as we liked it and the meetings train

So September rolled by in a blur of Shakespeare, nappies, meetings, meetings and more meetings. Though I’m not allowed to talk about nappies any more – official directive from the Arab Nights Marketing and PR team – no more tweeting about poo.

Rosalind and Celia dreaming of love (or cake)

Moving on then… As You Like It was a roaring success – the great citizens of Wirksworth deemed it even better than last years Midsummer Night’s Dream – (hooray) and I was really pleased with it. Also having played the space before meant we could really create a show that played in every nook and cranny of the garden. And we were even relaxed enough to take time out to have a cream tea, and wander the art trail that makes the festival so famous. Almost like some sort of holiday!!! Also celebrated our two year wedding anniversary with an anniversary breakfast in town, while various cast members looked after Noah back at the ranch. It was lovely…we did mostly talk about the set design for Arab Nights but we have since come to terms with our work-aholism, so that’s ok.

Back to London and it was full steam ahead with the meetings train. We’ve been accepted onto the Arts Council’s new Creative Industry Finance Initiative and had our first business mentoring session at the East London Small Business Centre. Noah joined us, of course, and yes we did have to have an emergency ‘tea’ break mid-meeting. Enough said. But that’s all very exciting and good to be thinking about all things Metta with a business hat as well as an artistic one.

Had a great meeting with Aurora Orchestra who are collaborating with us on our opera Flicker, and possibly some future projects involving circus and flooding an entire stage with water. Exciting, and a bit ridiculous (possible tag line for our lives at the moment). Flicker is going well though, and have just been interviewing the patients this last week – some of whose words will end up in the final libretto. It’s a long and intense process though, as for many of them it can take up to 30 minutes to type/communicate one sentence through their assistive communication aides. Also juggling the scheduling of those interviews with child-care can be tricky but am embracing ‘Noah Club’ on facebook where I palm him off on whoever replies first to my last minute plea for babysitting across various parts of London.

Then a flurry of meetings to move forward with the Monkey & Crocodile tour. The Egg in Bath, Polka and Barbican in London, Bikeshed in Exter and hopefully Oxford Playhouse are all looking like potential partners in circus-theatre crime so that’s go go go (for summer 2013, that is).

Houda and Natalie dreaming of stories (or cake?)

And of course Arab Nights preparation continues apace – had a wonderfully chaotic music workshop with Bushra and the cast, and starting the ball rolling with production meetings and press & marketing meetings (hence the poo directive). Also had a pre-production photo shoot with our two beautiful women Houda Echouafni and Natalie Dew.

And Noah had his second board meeting. He enjoyed it. He’s getting quite chatty in meetings now though (he’s now four months old – so not saying actual words…yet). I’m not sure how much longer the whole baby-in-meetings thing is going to work and aside from rehearsals my entire life is meetings so… I’m thinking about selling Noah on e-Bay and using the proceeds to fund the next Metta production. Or maybe ‘Noah Club’ on Facebook will become a lot more popular…

once more it’s time for me to think in verse

So August was as busy as July!
Auditions for the ‘Nights‘ went very well
And on one stressful Friday afternoon
We had a read-through, Skypeing with the writers
Who could not be there in the actual room.
Although thanks to the failing internet
of Edinburgh, and other techy hitches
Beirut having no electricity
Our numbers for the readthrough were depleted.
But nonethless we have a good recording.
Meanwhile I also wrote a rough first draft
of our new opera, previously known as ‘Surface’
But now renamed to be instead called ‘Flicker’.
And Noah had his first Arts Council Meeting
which went quite well, until he graced us all
with such a giant poo it quite leaked out
all over Will, staining his shorts most yellow.
I’ll not deny it was an awkward moment.
But thankfully they seemed to take it well,
And hopefully it will not penalise
us in our future funding applications!
Then in one spare and sunny afternoon
I managed to dash off a horror play
A silly thing, for Theatre of The Damned‘s
London Horror Festival competition.
And finally (if that were not enough)
I’ve madly put together ‘As You Like It’
A 1950s Rock and Roll fueled romp
Set in America – it’s very silly.
So that’s been hugely fun but hugely tiring
As having a baby in the room is great
For when the actors must soliloquise
(because it’s fun for them to talk to Noah
Directly, and of course he loves it too)
But holding him and holdin’ the show together
Has stretched my patience, strength and sanity!
Especially on the day of Poo-mageddon
(Much worse than the Arts Council accident)
Where mid-rehearsal he let forth a squelch
Which covered him, my shoes, me and the floor
With poo of such fluorescence and such stink
That the poor cast stood speechless, quite agog
Until one of them had the sense to run
Away to find a lot, a LOT, of loo roll!
But poo aside, the show is going well
We open in a week and I can’t wait!
So that has been my August. Pretty busy.

What will September bring? Well, we shall see…

two magic shows, four metta shows, and one baby

I think it’s fair to say I am insane. What did you do in July Poppy? Oh, I just looked after my two month old baby. Really? No, I also (sort of) directed two Edinburgh shows for the magicians – (Clockwork Miracles and Lying Cheating Scoundrels),  interviewed the staff at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability for our new opera about Locked In Syndrome (Surface), spent a week developing our circus-theatre show, half in Circus Space and half in a playground (Monkey & Crocodile), created a story-telling installation at the Bush for Theatre Delicatessen’s Bush Bazaar (Old Red’s Cupboard) and read the first drafts and started casting for Arab Nights.

And almost forgot – I also edited down the script of As You Like It for my forthcoming production for Jagged Fence and the Wirksworth Festival.

So that was July. I’m tired.

meetings and vomit

The baby/theatre career juggling is going well. He still seems content to sleep or feed through meetings – and I’m increasingly brazen with my breast baring. Although often the moment a meeting is over he decides that’s the best time to vomit – sometimes projectile vomit – all over us both. Arguably he’s right, that is the best time – don’t know how much Nick Hytner would love having a face full of vomit. Though to be honest I’m not sure he’d be wild about me baring my breasts in front of him either…

It is strange how I spent the first half of this year not doing a huge amount of work (other than growing a baby, which could perhaps reasonably be said to be a huge amount of work, actually) and now, with a tiny person to look after (which is definitely a huge amount of work) I have four Metta productions happening or in development (Monkey & Crocodile, Arab Nights, Surface and a top-secret but soon-to-be-announced project involving a cupboard), two Edinburgh shows for the magicians and an out-door As You Like It up in Derbyshire for Jagged Fence and the Wirksworth Festival. All in the next six months.

Perhaps I am insane. Watch this space…

babies and meetings

The rest of May was surprisingly busy (maybe not that surprising really). The judging weekend for the Title Pending award at Northern Stage went brilliantly well and was a really useful opportunity to develop Arab Nights.  Then crammed in several shows – Posh in the West End, Tenet at the Gate and Three Kingdoms at the Lyric – all very different, all in their respective ways very brilliant.

Then I had a baby.

Then straight back to work – our first trip out of the house (two weeks after the baby was born) was to a meeting with ETT – at which I breast-fed and took notes simultaneously. So efficiency doesn’t evaporate after giving birth. That’s a relief. And since then have had several meetings with baby on the boob – admittedly easier with Skype meetings where you can angle the breast out of shot on the computer.  I think more people have seen my breasts in the past month than in the past ten years (excluding my brief burlesque career, true). Have also had a few meetings in my pyjamas or dressing gown (in the flat – not gallivanting round town in them) being the consummate professional that I am.  So far then motherhood and career are balancing fairly well – and now that I can have him in the sling I can feed hands-free and work at the computer… as I am doing now!

Love’s Letter’s Lost

(a love affair between Paper and Ink, for two voices)

SHE
Waiting for the lines

HE
The lines, the lines

SHE
Waiting to be filled

HE
Waiting to be sealed.

SHE
Thick and white and blank I lie
gazing up beneath the sky
Waiting to be filled

HE
Through her I live,
she gives me life, she lets me breathe

SHE
My edges curl, they rip, they tear
they gently undulate the air

HE
It is flirtation, invitation,
Paper flutters, palpitation.
She calls for words

SHE
Through him I live,
he gives me life, he lets me breathe

HE
I scrawl a story on her skin
of passion, of what lies within

SHE
He scratches out his joys, his pains
along my length and back again.

HE
I dot the ‘i’s’ and cross the ‘t’s’
each stroke a gift – when suddenly

SHE
The Scissors glint, they glare, they growl
Metallic mouthed into a scowl
Those cold blades wink
jealous of the Ink
envying the power
to conjure hour by hour
worlds of words, on the brink
of bursting forth in song
but silenced by steel’s long –
by Scissor’s deathly stare
that snip the trembling air
vibrating with the promise of
the whispered nothings of true love

My mighty Pen, mightier than sword,
than Scissor blades who rent the air
and unlike Ink can devastate
But never create, no never create.

HE
Jealous blades out to destroy
will slice and sharply slash our joy
They cannot bear our happiness
To save her I must sacrifice
I’ll pour myself, my soul, my all
to flood the words, the worlds, the small
attempt at reaching human hearts
and in so doing I depart –

SHE
The Ink is spilled, the deed is done
it spreads, a stain, begins to run
bleeds through me, bleeds about me still –

HE
But there are things you cannot kill.
Though I am spent and drying now
the tiny scrawls of love avow
a feeling that you can’t destroy.

SHE
And heavy, sodden though I am
I am in tact, which must annoy

HE
So jealous steel is not requited
although my ruin has delighted
love’s letter’s lost is not enough
to soothe the shining glint of lust.

SHE
In rage the blades cut through the lines
and through my skin and though he finds
an extra thrill in this reduction
it leads him to his own destruction
My lover’s blood still wet and raw
begins to clog his shining claws
and as I fade, in shreds, he must
I know, at last, succumb to rust.

SHE
So while the Ink and I expire

HE
We know there will be others

SHE
Some will be cut, some burnt in fires

HE
Some shredded, flooded, smothered

SHE/HE
But Paper and Ink will seek always
to meet, to mark each-others’ days
to leave those marks, those scrawls of love
vibrating air with promise of…

While blades will rust and fires will die
new pale blank Papers always lie
ready for Ink, to be transformed
to be transported, to be adorned

SHE
Waiting for the lines

HE
The lines, the lines

SHE
Waiting to be filled

HE
Waiting to be sealed.

more magic and some awards

Been doing some more work with that time-travelling magical duo Morgan & West and have another day with them coming up on Monday. It’s a fascinating insight into the world of magic – as with circus work as soon as you have a little vocabulary and some technical understanding it all becomes so much more accessible…so watch out for lots of magic in future Metta shows!

Also been off out on various meetings, mostly Arab Nights related, but as the due date draws increasingly near I’m trying to get people to come to me rather than have to schlep across town myself. That said next week, as well as the magicians, I’m off to ETT on weds to do another reading of my play ‘Box’ because the first one went so well I’ve (perhaps rather hastily) done a redraft and expanded it to a 30 minute play (rather than the original 20). Maybe it’ll get even longer – we’ll see. Then on Friday I’m up to Northern Stage again where we’ve been shortlisted for the Title Pending Award for New Theatre (for Arab Nights). Extremely chuffed, and excited, and only a little apprehensive about possibly going into labour on the train!

In other award-y news – we received a Circus Space Lab:time Award to develop Monkey & Crocodile which is brilliant – and I’ve been meeting theatres all over the country (well Bristol Old Vic and The Egg in Bath so all over the West country) about developing that together.

more shadowing

After a few fairly relaxed weeks and some much needed rest back in the West Country over Easter it’s now all gearing up again. I’ve been meeting with actors and a wonderful Iraqi designer called Rajha Shakiry who is going to design the costumes for Arab Nights.  And just generally locking down the details of the autumn production. On top of which I may now be directing another two shows in the autumn – both Shakespeare plays – an As You Like It and a Much Ado About Nothing – that could be a busy time…

Yesterday I wrote a libretto for a short opera competition and today and tomorrow I’m jumping back on the shadowing bandwagon, spending a few days with the wonderful women of ETT.

Then Thursday sees the rehearsed reading of a short play that I wrote directed by my friend James Bounds at the newly opened Theatre Delicatessen building.  Friday I have an NCT class and Saturday I’m in Sidcup talking on a panel discussion about Storytelling in the morning, then dashing back home for my baby shower in the afternoon.

So after a fairly quiet start to the year I seem to be getting busier and busier as the baby approaches…I’m sure that’s the wrong way round.

newcastle

Last week I spent a gorgeous few days up in Newcastle shadowing Erica Whyman, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Northern Stage. What an inspiring woman – she’s who I want to be when I grow up. Gosh it was tiring though – they literally none of them take any kind of break all day, so it was 10am-10pm straight through each day (because we also ended up watching shows in the evening) which is pretty heavy going when you’re seven months pregnant. That said when there’s so much going on in a building and so much energy and passion you don’t really feel tired (until you get home in the evening after getting lost on the Newcastle Metro…every night!!!)

This week is shaping up to be equally interesting. Have set to dramaturgical work already on our big project for the autumn – Arab Nights – a series of short plays by writers from across the Middle East and North Africa. Mostly stull unwritten apart from the play from our Palestinian writer which is already, excitingly, in its second draft – possibly becoming its third as I type. Also launched a crowd-funding campaign for that and have already raised 15% of our £3000 total so that’s looking positive.

Today I’m off for a meeting with the Gate and then going to a touring forum run by ITC now that Metta are ITC members. And then tomorrow I’m meeting with an Iraqi actress who might be a part of either Stories from 1001 Nights or Arab Nights, or both!

developments

Spring is a time of things developing. Devoted & Disgruntled was as inspiring as ever, as was last weekend’s Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre – both planting lots of creative seeds that I hope will develop into bigger things over the next year.

Had a meeting at the Royal Opera House about developing a puppet opera there, and also met with a brilliant Puppet designer & maker – Mandarava – with whom we might collaborate on it.  Also been meeting many many writers, a brilliant young Lebanese Composer called Bushra El Turk, and the British Council about a project we’re developing for the autumn which I hope to announce soon.

Last Monday I helped develop a piece called Fragments of Her for my dear friend Loren O’Dair at the Theatre in the Pound scratch night at the Cockpit Theatre. And I’ve also been developing – or rather reviving – my acting career as I performed (naked and 7 months pregnant) for the Belarus Free Theatre and Fuel at the WOW Festival at Southbank this weekend.

Then today had a rehearsed reading at ETT of a new play/project we’re developing – Stories from 1001 Nights – which will hopefully have a life this summer.

So lots of things developing, as well as the baby too of course. I’ll keep you posted as it all…develops.