25 November 2018

Maids in Manchester

It's been on since Friday 16 November, but fear not as The Maids at HOME continues until Saturday 1 December and it's worth checking out, particularly if you're au fait with the play already. Showcasing a brand-new translation by Martin Crimp, this version of Les Bonnes by Jean Genet also features some interesting and innovative production devices - including webcams as mirrors and peepholes, Big Brother-esque big screens, subtitles à la Netflix detective series, and the first time the HOME theatre has been set up in the round.

This all helps to bring to life the story line about Madame's lover being in clink (which has seemed somewhat lost in other productions I've seen, but actually lies at the crux of the maids Claire and Solange's need to escape - it's not just to be free of the chains of their service, but to be free of the law once their plot is uncovered) and adds a completely new element - placing the play in the context of Genet having started to write it while he himself was behind bars. How would the audience know this otherwise, unless we had spent time beforehand studying (or Googling) him.

The set-up also (nicely, I think) brushes aside the five-page instructions "comment jouer Les Bonnes", which appears in the Folio edition I have, explaining what the set should look like, the facial expressions and gestures to be used, how the actresses should portray their parts... and that in itself is noteworthy in this Lily Sykes-directed run. Claire is played by Jake Fairbrother, Solange is courtesy Luke Mullins and Mistress (Madame) is Danny Lee Wynter: male leads taking on female characters, which is apparently how the playwright intended it, and which layers on even more role reversal and role playing than the simple story of the maids taking it in turns to pretend to be the master not the servant.

Jake Fairbrother (Claire) and Luke Mullins (Solange) in The Maids at HOME. Photo: Jonathan Keenan.

24 November 2018

Green arts

Really interesting and inspiring read here, about how organisations in the arts and culture sector are doing their bit (very well, it seems) to reduce waste and emissions and improve the environment and people's wellbeing to boot. Nicely proofread, you say? Right-oh!

09 November 2018


So earlier this year, it was the second Flash Fiction Festival, this time in Bristol (last year it was Bath), and I met some very inspiring folk, including Nancy Stohlman and Laurie Stone, both over from the States to help us hone our micro skills. 

Fellow delegate Debbi Voisey and I armed ourselves with red pens (and proper Spanish-style fans - boy, it was hot) in a workshop led by the former, slashing the superfluous from other people's stories, while in a workshop run by the latter I was coaxed from a hangover and into scrabbling together some semblance of a story or two, one of which I then fiddled away with chez moi and ended up with something I rather quite like, called Inside Out

It's wormed its way (ha, it features a blackbird) into a book to celebrate the weekend, which has just come out on Ad Hoc. Here's a picture (above), here's a link (go buy!) and here's a wee blurb:

"Sixty micro fictions written by participants and presenters inspired by the second UK Flash Fiction Festival held in Bristol, July 2018. The stories here, by writers from several different countries, touch on world politics, relationships in all their forms, fantasy and historical themes. Short-short fictions that surprise and linger long."

The third Flash Fiction Festival is already a date in the diary: 28-30 June 2019. More here. Come along - there's a really nice botanical gardens next door.

23 July 2018

Holiday reading

Can't wait to see the Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities: Manchester anthology, which soft-launches this Saturday at the Independent Books And Arts Fair at Plant NOMA. You can find out more about both the book (in which I have a companion pair about birds; one a piece of flash fiction and t'other a short story) and the market via a couple of pieces I wrote, for Creative Tourist and for Manchester Wire.

17 April 2018

What a performance

Last Friday (yes, Friday the 13th - heh), I was back on stage after something of a hiatus, performing the brand-new piece I had the pleasure of being invited to create for the European Camarade in collaboration with David Gaffney. We were asked by poet SJ Fowler to contribute to the Manchester leg of the first-ever European Poetry Festival, and it was a blast. Find out more about the event, at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, in my piece for Creative Tourist here. Click through to the "Live" tab here on Words & Fixtures to see the film of me and David performing our composite flash fiction piece. And check out the rest of the videos here, on the European Poetry Festival website.

Photo: Tom Jenks
Photo: Mick Conley

10 April 2018

Watch this space...

Check out this dynamic cover art for the Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities anthologies, the Manchester version of which is out later this year, edited by Dodo Ink Editorial Director and Minor Literature[s] Senior Editor Thom Cuell, and which I've been asked to contribute to! Lovely, isn't it?

02 January 2018

Pretty in print

Just before the year of 2017 faded away, I was pleased to find one of my very short stories make its way into an anthology of numbers all started in workshops at the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival, which took place in Bath over a not-so-warm early summer's weekend. My creation - about a trapeze artist, natch - took shape during a session in which micro fiction maestro Vanessa Gebbie provided some rather awkward prompts - but, hey, they worked! More about the festival and the book here, including a link so you can get your mitts on a copy for less than ten of your British pounds.