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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3 years 19 weeks ago


Well. So London life has taken me under its wings. So much going on. I feel pretty settled in our new home in Woodside Park. I  am revising writing plans, working well after several months of poor concentration due to The Moves. (First we moved to N2, and then from there to N12.)

My play The Committee has reached a hiatus and a new radio play seems to be writing itself. I do hope it writes itself through to the end.

For the new reading group that I initiated, I have been re-reading Rebecca with even greater pleasure than before. It is so much of its time. The class structure depicted in it almost without questioning seems as significant to me now as the romance line did thirty years ago!  I have added to my reading Sally Beauman`s lovely literary variations on the theme, `Rebecca`s Tale,`  set in 1951 but allowing a more contemporary light to shine. And if I can`t find where Margaret Fprster`s biography of Daphne du Maurier disappeared to during The Moves, will get another copy.

And theatre in London?

We saw Urinetown. A noisy and bouncy rant against the dangers of gallopping capitalism and world over-population. If only one musical (this one,) or one book (must get the Thomas Piketty,) could provide the solutions. 

Finally. Plays. Last week I saw The Believers, Bryony Lavery`s new play, co-produced by the physical theatre company, Frantic Assembly.

Two couples come together because one has been flooded. They each have a daughter. One couple, atheists/agnostics, have a disturbed daughter. The other, deep believers, have an angelic one. Was the play asking: `Does being a believer mean you can assume your children will be good/ or do the right thing?` If so, a simplistic question, and not one I would ask. I would assume, of this as of most things, `it is more complicated than that.`

Someone asked me yesterday who my favourite playwright was. Before I could answer, she said, `Ibsen, I guess?`  She was not far wrong. I have never stopped loving the playwrights who have been allowed, either by their own talent or  by the style of theatre in which they worked, to use language, language, language, to their hearts` content.  The flashing lights, contorting pieces of scaffolding that made up the set of The Believers, and the long (!)  intense silences of the characters left me intrigued by the `trompe-d’oeil`  scenes in which walls moved and the characters walked up them, but crying out for deeper and more verbal content.  Call me old-fashioned.

Last night I saw Dead at Last, At Last  No More Air. Nice to tick off another London venue - Camden People`s Theatre - and to say hello to Drew McKenzie who played the playwright Muhlstein. I surprised myself by remaining weirdly engaged by this loudly inaccessible production. In retrospect I think a deeper knowledge of late twentieth century Austrian politics and culture and of the alcoholic career of the playwright  - Werner Schwab, who only wrote when drunk and died at 35 - might have helped.  

3 years 24 weeks ago

 I`ve seen from Google Analytics, (accessible thanks to Bossco`s) that a number of regular readers of my blogs got bored waiting for something new. Certain folk, (no idea who they are,) followed my blogs regularly, but gave up when there was no blog for a few weeks. 

Well, you try moving from Manchester to London, shortly after a bereavement, and then moving again within London. Try doing that and still finding the focus to write - blogs, plays, poetry, anything.

Come back, whoever you are - whatever minuscule contribution I might be making to Blogworld is coming back to life.  And as I now know for certain that you exist - hey, why not send a comment, or even an email. I love talking to people - on screens, phones, or even in real life.

The Scapegoat has interest at a couple of great places in London, and an invitation for a production in a Hampstead fringe theatre.

I have returned several times to the one act play The Committee (aka The Scroll, aka Owen..) Need a tad more focus here but a dream sequence towards the end of the play keeps coming to me - it will presumably keep doing so until I write it down. 

An unexpected turn of events re the proposed anthology to be published by Commonword, the prose and poetry of a group of Muslim and Jewish women. `When Saira met Sarah.` Editors Sherry Ashworth and Anjum Malik who worked very hard, I think, gathering and editing their material, told us all that the material is going to be `published` in two separate ways. The poetry in a small book. (I thought we would all be in a book..) and the prose in an Ebook. I am puzzled as to why this should be. The women I met seemed a great group, and I was pleased to be part of this project. Not sure now I want to be part of a publication that is split for reasons as yet unexplained to us all.

Will wait and see...I`ve said I`ll withdraw my story unless we all get published together in One Anthology. Sorry to be doing this. Hard work went into it. I have written to Peter Kalu at Commonword whose decision I gather it was. Interesting.

And now on with the London day. Smog-ridden London maybe but the regular passing of Northern Line trains outside my study window makes me feel smug. 


3 years 35 weeks ago

This week I saw Women of Twilight at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington. The play was written by playwright Sylvia Rayman, in 1951, for a cast of eleven women. I sometimes find the White Bear slightly claustrophobic- this a compliment to the management, whose choice of plays has meant that most I have seen there have been extremely well attended.

Women of Twiilight? Strongly recommended. It`s about a `home` for unmarried mothers. I haven`t found much about Sylvia Rayman either on google or wikipaedia. Mainly that at the age of 28 she wrote this strong piece, which this week, sixty +  years later, was performed by a strong ensemble.

But what a surprise. The part of Viviane was played by actress Claire Amias, who played Yael in Laurence Summers` production of The Song of Deborah in 2007. And the nurse, who comes in near the end and has to tie up what the playwright couldn`t - played by Maggie Robson, who read the part of Becky in the reading of The Scapegoat - at Manchester Museum, back in the days I still lived in Manchester. Greeting and congratulating Claire and Maggie, and the rest of the excellent cast after the show was a pleasure. Best thing of all?  Women of Twilight is directed by Jonathan Rigby - now Claire Amias` husband. And how did they meet? When Jonathan Rigby came to see The Song of Deborah, invited by Sara Dee.  Without my play, they might never have met.



3 years 35 weeks ago

I`ve had some busy months - my dearest mother died at the beginning of August, and two months later we moved from Manchester to London. Since being here in London we have been flat hunting. I`ve completed a story and a poem, but returning to the honing of my novels, or working on plays has been impossible. Too many administrative tasks, too much to get used to.

I read the perfect book for distracted people - The Husband`s Secret, by Liane Moriarty.  Ignoring the fact that the praise on the back cover came from The Sun, the Sunday Mirror and Good Housekeeping - none of these Guardianreviewy enough to be mentioned in a blog...I took note of Sophie Hannah`s `literally unputdownable` commendation on the front cover. I needed something as apparently light but riddled with behavioural insights and riddles as this book turned out to be. Now I`m on to Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter.

But yesterday a young man, (27) by the name of Owen kindly walked into my one-act play, The Committee, and started that engine going again. Owen won`t require an actor - he`s referential, off-stage, and essential to the play. One weird idea that came to me during a conversation in Finchley three weeks ago, and hopefully a play is on the road again. The Committee, as I mentioned before, is not about a committee. Must change the title. 

Negotiations in process regarding three new London projects, too.

3 years 36 weeks ago

Finished story - Angels in Karin Edgar`s Salon, and poem - A Fact, for the anthology `When Saira met Sarah`, now being put together in Manchester by Sherry Ashworth and Anjum Malik. Reviewing and commenting on my mother`s memoirs is proving a real challenge. This process - remembering somebody I can`t begin to forget feels meaningful.  I have no idea how to do it. I`m just doing it.

I`ve seen two very different plays which I realise have something in common. Drawing the Line by Howard Brenton at Hampstead Theatre, which is in Swiss Cottage, and the Tree by Bernardo Stella, at Pentameters Theatre, in Hampstead. Both dramatised tales of real events. Howard Brenton`s play is about the drawing of the line that created the divison between India and Pakistan. Bernardo Stella`s is based on a true story of a doomed young couple in wartorn Sarajevo. Both periods of immense political and cultural violence, splendour, change, human significance.

And did I mention war, in which hundreds of thousands of people suffered and died.  

There were love affairs in both, and I like plays that contain these. In The Tree, the doomed love of a young Serbian boy and a Muslim girl. In Drawing the Line,  the love affair was between Lady Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru. This really happened - I read in the programme and in reviews.  With the depth of content of both plays, the passion that should have overflowed from stage to audience should have been overwhelming, yet in both I failed to shed a tear, or even feel deeply moved. I do understand that there was profoundly moving material in both pieces, and once we`ve moved and settled, reading about Sarajevo in the nineteen nineties and the divison of India will be on my agenda. There is a clip on utube - a conversation between Martin Bell and Bernardo Stella, which I found impressive. 

3 years 39 weeks ago


Lots to see and do in London, even when my days are divided between estate agents` offices... Last night we attended the annual Christmas do of the Directors` Guild of Great Britain - which I joined as `playwright with an interest in directing.` It was almost too noisy to bear, but lip-reading and smiling meant communication could and did happen with a handful of interestingly mixed people. An actress, a writer/director, two documentary film directors, and finally, as we left, a theatre director.

I went to meet an old friend at the V&A yesterday, and missed him, but spent an hour circling the ground floors of the museum observing the grand pillars, and the people, which was enough for my eyes. Walking down to the cafe, where I missed the friend again twice, (I discovered when we spoke this morning,) I viewed the scupltures of Christ, Mary, various versions of sculpted Christianity, which made me think of William Holman Hunt in his Victorian London setting, and how established Anglicanism was even more prominent in cultured Britain at the time, at which he painted The Scapegoat. (Yes, that was the play I mentioned to a couple of directors.)

Today, though engulfed in a tidal wave of computer-panic - helpful Michael computer man here for hours - I prepared the final versions of my story and poem for the `When Saira met Sarah` anthology.

I have been pre-occupied, of course, with memories of my mother, and still have the urge to pick up the phone. Part of me still sees no reason why I shouldn`t do this. I have been reading her memoirs, and writing notes and `daughter-memoirs` between some of her chapters or paragraphs. I can`t decide whether an expanded, commented on memoir will be a loving if truthful way of validating `Betty Yoffey`s words and life` - or an act of  deep disloyalty, if only because even if I put little or nothing negative in what I write, I will be imposing new angles and my mother has lost not only her life, but the right of reply forever.

3 years 46 weeks ago

My first outing to the theatre of new London life. A play set in Salford directed by Abbey Wright - who directed Song of Deborah at the lovely Lowry Studio - also in Salford. `Mrs Lowry and Son` is by Martyn Hesford, and managed to keep its audience moved while the actors, Michael Begley and June Watson had to keep remarkably still. Watson because she played L S Lowry`s mother, during the 7 bedridden years after her husband died. Begley because (I think,) photographs of Lowry seem to depict a still man, staring out at a busy world.

There is a lovely audiovisual film that they show at the Lowry Centre, accompanied by the magnificently melodious `Casta Diva,` from Bellini`s `Norma.` This has combined with the bright colours of the Lowry Centre, and the Pre-Raphaelite women whose faces, apparently decorated the walls of his bedroom, to make me associate L S Lowry with colour and life. Not to mention an experience I had on a train thirty years ago. I sat next to a dishevelled and shabby man. No-one spent train journeys on mobiles or laptops then! True to the `stranger on the train` paradigm, he told me his problems. His marriage, he said, had been ruined because his wife had had an affair with the artist L S Lowry. Had I heard of him? I hardly had, at that time. Since then I have read that Lowry had no affairs. But I remember the man and the conversation.

 After the show - a compliment to its depth of feeling - we got into immediate foyer conversation with photographer Ethel Davies who said she lives on a boat. 

The biggest laughs in the play came when Mrs Lowry exuded disgust at the working class grime of 1930`s Pendlebury, and nostalgia for the cleaner middle class neighbourhood of Manchester`s Victoria Park.  I reflected then on how keen Londoners - or all the ones I have met so far - are to get into the best areas they can, and avoid what they consider the worst. `Twas ever thus, I think. Not really that much to laugh about - unless we were all laughing at ourselves. 

3 years 47 weeks ago

So at least I`m reading again - after several weeks when my only contact with books seemed to be stacking them or lying them down in boxes, for our move. I went to Waterstones in Finchley yesterday - and got into conversation with someone else who`d only been here a fortnight. A young writer from Sheffield called Ian Farnell. We chatted, two northerners, thirty five years apart in age. Only when he said, encouragingly, `It`s good that you`re still doing it,` did I want to whip out my writing credentials and bang them on the counter. I bought two Alice Munro books, and am already gripped with a story. I`ve paused on  Peter Ackroyd`s biography of London, and will keep it for informative dipping over the winter. But Claire Tomalin`s biography of Samuel Pepys is as readable as easy fiction, page by flowing page. What fun.

Last night we went to a `conversation` between Adam Phillips and Giles Fraser at the Freud Museum on the topics of psychoanalysis and religion. Already friends, they seemed to be trying hard to represent (to the audience) what they stood for, as much as have a discussion with each other. I wanted to interrupt (the cheek of it; neither psychoanalyst nor much known writer, just arrived from the north!) and cite the maxim: show don`t tell. Still, the museum is impressive and one of countless places I want to have seen. A season named Mad, Bad, and Sad, about women and psychoanalysis, has some sessions I might go to. (Jeff might not.)

3 years 49 weeks ago

Here I am. Here we are. We had a great send off, and are receiving warm welcomes here. Although London, (we half knew and can now confirm) is not really one great city. Everyone we meet seems connected to their `village,` first,  and London second. Yesterday we met people from Highgate. Today we walked up North Hill to discover it for ourselves, though I already knew Lauderdale House - had a reading of The Song of Deborah there once. The people we met claimed that Highgate has a high proportion of `plaqued` houses. We walked past A E Housman`s house, where the phrase  `poet and scholar`on the plaque reminded us of the opening scene of the Tom Stoppard play ... The Invention of Love. One of the few scenes of that erudite play that I recall finding instantly accessible!

The venue Upstairs at the Gatehouse seems to have a programme of tried and tested material, but Pond Square looked literary enough. How does a mere provincial like me begin to judge? The cities I have lived in before are Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds, Ashkelon, and Manchester.

Because of the move, and preparing for it, the only writing I have completed in the last three months was the story The Angel in Karin Edgar`s Salon.  Now I am returning to my novel, Ambiguities, and looking forward to meeting directors and producers to take The Scapegoat forward into a full production.

With ideas necessarily having to be kept strictly under control as we prepared for the Big Move, I now find them bubbling up nicely. And for homework, I am reading London The Biography by Peter Ackroyd.

3 years 50 weeks ago

I dreamt that our move (set for Oct 10th) was delayed by 4-5 days, but by a stroke of luck we heard the occupants of our previous house in Didsbury had moved out suddenly, so we could go there for those few days.  In this oldnew temporary house I felt very relaxed, walking through its rooms, recognizing some of course (like - parts looked like my childhood home in Bristol..) and then I went out into the garden. The garden was as spacious and green as a Didsbury garden. It was autumn. Lovely berries. Grass a bit overgrown and covered with brown leaves, and purple clover flowers. In the middle of this I spied something wonderful. Some brilliant yellow daffodils growing on the autumnal grass. I woke up feeling sure that spring and autumn are somehow coming together - at least for me, this week. Does anyone understand that?  An hour after waking up I had a new idea for the return (once we settle a bit in N2) to writing plays. In the one-act piece, The Committee - the two men, different in countless ways - share a love of singing.

Oh, and I gave up on More Die of Heartbreak. In the great bookshop Black Gull, I shall start life in London by looking for feminist commentaries on the great Saul Bellow!

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