I’ve let this blog slip rather. I’m not sure why. I’ve written two plays – well I am just finishing up a second one. Written straight out of my head onto the page so it’s a bit strange. The other one I completed some time ago is out and about. It’s a waiting game as places that take unsolicited submissions are snowed under, so it usually takes a matter of months to hear back.
That aside I have been keeping a sort of journal for some time now. It’s intended as a spewing forth of whatever comes between brain and pen but inevitably a lot of it is “what I did yesterday.” But that’s a good record, especially at a difficult time. My mind feels like a sieve.
Thirdly the majority of what I have to write about is private. It concerns my parents and I know they would be utterly horrified if I was describing their lives to the world. So it’s hard to know what to write.
I’m working on a great show: Songs For Nobodies. It’s performed by Bernadette Robinson and written by Joanne Murray-Smith (who also wrote Switzerland, a play about Patricia Highsmith I was previously working on). It’s a series of five monologues, by five different fictional ordinary women (the Nobodies of the title) who each briefly (fictionally) encounter five great singers; Garland, Callas, Piaf, Holiday and Cline. Robinson not only acts the monologues, each in a different accent, but then sings in the style of the five singers. It’s an extraordinary performance on so many levels, and she does it night after night after night. Murray-Smith is a writer who looks at the world and its people from a slightly sidelong perspective. I’ve seen three of her plays and and her quiet wisdom in her perception and portrayals of people stay with me. She writes a lot about women and her portrayals are deceptively simple. She writes with warmth and compassion, but she writes about flaws and failings. Her plays aren’t dazzling. They are quiet but they get under the skin of their characters and bring to life humanity on stage.
But added to that are the musical numbers. Robinson has a three piece band behind her, a simple set and no costume change (though lots of lighting changes – I’m busy), and yet with her voice and simple gestures brings the spirit of the five great performers to life on stage. For the minutes of each song she does “become” the performers. And she needs to because this is a play about the extraordinary people who have fame, and of those who don’t, but are still extraordinary. Of how a small act can change a person’s life. Of how we do not know the stories of people we are quick to judge. But for me there is still a lingering air of melancholy about each mould-breaking singer. Each one died too soon. Each one fought physical and mental battles to be who they were in a (man’s) world that is afraid of mould-breakers. It was their unhappiness perhaps that made them great, and then destroyed them.