Plays by Deborah Freeman

I have completed `Remedies,` a play about M E.  Background research...

Writing Groups

I am setting up a new writing group in East Finchley, to be held in the atmospheric location of an East Finchley...

Novels by Deborah Freeman

 A few years back. I answered an ad on the Radio 3 website, from the conceptual art company, Blast Theory...

Poems by Deborah Freeman

These appeared in the journal Jewish Renaissance, 2008.  `Fish.` `Fasting.` `Open a Gate for Us. ` `After the...

Under the Palm Tree Blog

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2 years 29 weeks ago

Been away for two weeks. Most of the time - at sea. Before leaving I called in to Waterstones for a book or two. Came away with A Secret History, Donna Tartt, and H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald.

Two completely contrasting books, with style and scholarship in common. I`d never read Tartt. Now plan to read more. So often a book that is well-crafted, and a page turner, seems (to me,) to fizzle out towards the end. But this book`s closure (or lack of - same thing I think,) impressed me so much that I reread one particular half page several times. 

As for H is for Hawk - never having had any contact with either hawks or falcons, I was intrigued and impressed. To my taste, of course, a book that tries to talk about emotions without actually talking much about emotions - can occasionally be annoying. Not because the writing isn`t brilliant - in this case it certainly is - but just because to my mind there is nothing like telling it as it is. I read an interview with Miriam Toews yesterday, and was reminded of this. 

 

2 years 32 weeks ago

Getting busier. New play, Not Me, now moves speedily into scene four, and I`m delighted with how it`s going. A long time since I`ve felt this pleased about a scene. This afternoon I`m off to Actors` Centre, Covent Garden, to post `Playwright WLTM Director` notice. 

As for The Scapegoat, I have hesitated to `source` the producer that this play needs, apart from a probably ill-advised ad I put in The Jewish Chronicle. 

The play is about some of the ideas of William Holman Hunt, who became an early Christian Zionist. Such is the antagonism to the very word Zionism, these days - some high profile theatre people are happy to endorse a cultural and artistic boycott of Israeli theatre, which is actually one of the most liberal strands of the progressive world within Israel.  

I had one reply to the ad from an enthusiastic young man who assured me of his interest. We spoke for an hour. When he failed to call (I`ll call you tomorrow...) I picked up to him, because I no longer let matters like that slide. He told me it was his birthday and he would absolutely call on the morrow. He didn`t. Very young - it was his 28th brithday.  

Fact is, The Scapegoat illuminates the work of one of the most unconventional Pre-Raphaelites, and the deep thread of Christian belief that supported many thinkers who favoured the idea of a Jewish Homeland in the nineteenth century. Not to mention the Christian right in the USA today. 

The play is colourful, carefully put together, and I`m beginning to feel I owe it a producer. 

 This evening we`re off to see Bad Jews. I`ve read it`s good. 

2 years 34 weeks ago

Interesting weekend. Yesterday I saw Stevie. By Hugh Whitemore, at Hampstead Theatre. Zoe Wanamaker, Lynda Baron, Chris Larkin, were directed by Christopher Morahan. He e must have done a good job because overall nothing in the show jarred for me . The fourth character was the required suburban set.

I found Act One not quite deep or quirky enough.  It did not have quite the `gathering of clouds` sense that even slow Act Ones often have. However, Act Two, for me, was a meaningful and thought-provoking theatrical experience. Respect to Hugh Whitemore for making a play that was not really (when you come to think of it,) a play. It was a portrait through time and verse. The poems recited were beautiful.

Not to compare myself with the great Stevie Smith, I nevertheless identified with the issue of suburban living. Can you really count as a great poet (or in my case as any kind of `real` playwright, however narrowly known,)  if you have never lived anywhere but suburbia?

On the way home I wracked my brains and remembered with some relief that for six months in 1967, I inhabited a corrugated tin hut on a flat roof at Number 23 Street of the Prophets in Jerusalem. I sat down daily at a rickety table with my  Olivetti Portable to write stories. The house was an old Arab house with a paved courtyard. On the ground floor lived the landlady, who name I don`t remember, but I remember her German or Russian accent, and her granddaughter collecting her in a taxi. I remember watching from my attic window the tall Israeli teenager holding the arm of the elderly woman whose high heels kept tripping her on the cobbles. 

On the middle floor lived two girls, or young women, about my age (22) and one of them, I think a Swiss girl, had an abortion or a heavy period in the big old bath that we shared. I recall there being blood in the bath. On the ground floor lived an Englishman called Paul or Ian, who read the news on Israel radio. I remember sitting on the windowsill in his room talking about his philosophy and the meaning of life. I think he was a 1960`s Bhuddist, and I identified him at the time as a mystic. He didn`t believe in material possessions, but I do recall he had a pan in which he could boil an egg.

During these months I got a job in a bookshop in Jerusalem. Steimatzky`s. But it came about that I lost that job, because at the back of the shop was a wonderul storeroom, and I used to climb a ladder placed there, it seemed, for my convenience, sit at the top of it and read. I remember the two books I was reading when somehow my time for working there began to draw to a close. The Diary of Nijinski. And Pirandello`s play Henry the Fourth.

Rembering how unsuburban I was for those few months cheered me up!

To be continued....

 

2 years 35 weeks ago

Getting back to work and into circulation again after several weeks of unpleasant post-viral diminution in stamina.  The good thing to come out of this is that the new play Not Me, is going well again. 

For reading I have loved The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt - her previous book What I Loved also had me riveted. Not to mention her non-fiction book The Shaking Woman. I seem to be a real fan. While gorging myself on The Blazing World I was aware of many reasons why I ought not to be enjoying it as much as I was. But my reading self entered a mode of denial and said to me - keep going, because you love this way of writing, and thinking. Like What I Loved, it made me want (simultaneously) to take up residence in New York, and never to set foot in the city again.  But as ambivalence as a state of being seems to be prevalent in this author`s work, my split reaction seemed appropriate. 

2 years 45 weeks ago

I`ve been intensely occupied with my oldnew play, still with working title Not Me. What with family, friends and the festive season, I`ve hardly read a book or seen a play. 

This afternoon that changed. At one o`clock I called The Bush to hear that yes there may be returns for the matinee of Visitors, provided we queue for them in person. But we`re not on the tube yet, I cried! Can`t you write our names on your list, and keep them for us...

Thank you, Kind Young Man at Box Office. You must have known we would be exceptionally appreciative of this play. A gem. So old-fashioned, done with minimal simple set, in a naturalistic style, the only slightly non-naturalistic element being Edie`s delivery of an almost spiritual poem at the end.

Edie, played by Linda Bassett, was a woman suffering from early stage dementia. Arthur  - Robin Soans, was her farmer husband, and Stephen - Simon Muller, their insurance agent son. A disppointment to them and to himself, it seemed. Kate - Eleanor Wyld - came on board as a lodger/helper, and we had all we needed to convince us that life is strange, difficult, sometimes tragic, and ends in death, but that being invited to observe at close hand, in careful emotional detail, the colours and shapes of some of its saddest journeys, can feel indescribably rewarding. This is the magic of live theatre, that no internet, film, television, medium can equal.

I am currently arguing with myself (and my characters) just how far I can let the themes and issues of Not Me play out through nothing more than `conversation` between the characters. Visitors strengethened my  resolve to keep going with it. 

We sat next to an American woman. She belonged to a group based in Florida of almost fifty people who come to London each January, with a brief to see fourteen plays in fourteen days. Then they go back, and meet to discuss them all! 

2 years 49 weeks ago

Saw Great Britain by Richard Bean last night, and, along with my three companions, was disappointed by it. In fact you could say we were fiercely critical and unable to comprehend the rave reviews which had impelled these Manchester friends, visiting London, to choose this play.

However, on the tube on the way to N12, as we talked loudly about it an elegant woman sitting next to me asked which play we were talking about. Turned out she was a journalist, had worked in print, and now was at the BBC. She assured us her friends and colleagues, who had all seen the play at The National with Billy Piper, found it superb. Entertaining, witty, of the moment.

Can a great play be both of the moment and timeless? I was reminded of a workshop to which I was once invited, at which 3 younger writers and I all produced twenty minutes of script on a certain topic. My script consisted of a scene in which two sisters talked. The other three writers produced terse, tight, lines, never longer than 5 or 6 words, in which `fuck` `shit` and the rest figured consistently. 

Have I blogged this tale before? Maybe. Eventually, possibly embarrased by the differences in writing styles, the oldest member the company mused as follows: well, he said, there are plays, of course in which people just come onto the stage and start talking. Take, for example someone like Chekhov. He did that.

 

2 years 51 weeks ago

Yes yes yes. I`m getting  further into play - scene four coming up. Following the current fashion so it will be an hour and twenty five minutes with no interval. Where did such a fashion spring from? Still no title for it, and given that it is a splicing of two earlier plays, Not Me, and Remedies, still some uncertainty.  Particularly as the play is about uncertainty. 

Last night saw Wildefire at Hampstead Theatre. My ears suffered for it. I have never met an actor or director who hasn`t insisted that shouting is not the way to convey passion, violence, anything really on stage. And Wildefire by Roy Williams is written with great conviction. And some of what failed to please me was simply - differences in taste of what you like to see on a stage. I was once invited to a workshop with a small company, and the three other writers produced openings in which every third word was fuck and no line longer than six words. My style stood out a mile - until someone there, the oldest actor in this company, said soothingly, as if to comfort me: well, of course there are plays in which people just come on and start talking. He added, thoughtfully: like, say, plays by Chekhov....

But back to the shouting question. The passionate voice of the playwright Roy Williams, telling us all is not well in London, was blunted, for me, by the noise which almost never abated. 

And why was the brilliant Lorraine Stanley not on the cover of the programme? Nothing against the pretty young policewoman who was..But. 

3 years 6 hours ago

I`m returning to my blog and website after a break. It`s been a period of great activity, actually, but the reporting instinct seemed to have left me for a while.

The other day we saw Electra at the Old Vic, and loved it. Intense, exhausting.  

I`m happy to have returned to work on an old/new play, whose previous two versions were called Not Me and Remedies respectively. New characters, but same theme/s. This time it is going well, but has no title. 

One thing I have finally learned to do in London is: read on the tube while ignoring everyone else. Currently reading Unexploded by Alison Macleod. Set in Brighton it reminds me of the fact that we keep planning to revisit the place. 

 

3 years 13 weeks ago

A busy summer. My story `The Dressmaker` has been sent off to one or two places. I have been reading, making notes for new work, and seeing one or two plays. Perseverance Drive at The Bush was a treat. It was loud, full volume most of the way, and Act One was so strong, thought-provoking, and entertaining, that friend and I both wondered how Act Two would get beyond Act One. In fact, Act Two only just managed to impress us as much as Act One - but that is the price the production (or the play) had to pay for its explosive, colourful, musical first half.

At The White Bear I saw a new play by Torben Betts called Muswell Hill. I went on Dress Rehearsal Night. I was distracted by the drip drip of an air-conditioner on the wall above me. I got wet.

The play was almost brilliant  but not quite. Each of the characters had quite a few long ( felt long) speeches in which they revealed their stories and their angst. And there was comedy and irony. Perhaps the way it knitted together made for a great garment - but perhaps just not entirely my style.

The saga of what happened at The Tricycle has been of concern - to me, and others, I think. I would give a great deal to have heard (verbatim) all the conversations that led a) to the theatre asking the UK Jewish Film Festival not to accept funding from the Israeli Embassy, b) to the Film Festival refusing to not accept the funding...and so on. Whatever the rights and wrongs ( I think the theatre was wrong,) the films I have seen connected with this festival have been Israeli ones, and have been liberal, open, and not what you would call pro-rightwing Israel in any way. What is more their makers have continued to work within Israel with impunity, and have been praised widely. Still, no-one is going to give me more detail than was disseminated in the media, so I will have to imagine the conversations. Someone will soon produce the play, I imagine. The twist at the end being that the folk at The Tricycle changed their minds. 

(`The Scapegoat,` shining light as it does on a little visited corridor of art/British cultural history, relates to the keen Christian Zionism of William Holman Hunt. )

3 years 17 weeks ago

We have had visitors for a month. They leave on Monday so I started to look at what was on on the London fringe. A play called Invincible caught my eye. St James Theatre, a transfer from the Orange Tree.

Then I read the blurb. An educated London couple relocate to the north and meet up with an uneducated northern couple - they start by teaching them about Karl Marx, and one or two other enlightened London things.

Suddenly, series of images hit my inner eye, as I thought of all the conversations, and meetings I have had since our move to London, with people who didn`t know ALL KINDS OF THINGS. And I remembered the booklined homes of some of the people we knew in the northwest. 

And I couldn`t bring myself to book. 

Maybe I will regret not seeing this play. But for now I`ll look for something else. Adv ice welcome. 

Copyright © 2010 Deborah Freeman
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