Tales From Ovid: Day Six (Part Two)

Today is officially our day off from living in our shop in Brixton Village. Obviously, I still have a ‘to-do’ list the size of a small country but the fact that I didn’t have to get out of bed after only six and a half hours sleep has made the ‘to-do’ list infinitely more pleasant.

But rather than tell you about what I did today, I’m going to write about what Write By Numbers did yesterday during the ‘All The World’s A Stage’ event at Brixton Village.

8.45am: Finish typing up the day’s programme – after three days of performing two plays twice a day today we’re performing 4 plays twice, 1 play once and throwing in some music for good measure.  Eeek.

8.48am: Why is my printer cutting off half of the text that I am attempting to print?

8.50am: Tell printer off.

8.52am: Suitably chastised printer decides that it wants to work.

9.30am: Arrive in Brixton. Try and plug the hole in the universe which contains all the pens we have lost in the last week by buying some more.

9.45am: Nice man in Print Shop on Coldharbour Lane gives me a discount, what with the fact I’m currently single-handledly keeping the photocopying side of his business running.

10.00am: Rush to the shop as I have the key and had said I would be there fifteen minutes earlier.

10.03am: There is no one at the shop.

10.08am: Bang head on the SHUTTER as I am carrying chair out. Decide it might be a good idea to raise it slightly.

10.15am: Start writing today’s plays on the ‘A’ Board a job that is both repetitively numbing and thrillingly addictive.

10.18am: People arrive.

10.19am: Charlie bangs his head on the shutter which is now at 5ft 3 Corinne height rather than Charlie height.

10.20am: We decide to open the shutter completely before someone gets concussion.

10.22am: There is only £2 of electricity left in our meter! Forget things like our theatre lights, we’ve a heater and a kettle to run! This means going to a local off license and purchasing some more. Having never before been in charge of a top-up meter (is that what it is called? Does it have a special name?) this is, if not exciting exactly, something to tick off ‘I have never…’. Not a particularly thrilling ‘I have never’ but an ‘I have never’ nonetheless.

10.27am: The top-up machine in the first off license is not working!

10.30am: Suceed with second attempt and top up key.

10.35am: Erm, how do we get this key back into the meter again?

10.40am: The realisation dawns that we have a show on in twenty minutes and no actors.

10.45am: Ah, ACTORS.

10.47am: Photographer from Attitude Magazine wants to take photos of our shop. Oooh. Mini photoshoot begins.

10.48am: Chat with a very interesting artist who’s going to be exhibiting in the shop opposite us next week and the beginnings of a new plan are formed…

10.54am: Photoshoot continues. Sense that people are itching to set shop for the show which is due to start in 6 minutes.

10.55am: Shop cleared. Kettle switched on. Flyers have been given out.

10.57am: Cake is cut (lemon drizzle).

11.05am: Patrick Dunlea’s The Fall of Troy starts fashionably slightly late.

11.25am: The Fall of Troy finishes, there is more tea and cake and flyering.

11.30am: Erm, we’re missing another actor.

11.33am: See actor rush past me and feel not a little relief.

11.35am: Bump into Lovely Julia (as has now become her WBN blog name) who offers to announce our next performance over the tannoy. She asks what our pitch is. Answer? “Free tea, free coffee, free cake, free theatre – in that order”.

11.40am: One of our audience members found out about us by twitter! This is my second person in two days. Okay, not a flood exactly but this is why I scoff at artsy-people who don’t understand why they should be engaging on twitter. Plus, twitter just rocks.

11.45am: First performance today of she is beautiful, she is barefoot by Christopher Bailey begins. Or, as he is on the ‘A’ board since he is not around today to tell us off, Christopher Brett/Bailey.

11.48am: Arrggh, we’ve forgotten to put up our ‘contains swearing and some adult content’ sign.

12.05pm: I finally finish the second side of the ‘A’ Board having had to resort to using blue marker mid-way through as my black pen has disappeared into the hole of lost pens.

12.10pm: It’s quick SEATING CHANGE time as the staging for the next play in the space, Susan Hodgett’s Time of the Wolf, requires the audience to be seated inside the shop. We move cushions and crates and a bench all the while giving out cups of tea and coffee and what remains of the lemon drizzle cake.

12.20pm: Time of the Wolf begins.

12.25pm: Emily arrives with homemade Chocolate Cake!

12.27pm: We discover we’ve run out of flyers.

12.32pm: We’re asked if one of the musicians arranged by Space Makers can come and play in our shop since we have a pre-made audience.Yes!

12.38pm: Erm, where exactly did we put the master copy of today’s flyer?

12.40pm: SEATING CHANGE done, Tom and his guitar take the stage.

12.45pm: I rush out to buy more milk, more coffee and more cups (our policy of using mugs and washing them between shows is proving impossible unless someone is to be permenantly on washing up duty – note to self for next week).

12.57pm: Tom’s set comes to an end in a perfect meeting of our needing to set-up time.

12.59pm: Director Olly rounds the corner carrying a table that is almost bigger than him and has been loaned to us by one of the brilliant market restaurants.

1.03pm: Set up finished Skipping Games by Corinne Furness (erm, yes, cough, me) starts.

1.08pm: I give myself a couple of minutes to feel suitably happy and writerly at the size of the audience who appear to be engaged with the piece.

1.13pm: As I start the tea and coffee train again four people come over to say blush worthy things about Skipping Games. I do the horrible writerly thing of nodding and thanking without coming up with a vaguely coherent way to respond.

1.15pm: Mercury and Battus by Suzanne Jackson begins.

1.25pm: We have more flyers!

1.35pm: Set change again for final performance of she is beautiful. Remember to put our FOH signage up this time.

1.37pm: Make tea for the actors in Mercury and Battus who have the kind of tea-seeking facilities I can only admire.

1.45pm: Perfectly on time she is beautiful begins. With its music and shouting it’s the most crowd-drawing of all of our pieces and soon it’s difficult to move around the shop for fear of tripping over someone.


2.07pm: As Time of the Wolf is very family friendly we pull out lots of cushions  and soon the shop is half full of children.

2.12pm: There’s a palpable energy brought by the children as the show begins and it’s thrilling to see the actors work off of this.

2.17pm: A child makes a bid for stardom and goes running across the stage.

2.17pm and 5 seconds: Everyone in the production team stops holding their breath as the child is reunited with her father.

2.25pm: Clapping and distribution of cookies and tea.

2.26pm: A little girl tells Charlie that she wants to be part of the show. He promises her an audition.

2.30pm: I speak to a couple of today’s writers and am, once again, pleased to discover that they don’t want to make us delete their scripts from our computers.

2.40pm: I am expecting SEATING CHANGE but Olly has decided to try Skipping Games and Mercury and Battus with in-shop seating. Am, secretly, pleased we don’t have to move our bench again.

2.44pm: I overhear someone asking if Skipping Games is child friendly. Yes! I exclaim (Though maybe more for girls than boys, I confess). Again the cushions on the floor find their use.

2.55pm: Discover that a friend of mine arrived a couple of minutes into Skipping Games – when I go to get her some promised free cake, it has gone. I make noises about karma.

3.00pm: Our last play of the day, Mercury and Battus, begins and I contemplate having time to breathe again.

3.20pm: There is MORE cake. All is good with the world.

3.24pm: I make tea for and talk to a couple of Brixton locals who have stumbled upon today’s events – render myself utterly uncool by being thrilled at how excited they are about coming back next Saturday.

3.30pm: Talk to an illustrator and another idea is sparked…

3.37pm: SEATING CHANGE. We’ll be doing this in our sleep.

3.40pm: We have music. Dan Mays and Geoff Bartholomew take to the stage to perform ‘Metamorphoses’ which they have created specially for us.

3.45pm: Charlie grabs me – there is to be an impromptu jam in our shop with all of the musicians who have appeared in various places throughout the day.

4.00pm: Our shop is now a gig venue as people fill every available space.

4.10pm: I take my first break of the day and go and get something to eat. Hmm. Probably should remember to do this at an earlier point in future.

4.35pm: When I arrive back at the shop music has finished but people are still milling around, chatting and filling in labels for our ‘Wall of Change’. I speak to a lovely man from Brixton Transition who is both full of compliments and of helpfulness. It’s a winning combination.

4.45pm: We stick the last labels to the wall.

4.47pm: What’s that? Ah, yes washing up.

4.50pm: And it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have SEATING CHANGE.

5.00pm: Ponder if we’ve forgotten anything.

5.01pm: Start to close the shutter.

5.01pm and 10 seconds: Have a panic we’ve left the heater turned on.

5.02pm: We haven’t.

5.05pm: Close our shutters for the day. Fight desire to collapse in a heap or go immediately to bed and instead go have a celebratory drink.

5.07pm: Realise we have to do this all again next week.

Brixton Village Transformation

If I’ve been a little quiet over here recently then it’s been for good reason. The last few weeks have had rehearsals and workshops and meetings and applications. There was even a day or two when it looked like Charlie was going to cancel Christmas.

More than all that, however, has been the fact that we’ve been waiting until we could announce our latest project and, having had confirmation of our dates today, this means I’m officially allowed to write about it on here.

From Monday 25th January until Saturday 6th February 2010 Write By Numbers will be participating in what is currently the UK’s largest empty shops project and taking over a shop in Brixton Village Market. Taking our inspiration from Ovid’s Metamorphoses we’re going to turn the shop into a grotto of live performance and interaction, staging short adaptations of and responses to Ovid’s stories of love, hope, terror and transformation.

We’re a writer-centric company but we also want to encourage writers to work in unsual ways or form unsual connections so not only will our writers have to work to the space, we’re also encouraging cross-art form collaboration and participation, with performers, spoken word artists, musicians and visual artists (to name a few) being invited to take part.

In addition we’ll be encouraging Brixton community (and indeed anyone who feels like wandering into our shop) to take part in the transformation of the space, contributing to our wall of change. We’ve also got a couple of other ideas we’re hoping will slot into place (including some workshops and the opportunity to create your own writing for performance) which we’ll announce as we finalise details.

I’ve been excited about the Brixton Village Market project since I first heard about it just over a month ago. There’s a real energy and commitment to regenerating and reimagining a space where (at present) 20 shops remain empty. And this isn’t just about a temporary plaster for the area, but a means of showing a viable, alive location with either projects proving themselves sustainable or the location becoming atttractive to other businesses.

For Write By Numbers it’s a chance to try something we wouldn’t have the resources to do elsewhere (our ‘shop’ will be open full business hours, Monday-Saturday), pulling performance outside of an auditorium and giving writers and theatre-makers the opportunity to do something completely different. Because why shouldn’t you be able to do your shopping and then pop into a ten minute performance?

The result of all of this? We’ve got seven weeks to create the project before we open our shop for the first time…