On Tour

(Co-)Writing and Directing Beneath the Albion Sky

Beneath the Albion Sky is the first piece of work that I have ever written (in this case co-written with Corinne) and then directed.

I must admit that there was a bit of fear in directing the show. Not least because I had written some of the words and maybe some of them were really precious to me and I hadn’t realised yet but also because I had lovingly crafted this script with Corinne. Now, Corinne is precious about certain lines and words. In some cases really rather precious. Far more than I am. Whereas I don’t have favourite lines to things I write I know that she does and that she did have special lines in Albion.  I knew that if I (or Andy) screwed up this line up, she would be disappointed. We would be getting one of her ‘It’s fine’ retorts that is so loaded with (potentially imagined by me) bile, hate and contempt that all you would be able to is say how sorry you are a million times over until you feel at least half way close to forgiveness. ‘It’s fine’ she would say… Over and over again.

But that’s enough about the fear of butchering the favourite line of Corinne Furness and my over the top imagination of how she might react. I had another fear in directing this piece in that I had written a bit of it myself. What if I shoehorned my writerly vision in to the piece at the expense of it? What if I couldn’t accept another reading of my words? What if any sort of ability I have to direct simply fades away as soon as we move from a line of Corinne’s to a line of mine? These were just some of the fears.

But it turns out – I was absolutely fine. I’m not being egotistical and saying that the directing is super awesome (you will have to come to The Yard, The Wardrobe or The BikeShed and decide that for yourself) but that I didn’t have a problem with directing something I wrote. I was delighted to find that I could take my writing hat off, put my directing hat on and just approach the play that was in front of me. Before I knew it, I was cutting lines, changing bits and seeing the play a-new. By the end of it all, I honestly couldn’t remember if I had written certain lines or if Corinne had.

I remember, back during my BA, Howard Barker came in to one of our Playwriting sessions. I was very excited (as I think Howard Barker is brilliant) and one of the things he said (amongst others) really stuck with me. He said something along the lines of ‘It is important to direct one’s own work because then you understand it better. You understand how it, and drama, work’. I can’t remember if that is exactly what he said but I remember the sentiment. I also remember the fear. I thought to myself ‘I can’t do that’, ‘I can’t direct’, ‘I’d end up blocking myself’, ‘Don’t try it you silly boy’ etc. Well, I finally had a go (admittedly with a piece I half wrote) and it was really rewarding.

I’m definitely going to try and direct my own work again (some, not all – let’s not be silly) and I would recommend that other people give it a try too.

Just please don’t blame me if, for you, it is the disaster we all fear. But I reckon there is a good chance it won’t be.

Charlie of WBN


Beneath the Albion Sky: Reflections

And so it comes round again – next week we start rehearsing for Beneath the Albion Sky before the show visits London, Bristol and (back to what might be its home) Exeter.

It is, in the honesty I always want us this blog to have, a spectacularly busy time for us. It’s the first time we’ve done any sort of full-on-theatre auditorium tour and we’re combining this with getting things in place for 2014, planning an outreach project for Exeter, getting our next show Blueprint to a point where we can make the most of our time to develop it at the Bike Shed, dealing with the “business” element of having a theatre company and sorting out potential scratches for a play idea that is merely a twinkle in our eyes. And that’s without other work (and life) demands. I’m considering marking in my diary the entirety of December as “sleep”.

But, if it’s exhausting, it’s also exciting. And going back to Albion Sky is something I think we’re all looking forward to. So, before we get back in the rehearsal room and are consumed with biscuits and lines and probably moving some furniture, I thought it would be a nice time to reflect on some of the process thus far. First up – Charlie tackles the whole “directing something you’ve written” lark.

The One About Ignite

One of the things I’m keen for this blog to do is reflect what it’s actually like for, to use a term I’m sure is a bit waffly, an “emerging theatre company”. By this I mean: the bad stuff, and the dull stuff and stuff that makes you wake up at 2.30am in a cold sweat as well as the oh-we-made-a-show-and-it-was-so-much-fun stuff.

Which is maybe why it’s taken me some time to write this blog post.

“You know that dream you have about festivals…” I said to a good friend who also happens to make stuff. Immediately I saw the look of horror spread across his face.

“No, not the dream where the actor forgets all the lines and there’s no audience except for a solitary reviewer who absolutely hates the show and you end the night vomiting in a gutter having lost a large portion of your clothing, several thousand pounds and all of your dignity. The dream dream. The one that you’re not supposed to believe actually happens.”

My friend nods.

“I think…I think it sort of happened.”

We’ve lived some time with Beneath the Albion Sky and, as I’ve discussed before, it’s not always been the smoothest of processes. Of course when, as a company, you’re writing and making and producing the play there are inevitably moments when putting your head in a blender would come as welcome release. Maybe when the Albion Sky journey is complete (for we still have quite a long way to go with it yet) I will blog about all of those bits.

But, for now, it’s probably a fair representation to say that we had an utterly brilliant time at Ignite. Great word of mouth, lovely full audiences who laughed and awwed and held their breath slightly in all the right places (and, most excitingly, in places which were entirely right but we hadn’t realised were there), an awesome review in Wildfire (the festival’s daily publication), people coming to see the show because they’d seen the scratch back in November and, just when we were back in London and in danger of coming down from our festival-sugar-rush, news that Albion Sky had been chosen for one of the Critics’ Choice awards as one of the Wildfire Five.

(If you’re really, really interested you can see all of that in our storify of what people said about Albion where it’s been handily gathered together for your – and indeed our parents – ease of reference.)

But that’s just half of what made Ignite so special. Chatting in bars with other theatremakers and the wonderful discounted tickets for performers to see shows in the festival and the buzz and excitement and the willingness of everyone to take risks and to see work as more of a journey of the company than as a one off piece and lemon meringue ice cream in the sunshine and Exeter being bloody beautiful and £3 doubles and dreaming up a new play idea at midnight and…I could go on but it would be sappy and it would probably require you to roll your eyes A LOT.

I’m sure I will return to Albion Sky and some of the things – as writers – that we learnt from it over the course of the rehearsal process and the festival and maybe it shall be serious and intelligent and make some sense.

But for now I’m just leaving you with how gloriously, heart-burstingly happy Ignite made us.

The List of Things That Made WBN Happy (Scarborough Edition)

Last week we (Corinne, Estelle and our splendid actor Andy) took Reasons For Listing up to Scarborough as part of the Scarborough Literature Festival. In keeping with the piece, therefore, we’re going to document the experience via a list of things that made us happy…photo (21)

Corinne teaching Andy about what happens when you put caramel waffles on top of coffee.

Andy taking approximately 60 seconds to “improve” the process by speeding up insulation of said caramel waffle with the aid of a coffee cup lid.

Line runs in Coach F. East Coast Trains – you are welcome.

Completing the Guardian Quick Crossword between York and Malton (and only, possibly, making up one word).

Tea and coffee making facilities in our hotel room.

The sea! The sea!

The sea! The sea!

Andy spending five minutes taking a photo of himself taking a photo of the view.

Seaside chips.

Getting soaked by a wave on our first walk by the sea front (this possibly made Andy happier than Corinne who spent the next 60 seconds yelling  “THIS IS INAPPROPRIATE” impotently in the direction of the sea).

Yorkshire-priced rounds.

Andy and Corinne timing meeting Estelle’s train to perfection.

Finding a cooked breakfast for under four pounds. (Sensing a theme here?)

Scarborough Literature FestivalHow lovely and well organised Scarborough Central Library was, including bringing us lots of tea.

Finding Joseph’s desk by the window in the reference area.

Having ten minutes post line run to entertain ourselves with The Books. (Estelle went for checking our surnames in “Who was Who” whilst Andy found out the origins of the word “Bristol”)

Our audience. Including them being the first to, en masse, say “hello” back to Joseph.Reasons @ Scarborough Library

Everyone who took the time to stay around afterwards to tell us something that made them happy, ask questions and talk about Joseph.Things That Make Us Happy...

Corinne’s friend Val taking charge and finding us a coffee shop for, well, coffee and cake and suchlike when Corinne, Andy and Estelle were partaking in what can only be described as faffing.

Scones and Jam and Cream.

Estelle and Corinne being humoured by the woman behind a handmade chocolate counter when they spent five minutes choosing 7 chocolates to take back to London for Charlie.

The area of Scarborough which we labelled “the charity shop quarter” and where Estelle found a new jacket and Andy came down with full-on-consumer-fever caused by a pair of brogues and a copy of Pride and Prejudice.


Estelle’s face at discovering the name of the ice cream parlour on Scarborough seafront (one for the 10th Doctor fans…)photo (22)

And then finding the TARDIS…photo (28)

Tea and quiet time in the hotel.

MECCA BINGO.photo (26)




Andy working out the “Bingo Maths”.

Going t’pub having not won anything at bingo and, for Andy and Corinne at least, partaking in MANY double shots of spirits.

Corinne getting the barman to agree to them staying in the pub a whole 40 minutes after he called last orders.

Going on a 1.00am adventure.

Standing on Scarborough beach at 1.15am and everything being just a little bit beautiful.

2.00am tea and trashy BBC3 tv.

Tea and teacakes for breakfast.

Spending too much time in a second hand book emporium.

Finally, finally, getting some proper Yorkshire fish and chips.photo (31)

And, did we mention the sea?photo (18)