and John Byrne. John Byrne! FFS. (Who beautifully, when asked by Laurie why he was taking part in their collaboration with the Portrait Gallery, Dear Scotland, said he didn't have any other work.
Entitled Dear Scotland, the programme takes the various momentous events in this year's calendar as a springboard to explore, explain, cajole and coerce the people of Scotland (and the people of the world, we might hope) to consider all of the things that make Scotland a fine and feisty nation.
Laurie as Michael Parkinson quizzed the various participants about their various ventures: a really neat way of getting round the fact that they, in most cases, won't have anything much to show us yet.
So lots to look forward to.
Cora B and David G's Glasgow Girls which I was enormously sorry to miss last time and will certainly try and catch this.

A fascinating (potentially) exercise in community participation rounded off with a set piece in Glasgow, The Tin Forest. I've been watching this with half an eye via the NTS newsletters and it sounds maybe marvellous.

David Grieg - with bucketloads of back room support - is resurrecting Five Minute Theatre in June and giving it a forthcoming referendum theme. Nicely done as by turning the focus of the exercise to the "common" people, any over-energetic political agenda is neatly side-stepped.

Rantin is Kieran Hurley's site-specific, music-laden, contemporary stab at ceilidh theatre. And it sounds delightful.


Rona Munro has taken it into her head, encouraged by Vicky F, to write a trilogy of history plays about the three King James'. The James Plays. With Wolf Hall and its sequel romping home to five star reviews in Stratford at the moment, the timing (coupled with that pesky old Referendum on these shores) feels nothing short of serendipitous. Giant, epic, rep theatre style, fab cast, the EIF as a platform. I'm sold and I DON'T LIKE history plays.

I might even be tempted to go see Graham McLaren's musicalisation (so not a word) of Joe Corrie's 1920-something play. Time O' Strife. (And I must must must stop bristling when he mentions, in his best encouraging manner, AMATEURS.)

But then he won me back (Graham, I mean) with his vision of Blabbermouth. 12 hours of an open mic, the day before the Referendum, at which any old person can take to the stage and read some of Scotland's great words. So we wound up with Gary Lewis (oh for Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us) reading Jimmy Reid's 1970s Glasgow University rectorial address.

And here, at last, a tiny dollop of politics. A year of theatre inspired by the gigantic debate about independence and they've all managed to avoid saying anything overtly political until these glorious words are delivered with delicious vigour by such a fine actor:
To the students I address this appeal. Reject these attitudes. Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?
A swift dip into audience participation in the final snuck from Time O' Strife song and we were done.

What a difficult brief. They don't have a regular venue. They can't afford to be political. Everyone will be expecting them to talk about Independence and they'll get castigated if they don't. And castigated if they do - too overtly.

This programme walks a taut and heroic tightrope, in my humble opinion, between political enough but not (well, I should really wait and see but in anticipation) too much. It shows interest, commitment and respect but no sign of fervour. And it made me proud all over again to be living in a land that seems to spit out such fine theatre without really trying.

Thanks, NTS, for inviting me.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Saving Mr Banks. 

A most gorgeous film that depicts the battle of wills between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins novels. Mr D wants to make the book into a movie. Mrs T is loathed to relinquish the rights to the saccharin sweet studio but is running out of money fast. 

I went to see this purely on the recommendation of B S Neill. It's not often that he recommends a film wholeheartedly. And I admit to some apprehension as our respective tastes are often quite different. But I guess this one is cheery enough for him and bittersweet enough for me. Anyway, I'm glad I did.

It's a charming story. And an exquisite feat of art direction. But the stars of this film (aside from the real life people on whom the script is based) are the actors. I don't much like Tom Hanks as a rule, exceedingly uncharitably, but he exuded an undaunted optimistic charisma. And a cracking accent. Emma Thompson was glorious. A proper bundle of bitterness. I gather her transformation at the end of the film to Slightly Nicer Person may be a convenient Disney invention. But they were backing the film. And what is a film if not a re-imagining of a truth in a way that installs hope? (So said Mr D, at any rate.)

Paul Giamatti turns in a delightful performance as the put-upon and extremely tolerant chauffeur to Mrs T around the sprawling filmset that is LA. And the writer / lyricist / music man trio with the cake-loving sidekick are great fun.

A film about reality impinging on a happy ending, this is a perfect back to work (ugh ugh ugh) tonic. Go see and then go out and fly a kite.