Category Archives: The Blog

2016 … and yes, I’m still here!

Many years ago now, when Methuselah …

A Methuselah tree!

A Methuselah tree!

… was still wearing short trousers and hula-hooping with his little sister Mildred, I discovered AWN Pugin, Architect, Designer, Theorist and all round polymath. I decided the world needed a play about this amazing fellow. And when better to produce a play but 2012, the bi-centenary of his birth. So, I researched, wrote and produced a play about his life called The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures which was seen in 2013 … only a year late.

At the time the plan was to perform the play in Ramsgate, Kent (Pugin’s home for the last few years of his incredibly short life) and then tour it to some of his buildings around the UK and abroad. The first part of the plan, the performing it in Ramsgate, worked a treat. The second part of the plan, to tour some of his buildings, didn’t!

shibuya-crossing-923000_1280We were a bit busy with lots of other things and problems arose and … well, to cut a very long story short … we didn’t tour the play.

HOWEVER … that is all about to change. The production, which received a great many plaudits, was a great success and now, only a few years later, we want to capitalise on that success (no point in rushing into things) and re-produce The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures for a much wider audience.

So … to whet your appetite, have a little peek at this short (about 2 minutes), slightly fuzzy, little video of the original performance in Ramsgate.

Pugin on Vimeo

And bear with us whilst we put in applications for money, rewrite, remake and sell the show to the world at large. Pop back here now and then for further updates!

Back soon!

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2014 … and I’m still here!

SAM_2709Ring out the bells … I’m “not in!”

Many years ago I stayed in Yorkshire with a friend. We were doing workshops in and around Bradford for a week or two and we stayed with his family in their large house. His Grandfather lived in the annexe but every morning at 8 AM, he would come into the large family kitchen, make himself a cup of tea and sit at the big oak table and read the paper. He was always washed, shaved and smartly dressed and looked very dapper. However, on the Friday morning, he came into the kitchen wearing his pyjamas and a dressing gown, he was unshaven and his hair awry; he made tea, sat at the old oak table and opened the local newspaper and started to read. Being a curious chap, I asked him if he was well. He said, “I’m alright now”.

“Oh”, I said, “why’s that?”

“I’m not in.”

“Not in?”

“The obituaries,” he smiled, “I always check on a Friday. If I’m in, I won’t bother getting shaved and dressed.”

Well, that is sometimes how I feel. And … here I am; I’m “not in”. So, another year (if I’d realised I was going to live this long, I’d have looked after myself better when I was younger) and I think this year is going to be another exciting one. There are many new, and indeed, old things on the horizon. And speaking of horizons; I feel it is always good to do something that you have never done before (I’m not entirely sure what this segue has to do with horizons per se but stay with me for a minute). So, a few days ago, I did just that, did something that I’ve never done before … I am no longer a Skype virgin. I have Skyped! Now I know that for many, Skype-ing (not sure how to spell that one) is a regular occurrence, a daily affair but for me it was a first … and I was excited (my leg kept wobbling under the table). To be able to sit in my dining room with a laptop, a cup of tea and an iced fancy and chat to someone from the other side of the world (beyond the aforementioned horizon, tenuous link I know but it is the best I can do) and see, not only them but a part of their dining room too (nice chairs by the way) is surely an amazing thing. Technology! To be able to see someone smile, laugh at something you’ve just said that was amusing, pull a face when they are not quite sure what you’re on about … is … well, “flippin’ brilliant”. And to think that they are on the other side of the world … is “flippin’ flippin’ brilliant”.

Skype-ing Selfie

This is me … Skype-ing. Having looked closely at the photo, it proves two things … 1). I’m obviously concentrating on something on the computer and 2). I’m right to be mildly surprised that I’ve made another year. The bags under my eyes would not fit in that little cage thing that airlines make you put your hand luggage in when you are going on a flight. The bags under my eyes will cost me a fortune next time I fly Ryanair …

So, after looking at the state of me, I’d better get a move on with all the projects that I want to complete over the next few years; lest it is all too late.

And why was I Skype-ing? Well, dear reader, I have a new chum; a new chum in Canada, no less. This chum is a Pugin-ophile; a Pugin-ophile amongst many other Pugin-ophiles in the aforementioned country who are interested in “The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures” and, believe it or not dear reader, in yours truly Clive “Bagman” Holland. My new chum wanted to interview me about the show for an architectural/historical publication … and she couldn’t keep me quiet. We chatted for over an hour and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I still receive a great many enquiries about “The Man …”, mainly by e mail, telephone and people stopping me in the street, “when are you performing it again?” they ask. And I always answer soon … soon. It is the interest shown by so many people that spurs me on to re-create the show to tour later in the year (which was, as you all know, always the plan). The challenge that this provokes is, of course, money. I am about to put in a number of applications to various funding bodies to attempt to raise enough capital to make the project a viable proposition; they all, of course, require match funding. And so … and this is where you come in … I am about to make a short film that will be uploaded to Wefund or Indiegogo, or similar … these are platforms for fundraising for arts projects. I will let as many people know as is humanly possible when the film goes live and the idea then is, that wonderful people such as yourselves, pledge a small amount of money towards our target … if we reach the target, then we get the dosh. This lucre can then be used as match funding for the funding bodies mentioned earlier. With any luck, a following wind and a great deal of hard work … the play will be performed again! Huzzah!

There is a little video that lasts about two minutes and will give you a slightly fuzzy idea of what the play looks like. Have a peek and … watch this space!

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Pugin will return!

There are a few other projects on the horizon too … watch out for “The Raree Box”, The return of Noggin the Nog, a new show about Edith Cavell, a Dream project … and a couple of others that are bubbling away.

See you back here soon!

 

The Gothic Adventure Continues!

Scroll down to see earlier posts or you can … clickety click.

Oh Dearie Dear, Where Have I been!

“The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures” has been and gone … for now, at least. I know I said in the last post I would put up photos and would be witty and pithy about rehearsals but I’m afraid time, tiredness and emotion defeated me. So, weeks after the performances, I am back!

I would like to take you on a journey!

So, pack your sandwiches, your thermos and iced fancies and strap yourself in … you are about to go on a whistle-stop tour of the last eight weeks!

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As the sun began to set one Sunday evening at the beginning of September, a wonderful team of creatives descended on the little seaside town of Ramsgate, bearing gifts. Gifts of talent and enthusiasm, of mirth and friendliness, of creativity and imagination. We sat, with much bonhomie, in my little house, ate supper, drank beer and read a script that was still hot off the presses. Over the following two weeks (well, almost) they sweated and strained, laughed and cried, ate and drank, created and tried to escape but by hook or by crook, through the tightest rehearsal period ever, the merry band of creative ne’er do wells produced a play. Not just a play but a brilliant play.

“Wit, humour, energy – captured AWNP perfectly. I loved it.” Roger Thornington

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Above is Alix and Max getting to grips with the script … a script which, true to form, was added to and hacked and cut and pasted and twisted hither and thither. As the two week rehearsal period (2 weeks?) progressed so did the play; two steps forward and one back, a bit like a theatrical soft-shoe shuffle. By the second Thursday we were feeling quite under pressure … especially as some idiot had decided that on that very day we would do an open dress rehearsal.

“No-one will come”, said the idiot, “it’ll just be an ordinary dress rehearsal! Trust me”.

So, forty plus people queued up at the door waiting to be allowed to sit down in a very theatrically cluttered auditorium, to watch an open dress rehearsal.

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“I thought you said, no-one would come?”

“We’re not ready”

“You’ll be fine,” said the idiot.

And indeed we were … more or less. Some of the words were strangled or lost altogether, some of the projections decided to take matters into their own hands, some of the scenes needed a lick of … well, rehearsal and, as the play moves in and out of the audience at regular intervals (and in the balcony behind the audience), there was a certain amount of tension amongst the performers … as if doing a brand new play, with a brand new script and in less than two weeks wasn’t tense enough, the writer (whoever he is) had written whole chunks that are to be spoken whilst sitting next to an audience member … no problem! In fact, there was no major problem. Rehearsal was all it needed and we had a whole day to do that before the paying public descended on us.

It is amazing; well, it always amazes me, that in less than twenty-four hours, a creative bunch of people can turn a play from being a creaky, hazy, half-remembered thing to a big, confident, pacey, epic play that an audience whoops and hollers, laughs and cries at and all in the right places. The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures, grew in stature by at least two-hundred percent in those few short hours and we, the performers, felt as though we were walking on air … so, we did, as performers often do, left the theatre in a mess and disappeared down the pub for a few alcoholic beverages. We talked about the show, we talked about the bits that worked particularly well and those bits that need a bit of work and we talked about the audience and how they reacted and … we talked and talked and talked well into the night. Tomorrow is another day … and we have two performances tomorrow … bedtime!

To cut a long and very exciting story short, the play is a success … yes there are bits that I will rewrite, there are bits that we will re-work, there are bits that will just go but … as a piece of modern, fast-paced, creative theatre … it works. Phew!

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This Photograph was taken by Tim Spencer and captures the essence of the play, I think. It is not a Victorian Parlour production, it is not a play that sits up on a stage and bumbles in front of a passive audience; it is a rambunctious, daring, fast-paced piece that provokes the audience into caring about the characters and events and into getting involved in this amazing man’s life. It is full of humour, pathos and a great number of clever theatrical devices that move the story forward and captures Pugin’s growing paranoia and his downward spiral into madness. The final scenes of his last days on earth left the audience with tears in their eyes and a lump in their throat.

I am sitting in a house in Truro, Cornwall, looking at the towers of the statuesque Cathedral, as I write this post. It is night. The stars are just beginning to twinkle in the sky and Jupiter, which is in Capricorn at the moment, is by far the brightest thing up there. I am making plans. Oh, yes! Lots of plans. Plans for The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures. 

So, I’m going to stop writing this post. I will return to the same spot in a few days time. I will tell you what else has happened since the last post … if you are interested. But for now … I have thinking and writing to do … see you back here … soon!

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A New Play of a Monumental Life … or … a Gothic Adventure!

Scroll down to see earlier posts or you can … clickety click.

What a Week … Already!

This weekend (31.08.13) I travelled to Mechelen, a small city in Belgium between Brussels and Antwerp, to see a “Cavalcade”; a parade through the city that only happens once every 25 years. It was the calm before the storm! I always knew that the week leading up to the rehearsals for “The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures” was going to be a bit mad and thought that a weekend being out of the country and therefore unable to do very much about any disasters that may occur would be a “good thing”. One has to relax, doesn’t one. And I was right, which doesn’t happen often; it was a “very good thing”. I got back last night relaxed and ready to face anything that the world could throw at me. I am now, not relaxed, though I have spent a day ducking things that the world threw at me. It has been a great but very hectic day and to be honest I have no idea whether I’m coming or going. I’m going mainly I think. There were moments when I felt all at sea …

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… but now, as I write this, I feel once again relaxed … why?

Why? because I have a brilliant team of people that make things happen … I’m not going to name names but there have been a number of people that I’ve worked with today that are amazing … hence this post really. I wanted to thank them for their help and write about the process of putting a piece of theatre onto the stage into the bargain … so, thank you and here goes.

About eighteen months ago I received some funding from Arts Council England, to do some research and development on, what was then just known as, the Pugin project. I was very aware that I needed to do a huge amount of research and I talked to hundreds of people about Pugin, his buildings, his design, his publications, his character, his faith and found out things that I couldn’t have done just by reading or trawling the internet. I also knew that there was a great deal of development that needed doing … plays don’t grow on trees, you know … well … in a way they sort of do but they need constant nurturing, watering, protecting against the heat and the cold and some of these are skills that I don’t necessarily have … but I know people who do have them. These people were sought out and pounced upon for help and information. Slowly, I began to find a route through the world of technology, the world of Catholicism, of architecture, of design and eventually I felt I had enough knowledge and information to start writing a play.

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So, I got a few heads together and picked their brains to help me to work out what the style of the play was that I was going to write … as I’ve said in a previous post, I went for the Bluderbuss approach … fire loads and loads of emotion, information, dialogue, characters, light, sound, images et al into the audience … some will hit some will miss, some will wing and graze people and some will strike them right between the eyes. The Blunderbuss style of writing is very labour intensive; the play does not meander slowly, it hurtles, ricochets and bounces from the beginning to a very definite end.

“There are not enough hours in a day, minutes in an hour, seconds in a minute”. A slight paraphrasing and addition to a Pugin quote that I kept at the forefront of my mind as I wrote. Pugin’s life, like a locomotive, started off slowly, then picked up speed and hurtled, en avant, until it hit the buffers at the end of the track. The format of the play follows the pace of Pugin’s life.

railway-juggernaut

Once the play was written, which took much longer than I imagined, I wrote it again, and again, and again … writing, I’ve discovered, is as much to do with editing, cutting words out, as it is to do with putting them in. I always use the same, or at least, a similar methodology in my writing. I pare scenes back to the bare bones, find what the scene consists of, and then I re-clothe the skeleton; put the fun, the character, the meanings back on to the creamy white bones. So, the skelly has clothes and I have a script!

Is that it? No! There is, obviously, much more to making a piece of theatre, than writing the words. The are many stages to the next part of the journey: a team has to be put together; actors, makers, designers, a director and so on, then we have to go about creating the look, the feel, the sound, the style. What do we want the audience to come away with? What do we want them to concentrate on? What is our aim with the script that we have? How do we make it work on different levels? Which parts are humorous? Which pathetic? Which empathetic? Who is it aimed at? What is our message? (These were obviously thought about during the script writing process but the process continues). So, how are we actually going to make it work? Most of these things have been talked about endlessly but this week, the week before rehearsals begin, is a coming together of all of these thoughts. So, have we decided exactly how the play will be? No.

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John Wright, an amazing director, often says, “Certainty stultifies creativity” … if we are sure what the play is and how it works, there is no reason, or rather, no room for creativity. The team of actors, director, lighting designer, musician, etc are an incredibly creative bunch of people … I don’t want to “stultify” their creativity. Likewise, the script, although I’ve laboured over it for some time, is not sacrosanct, it is not set in stone, nor indeed, is the style, or the feel, or the look; in fact, nothing is set in stone. The monster in the room (or stage-set cave) is certainty! So, next week … we play!

What we do know at this stage, is that the play will hurtle. It will be a mixture of styles. It will happen on a stage, in the auditorium, in the bar, behind the audience, in the dark, in bright light, in silence, in noise, in silhouette,on a screen, in … ah, we will play and discover … who knows what?

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All we really know at the moment is … it won’t hang around.

There are lots of people to thank for getting us this far … they include (and I’m sure I’ll forget someone) … Arts Council England, Kent County Council, The Pugin Society, St Augustine’s Church (and Father Marcus), Heritage Lottery Fund, Urban Vision North Staffs, Judith Al Seffar, Catriona Blaker, Nick Dermott, Rosemary Hill and a whole host of other people who really are too numerous to mention … so a big thank you to you all.

Please pop back to the blog as I will attempt to put up rehearsal photos, footage and witty, pithy posts that will intrigue and delight … though I will be tired and emotional so don’t hold me to all of the aforementioned claims!

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My Brain is Fighting Back

Scroll down to see the earlier posts or … clickety-click

The Voice in my head said …

My Skull ... from wherein doth come "The Voice"

“Its been quiet, too quiet. I don’t like it,” said a voice in my head.

“It is often the way it is, when there’s creating to be done,” I replied.

“Creating?”

“Come on, you’re the voice in my head. You know what I’ve been up to.”

“Oh, writing a play,” the voice said in a bored manner.

“Writing a play!” I yelled, “there’s more to it than that. I have a play that lasts forty-seven hours and I’m trying to cut it down to ninety minutes: that’s not easy, you know. And, I’m also producing the play; I’m making a piece of theatre in a new style; a style, the like of which I have never done before. I have spent long, long nights feverishly worrying and evading the important things, like talking to costume designers, lighting designers, film-makers and the like,  to concentrate on minutiae. It is not easy trying to get a phrase exactly right, or find an image that is absolutely the right one to convey the emotion required”.

“Oh, that’s what you’ve been doing … I thought you were just being anti-social,” it said.

“Anti-Social! Well, yes, I suppose I have been a little distant for a while though I wouldn’t call it anti-social. It is just that I tend to get so deeply involved in the creating bit, that I sort of forget that there are lots of other things to be done … like socialise … chat … be a human being,” I said sheepishly.

“There is no point in being sheepish. You have a play to sell!”

“I know. I know. Its easy for you; you’re just a voice. I’ve got other things to do as well as write a play. I have to cook, shop, water the allotment, launder my clothes, put petrol in the car, do my accounts, pay bills, shove the hoover round …”

“Methinks the owner of the head in which I am just a voice, doth protest too much … and for too long!” said the slightly bothersome voice.

“All right, all right! I’ll sell the play …”

“There isn’t much time to go, you know. It is on in the middle of September. If you are going to sell tickets you have got to let people know that the tickets are for sale,” the voice in my head said being even more bothersome than before.

“Yes”.

“Well, get on with it.”

“I will … if you’ll just shut up and let me,” I replied grumpily.

“There’s no point in being grumpy with me!”

“I’m at the end of my tether with you,” I snapped, “I am about to do it!”

“So, The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures, is being performed in Ramsgate, Kent, UK in the middle of September … the 19th, 20th and 21st, to be exact. The Thursday performance is an open dress rehearsal which is free to school and college groups and there is a matinee on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. All of the evening performances are at 7.30 and the Saturday evening performance has a Friends’ Reception with wine and a bit of a party after the show.”

get-attachment.aspx “Where is it being performed … precisely?” said the irksome voice in my head.

“Well, if you’d just look, you’d see that I’ve put the poster into the blog! It has all of those details on it.” I said rather more loudly than strictly necessary.

“But where is the King’s Theatre, precisely?”

“Oh, for goodness sake … The King’s Theatre, King’s Place, Ramsgate, CT11 8NN …”

“Oh,” mumbled the voice.

“Satisfied?” I asked tersely.

“S’pose”, said the voice, losing its smugness!

“Good!”

“Here’s the back of the poster with loads of info on it!”

Pugin_A5 flyer_24Jul13These performances have been kindly supported by: The Pugin Society, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Kent County Council … and lots and lots of friends and many rather nice people. To you all … I say thank you!

“Are these performances going to be the only showing of The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat?” said the voice; once again, breaking the creative flow.

“NO!”

“Oh, only asking.”

“Next year, the play will tour to venues across the UK and possibly abroad …”

“Abroad?”

“Pugin’s designs ended up in many parts of the world and it would be exciting to perform the play internationally; don’t you agree?” I asked the voice in my head.

“Yes,” said the voice … sceptically.

“Of course, we would need to raise a few more pounds to make that happen but so many people have worked so hard on this project, I am making it a personal mission, to give as many people … around the world … the chance to see what all the fuss has been about!”

“Oh, dear.”

“What do you mean, oh dear?”

“Sounds like I’m going to be busy,” said the voice in my head.

AWN Pugin has Eaten My Brain! Episode 3!

Episodes 1 and 2 are below, scroll down or … clickety-click.

Theatre is a Funny Old Beast!

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Old? of course, it has been around for centuries. It probably grew out of ritualistic ceremonies and then as we became more complex … it became more complex. There is some form of theatre in almost every society in the world but in the west ours probably goes back to the Greeks.

Funny? I use the word to imply peculiar rather than ha-ha … though it can, of course, be ha-ha. Peculiar, in the sense of particular (confused? Me too), in that it is an art-form that requires a space, empty or otherwise, a performer and an audience. A man performing to himself in front of the bathroom mirror does not theatre make; it only becomes theatre if he invites someone else into the bathroom to watch him perform (I apologise if I’ve just put an unpleasant image into your head). Usually theatre happens in a theatre (rather than a bathroom) though it can happen anywhere – a warehouse, a park, a beach, a school or in a tree-house. Theatres are quite good for theatre in that they have comfortable seats, lights, sound and … most importantly, a bar.

Beast? I use this word in the sense of – a large and untamed creature that requires a great deal of time, energy and effort to bring it under control so that an audience has a chance of surviving the event without being too badly maimed. We have to be aware, of course, that even when tamed, the beast can still kick and rear when least expected.

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The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat is a particularly funny old beast! Funny, as above, it requires a space, performers and an audience (hopefully lots of audiences) and it is this “audience” part that I’m finding peculiarly funny. Years ago (bear with me here), I did a few pieces of left-wing agitprop theatre – it didn’t work. The performances were good, the script was good, the problem was the audience. As soon as anyone who was not left-wing, got a whiff of the political content of the play, from advertising and media reviews, for instance, they stayed away in their droves and so we ended up performing to the left-wingers … thereby preaching to the converted. So our idea of spreading the left-wing word didn’t work. It is the same with spreading the word of AWN Pugin. The play will, of course, attract the Pugin-ophiles, and those interested in history, architecture, design and those who have a general desire to remain rooted in the first half of the nineteenth century. I want a much wider audience. I don’t want to preach just to the converted … I want to convert people who have never heard of the man. To this end, we have tried to make the publicity a bit funky. I have attempted to inform people that the style of the play is not nineteenth century but is modern, different and … well, a bit funky but … and this is the big question, is that going to put off the Pugin-ophiles and is it enough to attract the “unconverted”? It is a funny one and no mistake.

Old? Yes, not only in the content (a historical figure) but also in the fact that I have been pushing it around my plate like a gristly bit of meat for quite a long time now. Pugin was born just over two hundred years ago, so the play is mainly set in the first half of the nineteenth century, there is nothing much I can do about that. Pugin though, was a genius and like all geniuses, he is still relevant for us today … he was also a human being and they haven’t changed much over the intervening two hundred years … they still have loves, hopes, fears and desires … so again, relevant to today. He was also an incredibly dynamic man who led a  dramatic life: the stuff of theatre!

Beast? Oh, yes … this has been a beast, an enjoyable beast but a beast that has required constant tending and there is still a lot of taming and training to be done. I realised, as soon as I started to research into Pugin’s life and times, that I would need to use a very different methodology to make this play. Pugin was rough, magnetic, driven, emotional; in order to create something that was worthy of his life, I had to make a play that was all of those things. This is not a Victorian Parlour show … it is rough, fast moving, bizarre, jolly, desperate, full of passion, it erupts onto an unsuspecting audience and races to an inevitable conclusion. The clock is ticking from the moment we begin.

I don’t like labels. I don’t like pigeon-holes. I don’t like phrases that attempt to categorise. I particularly don’t like classifications of style; especially when it comes to theatre. I dislike the phrase “total theatre” and the like. But I know that some people do and because of this I have decided that The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat is “blunderbuss theatre”.

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A Blunderbuss was a kind of gun with a flared muzzle, it could be loaded with almost any kind of ammunition and when fired sent this ammunition forward very quickly and over a wide area. Blunderbuss theatre is similar: it has a great deal of ammunition (information, emotion, drama, etc) it is fired over a wide area towards an unsuspecting audience and it travels very quickly.

The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat happens in an almost empty space, it takes place in front of the audience as well as behind, to the side and amongst, it has a judicious amount of modern technology, requires a thinking audience, has a number of different forms of storytelling and hurtles towards the last drop of the curtain (there are no curtains, but you know what I mean).

It is blunderbuss theatre … we fire the blunderbuss; some of the ammunition hits the audience square in the face, some of it may fly over their heads, some of it may catch in an extremity only to be discovered some time later, some of it may hit your friend and not you and is only discovered by both of you over a glass of pop in the bar later on.

I am now desperately trying to continue the analogy of a blunderbuss in order to mention the next item on the “funny old beast” of an agenda; so come with me, if you will. A “dragon” was a smaller version of a blunderbuss, it is where we get the word Dragoon from; it was more like a pistol, though it still packed a punch and, at close range, could spray an audience with a great deal of ammunition. In August I will be doing a talk and running a workshop at The Summer Squallan arts festival in Ramsgate on the 24th, 25th and 26th August; the talk is about the process of putting on the play and the workshop explores some of the methodology used to create the play. So, I shall be firing a dragon at, I suspect, a smaller group of people … it will still contain a huge amount of ammunition, will still travel very fast and may possibly still maim and hopefully, intrigue. Hover over the link to zoom you to the Ramsgate Arts website for more information about the festival.

Home … this will take you home

Red Sky at Night … Shepherds Pie … this will take you to a pretty picture of the sky.

The Wide-Awake Hat  … this will take you to a page of stuff.

AWN Pugin Has Eaten My Brain! Episode 2

Episode 1 is below here scroll down to read it or clickety-click!

Pugin_Poster 3_8Feb13

Episode 2 … the quest continues! 15th May 2013

So, to continue where Episode 1 left off; the backdrop to AWN Pugin’s life, was one of great change; great change and unrest. The Swing Riots, the Luddites, the Bristol Riots, the Rebecca Riots, the Tolpuddle Martyrs. In 1812: the King was mad and locked up, the Prince Regent was spending vast amounts of tax payers money on fripperies, the Country was still at war with Napoleon, we started a new war with America, Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister, was assassinated, the Country was broke, bad harvests had meant that many were hungry and a crime wave was spreading across the land; not a good year for the birth of AWN Pugin.

There was great change in the day to day living of most people as well; many had moved into the towns and cities to find work in the huge new manufactories that were springing up all around the country. Many found poorly paid jobs and lived in cramped conditions in slum-like buildings that had been thrown up quickly, and without much in the way of planning regulations. In London, the Thames was still no more than an open sewer and diseases, including cholera, killed thousands; it wouldn’t be until after Pugin’s death that Joseph Bazalgette embanked the Thames and created hundreds of miles of sewers to take the effluence from these hundreds of thousands of new houses away from the city.

Pugin-ContrastsIn order to make a play, or a theatrical event as I’ve been calling it of late, about a man who lived through these times, then all of these things have to be visible, they have to be tangible for an audience, so that they can make sense of the man, his life, his legacy and, ultimately, the play itself. When I first started this project (over a year ago now) I had no idea of the vastness of the subject. Since then, having spent hours and hours sitting at a computer, researching, travelling the country to see his buildings and designs, talking to historians, architects, experts and reading books till my eyes could no longer focus, I now feel, just about, in a position to create a play. Over this last year I have worked with musicians, actors, directors, dramaturgs, film-makers, digital scenographers, educationalists, artists and all manner of clever creative people. I have done talks with people of all ages and backgrounds, I’ve run workshops, produced short scenes, had sharing of “script so far sessions”, I’ve done a scratch performance of a possible scene in front of over a hundred people, I have written articles for various magazines and have generally been an ambassador for AWN Pugin and The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat. I am now ready to leap into the last phase … which I have called, very cleverly I think you’ll agree … The Last Phase!

The Last Phase

But … ah, there is always a but … but now that I am here, now that I am ready to create a theatrical event, ready to hurl “The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat” onto an unsuspecting world … I’ve run out of money. I received a grant for Research and Development from the Arts Council, a small grant from Kent, a small amount from HLF and a great deal from my own dwindling funds … this has all, more or less, been used up. So, in order to proceed to The Last Phase, I need to insert another phase … which I will call “The Last but Last Phase”. In “The Last but Last Phase” I will mainly be putting on a suit and my Houses of Parliament Pugin Tie and, with my cap in my hand, I will be roaming the streets looking for people wearing fine clothes and attempting to persuade them into giving me some of their hard earned cash to help a coterie of struggling artists to create a “Theatrical Event” … I am not holding my breath.

SAM_1936

But looking at the splendid (silk, mind you) Houses of Parliament Pugin Design Tie … how can I fail? Many are the ways, perhaps.

“The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat”. In the beginning was the play and the play was good but terribly expensive … I think my first fanciful budget came in just shy of two hundred thousand pounds … since then, of course, I’ve had to cut my cloth, so to speak, I’ve had to trim away at things that I really don’t want to trim away at but in order to proceed to The Last Phase … I have had to slash away with the calculator … the accountants equivalent of a machete! This is not all bad. As a theatre maker I know that some of the most creative work comes when Necessity, the Mother of Invention, holds the stage and speaks, in a terribly clear voice. Some of the best theatre I have ever seen and been involved in, was created with buttons instead of money and words instead of food. So, enough about fiscal concerns … what is this Theatrical Event all about and how is it going to look?

Most plays that you see can be classified in some way or other … tragedy, comedy, documentary, promenade, farce, history play, masque, melodrama, morality play, mystery play, tragicomedy, opera, pantomime … and on and on … The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat is all of those … and none of them. Enlightened? No … nor me. I think what I’m getting at is, that The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat … is unclassifiable … well, I’m sure it isn’t, it is just that I don’t know how to classify it other than, it is a theatrical event.

It is a play about a man, with film and music. There are sections of the play that are only heard. There are parts of it that are narrated and sections that are only seen. A part of the play is promenade. There are one or two bits that are sung, and at least one section that feels like a documentary. There is a very dense, printed programme that has a part of the story written down. There is a puppet. There are demonstrations, illustrations and diagrams. There are also a number of tents with things in them. There is a mask and a computer. There are things to look at, listen to and touch. There is food, drink and an overhead projector. There is a hat! There are a number of very small screens with things on them. There is a sound system. There is some scaffolding and a pile of rocks. There is, of course, a certain amount of Gothic-ness. There are lots of pieces of paper, some with illustrations on them. There is a boat. There are a number of tiles. There is a tennis umpires chair. The majority of the play takes place between 1812 and 1852 but some of it doesn’t. There is a plot!

This is not strictly speaking a life and times of AWN Pugin play … it is, of course, about his life and the times that he lived in but it is certainly not a biographical piece, nor is it a documentary style piece, nor is it a straight play, nor is it … ok, ok … I now know what it isn’t but what is it? I think you might have to come and see it!

Home … this will take you home.

Red Sky at Night; Shepherd’s Pie … this will take you to the pretty picture of the sky.

The Wide-Awake Hat … this will take you to a place where hats are compulsory.

AWN Pugin Has Eaten My Brain, Episode 1 … it is obvious where this leads.