My Outrageous Fortune

I can’t quite believe my luck. Arts Council England has awarded me the funding to turn the pilot of Outrageous Fortune, for which I had a funded Research and Development period earlier this year, into a full touring show. I realise how lucky I am to be in receipt of this, my 4th and largest grant from the Arts Council and I will graft my butt off to be worthy of it.

But, you know, there has already been graft: it has taken me 4 years from first dreaming up this idea to get to this point. Scouring the internet for opportunities, writing proposals, trying to get people interested in me and my idea, pitching, getting turned down, making links with theatres – which eventually resulted in me finding a home for the piece at Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax (an amazing place) and a fantastic producer in Alison Ford – endless days on my todd writing, endless days with John (Wright) trying to hone the idea into something on-its-feet-workable, three weeks of R&D, months of research and reading, tons of ear-chewing chats with long suffering mates and a gargantuan effort on the part of Alison and myself, but mainly Alison, to get our ACE grant application lookng ship shape enough to submit. It has been G-R-A-F-T.

Not the kind my poor dad had to do for a living, no. But it was work. We bloody worked for it.

And now there’s a job to do. And, thanks to ACE, money to do it. Bring it. I’m ready. I’m worthy. And grateul too. xx

“I Hope Someone is Listening” – Impressions and Images from Rising Up

Production Images from Rising Up by Chris Payne

I’ve just got back from the first few dates of Rising Up, the play I wrote, with songs by the wondrous Sean Cooney. I am knackered. As Kat would say in the play, I look like seven shades of shite and need to crack a Red Bull, sharpish. I won’t though. It tastes like fizzy Benylin.

The last two and a half weeks have been possibly the hardest graft I have ever done. I had 9 days to direct Rising Up, That included: rehearsing the actors in their two huge intercut monologues; coming up with a good frame story for the three musicians; settling them in to being on stage in a theatre show; deciding which of Sean’s wonderful songs would go in to the play and where they should go in order to make sense of or highlight the narrative; deal with costume and design; stage the thing and run a tec’ with Richard Owen our fab lighting designer. I began with a clutch of songs and an un-workshopped script, and I ended up with a show.

Rising Up premiered, with no preview, in theatre One at HOME in Manchester last Wednesday 16th October. And, thank God, it has turned out great. The audiences seem to love it (although the ones who hate it or think “meh” never come up to you afterwards, do they?). I myself am so happy with it, and incredibly proud of the huge efforts made in the last 2 weeks by our amazing cast and tec’ team: Joanna Holden who plays Maggie, Helen O’Hara who plays Kat, Lucy Farrell, Sam Carter and Jim Molyneux our superb musicians (who are now also wonderful actors too) and Julien Barratt our sound tech, Richard Owen, our lighting designer and Cally, who made our beautiful banners.

Rising Up is a cracking show. It is passionate and contemporary. It is steeped in the history of Peterloo but set right now in 2019. It has amazing songs about everything from the 1819 Manchester Constabulary to Greta Thunberg. It breaks theatre conventions and revels in it. It is angry and funny and the music is gorgeous. It is about violence and guilt, and what women do with their anger.

I love it. I hope it has another life beyond the seven performances booked for it. Check the diary page of my website for the remaining dates. I hope to see you at one of them! x

Rising Up is Coming Up ~ HOME, Manchester 16 & 17th October

I am sat at my computer, shattered but elated. Rising Up, the show I have written, with songs by Sean Cooney, has its opening at HOME in Manchester next week, Wednesday 16th October. I have been directing it all this week and it has been a superhuman effort by me and the whole amazing team to get it ready in a very short space of time.

That said, it’s still going to be brilliant. It is angry and funny and poignant and the music is gorgeous.

I have a wonderful cast: Joanna Holden and Helen O’Hara play Maggie and Kat. The most open, warm and brilliant of actors. And the musicians are equally sublime: Lucy Farrell, Jim Molyneux and Sam Carter continually amaze me with their ability to paint the air with sound at the drop of a hat.

I like theatre where everything is declared, so I am having the musicians on stage throughout, moving around and between the action. They are part of the reason the stories of Maggie and Kat are being told, after all. Folk songs preserve stories, comment on stories, allow stories to be told; they always have. And Sean has written some corkers. So it makes sense to me that these musicians are like midwives to the stories of Maggie, a woman who witnessed the Peterloo Massacre in 2019 and Kat, who is struggling in 2019 to come to terms with an incident where she felt silenced.

Even though they are on stage and in the action however, it is important to me that the musicians are not asked to ‘act’, rather just to be who they are. Part of the challenge is to help them feel comfy with being in a theatrical context. Luckily for me, Lucy, Sam and Jim are brilliantly receptive to that idea and are getting so comfortable and casual on stage that when they pool their focus they SHINE. It is beautiful to watch. And the actors Joey and Helen are amazing at absorbing that focus and giving such intense and wonderfully playful performances.

I hope you’ll come and see one of the performances at HOME on the 16th and 17th October. If you miss those, fear not: the show goes on National tour throughout this month. Details of dates and venues can be found here.

As for me, I have had a ball on one of the steepest, fastest learning curves I have had so far. My first full length commissioned play, and I am directing it too. I am excited, terrified and very proud of it. I hope you like it.