So, what happened recently?

Well, April went by as some sort of manic blur, but I’m finally back!

Things have happened. These are:

1) The Performing Science conference at Lincoln, organised and hosted by Andy Jordan, ran from the 23rd to the 25th April with amazing keynote speakers Carl Djerassi and Michael Frayn. I gave a talk on the differences and benefits of Science Theatre and SF Theatre and had my monologue, The Russian Doll Case, performed. It was a great array of speakers – academics, practitioners, producers, scientists et al. So many perspectives and angles! Thoroughly enjoyed it. I also managed to see Bloodlines before I dashed for the train – an intricate performance presenting the idea of blood tranfusion through physical theatre.

Then it was time to get ready for:

2) Stage the Future at RHUL, on the 26th and 27th April! It was great to see the passion and commitment everyone had in the room – simply buzzing with ideas, performances and ways to bridge communities together. From the past, present to future, I think everyone found out about at least one production they’d never heard about, a new angle to take, a new theoretical bridge to cross. I presented a paper on worldbuilding, using Terra Firma as an example. There were performances and papers from academics, practitioners, directors, producers, actors etc. We wanted to have this balance between academia and performance – because, well, that’s what the theatre is really about and SF Theatre needs more recognition in both of these areas. Of course, this is only the beginning – there are many plans waiting in the woodwork that I will announce when I can!

The next day:

3) My short play, The Reality Test, was staged amongst a series of performances on the theme of CAGED at The Old Red Lion Theatre in Angel, produced by the wonderful Writers Bloc. This piece depicted two performers going through an infinite loop – but trying to hide these patterns of behaviour from the other. Which one are real or are both simply a fabrication? The actors Alice Havillyn and Jack Heath did tremendously well – I was only able to have two rehearsals with them before I went to Lincoln – and they did a sterling job, I have to say!

The next day:

4) I had Terra Firma read by KDC Theatre (and recently had Fishbowl read last night) and they’ve given me much food for thought and ways to add and cut a few lines here and there. It’s been very beneficial!

So now, what are my plans?

I’m doing another collaboration for Written and Composed with Lucy Harrison, which is a mixture of soundscape, installation and live performance. It’s based on one of the monologues from my book, Notes from Other Worlds. I’m so excited for this! It’s on the 22nd May (not long now!) at Toynbee Studios. Link here.

I’m also preparing for my annual review in June – sorting out which creative things to submit!

Things are underway for Terra Firma – the full production! I’ve been sorting out press and all that jazz and it’d be great if you could come and see the finished version (whether you’ve seen the rehearsed reading or not!). More details will be available soon!

I’ve also started the new theatre company that I’ve thought about for so long – Stars or Mars Theatre is finally up! This is to create a network to collaborate and create original works of SF Theatre in London. I have 3 ideas so far for potential collaborations, but they’ll be put up on the site in due course. You can find the link here.

I’m also planning a new play – I’m just waiting for all the ideas to hit a vantage point from which to write from. Rather tedious, but hey!

Susan

 

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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

ImageAnother cultural marker (following on from last post) – Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Hope you’re all well! I’ve been busy working on my play which is going to have a staged reading at the Etcetera Theatre on the 25th/26th February! I’m utterly thrilled by this! We’re well underway in rehearsals and the cast and crew have been utterly superb. Terra Firma is obliquely quite a personal play to me – as I’ve written and redrafted it on/off (which is quite unusual for me), I can actually pinpoint the times in which I wrote certain parts!

You can find out more about the play at this website, which I’ll be updating shortly – http://www.terrafirmaplay.co.uk

So apart from this, I’ve been writing monologues for my collection, of whose working title currently is Notes from Other Worlds. I’m not *too* sure about this title wise (I don’t consider myself well versed in titles, unfortunately), so any suggestions would be helpful!

I’m working on some more plays – I’ve recently redrafted Pandora’s Box and Fishbowl and am starting planning on the new plays 🙂 Also, stay tuned for conference news – lots of exciting things to come!

Susan

Thoughts on Theatrical Jenga

Jenga 3Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you are all well and taking the opportunity for the next calendar year to accomplish a new and established set of goals and achievements. Of course, time is a human construct and you can make goals at any time, but it’s always a nice marker to play by.

It’s been strange, but I haven’t had the clarity that I had of last year in terms of my creative work. I had a plan of some sort and I draw out scenes, acts, characters and tropes by simple sentence synopses. I still write longhand in notebooks and manage to get through so many in the process (I have abnormally large handwriting, as some of you will know). I usually have a notebook for one or two plays specifically (originally called “play books”), where I will dedicate its entirety to ideas, scenes and timelines.

However, I’m becoming increasingly scatterbrained, which I hoped last year wouldn’t happen. It’s nice when ideas come, but they shatter the illusion of confidence (that I know what I’m doing, where this is going, that it feels consistent-ish to the characters and their intent) and the play becomes unrecognisable. It happened to Cuckoos and Chrysalids, it happened to Newshound and I’m a little scared that I don’t take the transitions as well as I had hoped. I often chop and change my writing projects and it isn’t as fun as I thought.

The theatrical Jenga of the title though, is from what I’m “researching” for my critical work. Theatre has been seen as notoriously hard to create a world only for it then to be disrupted later in a way that the audience can identify and run with as soon as the piece has been taken away and the structure compromised. Would we be able to see the piece from all angles? Do we have to wait for someone to gasp and cry “Oh no! The puzzle has collapsed!” or the equivalent in SF pulp literature? I’ve been looking at it, however, through the anthropological theories of Tim Ingold’s taskscape and how patterns of behaviour can build up this picture, punctuated by the dialogue.

I’m working on a few creative projects at the moment – but these descriptions are going to be incredibly vague. One play is about a character who is unable to focus on the present moment, instead dwelling around past and future, unable to see how people have changed around her (it’s to do with memory development and enzyme reactions). Another is dealing with virtual representation, mass hive-mind juries and A/B testing. Another is to do with the transition between mind transfer and living in another skin, monologue style (which I’m hoping to structure in a similar way to the amazing production of There has been an Incident).

It’s taking me longer than expected to hone these theatrical sculptures, but it could be a good sign. I feel that I’m taking more risks with the writing I’m producing, which can only be a good thing at this stage.

It’s that time again…

So it’s nearing the end of 2013 – a fast year in many respects! It feels like it’s been an eventful year for me (of course, that’s subjective) but I feel that I’ve learnt a lot – and through doing that opens up another network of chambers to explore. Highs and lows, definitely.

The overriding theme of the year is that I feel that I’ve gained confidence in a lot of things – not nearly as confident as I’d like (huh) – but it’s gotten there. I’ve taken on things that I wouldn’t have thought myself capable of doing this year and have benefited from doing so. I can’t believe I gave a talk at my first conference that happened to be about my supervisor, for one! I also managed to give creative writing workshops on Science Fiction to 14+ pupils, which I never thought I’d be able to do previously. I also tried my hand at directing too for the very first time and have gained some more experience since then. And a play! I’m so glad I had a chance to act in something I’d written that wasn’t a monologue or poem! That will be up on Youtube soon enough.

I have realised, though, that I’ve found it increasingly harder to stay on one particular piece to the end. I’m not quite sure what that is – I feel now that I try to wrap too many concepts up in one package, which makes the project harder to steer. Back to the drawing board, make clearer plans – and well, bloody get on with it, I presume!

Wish you all the best of health, happiness and success – hope you have a great time in 2014! x

A quick Fiction Friday!

Hi everyone! Just a quick Fiction Friday here to let you into my Youtube Channel *gasp!* Yes, I do have one, which I’m not sure is a pre-requisite now for Google Plus users (although I’m still ignorant as to the whole circles concept). Anyhow, I have uploaded some videos on there such as snippets of my plays and so forth. A bit bare, but I’m working on it!

Let me know what you think!

My Youtube Channel

NB: I’ve also added a post on Newshound along with the uploaded video!

Gravity – a review

What is this? You may ask (Fortasse requiris – sorry, that structure always reminds me of Catullus). She’s reviewing film!? Yes, yes I am. Because I can and because it’s a set up that would work very well in a theatrical sense.

It would be foolish of me to say that the following sentence contains spoilers – the visuals are *stunning*. That goes without saying – the amount of work and the size of the team working their technical wizardry has paid off. It basically has to be seen in 3D. Mindboggling. The variety of long shot and close-up to contrast between the sublime and the claustrophobic are really done masterfully here.  I could basically look at that for hours, without any plot. This leads me neatly to my next point.

The set up is rather absurdist. Not absurdist in the “Haha! That’s absurd!” sense, but in the Beckettian notion of shouting into the void (quite apt in the realms of space). Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and their crew are attacked by debris caused by a satellite explosion, which causes a chain reaction of chaos, confusion and a chain of incredibly bad luck as they try to find their way to each other. Ultimately though, it’s about Sandra Bullock’s story of survival and her means to overcome the losses that she has experienced on Earth. There are no aliens, no monsters (except in our own heads), no other civilisations – we are the only ones kicking in this universe. The overriding message is: there’s nothing to see here, folks, so enjoy the view.

There is an extended metaphor of birthing, which isn’t new when it comes to art dealing with the representation of space. Think of the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example. I also dealt with this Russian Doll effect in Cuckoos and Chrysalids (although it’s about how people will use technology to privatise and conquer both spaces – the womb and space itself). It’s very apparent in one scene whereby Sandra Bullock floats in a fetal position, having escaped near death by another debris shower, enjoying what peace she has (unsurprisingly, it’s short lived). It’s tense, repetitive and ultimately meaningless, but it’s her story that gives it meaning. There is a scene where she shouts to the radio, where the crew replies in Chinese. She sings along with them, enjoying this connection that transcends the language barrier; only to find out that they’re singing to a child and not to her. There is a spiritual essence in the strength of her character in the face of almost certain imminent death and no hope of rescue – her escape will ultimately be a re-birthing, to emerge from the void once more.

And yes, Gravity is sexist, quite strongly so. I do realise that Sandra Bullock is inexperienced in the mechanics of space flight and George Clooney is the veteran, but even when she’s a brilliant medical doctor, he advises her when her oxygen is low, to “breathe slowly. You’re inhaling CO2 now, which will make you feel dizzy”. Patronising much!? Even I could tell that! There even is a segment whereby Bullock mentions on several occasions that she never manages to park correctly on the simulator, and has to rely on the instruction manual. Really? Really, guys? A lot of screen time is also taken up by her being tethered around by Clooney, who flirts with her rather oddly, but hey – it’s George Clooney. And Bechdel Test!? What Bechdel Test?

I’m not going to say much, because I can’t really without giving the ending away (I could tell you the whole plot in a sentence without leaving much out) that in terms of visuals –  it’s an absolutely stunning experience. I saw this film with a friend whose background is in Artificial Intelligences and Physics and he is basically the most intelligent person I know – when he says it’s pretty much accurate apart from a few niggles here and there, I’m inclined to believe him.