Author: lizjohn

Maggie May

BOLDtext Playwrights had a great day out last week, popping over to see our own Sayan Kent’s latest musical at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre, Maggie May, co-created with Bob Eaton.  Set over WW1, it was clever, moving and funny – one minute businessmen sang hilariously about capitalism, and the next,  women mourned lost babies with their shawls.  Multi-talented 11-strong cast, and the audience loved it. So did we!

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Great show, now what?

BOLDtext Playwrights’ most recent show, Behind Bars – Ghosts of the Lock Up, went down a storm in Birmingham city centre last month – with sell-out audiences who loved the humorous and heart-wrenching tales we told, as well as the more everyday stories embedded in the WM Police former Lock Up building.  It felt like our contrasting voices each captured something different in the space, with wonderful performances to bring them to life.  Emotionally transporting”,  “Excellent pacing and characterisation – evocative in this venue”, and “Really unique experience” were just some of the comments from our many visitors. 

And it was a unique experience for us too – we absolutely loved this site-specific work and hope to do more of the same – both at the Lock Up and elsewhere around the region.  We just need to decide where – so anyone with any suggestions, please do get in touch.

In the meantime, BOLDtext is working on another night of political shorts at Birmingham Rep on Monday 28 January 2019, so watch this space.

You can catch up with my latest The Archers episodes which are in studio shortly, then go out on Radio 4 the week before Christmas.  Can’t wait!

Charles Muscroft, police photographer

Getting site-specific

There’s nothing like a ghostly Victorian building, echoing with strange tales and past voices, combined with the rampant enthusiasm of fellow BOLDtext writers, to give you Writer’s Block.  Where to start?  The Lock Up practically oozes Brummie history – countless possibilities of character, story, theme, era (it only closed two years ago!) – plus there’s the added question of setting.  Which corner of this fascinating Victorian building should I focus on? Whose experience in this place can I depict?  We really want to feel the Lock Up burst into life.

Birmingham Lock Up

Birmingham Lock Up

Lucky for me this wasn’t my first time in the Lock Up on Steelhouse Lane.  Before you ask, no I wasn’t there as an inmate!  In fact I attended a wonderful presentation by the Ikon Gallery relaying research conducted by the late Pete James, Birmingham’s foremost photographic historian.  The talk was about the history and role of photography in our region’s policing – from mugshots to surveillance. Turns out we practically invented mugshots in Birmingham. Who knew?  So when I stood again in this eerie building, tasked with creating a very short but meaningful piece of theatre that could mesh with other writers’ stories, my mind flew back to that lecture.  A police photographer could be my focus, someone who was a vital part of the fabric, actively participating in an offender’s journey through the Lock Up.  And that’s when Detective Charles Muscroft, ARPS, stepped into the light.

Man on a Mission

Down-to-earth Yorkshireman Charles Muscroft (top) was a CID officer turned police photographer, based at the Lock Up from the 1920s.  He embraced his role with dedication and delight, producing hundreds of perfectly crafted ‘mugshots’ over his career.  He regularly gave lectures to local photographic societies and even offered his ‘portrait services’ to the general public!  When he was awarded Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society in the 1930s, he was overjoyed – despite his exemplary record as a Birmingham City Police Officer, he viewed RPS recognition of his professional photographic talents as the ultimate accolade.  As a playwright, I was fascinated by the quiet intensity with which Muscroft undertook his work, and his unshakeable love of his ‘art’ even when he was having to photograph dangerous offenders and gruesome crime scenes.

Behind Bars, Ghosts of the Lock Up from BOLDtext Playwrights runs 19-21 October at the Lock Up on Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham. More info at BOLDtext Playwrights.

behind-bars-ghosts-of-the-lock-up-leaflet-frontBook your tickets at:  www.lockupbehindbars.eventbrite.co.uk

Supported by Arts Council England and the Sir Barry Jackson Trust.

If you’re interested in Mugshots and their history, take a look at Under Arrest by Giacomo Papi – a collection of mugshots of celebs like Hugh Grant, Al Pacino, Ozzy Osbourne and Janis Joplin; prominent figures like Martin Luther King, Bill Gates and Fidel Castro; as well as notorious names like Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Ronnie Biggs and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Speaking my mind

Liz-teaching-jan18-2Earlier in the year, I was invited to run a two hour Dialogue workshop at the wonderful Wolverhampton Lit Fest in the Art Gallery.

We explored the different uses of dialogue in screen, stage and audio drama, and discussed the main functions of dialogue: to reveal character, their motivation, and their relationships with other characters; to move the plot on; and to deliver exposition and backstory.

Participants used various exercises to help discover their character’s voice, and we looked at the nature of subtext and the factors that help create it.  Using free writing, we reflected on how context, world, motivation, status, audience, tone, pace, juxtaposition, and jargon can influence dialogue, and devices like repetition, interruption, echoing, overlapping and silence were discussed.

Thanks to all attendees – I enjoyed your company, and hope you found mine useful!

Win a copy of Roller Diner

All you have to do is complete BOLDtext Playwrights’ quick 10-question survey about our shows to help us develop our programme of work.  Our own Stephen Jackson’s Roller Diner was showcased at The REP and went on to win the Verity Bargate Award.  It had a fantastic run at the Soho Theatre, and I’m incredibly proud of my mate Steve.

Click on the link to do our two minute survey.   Please complete before November 15th so we can get cracking with our planning.  Thank you!

RollerDinerPublicity

Our next BOLDtext show is brewing – 8pm Monday 8th January 2018 at The REP, followed by our ridiculously popular Unwanted Christmas Present Swap.   Save the date and see the BOLDtext website for more info.

‘Fake Times’ BOLDtext @ The REP

FAKE TIMES image Final

Your news is fake. Mine is REAL. Your truth, your reality, your version of the world is wrong. Because mine is RIGHT. Isn’t it…?     

On September 19th, BOLDtext return for another season of Open Door at the Birmingham Rep with Fake Times – four short plays that ponder how to get real and counter today’s culture of lies.

The Offer by Liz John – Chris desperately needs a new start, but is this an offer he can accept?   (more…)

Post World War 3

Now the hard work begins!  Following a wonderful showcase, with excellent and thoughtful direction by Caroline Frewin and fab performances from Lily Eliza, Oli Leonard, Phoebe Cresswell and Dru Stephenson – all of whom also generously fed back to me during several workshops – I’ve been developing the play further.  Thanks to everyone who attended the showcase, particularly the students from BOA who also gave me invaluable feedback from a young audience point of view.

I’m really excited about the piece, and I’ll keep you posted on its progress. Watch this space!  Read our showcase blog at https://boldtextcollective.wordpress.com/ww3-jalleh-oli2

Green fist

World War 3 – 22 May 2017 – free at The Rep

On Monday 22nd May 2017 at 8pm, BOLDtext Playwrights present another in their Doubled Up series, showcasing extracts of major new work from myself and Julia Wright at Birmingham Rep.  After that, you can catch up with my work by tuning into BBC Radio 4’s The Archers.

A5 Front DOUBLED UP 0417 Ultimate Zoe is fighting for the planet.  James yearns for a career.  Kat needs her sister to be ok.   Ella just wants it all.   But no-one is listening – so now it’s time to make a stand.  Can the fiery enthusiasm of youth overcome the cynical politics of today’s Britain?   A challenging, acerbic tale of conflicting ambition in the 21st Century.

Liz’s work ‘shone out as a masterpiece of compression’ – LichfieldLive  (about ‘Perversion of Science’) 

Come along and catch extracts of these two plays-in-progress at 8pm on Monday 22nd May as part of The REP’s Open Door season.  Tickets are FREE to book but it’s best to reserve in advance.  We ask you to pay-what-you-can on the night (we’ll rattle a bucket on the way out).

Rep Box Office   0121 236 4455   Mon-Sat  10-7pm

https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/open-door-spring-2017.html

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