How to write a report

10 tips: advice to self- not necessarily followed.

1. Use an appropriate writing style

 

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Reports offer information.

Resist the almost overwhelming urge to add florid descriptions, narrative twists, cartoons, exclamation marks, swearing, Russian or dialogue.

Your audience doesn’t want to be entertained.  

Your audience wants to feel wiser than they were before reading your report.

And no jokes whatsoever.

Reports are not funny.

 

2. Reap and ye shall sow

 

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A report is an organic sausage; its flavour directly correlates to the quality and density of ingredients contained within.

Gather up factoids of use in a text box when stumped on page 33.

Pull in opinions and lists until your idea harvesting hands are calloused and stained red with opinion.

Only when the field is empty and devoid of material shall ye actually write anything.

 

3. Evidence everything

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Fact.

Not fiction.

Enough said.

 

4. Weights and measures

 

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The difference in postage price for envelopes under and envelopes over 250 grammes is considerable.

The wise report writer considers this when choosing paper weights and determining report length.

This is experience talking…

Not wisdom.

 

 

 

5. Cast iron copper bottom ad nauseum proof reading

 

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Proof read, leave, return and proof read and repeat countless times.

Proof read, ignore for a fortnight, return and proof read many times more until nothing on any of the pages makes any sense at all.

Give to anyone who can bear it to proof read, when they stop speaking to you pay someone to do it and then do it again as much as you possibly can, neglecting everything and everyone else in your life.

Finally, deal with the inevitable errors that still make their way to print and hope they’re not too noticeable.

 

6. Say the same thing 3 times over

 

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Say the same thing in three different ways and it will be read and absorbed.

In other kinds of writing repetition is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs, in story arcs, chapters/scenes and definitely in sentences.

In a report, it’s helpful and makes the argument clear.

Funny that, and yet not funny at all of course, because its a report.

 

7. When typesetting use no more than two fonts

 

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Its written.  

Its taken a while and it says what it needs to say.

You’re pleased yes, but its been a dry old process. 

You open up InDesign and now its CARNIVAL TIME! You cut and paste your findings into text boxes, a literary Sarah Lucas.  You slap in obscure fonts you’ve downloaded into your typekit and-yeah- do them in different sizes and colours too. The words you’ve been staring at for so long can suddenly become REALLY INTERESTING. You are WHACKY and CREATIVE and UNIQUE!

And then you realise its virtually impossible to read and inaccessible to anyone without superhero vision.

It then takes a soul obliterating epoch to rectify it all.

So…

Before starting choose two accessible fonts and two sizes.  One for titles/boxes and one for the main body of the text. The odd italic and bold is as outre as you’re going to go from here on in.

A report is to be read and understood, not marvelled over.

Just calm down.

 

8. Don’t put text on top of photos

 

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Only graphic designers can do this and make it look good.

You’re not a graphic designer.

Wind your neck in.

 

9. Check every box that comes back from the printers

 

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Printers sometimes make mistakes.  

The mistakes are sometimes not at the top of the box.

The mistakes can be epic in proportion, double covers, missing pages, upside down chapters, smudges, pages stapled together…

Check every single copy.

 

10.  Expect to be hated in the Post Office

 

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Its rare to send things through the post.

Going to the counter with 60 envelopes which then have to be fed through a post code gleaning machine one by one can cause a distinct atmosphere shift behind your left shoulder.

Don’t go during a busy period.

 

 

 

 

From a scream to a whisper

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Every actor knows that shouting on stage only works in tiny doses but that speaking quietly, with conviction, makes an audience lean in…and listen.

This weeks’ Arts Council and British Council supported NO BOUNDARIES conference, live-linked between Hull Truck Theatre and Home in Manchester was a gathering of the UK cultural clan.

The great, the good and the doing it anyway to the best of their ability sat in the two auditoria, in front of a heady mix of opinion, reflection and prophecy delivered rapid fire, in 10 minute blocks, by a diverse range of speakers. 

Provocations from dynamic artists, producers, shapers and thinkers chewed over the indigestible Brexit cud, and break out groups wrestled with challenges for the arts around identity, collaboration, diversity and it’s birth mother- inclusion- brought giddily out of the Ashram on the hill and back into town-  a repositioning generally viewed as a far better active aim- after all it’s very possible to be diverse without including anyone in anything, least of all decision-making.

The symposium highlighted disability-focused theatre as a political mechanism and platform, powerfully articulated by the extraordinary Jess Thom.

The Separate Doors 2 project ignites at RADA in London next week and the NO BOUNDARIES symposium served as a timely reminder of the many different ways people are fighting the battle for disability representation in theatre.

Complementing the polemic charge, Separate Doors 2 aims to find routes for actors with moderate learning disabilities, less equipped to fight verbal battles, to take their place on stages, in stories crafted to move, to shift perception, assumption and prejudice via imagination and analogy.

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It’s hoped that by finding a place for exceptional actors with learning disabilities on main stages, in TV and film, collaborating with exceptional writers and directors, in drama and comedy that appeals to general audiences that the rudderless dark sailed boat the UK currently drifts along in is guided away from the rocks by warm breezes of knowledge and understanding.

Or at least to be part of that drive for a broad-viewed future.

The artistic integration in high quality theatre programming and making that Separate Doors 2 wants to encourage won’t shout, but it will influence those who need to hear the message, delivering a compelling argument for inclusion to those who can effect change… in a whisper.

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Pioneers at RADA

Separate Doors 2 aims to change the UK theatre landscape for the better, offering tools for producers and directors to cast actors with learning disabilities in general audience facing work.

The project, focused on an exploration of the silent approach with RADA in London, starts soon.

Its going to be a dynamic and diverse rehearsal room.

Here are some of the key creatives making fire…

 

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This is me. I’ll be producing, directing some new writing, chairing the panel at the event and writing a printed report of the whole project. I can’t wait to work in the rehearsal room with this inspiring and brilliant team, all committed to finding ways to build bridges into general programme work for exceptional actors with learning disabilities.

 

Geoff BullenGeoff Bullen is director of short courses at RADA where he is Emeritus Director of actor training and specialises in teaching Shakespeare. Geoff will work with me to direct the project in the rehearsal room and in the performance space.

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Toby Meredith will work with me and the RADA team on the silent approach and in developing character through scene work. A graduate of Dark Horse actor training programmes he recently worked on the research and development process for A MAN WITH DOWNS’ SYNDROME TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND TELLS A STORY.

Jack Condon is a finJack Condonal year student actor at RADA and he’ll be working with the team to explore Shakespearean text, character and ensemble movement work, developing skills in the silent approach and considering the opportunities offered by working as an actor in an integrated process.

 

 

Version 2Rebekah Hill is a Dark Horse actor training graduate with production experience.  She’ll develop character and scenes using the silent approach and Stanislavsky based techniques. 

 

 

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Angela Gasparetto is a movement director and specialist and she will explore the silent approach and the possibilities of integrated work with an emphasis on physicality. 

 

 

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Joe Sproulle is an actor with production and national touring experience who recently worked on the research and development process for A MAN WITH DOWNS’ SYNDROME TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND TELLS A STORY. Trained in the silent approach he looks forward to sharing and developing his skills within this project ensemble.

Joel Trill

 

Joel Trill is a voice and accent specialist and he will collaborate with the directors and ensemble to explore sound, character and vocal transformation through story, working with and learning about the silent approach and integrated rehearsal processes.

 

 

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Alice Rogers has recently graduated from a Dark Horse foundation acting course and is developing her skills in the silent approach and building performance for production. 

 

 

Gary LagdenGary Lagden is a text and acting technique specialist and he will work with the silent approach to explore non verbal narrative and technique for actors with learning disabilities in integrated work which plays out to general audiences. 

 

 

A further female actor, two Assistant Directors and two creative associates complete the team, more news is to come soon alongside information re: the esteemed panel who’ll debate potential and obstacles in representation and casting after the process showing at RADA.

It all shapes up to be very exciting indeed, check in to the Separate Doors 2 page on this site for insights into the project as it happens.

Making tomorrows theatre today.

 

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Theatre boxed off

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Verbatim

A piece of theatre made entirely of real peoples harvested opinions and recollections, shaped into a structure and then presented theatrically. The process avoids authorial voice and guarantees authenticity.

Commercial

Popular, entertaining, accomplished and designed to attract a high ticket price.

Disability-led

Theatre or other art forms examining the disability life experience featuring the work of artists with disabilities, leading.

New writing

A play in script form written by a playwright which did not exist before this current production. Risky, as no one may like it, compare with ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’ which is less risky because people already know if they like it or not.

Relaxed performance

A specific style and context for theatrical delivery designed to support audiences with learning disabilities and neuro-differences.

LGBT/Transgender/Non binary

Theatre made by and for people who are not heterosexual and 100 per cent gender specific and identified.

Integrated

A piece of theatre featuring actors and collaborators who are not 100 per cent non disabled.

Dementia-friendly

Theatre framed to be appealing for people with dementia.

BAME

Theatre made with and by actors, artists and leadership which is not 100 per cent white.

Issues-based

A context in which to explore a specific concern arising from a state of difference or conflict.

Compelling, innovative, accessible, narrative-based, embracing, scorchingly written and daringly executed theatre from diverse voices which mitigates against the segregation of identity theatre could be a very good thing…

Right now…

 

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Truth

 

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A home truth

A moment of truth

Truth is stranger than fiction

 

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Pinnochio by Pepe Aveni

 

A grain of truth

 

Half the truth is often the whole truth

 

A liar is not believed when he tells the truth

 

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Pinnochio by Kenton Wilson

 

A nugget of truth

 

The greater the truth the greater the lie

 

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Pinnochio profile by David Wiles

 

The naked truth

 

The truth will out

 

Truth, justice and the American way

 

 

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The death of Pinnochio by Gottfried Heinwein

 

Production shots; a genre guide

 

A bit of theatre related fun as fundraising displacement activity…

Enjoy!

The drinking tea top turn two shot

 

Modelled here by Dames Dench and Smith and Sirs McKellen and Stewart only ever to be attempted by the ennobled theatrical. Note the casual mugs in the first photograph and the formal teacups in the second, contemporary and classic drama encapsulated in pot and bone china, different centuries but both classy, civilised and mid afternoon in Surrey.

 

The star actors transformed two shot

 

Played two ways here: Peter Bowles and Penelope Keith gently disguise themselves in restoration costume whilst re-assuringly playing the characters we know and love from the tele. Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton show they are very much not themselves but in character with the aid of non radio 2 eyebrow make up, braces, ringlets and a dowdy dress.

 

The thousand yard stare

 

Tanya Moodie gives joy towards the sky, Glenda Jackson a despairingly quizzical glance in the same direction, David Tennant appeals to a passing giant while Joe Sproulle has seen and been amazed by it, whatever it might be, at the back of the dress circle.

 

The actor grab

 

Nothing indicates drama better in a photograph than grabbing a fellow actor, especially by the head, or the ears if possible, that’s even stronger.  Body grabbing a colleague is beautifully demonstrated here on Denise Gough, Tamsin Outhwaite goes for the highly accomplished triple; an ear head and body grab and Headlongs‘ 1984 is a masterclass in bonce grabbing.

 

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Keeping the imagery active and sexy with Sir Lenny Henry and Kathryn Hunter.

 

The dramatic lean

 

Beautiful movement here from Kevin Spacey followed by an example of the eponymous ‘lean threatening to smother’ from Frantic Assembly

 

The all pile on

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The Ramps On the Moons‘ Government Inspector cast with a large scale rendition of  ‘We’re all in it, there’s bloody loads of us and we are magnificent.’  

 

Going Grrh and Aaargh

 

Dame Glenda again, Dame Harriet Walter and Maxine Peake. Silently noisy. Dynamic.

 

The ‘this is where it all started’ rehearsal room shot

 

Good for programme padding and front of house when the production shots didn’t come out very well.  Tamsin Greig chuckles while clutching a scenes’ worth of A4, Harriet Walter gives intense textual scrutiny and we have a double whammy at the National theatre with some world class script in hand pointing.

 

Wildcards..

The ‘You don’t get more dramatic than this’

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The beautifully positioned

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And finally, the ‘look at the set like this because the moment an actor sets foot on it the floor is filthy’

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Who is theatre with actors with learning disabilities for?

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Everybody.

That’s my hope and plan…

In the new writing work and rehearsal room technique that I’m developing.

Making work for general audiences is not the main goal of everyone who makes theatre with actors with learning disabilities.

‘Serving an audience’ is intrinsic to what I’m aiming to do, other creators work in other ways successfully.

I may not succeed and my colleagues may not succeed in serving an audience (all theatre work of any worth can and often does fail) but it’s always the aim to nourish people with the work when it comes to performance.

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Every second of stage time the playwright conceives, the actor inhabits, the designer sees and the director edits and channels is crafted to engage an audience.

Every member of the team, and especially the actors, know this.

An actor lives and dies on stage by serving the audience. The moment the audience is lost, they’re gone for ever.

And making each second of stage time serve an audience is the fundamental of this kind of theatre making process.

Serving an audience doesn’t mean compromising on challenge.

Serving an audience doesn’t mean creating a comfort zone where prejudices are reinforced and status quo is maintained.

Serving an audience means provoking, informing, wrong footing, thrilling and providing a shared experience of a compelling revelation.

I work with all kinds of different people from different theatre and actor training ‘worlds’.

People from the general theatre industry and people whose principal focus is diversity.

The work I’m developing with collaborators exists on the bridge between the two worlds where I believe the potential for real change is great.

It’s as easy to dismiss work which serves audiences as ‘bums on seats’ as it is to ignore learning disability-led and focused work as ‘preaching to the choir’.

All good theatre is very hard to make and the way its made is diverse.

There’s no ‘right’ way and serving audiences isn’t wrong, or easy.

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Shilly shallying

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A procrastinator

10 rules for planning and office bound activity

1. Never put off writing down an idea thinking that it will be remembered after you’ve done that very important thing that needs doing right now.

It will become a ghost ship in the mid brain.

Adrift.

Then gone.

2. Don’t half do the boring things, do them in full, however much it hurts.

After the ‘A bird in the hand = 2 in the bush’ saying the ancient proverb writers’ next greatest hit was…

A desk full of boring things half done is twice as painful as one boring thing completed.

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Two box files

3. Remember that social media is not a child, lover or source of the meaning of life and therefore doesn’t need to be checked every ten minutes for happiness, attractiveness or revelation.

Other peoples’ holiday and wedding photographs don’t ease feelings of entrapment and dullness.

They compound them.

4. Looking at all news websites for the sake of a rounded world view doesn’t wash in the post truth age.

Its all lies.

Keep it honest and do the schedule instead.

5. Budgets do not justify themselves at the sound of a block of stilton being unwrapped.

Food is not the answer.

Barricade the kitchen door.

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A fridge

6. The genius playlist that starts with Starboy and ends with a herd of cows from the SFX compilation doesn’t have to be listened to in full on headphones while staring out of the window before the next task.

Its 25 minutes long.

It takes five minutes to delete last weeks inbox.

Just saying.

7. It’s frankly unnecessary to take your own photo and try out all the effects in Photo Booth with different hairstyles and facial expressions.

Check the business bank account instead.

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Ink cartridges

8. If you’d wanted to be the Marketing Director of an organic produce company in Slovakia you would have gained some experience in retail and farming by now. And speak Slovakian.

It’s easier to clear your desk top than change career.

Shut Google down.

Yes you can.

9. Having a lengthy conversation by email is tiring and makes your fingers ache.

Use the phone instead.

It means actually thinking and making decisions.

10. Nothing is more satisfying than a sense of completion.

Delete Civilisation 5.

Deny yourself all pleasure.

Just get it bloody done.

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A keyboard