Thursday, October 31, 2013

That's the way to do it...

Winston on the Run, touring nationally to well-deserved starry acclaim, came to Frome's Merlin this week. This one-man show written & performed by Freddie Machin is set in 1899 when Winnie is an escaped prisoner-of-war "in a fiendish spot of bother, lost in the African savannah, wanted Dead or Alive." Addressing the audience as rats in his hide-out, he tells his story with dramatic use of lighting and sound design (Martin Thomas and Harri Chambers, congratulations - some posher companies could take notes) and incredibly, even though it sounds like a Boys Big Book of Brave Adventures, it's all taken from Winston Churchill's autobiography of his first 26 years. The yarns of daring-do are outrageous but this is no 2-dimensional hero: he's haunted by fears of his own futility and memories of his father's contempt, and there's enough parody of upper-class belligerent arrogance  to satisfy even a leftie pacifist like me.  "Dammit, I'm the son of a Lord," whimpers Winnie in frustration when thwarted in wild schemes or failing to impress as best-paid war-correspondent. It's a gripping play, acted with panache, energy and conviction, but I'm using this image of Freddie because he looks more like WC in life than in his fluffy orange wig. The post-show presentation was fascinating too, especially for any stage writer as it included an account of the Fol Espoir development process:  Freddie and co-creator John Walton used a Scratch performances all the way to Edinburgh as "you make more discoveries on stage ~ a relationship with audience is what moves a show on."

Still on the subject of top tips from practitioners, a new series on Frome FM entitled Best Job in the World  launched with Matthew Life-on-Mars Graham about his scriptwriting career. Matt's experience is with screens small and large, but much of what he said is sage for stage too.  To wit, the need for re-drafting several times, and then letting the director tweak too... "Is there a good way to get started?" asked interviewer Phil Moakes. "Yes. Write. If you're not writing, you're not passionate about it. I don't see writing as a career choice, it's something you have to do." Great words... and a good excuse for another glimpse of overweight, nicotine-stained, bordering-alcoholic Gene Hunt.  

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