One of the main reasons I left full-time employment was due to the increasing piles of papers which lay like silent reminders of how my own creativity was being bought and paid for by other establishments. Papers containing stories, plays, monologues and collections of random ideas that I’d enjoyed playing with so much yet which might stay forever on paper; never reaching publication or performance or even a clear decision to be thrown in the bin! The fear that I might one day look back on my career and consider it all as a response to ideas, strategies or creative concepts generated by other people was enough to make me, without any other vine to hang onto, take the leap of resignation.
I knew that the time was right for me to start exploring my own ideas, my own creative responses, consider whether my writing was any good, think about the people that I might enjoy collaborating with, work out what I genuinely feel are the principles of making good theatre rather than spouting the well-conceived rhetoric of others, put myself in the role of director, producer, performer – whatever it took really! Just to allow myself more time and freedom to explore my creative skills in their totality. Perhaps in that process I might learn some new things about myself, about others, about the world we live in – perhaps not!
One of the earlier pieces that lay unedited and unvisited was a monologue that I had written in 1999 in a moment of frustration with Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. My annoyance stemmed from the fact that one of the greatest female character parts of all time, Lady Macbeth who is so strong and vocal and passionate in the early part of the play, just disappears into a somewhat under represented madness and then finally reaches a point of suicide that is only reported upon.
I wanted to try and chart Lady Macbeth’s progress as a character in slightly more satisfying terms and whilst I recognise, in terms of the dramatic arc of the original play, this would not have offered the same dynamic, it was something I felt was missing nonetheless. As I recall, it was a fairly quick process; having no outlet at the time for my writing, I could type fluently and uncritically; unhampered by the thought that anybody might actually have an opinion on it or that I should be constrained by a budget, casting, space limitations etc and for me, that is the best set of circumstances in which to create anything.
So, on moving to Blackpool I introduced myself to Blackpool & Fylde College’s Curriculum Leader for Performance and he identified a third year Acting Degree student who he thought would be perfect for the role. This young Yorkshire actress was Jenny Atkinson and after an initial coffee, when our ideals and interests seemed to resonate with one another, we started working on the piece.
Written in ten parts, the monologue is in modern (and at times quite blue) language and aims to tell the story of Gruoch, aka Lady Macbeth, from a different perspective; her own. Neither of us entered the rehearsal process with any pre-conceived ideas of how it should come together and that has again been a very freeing part of the process. We’ve had to work rehearsals around dissertation commitments, part-time jobs and other artistic obligations (Jenny is a member of Twelve Strings Theatre Company who were formed at Blackpool and Fylde College and who are taking their piece Our Perfect Child to Brighton Festival in May!) but generally our process has been a good mix of discursive, practical, movement-based, text-focussed interactions and by the end of each session we’ve felt a satisfaction that we’ve moved forwards in the process just a little bit more.
With great support from the excellent staff at the college, we are finally in a position to perform the piece. There will be three showings: Tuesday 5 May at 7pm and Wednesday 6 May at 2.30pm and 7pm in the Blackbox Studio at Blackpool & Fylde College’s Palatine Road campus. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance here.
We also hope to be taking Gruoch to the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival in July.
I hope you will come and engage with this previously untold story – both mine and Lady Macbeth’s!
There’s more about some of the other projects I’m involved in as part of this journey here.
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