“One of my university professors, who was also a poet, used to say that there was only one real question to be asked about any work, and that was: is it alive or is it dead? I happen to agree, but in what does this aliveness or deadness consist? The biological definition would be, that living things grow and change, and can have offspring, whereas dead things are inert. In what way can a text grow and change and have offspring?”Margaret Atwood: Negotiating with the Dead
Photo – with Henrik Ekeus, Composer ‘CLICKWIND’ Atrium, University of Bradford 2007.
Thanks to Simon Warner for permission to use most of the photos on this website.
My writing process (for live performance, radio original or dramatised plays, headphone shows and site-specific commissions) consistently looks for unique structures inherent in the project material – its themes and relationship to structures – and the project venue.
From the cast/chorus-based exploration of personal identity in Brontë’s Villette at Sheffield Theatres (1997) through the hypertext creation of Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden (2003) which enabled simultaneous, interwoven action to be precisely choreographed around a garden, allowing the audience to roam at will, I am most at home in cross art form collaboration, where it embraces the paramount values of narrative and well-worked, unified text, and humour.
For example, Clickwind (2007/Guardian Pick of the Week for two weeks) in the University of Bradford’s Atrium, and surrounding urban landscape, evoked and explored through words, live performance and sound composition the cultural tensions between inclusion and exclusion, between the interior world of the body, and the exterior one of technological control.
It was a development of the Edinburgh Festival headphone piece Ghost (2006), which blurred the boundaries between ‘real’ and ‘performance’ directly in the minds of the solitary audience member as they wandered through our Leith installation.
I am constantly searching for challenging cross-art form collaborations and new ways of using words that bring the physical into vocal form, and cross boundaries.
Following a scholarship in 2006 to explore dance in Canada with international solo artist Margie Gillis, and an invitation to work with the ground-breaking Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance at Huddersfield University in 2007, I began initiating projects of my own which will seek new ways of integrating language with physicality and explore new forms and structures for the spoken word.
This has now flourished as a company, Whitestone Arts, modest sister company of the now eye-wateringly successful Fifty Nine Productions, established by Leo Warner. Where text is needed in 59 Projects, I am sometimes asked to collaborate on making it flow with the visuals and fit the venue.
Whitestone Arts is based at our residential home farmhouse/studio/sleeping quarters and as well as our own process, supports, in particular, development and work for newly qualified young artists of all disciplines.
Process fascinates me far more than product and I include exposure to audiences in the business of process. Would they were allowed into the process from the start of putting any work on its feet.
With the exception of Queueing For Everest, my plays are not published, because the scripts are constantly in development.
Life in a piece is all that matters: an intrinsic sense of the organic in a project which all (well, most) of those participating feel instinctively, and contribute to.
Better the show not be done, than done when dead on delivery.
It’s an issue of biology for me, not the well-made, intellect-based script sanctioned by Aristotle and McKee who, oddly, seem to think a line hemmed in by rules long moribund, with a beginning, middle and end is somehow ‘organic’.
Closure? The (his)story as prison? I prefer Opensure, growth and change.
Excerpts from the live and theatre texts are available on this website, and full texts at their current stages can be requested from me.
Born Birmingham UK
Secondary education: Orton Longueville Grammar School, Peterborough
Degree: BA Hons. (English) Cambridge University
Post Grad: Teaching Certificate in English&Drama, Bretton Hall
Member of: Drama Panel – Yorkshire Arts
Member of Pen – worldwide association of writers defending freedom of expression
1995-6: Script reader for the National Theatre
1997-2002: Script reader for Sheffield Theatres
1996: Lecturer in adaptation and Victorian literature: Bronte Society and University of Leeds
1997-8: Playwright in Residence, Sheffield Theatres
2000: Playwright in Residence, University of Sheffield.
2007 onwards: Affiliated Playwright in Residence for University of Huddersfield Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance
Awards, Funding & Workshops
AWARDS AND FUNDING
2008 January – May 2009
ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND (YORKSHIRE) Research Grant
To explore a language for the production of The Loves of Lady Purple by Angela Carter with puppeteers, video designers, dancers, voice and music specialists at the University of Huddersfield Drama Department
2007: Dancing with Margie Gillis
SUSAN SMITH BLACKBURN MEMORIAL PRIZE
1998: Finalist – Burdalane
1999: Finalist – The Bone Room (special commendation plus New York presentation)
2001: Finalist – Queueing for Everest.
1998 / 9: Open commission from National Theatre Studio for The Bone Room Project (Fool’s Mate)
2001: two month attachment for The Bone Room Project (Black Queen).
ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND (YORKSHIRE)
2004: Combined Arts Funding – for Sweet Fanny Adams in Hyperspace Eden (through Fifty Nine Ltd)
2004-5: Writer’s Bursary, for Career Development
2002: Research and Development grant with 59 Ltd to explore 4-dimensional text lay-out on computer for site-specific garden project Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden
2002: Research and Development grant for website composition of text for Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden
2002: Writer’s Bursary for Black Queen.
2001: Research and Development grant for Daguerre
2001: Making grant for The Bone Room Project.
1999: Writer’s Bursary for Fools Mate
1998: Writer’s Bursary for The Bone Room
1997-8: Writer In Residence, Sheffield Theatres
SCOTTISH ARTS COUNCIL
2004: Visual Arts Funding – for Sweet Fanny Adams in Hyperspace Eden (through Fifty Nine Ltd)
2002: Personal Development Funding for exploring garden design and personnel in Scotland for Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden
2001-3: Commission: Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden for Stellar Quines.
2000: Writer in Residence, University of Sheffield (4 months)
1994-7: Education Officer, Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth. Brief – to create and run a new education service including drama and English projects with local schools (awarded A4E grant, sponsorship from Penguin Books and National Barclay’s Awards for teacher placement)
University of Huddersfield Drama Department 2007: Tutor on MA course in Writing for Performance and MA course in Ensemble Physical Theatre.
Also own workshops hosted by the department.
Adult education lecturer on Drama and the Brontes for the University of Leeds.
Project with the University of Sheffield drama department 1999-2000 – on the staging of a new play at the Crucible. AHRB funding applied for to continue work with students, autumn 2000. HoD: Dr Dominic Shellard.
Bradford, Theatre-in-the-Mill: Week-end workshop exploring the playwright’s place in live performance.
Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden: Public workshops with the Stellar Quines Theatre Company in 2001 and 2002 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.
Burdalane: Monstrous Regiment workshop led by Lily Todd; Yorkshire Playwrights workshop led by John Doyle; National Studio one-week workshop led by Abigail Morris; Reading of radio version at Sheffield Theatres led by Steve Wrentmore
Villette: Two-week Gulbenkian funded workshop at Sheffield Theatres Studio (led by Deborah Paige) prior to the writing of the adaptation.
The Bone Room: devising workshops with Theatre Alba led by Janet Gordon and Nike Imoru; One-week workshop at Sheffield Theatres Studio to explore promenade with invited audience, led by Nike Imoru.
Queueing For Everest: Initial one-week workshop funded by Sheffield Theatres to explore themes, research, five character monologues and methods of inter-disciplinary working; One-week American Angel funded workshop to explore first draft and include students in the ongoing development of audience interface in a promenade situation.
Role of the Playwright for Off The Shelf Literary Festival, Sheffield. Practical workshop, November 30th 2002
Adaptation with Richard Hurford. Funded by Yorkshire Playwrights
Adaptation of Wuthering Heights – text to stage with students from Raffles College, Singapore
One-to-one discussions with playwrights, developing texts for dramatised readings