Notes from Other Worlds!

Cover

 

Here it is! My first published book – Notes from Other Worlds! What a neat shiny cover it is too – it’s hard not to get a reflection in the picture.

The idea behind the publication was to compile a collection of Science Fiction styled monologues for actors seeking an alternative to the standard as well as short stories for general readers. What’s especially unique about the collection is that they’re written for any age and gender – even if there may be the odd reference to age and gender in a couple of pieces – you’ll see why.

Each monologue comes with some crib notes (as sparse as I could make them, in my opinion), with the rest of the details to be filled in by the reader/performer. What I’d be interested to see is how people interpret the text for performance.

Where can you find them, you might (hopefully) ask? I have the initial lot of copies here, which I will be selling at a reading soon – I’m ironing out the details of those!

 

Updates!

Firstly, apologies for leaving it so long to update!

1) The Terra Firma reading was a great success – we got great feedback and response from the audience and I’m so grateful for stellar direction and acting from a great cast in such little time. I do have some good news to share about this, which I will do in time!

event image

 

2) I will be giving a paper in Lincoln for the Performing Science Conference (April 24th – 25th) on the topic of Science Theatre and SF Theatre, the differences between them and how attention should be paid to both forms.

3) Stage the Future is well under way!  Very excited for it, the programme is simply amazing! Check it out here:

EventBrite for Stage the Future

Stage The Future Poster

4) Also, watch this space for the monologue book!

Fiction Friday!

So, after what seems seconds, we suddenly shift into the cold/rainy season of Autumn/Fall. Another term of Uni starts and the reality starts to sink in like the elusive quagmire that is time/truth – that I have to submit a thesis.

However, I’d like to let you have a smidgeon of an inside scoop as to what I’ve been up to – it seems fair to let you know as I haven’t been as active as I was once on the blog!

As some of you know, I’m now a blogger at Amazing Stories http://www.amazingstories.mag (you can see my profile here http://amazingstoriesmag.com/authors/susan-grey/). My latest post investigates the nature of Science Theatre, and how its immense profile has left SF Theatre backstage. You can find it here – http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/10/science-stage-vs-science-fiction-theatre/.

I’m also going to be performing one of my monologues/one person show Object Meet Subject at the Creative Centre of Collaboration as part of a… collaboration with Lucy Harrison, a PhD student in Music Composition on the 1st November.

I’m also scratching one of my short plays, NewsHound, which deals with the pitfalls and upsides of social media at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre. I will give you more details on that when I can.

I recently had my first ever full length play read by KDC Theatre, Opening Pandora’s Box. It was great to revisit it and immerse myself in the context of when I wrote it, and how different I feel now. It’s only been 3 odd years since I started it but I feel like so much has happened since then! Thank you to the team; I look forward to revising it and experimenting with it! Plus, it’s nice to return to my comedy writing. A member of the group called it Pygmalion meets Blade Runner, which I must use for the strap line!

I also had my play Fishbowl read by the Otherworld Theatre Company in Chicago. Tiffany Keane, the artistic director, has given me some fantastic notes and I’ve been very eager to redraft this one (it’s been my favourite to write by far, actually!).

I’m also planning to have Terra Firma read by the end of the year, which I’m very excited about!

I will also be writing some reviews – I saw There has possibly been an Incident at the Soho, which was a stripped back, bare, brutal and thrilling performance – the monologues were so powerful and emotional. I also saw as part of the Ideal World Season Override, which was very interesting in the way the boundaries of identity, human augmentation and how consciousnesses are projected. Another one to review.

That’s it in a nutshell. I’m still waiting back for news from plays and am preparing for the Stage the Future conference with Christos Callow Jr. Will let you know more as soon as I can!

 

It’s Showtime!

Showtime!Today is the opening show of the Writers Bloc Triple Special, putting on 10 minute plays and extracts from tonight (29th August) to the Saturday 31st. How exciting!

I have been directing my extract from Cuckoos and Chrysalids, which will be on two nights – Thursday and Friday. The cast has been superb and I’m really looking forward to getting the show on the road!

If you’re around Angel, why not come down to the Old Red Lion Theatre? It starts at 7:30pm. Excited! I might even get you a drink afterwards 🙂

I’ll be doing a write up of the process and everything after the weekend, along with rehearsal pictures. Also, as part of my blogging position at Amazing Stories, I will also be writing a series on my experiences of writing SF Theatre.

Fiction Friday!

Last week, I started writing commentaries on my plays and so forth, which you can see here. It’s very hard to show plays in the same way you would novel chapters or short story samples, but I will endeavour to do my best!

Last week was Cuckoos and Chrysalids, and this week is A Christmas Gift (that was staged last year in December). I will be doing a piece each week (ish).

In other news, I also did a video proposal for Object, Meet Subject which is also a short play that I hope to be taking up to Manchester. Those of you who are on Twitter may have seen this – I will link it here. It’s a one person show that will be cheap and cheerful to run and I hope people will enjoy it.

I’m also doing a collaboration with Lucy Harrison, a composer who is also studying for her PhD at Royal Holloway. I will give you news on that later – music and writing projects are always something that excite me! The performance should be at the end of September in London – I’m really looking forward to it!

Plays wise – Cuckoos and Chrysalids has been postponed for a later date (I will let you know of all the details). I’m also waiting on quite a few more. NewsHound has also been selected for a future show from one of the companies at the Camden Fringe this year, so very excited about that!

I also may have some exciting news about October and November, but I can’t yet say!

More details will materialise over the month. Here’s hoping!

Writing Thoughts – What’s your Novum?

So I thought I’d break up the blog with more miscellaneous material – how people interpret writing at large. Knowing an author personally makes you think sometimes about the stories they write with an extra added dimension – not all the time, but it makes you think – no matter how Barthes warns us against it sometimes.

Now, I don’t know how many people have read my work – but I sometimes wonder when writing what the author will think. Art is a very personal thing and even if you create degrees of separation (which of course is fiction), there is an underlying personal message, whether you try and disguise it or not.

When I write SF, for example, I often mention the presence (or absence) of children and the act of raising a family. Fishbowl is about a system where children are neatly categorised and raised to a strict routine, Cuckoos and Chrysalides depicts a woman’s battle to keep her children uploaded until she is ready to care for them, Terra Firma has a female character who has now given up on the idea of raising a family as she and her husband flail in a post-apocalyptic world.

Now you may say I write about children as I often work in coffee shops and hear kids crying constantly, but I think there’s something else there. And that is that the very idea of having my own human kids is an SF conceit for me. It’s my own personal novum (Marriage and relationships are vastly becoming SF conceits too to me, but that’s another kettle of fish). It’s something believable but at the moment unfathomable to me – the world would inherently be the same, but I would see it differently. Dangers would be more apparent to me, my mentality would change as regards to time and space and purpose. The act of raising children does fascinate me, and I think this is the reason why I explore these many angles in my written work.

Maybe we all have personal novums, which is why we cling to certain concepts in our written fiction. I’d be very interested in hearing some from other people.

Review – Pastoral at the Soho Theatre

ImageEcological change and subsequent disaster is ubiquitous – from the shoutouts to reduce our carbon footprint to the extra charge of acquiring plastic bags – and it’s often reflected in art. However, Thomas Eccleshare’s vision is a bleakly humorous one – a quite unique angle. With dystopian theatre, there is an inherent fear that our suspension-of-disbelief faculties will be overworked and leave us exhausted and unhappy, but that’s not the case here. Dialogue is used convincingly in forms of reportage of the riots outside – nature juxtaposed with household names “weeds growing in Nandos, rabbits in the yoghurt aisle at Aldi”, with the set used to its full potential as it slowly degrades before us like a crumpled plastic bag. The floor snaps and bends throughout, a tree slowly grows through the heart of the inside of the house as nature slowly takes its hold. Flowers are shot through to the ground and it all feels scarily believable.

The characters do this justice too. The old and young bond in a crisis – Moll (Calder-Marshall) and Arthur (Polly Frame) find each other by chance and an unlikely alliance forms between the pair, with some amusing anecdotes and musing on past and future. The theme of King Arthur and the romanticised notion of Pastoral is explored between the two, which of course has now been completely rewritten. The boys looking after them have to go through the ordeal of nature’s way of exposing under the surface – dealing with hunting and gutting with some funny but ultimately bleak moments. In particular, the plight of the Ocado worker can make you laugh, wince and cry. There are other great moments in the play, but I won’t spoil it – just see it!

All in all, when we see how detached we are from the processes of our lives – and the obsession with the end result and surface – it’s like nature revolting. Their products must be respected, which obviously has not been the case. They mention that they cement the grass to block them out, but now the grasses have become resilient. With all this in mind, it doesn’t feel like a lesson in the classroom.

It’s black comedy of high quality. As Moll says “What’s the difference between a hen night and a zoo? One is where hairy animals are prodded in cages by men in uniforms, the other’s a gift shop.” Hear hear!

Pastoral won the Soho Verity Bargate Award in 2011. There are strong Sci-Fi elements running through the play as nature fights technology as well as the “solution” to the problem. It’s rather reassuring for me and I’m sure many others that this element of science fiction theatre is being recognised and rewarded.

Fiction Friday

I was reading Harold Pinter’s The Tea party in short story and play form. It was very interesting to see how some details were lost and added in translation. I’m blogging on my phone so will be brief. I wrote this monologue as an exercise to see how it will compare with the play I’m currently writing. Enjoy!

I’m a stranger… in my own fucking house. You know, Eve, that all this once belonged to you. You don’t believe me now, but I don’t take it personally. You don’t believe in me, after all. Why should you trust something like me, an non entity would say, after all? I’ve got the clip of you right here, just before. Just before… maybe I can explain it in a roundabout way. Make it meaningful to you. If you can’t grasp it as fully as reality, then at least absorb it as an observer, a passive pilot. Why not? I could tell it to you like someone from the future, like all those crappy pulp magazines you used to laugh at when you were younger, of bug eyed aliens, or of those auto… no. I don’t want to scare you. I’ll have sown that seed in your mind that will ripen once you know.

You’ll hate me forever.

I sound childish now but you’ll understand – a time capsule of bitterness, trapped under the tongue that when bitten, releases its poison. Let me take that out for you. Let me replace it with something silly.  But yes, you see me as an alien already. I’ll find it funny someday. When you’re back, restored from this empty orbit. But now, maybe we can play around a little. Suspend our imaginations and dreams from those tenterhooks that’s been keeping me awake.

Maybe you’d swallow it better like that.

It’s like when we listened to those fairy tales to get you to sleep. Barbarism, sexism, all in its saccharine soaked ecstasy. Maybe we slept to know that we were safe from all that, in comfort, to know that at least we weren’t them. Trapped in the skin of old paper, of old ideology. Now you’re free and I’m here, looking out through this mind shaped porthole. Only now the paper is smooth, exotic, carbon nano – but with still the same trappings. I can’t escape that, but you can. I don’t know if I envy or pity you.

How you can stare into a mirror with the abandon of Narcissus without the obsession, the satisfaction of it. To be stupefied with the sane, mundane realities like a child. You are your own universe again, and everything ploughing around you is off track. You are the satellite once again – learning that tricky sensation of self awareness, that conceit that co-ordinates and maps out the land that we inhabit. But damn, we’re getting old, Eve. Your sparkle is being eroded, as the sand moves ever closer, rebuilding and refastening, bleeding into crevices and creating new landscapes. I can’t explain ageing more than that, but then again, images are all I can explain.
Images are all that I am, after all. Memories – your memories all here, trapped in these plates and you are free of them. Like passing on your failings, your sin, your triumphs and glories into our children. All those battle scars and without a history. It’s uncanny.
—-
It’s a snippet for now, you’ll have to see the show, I guess! 😉

Review – A Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union *Spoilers!*

First of all: phew! It’s a rather meaty mouthful of a title. I realised I hadn’t reviewed any Science Fiction theatre, seeing as that’s the main focus of my thesis, so I thought what better time than now!?

This is a rather beautiful woven tapestry of a play – proving that a play does not need to contain such a tiny frame of perspective in order to hold attention or to be able to provide adequate information (as the medium as a whole classically has difficulties with this concept as opposed to its cousins film, tv and prose).

David Grieg employs his mastery of using “doubles” – a hearkening to the “dual” identities of Scotland – being one and the other – to great effect in this play (which he is well known for, with such potent examples as Europe and The Architect), proving that rooting a play or idea in cultural identity can be explored anywhere, even to the furthest reaches of space. With seemingly post-modern sensibilities, we’re invited into many sets of characters in different places and relations, but with some characters doubling up (of course, this is common where the cast numbers are significantly large, but it accounts for a hell of a lot – I’ll come to it later). You may think that this is simply like a Baudrillian-esque catacomb where their lives are separated, but there’s a great thread of thought throughout the play. What makes this even more effective is that this thread that connects them all together is actually through disconnect – dissonance.

The theme of miscommunication occurs frequently – Oleg and Casmir, the two cosmonauts, are unable to contact the world below – one missing his daughter, the other missing the woman whom he enjoyed a brief sexual stint with. Even though they cross the path over Europe, they cannot reach them. Like the classic paradigm, we’re caught between the far-reaching expanses of space contrasted with the claustrophobic-like nature of travelling inside such a vessel. In fact, the scenes between the two can be read in a Beckettian Waiting for Godot/Endgame sense where they are at a loss of what to do, ruminating but never going anywhere (well they’re in orbit, but you know what I mean). It really starts from the word go as the play begins with:

Oleg: They’ve forgotten us.

Caismir: What?

Oleg: They’ve forgotten us.

Caismir: I can’t hear you.

Oleg: They have forgotten us.

Caismir: I’ve done it.

Oleg: What? (Greig, p.209)

This sense of claustrophobia is echoed through the other characters – whether they’re imprisoned in their own mind, without the power to articulate their thoughts as well as they’d like. Keith, who doubles as Bernard later in the play, constantly complains to his wife about feeling “like a crated animal” in London, “sweating like a pig”, with a latent desire to get the hell out of there (well, what it seems like, anyway, hence latent – he thinks that his new Cezanne style tie will liven him up, and indeed it might. I like Cezanne). Their interactions are incredibly awkward, and we get to see later on in the play why this might be – I’m sure it’s on the tip of your tongue. His wife’s little speech, as indeed the technical difficulties of the TV set malfunctioning brings us back to the unanswered questions between earth and space. She mentions that she looked at the red sky at night – Shepard’s delight “You do get such beautiful skies in this city” (Greig, p.212), neatly contrasted with Oleg’s rather insensitive referral to the seas and lakes below:

Oleg: Everyday we pass over Baikal and every day she looks up. Every day, Caismir. She calls out to you.

Caismir: Cool water.

Oleg: Think of the water in the lake.

Caismir: Can’t remember.

Oleg: Try.

Caismir: I can’t.

Oleg: Remember cool water.

Caismir: I don’t want to remember cool water, you cunt. I want to swim in it.

Oleg: She’s swimming. In the cool water. No clouds over the lake. Natasja’s swimming. I can see her.

Caismir: I don’t know what she looks like.

Oleg: Dark hair. Her eyes… calling for you.

(Greig, p210)

So we’re experiencing alienation not only from the top-down, but from the bottom up. We’re also about to traverse this wave and go sideways. Natasja, an exotic dancer, is busy with Keith in a London hotel. We are neatly linked into this by the description of the graphic playing cards that Oleg and Caismir “engage” with in order to deal with loneliness in space. Rather poignantly, Caismir has refused to use one of the cards as he models her on his daughter – he no longer remember what she looks like.

Natasja on earth, however, is very much real as during the morning after, she greets London with a renewed vigour (she shouts GOOD AFTERNOON MR LONDON! I found this quite endearing). She expands on how she’d love to go to “where the film people go”, to having children with Keith in a vivacious – puppy dog-like energy mostly associated with women in their early 20s, I guess. I’m 25 and I’m not sure I had that boundless, reckless driving force- well, energy always fluctuates, does it not? Maybe I need to cast off my Blake-esque mind forged manacles, eat sushi at the local haunts and chat up business men. I hear it can be fun (sushi is most delicious). But I digress. She is a very dynamic figure and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind – she is fond of saying that she’s “not fucking English with shit”, and maybe that’s what it is with me (I’m half English though, after all.) She tells him to leave his wife, yet he mentions that he would be like a “damp cloth over a flame” and despite “feeling like a caged animal” in hot days, that he must go home. NB: Natasja later refers to the club in which she dances “a tomb”, thus adding to the tripartite image of claustrophobia that Grieg depicts on Earth. She rightly explains that if he chooses to be unhappy, it’s to with him, and gives him the opportunity to articulate his desires for the first time. Keith, now overcome with his newly found love for London, is able to half bake his articulation as he qualifies what is meant to be a highly explosive term: “I think… I’m probably in love with you”. I think that’s the best you’re going to get from him.

This rather enlightening scene brings into effect where all the character doublings come into play, a very strong alienation effect kicking in. We see Keith’s wife, Vivienne, digging her garden when her neighbour Claire arrives and they properly talk for the first time. Claire is played by the same actress as Natasja, which may make you jump for just a second. Rather pityingly, we find that Vivienne is a speech therapist, and medically treats those who have problems communicating – with her biggest patient in our mind being her husband.

“Vivienne: I’m a speech therapist.

Claire: The things you can do.

One can do.

You have to tell me sometime.

Vivienne: It’s not terribly interesting, I’m afraid.

Claire: Oh no, Viv. It is. Everything’s interesting if you’re interested in people…” (Greig, p234)

There is also reminiscent asides on Brian Friel’s Translations as she wishes to teach her children Gaelic as well as learning it herself. She mentions that “it would be a waste if nobody speaks it. A waste of all those place names. A waste of all that poetry.” It is also echoed in the fact that after Keith makes his descent into the waters, presumed dead, he is not only found to be alive later, but also cloned as the character Bernard, who attempts to communicate with the poor Vivienne, but to no avail:

“Vivienne: Hello?

Bernard: I don’t speak English.

Vivienne: I’m sorry?

Bernard: English. English? I don’t speak it.

Vivienne: Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I’m sorry.” (Greig, p283)

It reminds me, in part, of the relationship between Maire and Yolland, with their communication evolving out of gesture and repetition, something which theatre can articulate eloquently. In fact, Bernard and Vivienne’s communication seems stronger than his past life’s, Keith’s, even though they spoke the same language. We also see through the perspective of the Proprietor, a figure who comments on both Natasja and Keith’s lives respectively, who is very defensive over Gaelic:

“Proprietor: It’s my language, you cunt.

You come here we talk it.

Mountains we can share.

Place names we can share.

But leave me my language.” (Greig, p298)

I have loads more to say on this, but I’m planning to use it in a chapter for my PhD so yes, I may cut it here. Suffice it to say, Oleg’s sacrifice, an explosion in the sky to bring all the parties together is magnificent and very touching at the same time (Bernard completes the circle by beaming messages and radio signals up to space). The ultimate way to put a message across. It’s a wonderful play and definitely worth reading/seeing. The doubling can often awaken us to ponder who’s found who – another great facet on this play about miscommunication and identity. Not only are we watching, we’re oddly participating. Greig is an extremely deep and articulate playwright, and this piece is no exception.

Writing Updates take 2

Another helping of literary updates for you all!

If you have added me on Facebook, you may have seen a little flurry of activity surrounding new writing events. I have some plays coming up (I’ve always been excited to say that), all one act two handers actually, but all very different in terms of content! If you’re around in London and want to see a whole host of new writings, come and see some of the series that I will be taking part in:

 

Insignificant Theatre Rough Readings
November 29th 7:30 at Sylvia Young Theatre School
These will include scratches of pieces including my attempt on the theme of house by creating a modern twist on the classic myth of Narcissus and Echo!
Writers Bloc Christmas Special (part of a series running from 11th-16th Dec)
December 14th 7:30 at Old Red Lion Theatre, Angel
This is my short Science Fiction spin on Christmas, which I’m really looking forward to – the rehearsals and workshops are starting soon!
Brockley Scratch Night
December 16th (Not too sure of time yet), Brockley Jack Studios
This is a short scratch night including one of the parts of my romantic drama En Passant.
I’m ever so excited! It would mean the world if you could come down/up/left/right and see! I’m also writing a short science fiction story on ageing and the impact it has on art. Maybe *fingers crossed* it’s going to be a part of something bigger. Watch this space!