So, today I’m sitting in a café in an unusually sunny Ottawa, Ontario. We’ve gone straight from a cold, cold winter into basking weather – 20 degrees, perfect blue sky and every shrub and tree suddenly racing into bloom. Even for someone who likes winter (when else can you ski?) this year it was a long one. The snow arrived in late November and didn’t leave until April. Even the fabulous opportunities to cross-country ski (day or night) couldn’t alleviate the feeling that just once, it would be nice to walk to the pub without having to don five layers and brave -20. Everyone in Ottawa seems now to have visibly relaxed: even sedate Parliament Hill has become awash with sunbathers and lunchtime yoga parties. It’s a great time to be here.
Even so, my thoughts are turning to home. I’ll be back in London between postings for little over a month, before deploying out to Sarajevo, my old home and where Beetle is set. I’ll get to Sarajevo in a future blog, but for now I’m looking forward to a month of seeing family and friends, re-joining the London’s poetry community for a brief while, and getting as much out of the fabulous cultural life that London has to offer.
First up is launch of Templar stable-mate Tom Weir’s new collection ‘All That Falling’ on 2 June at Keats House. I met Tom when we read together at the Derwent Poetry Festival last November, when he launched his pamphlet. I really like his poetry and can’t wait to see what he has in store in the collection.
I’m feeling guilty about not writing enough new poetry myself. It’s been an incredibly busy six months since the launch, and being on this side of the Atlantic hasn’t made it easy to get word out about Beetle, or to book readings. Need to get back into the slightly dreamy frame of mind it takes to write decent poetry. Doesn’t help that my entire life is currently admin lists and freight boxes.
I’ve also been immersed in writing my first stage play, tentatively titled ‘The Claudius Principle’. It’s taken a long time to get to the finish, line aided by Stephen Hunt and my UBC playwriting workshop, to finally feel that I’ve crossed the finish line. When I look back through the previous drafts I can see that only the name of the play has remained constant. Everything else – the characters, the dramatic hooks, the beginning the ending, everything – has changed. And I’ve learned so much about drama from being in the workshop.
So when in London, I’m going to spend as much time as I can getting under the skin of London theatre, from the perspective of a new playwright. I know from when I was living there last, and starting out on playwriting, that there’s an incredible range of opportunities. Being away has just reinforced that: even New York, great though it is, doesn’t have as many opportunities for first-timers as London. The Hampstead, the Bush, the Soho, the Royal Court, there’s a long list of great theatres with support for new playwrights that I hope to tap into. And even though I won’t be there for long, a month’s immersion is a whole lot better than nothing.
So here’s a summary of the play that I used when sending it out to a couple of theatres in New York (I figured why not, seeing as I’m currently on this side of the pond). See what you think. Fingers crossed I can find someone who is interested!
A successful but troubled actor, Charlie Marshall, returns to London not long after the death of his father. Charlie has been thrown off the set of his latest film in LA, and has been recently released from rehab. He carries with him a last letter from his father, a Cambridge philosophy don. The letter purports to prove that Charlie’s stepfather, the successful psychiatrist and author Dr Richard Atkins, has stolen the material for his treatise on religion and spiritual belief, ‘The Claudius Principle’, from his former friend and collaborator.
The book is now a bestseller, and Richard a minor celebrity. Richard has celebrated his success by divorcing Charlie’s mother in favour of a much younger woman. Charlie tells himself he wants the truth about how much Richard has stolen. But what he really wants is revenge.
Charlie tracks Richard down in London to his office in The Shard high-rise, on the bank of the Thames. He worms his way into Richard’s busy schedule by seducing his secretary, JANE, not coincidentally the object of Richard’s affections. Charlie has a plan: confront Richard with the letter, and shock him into a confession.
Charlie has enlisted Jane in a desperate back-up scheme. If Richard won’t confess when confronted by the letter, Jane will shut down the elevator as they try to leave the building. There they will hang, while Charlie elicits a confession out of Richard, by fair means or foul. But not everything goes to plan. When threatened with moral free-fall there is a limit to what each is able to inflict on the other. And a limit to what each is able to bear.