Thursday 25th May 2017 

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We’re hitting the last week of the Brighton Fringe here, which might surprise some people, who – despite actually living in Brighton – might have thought that it ends this weekend, if they were aware at all that it was still going on. It’s an odd thing; the fringe: for those of us who are actually involved with it, it’s pretty much a 24/7 thing, with stuff like jobs and other mundane matters being merely squeezed into the gaps. It’s easy to forget that there are many in town who either don’t know or (gasp) don’t care. 

Cast Iron Theatre’s production, Model Organisms, got out of the gate in the first week, and so as a production house, we’ve been able to spend the rear of May in a state of relative relaxation (relative, I said. Things haven’t chanted that much). I mean, there’s a couple of old scripts being revived,  two new shows being created as we speak (about which, more later), and a couple of short stories that are teaching me a lot about deadlines and even more about editing. Actually, the main thing I learned about one of my deadlines is that it’s exactly a month later than I thought it was, which is good news, especially as I already thought that it was in pretty good shape. 

Elsewhere, the podcast is also in good shape: we’ve conducted fourteen separate interviews so far, and we seem to be getting a good response. We’ve been super-busy with the fringe (obviously a lot of people want to sell their shows in May), and so it means that the podcasts have been coming thick and fast. 

Sunday 23rd April 2017

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Busy week (as ever) coming up: we’ve got a number of episodes of the Cast Iron Theatre Podcast already recorded, and ready to drop. Last Thursday, we uploaded our chat with Brighton writer and director Sam Chittenden, and you can find a link to the iTunes info here. It’s been a really fun experience, and we have some exciting episodes lined up, including a chat with Michael Graney, PopHeart Productions, and even a chat with ourselves (sort of), as we get under the hood of Cast Iron Theatre, and chat about Model Organisms, our upcoming play for the Brighton Fringe.

There has been (somewhat) a lull of sorts, a chance to catch my breath as the Easter holidays have passed by, but that moment has well and truly sauntered on. The IronClad Improv sessions are still happening, every Sunday at the DukeBox Theatre, despite the fact that the Iron Duke Pub is no longer called that: it’s now called The Southern Belle, after the iconic train that used to connect Brighton to London. Current rail users may marvel at the fantasy that there was a train that could be relied on to get passengers from the South coast to the capital, but yes, such a thing was in fact a reality. Those of you who are in fact regulars to the Sunday night drop in may be interested to know that there’s a long form course coming up (fairly) soon, and this seems like a good time to give you the heads up that throughout May, the Sunday nights will be at a different location to accommodate the fringe (but will indeed still be going ahead).

Apart from that, I have a couple of deadlines to wrestle to the ground. So we’ll meet back here another time. Subscribe (and rate, and comment) to the podcast, and if you’re allergic to Apple, you can find us on soundcloud, as well.

In Pod We Trust

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fannyt

Recently, we’ve kicked off the Cast Iron Theatre Podcast, which talks to all manner of creative people in Brighton – actors, writers, directors, producers, improvisers … you get the idea.

It’s a very varied hour (or slightly less/slightly more). In the first episode, we spoke to Sarah Johnson and Guy Wah about the HoveGrown Festival, while in episode two we chatted to Rob Cohen about his three solo shows (with the umbrella title Men Without Friends), and in episode three we had a group chat with four of the Fannytasticals (pictured above). We’ve just uploaded the episode where we chat to Yvette May about her show, 10 Steps To Happiness, and we’re in the middle of editing our fifth episode, with Sam Chittenden.

So far, we’ve been mainly chatting to people that we already know (it’s a very busy town for creatives, is Brighton), and it’s gratifying how many of them we have worked with on Cast Iron itself.

That deserves some unpicking: by no means everyone on the podcast has been involved with a Cast Iron production – and we should emphasise that the pod won’t limit itself to just chatting with those inside the company: as we say on the episodes, if you’re a creative who works, lives, or simply has a single tour date in Brighton, then we’re sure to be talking to you. But still, it’s lovely that we’ve had the chance to work with these talented people on a Cast Iron production. Sometimes (although, admittedly, not in the case of the people mentioned above, I don’t think), Cast Iron – and also Iron Clad Improv – has provided a performer with their first opportunity on stage. We’ve often said that one of the most delightful and gratifying things about Cast Iron is that at some point we will lose our treasured actors / writers / directors: in other words, they will move on – often geographically, to London, for instance – and begin to form their own work. On occasion, we have received an email from a writer whose play we have particularly enjoyed – and has been very well received by audiences –  who tells us that the play was the first thing they’ve written for public consumption, that they’ve wanted to write for years – and Cast Iron gave them that opportunity. That’s a lot of what Cast Iron is about.

Is that enough blowing of trumpets for now? I think so. Here’s the link for the podcast itself, and if you subscribe, a new episode will be in your ears every Thursday. If you don’t have iTunes, then you can listen on SoundCloud. Here, for instance, is episode three. We’d love to have your feedback and responses, so do get in touch.

Hope you have a good Easter!

 

 

New Casting Announcement For Doctor Who?

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(This feature appears on Cultbox:)

Inspired by the ongoing debate as to whether or not the new Doctor Who will be played by a woman, Casual Violence (‘the UK’s most physically attractive, triple award winning sketch comedy group’) have imagined this press release from the BBC, saying that fan’s ‘smart, incisive arguments’ have been listened to – and a new show is on its way to TV screens.

 

Directed by J W Roberts, the sketch gives us a sneak preview of a female led sci-fi drama with ‘Who’ in the title, premiering on BBC2 (not BBC1, are you crazy?), and hopes that any talk of glass ceilings and patriarchy can now finally be put to rest. Or, as writer James Hamilton comments: ‘HAHAHAHAHA’

 

There’s lots to enjoy here from the stars of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sketchorama’,  not least a very believable casting for the new companion, and – intentionally or not – a neat sideswipe at The Sarah Jane Adventures. Enjoy the sketch below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iPK7BPUBsk

 

Casual Violence are appearing in their new sketch show, The Grot In The Grotto, at this year’s Brighton Fringe: https://www.brightonfringe.org/box-office/shows/view/casual-violence-grot-grotto

 

Tuesday 21st March 2017

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This week, sees Cast Iron 9 hit the stage of the DukeBox Theatre in Hove. It’s not actually the ninth incarnation of Cast Iron, it’s really about the fifteenth, but we tend not to number the Christmas and Halloween specials and the  various one-off events, like when we give over the night for six plays by one writer, which we’ve done a couple of times before.

On Friday and Saturday, however, it’s the usual format – six short plays by six playwrights. In the end, it may in fact be eight plays, but I’ll chat about that more in a minute. As you may already know, Cast Iron invites people from the Brighton and Hove area (although we can sometimes be a little loose about that) to write short plays for us, and then we get local directors and actors to produce them. We have a policy at CIT that, if needed, the artistic directors can ‘helicopter in’ to advise any play that feels it needs guidance. That hasn’t happened this time round, so our technical rehearsal will be the first time that I will have seen some of the plays.

And it’s a fun bunch of scripts. There’s ‘Tiger’, by Robert Gilbert, and directed by Yvette Saunders. It features Chelsea Newton Mountney and Matt Swan, and – well, that’s about as much as I can say without giving too much away. We also have ‘Emotions For Sale’ by Stella Macdonald, whose plot is pretty much indicated by the title. That play is directed by Amy Sutton, and features Joshua Crisp and Michael Bramley.

We also have ‘The Will Of The People’ by – hang on, I’ve got my notes here somewhere – anyway, by some up and coming writer, and featuring Matt Mulvay. It’s been somewhat disturbing how increasingly relevant this play has been to today’s news. ‘Meat’ is by Amy Sutton, and directed by Anthony Scott Hibbs. This sharp satire features Kerri Frost, Annie Packman, and Janice Jones.

Elsewhere, there’s ‘Goggles’ by Judy Upton, which features Carrie White, Julia Knight, and Miles Mlambo (with a guest appearance by Judey Bignell). Judey has also written ‘Love Machine’, which is directed by James Newton, and features Rich Foyster as a young man who is almost literally driven to distraction.

It looks to be a fun evening (incidentally, it’s part of the HoveGrown Festival), and with tickets at just £5, it’s a show that tends to sell out. Having said that, at the time of writing, there are still tickets available, via this link here.

On the day of performance itself, there’s still a chance for you to get your script on stage. At each Cast Iron, we ask people to submit a ‘rapid response’ play – perhaps five minutes, maybe less – that is written as gender blind and age blind, and for two actors. Ideally, it’ll be inspired by this week’s (that day’s?!?) events. It’s quite a tough thing to pull off without simply repeating the most ridiculous aspects of the news essentially verbatim. But when it works, it’s glorious. On one occasion, the ‘rapid response’ was a satire song – and the audience were genuinely singing along and cheering by the final verse. If you feel that you want to hit us up with a rapid response, you have until 5pm of the day of performance (both days) to email us on cast_iron@outlook.com ..

We’ve got a couple of other things to announce in the next couple of weeks, which we won’t mention just yet in the interest of tantalising marketing because we’re very tired, but they involve, in no particular order:

  • the fringe
  • no, the other fringe
  • actually now that you mention it, that fringe as well
  • your ears

Blog: Thursday 9th March

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Deadline-clock

 

So I missed a deadline today. In actual fact, the deadline isn’t until tonight, and because of the time difference between here and Chicago (where the theatre asking for submissions is based), I could probably work on til 5 A.M and send something out then, but – let’s face it – it won’t be very good.

I was so close, though. OK, in real terms, I was a full twenty pages (or more) from the finish line, and we’re not even talking about first draft – this was draft zero – it hadn’t even got up to the level of draft zero – but, all self-effacing aside, it was in basically good shape. Still horrible, not in any way what you’d want to send off to represent the best of your writing: but still, all those qualifications included, it was in good shape.

Plus, it was fun. I tend to be a pretty slow writer, writing out of sequence, concentrating on all the ‘main’ scenes first, then spending the third, fourth, fifth drafts linking scenes together. It doesn’t matter at this stage that actually all the scenes that I’m linking with are little more than narrative glue, a method to get my characters from one place to another. I know that eventually, those scenes will find a life and a vitality of their own, and indeed may even eclipse the so-called ‘main’ scenes. It may even be that the play (or story, or novel, or whatever it is that I’m working on) is not actually about what I think it is. That’s all normal.

What isn’t normal is working the way I have been for the last couple of weeks. Of course I knew the deadline was looming, but the thing is that I had all manner of other deadlines, closer to home, that demanded more direct attention. So I didn’t think I would have enough time to give this script any attention at all.

But the script (and a reasonably neat idea) kept on calling to me. I scribbled a few pages, and those developed into five. Then eight. And I checked my calendar. And considered that two weeks might just be long enough to hack out a full script.

And I don’t mean ‘hack’ in any particularly negative sense. I mean just in the sense of getting words down on paper, very rarely looking back, powering through, motoring through the scenes (You’d think that improv experience would help me with this sort of thing). And for the most part, that’s exactly what happened: fully aware that I didn’t have much time, I sped through the script – writing, as I almost never do, in almost entirely chorological order, leaving the worries about editing for later.

And while what I have is not – yet – good enough to be sent off, it’s not awful (in my head, it really is awful, worse than awful. But I have to be a wise editor for myself). There’s a basic good shape there, and the characters are surprisingly well defined. It all falls apart in the ending, but then I’ve seen finished professional products that can’t claim any different. There’s a good structure there, and even if I had to put it on tonight (not gonna happen), I’m reasonably confident that any paying audience would have a good time.

And that was in less than two weeks. Most of which was actually spent working away from the computer.

I think what I’ve learned this month is how to stop procrastinating.

 

Sunday 19th February 2017

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Am trying – in vain – to write sketches. I’m not entirely sure why I put myself through this. I mean, there are enough other deadlines for me to miss this week, without wanting to add to the load. I’ve got a short story that’s demanding my attention, a TV review, a reasonably short play, and (at least) two other plays that are reasonably longer. Now, admittedly, the deadlines for all of these things are not due this week, but some of them are, and the rest will be screaming over the horizon within a month.

The sketches, though. I’m trying to write something for Newsjack, the BBC radio comedy for which anybody can write. That means anybody: just send something to the office, inspired by this week’s headlines, and there’s at least a chance that it might get recorded and transmitted to the nation by Thursday evening. I have submitted every week this time round, and I have a 100% lack of success rate.

There’s no way of telling, really. Admittedly, some of my efforts really have been hack jobs, which may have received no more than a cursory glance before being thrown aside on the ‘No’ pile. But there’s been at least two things I’ve sent in this year – ego and false modesty aside – that I’ve genuinely thought were pretty good ideas, and while I’m level-headed enough not to get spectacularly upset that they didn’t get past the gate, it does make you wonder what they are looking for.

And let me repeat (translation: protest too much) that I really am level headed about this sort of thing. Listening to an average episode, I think that there’s probably about 10% of gags that I think – ‘oh, that’s genius’, that the writer is already crafting jokes and scenes at a professional level. There’s about 5% of sketches (maybe slightly less, if I’m honest) where I think, that’s the same joke as mine – and I preferred my version, another 5% og gags when I think, I’m not sure how that joke got through (I think that it’s too obvious, or old.) And the rest of the sketches? Either that they’re very funny, but just not up to genius level, or that I personally am not laughing, but I get that subjectively,  it’s funny, just not for me.

All of which means I’m no closer to working out exactly what’s required to get past the entry phone for a sketch. I’ve written this blog as a kind of distraction (cough, procrastination) technique to see if I can get any closer.

Time to see if it’s worked ..