Tag Archives: Edinburgh

I Read the News Today, oh Boy!

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Following a brain popping sojourn at the Edinburgh Fringe I had to whoosh to Kent for the wedding of two of my favourite people on earth. A perfect day, finishing a perfectly inspiring couple of weeks. I’m on my way back to Norwich and saw this headline advertised in a railway station and it made me think of how wonderful a source of story ideas newspapers are.

 I worked as a journalist for many years and believe that the paper press is the richest source of inspiration available to writers. For starters, take this headline, and without reading the story what do you think could lie behind it? Or, you could just take an existing story and change the setting/gender etc… to make it your own. Ideas will come to you as you work on it.

Alternatively, you could apply the ‘what if’ question to a story’s possible outcome. The‘what if’ question prompts you to consider alternative endings. A good example of this question is Stephen Fry’s Making History, in which he explores a world where Hitler was killed in WWI but an even more dastardly figure comes to prominence, and wins.

The small ads section can spur the imagination. Hemmingway once said his best work was one he wrote in six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”. It’s clever as there is clearly a heavy back story here but Hemmingway, being Papa, does not spell it out. My point is that you could operate in reverse, search the small ads and then write its back story. Think of the tale behind a novel that ends with that small ad.

Then there are photos. Ignore the captions/related stories. Look at the photos and guess what is going on. Develop an identity for someone in the background of a picture. Give them a problem. Imagine how they are being affected by the main event in the photo. The key is to go for the more obscure shots. Obviously, if it’s a picture of 9/11, the chances are you’re not going to come up with anything too original but if it’s a picture of a man biting a dog, you may be on to something.

Go hunting, Newshound!


Fringe thus far…

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I’ve been thoroughly entertained for a week both by the festival itself and by old friends I’ve met up with (planned and unexpected) and so far this trip has been a 2013 highlight. Edinburgh Fringe is a swirling, bubbling, boiling concoction of the performing arts. And I’m dizzy. There are, I’m told, 45,000 shows here over the month of August and, it seems, every single one of these shows is represented on The Royal Mile by a clown juggling on a unicycle, dishing out flyers as she goes. It’s overwhelming. And it’s unique.

With so much on offer, there’s  always going to be a wide range re quality and it’s difficult to make a decision re what to view when all you have are lists and lists and lists of names. I’ve been advised to stick to a few venues that are known for picking quality shows and then I also chose on the basis of my own taste/interest/content (ie my novel involves a lot of juggling, so I went to see a juggling show).  But even with this advice in hand, the results were not quite what I expected.

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The juggling show has so far been the hands down (‘scuse pun) best theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe so far. ‘Smashed’ by the Gandini Jugglers at the Assembly Hall is a hybrid of dance and juggling which manages to be smug-ironic funny, thought provoking, skilful, thoughtful, entertaining and just the right amount of crazy. And I only went there for juggling research purposes! Unexpected delight. Five stars for ‘Smashed’.

And I’ll give a four star review to ‘The Events’ at the Traverse. The Traverse has a reputation for picking the cream of the crop and scooping up Fringe firsts. This is a play that raises questions that linger in the mind long after the performance – which is what art should do. The performances by the two professional actors are outstanding and the writing is clever and weaves and juxtaposes opposing philosophies. The Events uses a local choir partly to sing, partly to act out ‘members of the public’. They don’t try to be anything but reading-off-the-page-with-a-mike, non-actors which while I admired what the production was trying to achieve, I felt these moments jarred too much with the rest of the performance. Also, the cynic in me wondered if the non-professionals were funding donkeys – something which only works if you can make it feel right and I don’t quite think this quite did. Still, it’s a small quibble in an otherwise excellent piece of theatre.  Zoe Lyons, at the Assembly rooms also gets four stars. Her comedy is keenly observed simple truths about life, warmly told.

Three stars to ‘The Secret Agent’ at the Traverse. This production was popping with good ideas, visually interesting, beautiful moments of choreography, funny comedy, high drama etc… the problem was that the piece never really figured out its own identity and ended up being rather a blancmange of genre, each one pulling against the next and the audience and production lost the plot, quite literally.

And two stars to ‘Tell me the Truth about Love’ at Underbelly’s Topside. Much like with the Gandinis I went there for Auden research purposes and this is his work put to music (inspired by the rhythm in his poetry) and sung in a Noel Cowardesque manner. The idea was interesting, the material good but somehow it fell down on the delivery and the result was Brideshead camp and monotonous after a fashion.

Obviously, I’ve only seen a few grains of sugar in a bowl full of performance – And there’s still a week to go! Oh, and thanks to Colette (comment on previous article) for the dining tips – Spoon for lunch and Kilimanjaro for coffee are ace – maybe see you there.

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‘Agnes and Walter’ And the Shed…

I’ve blogged before about the writer finding inspiration via other art forms, be it visual art, poetry or even comedy.

Recently, I’ve gained a lot of inspiration from the dance world. And one of the shows  that started this interest, ‘Agnes and Walter’ has just launched a UK tour.

‘Agnes and Walter’ is compelling dance theatre. A love story tinkling with magic and fun, the piece is accessible to a broad audience.

However, for me, the most significant aspect of ‘Agnes and Walter’ is the exploration of human playfulness, creativity and imagination (i.e. art) which provide pockets of escape along life’s mundane path. And importantly, the show does not shy from investigating the close proximity of fantasy and insanity. It also encourages reflection on relationships, gender roles, and the passing and impact of time.

‘Agnes and Walter’ is punctuated by an eclectic musical score which includes live chansons, rock music and a specifically composed piano accompaniment. This music supplies moments of reflection and forms the bridges and borders between the quotidian world, the fantasy and beyond.

The relationship between reality and fantasy is perfectly symbolized in the show’s focal prop, a weathered garden shed that plays host to dreams, dance and love-making.

A blend of moving and comic theatre, ‘Agnes and Walter’ succeeds because it is quietly clever and thought provoking, yet remains all the while entertaining.

‘Agnes and Walter’ is devised by dance maker Neil Paris of SMITH Dance Theatre and is a must see if you’re in or near any of the following UK cities:

Norwich, Cambridge, Corby, Bridport, Lancaster, Nottingham, Luton, Bornemouth, Frome, Halifax, Stockton, Newcastle, Edinburgh and North Hykeham.

http://link.event.ly/v/262/2ef2a15113a476798cf9bf5e4f4c6e0cce60331af77e512c