Monday, 11 October 2010


It’s official – I am sick, sick, sick of spaghetti bolognese. As you may or may not be aware, Skylight (for which I am currently in rehearsals) requires me to cook on stage and create a meal of spag bol. Fortunately I am the only person required to eat it, as I believe it may taste nasty (I’m not the world’s best cook), but already the smell makes me queasy. It wasn’t my favourite meal to begin with, but I fear that cooking it several times a week, and it’s only going to get more frequent as the run approaches, is going to ruin the dish for me FOREVER. At the moment, at the end of each rehearsal, the director scoops up the results of my culinary experiments into his Tupperware and takes it home for his tea – I’m wondering how long it will be before he too is sick of the taste/smell/sight of it.

There are several practical considerations that have had to be overcome with this cooking-on-stage malarkey. For starters, the script requires me to chop an onion, but they make me weep and I can’t risk washing my contact lenses away in a flood of tears – so I am now using dried onions, which have to be soaked in boiling water and which, incidentally, smell extremely bad. I also have to chop a chilli pepper. The director has caved, finally, and provided green rather than red chillies. Seeing as in the second act I do have to eat some of the stuff, it’s vital to make it as mild as possible – a coughing fit would detract from the drama methinks (or perhaps add to it if I’m having an off night). But still, green chillies are hot to me – yesterday I was very careful during the scene not to put my fingers near my eyes or mouth once I’d finished with the chopping, but forgot when we were taking a break and had to run off sharpish for a glass of water. Talk about a situation ripe for disaster. We also nearly had a burning issue with the sauce and, although I am meant to ‘forget’ about the pasta boiling, I constantly have one eye slightly askance at the stove, just in case the water starts to erupt over the top of the pan. I am doing my best not to think about the myriad of things that could go wrong.

On another note, it’s been a while since I’ve spoken about The Mystery of Irma Vep, the play my friend Jackie and I are directing next year. Since I last wrote in June (can’t believe it’s that long ago!) things have moved on leaps and bounds. For starters, Jak, who is the queen of minutiae, did a marvellous job of a props list and a ‘dream’ budget. There tends to be a set budget at the theatre, regardless of the production, but thanks to Jak’s eye for detail we were able to prove that we would ideally need a slightly higher budget, in order to produce the play of our dreams, and we found out a week ago that it’s been granted. We had started to think of get-rich-quick schemes, including a bake sale in the foyer, but fortunately we, and the punters, will be spared this horror.

This is a huge weight off our minds, as we desperately wanted to be able to get some fantabulous costumes specially made. The play is a quick-change piece, with two male actors playing eight roles, including women – nearly all the costumes need to be adapted for quick-change and the dresses have to have ‘boobs and bums’ sewn into them. We’re setting it in the 1890s, which means floor-length hemlines, leg ‘o’ mutton sleeves and high necklines – in other words, a lot of fabric and a lot of expertise in their creation. All being well, we have found a willing costumier.

Not only do we need costumes, we also need costume doubles for rehearsals. The changes are such an integral part of the production that we want our actors to be able to rehearse in dress almost from week one. Because of this, we also needed to secure a much earlier audition date than would normally be needed, to give the costumier time to make the muslins before rehearsals start. Fortunately, we’ve managed to move the audition forward by a few months, which will give the costumier plenty of time to work her magic, and the actors a good amount of time to get familiar with their lines so they can be book-free asap and get to grips with their pretty frocks.

There’s so much to think about, and I don’t feel that I can give it my full attention at the moment due to Skylight. But the light is starting to show at the end of the tunnel for that. Come December I’ll be able to start concentrating on Irma V in earnest.

Also come December, I plan to start writing again. I had another rejection letter the other day, which was disappointing. They didn’t say why it wasn’t right for them, which leaves me in the dark somewhat, but them’s the breaks. I’m not disheartened – I never thought for one moment that this was going to be a walk in the park. I think, for now, I will swap over the stories that have been rejected and send them out again. I’m not sure they’re right for the publications, but I’d rather have them out in the world than not, and I’ve no time to write anything new at the moment. My poor brain is full to the rafters with lines and spaghetti-flippin’-bolognese.