Sending Another Script Off

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Spent the last couple of days reediting and polishing off an old script. Normally, this is a major sign of NOT BEING ABLE TO LEAVE THE DAMN THING ALONE (and who’s to say that it isn’t this time, too?) but at least time there’s a purpose to it: I had a deadline to meet. The BBC Writer’s Room has an occasional (actually twice a year) submissions open window – one for drama, one for comedy, and I decided to send something in. This time round, it’s the Drama window. I’ve only just remembered in the writing of this that I had already submitted something to the Comedy window last year, which utterly failed to get anywhere. This time, I’d spent a while doing some tightening up of the Mary Shelley script that I’d written last year (interesting, since the script has actually been produced at least once already in front of an actual audience), and the original intention was to change it slightly from a stage script to a radio script, which would’ve brought a certain set of challenges as, although all the characters are somewhat verbose (bloody poets, to coin a phrase), the play itself is reasonably visual, and plays with the chemistry (or otherwise) between the characters. I think, on some muted level, I was going to change the play from stage to radio before I submitted it to the BBC Writers Room because I probably felt – if they accepted it, it was more likely to be produced as a radio play rather than a TV film (particularly as the narrative is continuous and in one room, as opposed to several scenes all over the place). But then I told myself to get over myself: even if this submission were to be accepted (and that’s cheerfully unlikely, even if it’s any good, just down to the sheer volume of applicants), it’s reasonable to assume that successful scripts will serve only as ‘calling cards’, and never actually get produced, in lieu of whatever else the writer can cope with. This reminds me of one of my only clear memories of school (I remember bizarrely little of school, which suggests that it was an absolutely horrifying time, and I’ve repressed it all): a teacher saying that people aren’t actually scared of failure, as much as they’re afraid of success. You know the sort of thing: you’re good at a thing, people see that you’re good at the thing, they say well done for being good at the thing, and then they say the terrifying: ‘what else have you got?’. I remember at the age of eleven, or however old I was, that this was a genuinely new concept for me: the pressure of success. The weight of expectation.

And even so, I was surprised by how I felt when I hit the ‘submit’ button to send my script to BBC towers. Particularly as  I’d already done it with a different script last year (although, as I’ve mentioned, I managed to forget doing that). This time around, however, I felt oddly anxious. I have genuinely no idea if that’s because my subconscious thinks the script is awful (‘THEY’LL HATE IT’), or conversely, if it knows it to be pretty good (‘THEY’LL ASK FOR MORE AND THAT’S ALL I’VE GOT DAMMIT’). It’s sent off now, however, and it’s out there, free of my interference and meddling re-editing. It is (as all you established writers out there know already) a good habit to get into: find deadlines, competitions, festivals – reasons to finish the work, and get it out there.

And now on to the next one.

Year Without Summer

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Right, latest script finally done – as much as it can be – and sent off for rehearsals. It’s one off the oddest, most unnatural rewrites I’ve ever had to do, and it remains to be seen how much of it has been successful. Plus, I’ve just worked out that there’s a terrifyingly small and vanishing amount of time before the show goes up, so my blood pressure has taken a spike or two.

But before all that (or, at least, at pretty much the same time as all that), is Year Without Summer, the Brighton Fringe play about Mary Shelley. As I may have mentioned before, 2016 marks exactly 200 years since Mary Shelley came up with the idea for Frankenstein, which – depending on who you speak to – is largely considered to be pretty much the basis for modern science fiction. There was certainly something in the (Geneva) water. What I found fascinating about the events of May and June 1816, and what doesn’t seem to be discussed all that much in other plays and films, is the presence of Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley’s half sister. A month or so earlier (a matter of weeks, really) she had managed to bag Lord Byron as a bedfellow, which was a more remarkable feat than you might have thought. Yes, Byron was a rake, but he was already beginning to tire of having to be the boy pursued by all of the women (and a fair amount of the men) of England. Yet, Claire managed to win him over. Not for long, of course, which is why she pulled her trump card – Mary and Percy Shelley, both of whom Byron greatly admired. And so all of them ended up in the same place at the same time (if I remember my dates, Byron and Shelley met for the very first time exactly 200 years prior to our first night, on the 30th May 1816). So it’s at least possible that if circumstances had been any different, if Claire had not successfully beckoned Byron out to Geneva, then he will not have been in place to demand ghost stories – and Mary, possibly,. may not have been inspired to write Frankenstein. All because Claire yearned for her poet. This, in part, forms the bedrock of our narrative. As I say, we open on the 30th of May, and we run until the end of the Brighton Fringe (5th June) at Sweet Venues Brighton.

Once May comes to an end, improv workshops kick back up again at the DukeBox, with a series of drop-in classes under the umbrella title Generously Selfish (or maybe it’s Selfishfully Generous; I haven’t decided yet). Those will be every Sunday, and are still priced at just £5 each.

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