Saturday 17 August 2013

Doctor Faustus…

Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a play that I fell in love with when I was at school and that has stayed with me ever since. I’ve read the occasional modern story that pays homage to the tale and seen a few productions over the years since then, but none have really captured the essence of Faustus for me.

It is a tale of human folly and unattainable desire. It is a lesson that having all your wishes granted may not bring you happiness. It should, in fact, be necessary reading for everyone – it is that good of a story and a moral lesson.

Now, thanks to The Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham’s historic jewellery quarter, and Blue Orange Arts, a charity focused on bringing affordable high quality dramatic arts to the public, I feel satisfied that I have seen a performance that captures the true depths of the play.

In a small theatre it is at times hard to convey the necessary sense of dramatic tension and atmosphere that must come hand in hand with a play like this one. The set here consisted of a small stage that could be curtained off when necessary and an area of the floor in front of the stage where the main bulk of the action took place, with the audience seated in a horseshoe around it so that we the watchers were very close to the players at all times.

Mixed media including some excellent sound effects and on stage music, puppetry, masks, a wonderful array of props and costumes, the hellish dry ice and some clever lighting were used in abundance to ensure that every aspect of the story was played out in lavish detail. Add in performances from six very strong actors and a director with an eye for cleverly embellished dramatics and you have a resounding success. I will even forgive them the few touches of modernity that crept into the production.

At the interval we were enticed from our seats and into the bar by the devils, still in character, and they, along with Mephistopheles throughout, were successfully creepy, evil eyes staring out from eerily inert red masks. It is these additional touches that show us how thoroughly the original material was studied and interpreted to retain the audience’s attention even as we were departing the venue for a quick whiff of non-dry-iced air.

To say the performance was intense would be an understatement and by the end I was entirely immersed in Faustus’ plight. It may be a venue I have never before visited but if this is the quality of work being produced I will certainly be keeping an eye on the upcoming shows. My love for Marlowe’s play has once again been ignited.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 10 August 2013

When the Words Won’t Come…

We’ve all heard the words ‘writers’ block’ and cringed in one way or another. I think I’ve even blogged about my approach to writers’ block before, which is generally to ignore it and carry on no matter how awful the writing becomes. After all, editing exists for a reason.

But more recently I’ve noticed that sometimes I approach the dreaded block differently. Let’s face it: the words don’t always flow well. Sometimes there is that period of staring at a computer screen and producing zero word count. Or reading back over something you tried to force and deleting the whole lot in despair. Or laughing about it, on better days.

Someone recently asked me what I do when the words won’t come. And now I’ve thought about it and spied on myself during a very unproductive week, my answer is this: I still ignore the block and deny its existence, but instead of pushing through it I walk away from the story and from the keyboard, I pick up a fantasy book by an author whose work I admire, or I go in search of someone new, and I read. I lose myself in someone else’s world for a little while and I just read.

This is not because I have given in and accepted that they have managed what I cannot. It is not because I think I will never manage what they have. No! There is nothing defeatist about it. I do it to remind myself that they have been where I am, that they have taken time and laboured over something they believed in, and they are proof that the achievement is possible. Plus they wrote a good book so why wouldn’t you want to read it?

So next time I find myself avoiding writing through reading (far more pleasurable than housework anyway!) I will tell myself that I believe in my story, that I will write it when the time is right, and that it is possible to achieve my dream. Every well-loved book on my shelf is proof of that.

Elloise Hopkins.