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Time to give up?

I've had to say adios to a play I've spent all week working on. And, actually, a good while before then making notes about, and thinking about what form it could take. There's a bit of hope that by letting go of it, it will somehow return to me fully formed, leaving me to just play amanuensis! But somehow each day has felt like a slog; yes, writing is a slog. But add to the mix this enervating climate everyone seems to have wished for all year, but is now moaning about, and the pressure of feeling that IT HAS TO BE DONE this week because I'm back at work on Monday, then it pretty much becomes a dead end. There are plenty of people who have written whilst holding a day job - pretty much all writers, actually; Terry Pratchett wouldn't give his job up as a Press Officer until he had seven novels published, so precarious is a writer's life and income. Juggling the day job and then trying to get into the creative mindset of 'another world' in the evening is something I haven't yet been able to do. I took heart when I listened to a Radio Eireann playwright podcast, who repeated something I'd heard previously - that once you've got the outline, one could knock out a play in ten to fourteen days. It's possible. I dunno. I've reluctantly parked it. I hate letting go of anything. You have to be a bit, no, a lot, of a neurotic and an obsessive to write, I feel. Most writers I know are that way. Maybe everyone is that way, but that writers - constantly feeling they need to get it down in writing - are just more expressive of it? Who the fuck knows. I just know that this play aint for now. And yet it's so timely! It's of the now. It is. But it's about racism. It's not as if it's some wishy-washy story that has plenty of wiggle room; it doesn't. Ho hum. Onwards.

The week before last a friend and I watched the recording of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, filmed at the Globe. I had wanted to see it whilst it played in the West End, but hadn't got a ticket once I got round to it. Stephen Fry wasn't the main attraction, but Mark Rylance. He is so incredibly subtle - not at all hammy. I so desperately wanted to see him in Jerusalem. Anyway, it was compelling and hilarious. An all male cast, it remained true to the original production. Actors in Elizabethan times were all males. And particularly in his comedies, it helps the audience realise that cross-dressing males would have been a huge source of the comedy; to have had women instead, would have totally missed the point. Although I feel it's different with the tragedies.

I also went and heard a discussion on immigration at RIBA. Facilitated by Andrew Neill, and organised by the Spectator, the panel comprised Ken Livingstone, Mehdi Hasan, Trevor Philips, and Peter Hitchens. I actually felt a bit sorry for Hitchens; I felt that Andrew Neil was bullying him to try and get a few laughs. Hitchens comes across as bullied, added to which is the shadow of his eminently more loveable and more brilliant brother. I say that barely knowing the man, which is probably wrong. But that's the impression I get. The debate was a welcome event, I felt; the consensus was that there needs to be far more public discussions on immigration; on the levels of immigration that we've experienced over the past ten years especially. I've lived here since 1996, and I've definitely noticed it. My play touched, or attempted to touch on it.

Race was the 'thing' in Othello. I was fortunate to get a ticket to see it performed at the National, with Rory Kinnear. (I can never get over who his Dad was!) He was great as Hamlet, and no less as the Machiavellian Iago. The Iago figure was a pronounced trope of the Elizabethan era, I think. Censorship laws. Criticism of Elizabeth's reign had to be coded, as was the cause of Catholicism, banned by her father. Courtly conversations, too, had to be 'side spoken', like a shady scouser. I always get that image whenever someone is being 'snide' and having to covertly speak; of a Scouser selling knock-off gear in a pub. I doubt the Elizabethan court would have been much different.

Adrian Lester was suitably stately as Othello. It wasn't set in its original context, but that of the present; war in Afghanistan. Military meetings and kick-abouts in the base yard.

The person who stood out for me was Emilia, played by Lydnsey Marshal. An actor friend this week told me she's a fellow Mancunian. She has some solid form across formats - much more than Olivia Vinall, who played Desdemona. In fact, Vinall has done very little acting, so perhaps it's much more impressive that she played Desdemona at the National.

Next up will be at the White Bear in Kennington, another new venue for me and me mate. We're hoping for another 'Blavatsky Tower at the Barons Court Theatre' experience!

Maybe by my next post, I'll be able to say I've resumed my play, that it somehow worked out! Or not. Do I learn something different each and every time I write? Yep. I've learnt that it's all about process, not event. And each process is different. This week's felt like I was constantly in a maze, trying to jump up to get an overview, then once I thought I had stamped in my mind, I'd be lost again, and so I'd slump down and think 'fuck it', here I am - in a fucking maze. And feeling enervated at the same time because of the heat.

A writer friend this evening said 'stick with it', because he knows that's what I would say. The thing is, I taught creative writing, including 'writers on writing', and 'experiments in form' for three years, and do you know what? It makes it NO EASIER! Sure, one knows without doubt that it requires persistence, but apart from that... maybe it should also be about knowing when to let it go - even if I have to tell myself it's only temporary. And yet I can't not be working on something.

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Location:Mortlake

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