I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle based on the novel by Dodie Smith Book and lyrics Teresa Howard music Steven Edis

Friday, 28 December 2007

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

WE DID NOT GET THE ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND GRANT

After a years work, fufilling all the requests that ACE threw at me, the answer which came just in time for Christmas was:

"Insufficient Priority. Our funds are limited and we had more good applications than we could fund. Although your application met the criteria, we had to make difficult choices about which applications to support."

I could not dwell on any of this. I had to make Christmas magical for my three children. This was my priority.

Next week, when everyone is back at work the real work will begin because the show must go on.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

GENIE, GENIE OF THE LAMP!

I went to the Oxford Playhouse Aladdin last week - it was a delight! The director was the brilliant Peter Duncan, who also co-wrote the script with Chris Jordan. Simon Green, who played Widow Twankie, the dame, was almost unrecognisable in real life! His comic timing was superb and the rest of the cast were also impeccable. I did get sprayed with foam and water but sadly did not manage to catch any of the sweets. It was interesting that Aladdin was not played by a girl but somehow Simon's stately presence was enough cross dressing for one show.

It was wonderful to meet Tish Frances at last! She took me out for a fantastic lunch after the show, to talk about the future of POSSESSED. We even managed to wander over to the Oxford Union to have a look at the Pre-Raphaelite murals afterwards. Oxford looked hauntingly Christmassy in the dim evening light but I still managed to find Janey's birthplay in St Helen's Passage. This was a lump in the throat moment because I realised that it was just down the alley from the Turf Tavern, where I used to work, and must have passed it so many times.

I am still waiting for the ACE response!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

DEAR FATHER CHRISTMAS...

ACE have told me that we will hear whether we have got the grant or not by Christmas.

It is more than a year ago that Jemima Lee first spoke to me and told me she had seen the Greenwich Showcase and suggested we apply for a development grant. It will be a very special moment for musical theatre if we do get this grant in the end. Hopefully it will mean more composers and lyricist will get the opportunity to work together in this country, rather than having to go to the USA to get a break!

Friday, 7 December 2007

A PERFECT DICK!


Steve is MD on Hackney Empire's Dick Whittington and his cat....and it is a triumph!!!
"Look no further - for this is panto perfection"
said Fiona Mountford of the evening Standard (06.12.07). She continues "Is it too early to declare the game over? Can a winner really be announced, and the prize chocolates hurled out, by 6 December? It's hard, though, to see anyone, not even Stephen Fry and his "posh panto" chums at the Old Vic, bettering this utterly delightful confection from writer/director Susie McKenna."

Paul Vale from the Stage (06.12.07) is equally entranced: "From the moment Fairy Bowbells flies on stage swathed in gold, aping Rhianna’s Umbrella you knew you were in for a fun evening, Hackney style. All the usual ingredients are in place to ensure this frothy confection rises to the occasion. Clive Rowe is spot on as London’s premiere dame, immediately bonding with his audience and raising the roof with cheeky asides or simply a pursing of his lips. Tameka Empson brings the whole audience to their feet with her reggae dance routine and Tony Whittle as Fitzwarren blends in an old-style variety flavour to the proceedings...... To date, this is writer/director Susie McKenna’s ninth panto for the Empire and long may she continue. Which other show in town will you find Ian McKellen and Barbara Windsor, no stranger to a panto stage themselves, dancing along to the song sheet in the stalls?"

I can't wait to go!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

RETURN TO OXFORD


Everyone is running round like Widow Twanky getting their Christmas panto’s on. I feel quite panto-less but am looking forward to seeing Dick Whittington at the Hackney Empire before Christmas and also hope to see the Oxford Playhouse Aladdin, directed by Peter Duncan.

My quest to answer the ACE questions has been very productive, in the end. We have a date for the showcase, at the Oxford Playhouse, between 31st March and 6th April!

It feels right that it should be Oxford, in so many ways. Apart from being the birthplace of Janey, and being very important to the musical, Oxford holds a very special place in my heart. I spent a blissful year there in a theatre company, improvising, performing and writing lyrics and scripts. We performed at the Old Fire Station Theatre and I lived in Summertown in a house with 16 Americans. We got our accommodation free and £5 a week to live on. I worked in a pub (I can’t remember its name now) to earn some extra money. It was the last acting job I did and was a turning point for me - a choice between being a writer or an actress. I loved acting, and have played a few parts since, but I know I made the right choice! So I will be returning, after all these years.

Richard Lee at the Jerwood Space has been very patient waiting for our ACE verdict and has even agreed to change the tentative dates we had booked with him, so that they fit the Oxford Playhouse dates. We have also got interest from a touring company, which is marvellous and it will make all the difference to the Arts Council, I am sure.

I delivered my letter with the answers and a letter from Tish Francis to the Arts Council desk myself on Friday.

Monday, 26 November 2007

ARTS COUNCIL QUESTIONS

I received an email from the Arts Council asking me to answer three questions concerning the application we have submitted for a grant for the musical. We only have until 3rd of December to come up with the answers, which is not long. I am going to do my best.

I have started the round of phone calls, emails and script sending out again.

I had some very nice emails from the director Guy Retallack, who works for Bill Kenwright's company, but I think it very doubtful that the Kenwright Company will take us on. He has asked to see the next draft of the script so I shall send it to him.

It isn't easy, making art!!

Friday, 23 November 2007

WRITERS' GUILD AWARD FOR CLIVE PAGET

The Writers' Guild held their inaugural Encouragement Award Lunch in the Pit bar at the Old Vic Theatre today. I nominated Clive Paget for his unstinting support for POSSESSED, and wonderfully he received one of the awards. We had a very jolly time at the lunch, which was superb, both for conversation and food! I met some really nice people, and it was especially good to meet David the chairman of the Guild Theatres Committee, and hear his stories about New York.

It is so wonderful to be able to "officially" thank someone for having stood by you and your work for years. We all had to give impromptu speeches and I think I said something about him being my "security blanket", which he has been. What he saw in that first draft I sent him when he was Artistic Director at the Bridewell, I really don’t quite know, it bears very little resemblance to the musical play now sitting on my desk. But without his belief in it I would never have got this far. It was fantastic that he was able to direct the Greenwich showcase, even though he was working at the National by then. Working at the National Studio with Steve at my side was an amazing experience, especially because we had such brilliant actors bringing the characters and the songs to life and Clive's insightful direction .

Clive and I talked with David about that special teacher people often have, the one who inspires you and believes in you. To be honest I think Clive has given me more than any of my teachers and I will carry that with me always.

Monday, 19 November 2007

OXFORD



Jane was born in 1839 in St Helen’s Passage just off Holywell, in Oxford. It was a slum area known as Hell’s Passage. There are numerous descriptions of how she first met the Pre-Raphaelites but they all say that she met them at the theatre in Oxford in 1857.

Jane was eventually persuaded to pose for Rossetti at his lodgings in George Street. He wanted her to sit for a sequence of studies of Guenevere for the Arthurian frescoes he was creating at the Oxford Union with his new acolytes, including the young William Morris. Rossetti did not remain painting Jane for long - his fiancĂ©, Lizzie Siddal called him to her sick bed. Morris took over where his friend left off and began painting Jane as Iseult, but had little aptitude for figurative painting. On the back of the painting he wrote “I cannot paint you but I love you”. Whatever Jane may have felt for Rossetti, he had a fiance and Morris was a wealthy man who seemed to love her passionately. As a poverty stricken girl who was only considered a beauty by Rossetti and his friends and who had compromised her reputation by modelling for artists there was nothing else she could do but accept Morris’s proposal, whether she cared for him or not.

Jane and Morris’s engagement was announced in the spring of 1858. Morris went off on holiday to France with Philip Webb and Charley Faulkner for some months after the engagement, during which time it has been thought that Jane went through some sort of grooming to prepare her for life as Morris’s wife.

Jane and William were married at St Michael’s Parish Church in Oxford on 26th April 1859. There is no record of the Morris family attending the wedding. Jane’s father and sister signed the marriage register. From that day forward her life was changed irrevocably.

Above is a view of the corner of Holywell Street, Oxford, photographed in 1880. William Morris would have seen Oxford just like this on 15th August 1880, when he stopped over for the night on his journey down the Thames on a boat he called “the Ark”. Jane had travelled down to Kelmscott by rail where she waited patiently for him to arrive.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

DICK WHITTINGTON


Steve is rehearsing for the new Hackney Empire panto. This year it is “Dick Whittington and His Cat”, and promises to be a spectacular barrel of laughs. It runs from 1st December until 12th January and bookings can be made via the website at www.hackneyempire.co.uk

The cast includes Olivier award-winning Clive Rowe, playing Sarah the cook and Hannah Jane Fox (most recently seen playing Scaramouche in We Will Rock You) playing Dick.

I will be there, cheering and clapping in all the wrong places as usual, and enjoying every minute, much to the embarrassment of my children!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

Stephanie Pina has a wonderful blog site dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelite women at: http://preraphaelitesisterhood.com

I discoverd on her site that a blue plaque went up on 22nd October, to mark Jane Burden's birthplace. This is Stehanie's quote from the Oxford Mail:

"The beauty of an Oxford “stunner” will be celebrated for all time - following the unveiling of a plaque in her honour.

The blue plaque marks the site of the former slum where Jane Burden was born in 1839.

Jane, wife of the artist, poet and designer William Morris, became the 19th century equivalent of a pin-up girl, after posing as Queen Guinevere in the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and others.

The plaque was unveiled in St Helen’s Passage, which leads from New College Lane to the Turf Tavern, in Oxford city centre."

If you want to find out anything about the Pre-Raphaelite women please go to this site, it is absolutely fabulous!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

LIMELIGHT


I am interested to find out any more evidence of what took place on that first meeting between Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Burden at the theatre in Oxford. From what I have read it is assumed that Gabriel saw her in the gallery, from his place in the stalls. It would be difficult to see anyone in the gallery very well, even if they were tall, especially with the dim victorian gas lighting. All eyes would be on the stage, not looking back towards the gallery. Although biographers presume that Jane was probably in service at the time of their meeting, there is also no actual evidence to back this up, as far as I know.

I had an idea, like a thunderbolt, this morning - perhaps Jane was not a member of the audience - was she perhaps involved with the theatre in some way? Did she secretly long to be an actress? Did she watch every play on at the theatre?

Having the talent of an actress would explain so much - her ability to perform so well in social situations, her linguistic skill in both changing her Oxfordshire accent and learning other languages, and the breadth of her literary knowledge in Shakespeare and Dickens from the very start of her relationship with Morris. She even called Morris a Philistine because he did not like opera or music very much. She was described as "queenly", which seems odd for a woman who began life as a maid, even Nelson's Emma Hamilton never made such a brilliant transformation.

Jane, sits as women from history in so many of Gabriel's paintings... more than any of his other models. Some of the characters she portrayed were: Bruna Brunelleschi, Astarte, Aurea Catena, Beatrice, Proserpine, Desdemona, Isolde, Guenevere, Mariana, Mnemosyne, Pandora, Gretchen, Lady Macbeth and Princess Sabra.

Jane Burden's acting skills seem to be one of the things that drew Rossetti to her, for only she could bring to life so many of the women from history who inspired him. Above is a pencil drawing by Rossetti circa 1875 entitled The Death of Lady Macbeth. In the Catalogue Raisonne no name is given for the model in this drawing, but it is clearly Jane.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

LEGATURI DE SANGE - Spirit of the Muse in Romania


In my quest to understand the nature of the muse I recently found myself in Romania at an amazing art exhibition which is running until 30th November in Bucharest at the Libraria Carturesti on Str. Pictor Artur Verona nr. 13. On the right is a multimedia painting by Ilinca Cantacuzino, from the exhibition, entitled "Ghost" and is the face of her grandfather.

The exhibition is called LEGATURI DE SANGE (In the Blood) and is a joint exhibition between British born Romanian multimedia artist Ilinca Cantacuzino and her grandfather George Matei Cantacuzino. Ilinca never met her grandfather, a Romanian aristocrat who spent many years in prison. "He died when I was six years old. In a way this has enabled him to become my muse" she told me. Looking at her work in the exhibition, it is clear that his spirit not only haunts her paintings in the form of his image but also the colours, the concern with time and memory and the enormous depth of feeling which emanates from these works bond them together with more than blood. This exhibition is unique - two artists, but one is dead and neither knew each other.

Ilinca says that it is "a symbiosis - through which another phenomenon appears: the muse! It actively demonstrates the subconscious dialogue an artist always has in order to create - but here it is with another artist from another time. It proves the undeniable fact that artists operate in one sense from a deeper level which is beyond the immediate time."

Ilinca's relationship with her grandfather has helped me to understand Rossetti's relationship with Lizzie Siddal, whom he continued to paint long after she was dead. Her spirit haunted his work and his mind for the rest of his life. Rossetti was well aware that he always wanted what he could not have. This sense of longing and yearning affects the artist in a creative way, helping them to transform uncontrollable emotion into art and thereby coming closer to the love they long for. Rossetti could never truly have Jane Burden but this helped her to become the channel through which he could connect to the images of women like Proserpine and Astarte - women from another time. For as Ilinca says, this connection is timeless.

The muse produces a "crystillization" process in the artist. In the darkness of yearning, something bright and beautiful appears, almost as if by magic.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

BEHIND THE PAINT


I have been sending out copies of the new POSSESSED script to producers and directors.

I am amazed that I can still slip back into the world of the musical again and write for the characters as if it were the first time, but somehow this is possible. It is as if they were contained within a room in my mind and I only need to revisit it to see and hear them again. The most important thing that came out of all this was that Jane, the main character, has more of a voice now than she ever had before. The research into the story produced less of her character than anyone else. She had been hidden behind the artists and their world. Even Lizzie Siddal had more of a voice than she did, through her art and poetry.

Although the Jane I have written about is based on my research, there were far more decisions I had to make about the choices she made in her life, why she made them and how she felt. It was not enough to take on face value the woman the artists were trying to portray because the woman they painted was an ideal and not her. Even the photographs of her were very posed. Many of the people who met her and wrote about her, like Henry James and George Bernard Shaw, were writing about the carefully constructed social persona that she performed for the outside world. The closest I came to discovering the real woman, was through the writing of her other lover, Wilfred Scawen Blunt.

Luckily, I have never stopped liking Jane. When I was working on GROCk, (based on the life of the clown), I began to grow disenchanted with him. He was interesting, but I did not really like him as a person by the end. Sitting, chained to a desk in Petersfield, doing rewrites for the Chichester production I felt as if I had brought some monstrous creature to life. I don't think I will ever feel this about Jane Burden.

Above is the picture Rossetti painted of her, entitled Water Willow, dated 1871, now owned by the Delaware Art Museum. In the background to the left you can just see Kelmscott Manor.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

TALENT AND PASSION

I have just heard from Chris Grady, one of the people who was so helpful when I was working on the Arts Council application. He has just returned from New York, where he was attending the NAMT (National Alliance for Musical Theatre) and NYFT (New York Musical Theatre Festival) festivals. It is festivals like this that help new musical writers to start out on the road to success in the USA. These organisations hold workshops and masterclasses too, before exposing their raw talent to the audience. Chris is in the process of setting up The Quest Foundation, to support new musical theatre in Britain. On the front page of his foundation proposal is a quote from the great Kurt Weill:

"I believe that the musical theatre is the highest, the most expressive and the most imaginative form of theatre, and that a composer who has a talent and passion for the theatre can express himself completely in this branch of musical creativeness"

I have a feeling that this opinion is not shared by everyone in the theatre world in this country. Given the right conditions, and enough support, it could be true.

Monday, 22 October 2007

THE RELUCTANT ARTIST

I am thinking about the muse idea again. What is the difference between a muse and someone who just influences us? Is the difference some magical substance?

My writer friend Antony Mason, agrees that a muse correlates to 'unobtainable desires of one kind of another' but that this is why "many people keep quiet about them (and others can only speculate). Influences are a different thing, of course -- but all are important in goading the (ever-reluctant) artist into productivity." Perhaps it is this goading which is the important element. Why do artists have to ascribe the desire to create to an outside force?

I have known for a long time that my desire to write, which came from a very early age, was a way of translating emotions I found too difficult to deal with in the real world. Somehow, by removing these feelings into poetry, plays, music and lyrics makes them more bearable. But where does the reluctance to work come from? I think it is the fear of facing the feelings in order to translate them... this can be a painful process and one we fear as much as we desire.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

"DON'T BEND IT!!"

The last push to get the ACE application done came on Friday. I was exhausted from sitting up half the night working on the detailed expenses sheet, which has to accompany the Application Form. It was the dreadful Excel program, not the figures, which made the final draft almost impossible. When I put in the VAT some pence were included. These have to be hidden, because they stipulate there mustn’t be any - then the figures didn’t add up. I had a lot of fiddling around to do before this would all work and some extra help from my IT wiz Charles, but managed it in the end.

There were some hurried emails to the Stage Management Association and a few other companies for up to date fee quotes. Then a call from Tish, at the Oxford Playhouse, put my mind at rest about a few other queries.

The proposal was almost thirty pages long and more like a dissertation than a request for a grant. Jemima Lee told me not to worry about length, it was important to get everything in. I think they are going to regret it!

I felt quite sick in the post office, and nearly forgot to enclose the CD. “Don’t bend it!” I implored, almost hysterically, to the postmistress as she grabbed at the precious envelope. “My life’s in there.”

Well, it’s done now, and the twelve week wait begins.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

MERCURY MUSICAL DEVELOPMENTS

I have rejoined MMD (Mercury Musical Developments). This is one of the few societies set up to support musical theatre writers and composers in this country. Over the last couple of years I have had little time to be part of anything because there has been so much to do on POSSESSED, but now I feel the need to belong again. The salon evenings they run are extremely helpful and interesting. I am hoping to get the Arts Council proposal in by the end of the week and it will be useful to practise my craft while I am waiting for the ACE results, which take twelve weeks.

When I first joined MMD I got the chance to have a master class with John Sparks at the Old Vic. John is the Artistic Director of the Theatre Building Chicago and the Academy of New Musical Theatre in LA. It was terribly exciting to have. not only the book, but also the music and lyrics criticised by such an experienced practitioner. My lyrics had never been discussed in a technical way before and I have been able to analyse what I do in a far more informed way since then.

The society also runs workshops and master classes with a whole host of other brilliant people, from all walks of musical theatre including Francis Matthews, Jeremy Sams, Mark Warman, David Wood and Stiles and Drewe. The next MMD Salon is on 15th November and is about Musical Theatre Development in the USA. I have put it in my diary and hope to attend. The USA is bursting with new musical theatre talent, but they have a history of nurturing it. As the theatrical genre that is one the highest earners in the West End it seems rather odd that we, as a nation, do not do more to encourage this art form.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

KELMSCOTT MANOR


Steve and I had a script meeting yesterday, to discuss the new draft of the book. Then we went off to meet Sally Sandys-Renton, a fascinating woman, who grew up at Kelmscott Manor. Kelmscott is a late 16th Century limestone manor house near Lechlade, where Jane Burden sat for many of Rossetti's paintings. Two of the most important scene's in the musical take place there.

Sally's family lived on and off at Kelmscott from 1965 onwards - primarily in Garden Cottage - though
sometimes in the Manor. Her Father was instrumental in geting the Manor restored with the expert help of the Architect Donald Insall, and Peter Locke. Above is a photograph by Charles Girdham of the house as it is today. I have visited Kelmscott three times over a number of years and was struck by the magic of the place. It was thrilling to talk to Sally, who spent her childhood there, and she was almost as obsessed with the Pre-Raphaelites as I am! She has always felt the lingering presence of Jane, Morris and Rossetti at the old house by the Thames.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A MUSING AGAIN

I have just read a fascinating book by Julia Forster called MUSES. Forster links different creator and muse relationships throughout the book, like the exotic muse relationships of Salvador and Gala Dali and Henry Miller and Anais Nin. She goes on to analyse the power of these relationships through philosophy and physics to try and explain the magic of the muse in a contemporary and scientific way.

I bought the book at the Tate when I went to the Millais opening with Pippa Graber. Pippa runs ARTDOG an artist based company which represents artists in South East London. Pippa's theory about creativity is that the artist is only a channel, and so she cannot stand the idea of celebrity artists and actors...it is misplaced admiration. She thinks this is why a lot of "famous" artists had all their personal letters and notes destroyed before death. Knowing the actor/artist almost diminishes the art. This is also why art training is SO important: to hone the channel. She also believes that the Muse, on the other hand, can be far more interesting being the actual source through which the art flows.

A snatched lunch with mixed media artist Ilinca Cantacuzino at the Dartmouth Arms also ended up as a discussion about the idea of the muse. Ilinca is about to have an exhibition of her work in Bucharest, along with that of her grandfather George Matei Cantacuzino. It is called IN THE BLOOD and runs from 1st to 30th November at the Libraria Carturesti, Str. Pictor Artur Verona nr. 13, Bucuresti. The spirit of Ilinca's grandfather has been her muse while she's been working on her collection for the exhibition. She feels that the fact that she never knew her grandfather, George Matei, has enabled him to remain a pure source of inspiration, unsullied by an earthly relationship as a granddaughter. In a series of her notebook drawings his face appears over and over again, haunting the pages of her work.

Most of the well known personifications of muses have been women... however, of course, for a female artist a muse is usually a man. To quote Julia Forster it is love which "bonds the artist and muse together - sometimes across continents, often beyond words and occasionally, in spite of each other". It appears to be a love, which has unobtainable desires of one kind or another.

I would be interested to hear anyone else's views on what they think a muse is and their experiences.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

TALENT TO A MUSE


Jane's role as the Muse in POSSESSED is central to the musical and so it has been important to understand the concept. Rossetti painted her as Mnemosyne, the personification of memory and mother of the Greek muses. Poets receive their powers by possessing Mnemosyne and their relationship to the muses, her nine daughters, fathered by Zeus. The words that accompany the painting are:

"Thou fill'st from the winged challice of the soul
Thy lamp, O memory, fire-winged to its goal."

The painting is curiously erotic, Jane stands holding a lamp in one hand (which looks more like a golden pepper grinder or some erotic tool) and a winged chalice in the other. This painting was originally called rememberance and was begun as a study for Astarte Syriaca. Rossetti believed it was one of his best works although it is probably the Proserpine painting we remember him for now. The pansy at the bottom of the painting is an artistic symbol for memory but it was also the code Jane used to invite Rossetti to her room, by leaving a pansy on his bed. She did the same thing with Wilfred Scawen Blunt, a lover she turned to later in her life.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

ART OF MAKING ART


After the last few intensive writing days I think the Proposal for the Arts Council is ready. I have shown them a draft and they also think it is in a fit state to be seen by the GFTA (Grants For The Arts) panel and they said that the creative and project descriptions are strong. However, I have also been advised to articulate ACE's priorities and objectives that the application meets. It is not enough to have them embedded in the Proposal. I have spent a lot of time reading through all these Arts Council documents again and putting quotes into the Proposal. They think we have a lot to contribute in terms of possible audience reach of the final piece, and also in terms of the creative economy behind musical theatre. But I have also attempted to address the internal thinking that ACE has been doing in terms of how they support the development of new musical theatre. I am very aware that we are setting a precedent and must get it right.

I now only have a few bits of fiddling around to do with the detailed expense pages. They are written on an Excel program, which is renowned for its complicated style. I have been shown how to do it quite a few times, but things still go wrong and I end up with loads of codes all over the page and have to keep clicking the escape button and swearing loudly.

Oh to get back to the actual writing for the musical again! I feel as if the characters are sitting in the corner of my study feeling neglected, but this job has to be done in order to bring them to life.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

ACE HIGH

Today I have been working on the detailed expenses for my Arts Council proposal. It's extremely exacting work for someone who is hopeless at maths. I have to work out what each section of the project is, how long it will take, who and what is involved and how much everything will cost.

I never realised when I first embarked on this challenge how much work it would entail. However, I have learned an enormous amount on the way. I've listened to a lot of advice from the Arts Council officers, my agent Micheline Steinberg, Clive Paget, Chris Grady (Musical Theatre Matters) and numerous other people, who have really gone out of their way to help. Steve and I have always felt a sense of hope because, rather than dreaming up the idea of approaching the Arts Council, it was they who suggested we apply. Jemima Lee, who has now left ACE to work with Box Clever Theatre, came to see the showcase at Greenwich and was my guide through the first stages.

I have contacted almost all the regional theatres in the country that have a resident theatre company and there seems to be a lot of interest. I've also called hundreds of charities and funding bodies from the Funding for the Arts Guide. Only being an individual makes any possibility of funding from one of these companies almost impossible. To work out what people should be paid on the project I have had to contact: The Writers' Guild, The Musicians' Union, Actors' Equity, the Independent Theatre Council, Mercury Musical Developments and a whole host of other people. Tish Francis, the Artistic Director at the Oxford Playhouse has been an enormous support and just knowing that she believes in the project has also been something that has kept me going.

I realise now that what has happened while I have been doing this is that I have accrued a network of contacts I did not have at the beginning. But you have to aim high and have a very steady hand if you want a bull’s eye. I am hoping to get the proposal finished by the end of next week and then the long twelve-week wait will begin. I think this process is a lot harder than people imagine and I am hoping that ACE will invest in our project because at this stage a musical needs all the support it can get. Lyn Gardner, from the Guardian pointed out " that the money that the government gives to the arts is not a handout but an investment. The arts gives more back to the economy than it takes in subsidies, but what cannot be measured is what it gives back in nurturing the imaginative health and well-being of the nation."

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

CROSSING THE DIVIDE

Jane Burden was a muse - something she gave Morris and Rossetti made them better artists. Being a muse is not a passive condition. She inspired and transformed them, as they in turn transformed her life.

Karl Roberts from JABOD called up today to tell me he is having a general meeting with Peter Dunphy our Multi-Media Designer and will also be discussing POSSESSED. It is Karl I have to thank for introduced Peter and I at a riotous supper party a few weeks ago. Karl is one of the most imaginative people I know. Once you manage to light the blue touch paper he is transported and can come up with the most amazing ideas. He had come up with the concept of fusing not only the art of the Pre-Raphaelites and contemporary technology and design but also introducing elements of Victorian theatre technology as well. Zeotrope, Magic Lantern and Phantasmagorie effects could be used, especially in the ghost sequeces in the musical. They would be realised in a contemporary way but add something quite unique to the atmosphere of the musical.

Trying to bring the theatre and the film design world together feels extremely exciting. I know it is not new but I don't think it has been approached in this way before. We are not just trying to make the musical more spectacular, we are actually trying to cross the divide between these art forms and say something about "art" and inspiration as well.

Monday, 8 October 2007

THE CLOSEST THING TO CRAZY

Hilary Strong, who was Artistic Director of Greenwich Theatre when we did the showcase, is now working as a freelance producer. She has suggested that we approach a producer to make a recording of the songs, particulary "Raft of Love", her favourite, and would suit someone like Katie Melua (of "The Closest thing to Crazy" fame). I have no idea how to go about something like this, or how you would keep control of the rights of your work even if, by some amazing chance, it did happen. I have discovered that Katie's producers are called Dramatico. Would it be close to crazy to even attempt such a thing?

I managed to cross the procrastination barrier today and have now got a new draft of the Book, which I just have to check through for errors. Tomorrow I am going to attempt to make a new draft of the ACE proposal. Apart from all the writing this also involves a lot of figures which also drives me completely crazy!

Saturday, 6 October 2007

DON JUAN.WHO?

With Rossetti being an architype Don Juan figure I thought it might be interesting to go and see DON JUAN.WHO?, a co-production between Mladinsko Theatre and Athletes of the Heart, directed by Anna Furse at The Shunt. What could I glean from their year of research into the idea of the 'womaniser'? I hadn't witnessed anything which promised to be so new and innovative, for a long time. So many people believed in the project, which had begun in an international internet cyberstudio, and they had received support from major funding bodies including The Arts Council, British Council, Goldsmiths and The British Academy.

THE SHUNT was an exciting place, under the arches at London Bridge, swarming with young intellectuals. It smelt of damp brickwork and ancient dust. Ironically, I was reminded of the the alleyways in Urbino, where Raphael was born; the man Rossetti loved to hate. Sadly, I learned nothing new from the production. This was the kind of theatre I had watched at the ICA in the 70's and 80's and gave me the same uneasy feeling that I wanted it to end, and soon, to put me out of my pain. There were moments of brilliance like the image of three men having pillows thrown at them by the female performers, who shouted abuse at them. The pile of pillows grew and grew until the men were almost obliterated. I could not fault the performances, which were superb. It was with awe that I found myself watching Giovanna Rogante, who had worked with Barrault, Decroux and Grotowski.

Unfortunately, all I discovered was that women hate the Don Juan male and yet they want to possess him. Yet, he is unobtainable because they have been responsible for inventing him in the first place and that even women can be a Don Juan at times... This came dangerously close to the idea that women are masochists and like being raped and abused. Rather than being a new concept, I think that these are the kind of ideas we moved away from a long time ago. So, it was no help, although an interesting experience.

Friday, 5 October 2007

PROCRASTINATING

Today I have to atttack the last scene of POSSESSED and am procrastinating, because it is the most difficult part of the musical. My youngest daughter is upstairs in bed with flu. Having someone in the house while I am working has always been inhibiting. It feels so much more difficult wandering around, singing (very badly) and emoting lines from the script when there is someone around to hear.

We have a space reserved at the JERWOOD SPACE for the end of February, beginning of March for our Arts Council project. Richard Lee, the Jerwood Director called to suggest a new space because Trevor Nunn wants to use ours for rehearsing GONE WITH THE WIND. I have agreed on a new space for the second two weeks, larger and better in fact. I am trying to keep all costs down for the project, otherwise we won't get our grant and Richard has agreed to a 15% subsidy, which is great!

Anthony Howell also got in touch. I met him at the Channel 4 event at the Barbican, celebrating the three observational documentaries: MUSICALITY, BALLET HOO and OPERATUNITY. Antony was the narrator of all three programmes and has a fabulous voice. We got rather drunk on Prosecco that night at the Barbican and shared a taxi home with friends. I told him about the BBC interest in doing an Ob. Doc. about putting the musical on. David Jackson, Head of BBC Wales seems to be really interested, so I am keeping my fingers crossed. A documentary would make all the difference. I have suggested calling the documentary PUTTING IT TOGETHER and even thought that the Sondheim song of the same name, from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE would make a great song for the opening credits.

The breakfast things are still hanging around on the table, the answerphone is on and my mobile is upstairs in my dressing gown pocket. There is no excuse, I had better stop procrastinating and get on with that last scene!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

P. R. B .

At the moment I am writing a new draft of the musical book and also trying to sex up our ACE proposal. Steve, the composer has been working on THE COUNTRY WIFE at the Haymarket and Clive Paget, our dramaturg/director is working on RENT.

I have been a bit manic trying to get more investment in the show and, as you can imagine, it has not been easy. I got a very nice letter back from Richard Stilgoe, who wrote lyrics for Cats and Starlight Express and collaborated with Charles Hart with lyrics for Phantom. He said he really enjoyed our songs but didn't have enough clout to be able to help. He reminded me that Morris refused to have anything in his house that was not useful or beautiful and "that seems a perfect rule for the content of a musical as well". I agree but even Morris needed money to run his business.

Peter Dunphy, Senior Designer at Eyeframe has agreed to work as multi-media designer on the ACE project, which is pretty damn fantastic! Eyeframe did the post production work on Pan's Labyrinth and he has won a lot of awards, so I think we will be in very good hands.

Clive has won the Encouragement Award from the Writers' Guild. I nominated him months ago, for being my guide and mentor since the first scrappy draft of the musical. We would never have got this far without him. We are invited to a Guild lunch at the Old Vic on 23rd November to celebrate!

The Dulwich Picture Gallery have just started a series of lectures on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and so I thought I ought to go along as a little refresher. I did a lot of research for the musical in the early days but still try to keep my hand in, just in case something new crops up which I think ought to go into the book. Val Woodgate, who lectures for the Tate, hosted the first talk - "What's in a Name" which was a general introduction to the PRB. I did glean a couple of interesting bits of information, so it was useful. She was an extremely funny and down to earth speaker. I just kept longing to stand up and tell everyone what Rossetti's joke name for the initials stood for, but didn't have the courage, there were too many white haired Dulwich ladies who might have been shocked. Most people think of Rossetti as a purely romantic figure, they'd never guess he said PRB stood for "Penis Rather Better", but do I put this in the book or not? Perhaps it ought to read Producing Rather Bloody. Oh well, at least the battle for POSSESSED is still being fought!