The Peggy Ramsay Foundation

ramsay I’m delighted to report that the Peggy Ramsay Foundation is supporting the writing process for I Love You Baby.

The first draft is currently being written, hence the lack of blogposts.

Normal service will resume on the other side of 4cm depth of paper and 2 hours of on stage activity.

I look forward to seeing you then…

A-Z of I Love You Baby research facts

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An eclectic list of all kinds of things connected with the research harvest for the first draft of the play…

A Aspiration

 Aspiration, according to most dictionary definitions, is the hope for- and active striving to achieve- something better, it’s ambition coined in terms of the acquisition of ‘stuff’.  A bigger house, better car and a wall-sized TV. The 80’s were meant to make us all ferociously aspirational and the lack of a political nod towards this veracity was blamed for labours defeat in the last election. We all (Allegedly) simply want a bigger one- give us a bigger one and we’re laughing.  Aspiration also means the ingestion of water, or a foreign body into the lungs- in which case bigger is definitely not better.

B Babies

In 2012 there were 698,512 births in the UK.  Over the past ten years there have been 1,388 babies born to same sex couples and 1,149 babies born to single women.

Around 25 per cent of women are childless at 45.  13.5 per cent of single parent families are headed up by fathers.

In 1900 most babies would not live beyond 50, now, in most developed countries, babies born today will live beyond 85 and many beyond 100

(All things being equal, barring global meltdown, disease, war and all the rest of course).

 

C Cougar

A now popular term for an older woman ‘dating’ a younger partner or partners, with connotations of predatory and preying behaviour as befits a big sexy catlady with long claws, clangy jewellry and silver whiskers. Opinion differs with regard to entry age criteria for cougardom- ask a teenager and it begins at 30 and ask a 45 year old and it doesn’t happen until the Saga brochures start dropping onto the doormat- but all will agree that the younger partner in these relationships needs to be good-looking, enthusiastic and thick-skinned.

 

D Divorce

The average wedding in the UK costs £22,000 with the average divorce coming in at £39,000.  As Cilla Black might say ‘Worra lorra wonga’.  In 2008 marriages were at their lowest rate since 1895 but recently marriage rates have been on the rise again and divorce is now on the decline (Apart from in the older age groups, see above- maybe due to the rise of the ‘cougar’?).

 

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E Engagement

Many engagements take place in exotic locations with lush cities like New York, Rome, Sydney San Francisco and Paris topping the question popping destination list.

There is however a market for the more adventurous and quirky proposer so a trip to the top of Mount Snowdon, or kayaking in the Lake District may have a ring attached- once the wet suits have been peeled off and the trench foot treated.

On the other hand you may just have been asked on holiday and erroneously spent the entire time moping over a brown paper wrapped box in your significant others suitcase,  only to discover it contains a set of faulty spark plugs to be taken back to Kwikfit on the return journey.

 

F Funeral

Cemetery space is running out (25 per cent of councils state that there is no space at all left for burials and doubling up in older graves has become an option) and yet 150,000 people are still buried each year. Solutions to the after death overcrowding issue are many and various and go beyond the standard cremation option.  Crymation involves freezing leaving a readily disposable powder, resomation takes the opposite approach by dipping into very hot alkaline and again leaves little ‘material’ to dispose of at the end of the process,  and for those looking for something a little bit special human ashes can be transmogrified into engagement ready diamonds.

More recently a green option has been put forward in the form of ‘pods’ which will ultimately become trees.

 

H Huddersfield

Thriving town and artistic hub in West Yorkshire, home of the beautiful Lawrence Batley Theatre (Once a thousand seater Wesleyan Chapel, renovated and named after cash and carry magnate Lawrence Batley) and the excellent Dark Horse Theatre.  Full of amazing industrial revolution architecture, fine ale from local breweries and more grade one listed chimney pots than anywhere else in the UK. When in Huddersfield look up at the magnificent building tops,  and smile- it’s been voted the happiest town in England.

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I Internet

2.4 billion people use the internet globally (1.7 billion of these people are in Asia) and 40,000 google searches are made every second. 8.7 billion machines are engaged in work connect to the internet.  62% of all email is spam and where 1% of British people used the internet in 1995 today it’s a whopping 45%.  In 2013 73% of people used social media, 74% of them were women and 42% men.

It’s not going to get smaller, it’s predicted that further ‘layers’, new internets will evolve over the next few years to deal with increased traffic but it’s likely that our current naivety with regard to data and security will mature and develop.

Every post we make on social media and to a high degree every internet action we’ve ever taken is searchable (The American Library of Congress maintains a record of every single tweet published) and our current lack of awareness of this invisibility can lead to ill advised private photo sessions which are later posted,  and comments about employers which attract slander and defamation suits- not to mention dismissal.

 

J Jarkie

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A hybrid, or ‘designer’ dog- a cross between a Japanese Chin and a Yorkshire Terrier.

Celebrities and reality TV stars have added to the taste and market for cross bred dogs, the ‘sell’  being the perceived virtue of two particular breeds doubled up when matched together. The Dalmapoodle (Dalmation and poodle- charm and bounce), Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and poodle- loyalty and bounce) and Boodle (Bulldog and poodle- ballsiness and bounce) have all proved popular in recent years.

The idea of designer dogs is for many a Frankenstein-ish notion, bringing to the fore as it does knowledge about the genetic engineering and manipulation of breeding lines that has always been a part of farming but for most of us is out of sight and out of mind, a long way away from the vacuum packed slices of perfectly formed meat on display in the supermarket.

However it has been increasingly revealed that the act of cross-breeding hybrid dogs amplifies the risks of genetic conditions which lead to a less than happy life for the animals concerned. In the case of labradoodles the known hip weakness of labradors and eyesight issues of poodles find themselves compounded and amplified in the hybrids.

This plus easy access to dog purchase on the internet, no licensing and celebrity endorsement has led to boom times for abandoned dog charities.

 

K Kipper

Offer someone a herring for breakfast and they’re likely to make their excuses and head for a coffee shop. However offer someone a kipper with some generously buttered bread and they’re likely to go misty eyed, pull up a chair at your kitchen table and flatter you on your hosting skills and exceptional taste. Most people like kippers due to their smokey non fish tasting alternativeness and the sheer decadence of having a whole fish on your plate at 8.00am.

To be ‘stitched up like a kipper’ means to be set up with no wiggle room. No one knows exactly where the phrase comes from or why which only adds to it’s wonderfulness.

 

L Lowry Salford

The Lowry,  Salford is a stunning building, easily accessible from Central Manchester and home to two theatres, a gallery and one of the best riverside locations in the UK.  Jump off the train at Piccadilly, pop into Manchester art gallery, jump on the tram and make your way to the Lowry for some lunch and some of the best of the UK’s theatre.

 

M Menopause

The time in a woman’s life when it becomes vitally important to go to Glastonbury, become a real or fantasy Cougar (See above)/feminist icon and always be seen in dim lighting.  Men go through a similar process but without the mind altering hormonal shifts-the manopause- when they too consider it vitally important to go to Glastonbury (And pretend they’ve attended every single year since they were 9), become a real or fantasy sugar daddy/wiseman and grow a beard to cover the areas which would benefit from dim lighting- and compensate for hair lack elsewhere.

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N New Age

It feels necessary to stress that the New Age is not a shop as the paraphernalia connected to this noble non religious idea of global unity, non heirarchy and anti-dogma, riding on a philosophy of love understanding and peaceful evolution is so often equated with swirly tree of life images on reflective glass and dusty joss stick holders.  The new age is the age that is taking place after the age of Aquarius (The dawning) and it’s now.

Cougar’s going to Glastonbury during the menopause get up close and personal with the New Age and it’s not always a happy or readily understandable union.

 

O Outsider culture and art

A term framed in the early 1970’s outsider art has come often to be identified as art made by people from disenfranchised or ‘non-mainstream’ groups such as people with mental health problems, disabled people, prisoners and communities of people who are self-taught and in the main have their own aesthetic, sensibility and means of evaluation and critical analysis. In the U.K the disability arts movement, the creative minds project and other groups and individuals make and advocate for this work.  An ongoing debate is currently being had around the concept of assimilation and/or separation from the ‘mainstream’ for outsider artists.

 

P Pest Control

Rats, mice and all manner of insect-based vermin act are completely non-prejudicial in terms of their target squats.

Buckingham Palace has mice, popular fable has it that you’re never more than 10 feet away from a rat (That’s below your feet as well as within your visual radar) and the cartoon time addiction of mice for cheese is in a fact a lie- they don’t like the stuff.

Cockroaches can live for a month without food and a week without a head,  and infestations of domestic properties take all forms, from centipedes to wood lice.  Lovely.

 

cheese

 

Q Quince jelly

The fruit of the quince was cultivated long before the apple and associated from the earliest of times with love and romance.  In ancient Greece quince was offered as a gift at weddings and it was quince that Paris gifted to Aphrodite.  Incorporated into a sweet and stiff jelly quince makes an excellent, if nauseatingly pretentious and frankly unnecessary,  alternative to chutney on a cheeseboard.

 

R Relationship Counselling

People are seeking help from therapists and counsellors more frequently and with less apprehension than ever before, recognising that medical answers to mental health problems aren’t the catch all solution they once seemed to be.  1 in 5 adults have received and benefited from counselling and 50% of people know someone who has.  82% of a recent survey of ‘cross section’ respondents said they thought counselling to deal with issues and relationship problems was a good idea.

S Scarborough

The largest resort in Yorkshire locals are known as Scarborians. The harbour bar on South Bay is the place for go for ice cream par excellence. The Stephen Joseph theatre, based in a converted Odeon cinema, is home to all of playwright and director Sir Alan Ayckbourns‘ new work, produces some of the best new writing in the UK and always offers a programme of exceptional theatre- and cinema too.

T Toyboy

A heterosexual Cougar’s love object and technology consultant.

 

U Udon noodles

Chunky Japanese wheat based noodles served in a variety of dishes or simply as broth with dark soy and ‘scallions’- scallions are similar to quince above on the pretentiousness scale but actually slightly above it looking just like a spring onion but holding a martini glass.

 

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V Virtual Reality

So much better than the real thing surely? Much better experienced than written or spoken about (Unless top end tech programming and design is your thing of course) we’re talking immersive, multi-media, computer simulated, life replicating experiences.  Increasingly explored in film-making, video gaming, therapy, art, music and medicine, the use of these technologies in the live theatre experience is just beginning and opening up doors for innovative and immersive new performances, offering the potential for a whole new level of audience interraction.

W Water feature

A piece of design of various scales, often replicating in moulded plastic a rock pool or mini waterfall,  which offers the ‘relaxing’ sound of running water in any environment, inside or outside.

Not advisable in the company of hybrid dogs, pets of any description, small children or people with weak bladders.

X X factor

Returning to aspiration once again the world of auditions, boot camp, knockout stages and a fast track to success and fame remains the dream for countless people.

The acquisition of skill, training and competency measured craft is a less enticing sell and leaves many working in the creative industries with a major task on their hands ensuring the next generation of actors, singers, dancers and entertainers know their time steps from their soundbites and hair extensions.

Y Yacht

Luxury yacht Seanna by night

 

Yachts as we all know are very expensive indeed and owned by the mega wealthy and Bond villains.

A 50 foot ocean going yacht will set you back somewhere in the region of 2 million pounds. Most of the yachts we see film and pop stars- and Simon Cowell– enjoying some R and R on, are in fact chartered or rented which saves having to know anything about sailing or even where the petrol cap is.

They come with staff and integral ostentation.

Z Zabaglione

A delicious Italian dessert made principally of egg yolks and sugar and sweet wine all whipped up and served with a biscuit on the side. Buon appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alzheimers and valuing older people

clarence notebook

From character Clarence’s notebook:

My sisters left one by one.  Samantha went to university; Grace went off to get married and Mum said Sadie went to hell.  

After a few years we moved out of the semi because Mum said we were rattling around in it like ballbearings in a box and we moved into the cottage on the East Riding near Goole. It was ours, nothing to do with the other three, just Mums and mine and we were really happy. I worked for a long time in the charity shop in town and Mum did the garden and all the things that she wanted to do before she was retired from the council, like watching TV in the morning and putting a bet on the grand national, just for the hell of it.  I did the garden and built raised beds for vegetables which we had with the Sunday roast.  My parsnips won a prize in a show.  Mum was very proud of the house and sometimes did unnecessary cleaning and became over-sensitive about muddy boots and dirty fingers and we’d have words- but not very often, we generally got on. We watched the lottery show on Saturday nights , a lucky dip ticket each, and sometimes we won a three number prize but never the bloody stupid raffle one with colours and numbers- what is the point we said if you never bloody win anything?  Master chef was a favourite on the box and for my birthday one year Mum bought me a cookery book and I never looked back. For a bit we fought about who would cook the tea but after a while Mum gave up and handed the kitchen over to me. Too many cooks and all that.  I would rustle something up most nights and cook carrot cake or lemon drizzle on a Friday afternoon to see us through the weekend.

I didn’t see it coming at first. No one did. It was really gentle, the change in her, like a door being shut really quietly on a latch.

She began to get words wrong, she’d say mozzerllie instead of mozzarella and keep asking me to guess who she was talking about from what they were wearing or some strange clue like what they smelled like. I called Sam then. She didn’t want to but she paid a visit. She was really annoyed because it was a campaign launch or something and the world was going to stop turning without her.  She said I was to stop over reacting and that it was nothing to worry about, just Mum getting older, to keep my hair on but to let her know if there were any serious problems and then she bombed off in her fancy car- she never stayed long.  Then there started to be a problem with mealtimes and eating the right food- all she wanted was cream cakes and chocolate and sometimes she’d burst out singing or crying for no reason. I think she was really sad. I had to do more and more. I tried to keep everything how she wanted it but it was hard. All the vegetables died in the garden, even the parsnips, and I had to start helping Mum to have baths. We didn’t talk like we used to. She was in her own world. And then one day we went to Scarborough like we always did for a long weekend, Mum’d booked it the year before, but we spent hours walking along the seafront because she couldn’t remember which B and B it was and in the end we gave up and just came home. We didn’t even have an ice cream. Then there was the last Christmas when Sam and Grace came over at 11 and stayed until Christmas lunch.  There was lots of shouting and whispering in the kitchen and then Grace left really quickly crying.  Sam told me she was getting some help in and then left us with our presents.  She gave mum an electric toothbrush which wasn’t a very good present because she had false teeth and it took ages explaining what it was- eventually I just left it out in the shed and wrapped up a bar of dairy milk and pretended that it was from Sam and mum was happy with that.  I loved my present though- it was a tablet and I could use it to get online (Sam fixed all that) and my life really began.  Mum was difficult- I preferred the internet. The first woman came three times a week.  She wore a uniform and had patent shoes.  I hated her.  She was angry all the time and shouted at Mum and I caught her stealing money out of her purse- I phoned Sam and that was the end of her.  The second one was from Lodz in Poland and was learning English and Mum couldn’t understand what she was saying so they’d just make strange baby noises at each other and it drove me mad.  That one left because she’d got a better job- she left a note with a box of Maltesers. That’s when it happened.  I got really good on the tablet then. 

I Love You Baby Clarence’s Mum has a long struggle with Alzheimers,  providing the catalyst for a family crisis, and the renewed understanding of humanity which is at the very heart of the play.

old people and pcIn contemporary Britain it is a truth universally unacknowledged, run away from and generally avoided at all costs that we will all get old and eventually die.

Youth is valued and revered, age is feared, patronised, and increasingly and very sadly, in the context of an ageing population and austerity agenda, considered costly and burdensome.

The fruit of the welfare state and other revolutionary and beneficial social reforms of the 1940’s and 50’s have seen health and longevity among older people improve rapidly and the life expectancy of new babies born today leap to 100.

Sadly however there’s a palpable guilt affecting older people who are made to feel less than valued for drawing a pension, using a bus pass, receiving winter fuel allowance and simply being alive for too long when lower income and younger age groups are being financially squeezed.

The ageing process, a decelerating roller coaster we’re all on like it or not, is viewed with suspicion and fear and kept at bay with a facile focus on the physical aspects of decline- hair loss, vision issues, joint pain, memory problems- and a desire to label and compartmentalise older people as being in the throws of dementia at the first sign of forgetting a name or number (Something that affects most of us from age 8 up).

In popular comedy in recent years old age has become increasingly cruelly mocked though in some respects reversed via the ‘warmedy’ of the BBC’s Mrs. Brown Boys – though even in this instance an older women is portrayed by a man and one wonders if an actual ‘older actress’ playing the role would receive the same laugh quotient.

Older people are insightful, knowledgeable, interested, talented, valuable and, once they’re gone, missed as the cohesive glue they often are within contemporary families, providing childcare, financial assistance, emotional support and a world view informed by witnessing decades of world events and political sea changes.

The older people we meet are those who’ve survived the relentlessly rocky road of life and that in itself is worthy of respect.

Dis-ease, disability and old age affects all of us at some point, these different ways of experiencing life inform and enrich the human experience.

These terrific paintings are all by Dutch artist Marius Van Dokkum.

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To infinity and beyond

Grace Hotel Santorin
I Love You Baby character SAMANTHA likes to swim in infinity pools

I’m engaged in two forms of swimming at the moment,  swimming in water and swimming in ideas.

One physical and one imaginative.

Both pursuits are challenging and both are target driven.  A first draft deadline for the former and decreasing time:length ratio for the latter, and both involve injury, mild R.S.I in the right hand and athletes foot respectively, and share the same principal risk;  public humiliation.

I Love you Baby is currently bouncing around as a concept on the crest of a research wave.

Lots of ideas, sounds, visuals and impressions are being ingested; a great swirling ocean of the stuff, eventually the emerging play will be so buoyed up by it all that the up swell will prove irresistible, and it will simply have to be written down.

Well, that’s the plan anyway!

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Finding the moment to catch the wave is important as there’s a certain amount of thinking and framing to be done, and ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ before there’s any point in committing the character’s words to the screen, in beginning to make the imagined real, in starting to form the play.

Do it too early and there won’t be enough substance to write the activity.

Do it too late and it’ll feel like all the questions have been answered.

Do it at the right time and there’ll be enough material and thought to push the vision through to shore, the first draft.

blank avatars

Writing processes vary from play to play in terms of what and when but listed below are the usual key milestones, to coin a management term, which makes sense as I’m currently immersed in the corporate world of character SAMANTHA.

1. Research. An on-going bath of facts, figures, music, images and opinion, which key into the themes of the play and the character’s world.  Sometimes this may include interviews/journeys to relevant people and locations.

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2. Characters.  Small notebooks are jotted into throughout each day for each character. Aside from external views/opinions of the characters, notes begin to be made about the world from their separate points of view.  This is on-going and will continue all the way up to the pre-rehearsal draft as there’s a need to know enough about the characters before they’re written so that their ‘voices’ can be heard.

Above is a shot of SAMANTHA’S opening pages.

3. Story. The story develops all the time and currently the fundamentals aren’t changing, the arc is there, its clear where the surprises need to be, where the twist is, how the narrative will unfold, escalate and resolve.

As the first draft is written certain elements will change and it’s always good to leave some ‘air’ and some unanswered questions,  so that once the characters start interacting moments can be character, rather than plot, driven.

4. Plot and structure. This is where the real ‘craft’ comes in, the shape and the timeframe will be determined in the synopsis and scene breakdown which will be written just before the first draft is started.

Number 4 – the nuts and bolts craft side of the work- is going to happen very soon- the ocean swell is building up and currently stages 1,2 and 3 are in full swing and operating on a creative carousel system.

long_wave

This play, rooted as it is in the world of theatrical realism relies on its characters to carry the drama.

Their opinions, what they represent, their interactions, and their conflicts, form the moments of the action-the activity- and a character questionnaire can be helpful at this stage of the writing process -the survey in the previous post has been a useful starter.

Interestingly a lot of these processes being worked through at the writing stage will be replicated by the actors later on when developing the characters (And making them their own).  The playwright develops a ‘backstory’ for the character and the actor unravels it all later on in rehearsal, adding their own opinions and ideas.

I like to collect visuals as a speedy reference for each character’s starting points and landscape; here are some of SAMANTHA’S:

SAMANTHA

SAMANTHA is beginning to become clear and I can see her moving around her penthouse apartment in Manchester (Where the activity of the play takes place so it’s important to have a solid idea of her space) and as I build up a picture of her I listen to music which means something to her and relates to her principal emotional state.

So its all about swimming.

Todays key tasks are working out how to reduce core ‘rock’ when free styling with a pull buoy and chewing over how best to explore the way we treat older people and view the ageing the process within the play (A theme).

Both technical conundrums will be solved in the pool- R.S.I and athletes foot allowing.

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15 questions to help you find love…

Sitting comfortably?

Have a look at the questionnaire below and answer honestly….

(There’s no need to do so out loud!)

Happy Ever after questionaire questionaire

Now imagine the person you love- or would like to love- answering the same questions- again there’s no need for everyone on the train to hear this…

Is there compatibility? Do you share the same values/fears/strengths?

I Love You Baby is about love, family and relationship and the current research process is being assisted by this mock client survey as the attitudes of the characters in the play are framed.

The questions above are modelled on the kind that real-world dating services ask their clients.

What do you really need to know about when you’re looking for a mate for a long term relationship?

What question/s would you add to the list above?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing roles for learning disabled actors

It’s a writing cliché that you should write about what you know and, in common with most playwrights, a chunk of my own experience makes its way into the work, usually heavily disguised, or so oblique even I don’t notice it at the time. Direct biography makes for very tedious storytelling (And sometimes dazzling verbatim theatre) but playwrights are people and informed by their own experience. My desire to extend the theatrical repertoire for learning disabled actors is certainly informed by my own life.

F and V

This is a photograph of me and my sister Fiona lounging about in our garden in Wilmslow when we were kids. What I later came to understand as a minority experience, growing up with someone (Who I was, and continue to be, very close to) with a learning disability, Downs Syndrome, for me was normality. Like all siblings my view of the world was formed not only by my own interactions, successes and challenges but also by my sister’s and I was aware from a very early age that although the terrain was identical we both had different versions of the human road map, and different obstacles to overcome. I knew we shared the same emotional spectrum; a capacity to make ourselves cry by pulling sad faces in the mirror, to laugh uncontrollably, that we both had an insatiable desire for chocolate, a love of music and that the Dr. Who theme tune kept us both behind the sofa for the whole episode. I also knew that some functions I mastered were impossible for my sister, especially using language, and that she’d always need assistance to get through each day, for all of her life. When I was growing up there was little representation of learning disabled people on film and TV and none at all in the theatre so my ideas about my sister, and her ideas about herself, were developed in complete isolation.

If the purpose of the arts and literature is to hold up a mirror to the human condition, in terms of learning disability there was just a blank space on a wall.

In the 70’s and 80’s where disability was examined at all it tended to be ‘issues-based’, pointing up (Quite rightly) social inequality and injustice and appalling prejudice (Marginally better today though lets not kid ourselves, any internet search around learning disability will throw up vile commentary and imagery).

The incarceration of people with all kinds of disabilities in large institutions was then the norm. It was the case, all the way up to the late 80’s, that people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and learning disabilities like Downs Syndrome would be ‘treated’ together. The use of drugs and restraint as means of control in these large institutions was commonplace.

70's horizon I remember watching a seminal documentary on BBC’s Horizon when very young, ‘Tongue Tied’ about the experience of a man in a mental hospital (Joey Deacon) who couldn’t speak, he had cerebral palsy. Because of his lack of speech it was ignorantly assumed that he had a learning disability until it was discovered he was of ‘normal’ intelligence and was assisted to write a biography by using a pointer attached to his forehead. He bashed out his life story on a typewriter, letter by painstaking letter and his text revealed an acute intelligence and observation of the imprisoned life he’d led in the instutution.

The world for learning disabled people has changed for the better in recent years and most of the large ‘hospitals’ (Learning disability can’t be ‘cured’ its present from birth) have closed but it’s as well to remember that it wasn’t so long ago that people with all kinds of disabilities- usually on the pretext of economics- were dispatched to a second-class existence, out of sight and voiceless, where the most appalling abuses were able to take place.

The idea however, even in the changing 80’s and even 90’s, of people with Downs’ Syndrome being represented in the cultural sphere as anything other than the total manifestation of their disability- invariably depicted as a ‘problem’- was still considered difficult and it’s only been in recent years that writers have begun writing for extraordinarily talented actors with Downs Syndrome- and that compelling dramatic characters with learning disabilities have started to be written and developed in film, TV and theatre. Finally performances are being created in new drama that allow learning disabled people to take their place in stories for general audiences- rather than being seen solely as models for societal education in inclusivity. At the same time exceptional actors with Downs Syndrome have benefited from increased access to vocational training (The kind of training non learning disabled professional actors receive at drama school) via forward thinking companies like Dark Horse Theatre.

Sarah Gordy in Upstairs Downstairs

Sarah Gordy is a talented actress who’s appeared in Upstairs Downstairs and recently featured in an episode of Call The Midwife, a role written specifically for her by Heidi ThomasJoe Sproulle has toured nationally twice to theatres including The Stephen Joseph Theatre and The Lowry Salford in comedy Sing Something Simple and with several other learning disabled actor colleagues worked on an episode of Shameless for Channel 4 written by Ian Kershaw and produced by Lawrence Till .

Joe Sporulle
Joe Sproulle in Sing Something Simple

Ben Langford played Oskar in major theatres across the country- a role written especially for him in Hypothermia (Published by Josef Weinberger) and talented young actor Ruben Reuter is carving out a TV niche for himself and is currently playing a leading role in CBBC’s Dumping Ground.

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Ben Langford in Hypothermia

These actors are just part of an extraordinary, in many instances vocationally trained,  cohort of acting talent rising up which deserves material to support its work. In pockets in film and TV doors are opening for actors with Downs Syndrome and I’m very happy to be assisting that representation in theatre. It’s only by more and more writers and directors- and drama schools- commiting to take the leap and broaden their palette that actors with learning disabilities in general and Downs Syndrome in particular will be more readily seen- and learning disabled people in auditoriums and in living rooms will see themselves in plays and on TV- not as saints or victims but as people with all the failings, ambitions, and character quirks that make drama compelling.

The character of Clarence in I Love You Baby is a man with Downs Syndrome at a crossroads in his life and the aim is for the play to provide another- extraordinary, surprising and central- leading role for an actor with a learning disability, which plays out to mainstream audiences across the UK…And hopefully inspires, entertains, and represents.

Love? It’s all Greek to me…

eros-e-thanatos-bitta-

I Love You Baby examines love and relationship in the context of the family.

As the songs go love makes the world go round, is all you need, hurts, changes everything and needs to be justified. It can be endless, crazy, part-time and something that just can’t help being fallen into. Granddad can be told he’s in receipt of it and it’s what the world needs right now. There’s love for partners, parents, friends, children, and the universe and everything in it. What’s done with this extraordinary emotion and motivator leads to all kinds of triumphs and disasters in all of our lives.

In the world of the play I want to explore love in the context of sibling relationships, friendship, sexual attraction, the desire for children and between adult children and elderly parents.

In chewing over a framework to pattern these different kinds of love, and to provide a ready reckoner for my character’s individual emotional landscapes, I’ve discovered you can’t do better than the ancient Greek model which isolates 6 fundamental and different kinds of love.

Eros_cooling_1990_smallEROS is all about sexual passion, lust, heat and insatiability, craven physical desire and a blinkered need to scratch that itch at all costs.  The Greeks viewed this kind of ‘losing your head’ falling in love very negatively and some would say it’s a phase of falling for someone that’s acutely painful in its stomach churning delirium and obsessive relentlessness.

In this painting Eros is so hot and bothered by his overwhelming lust he’s having to cool down under a fractured water pipe.

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PHILIA is deep friendship, a feeling of care, concern, respect and a desire to sacrifice and share with another person. The Greeks valued it far more highly than the Eros brand of love, which is more focused on the physical aspects of attraction to another person. This is the kind of love that soldiers talk about for their battle comrades and the depth of feeling that provokes protestations from two single friends of ‘you’re my soul mate its like I’ve always known you and that’s an amazing thing’ after a bottle of champagne and a solitary sway to Sade’s ‘Right By Your Side’ at a wedding. Its not necessarily romantic but it is profound, and can also relate to the selfless love a parent feels for a child.

couple-courting-eugen-von-blaasLUDUS in all its flirtatious glory is clearly at play in this painting. I’d hazard a guess that she’s saying ‘Don’t’ and he’s saying ‘Go on’ and that they’ll both do this in very high voices, eyes locked and without any embarrassment at all for hours on end.

Then he’ll tap her on the shoulder and pretend it wasn’t him and they’ll both giggle a lot and run to an olive grove pretending to be donkeys, chase each other, catch each other, tickle each other, run away from each other shrieking and then go home separately skipping and snorting.

That’s Ludus for you.

Funny faces and practical joking, joshing, arm punching, showing your bling off, dancing like Olly Murs, wearing your hat backwards, doing a comedy lap dance, whatever it takes to get him/her at least looking in your direction, getting the ball rolling, casting wide and reeling it in, kind of love.

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AGAPE however is a completely different packet of love hearts.

Its the kind of love that exists on a higher plane, it’s spiritual and universal and is often encapsulated in tree of life images like the one on the right, found in heavily stocked shops which sell incense and dream catchers.

That’s not to do agape down because this love is for everyone and everything as a matter of philosophical egalitarianism. The Latin translation of the word is caritas which is the origin of the word charity. It’s generousity and selflessness. Agape is the belief that by giving out kindly a bit more- universal justice, karma, reap what you sow, call it what you will- then the world will be a better place. And you can’t argue with that- can you?

older couplePRAGMA is the kind of love you enjoy when you’ve nailed long term partnership, when the significant other’s sentences are completed before they’ve even rustled up the beginning of them in the frontal lobe and not knowing where one starts and the other ends.

You know where you’re going on holiday each year and that it’ll take forever because he won’t drive over fifty on the motorway but you’ll suck it up- be pragmatic about it- for the sake of the long term view.It’s all about the concessions made to keep the love train on track.

Hard work, challenging but at rainbows end the contentment and stability of being committed- forever- to the one you love wins the day.

Benczur-narcissusPHILAUTIA is exemplified by this painting of Narcissus, the icon of self-love who is clearly enjoying himself very much indeed- and who can blame him? He’s having one of those mornings where he’s caught a glimpse of himself, recognised just how darn hot he is, and can’t pull himself away.

However Philautia isn’t all me me me- the Greeks believed a less negative version exists which Whitney Houston summed up very well in her ’ Greatest love of all’ identifying  the amazing love she found inside herself. In a nutshell the noble end of philautia is that it’s only by loving yourself that you are able to love others, and this can extend beyond revelling in your own perfectly shaped eyebrows and and six pack to intellectual and philosophical qualities- if you so wish.

It’s said that the perfectly balanced love package for the 21st century human involves elements of all six kinds of love; physical satisfaction, close friendship, flirtatious, spiritual, long term and for yourself- a quick tot up of your significant, and less significant relationships should reveal your areas of ‘strength’ or ‘weakness’- where you need to bolster your friendship group or find someone to make funny faces at…

All of this magazine style relationship analysis however does have a purpose in the context of the play.

There are 6 characters in I Love You Baby. 5 real- CLARENCE, SAMANTHA, SADIE, GRACE, TYLER and 1 virtual- BABY.

Using the 6 Greek love identifiers I have a map of the characters principal drives which will inform their relationships with each other and the world, as I move through the plot.

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I’ll refer to this map (It’ll be stuck on the wall behind the Mac) as I work on the characters, and later as I develop the play through the first draft.

Berdup berdup berd-de-bububu-be-derdup berdup…Barrr….

As I’m writing and forming the shape, content and characters for the play (More about that next week) I’m thinking more broadly about the other means which will be used to tell the story- particularly the aural landscape, what the audience will listen to.

I Love You Baby isn’t a musical but music will feature heavily, as an original composed soundtrack and score, and ‘Can’t Take My Eye’s Off You’- with it’s irresistible central chorus of ‘I love you baby…’ (Try listening to Andy Williams below without joining in) will be a central thematic song especially arranged in various ways for the production.

It’s a song most of us of all ages have heard in various guises, it featured in a Bridget Jones movie, it’s been covered by Lauren Hill, the Killers and Shirley Bassey to name just three and was beautifully and unforgettably worked to add poignancy and pathos to the bar scene in Michael Cimino’s The Deer hunter, on the night before a group of young men go to fight in the Viet Nam War.

During the development period I’ll work with composer Loz Kaye to find different ways of adapting and weaving this extraordinary song into the score for I Love You Baby- alongside the rest of the soundscape, finding arrangements which will offer scope to explore physical storytelling.

For now research is all and listening and absorbing is an absolutely valid process (Wonderful).

This phenomenal Radio 4 documentary is really worth a listen. It starts with a space shuttle astronaut’s account of playing the track in space…

Something for the weekend

It’s friday.

It’s nearly the weekend.

It’s time to shake off the grind, find a space in front of the mac, pc, tablet (Or, if you have great eyesight, a propped up phone), turn the volume up loud and dance…

I Love You Baby isn’t a musical but music will feature heavily, underscoring physical sequences and as an original composed soundtrack.

‘Can’t Take My Eye’s Off You’ will be a central thematic song especially arranged for the production.

Enjoy!