Stop calling Intolerance “Populism” It Isn’t.

noun: fascism
  1. (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practices.
noun: populism
  1. Support for the concerns of ordinary people.

I’ve put the definitions of the two words, as you’ll find them in the dictionary, above. The reason I’ve done this is I worry about a future situation where we say to ourselves…Perhaps the biggest mistake we made was calling those with fascist leanings populist…as I’m herded into a camp for being a dissenter.

The Dutch election results are in and Geert Wilder’s far right Party for Freedom failed to live up to supporters’ expectations in a closely-watched Dutch general election. All through the election his party was referred to as “populist” Their key manifesto point is a ban on Islam and zero immigration from non Western countries. So as “populists” they reflect the views of “ordinary people” …unless you’re a Muslim. As far as I remember there are about over a billion people on this planet who would describe themselves as not only Muslims but also “ordinary people.” There are also about 2.2 Billion who would describe themselves as Christian. So this isn’t about faith, it is discrimination it is “intolerance” Now look at the definitions above again.

Populism is not building walls. That is intolerance.

Populism is not banning people from moving around the planet/to safety. That is intolerance.

Populism is not singling out one group of people and laying the problems of a planet at their door. That is intolerance.

I’ll post the definitions again.

noun: fascism
  1. (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practices.
noun: populism
  1. Support for the concerns of ordinary people.

So please stop it now and call it what it is.



Metafiction, Kurt Vonnegut and The Turner Prize.

I previously posted a play here (RAW A RESPONSE PLAY) that uses Metafiction a lot in the script. This was a first stab at something like this and I’ve only just realised how much I was being influenced by Kurt Vonnegut and his book Breakfast of Champions. I genuinely thought at the time I was doing it because of my experience as a comic…

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Metafiction.

 “Breakfast of Champions makes heavy use of Metafiction, with Vonnegut appearing as the narrator/creator of the work, explaining why and how he makes this world as it is, changing things when and as he sees fit, and even being surprised by events.”

In no way am I claiming I’m in the same league as Kurt Vonnegut. I’m posting this because I’m surprised how much I’d appropriated his style unconsciously. I haven’t read much of his work and haven’t read Breakfast of Champions in about 15 years, although I feel another reading may be on the cards soon.

Suicide, free will, mental illness, and social and economic cruelty are the main themes of Breakfast of Champions so you’d be surprised to find it’s also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

In the book is a character called Rabo Karabekian who is an artist who has sold an abstract work called The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Here’s a fictional image of a fictional painting. temptation-of-st-anthony

Although he’s not a main character my favourite part of the book comes when Rabo has to justify the money spent on his work to a group of angry and cynical towns folk. He says…

“I now give you my word of honor,” he went on, “that the picture your city owns shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every animal. It is the immaterial core of every animal – the ‘I am’ to which all messages are sent. It is all that is alive in any of us – in a mouse, in a deer, in a cocktail waitress. It is unwavering and pure, no matter what preposterous adventure may befall us. A sacred picture of Saint Anthony alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light. If a cockroach were near him, or a cocktail waitress, the picture would show two such bands of light. Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.”

There we go. Now you’re looking at it from a new perspective. Which is what most art is about.

Now here’s one of the new entries for the Turner prize.


Looking at this you may come to the conclusion that the Turner Prize has reached its natural conclusion and disappeared up its own. But the point is this bit of art is by the artist, Anthea Hamilton, who has enlarged it from a design by Gaetano Pesce for a New York apartment block, to which it would have been a doorway (a back entrance, so to speak) for social housing tenants.

And now you have another perspective. No other great point to make here. And so it goes…

A stab at a 20 minute Play called Raw.

As a recent project we went to see a play and where asked to write a 20 minute “response play” to what we saw. I’ve never written a play in my life…and probably haven’t yet. I decided to go for something that is about my very first fumbling with University and drama, woven with a tale of near scandal, and mucking about with regular theatre conventions.  This goes for about 15 pages so no bother if you want to skip it. x     

PS  SORRY ABOUT THE WONKY FORMATING…but it won’t come over right from Word. But it’s not too bad still easy to follow.  

PPS The play features heavy use of Metafiction which comes from my love of Kurt Vonnegut and breakfast of Champions.  See next blog.



Scene 1.

Two actresses enter. There is a blue lighting filter the same as used in the production Bacon Knees and sausage Fingers. The lighting will change to denote time and context. Blue is the past amber the present. One actress is standing the other seated. Morecambe and Wise Bring Me Sunshine plays.

Father.          Just look at what you’ve done. Look at the state your mother’s in. What have you

Got to say about that?


Son.           But I didn’t do this. This isn’t the full truth.

Father.        So who’s responsible then? Who did this? Who reduced your mother to tears?

Son.            It’s Mr Davidson. He did this. He’s got…he’s got…it’s hard to explain.

There is a lighting change to amber to denote present time.

Seated.      Hmmmnnn. That was a bit raw. What my dad did that day changed everything.

Standing.   Well that’s kind of appropriate is it not? That’s what you are… raw. You’re a first year

Drama and Script fresher you’re one week in and you’re having a go at writing

some theatre.  And now here you are being played by two women. How does

that feel? This is a whole new world Mr.


Seated.     It feels fine. Kind of like a dressing up game that you do in separate rooms from

each other. Actually when the casting for this was originally going to be a man

and a woman I was going to have the woman play the more…err…informed half

of me.


Standing.   Why?


Seated.       Because of my mum.


Standing.   So your mum’s more informed than your dad?


Seated.       My mums’ side is what informs me.


Standing.   OK, so now that the gender of one performer has changed who do we



Seated.     Err…Well I’m the writer side and you’re the performer.


Standing.   Oh that’s nice. I get the fun job. And what is it exactly we’re doing here?


Seated.       Well I’m writing a response play to the production Bacon Knees and Sausage



Standing.   Ah yes the play that we watched last week. And what did you make of that?


Seated.       I thought it was great.


Standing.   Are you sure you’re not just saying that in the hope that your piece wins and

gets picked for performance?


Seated.       No! But if that was my intention then it looks like it’s worked. But no, certain

aspects of the play really resonated with me.


Standing.   Ooh…”It really resonated with me” Mr Theatre knickers is in da hoose. Don’t get

too close ladies he’s resonating!


Seated.     Fuck off I know some stuff.


Standing. You know bugger all about Theatre.


Seated.     I do so, I know some things. I know Pinteresque.


Standing. Really! Alright then show us all Pinteresque. Try not to resonate too much we’ve

just decorated.  


SEATED then stands up has a look around and spots a plastic bucket that is quite obviously away from the stage area of the play. They go retrieve the bucket, sit back down and put it over their head then shout from beneath


Seated.     (Colloquial) “SPOONS! I’ll give you fucking spoons. You’ll have spoons coming out

of the other side of your face!”


Standing.   How on earth is that Pinteresque? (PAUSE) Hello, are you still in there? I’m

asking what on earth is Pinteresque about a bucket on your head and shouting

about spoons (PAUSE) HEEELLOOO! Earth calling writer…what are…


Seated.     The long pauses! That’s Pinteresque! Ha told you. (REMOVES BUCKET)

                    That and the comedy of menace.


Standing. That was the comedy of menace?


Seated.      Well it would be if you bumped into me down the Bigg Market doing that.

Actually I saw a bloke doing exactly that in the Bigg Market and it was bloody

terrifying. Look I think we should maybe get back to the response play.  


Standing. I think we’re all pretty desperate to. So you say it resonated. Why?


Seated.     Well the play examined issues of neglect and abuse in childhood and how they

can impact heavily in later life. That struck a chord.


Standing. So you were abused and neglected as a child?

Seated.    Ah that’s a bit too strong a description. But there were definitely events that

impacted…Big style. But I’m not sure I’m quite ready to talk about that just yet. As

I said it’s a bit raw.


Standing. Right raw. We get it. The name of the play and the word used to indicate both

your lack of knowledge in the field and an emotional state. For heavens sake it’s

the third time you’ve used it only three pages of dialogue. Watch you’re not

using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut here.


Seated.    Well I said I was new. Look maybe before we get to the…err…the guts of things

maybe we could look at some things I’ve written.


Standing. Must we?


Seated.     Well it will give you something to perform.


Standing. OK now I’m interested.


Seated.     I’ve written a poem.


Standing. Oh for fuck sake, “These are my words. See me bleed.”


Seated.     Look I’m not saying I’m WB Yeats or anything here. I’ve not written many poems.

It’s not something I plan to make a career of…


Standing. At the moment your future in theatre isn’t looking too rosy either.


Seated.      Can you stop being so antagonistic please?


Standing. Nope, it’s my job. Protagonist antagonist. Key elements of a story. You learnt that

in your first week. Anyway don’t get all shirt and tie with me, you bloody wrote

this. OK come on tell us about your poem.


Seated.     Well… you know how workers’ rights are being stripped away, what with zero

hours contracts, push down economics and the slow erosion of trade union

support. Well, it’s just I’ve heard from a few locals about an employer in

Newcastle who are actually quite good with their staff.


Standing. Right so this is definitely not about Sports Direct. OK It sounds like it could have


some substance. What’s it called?


Seated.     The Ladies Of Greggs.


Standing. (LAUGHS) Oh my word. Or perhaps I should say oh my Wordsworth.


Seated.      Look could you just perform the bloody thing.


Standing. (LAUGHS) Ok let me compose myself…right…here we go.

The Ladies of Greggs…

The ladies of Greggs work hard on their legs

To bring us those pasties that keep us all fed

The ladies of Greggs rise early from bed

They’re the best of all mothers I’ve oft heard it said

With a smile and a cheery, “There ye gan pet”

To say they seem happy’s a fairly safe bet

But why do they bother to bring us good service

Most workers these days of their jobs they are nervous

Because Greggs are an employer of decent repute

That’s why they don’t end up in industrial dispute

For the cakes that they bake pay a good hourly rate

So to be happy at work is these ladies fate

So let us say thanks to the people of Greggs

Because they deliver us from evil

With our daily bread.


Well you’re right, you’re most definitely not WB Yeats. But that line at the end

has a nice sentiment behind it. I’ll give you that.


Seated.    Thanks.


Standing. You’re welcome.


Change of lighting back to blue to signify the past.


Father.       Just look at what you’ve done. Look at the state your mother’s in. What have

you got to say about that?


Son.            But I didn’t do this. This isn’t the full truth.


Father.       So who’s responsible then? Who did this? Who reduced your mother to tears?


Son.            It’s Mr Davidson. He did this. He’s got…he’s got…it’s hard to explain.


Father.       Come on then let’s hear it.



Son.           He’s got…he’s got…(SIGHS) He’s got it in for me.


Father.       Of course he’s got it in for you. You’ve been skiving bloody school.


Son.           But I haven’t.


Father.       So where were you today? Why did he phone your mother to say you were



Son.           It’s the last day before the Easter holidays. Loads of folk take it off. I haven’t

before but Martins mum said it would be alright. I only took the morning off

and went in in the afternoon. But Mr Davidsons lying, I don’t skive school.


Father.       You don’t skive school? So what were you doing today? You’re a liar. That’s all

We ever get from you, lie after lie. And I tell you this that’s the last you’ll be

seeing of Martin. The trouble with you is you think you’re better than the rest of



Change of lighting back to the present.


Standing.   Why did you just repeat that scene?


Seated.       It’s a technique they used in Bacon Knees. At some point these two strands of

time will meet and we’ll have a revelation. Well…at least I hope we do. I’m not

that far into the script yet and I’m not entirely sure I have the skills yet to pull

that off.


Standing.     Ha! Well that’s one of creating dramatic tension. Now everyone’s going, “OK

so we might get a dramatic climax…or it could be another one of his bloody

poems.” So why did Mr Davidson have it in for you.


Seated.         That isn’t actually what I wanted to say. I didn’t want to say he’s got it in for

  1. What I wanted to say was…he’s got…secrets.


Standing.     Ooh now we’re listening. Did he try it on with you?


Seated.         No not really. I mean we were both a bit flirtatious with each other.


Standing.     Holy fuck if this is your coming out piece I highly recommend you don’t invite

your wife of 16 years to the premier.


Seated.       No I wasn’t gay, he was…Look it was the 1980s. Everyone was mucking about

with gender. It was a sure fire way to get a number one single in the charts.

I was very effeminate as a boy, and I was a Goth so I used to wear some make

  1.               You combine that with all the drama and art I was doing and everyone used

to genuinely think I was gay. It got me in a lot of fights. I used to play up to it,

you know, to wind up the homophobes. They’d say, “Oi! Are you a poof?”

And I’d say, “Look I’ve told you it’s the 1980s…I’m not gay…I’m a Dandy




Standing.   I can see why they wanted to kick your head in. You know psychologists now

reckon being alternative or a Goth can actually be a form of self-harm.


Seated.       Yeah I’ve read that. Utter bollocks. All it meant to me was I wanted to shag

slightly overweight lassies in fishnets. How can you have some kind of a

condition when you’re in a band called The Cure?


Standing.     Fair point. So tell us, what was Mr Davidsons secret.


Seated.         OK…Look could I possibly break the fourth wall for a second?


Standing.     Now hang on Pinter never did anything like that. That’s a separate discipline

you’re talking about there. This is theatre, that’s not a common technique.


Seated.         Actually they did it all the time in ancient Greek theatre. Well maybe it will

become known as one of my techniques.


Standing.     Jeezo, you do actually think there’s a future in this. I’ll tell you what I’ll do it for

you, (TO AUDIENCE) “I’d just like to say ladies and gentlemen I am a local

actress with a good CV, but you know how sometimes you commit to

something before you see it…Bloody students.” OK that’s me done on you go.


Seated.         (TO AUDIENCE. STANDING) I’d just like to say ladies and gentlemen that

everything I tell you about my dad and Mr Davidson is one hundred percent

true. I didn’t create this story for dramatic effect. I say that because there will

be a revelation at some point that really is quite horrible and possibly

unbelievable. I can however provide evidence to back it up. The only thing I’ve

changed is Mr Davidsons name. That’s not his real name.

                       (SITS BACK DOWN)

                     So one day me and a lad Keith Weston stayed behind after school. This was

secondary school I think it’s important to say. Keith had keys to the drama and

music department as he was a prefect and Drama student. Anyway we were

just dicking about going under the Assembly hall stage and that when I decided

to have a look inside the school piano. Well…When I lifted the lid inside I found

four Polaroid snaps of a mans cock and balls…or perhaps a prefects cock and

balls. Mr Davidson was head of the music department and the school pianist so

you can draw your own conclusions.


Standing.   And at the age of fourteen did you find this a bit unsettling?


Seated.       Fuck no. We were ecstatic, in absolute hysterics. We set about trying to solve

the case like a gay porn Holmes and Watson. Never before this moment had

two pubescent hetro teenagers put so much study into another mans block and

tackle, trying desperately to figure out who they might belong to.


Standing.    And did you figure it out?


Seated.       Well we knew they definitely didn’t belong to Mr Davidson. He had dark hair

and these bits were very ginger.


Standing.   Ah…but this was in Scotland wasn’t it? So that wouldn’t really narrow things



Seated.     Exactly. We’re a land awash with the gingers.


Standing. So what did you do then? Go on some kind of Cinderella style quest getting

ginger blokes to expose themselves to you? “Whomever these ginger bollocks

doth match shall marry the Prince.”


Seated.     I wish we had. Then I might have not ended up in such pathway of life altering

trouble. No that night we had Drama Club with Mr Stewart. You know how cool

teachers can be as much like your pal as anything? Well that night we found out

Mr Stewart maybe wasn’t as much of a pal as we thought.


Standing. What…Don’t tell me you went skipping up to another teacher with four gay porn

Polaroids that you found in a vessel that defines his colleagues’ very existence

and livelihood?


Seated.     Err…Yeah that’s pretty much exactly what we did.


Standing. Wow did you know there’s no such word as naïve in the English language.


Seated.     Really?


Standing. Never mind. So how did Mr Stewart react?


Seated.      Well first he went very white and then he went very quiet.


Standing. Pinteresque comedy of menace quiet?


Seated.     No just quite. It was also around this moment that we realised Mr Stewarts hair

kind of was a lot redder than the blonde we’d always assumed it was.


Standing. Fuck off! You’d found your prince?


Seated.     Quite possibly. I suppose in a way this was lucky. This was the 80s we could have

caused a total scandal. We got the dressing down of our lives and told if word

got out our time at this school would be pretty much over. Little did I know that

was soon going to happen to me anyway.


Standing. And did you stay quiet.


Seated.     Yeah absolutely. Look we were young but not complete idiots. With all the stress

I used to get from the homophobes I was very sympathetic to the trials gay

people can experience.


Standing. And so Mr Davidson found out.


Seated.     I reckon so. He became quite aggressive towards me and a fortnight latter caused

a ruckus for me at home. If it was a plan to get me out of his hair it worked.


Standing. Err…shouldn’t we cut to a flashback at this point.

Seated.       Actually I was wondering if just before we did that we could have a wee look at

something else I’ve written.


Standing.   Oh Christ. I really don’t think this is the right moment for another of your poems.

If there ever is such a moment ever again, on this planet, in any type of

multiple imagined futures.


Seated.     No, it’s a scene from another play.


Standing. So now we’re doing a play within a play? I swear to God if you bring up Bertolt

Brecht here I am genuinely going to slap you.


Seated.     (LAUGHS) But that is quite Brechtian.


Standing. No! This is not bloody Brechtian! Look I’m a professional actress…


Seated.     (STILL WITH LAUGHTER) Ooh now you’re breaking the fourth wall. I never put

that in the script. Although doing that is a bit Brechtian.


Standing. No it isn’t! This isn’t Brechtian! I’ll tell you what it is, its Morecambe and Wiseian.

It’s Little Ern turning to Eric and going, “Do you want to hear the play what I



Seated.     (WITH HUMOUR) It’s a new genre.  


Standing. No it’s not a new genre. It’s the literary fumbling of a first year student with

                   two weeks experience under their belt at Uni.


Seated.     Exactly! So cut me some slack. Actually before we do the play can I say a little bit

Bit about Brecht?



Standing. (SIGHS) Enlighten us.


Seated.     Well first off you’re right. I know very little about Brecht. The other students do

but they’ve done A Level Drama I haven’t. But what I am finding out so far I’m

really excited about it. All that socialism and strangeness is right up my junction.

But the point I want to make…well the discovery I’ve made…


Standing. You’ve made a new discovery about Brecht? After over a century of academics

studying him?


Seated.     No not so much Brecht more David Bowie.


Standing. Oh Christ, we might have known you’d try and crowbar him into this somewhere

along the line.


Seated.      There’s a bust of him in the bar of this theatre. Bowie’s cool. Look just listen. In

class last week we were split into groups to discuss Stanislavski and Brecht. As

the other students spoke more about Brechts work, mentioning alienation

etcetera, as a lifelong Bowie fan, it hit me quite hard how much Bowies output is

influenced by Brecht. He did actually study him you know.

Let’s take for example Ziggy Stardust. The lyrics and story of Ziggy have a winking

quality to them. One minute he’s talking about Ziggy but at the same time also

about himself and the business of pop stardom. That provides multiple levels to

the text. It’s not just Rock and Roll but drama and music about Rock and Roll.

As the story unfolds the protagonist is survivor and victim rolled into one and the

villain is the audience and the trappings of fame. Also is there a weirder icon

than Ziggy? He’s the most successful weird haircut in show biz history.

Then there’s the alienation effect. Bowie performs Ziggy at arms length from the

character. He narrates the character from a distance. Pure Bertolt Brecht!

“Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”


Standing. Right…I’ll tell you what little Ern before you write your next play not so many

Cheese sandwiches…Come on then what’s the play?


Seated.     Well it’s just a scene really. It was another exercise we did. But what came out

I quite liked it’s kind of left wing but commercial. It’s a bit Educating Rita. You

know like the sort of thing you might see at The Live Theatre.


Standing. Well let’s hope for the sake of your future they’re not in.


Seated.     It could be fun to do. And it gives you something to perform.


Standing. OK but can we agree in this context this isn’t Brecht. It’s what I would refer to

as padding.


Seated.      Yes you’re probably right. But you know I’m…



Standing.   We know, you’re new, you’re raw. What’s it called?


Seated.       The Cleaner. I’ll do Mr Radisson you be the cleaner. You should perhaps read

The opening stage directions.






Scene 1.                                                                                                                                                                

A man enters and finds a letter. He opens the letter, reads it and tears it into little pieces, then leaves.

A woman then enters. She is cleaning. On the wall are two paintings, one of Winston Churchill and one of Margaret Thatcher. She dusts the Churchill then blows a raspberry and makes a rude gesture towards the Thatcher leaving it uncleaned. She then finds the letter and starts to piece it back together.

Mrs Ribble.    Ee…Someone’s not popular. There must be about two thirds of that shower asking for

his resignation. Shower o’ shite the lot of em.

The man re-enters. He finds the cleaner with the letter.

Mr Radisson. Err…hello. Are you the new cleaner? You really shouldn’t be reading that you know.

Mrs Ribble.   Divin’t worry pet. Your secret’s safe with me. Ah haven’t got that git from the papers

lodging in me spare room to cover that friggin’ tax o’ theirs.


Mr Radisson. You mean Rupert Murdoch?


Mrs Ribble.   No the one that does the gossip column. Piers…something…Anyway he’s gone right

doon in my estimation since he was hacking all them phones. How dare they, and Hugh

Grant was such a gentleman about it all.


Mr Radisson. Yes but I really must stress the severity of this. If one word gets out…err…Mrs, Ms?


Mrs Ribble.   Ribble. Like rabble but with an ibble as opposed to an abble.


Mr Radisson. Well Mrs Ribble I really can’t emphasise enough how what you’ve read mustn’t be

spoken of outside this room. I have to prepare a statement in response. You do realise

this is what we call a political coup? There’s every bit of a chance I might not even be

in this office this time next week.


Mrs Ribble.   It must be hard…


Mr Radisson. It was expected. You see I’m trying to take the party back to…

Mrs Ribble.   No I mean on your feelings. It must be hard on your feelings. There’s a lot of people

on that list I’m sure you regarded as friends and yet here they are putting the knife in.

That must be hard. I reckon a lot of folks don’t really see you as a real person. Just

another face off telly. To tell you the truth Mr Radisson I’ve never really been

interested in the world of politics but that was because the world of politics was never

really interested in me. But then you arrived and I thought you had some nice ideas. I’d

like cheaper trains. I have to get the train here every day and it costs a bloody fortune.

It’s no wonder they’re called Virgin ‘cos no bugger wants to ride on them. (LAUGHS)


Mr Radisson. (LAUGHS) Oh that really is quite good…


Mrs Ribble.   Ee maybes you could use it at the next Prime Ministers question time.


Mr Radisson. Well… perhaps not. Look, Mrs Ribble that really was the kindest thing I’ve had said to

me in months.  I am a person and yes this betrayal is causing all sorts of pains. These

ideas of mine aren’t new, if anything they’re quite old fashioned. They’re what this

party is supposed to stand for. However much a brave face I put on this I really am not

sure this is a fight I can win. Too many of own party have a lot to lose.


Mrs Ribble.   Well I for one hope you take them on and fight this oot. And there’s a lot of folk fee

l like me aboot you. You’re a proper fresh breath ye are. If it helps there’s a saying we

have in my family, I don’t know if it’s become popular, but we say it a lot. It goes,

Divin’t let cunts put ye in a mincer.

Mr Radisson. Err…I think that might be, don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Mrs Ribble.   Trust me pet. I know what I mean. My husband came up with it after he saw that film

Frago.  Anyhoo I best get on. I’ve got a pile of overtime on since we did a Brexit. Most

of the other cleaners have buggered off back to where they come from. And who can

blame them! (LAUGHS)



Seated.           That’s it.


Standing.       Really? I wanted to know what developed.


Seated.          Well I thought she would become his main confidante and give him all the advice he

needed to lead him to power.


Standing.       And then they get married?


Seated.           No, then there’s an outbreak of zombies and everybody dies.


Standing.      For real?


Seated.          You know there’s no such word as naive in the English language.


Standing.       I think it’s time we went back.


Seated.           I think it is.  





Lighting change to blue.


Father.       Just look at what you’ve done. Look at the state your mother’s in. What have?

You got to say about that?


Son.             But I didn’t do this. This isn’t the full truth.


Father.        So who’s responsible then? Who did this? Who reduced your mother to tears?


Son.             It’s Mr Davidson. He did this. He’s got…he’s got…it’s hard to explain.


Father.        Come on then let’s hear it.


Son.             He’s got…he’s got…(SIGHS) He’s got it in for me.


Father.       Of course he’s got it in for you. You’ve been skiving bloody school.


Son.             But I haven’t.


Father.       So where were you today? Why did he phone your mother to say you were



Son.             It’s the last day before the Easter holidays. Loads of folk take it off. I haven’t

before but Martins mum said it would be alright. I only took the morning off

and went in in the afternoon. But Mr Davidsons lying, I don’t skive school.


Father.       You don’t skive school? So what were you doing today? You’re a liar. That’s all

we ever get from you, lie after lie. And I tell you this that’s the last you’ll be

seeing of Martin. The trouble with you is you think you’re better than the rest

of us. It’s all play and no work with you. A normal job isn’t good enough for you is

is it?


Son.           I don’t think that.


Father.     Yes you do. It’s time you faced up to reality. Helen is it this week he hands in

his O-Level choices? Well he’s not doing drama and art anymore…no don’t you

stick up for him look at the state he’s had you in.


Son.           No…no…please that’s why I love school…


Father.     Oh love school do you that’s why you can’t be bothered going.


Son.           Please…I’m good at those things.



Father.   Those things won’t get you a job in the real world. And the real world is where

you’re going to start living. That’s my final word.


Son.          Please, please, please….


Lighting change back to present.


Seated.     Shit that really is raw. I can remember every minute of that.


Standing. You wanted to study drama?


Seated.     Yes.


Standing. And that’s where you got stopped from doing that.


Seated.     Yes.


Standing. That must have been hard.


Seated.     I was devastated. But the real truth was I always knew this would happen. I’m

from a mining town in the Lothians of Scotland. People don’t do drama where

I’m from. I sometimes make a joke about it. I say, If Billy Elliot grew up in the

town where I’m from they would have broken his fucking legs.


Standing. That’s really not that funny.


Seated.     I know.


Standing. That really was quite cruel of your father.


Seated.     I hated him for years. But I see things different now. In his way he was trying to

look out for me. He could be a distant man but when I became ill he was always

there for me.


Standing. You became ill.


Seated.     Not long after this incident I fell into my first depression. I was fourteen. It was

noticeable to everybody. I went from being this bright happy go lucky kid to being

incredibly withdrawn. Suicide was on my mind a lot. It turned out this was just

the tip of the iceberg. I’d been a good academic achiever at school, but after this

things started to slide. I left school at sixteen and took an apprenticeship as a

printer. I left that job after seven years. It was in my mid-twenties that the

condition fully manifested itself.


Standing. The condition?



Seated.   Bi-Polar disorder. Bi-Polar one to be more accurate. Quite an acute version of

The illness. I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia at first. That was shit. Not the

best of chat up lines when you’re young. “Hello you’re a sexy Goth. By the way

I’ve got this wee schizophrenia thing going on but don’t worry you’ll like all of us.”

But I fought back. It was really hard. I lost years. Eventually though I started to

make a living doing funny monologues in bar rooms and clubs around the UK.

Around seven years ago I responded very well to a new type of treatment. I’ve

been pretty well ever since. Before that was chaos. It’s funny but my dad used to

say, “If you’re going to study drama you’ll  need to have a trade to fall back on.” I

think we both would have laughed at the fact that my fall back trade is actually

the performing arts.

The past impacts the future. The impact it had on me was to induce pure

determination. I even think had I been allowed to do what I wanted none of us

might be here now. I might have just drifted. The condition was going to happen

regardless of how good an actor I was


Standing. I see, you said earlier there would be a horrible or even unbelievable revelation.

I fully understand how difficult things must have been for you but you know

these experiences of yours aren’t that out of the ordinary.


Seated.     Oh no that isn’t to do with me. No, that’s to do with what happened to Mr

Davidson. Look I wouldn’t make this up. If you need evidence just Google

British school teacher, Thailand, throat slit.


Standing. Someone slit his throat? Killed him?


Seated.     Yes. The weird thing was it was reported in the press that he’d been killed in

what was described as “A ritual sacrifice.” I’m from a small town and everybody

just assumed this was some kind of cover up. We all thought he’d been some

kind of dubious sex tourist. Please understand that was nothing to do with is

sexuality and everything to do with the fact he was in Thailand.


Standing. Did you feel a sense of vengeance?


Seated.     No. But I didn’t exactly feel sorry for him either. The thing is though when I was

putting this together I did some research into his death and it brought me back

to another theme in Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers. In that play Bacon Knees

has a horrendously abusive child hood and it impacts on his behaviour. That

impact on his behaviour then impacts on how people perceive him. As I was

writing this I realised the events of those days with the Polaroids had really

impacted on how I perceived Mr Davidson and his death. When I looked into it I

discovered it had been misreported. It was a straight forward burglary.

I was glad to find this out. I was glad he wasn’t the villain I’d created of him.

It’s all in how the stories told I suppose.


Standing. But things are good now yes? You’re finally at uni. You’re enjoying it.

You’re learning new things. You’re being creative.


Seated.     Yes I love it. I actually found out I was accepted on the day David Bowie died.

That day was also happened to be my birthday and I was at my mums’ house. You

know what she said…she said…”That’s David Bowie leaving the planet so you can

have some of his life.” That made me blubber all the way from Edinburgh to

Newcastle, but in a nice way. Kind of like an emotional buzz. I was filled with all

sorts of emotions. Expectation and closure and grief and sadness and happiness.


Standing. That’s drama for you.


Seated.     I suppose so.


Standing. Any final words? A poem, a play, perhaps a one hour monologue on your mental



Seated.     Actually it’s funny you should say that but that’s exactly where I am just now. I’m

In another theatre doing exactly that. That’s what I find so thrilling about this. I

can give it away. The collaboration with others is the most exciting thing. As a

species I think we do better in gangs.  I’m not precious about this at all.  Trust

me you can do it dressed up as Ziggy Stardust if you want.


Standing. Boy am I glad that’s one bit of stage information our director chose to ignore.


Seated.   Thanks ever so much for doing this it means a huge amount to me.


Standing. You’re welcome.


Morecambe and Wise Bring Me Sunshine plays.


I/Mmature 10. Patsy Rodenburg. Why I do theatre

Like a lot of people that may or may not read this I’m no expert on Theatre. Yes I’ve done a bit Shakespeare and I’ve seen a few plays at the Festival and locally. Being a student of scriptwriting we’re going to be experiencing a fair amount of it this year. Patsy Rodenburg is an expert in the field and has worked with many of Hollywoods top actors. This clip is only 6 minutes long and is as good an argument as to why you should try to see some live theatre as any. Hang in for the reveal at the end it will hit you like a punch in the stomach.  




I/Mmature Student 9. New perspectives. Love the arts.

So there’s been no Immature Student blogs this week. The reason for that is I had a go at writing a 15-20 minute bit of theatre. That took up a fair bit of time and energy both physically and mentally. What I was writing is part of a competition from our local fringe theatre group Alphabetti Theatre. We were to write a 20 minute “response play” to a play we saw there. Truth us  first year students didn’t actually have to do this but I’m a big believer in just getting something down, moving out your comfort zone and seeing what happens. I’m lucky that I’m going through a very unblocked period as a writer. There are reasons for that. Go back about 8 years and I could hardly produce a thing. A great friend of mine and fellow comedian Martin Mor gave me a book called the Artists Way. It’s a book that’s as much about therapy as it is about freeing the creative process. It eventually worked for me along with other factors that take too long to get into here.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of our lecturers advised my fellow students to follow some of its practices this week. As for the bit theatre I produced…well quite by happy accident I produced something that acts perfectly as a kind of warm up play to the new solo monologue about mental health I’m putting together. (“Solo monologue about mental health” ??? That’s new. I used to just call it stand up!) That’s why sometimes its worth just going for it. I’ll post it here once the competition winners are announced.

There’s so much to report about this week I just can’t in a quick blog that’s also supposed to entertain. . All I can say is I’m doing things that comedian me would have poured scorn on two weeks ago, but who now is looking at others and the world around him with a shifted perspective. Anyhoo this is supposed to be entertaining. I decided last week Fridays blog would be compilations of things from the arts I love. So here’s some more. have a good weekend.

Here we have Boys From The Blackstuff. The fact you’ll find no BBC drama addressing issues of unemployment, poverty and the disenfranchised on the TV just now is very telling. It’s taken Ken Loach with his new film I Daniel Blake to set the record straight. But this Alan Bleasdale drama hasn’t aged a day. If anything it’s even more important now. Go find the whole thing if you’ve never seen it.




Growing up in the 70s he was everybody’s favourite Doctor. Here faced with a great dilemma. He remained my favourite Doctor for a long time…well until this Scottish bloke arrived…


And here he is. Our latest Doctor delivering the greatest anti war speech ever of a so called “Kids show” In fact maybe just one of the best anti war speeches ever. Carling don’t make anti war speeches…but if they did…


Time for a musical interlude I think. There are umpteen versions of Heroes out there. But this one from the Concert For New York is among the best. This concert was a remembrance of all who died in 9/11. It was also really aimed at the Firemen/women, policemen/women ambulance men/women etc who died trying to attend to the situation.

Whether you think it was a staged conspiracy or a real event isn’t important. What’s important is the impact this song has on the service workers in the audience. Service workers who give much with little reward all over the planet. Heroes.


Rock and Roll is exhilarating. Dion here putting one of the last more traditional forms of that into the charts in 1961. But what they do here isn’t that far from what the next guy did with his first bands…


And here’s that next guy. The Sex Pistols is where as a kid I found music. They were  a bunch of kids who had the establishment on the run. What they did has never been repeated…because it has never been allowed to. They learn from their mistakes those establishment types. This song was about the current prime minister.


I’m sticking with the great John Lydon/Rotten. He’s done much outside his first band and will always be an icon to me. This song was taken off air because it was out at the time of the L.A riots. As always he was ahead of the game. “Burn Hollywood burn.”


As we’re on the subject of Hollywood here’s something they’re good at. Great action in films takes great direction. It has a story and beats to it as the action unfolds. If you just throw spectacle at it you end up with nothing. That’s why Batman V Superman was shit. When I first saw this film I thought it was the greatest Batman movie ever made…It didn’t have Batman in it, it had an assassin called Leon. But really it was a Batman film and heavily influenced by Frank Millers work in that field. This is action as ballet. Every move is perfected.





I/Mmature Student.8 Loving the arts.

End of week 1 of looking at Drama and Script. Fantastic. Lots learned/to learn. Making new friends…Here’s some things from the arts I love….

The first group therapy. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.



Bill Hicks final TV appearance…


Gary Oldman chewing up the scenery in True Romance…


Supermans first flight into action


Bowie  at his most discordant


Talking Heads at their most energetic.

I/Mmature student 7. Bowie and Brecht.

So far today has been a lovely day, which is a relief as it’s the one I was most nervous about as we’re looking at movement, voice and getting down to techniques that I know nothing about. But the groups have been lovely and I find my self now getting quite excited about Bertolt Brecht…now you know where this is going.

So yes my main connection to Brecht is via David Bowie who studied him and was a fan. It wasn’t’ until we sat down as a group and I started to find out more about him from the other students who have studied him that I began to realise how much Brecht has influenced what Bowie did. From isolation, alienation and the “othering” of people it’s all through his stuff.

I maybe chose a bit of a fluffy example of this in the song Space Oddity when mentioning this as I was challenged by a classmate who brought up Marx and other political notions to say that wasn’t quite it. But I argue back it’s definitely in there. If I was to name Bowies most Brechtian LP I’d go for Lodger or Scary Monsters. which in themselves both sound like titles he may have given to his plays.

Anyhoo I’m now paired up with said challenger and we’ve to investigate Vsevolod Meyerhold who neither of us know for a dwell period. Cool

I/Mmature Student. 6. Great actors (and bitchin’)

Great acting is awesome. Great actors are also equally awesome. I was making some jokes about the craft the other day and would just like to clear up that I hold great acting with the same level of reverence as I hold the music of Bowie or the comedy of Hicks. I cracked a joke about Tom Cruise the other day and yet one of the finest pieces of screen acting I’ve ever witnessed is in Mission Impossible 3 where he has to first bargain, then beg for the life of his wife and ends the scene (later in the film) with silent utter devastation. All of this being played off the equally formidable, magnificent and tragic Philip Seymour Hoffman Here it is below…


How good is that? Now go watch the rest.

I had an acting lecture today. It was awesome. The lecturer was awesome. We were even entertained to an excellent piece of story telling within the lecture that was informative, engaging and at times hilarious. As I said. Actors are awesome. People that lecture in acting are awesome too. Is this all sounding just a bit too positive for my regular style of blog? Ah well maybe I’ve another point to make.

A more typical start to such a blog from me might go…The Actor…I am a tool. But I didn’t do that because this is a less humour based blog.

As a comedian I often encounter a common response from people. They often think whatever I am engaging in, from a chat about the weather to a discussion on Europe that it I come to it from a point of cynicism and scorn. This in itself shows a lack of understanding of what comedy does. Yes comedians can bring that to the table. But we also bring waves of empathy, joy, surrealism, tension and celebration. That’s right. We do spend as much time celebrating the foibles of humanity as we do laughing at them. Awesome.

Last week I had a meet with the second and third year drama and script students and it was put to me that we should try to engage and socialise with those studying more performance based pathways as they sometimes worry the “writers area wee bit up themselves.” I was informed there’s a karaoke night where all groups let their hair down. I in turn wrote a humour based blog about this. See here…

Now you could read this as, “Could you possibly go make a tit of yourself so the actors can feel better about themselves.” As if I comedian would be so cynical. You can also read it as., “We all have a great time together at that perfect social leveller karaoke.”

It’s hugely important to me to be accepted by performance pathways as I hope to participate in at as well. Hey we work in a trade founded in insecurity. Awesome.

In todays lecture we were shown an excellent clip of Marlon Brando being interviewed quite aggressively by Dick Cavett.  This isn’t unusual of Cavett he often had a confrontational style. He puts to Brando the question, “Why do you down grade acting as a profession.” And I think Brando deals with it beautifully. You see, as things unfold it’s actually Dick Cavett who is trying to bring grandeur, mystery and greatness to the art form while Brando tries (and succeeds) to demystify it and generally get across the point that acting is for all and not just for those with some kind of mystical elite powers.

The discussion starts around 5.40 in  clip number 3 and ends in clip 4…


How awesome is Brando.

Also today as groups we engaged in a brief exercise in displaying 6 emotions of acting. My groups was awe. What? Did you think I was repeating that word endlessly without reason? Hey, I write. We love our tricks. So as a group we were to arrive at an expression of awe by committee. Here’s what unfolded.

ME.              Is awe wide eyed?

ACTRESS.  Right so what are we going for here? Realism or Panto.

ME.             Is there perhaps a slackening of the face?

ACTRESS. So you want us to look bored.

So as you can see I was dismissed by the lass fairly abruptly. We’re back to those insecurities again aren’t we? Here’s the first image that came up on Googling awe…


I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

So in this situation I think we had a wee bit of a reversal of “The writers are a bit up themselves.” Panic not. I can accept such things. As I say we’re an art form founded on insecurity. Buuuut…I will issue a warning. I wont accept such dismissiveness as things unfold. Confront, challenge, debate but don’t dismiss. Maybe I’ll develop a three strikes and you’re out system. Or two verbal warnings then a written. Or perhaps I’ll word it in the styleeee of da great bard,

“Yo! Should I unclasp this tongue, from which spits acid so potent it doth sear beyond bone and skin to thy very soul . Your word and clatter shall be scattered. Like a gasp within a hurricane…Bitches.” 

All we’re saying is…a bit manners please.

I/Mmature Student 5. Getting ahead of myself.


ME. OK besides how awesome Mathew Mcconaughey is (especially in Killer Joe.) How far has everyone got with Macbeth?

STUDENT 1.   I’ve finished it.

ME.                  Fuck off! Ooh Mrs Swoty knickers.

STUDENT 2. Shit! Were we to read Macbeth?

ME.                  Ah now I like this guy. Don’t panic I think we only really have to have got most of it down come Thursday. So did you read it with the notes and everything? It took me over two hours to get through the introductory notes in the copy I’ve got.

STUDENT 1.  Yes, notes and everything.

ME.                  Hmmmmnn….Your edition is probably simpler than mine. What with you being foreign and that.   (this last statement was recognised as the joke it was)

So we settled down to proper study this week. I’ve been hammering writing exercises and putting in reading hours all over the weekend…only to discover today that I didn’t need to do all that until this week commenced. So I turned up with a handful of work today which isn’t due until next Monday. This is no bad thing as  I intend to enter a playwriting competition  later this week so probably best to be ahead of the curve. On another note there was one wee bit of reviewing work we were supposed to have ready today and I was the only one who’d done it. So who’s Mrs Swoty Knickers now? I imagine this also explains why STUDENT 1 had more time than me for reading. Am I starting to sound competitive here?

On another note completely…isn’t Tim Farron an utter tit? I would take the trouble to write more about him if people actually had any idea who it is I’m talking about. Bottom of the class Tim. I’ve never seen such a fake/contrived bit of public speaking since Stuart Hall was due up in court. He says he’s got two major political policies. I’m assuming they’re Mr Wing and Mr Prayer.



I/Mmature Student. 2. Fellow writers. Macbeth.

Ok now that I’m getting the first insights into what the workload is going to be like at Northumbria Uni with my studies of Drama and Script I’m beginning to realise this blog may be a place where I come for a wee break to relax and recharge. I’ve no problem with said work load…but yep we’re going to be busy.

Much to my delight I finally met my fellow writers today.  A great eclectic bunch from India, Latvia, Gateshead and other such exotic places. There are 6 of us but if you include Richard Stockwell our course tutor there will be 7 of us in the room at any given time. That’s a good number, both lucky and magnificent. Obviously Richard is the Yul Brynner leader type. One of my classmates Holly is a Bowie fanatic (there is no other type of Bowie fan) so she’s obviously dead smart/cool/old fashioned. I imagine over the next three years the pair of us will manage to put the other five off The Great Dame David for the rest of their days.

I’m absolutely delighted with the tiny size of our group. Compared to the more common class sizes we can have a lot more feedback and attention provided to our developing skills.

For our first classes we’ve to read The Coen brothers introduction to Fargo. I know, how cool is that. This is my homework! Plus we’ve to read/reread Macbeth. I’m not massively versed in Shakespeare but that is the one play of his I’m pretty familiar with. I’ve got a copy of it in the house somewhere  along with the notes. However as a bit of a cheat I’ve also just downloaded the latest film version staring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and err…me. Honest I was a member of the English army that invade Scotland. I would be gobsmacked if I can pick myself out as I wore a hood over my head for the days shoot. Possibly a good thing as my many friends in the SNP might find my role that day a wee bit hard to stomach. The shoot that day was pretty rough as we spent most of our time up a massive hill or in a bog in Northumbria at the start of February in sideways rain. Most of us spent most of the day slipping and falling on our arses. At one point I was heard to say in my broad Scots accent, “Ahm no sure if this invasion of Scotland is such a good idea. I think someone’s going to get seriously injured here.” Whether this adlib has made the final cut remains to be seen. I’m not so sure improvising is encouraged when doing the Great Bard.

Is this a dagger I see before me… I’d imagine so mate. We’re in Glasgow.