Wednesday, 24 February 2021

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

A short story


REPORT ON SUBJECT 29

I am pleased to say after many false starts we have achieved complete vision transformation with Subject 29.

The last stage of the experiment was successfully completed yesterday with the subject’s first venture to the outside world.  We re-routed his visual cortex and took him to an abandoned industrial complex, the one where the subject had previously worked, and had gained a reputation for agitation. On the way the re-routed cortex built a picture of lush green fields and blue skies.

On the way we fed him the narrative that the complex was now completely renewed just as he had demanded in his many protests. It was now fully functional with a thriving and happy workforce.  The future was bright.  Still there remained a hint of doubt, and he was restless as the implanted visual mechanisms took longer than anticipated to settle.  

When we arrived the buildings were in reality drab and derelict and empty of life. It was a tense moment but the smile on the subjects face told us we had gained complete control of the subject`s visual cortex. 

He saw the narrative, a bustling, thriving complex. 

The only slight negative was that the dead silence of the complex did not match the visual hustle and bustle. Only a slight negative though, as the subject saw what he needed to see, and we are confident that it is only a matter of time before we take control of the ear as well, and he can hear what he needs to hear.     

Doctor James Roberts.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

THE PUDDLE

A wee short story 


 On the first day I never noticed, why would you notice a puddle after a torrent of rain?

On the second day with the rain sun chased to another place, there it was.  It lay directly under an overflow pipe, so I assumed, or my logical brain assumed that was the cause and decided to ignore what my eyes knew, that the puddle was a perfect circle.

On the third day the sun still shone, the overflow refused to drip, and my brain agreed with my eyes.  Looking down into the puddle I saw nothing, and nothing reflected back.  Puddles do reflect don`t they?  I googled, they do.

On the fourth day I decided what I had really decided the day before.  I wouldn`t call the council, or the local university to investigate this....Discovery.  For that`s what it was, my discovery, and in a world where every corner of the globe paths have already been trod, is there anything left to be explored?  Even space the so called final frontier, is it?  Aren`t we primed for an eternal nothing or planets waiting patiently for our arrival?

On the fifth day I stood poised at the edge of the puddle, foot dangling over its surface.  I dipped my toe and watched the puddle lap my shoe, tried not to think of the possible dangers, but only the unknown possibilities of never witnessed before lands.  My shoe submerged further should have hit the path underneath, but nothing.

I pulled my foot back, my shoe quickly as dry as my mouth.

On the sixth day I lay on my bed for the whole of the morning, then with a sudden rush, and almost head over heels down the stairs, I rushed outside.  I was ready. 

The puddle was gone.

On the seventh day I lay half awake, half asleep on the couch, TV rolling around the clock in the corner.  I glanced back and forth, slept, and glanced and both my brain and eye saw as one.

Breaking News:  Police confirm they are investigating claims that a woman vanished, witnesses insist, after jumping into puddle.

 

 

Friday, 5 February 2021

THE HOUSE OF SLEEP

 

The opening of a series of interlinked stories.

               

A living room quiet except for the buzz of many TV`s chronicling the rise and fall of governments, disaster and joy, the lives of the God famous forgotten like Ozymandias in death.

Still except for the silent rhythmic exhale of breath throughout the house.  A woman late twenties, crepe full length Victorian dress embroidered with roses lay on her back, arm draped down the side of a couch, hand tapping as if playing a piano in the still air.  

On the chair by the drawn curtained window a roman soldier, sword at the ready across his chest, helmet as pillow. His legs and bare arms covered in barely healed scars.  A boy of maybe ten, in damp dirty clothes, face never washed, a crude carving of a soldier archer with bow but no arrows held tight in his hand, lay sprawled on the other couch opposite the lady.

In the centre of the room an empty rocking chair with the impression in its base as if someone had just stood up and left the room.

The clock on the mantelpiece chimed a date:  3rd….March…1848. At the third chime a click of a door opening in the hallway and the woman on the couch opened her eyes.  She yawned and rubbed the sleep away from her eyes and sat up slowly. The corset under the dress pinched her sides, a sudden pain in her stomach.  She breathed out slowly till the pain was gone.  Her neck cracked, her shoulders ached, she stretched her legs out in front of his, as the living room door opened. 

Footstep impressions on the lush carpet, then the rocking chair groaned under a weight, and began to rock back and forth.

`Sit by my feet. ` Said a voice an echo of the woman`s own.

The woman struggled to her feet and with difficulty manoeuvred her bell shaped skirt and layers of petticoats.  She managed and sat at the feet of the rocking chair.

` Tell me how you died. ` Said the voice.

Lucy began….

 

 

Thursday, 21 January 2021

RIVER AT NIGHT--A POEM

Ecomusuem Project.  There is an audio of myself reading the poem last year.

 

I stretch my limbs through town and country

Struggle to settle on my rocky bed.

Finally my head finds rests against the soft forgiving bank.

I yawn and count stars

 

A sudden rain tickles my skin

Between wake and sleep.

No, I need my rest

Try to stifle a giggle and squirm.

The insomniac rain persists

It knows I cannot resist

I swell with laughter.

 

Not everyone is happy.

The moon rolls its eyes

Lights out and time for sleep

It insists.

 

Yes, that nonsense will keep till day

Snaps the wind

Sweeps in to gather up the rain

Scatters the loitering clouds.

 

More tired than I imagine

My rocky bed suddenly smooth

The night light stars blink.

I flow one way from wake to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

A CHRISTMAS TREE NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

A wee seasonal tale! 


As soon as it was carried into the house the Christmas Tree knew it had got the present it had wanted—a home. All those cold lonely days in the Garden Centre, shivering wrapped in clingy sweaty cellophane. All those family feet rushing past to the taller trees with their fuller branches.

The Tree had been hopeful one day when a boy had stopped before it and pointed. `I want that one daddy. ` The daddy ushered his son towards one of the taller trees.

` One bauble and that tree would keel over son`

What about the season of good will pal? That trees minging by the way, with leaf rust! And it’s contagious. Merry Christmas.

All that pain forgotten now though as the Tree settled into his new home.  Not sure about its place in the corner.

Got a really nice window there. I like a view! Still I suppose, the family, even the daddy, nice and cheery as they decorate me. That tickles.

The Christmas Tree catches its reflection in the glass cabinet opposite.

I don`t half scrub up well.

Whoa, what was that? Cobwebs! Aren`t you supposed to tidy for Christmas morning? Don`t go to bed yet, you`ve got work to do.  I never liked the dark. Yikes, creepy crawly multiple legs on my branches! Get off! 

 

A cold Christmas eve into a colder early morning Christmas day.

The Christmas Tree didn`t mind the frost on the window, this is what it should be like, what it had been waiting his whole life for.

The Christmas Tree had never been happier.

A sudden gloom on its mood. 

Christmas tales from other trees in the Garden Centre.

` Enjoy the day for…`

` What? `

` New Year and it’s the scrapheap for us. `

` No. `

The Christmas Tree shivered at the thought, the house, the home, so cosy and, this was its home now, they wouldn`t, they just wouldn`t. 

The joy on their faces when they were making it look its best. 

` This is what family is all about.` The daddy had said.

They would never just throw all that away?  Make the Christmas Tree homeless?

It was then it began to happen. 

 

Excited voices and footsteps upstairs, then louder and closer, and the brother, followed by his sister, crashing into the living room. Both breathless, their faces aglow with expectation. Daddy and mummy slowly followed both breathless and too early for adults.

All four stopped suddenly and stared at the Christmas Tree.

Mummy. ` When did you move it?`

Daddy. ` Why would I move it? I liked it in the corner.’

Brother. ` Maybe it moved by itself. `

Sister. ` Yuk.  A flat spider. `

I told you I liked a view.

Mummy. ` What`s that under the presents? `

Daddy. ` I`m not looking.’

The brother and sister ran to their presents before their mummy and daddy could stop them. Ooos and ahhs and wrapping paper filled the room.

Mummy. `Is that what I think it is? `

Daddy nodded.

Sister. ` I know what it is mummy.`

Brother. `I do too. It’s…

Sister. ` Roots. `

Brother. ` Does that mean the Christmas Tree is staying? `

The Christmas Tree sighed with a contented joy, baubles swinging gently, the Angel on top almost toppling, but not, the roots spreading deep down into the foundations holding the tree steady.

Thank you Santa. You got my letter. A home, and my own family for Christmas.

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 23 November 2020

THE MUSEUM OF JOHN AND MARY MASTERS--A SHORT STORY

Pleased to have a short story published November 2020 in the latest edition of Postbox Magazine.  In some fine company indeed as you can see below.



My only wish was to honour my father and mother.  I have been invisible my whole life and like it that way.  I had no burning desire to come into view. 

You bury your parents then return to the everyday world to wait your turn. The way of things, as John Masters, my father, would say. My father died two weeks ago and the world did not stop.  The traffic lights on the way to the graveyard turned red like any other day.  No-one paused their day to stop and bow their heads.  My father died and like the unexpected collapse of an immense monument that dominated my landscape, it left dust and confusion, and rubble strewn across my life.

I don`t remember when the thought first entered my head. Maybe as my father was lowered into the grave and my mother`s name on the headstone suddenly huge, and the aching thought that my father`s name will be added to the cold stone.

I was an orphan, and I needed to re-build my own monument to them both.

My father`s silent house.  Bin bags of his clothes ready for the charity shop, the boxes I was taking with me already in the car, the rest of my mother and father`s life in the skip across the street. All it took was to lay the first brick was a photograph of my father and me walking with the crowds on the way to the football. My father behind me shielding me from the raucous and unpredictable crowd.  I am looking directly at the camera and I feel I should be a ten-year old afraid in this world of adult giants.

I am not.  I am safe.  I have my own giant`s hands on my shoulders guiding me.    

Who took the photograph?  It must have been one of my Uncles. Going to the football was a family affair. 

Uncle John, a man of enthusiasms that burst and lit up his sky like fireworks, and then fell to earth forgotten.  Soon to be replaced by another display.

Photography was one of those sudden and short lived enthusiasms. I hated, and still do, getting my photograph taken.  I am scowling in the football photograph.

Suddenly I have three shoe boxes of his photographs before me and feel bad that I am scowling in almost every photograph. 

In one of the rare ones where I am smiling we are somewhere I don`t recognize.  A group photograph of the aunts, uncles and cousins. We are in a museum and standing before a display case.  I can`t make out what it is displaying but it must have something interesting to the cousins and me since we are not fidgeting and carrying the look of wishing to be elsewhere.

My Uncle John is in this one, so someone, a member of staff maybe took this photo, someone that couldn`t work the zoom to catch what was being displayed.

My father is there.  The lover of museums.  I touch his smiling face.

Bin bags emptied, boxes emptied, skip retrieved.

Like being guided by those giant hands I began to design the Museum of John and Mary Masters.

First thing is the sign.  I commission that from the local sign maker Kennedy and Son.

` A museum for your father? ` Says Old man Kennedy. 

` Father and mother. ` I reply on the verge of asking him for quotes.

` On the house. ` He replies.

I tell him no, this is a proper museum.  Old man Kennedy smiles.  ` You tell me what you want and I`ll tell you the price. `

We nod in agreement.

Next is John Masters work shoes.  Black, always black, scuffed and the sole beginning to say goodbye to the rest of the shoe.  When the glass cabinets arrive I place the shoes in one with a quote from John Masters himself.  ` A few miles left in them yet. ` Every day he walked to the factory.  For many years I assumed he built every car that passed us on the road.

Next a bookcase with a glass front.  Inside on the top row and arranged in alphabetical a series of Under the Bonnet manuals from the cars he owned over the years.  Starting with the Austen Allegro and finally the Zephyr

On the next two shelves below were the Tom Murphy Western Novels, and under them the Readers Digest magazines going back to nineteen sixty nine

I fill one wall with a chronological arrangement of photographs starting before I was even born.  Father and mother caught by a Glasgow street paparazzi when they were `walking out together. ` Father serious as if `did you ask permission for taking that? ` Mother smiling. ` The man`s only doing his job Johnny. ` I inscribe under that photo `Like Bogart and Bacall. `

I struggle to remember what my mother looked like.  Dead when I was five, she seems a stranger in the photo. 

I continue the photographic story across all four living room walls.  I do this by year, some years more filled that others. 1975 has one photo.  The year my mother died.  

I order a rope barrier for the bottom of the stairs with the legend attached. ` Staff only. `

January 1975.  The only photo from that year was my mother making a mock annoyed face while clearing out the ashtrays after the Hogmanay party.  

Other cabinets include scraps of letters from John to Mary, and from Mary to John.  I name them their courtship letters.

` Missing you. `

` Didn`t mean to stand on your toes. `

` Smile John, it won`t hurt your face. `

` Three weeks Mary, three weeks. `

They lived across the street from each other.

I am hammering the Open/Closed sign in the garden when the lady from the council arrives.

Summary of conversation.

`You’re not allowed. `

` Why not? `

` You can`t just open a museum in a council house. `

` Why not? `

` Health and safety for a start.  You can`t have visitors if…`

` We had visitors, family and friends for years.  Are you saying their safety wasn`t important? `

She left to fight another day.

I did not charge for entry.  I opened on the Monday and waited.   A few curious neighbours but no-one ventured in the front gate.

The council lady came and went again.  Less questions, or slower questions as she wanders around.  Once she mutters to herself as she stared at the courtship letters. ` My dad was never one for letters. `  

A week goes by and you can count the visitors on one hand. Drop ins who had been passing and took a chance.

None of the neighbours until Mrs Rowan from number seventy two.

She has a photo with her. ` Your mum and me at the bingo. Up at the Parish Hall.  That`s Father John, the Bingo caller. ` She glances at 1975.  ` I thought you might have a space or two.  I have others if you like? `

` Thanks. `

The rest of the street arrives over the coming days.  The kettle is never off.  Most come bearing gifts.

Photos, an old football, a lawn mower my dad had loaned but had never been returned.

The museum fills.

Then Mrs Rowan died and I close out of respect.

A week after her funeral I am woken by hammering across the street.  Pulling back the bedroom curtains Angela, daughter of Mrs Rowan, is with difficulty hammering in a sign.

The Museum of Jennifer and George Rowan.

I realise I hadn`t known Mrs or Mr Rowan`s first name.

I hesitate to help, I don`t want to seem patronising.

` God, yes help. ` Says Angela.  ` My arms falling off trying to get this thing in. `

When it`s done I say. `A fine sign. Your mother would have approved. `

` I hope so. ` Says Angela.  `Fancy a coffee. `

` Don`t mind if I do. ` I say. ` I`ll just turn my sign to `back in a while. `

` I`ll have to get one of those. `

` Tons of them online. ` I tell her. 

I have never been in Mrs Rowan`s house, just like Angela has never been in mine.  Just like my mother and father had never been in the Rowans and vice versa. 

` Do you think they`re annoyed at us for doing this? ` Asks Angela.

` Your mother gave me the photo. ` I say.  `She came into the house.  I think they always wanted to but…For a coffee like this. But different times. `

Her living room is filled with photos, and pride of place a cabinet full of trophy`s and medals.

` Your mum did country dancing? ` I say.

`Scottish Country dancing don`t you know. ` She indicates a photo.

`My mum as well?!`

Angela nods.  ` I hardly have anything of my dad. `

` You have more about my mum than I do. ` I say.  `Still have boxes to look through mind.`

` Do you think they`ll close us down?`

` Probably. ` I say. ` The council lady said to me.  `But your mother and father are not even famous?   I`d told her I wanted the museum on their tourist trail. `

` Good for you. What did you say? `

` Who decides what stories to tell? `

 Angela suddenly stands up.  ` Somebody`s stopped. `

A couple coming up Angela`s drive.

` We heard about it on Facebook. ` The man says.

` We`re orphans now as well. ` The woman says.

` Brother and sister? ` I ask, and they nod.

` We have nothing left of our mum and dad. ` Says the man.

They stay at Angela`s for over an hour, and then they come to me.  As they leave another car draws up, and another couple get out.  Both couples stand talking at the road edge then the new arrivals come up my drive.

` A friend told us about this place. Can we come in? `

` Of course. ` I say.  ` And there`s another great museum across the road.`

` The couple were saying. ` says the man.

They stand in the middle of the living room and stare around. The man takes the woman`s hand.  She squeezes it tight, and says.  ` I`m an orphan now. `

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 11 October 2020

DEVIL GATE DRIVE` the play, and other thoughts on theatre.

Devil Gate Drive performed live on Zoom October 2nd  2020.  




Click the image to hear a fresh glam version of a classic glam song.
Musical arrangement by Mark McClelland
Vocals by Kirsten McClelland
Written by Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman.
Image design by Patrina Finch

Devil Gate Drive: A theatrical journey back in time to the narcissistic days of 70s glam rock.


The setting, the City Centre Café (it might be known as Mimi`s Bakehouse.)  Edinburgh October 2019.  

Director Andy Corelli of Awkward Stranger had an idea.  A play about six teenagers who grew up during the Glam Rock era and discovered who they were through the music. Not a musical, or a singalong, but a drama. A drama that explored what it was like to grow up in the 1970`s especially in the daily battleground of school, and society`s expectations of who you were.

The play would incorporate excerpts of Glam Rock songs but adapted to different music styles to suit the mood of the play and characters.  For instance we could have `Blockbuster` by Sweet performed in a bluesy style, sung by the musicians, or actors.  The songs though would not be an interlude from the story but integral to it and the life of the characters.

Would I be interested in developing a play on that premise?  I don`t think Andy had finished asking the question when I said yes!

The nature of the eventual Zoom premiere determined that the full ambitions for the music had to wait for another day, when it would be presented as originally envisioned with the musicians on stage. Still musician Mark McClelland and vocalist Kirsten McClelland   produced their own highly original adaptations of some of the original songs.  Have a listen to the graphic, if you haven`t already, at the head of this essay and be amazed.  It was a joy to work with such talented musicians.

The above was in the future though.  Before we reached that point during the following months from the meeting in the café we discussed the finer points of what play would be all about. Not about the songs or the history of Glam music but focussed on the characters.  Taking Sweets song `Six Teens` as an inspiration but only that, not expand on the stories in the song, but develop different stories and characters.   

It would be a story about the search for self against teenage doubt, the bluster, the bullying, the pressure to be the stereotype you were expected to be by your family, your upbringing and maybe more crucially yourself.  It would be about the characters making choices good and bad, with consequences for themselves and others that reached into the present day.  The music would be the catalyst, or open the door, for those choices to be made in a time when education, that should have been the catalyst seemed remote and failed to stir the inner them.

The music, the songs, the desire to be more, did.

Talk is good but a writer writes. 

I`ll start with a statement. 

I don`t believe there is any such thing as flashbacks.  Or even memory really.  Flashbacks or memory are artificial divides in drama and life between then and now.  Everything exists in the present, the future never arrives either, as tomorrow is actually today when it is.

This was one of the things I wanted to work on in the play as a conceit and device to tell the story.   What the characters ` remember` even if they contain facts, is only a reflection of what they emotionally feel in the present, in the moment of `remembering.`

Dramatically I was aiming to break down the artificial barriers in other areas that exist between the various elements of storytelling.  Feeling and imagination are not fantasy, or escape from the truth but the real reality of the individual characters and the group.

Andy`s idea of all six characters in 1974 and the present played by older actors appealed to me greatly.  There would be no shifting to the `younger selves` during the `remembering` scenes.  Everything shown or heard would be contained in the older characters consciousness.  

Also the fact the musicians would be present on stage would break the convention of the musicians as separate from the actual performance.  The music is central to the characters, they should exist in the same present space.  As said because of the nature of Zoom it wasn`t practical to have the musicians live performance alongside the actors.  It will be on a stage.

Older actors playing both sets of roles set me thinking further about the artificial divides and where emotion, and which drives the characters actions, lies in stories. 

If someone visits a place either familiar or not the refrain heard is about an `atmosphere` that comes from the very walls of the place.

I wanted to use and challenge that.

Example.  Before and during the thinking and writing of ` Devil Gate Drive` I was developing my thoughts in a series of short plays around buildings and spaces.

In my play `Death of a Factory`   a factory is the central character and is about to be demolished (die!) A very different play from `Devil Gate Drive` but looking at ways of `collapsing` the story divides to get deeper into the truths of the situation.

 

This is the opening of the play.  The workers Joe and Sam are setting up the machines for the final shift.  Joe is humming and part singing.  `Highway to Hell. ` The Factory addresses the audience.

I am factory. I have had many names.  In this age my name is Catriona Mill.  I have been many things. In this age I am a textile factory.  (Takes a piece of yarn out of its pocket.)  In my Golden years nothing but the finest cashmere. (Joe and Sam hands Catriona pieces of yarn.) Now the cheapest of the cheap imitation. And look where that has got me.  (Puts cashmere in one pocket, the other yarn in other pocket. Re Joe/Sam) On this day of all days I should care about them. I have watched them so many times set up the machines. And the machines are part of me. But they don’t care about me. They moan and groan but they’ll go on living. Of a sorts.  And I’ve got mice running up and down my arms that can sing better than that one. (Joe.)

In this play there is no set, only characters. What would usually be a static representation of a factory is a walking breathing about to die character. It speaks the emotional memories of all that have walked through its doors.  It is not one character but hundreds but at the same time an individual entity.  

It feels its own death approach, the betrayal of those who have benefited from its existence.  It has brought so much to the surrounding community but soon it will be gone and more than likely forgotten. Whether those feelings are true in the sense of facts, they are true to what the character of the factory feels.  It is its reality.

To to me no such thing as a ` feeling` when you enter a room or a building, or walk through a graveyard.  Everything emanates from you.  Like the `remembering. `

You bring the energy, the `feeling.`  That is why to me having a factory set peopled by characters coming and going telling you their story, their memories are better served as drama when the artificial visual walls come tumbling down, and everything on the stage, including the factory,  is active.

Being active meant displaying the actual emotion without judgement, or moralising, or blame.  Judgement, moralising or blame put up other barriers which stops us seeing the characters as they are, but as whom we think, or wish, or need them to be.

The characters in Devil Gate are, yes buffeted and influenced by peer and society forces, but their feelings are theirs, their choices are theirs, the consequences of those choices are theirs—not society`s, their parents or teachers. I didn`t want a separation between the characters and the world they lived in, because the actual world that they live in, in 1974 and in the present is their consciousness.  To try to get to that with `Death of the Factory `the factory has a voice. With Devil Gate it was the same `collapse` of barriers, the voices of parents or teachers, or the songs themselves held in the consciousness of the characters.

`Devil Gate Drive` is about many things but one of the most important is having a place inside your head which you can go…a safe place.  That rings true to me because I have always lived inside my head.  To me most people do to one extent or another.  My internal world of imagination defines me more than the outer markers such as where I was born, how I have earned my living.  I used to work in a textile factory.  All the characters in the play are searching in one form or another for this safe place. Of course it is there all the time but for our characters in Devil Gate the music is the key.  For me it was writing.  

Devil Gate cut scene:  the characters as young in 1974.  They build Devil Gate Drive out of books, and pencils, what is at hand in the classroom.  To be quickly put back to the rational objects when the teacher turned round.  It was cut because I felt it put up a barrier to what they were searching for inside their head. The safe place wasn`t static or solid but could shift with need.

Only in Devil Gate Drive did their lives and thoughts truly `come alive. `

No spoiler alert here but in Devil Gate they encounter aspects that are usually in another form but `come alive` to them through their emotional need.

Another aspect I wanted to explore was that their  `remembering` in the present could cross over between the various characters, not because they all went to the same space ie school, but were connected through the emotional need of the music.   This manifested itself in the drama with my take on the ` flashback. ` The `flashbacks` are fluid from one character to another, also shifting in a moment between then and now.  The `flashbacks` not actual memories in some realistic order that can be checked with the historical record but emotions crackling inside their middle aged heads.

The unreal reality of it all is the constant flux of feelings. 

This was my basis for telling the different but connected stories of the Six Teens.  They had their own stories, and more importantly as mentioned they were responsible for their own choices in how those stories unfolded.  I aimed to give them the respect to make their own choices and suffer or gain from them.

I loved writing this play; it was a joy to work with such a fantastic and imaginative director such as Andy.  With a group of actors-- Janette Foggo; Kirsten Maguire; Estrid Barton; Dougal Lee; John Love; Andrew McDonald--who despite the newness of the Zoom form, gave their all to the process and the roles.  The issues and situations the characters find themselves in are not easy, as they shouldn`t be in a drama that has ambition to explore real feelings, whether in a naturalistic setting, or surreal as Devil Gate.

Zoom brought up particular challenges luckily not for me really as a writer but for the director and actors.  Watching a supremely imaginative risk taking director, and actors willing to go for it, reminded me why I`m quite happy being a writer thank you very much! 

My experience of Zoom theatre makes me realise that it is not a substitute for ` real theatre` but a storytelling form in its own right. 

Zoom theatre to me is an exciting discovery and working with it as it is, is the way to explore it capabilities.  It can have its issues with delay in sound, sudden loss of internet signal, and the biggest for the actors not being in the room or on the same stage to interact directly as characters.

Some of these issues—sound not working when it supposed to—can happen in any live show whether theatre or not.

Why don`t we consider these aspects not as issues but as virtues.  Use the delay, the sudden loss of signal, even the remoteness of the actors (characters) as a new grammar in storytelling.   I don`t have answers how to do that but throw it out there as thoughts.  It could very well be the beginning of a new era. Early film was exactly that, early, in other words, young, stumbling trying to find its artistic feet. Inventing language and grammar to suit itself not merely taking conventions from the stage and transferring them onto the screen.  If we imagine hard enough we can do the same with online theatre. 

Also theatre itself!  Are we in danger at the moment of being sentimental about its absence?  Did it work all the time, or even most of the time?  Was it challenging enough in form and content?  How was the experience for the audience?  What audience did we reach?

With Zoom the potential is there to reach hundreds or more for each performance.  There were seventy in the audience for Devil Gate.  With Zoom, if you are like me with extreme loss of hearing you nearly hear every word.  I love going to the theatre but many a time I am exhausted not by the exhilaration of the story but straining to hear and follow it. Also regardless of the weather outside its always the perfect night for theatre on Zoom.  One of the crucial elements that needs to be addressed if Zoom theatre is to flourish is money!  At the moment it is mainly volunteer, or if anyone is paid at all it is by donations.  That can`t really continue long term.  Buying a ticket has to become the norm as with any live performance.  

Returning to theatre theatre.  Is it time to get more raw in our storytelling? By that I mean to stop focussing on the production values of something and concentrate on the rawness of the emotional lives of the characters.  Has theatre become too comfortable in its setting?  The `night out` aspect of it.  Are we challenged enough when we go to the theatre?  

When was the last time you were truly challenged? When was the last time you weren`t told what to think, but challenged to think?

When I write, the person first and foremost I need to challenge is myself.  I voted to stay in the EU but if I was writing a play about it would be from the perspective of someone who voted to leave.  Again, and crucially or it would simply me telling myself I was right and therefore superior, I would aim to tell it without judgement, moralising or blame.  It would be trying to reach that character`s reality.

I understand why it happens but part of me thinks standing ovations should be discouraged. Applause, appreciation yes for the actors and director, and maybe even the writer but…shouldn`t there be a pause, a hesitation, at the end of the play. 

A disturbance in the inner being of the audience.  Or is it merely a pat on the head and validation that what you think when you enter the theatre is correct?  The surface never mind the depths undisturbed. 

I am not talking about subject matter here but the questions, not the answers, brought to the surface by what happens on the stage.  Whether that stage is in a theatre or online.

John Peel once said that he received hundreds of demo tapes every week.  The vast majority he could have an instant opinion. Good or bad.  A few he couldn`t decide what his opinion was. 

Maybe that is what art is after all?

Food for thought?

Hopefully `Devil Gate Drive` will come to a theatre near you in the not too distant future.

In the meantime as someone once said…A writer writes!

The play I`m working on just now asks, amongst others, the question.

What would you do to live even a little longer?

This is the opening of `The Lazarus Option. `

PROLOGUE

(Prisoner 4500 in prison uniform and Sarah in business suit face the audience.  They are in different spaces, prisoner in her cell, Sarah on a train on the way to the prison. They speak to the audience.)

SARAH— My name is Sarah and I am dying.  I have one chance to prolong my life.  To continue with my good work.  The Lazarus Option.

4500—I am prisoner 4500.  My name has been erased.  I have no problem with that.  Didn`t like it anyway.   I am a murderer.

SARAH— I am a good person.  A moral person. I believe in the concept of right and wrong.  Consequences for your actions.

4500— I was due to be executed last week. Got as far as needle touching skin. They stopped it because of the Lazarus Option. I have no say in the matter.  Okay by me.

SARAH— Like now I travel every day to Edinburgh, to work, on the train. Today is not every day.

4500— Even at the distance of one mile…the distance from the station to the jail…I can hear the whoosh of air as the train stops. It is not an official stop but the driver does it to torment us.  To let his passengers catch a glimpse, maybe, of the evil ones.  A nice little earner I hear. That’s okay.  I would do the same.

SARAH—Today I will get off at the station.  It has all been arranged. You can see it from the station. A forty storey prison that disappears into the clouds some days.  I have heard some people on the train angry at this.  ‘It should go down the way.  To hell. ` When it opened I remember the headline. ` A monument to wickedness. `

4500— Apparently we have become quite the tourist attraction. We are good for business. A whole little village of stalls by the track to cater for those who stop to gawp.  At a safe distance of course. They don’t want to catch our evil. I feel we should get a percentage. This cell could do with a spruce up.  A coat of paint.  Maybe a little portrait gallery of my victims.

SARAH—I’m not one to stand and jeer at them. I find it undignified.  I bring my own coffee. I relax and read a good book.  Or I work on the train. My work is important to me.  To others.  This is the thing you must understand.  My whole life has been for others.  I do this for others. Not for me.  Maybe they will gawp and jeer at me when I get off at the station.  Maybe they will think I am visiting a relative.  Do I look like someone who would have a relative in such a place?  Of course not.  I am a scientist. They might recognize me!  I have made the mainstream news of late. 

4500-- I wonder if I will end up on her wall?                    

SARAH-- I have always thought of the prison an eyesore. It despoils the symmetry of the surrounding countryside.

4500-- She will be here soon. 

SARAH—They are less than human. She is less than human.  I have read her file. Not strictly meant to.   She is bad and I am good.  There is no debate. I am certain.  It is my right.  It is for the greater good.  For others. Always for others.

4500-- They say it`s what I deserve.  No argument there.