Culture comes in many guises - Cally Phillips

Today marks the start of the British Science Festival. It’s in Aberdeen – which is close enough for me to almost bother leaving the house to go to it. But… well… in the spring I tried to get them interested in Chasing Waves (what with Higgs Boson being about to be found and all that) thinking it might ‘enhance’ the festival. A play about Quantum Theory? You’d think, no? Talk about ‘gatekeepers’,  I couldn’t get anywhere. Okay, I maybe didn’t try hard enough but I’m at the stage in life now where I can’t be bothered to go ‘tarting’ myself out begging people to take notice of my work. Instead I ahere to the principle that if people don’t even have the courtesy to reply to a professional email, my time is better spent doing other things. However, for those of you of a scientific bent who might like to see an explanation of a quantum wave in less than 2 minutes  here it is.

 If you want to see more excerpts from the 2004 stage production, click here. It’s proof that culture (like quarks) comes in more than one flavour. And if you want to buy the playscript you can do so from Amazon or Kobo For reviews click here

This Autumn Season I have a number of ‘anniversary’ ebooks coming out. I well appreciate that there is not at present a ‘ready market’ for ebooks of playscripts. I don’t know why, it’s a no brainer to me that this is a good way to ‘publish’ things which are otherwise commercially unviable. Again, I give up wondering why no one else sees the world the way I do and just forge on, regardless. So, I’ve got three plays due out this autumn. And once more I find the common ‘theme’ is that they are all in one sense challenging interpretations of ‘culture’. Challenging what you can do with drama and what you can write about it dramatically and what ‘culture’ actually means in dramatic terms as well. For me ‘culture isn’t something you have imposed on you, it’s something buried deep in your being.

Which brings me to my New Best Friend Jack MacRoary. Jack burst out of my head, into the ebook festival purely and simply because all the talk about epublishing and ‘culture’ was beginning to put me in mind of a primary school level of debate. Everybody shouting very loud and nobody really listening. And a few tantrums and sulks to boot. And so, who better than a primary school kid to address the great cultural issues of our day. That’s Jack. His first ebook Tales from TattyBogle is available now on Amazon and Kobo for less than a quid. He’s got two more coming out before Xmas (homework allowing) and the way to keep informed is to go to his Facebook page and LIKE him.

 But back to my own Autumn Season of plays. First up, and just waiting to see what happens re the NHL ‘Lockout’, is Powerplay. This is an unproduced play from 2005 which actually marked my ‘retirement’ from writing mainstream drama. By 2005 I had become so enamoured of Boalian drama that I just didn’t want to write plays for the mainstream theatre any more and Powerplay kind of proved my point. It would best be performed on an ice-rink. It merges sport and drama (which I have found people surprisingly reticent about in the past). Yes, my first ‘success’ on radio was with Bullseye Babes in 1996 which was about a women’s darts team, but in general I always found that ‘theatrical’ people tended to get a bit scared when you said the word ‘sport’ to them. As if you were about to throw a ball, dark or ice hockey puck at them. Indeed Radio 4 found the concept of a drama about women’s darts quite challenging and the four years I subsequently spent trying to get it produced for TV were a ridiculous comedic ‘drama’ in itself. All that came out of it was that I learned the lesson that sometimes you just have to if not give up, then give in and go and do your own thing. Which is why I love epublishing. Because now I can do my own thing and not worry about all the meetings and procrastination involved in the ‘mainstream.’ I never understood why it should be that ‘culture’ is divided into those who like sport and those who like theatre but then I have never been in step with the cultural zeitgeist. And I’ve learned to stop worrying about that.

 Back to Powerplay. It probably helps if you have enough knowledge to understand that when saying ‘hockey’ you mean ice-hockey. That means you are either a truly enlightened European or more probably American or Canadian, since they appreciate that distinction. What we Brits think of as ‘hockey’ is in fact ‘field hockey’ and not the same thing at all. It’s like us calling The Beautiful Game ‘association football.’ I digress. Powerplay is in fact a deeply insightful comment about the nature of social rules, using the analogy of the ‘rules’ of hockey to explore relationships. Well, I would say that wouldn’t I? I wrote it. It will be available from around 20th September on both Amazon and Kobo. And the ‘lockout’? Well, it may or may not happen that the warring parties (players and owners) can’t agree terms and, just like in 2005 (when Powerplay is set) there will be NO NHL hockey for anyone for the next year. Which would make a great time to read a play about hockey then, right? And if they do resolve their differences then it’ll still be a great time to read a play about hockey, and the ‘rules’ of love and life.

 Once that’s out of the way I go back to my roots. And a more traditional view of culture. Almost. November will see two more plays epublished as anniversary editions. Down the Line is my updated adaptation of J.M.Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton. My play was first performed in 2002 to mark the 100th anniversary of the original play. The Admirable Crichton is the first play I ever saw (in rehearsal at the Dundee Rep when I was five) and got me into the whole plush seat mainstream theatre gig in the first place and so it has a special relevance for me. 

And later in November it’ll be the 10th anniversary of the first performance of my play about Foot and Mouth, Men in White Suits  (which was first given a reading in Lockerbie to mark the 1st anniversary of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak) and then a rehearsed reading at the Traverse on 22nd November of that year. But again, due to the vagaries of what is ‘culture’ never made it big for an urban audience! They totally didn’t get the idea of urban dwellers being construed as ‘rude mechanicals’ in a rural environment. Because I can, I will be writing Men in White Suits (and probably Bullseye Babes) as novels some time – when the TRILOGY in four parts-which is my winter task -  is finished.

It’s great not having to worry about markets and ‘culture’ or ‘gatekeepers’. It means you can do what you want to do, when you want to do it and that’s worth more than fame or fortune to me any day. So you see, this autumn/winter season I shall be WRITING. Forget the ‘gone fishing’ sign, it’s a ‘busy writing’ sign that will be up on my door from now till April. I have spent the summer engaged with the fast moving (and often backbiting) world of epublishing – conferences, twittering, facebooking and blogosphere and I’m all out of time for that flimflammery. I’m going to hibernate. Bubbles will or will not burst, pricing structures will or will not settle, multinational conglomerates will or will not do what they want to do – and when I come out of hibernation in spring I’m sure I won’t have missed anything important. But I will have a lot more writing ready to publish! To keep up with what’s going on in my autumn/winter publishing schedule go here.  I heartily recommend a dose of hermititis and hibernation for all  - reading and writing are what the winter is made for. Especially if there's no HOCKEY.


Aaaah, Hockey! As Cally well knows, I'm another hockey nut. And I too find it hard to fathom why there's such a perceived divide between sport and the arts. I can wholeheartedly recommend both ice hockey and Powerplay which is wonderful and wonderfully original. I've set a play in a hockey locker-room before now (cravenly, I didn't go the whole hog with the on-ice thing!) but although the Traverse's independent reader thought it was the 'best thing he had read all year' - guess what? It didn't get a production either. We hoe a hard row here. Rural sports afficionados. I rewrote mine as a novel, soon to be published as an eBook, called Ice Dancing. We might consider some joint promo to the multitude of people who may well find themselves without top flight hockey for a whole season. Imagine what it would be like if there were no professional football in the UK (you may well be applauding) but then compound it with the notion that EVERYONE watches hockey, women and children included. I'm going to be hibernating a bit too. I entirely agree with Cally's point that reading and writing are what winter is made for. The work is more important than just about anything else!
CallyPhillips said…
apart from hockey. yes.

Easy eh?!
Susan Price said…
Know nothing about hockey (except that my fingers droze around the stick once) but enjoyed that extract from Chasing Waves.
My proud claim is that I have sometimes understood Relativity for a whole 5 minutes together.
Kathleen Jones said…
I loved Jack, Cally. Glad that Tattybogle will live on!
CallyPhillips said…
Aye Sue, but it's all relative isn't it!

And Kathleen - oh yes, you've not seen the last o' the Bard o' DrumTumshie. It took less than 3 days for an amazed american to ask me if he was 'real.' !!! As I said to Sue - it's all relative. But then, am I a robot? We'll see

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