Putting on a Show – Week Five: A Sneaky Peek

script screenshot

This week, rather than just babble on about the play, we thought we’d share a small chunk of it. Here is a bit of the latest draft, from the beginning of Act Two. Our characters are Caroline, who is waiting in Nando’s for her boyfriend to join her, and the waitress, Rubber. Our action begins with some mild language:


Putting on a Show – Week Four: Melvin

MelvinWelcome back to our series on Nando’s and Nandon’ts. Last week, you heard James Bloomfield talking about his role, Melvin, and this week you’ll hear myself and Will.

Melvin’s been the most difficult character to crack, and has certainly been the one under most discussion in the super-secret writing meetings. Our protagonist has always been Caroline, and as such is closely linked with the story, so the two progress hand in hand. The waitress, Miss Chicken, arrived pretty much fully formed, and is distinct enough that she slots in naturally to whatever plans we have.

Melvin, however, is different. When the play was short, and the focus was on the couple’s interaction, he slotted easily into the “boyfriend” role. However, as the play got longer, and Rubber was brought more into the story, he slipped quite strongly into becoming the antagonist. We could make him very clearly one or the other, but we felt that would be simplistic and unsatisfying. So, most of the trouble has been to reconcile both sides of his character, while trying to a real person rather than a function of plot.

How this difficulty in balance has come out in the script is that you’d have some scenes in which Melvin was being boyfriend-y, and then some scenes in which he was small-minded, rude, and just an arse, and you had no idea what Caroline would see in this guy. It is important that you buy them as a couple, and to some extent you want them to figure out a way past their problems. There had to be some tension as to who Caroline would end up with, but also there had to be some sympathy with Melvin’s plight, otherwise there would be no drama. It was also important structurally – to buy the ending of the second act, you have to believe in Melvin and Caroline as a couple.

Our specific thoughts concerning motivation (rather than what seemed funny and to make some sense) only truly coalesced for all the characters following our performance at the Y Theatre. An email from me on June 24th contains this nugget of Melvin motivation:

“…Melvin realises she’s never going to be the sort of girl he wants to be in a relationship with…”

Will succinctly defines his position in the play:

“…Caroline’s story,  Rubber waxes as Melvin wanes”

And on the 30th, Will sent me a bio about him, to inspire further script development:


Age: 24

From: Leicester

Job: British Gas telesales (shifts)

Friends: Work mostly, male mostly, locals.

Notes: Confident but prone to anger. More comfortable in mainstream culture than with subtlety. Caroline is not his first serious partner. He compartmentalises his life. Work/relationships/friends. Is genuinely fond of Caroline.

The only amendments I made to this were that he is “the sort of person who tries to figure out the plots to movies as he goes along,” and I describe him at the end leaving “Malvolio-style/like the antagonist of a high school comedy”.

So now, Melvin’s function in the play is a lot clearer. Yes, he is Caroline’s boyfriend, but they are wrong for each other. This makes him the antagonist, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. His outbursts stem from an emotional place –  frustration about his relationship – rather than him being a dick, and they are simply his way of dealing with their issues. He doesn’t get on with the waitress, but that doesn’t mean he’s misanthropic, just that their personalities don’t gel. His solo is yet to finalised, but it’s now more about himself than attacking other people.

It’s worth pointing out that however aggrieved Melvin is, as his relationship with Caroline goes up and then down, and though he blames Rubber for some of his woes, he doesn’t descend into something too unpleasant. We have a setup where both of the female characters in the play are bisexual but Melvin doesn’t seek to make emotional capital over this.

Obviously, the character will continue to evolve, as we have yet to hand the script to James to see what he can do with it, but we’re coming to a better place with him, which is satisfying.

Next week, we’ll look at the music.


A Chapter of Writers

As a bonus for today, here’s a post from Nick Palmer’s blog about the writer’s group we are both a part of, and I have failed to mention. It speaks truth. It has inspired me to keep plugging away at that play I’ve been guiltily referring to since last year, and is a wonderful group of people to chat with.


Putting on a Show – Week Three: Ask An Actor

James BloomfieldThis week, we have an interview with James Bloomfield, leading man, to give you an impression of what it’s like working with us, and to prove the madness is shared.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m James Bloomfield and I’m a psychology student at the University of Leicester, going into my third year. Much more importantly I’m also the publicity and marketing officer for LUTheatre and I’m playing Melvin in the Nandos musical.

Why get involved?

Because I didn’t have anything else on at the time, and a certain Mr. Ward asked me if I felt like singing a few songs about chicken.

Why did you volunteer for this sight-unseen?

(Because you said it was going to be a one time only 15 minute performance oh god what have I done)


Putting on a Show – Week Two: Q&A

Nando's and Nandon'ts at Proteus
Pictured (L-R): James Bloomfield, Olivia Deane, and Nicola Brown

So, a definitely-not-self-indulgent Q and A. I shall begin.

JAMES: So, Will – why me? Oh god, why me?

WILL:  Well, I’m not entirely sure. We hadn’t known each other too long when I approached you. You’d foolishly cast me in a play you were directing in 2012 and so I guess I’d got used to you shouting at me and telling me everything I did was wrong. I suppose I must have been impressed by your organisation, your creativity and your musicality. Especially this last point, because musically I am enthusiastic but without any skill whatsoever.

JAMES: See, I hear you don’t like musicals. (In fact, I have it on good authority you like nothing, save your drinks cabinet.) Why collaborate on a musical?

WILL: This is almost a lie! I protest! I don’t like some musicals, it’s true. Lloyd-Webber’s charm eludes me for instance. Les Misérables is a mystery. Rent I wouldn’t. But I love Sondheim, Gershwin, Bernstein. That sort of thing. Things with actual music.


Putting on a Show – Week One: What and Why

The poster for the performance of Nando's and Nandon'ts: A Musical at The Y 'Emergency' night

As you may know, I have an ongoing collaboration with William Breden (@WinsomeVogon is one of the few places he concedes to being online). It is called Nando’s and Nandon’ts. To the right is a poster designed for its first public outing. Here, we begin an irregular series documenting our folly.

Here’s Will, with a summary of what the hell is going on:

It began with a dream.

A dream of chicken. And Les Misérables.

But mostly chicken.



I’m averaging a post a post a month since this blog started in March 2012. That’s regular, right?

Some updates:

  • Come June I will be free of uni work, come July I will have graduated, and the adult world beckons. Erp.
  • Submitted various things I had hanging around to various places, will be on the lookout for more places to send and waiting on any of it popping back up.
  • Thanks to superhero comics, I’m ahead of schedule on my Goodreads target.

Spotlight On: James David Ward

My friend Nick Palmer has spotlighted me over on his excellent blog (it’s kept much more regularly than this one). I sent over the story a while ago, so glancing over it again at a distance of time is an interesting thing. For example, I notice a paragraph that exists somewhere between two different drafts of the idea, and needs renovating. It’s not just mistakes, though. Once you put some time between yourself and your work it turns into something else, written by someone else (since we’re always changing, you will not be the same person who wrote it when re-reading it three months later). It lets the writing stand on its own terms, rather than be simply you on a page, and, since the text is under your control, you can shape it into something better, take ownership of it again. Eventually, though, you have to leave it be, and the story becomes its own thing, disassociated from you. It’s an interesting process.

Hope you enjoy it, anyway, and be sure to keep an eye on Nick’s blog, it’s a cracking read.



Alice in Wonderland

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. –Douglas Adams

Many people love that quotation, and with good reason. I’m among the worst (or, perhaps, best) for putting off things I have to do until the last possible minute, working stupid hours to get stuff done, doing other things instead – even this blog post was started as a way to keep the fingers moving while I wasn’t doing work on my second ‘full-length’ script this fortnight, more on which later. (And only finished quite some time later.)

However, if I don’t have deadlines, things don’t get done. Case in point, Alice in Wonderland. I’ve had the idea for a promenade performance of the original text (or as close as possible) of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for well over a year. However, I did  no work on it until it became apparent a week before an opportunity (sadly a failed one) to pitch the idea that I needed to have a finished script in hand, rather than the planned couple of scenes. This meant, in the week of producing my friend Ivo de Jager’s brilliant play Sweetmeat (and also acting as assistant stage manager) I had to come home and rattle off at least a couple of scenes a night.


Form and poetry

Happy November!

The plays I’m directing are going well. A little worrying they will be seen by a paying audience in just four weeks time, but we will persevere. It is, however, eating up all my available time, along with choir and suchlike.

Luckily, as part of my English degree I’m doing a module called Forms of Modern Poetry, which forces me to write a poem every week in different forms. We’re in a bit of an iambic rut at the moment, but that’s not a bad thing.

I wanted to do the course because I felt my poetry was getting a bit wooly, unfocused, and I wanted to develop some more skills to use. Plus, seeing poetry as exercise rather than art helps you produce more work, I find. We’re in a bit of an iambic rut at the moment, since that metre is used so much in poetry, but it’s good work.

In honour of Hallowe’en just passed, here’s a bit from Sleepy Hollow I wrote in couplets last week. Also, I’m putting in a poem I just wrote, a complete breather from the formal strictures I have been placed in, called Fishing.

Scene from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Then sudden out of misty night,
A Headless Horseman came to fight.
The spirit gave a fearsome cry
That told a man was soon to die.

A slash! The Horseman’s sword was keen.
It cut through midnight sharp and clean.
Ichabod ran, towards the stream,
Praying this was a frightful dream.

But no! The Horseman thundered to
That neck so bare, so fresh, so new.
Ichabod ran, ran for his soul,
For righteous corpses must be whole.

But then came silence. Yes, the sound
Of racing hooves upon the ground
Had stopped. He dared to look around.
The headless man could not be found.

Crane stumbled, fell upon his hand
Which broke his fall. He tried to stand.
The grass was wet. He almost slipped,
but managed it. His clothing dripped.

He looked around. The appatirion
Had ceased his unrelenting mission.
The river’s bank was empty, Crane
Free from the spirit’s foul campaign.


They tell me
‘There are plenty more fish in the sea’
As I sit here on the dock
Line drawn, hook baited
Still waiting for a bite.

Finally, here’s a link to a letter from Robert Heinlein, where he gives Theodore Sturgeon advice on overcoming writer’s block. It’s a good read.
More soon.

Religion and World-building, and some updates

Keeping regular is difficult for me (no jokes please), so I’m just going to throw out the draft blog I mentioned last time as a few thoughts rather than something coherent. I may get back to the subject someday. Alongside it, I’ll update you on a few things.