Constructing ‘Sentences’

WE’RE having a day in court next month with our new show ‘Sentences’. Finding the many tiny dramas in people’s lives, as they stand in the dock or wait with cooling instant coffee, nerves getting the better of them.

We’ve had a lot of fun looking at the court system, from the wonderful Hogwarts-like architecture of Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, to the hefty great manual Liz dug up which gave us all an idea of how offenses would be sentenced, or even the tall tales Angela had from her work in health and safety prosecutions over the years.

Everyone had a court experience, form my own days spent sitting at the reporters’ desk, taking furious notes in shorthand, and trying not to make eye contact with anyone, to the occasional Cucumber who had taken part in jury duty.

We considered the people in the court room, from the procedures, to the psychological impact, and even a little fantasy, but we also considered the people for whom the courts are just a job, how their personal lives carry on in amongst the tumult of the daily drama around them.

We’d love it if you could come along to the Door @ 8pm on Monday, June 1 and see what we’ve come up with.

Pre-order your free tickets at the Birmingham Rep’s website.

Alex

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Party Planning

THE Cucumber Writers are holding a party this Friday. You should come along.

Of course it’s a theatrical party.

A fictional theatrical awkward office retirement party, but don’t let that stop you. There’ll be a buffet.

This is our first foray back into the world of writing to a theme, after going free form looking at our own longer pieces in the first half of the year, and despite running on a bit of reduced schedule for us, our pieces seem to have become quite a lot more integrated than usual.

We suspect it’s because all the characters are supposed to be in the same room at the same time, and they mostly seem to know one another.

It makes you wonder exactly how integrated a group of writers, writing their own pieces might be able to become, given enough time and planning. Could we one day write a play, one complete play, just between the 11 of us?

Themes are sometimes hard to come across, and sometimes they land in our laps. There are several bubbling away in the background for future rehearsed readings already, but it’s really interesting, when like this one, they seem to take on a life of their own.

Sorry to See You Go is on at the Door @ Birmingham Rep on Friday, October 24 as part of the Open Door initiative. We’d love to see you there.

Alex

Part Two – coming soon

WE’RE deep in the messy sausage making bit of putting one of our rehearsed readings together at the moment, attempting to schedule a collection of lovely, talented and generous performers and directors into our incredibly limited rehearsal schedule.

We’re constantly very aware that the people giving us their time also have proper paying jobs, which they have to give precedence to, so we don’t like the idea of asking anyone to commit to working with us on any particular date, months ahead of time, in case they get an offer of real work and end up in a quandary.

The effect of that though, is that several weeks before a rehearsed reading, we’re crossing our fingers until they turn white, waiting to find out whether we have a full cast, or whether Rupi is likely to have to play a 50 year old woman (clearly he would do an excellent job, it’s just a lot to ask).

Soon (hopefully soon) this bit will be behind us and we’ll be geared up and ready to rehearse, but we already have six intriguing new scripts, and a date booked with the Birmingham Rep, so we’re very excited to get started.

Book yourself a couple of tickets and see what you think.

 

Some feedback from Part One

I’m hoping this doesn’t count as blowing my own trumpet, since I wasn’t one of the writers involved in part one, but this is the feedback we received for the show.

“I really enjoyed it – lots of surprises and thought provoking work – really good stuff – I hope to see more from your group in the future!”

“I just wanted to tell you how impressed I was with the performances last week. I am amazed that you managed to put together such a professional performance in such a short time. I thought the direction worked so well for all the pieces and you presented a really diverse set of styles and subjects. I also thought the actors brought the texts to life brilliantly.”

“Thanks for including us on the guest list last night, which we hugely enjoyed. We hope to catch the Bold Text Collective next month and I hope to bother you again in the Summer so that we might be treated to the other six Cucumber writers at your Open Door in June.”

“You guys are going from strength to strength, so pleased to be able to be part of your journey.”

“I enjoyed the evening – great performances, all strong and confident pieces.”

“Varied, very entertaining.”

“Emotional, thought provoking, informative, emotive. An evening well spent.”

“Very good – excellent variety and exploration of relationships.”

“I’ve been a professional writer most of my adult life and this group is the first I’ve known who don’t bitch about not being staged, they stage it.”

Thank you lovely folk, for all the support.

Alex

Open Door – Part One

WE’RE involved in something really exciting this month.

We met as a writing group in February of 2012, taking part in a fantastic initiative with the Birmingham REP called Write Away, which was running for the first time.

I think it’s safe to say we all really enjoyed the experience, and at the end of the 10 weeks, one of us asked what we should do if we wanted to get our writing out there, and the answer was, put it out there yourselves and invite people to come and see it.

We barely knew one another at the time, and we arranged to meet up for a farewell/vaguely organised writing meeting at a nearby pub to chat about whether we might want to do anything in the future.

I think deep down most of us probably suspected we’d have a diet Coke and slip away into the night, never to speak again, but we didn’t. We haven’t.

Instead we’ve found out that a lot of the skills we needed, we already had somewhere between us, and we’ve kept writing, kept giving ourselves deadlines.

The outcome has been (so far, she says carefully) that we’ve successfully staged three rehearsed readings of our writing, with the help of some lovely and talented performers (see our Page of Eternal Gratitude, and give them work please).

This year we’re trying something different. We’re back at the Rep with a new initiative ‘Open Door‘, and we’re working toward some longer pieces, more challenging pieces, using the space to give ourselves room to grow and stretch our skills. We’re very excited about it.

If you’d be interested in coming along, five of us will be showcasing our new work on Thursday, March 13, and the other six will be catching up on Monday, June 2.

To be added to the guest list, write to us at cucumberwriters@gmail.com.

We’d love to see you there.

Alex

Writing workshop and exciting times ahead

WE promised you an insight into the aforementioned ‘Big Fat Day of Writing’ which we’re sensibly retitling writing workshop, while the going’s good.

The day was organised as a lead up to a new project we’re involved in with the wonderful Birmingham Repertory Theatre called ‘Open Door’.

The theatre is very generously opening up its Door theatre space for ourselves and another writing group called ‘Bold Text’ (you can find out all about them here) to stage some new work.

Up until now we’ve been living hand to mouth with each rehearsed reading, and focusing on producing themed nights, which puts obvious restrictions on our writing, not least of which is a 10 minute/two performer limit.

So we’ve decided with this chance, to try and spread our wings, write some longer pieces, and splash out on creating slightly larger worlds.

The writing workshop helped us to explore character creation and development, and think about how to structure longer pieces, with a number of different writing exercises from hot seating to telling tall tales about how we got our scars.

Hopefully it laid the groundwork for some interesting work to get started.

The first Open Door event will feature Bold Text and is taking place on Monday, February 24.

Our first slot in the Door is going to be on Thursday, March 13.

If you’re interested in coming along to our free night at the Door, please let us know at cucumberwriters@gmail.com, comment below, or write on our Facebook page. Entry will be through a guest list, so we need to know in advance if people are coming along.

 

Alex

 

Onwards and upwards

IT’S traditional at this time of year to start planning ahead, and the Cucumber Writers aren’t lacking in vision or ambition.

We do have plans, starting with an epic day-long writing workshop later this month to explore some new longer ideas, and get us into a creative frame of mind for the coming year, and we already have two rehearsed readings in development for the spring.

However in essence we’re a contented bunch. We had an absolute blast last year, writing pieces, honing our skills, organising ourselves into a little Gestalt entity greater than the sum of its parts, and we think our audiences noticed.

Honestly. Look at their faces. They’re not asleep or anything.

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We are hoping to work on some more in-depth scripts, that last a little longer, and involve a few more people maybe, but all in all, we really like what we’re becoming, so our main goal for 2014, is to keep becoming it, with a little help from one another.

Alex

 

PS. We shall return with tales of our Big Fat Day of Writing (better name yet to be assigned)

A story in every room

HAVING just broadcasted our whereabouts, it would seem odd not to bring you entirely up to date with a glimpse into the workings of a rehearsed reading we’re staging this Saturday.

Our latest collection of short plays focusses on stories played out in a seedy bed and breakfast near the centre of Birmingham.

We had a lot of fun thinking up the name of the dubious establishment The Royal Hagley Guesthouse Hotel, but we also really enjoyed creating a shared world where our individual stories could exist.

If you come along to the show (7pm, Saturday, November 30 at MAC) you might only pick up on the slightest detail about our B&B, but we know everything there is to know about the place and its owner.

With the help of two huge sheets of paper and a few marker pens we built up our own picture of exactly where our plays were set, and then included as much or as little information about them as we wished.

A framework for creativity, but hopefully not a limit on it. You’ll have to let us know how that works out after Saturday.

Alex

The next big thing

AS a group of writers who only meet once a month, momentum is a tricky thing to maintain.

We’ve tried really hard to set up momentum this year, with rehearsed readings of new work in February, and again in the summer.

Of course the tricky thing with setting up momentum is to maintain it, to keep the plates spinning.

We have a new rehearsed reading, hopefully, taking place at the end of November (we say hopefully because it depends on the goodwill of a group of ridiculously generous performers, not to mention a willing audience, and our own ability to meet deadlines).

It’s an exciting brand-new idea, tapping into the shared-world nature of Pitch and Jam, to hopefully keep our collective audience engaged through 10 different 10-minute plays.

It’s tricky to get the plates spinning, it’s tricky to keep the plates spinning, but it’s also really good fun doing both, so fingers crossed this is a roadmap for years to come.

What next?

THE Cucumber Writers have been meeting for almost a year now, and this month we had our first get together in the new Birmingham Rep building.

It was a chance to take a look back at how much we’ve achieved so far, as well as trying to establish where we’re going.

Coming off the back of our most recent rehearsed reading, we’ve decided that our productivity is quite possibly our greatest strength.

We’ve produced two rehearsed readings of our work this year, with hopes to stage a third before the end of 2013, and all of that has a knock-on effect.

It’s made us realise that we can write pieces and finish them.

It’s given us the idea that we can ask people for help, and we won’t be laughed out of town.

It’s proven that there is an audience for new writing, even if so far we’ve only been able to call on freinds and family to make it up for us.

There’s a power to making things happen, and writing for the theatre can feel very powerless when you’re sitting writing dialogue for imaginary people.

You can dream up a cast of thousands in a cathedral of a set, but without a director or performers or space, it’s all stuck as a dream.

We have (with a lot of help from a lot of very generous people) made some of our writing into a reality, and that feels like an incredible power to wield.

We recommend it to anyone, and it forms a core part of all of our plans for the future.

 

Alex