Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Cutting of 'The Adding Machine'

Although today's title sounds like that of a cryptic Sherlock Holmes story, actually it refers to this week's big project. After passing the 70,000 word mark, I spent just a couple of hours a day on the Book and devoted a majority of my time to cutting Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine in preparation for the first year Creation and Realisation module. I had to cut a full length play down to an hour, get rid of the tough American accent and update it slightly to make it relevant for my students. So really it becomes a homage to Elmer Rice rather than a real version of his 1923 play. I also learnt my lesson from last year and did some rather dramatic cutting. While I really enjoyed last year's version of Ewan MacColl's Uranium 235, I felt the whole thing was a little wordy. We didn't didn't really have the time or the space to consider production values. So, this year the written play takes just over half an hour to read aloud. This gives plenty of space for lighting effects, explosions, elaborate costumes etc. Grotowski? Who's he? I'll keep updating the blog with rehearsal discoveries etc, just in case you are interested in this process. Just checked the registers and I have a really lovely group of students to explore this play with. Last year was so much fun so I'm looking forward to getting started with this in a couple of weeks.

It's been a quiet week of research and planning. I've seen a good number of students to discuss their essays and have been able to get on with some book writing as well. Next week we're on to assessment week, although this time round, it is all rather relaxed as I haven't taught on any practical courses. So it's just a couple of German Drama productions and some innovative Physical Theatre performances. And, again, plenty of research time. Hoorah!

Last night we slipped into the weekend with some cool Commuter Jazz and some lovely sushi with our friends. Today has started rather slowly really. For some reason I was extremely tired last night, went to bed early (just before midnight - that is seriously early for us!) and woke up late. Feel much the better for my long snooze. Today is going to be a combination of book writing, rugby watching and cheesecake making. I love our quiet Saturdays. I'm also hoping to do some jobs around our house. It has its messy corners at the moment!


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Today's trip to Sheffield

Good evening folks.
Yesterday I reached the dizzy heights of 70,000 words. It felt rather like scaling the great heights of Kilimanjaro or placing that ceremonial flag on the Moon. All very exciting. I'll get back to it tomorrow afternoon.

Today we had our school trip out to Sheffield to see David Hare's Plenty at the Crucible. What a great theatre! It is in the 'cultural industries quarter' (it's not just 'cultural' but 'industrially cultural'!) and was totally full of jolly theatre-watchers. So, on to the play itself. I must admit I feel it is a little wordy and long-winded. There are some moments of brilliant, witty writing, however. During our post-show chat we considered the tension between personal and public politics. For me, the show is a little too character-centred to really be effective as either a State of the Nation play or as a piece of straight-forward political theatre. That is not to say that it wasn't an enjoyable afternoon's viewing but I remain a little confused about genre and intention. It doesn't seem to give any remedy for the situation and the end is extremely depressing.

The class politics were also a little difficult and I was constantly reminded of Joan Littlewood's accusation that you could only find folks with working-class accents playing servants or comics. Whereas, in this sort of play, the working-class characters generally provide some sort of hope against the backdrop of the demise of the ruling classes, Hare doesn't seem to be making any such claim here. Is a piece politically-engaged in any useful sense if it doesn't offer any alternative? Or is this real politically-engaged theatre, drama that negates obvious, utopian conclusions in favour of a more complex, allegorical approach? I have no answers, only questions...

There was some brilliant acting, including from ex-Eastender Jack Ryder. And the whole play started with a rather striking moment of male nudity that was a little surprising!

Anyways, tomorrow it is more 1-1 meetings with students and then on to research. The next few days are relatively quiet and so it's on with the Book and the second book proposal. I also need to start thinking about cutting The Adding Machine down to an hour.

More tea needed and a good snooze.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Tutorial Week

Evening folks,
We returned from a happy weekend in Cardiff last night. It was great to see Smelly and Stu, and to wander round the Welsh capital. It is a great city! I particularly liked the Assembly building with its big windows and intimate debating chamber. Like at the Scottish Parliament, you have to put your belongings through the airport-style scanner. As we look like regular cymraeg lovers, we all got through just fine...except for Smelly who was, apparently, carrying an unidentifiable object in her bag. Smelly is never parted from her large, Miss Prism-esque handbag and the guard searched through it a little gingerly with the end of a pencil. Very funny! We even saw a couple taking a rabbit for a walk on a pink lead. Cardiff is great! On Sunday it was off to Barry Island. Those of you who are fans of Gavin and Stacey should know that we bought ice-cream from Stacey's cafe and a cone (yes, cone!) of chips from the chippie next to Nessa's amusements. I know nothing about this show really, but it seems to have reinvigorated the funny old seaside town that is Barry Island.

Today it was back to the dreaded Greenwood paper and back to the lovely students who wanted to discuss writing style and essay plans. Then it was off to get soundly beaten at squash. This is the first time I've done any exercise since my cold and I felt a little under par. I think it'll be EA sports active tomorrow.

This is tutorial week so I'm meeting up with loads of students, working on the Book and preparing the script for my Creation and Realisation class. All fun. And on Wednesday it's off to Sheffield to watch David Hare's Plenty. We are off on a departmental school trip. What larks! I'll post a review later in the week. And this week the Wardens explored ebay as sellers not buyers, earning all of £16 from a couple of items we didn't need. It was all quite exciting as the bids came in. I'll spend every penny on my train to Sheffield. Ah, capitalism at work!

Anyways, I'm off to clean the house a little (our letting agency are coming for their customary visit tomorrow) and make a cup of tea. Oh, and check the results of the Elimination Chamber (WWE). Enjoy the week one and all.


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Croeso i Cymru

That's Welsh! And it's in celebration of the fact that we are off to Cardiff to visit Smelly sister and Stu this weekend. Just a quick blog post before we head off. This is the last week of teaching for this block. It's been a really enjoyable four weeks of political theatre and post-colonial excitement. Today I spent far too long teaching the musical and danced home singing 'Springtime for Hitler'. D is still working his way through the next series of Curb. Given that it is the series when Larry is rehearsing for The Producers, my world is suddenly starting to feel a little cyclical!

I am feeling much better than earlier in the week and, though my nose still seems a little odd, I am now functioning with a normal voice and sans the big box of tissues. After watching P&P earlier in the week, I moved on to the sensational Mansfield Park (D always says that, of all the Austen heroines, I am most like Fanny) and Emma Thompson's great version of Sense and Sensibility, with the lovely Alan Rickman. What joy!

Anyways, will post upon our return from the Land of Our Fathers. Enjoy the weekend one and all.


Monday, 14 February 2011

Sniffle...Happy Valentine's...sniffle...Day

I am definitely on the way up. I still have watery eyes and a sniffly nose but in the past couple of hours I have definitely felt better. The only good thing about being ill is when it stops! It always reminds us how great it is to be well. Actually there is another good thing...watching films! I watched two in twelve hours yesterday - the lovely Amazing Grace, about William Wilberforce and the Keira version of Pride and Prejudice. And before I get emails telling me that the latter is a pale reflection of the BBC version, I beg to differ. Yes, Keira is wrong for Elizabeth, we miss the gorgeous Colin Firth and the whole thing is just too quick, but this film has incredible cinematography. It is just the most beautiful movie. And you suddenly become aware of class differences. Unlike the BBC version, you actually realise why Mr Darcy had problems with Elizabeth's family background.

Today I have done a good amount of work considering my fuzzy head. I've just about finished the second book proposal and am nearing the end of the dreaded Greenwood paper. I'll be glad when this one is done and sent off. D arrived back with a selection of delicious M&S meals - Valentine's Day made easy! We never celebrate Valentine's Day or, indeed, any other days you are supposed to celebrate. Everyday life is great enough and, though that sounds a little gushy, I really mean it. So, while this is a heart and flower free zone, I do have posh vanilla yogurt for pudding.

Tomorrow I'm in a long meeting all day so hopefully I'll feel all ready to go. I'm up for a quiet evening watching University Challenge tonight. It's been three days since my last workout so I'm itching to get back to exercising. I might leave it until tomorrow though, to be on the safe side.

And check out I now have a posh website of my own, not just a blog. If you are here for academic reasons, then my new projects are up there. If you just like the chat, then...check out the groovy graphic, courtesy of D. Dinner will be up soon. Hoorah!


Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Perils of Performing Arts

Happy weekend one and all. Finally, I got sick. I have been fighting it for a week and now am curled up on the sofa with tissues, Benylin and pizza. Actually I don't feel too bad at all - just a little under the weather. I still managed to enjoy the Brazilian beats at Commuter Jazz last night. We then hung around the LPAC to watch Hull Truck's April in Paris by John Godber. It was good fun, though, as often with comedy, it was the sad moments that stayed with me.

To cheer up any who are feeling a little under the weather today, here is a funny story about the inherent danger of studying Performing Arts.

from this morning's Lincolnshire Echo

POLICE firearms officers were called to Lincoln College in the city's Monks Road today after a girl was spotted with what looked like a handgun.
Passers-by were cleared from the area while officers waited outside.
When the girl re-emerged from the building officers spoke to her but no further action was taken.
Lincolnshire Police spokesman James Newall said: "Police were called at 2.38pm after reports that a girl was brandishing what appeared to be some form of firearm outside the building.
She then entered the building. Officers attending the scene put into place a well rehearsed response.
Officers spoke to the girl a short time later."

Reports suggest that the 'weapon' was just a prop for a performing arts class.

Genius! And let that be a lesson to us all. I'm glad the so-called 'passers-by' don't hang around the University during assessment week! Swords, comedy axes and screaming are the norm at the LPAC.

Anyways, I'm off to watch the Manchester derby and do a little work on the Greenwood paper. Hope everyone has a lovely day.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Brooker and Flintoff Versus the World

Evening! After a total whitewash in our squash game tonight (D beat me six games to nil...and I didn't even play that badly!) we are now sitting watching England v Denmark and enjoying a peaceful night at home. It's been a lovely day of lectures and interviews, and, to my relief, my voice held out. It's been a little dodgy for a few days now. My throat is a bit sore but otherwise I feel totally fine. I'm hoping it won't escalate into something more dramatic!

So, last night we watched a bit of TV and, rather unusually, caught two interesting, enjoyable shows. My opinion of television is generally low - it appeals to the lowest common denominator of humanity. But here were two programmes I actually enjoyed. The first was Flintoff Versus the World, a show that follows ex-England cricketer, Freddie Flintoff, as he travels round the world with a couple of mates taking on extreme challenges like jumping off cliffs and riding bulls. So far, so predictable. However, Freddie is so endearing and sweet that it becomes rather lovely entertainment.

The second was the wonderful Charlie Brooker's How TV ruined your life. It was funny, smart and insightful. Last night Brooker was discussing the problem of lifestyle shows that present a totally unreasonable, (paradoxically) unreal view of reality. While I have a penchant for the occasional house design programme, I largely hate this sort of telly. I particularly hate shows that rely on either a) telling people with a modicum of talent and an on trend haircut that they are the next Whitney Houston/Stevie Wonder/etc or b) telling people already on an emotional knife-edge that they have no talent at all and are, actually, delusional fools. Preserve me! Fortunately, in Charlie Brooker, I have found a kindred spirit and he can rant and rave on prime time telly while I cheer on from the sofa. The language is a bit fruity so be warned if you catch it on iplayer.

Anyways, the game has finished and England has won a totally pointless, uninspiring match. Compare it to the Super Bowl and weep, UK sport fans. D has shoved on the latest episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm so more Larry is on the way. One more crazy teaching/meeting/admin day tomorrow and then a Friday research day to crack on with the Greenwood paper and book proposal. Looking forward to Friday Jazz as well.


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Sorting and the Super Bowl

Had you arrived at Chez Warden at 10 o'clock this evening you would have found me and D up to our ears in clothes and mess. We were tidying out our wardrobe and sorting things out. Were you to knock on our door right now you would find two slightly sleepy Wardens eating Kettle Chips and watching the warm up (sorry, "pre kick show") for the Super Bowl. Shout out to our American friends! Man, we love you guys! We are going for the Packers tonight, I think. Not sure if we'll stay up for the whole thing. I have, after all, got meetings and teachings tomorrow. D might tough it out though. American football is a sport I have never understood. However, we avidly watched the Washington Huskies win their big game and D talked me through it. As a massive Rugby League fan, American football comes more naturally than I imagined.

Our friends Stateside would laugh at the BBC's coverage though. Obviously the Beeb doesn't do advertising. The Super Bowl seems to break for adverts every other minute and the 'guys in the studio' have to chat inanely while you guys get to watch promos for Doritos or Hot Dogs or Hershey's or something. They're doing alright at the mo but give them another couple of hours and they will surely run out of things to say!

Anyways, enjoy the night and I'll post again mid week.

p.s. oh, and by the by I have changed the web address for the blog. While you can still access it via, you can also use How cool!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

"I am Heathcliff" and "this rock has been waiting for me my entire life"

So, in the past two days we have watched two very different films! It's been another slightly barmy work week so it's been nice to have a couple of restful hours with D each night enjoying movies. The first was last night via t'internet: PBS' version of Wuthering Heights. Now, as most of my friends will know, this is my absolute favourite book of all time. At the age of 14 I sat on my bed and read the whole thing from cover to cover, breaking only to eat and sleep, as I recall. It is the most amazing, terrifying, wonderfully romantic, horrifyingly gothic book I know and if you haven't read it then you should! At 14 I felt that I had learnt everything there was to know about love from Emily Bronte's characters. Fortunately I have mellowed slightly since then and D hasn't had to wander over lonely moors shouting my name or anything. This new film was really good. I haven't yet seen a truly convincing Heathcliff (and I saw the great Sir Cliff in the musical version - seriously!) but Tom Hardy was really great and the whole thing reminded me of the beauty and complexity of this book. And Hareton is surely one of the most lovely, redemptive characters in fiction.

And tonight, after a crazy day of teaching and student interviews, we endulged in out customary Nandos/cinema combo. We went to watch 127 Hours. This came as a bit of a surprise to me (I thought we were going to see the new Christian Bale film) and I entered the cinema feeling a little nervous. You see, this is the film 'where the guy cuts his arm off'. Now, I am not into horror at all and I never watch excessively gory films. I didn't like the sound of this at all. I came out feeling quite different. I don't often cry in the cinema (hard-hearted woman!) but I felt as if I could cry and cry for hours and hours (in the interest of decorum, I didn't). I truly cared about this guy and was totally immersed in his story. Interestingly I never placed myself in his position or imagined what I would do if I got my arm inadvertently stuck beneath a boulder. Instead, it made me think about things like friendship, community, the need to rely on others, the bonds of love that tie people together, and the importance of living life to the fullest. Pretty profound for a Wednesday night! When he leaves his arm behind he seems to be leaving more than just a body part. Rather he is abandoning a previous way of living and, in fact, is a fuller person without the arm. Into the ether he just says 'thank you' and D and I were discussing the focus of his thanks. There is no horrid Hollywood 'may as well cry out to God given that nothing else has worked' moment. But there is a sense that he is thankful for this important, revelatory moment. OK, so I covered my eyes briefly during 'that scene' but I would really recommend this thought-provoking film with its incredible scenery and beautifully realised central character.

Anyways, it is late and I have finished my tea, so it is time for bed. It has been a long day!
Hope everyone is doing well