Honestly, I’ll stop banging on about Henry Barstow very soon especially as the final night was nearly three weeks ago. Today however, I received a link to the Carlisle Green Room Newsletter and a small part of which reads thus…
‘An evening without Henry Barstow (Because He’s Dead) Tim Padley writes: Just space to say if you missed this, you missed a treat. The celebration of the life and works of the (fictional) author enacted by his fan club was hilarious. The earnest leader (Michael Spencer), trying to get the others (James Spark and Lexie Ward) to be serious against the pull of a perfect ‘Beef Wellington’ was great. The culminating sci-fi epic with the green monster and the camp space captain was a perfect (and funny) parody of Star Trek (among others).’
This Friday gone, I sat in the front row of the Green Room Bar and watched ‘An Evening Without Henry Barstow’ as it ended its three night run. I knew a few friends were going to be there that night and I was a little bit concerned that was going to be all. Not that I would mind sitting in a room with my friends but it would have felt strange that we were there watching more of my friends perform something I wrote. Attendance had been good on the opening night but then quieter the next night. When I got to the door I was greeted with a small crowd of theatregoers paying to get in. People I didn’t know were paying to get into the show, it sounds crazy but it pleased me no end. The bar downstairs was dimly lit ad playing the Neighbours theme song, all was well in the world. I did a quick headcount of the people in the room and counted thirteen, the maximum capacity was twenty eight. With the show due to start at 8pm the message was passed to upstairs that there were no seats left over and there were to be no more admissions. This news pleased me even more.
It went incredibly well, my worries about the story being a little bit repetitive (because it’s single scenes from Barstow productions of old one after the other) were dealt with by the cast very well. The story went along at a fair pace and the audience seemed to be well into it probably as a result of me starting the applause each and every time there was a natural break in the play. People always join in if somebody starts first I find.
The audience on the night seemed to enjoy it. I hadn’t told anybody who didn’t know already that I was the writer but it came up on introductions afterwards. A couple of people said that 45 minutes of light hearted comedy would be ideal for Edinburgh but before I dealt with any of that I’d have to rewrite it again to sharpen up the rougher bits and to include some of the jokes that were added by the cast during rehearsals (one of which was the ‘rogering Debbie McGee’ bit).
I’m unsure at this time if I should go back to it so soon, the run was a fantastic chance to see something I’d written being performed for public consumption. It takes you rapidly out of the small bubble you can sometimes find yourself in when writing, the belief that you are alone and will be the only person to read what’s in front of you. Many thanks to Lexie Ward, Michael Spencer and James Spark for reading, rehearsing and performing it and to anybody else who came down to watch it. I certainly learned a lot from the process which will be adapted for going forward.
The best part was that a few people were saying “We’re looking forward to the next one”. The good news is that the next one is already written and it’s part of Project Theatre which we’ll be kicking off over the next few nights.
An e-mail from the director of ‘Henry Barstow’ arrived late last night. The last rehearsal had been performed in front of a handful of people. Whilst they had a good laugh it was agreed that the ending fell flat and as a result the show petered out. Would it be possible to rewrite the ending?
Of course it’s possible, even at this late stage. Bear in mind that the show was originally due to be performed in May 2011 but got put back (far back) due to casting issues and the extra time gave me the golden opportunity to rewrite large chunks of the show and make it better. When I look back now I often think that it would have been a pretty lame show if it had been performed in its original form. Minor tweaking now is fine so the ending has been reworked in time for another rehearsal tomorrow. Essentially, I’ve taken out the lines in which the two sensible characters wanted to wrap it up whilst the obsessive in charge didn’t and replaced it with a few more gags.
The opening night, just in case you didn’t know, is a week tonight and whilst that’s brilliant I still can’t help but wonder what exactly comes after this. There is another project I currently have being worked on elsewhere, something that I’ve been trying to get off the ground since 2007 in fact, but there’s nothing really concrete just now to write home about that one. I spent most of the day yesterday sifting through various theatre companies to see if they took script submissions with the intention of putting ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ forward. It’s a very similar process to what I’ve done before with TV companies in the past.
To my surprise I’ve found that it’s much more receptive to new scripts than TV ever was. Most theatres have some kind of new writer programmes in place and aim to put on new shows, probably because it’s a cheap way of doing it and the risk is a lot lower. TV shows not only cost much more to make but also have to find somebody willing to broadcast it at the same time. I’ll be hawking around ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ in good time because the script is pretty much ready to be looked at to see what they’d want from any probably rewrite.
When I’ve blogged before about my writing efforts I always made an effort not to name any companies I was in contact with, I thought at the time this had to be surrounded in some kind of privacy lest the deal not come off and everybody ended up looking a little sheepish. This time around I’m thinking about throwing that idea out of the window and having a running list of people I’m in contact with . If they’re willing to have contact details on their website then they’re going to get a mention. A list shall be posted as soon as I’m done formatting the script.
A couple more shots from Wednesday night’s rehearsal of Henry Barstow.
Michael Spencer who plays Scott. Currently cursing me for putting too many dates in the script for him to remember.
Lexie Ward who plays Patricia and James Spark who plays Derek.
They’re in space, hence the big steps.
It’s looking really good and that’s without the costumes. They’ve added a fair few parts which work better for the stage. I spent the whole thing laughing before remembering I was laughing at my own jokes.
The show is on at Carlisle’s Green Room Theatre Bar. The show starts at 8pm on September 12th, 13th and 14th. The bar will be open from 7pm though and you’re advised to get there as close to 7pm as you can because space is limited to 30 people each night.
I took delivery of a small bundle of these posters today. It seems strange that the last time I was really writing Barstow I was telling myself I had plenty of time because September was ages away. Now I’m very much of the knowledge there’s only two months to go. It’ll be the first time in years that I’ve written something that will get a airing in public so I have slight nerves about it. Because it’s a bar production (ie- it’s not in the main theatre) space will be limited to 30 for each performance so if you are coming down then please get there early.
The main difference between this and the films I’ve worked on in the past is the fact that once the run is over the project dies. If ‘An Evening Without Henry Barstow’ is never performed again then nobody will ever see it again. Obviously with film you have something in your hands and are able to watch/broadcast it at any time. It’s for this reason that I’m entertaining the idea of filming one of the later rehearsals so, once the run is over, I can stick the thing on Youtube and make is available to anybody who hasn’t been able to make it.
Towards the end of my college course in 2004 my regular writing partner and I had a few ideas floating around. One of which was a radio show in which each episode would be the final one in a fictional series. We were all set to run through almost every single genre possible and pick holes. We had convinced ourselves that this was a fantastic idea and worthy of being sent out to producers. This we did with gusto. The responses back were either a polite ‘We don’t feel this idea is for us’ or the deadly sound of silence. One particular letter broke the mould by actually giving us feedback, saying that there was no way such a project would get the green light when it was so disjointed. Nobody would have any emotional investment in the characters if they were changing every week. There would have to be some kind of link between them all. The idea was shelved and we carried on with all the other, game changing ideas we had come up with that would no doubt gain us fame and fortune.
We were young.
I’ve never really ditched any script idea fully in such a fashion that it’s completely forgotten. Ideas morph and alter and sometimes they are stripped for parts and used in new ideas. It took around six years for the link between episodes to be established. If all the episodes were by the same writer then at least that would give some identity to it. The radio script was rewritten quickly in 2010, the name of the writer was ‘Henry Barstow’ which was the name of a fictional Tory MP in Scotland from another abandoned script I wrote. In this script Barstow had become a scriptwriter so desperate for a break he almost kidnaps his first agent. I put him in Eastriggs, simply because it’s the town where my Mum grew up. The episodes rapidly became different (failed) productions in his not so great career. Then I saw a BBC show in which they had actors relive scripts from ‘Round The Horne’, a radio comedy show from the 1950’s featuring Kenneth Williams playing such characters as Rambling Sid Rumpo.
It’s a show my Mum introduced me to when I was young alongside The Goon Show and Hancock’s Half Hour (the radio listening habits of my Mum and I will probably be another blog post all together). This modern day TV return was quite simple, four old style BBC microphones on stage. I rewrote Henry Barstow as a stage play with the only three members of the Henry Barstow Appreciation Society reprising what they consider as some of his greatest work. Essentially it’s a sketch show going through different television and film genres with a cast engaged in constant bickering. Somebody who I used to work with was involved in Carlisle’s Green Room Theatre so it’s actually being performed this September (12th-14th). It won’t be in the theatre itself, more in the bar downstairs. I’ve written in the fact that Barstow was a drunkard in his later life, it seemed the apt thing to do considering the location.
If you’re in the area at the time then feel free to come along. Each performance has space for about 30 people so we have a a fair amount to shift. I’ll probably attend one of the performances under the guise of ‘nervous fellow in the corner with a notepad’.