The Writer in the World

In March, I was honoured and delighted to be asked to give the keynote speech at the University of Roehampton’s Creative Writing Soiree, an annual evening of fiction, memoir and poetry readings done by the English and Creative Writing students. The suggested title of my talk was ‘The Writer in the World’ which gave me the chance to speak about creativity, literature and the work of English PEN in broader and grander terms than the speeches I am usually asked to give.

I confess to being quite pleased with the end result. Not, I must stress, in the delivery, which comes across as extemporised rather than pre-planned. But rather, the broad idea of what it means to be a ‘writer in the world’ and the pragmatic suggestions for how one might go about living as such a writer.

The speech included a potted history of English PEN, some thoughts on the moral obligations of free speech, my earliest memories of learning to read, and the grind and grit required to be ‘creative’. Its a good statement of what I believe. Continue reading “The Writer in the World”

59 Productions to produce City of Glass for the stage

This multi-layered book is perfect for the 59 productions treatment

This week 59 Productions (the radical design and production company than I had a hand in setting up) announced their latest project.  Its an adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass by Duncan Macmillian, the acclaimed writer of People Places Things.  The show is directed by my friend Leo Warner and is a co-production with Home and the Lyric Hammersmith.

City of Glass (part of Auster’s New York Triology) is an intriguing post-modern detective story that plays with ideas of reality, identity and imagination.  I think its a perfect fit for the kind of art that Warner and the remarkable 59 Productions team create.  In a recent interview with the Financial Times, he outlines their approach. Continue reading “59 Productions to produce City of Glass for the stage”

59 Productions wins Tony Award

Huge congratulations are due to my former colleagues at 59 Productions, who just scooped a Tony Award for their set design work on the Broadway musical An American In Paris.  

Creative directors Leo Warner and Ben Pearcy led the team. Here’s Leo talking about the work of 59 on the BBC World Service Weekend programme (skip to the 16 minute mark) Continue reading “59 Productions wins Tony Award”

Sweet Fanny Adams in Hyperspace Eden

I have produced an online film, funded by the Arts Council. Most online films are very short, but this is an early attempt to create something feature length. By December we will have posted over two and a half hours of footage, shot against blue-screen, given CGI make-over, and podcasted on a daily basis.

Andrew Haydon asks why theatre is not addressing the world of cyberspace:

But there is a lot of scope left for potential experiment. Just as the internet has opened up whole new avenues of investigation and activity, creating thousands of jobs and revolutionising the way that we consume music, watch films and conduct commerce, so should theatre be finding a new visual and literary language to reflect modern lives which are increasingly lived online inside the belly of a machine.

Haydon’s post gives me an excuse to formally announce the launch of our Internet film project, Sweet Fanny Adams in Hypersapce Eden. Produced by my company Fifty Nine Productions, and joint funded by the Scottish Arts Council and Arts Council England (Yorkshire), the project brings Judith Adams’ play back to its original home on the Internet.

When Judith was commisisoned by Stellar Quines Theatre Company to write a play to be performed in the Scottish Plant Collectors garden, we helped her devise a unique method of writing the text – through HTML. The non-linear nature of web-pages allowed her to create scenes that would overlap and reference each other, and also inspired her to create scenes where one character’s thoughts were echoed, or overheard, in the words of another character. My essay explains the project in much more detail, but my conclusion is that the text is quinessentially of its time and of its medium – the Internet.

Most online films are very short, but this is an early attempt to create something feature length. By December we will have posted over two and a half hours of footage, shot against blue-screen, given CGI make-over, and podcasted on a daily basis.

Haydon’s quote resonates, and not only because this project is an attempt to develop a new “visual and literary language”: Our characters are caged and watched inside the sinister Showman’s Garden, a reality he has constructed to observe and subjugate the other inhabitants. The fiesty Lily and her friends are, in some ways, in the “belly of a machine.” Can they escape?

Read my essay, or simply get started by watching “The Story of Fanny”. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or your favourite pod-cast catching site. Then, let me know what you think…