Saturday, 30 April 2016

Instant Beckett Play

Deep breath ............................................................... 
Another deep breath ................................................................ 
Another deep breath ....................................................... .............
Shake of the head ........................................................................... 
Opens mouth ......................................................................................... 

Friday, 29 April 2016


An unpublishable one for you, first and last draft, it's especially for any of you who appreciate a certain album by a certain sixties pop group (I claim no copyright etc...)

Interior - dim, flickering, artificial light - the living room of a shared flat. From the notional POV of television playing quietly, we see a man, casually dressed, sitting deep in a couch. He is holding an acoustic guitar, finger-picking a short, repetitive arpeggio and murmuring to himself.

Young Man: [Into the middle-distance] Take me back... take me back... can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back?

Another young man, wearing the casual remains of a work-suit, enters the room through an open door. He is carrying two mugs of something hot.

Young Man 1: Brother can you take me back? Can you take me back?

Young Man 2 approaches the couch.

YM2: New tune?

YM1: [Glances up at YM2] I wish.

YM2 hands YM1 a mug.

YM2: I've got a bit in the microwave... [Sits] What time is it?

YM1: Almost nine.

YM2: [Realises] Quick, there's something on I want to watch. Where's the remote?

The pair look around, without getting up or putting down their mugs. Eventually...

YM1: Here it is [fetches remote control from a nook in the sofa - portentously]  take this, brother, may it serve you well. 

Hands remote control to YM2. Cut to: Interior - natural light, a clean, spacious dining room with tall ceilings and wide windows. We see from the notional POV of a calendar on the wall a middle-aged man in a bright-white shirt sat at a polished brown table looking at an open laptop computer. A door opens. In comes a woman of similar age carrying a handful of reusable woven shopping bags laden with items.

Man: [Looks up and smiles] You're back, thank goodness. Did you get everything on this list?

Woman: [Puts bag on table - suppresses slight irritation with a smile] Yes, I did. 

Man: And the text?

Woman: [Unloading bags] I... what text?

Man: The one I sent you. I told you, we need wine. We've got lamb on a slow heat.

Woman: [Sighs] I'm sorry, I didn't check. I'd have got a bottle of claret for you if I'd realised. [Pause - renews unpacking] I'm sorry, [with a playful tinge] will you forgive me?

Man: [Long pause - looks at the Woman blankly] Yes... [breaks into smile]

Cut to: Exterior - a full-body shot of two men of standing on a hillside from the POV of someone standing below them. They are dressed in clean farming gear, tweed hats and boots. Each carries a shot gun open in the crook of the arm. They are indeterminately aged though look like the Young Men wearing false mustaches. The taller of the two points to something in the distance.

Man: Then there's this Welsh rarebit wearing some brown underpants.

Other Man: [Looks at Man] About the shortage of grain in Hertforshire?

Cut back to Kitchen Scene. The Man and Woman are sitting opposite each other at the table, eating silently.

Voiceover: Everyone of them knew that as time went by...

Woman: [Looks up, as if realising] They'd get a little bit older...

Man: [Without looking up] And a little bit slower.

Cut to a close up shot of a pair of man's hands under strong light. The hands gentle fondle a six-inch knife.

Man's Voice: It's all the same thing...

Interior: cut to a half-body two-shot of a Detective in a heavy brown coat (a man) and a Constable in uniform (a woman wearing a false mustache) standing in an empty office. The Detective is holding a knife.

Detective: In this case manufactured by someone who's always...

Cut to a face-shot of a pale, unshaven man with bloodshot eyes.

Wild Man: [Whispering] Umpteen to your father's...

Cut back to Young Men on sofa from POV of Television.

Young Man 1: [To YM2] Who's to know?

Young Man 2: [To YM1] Who was to know?

Cut to head-shot of Wild Man unconscious, being wheeled on a trolley.

Voiceover: I sustained nothing worse than.

Cut to a dark room from average human height, a figure is casting a torch-light about.

Figure: [With faint reverberation] Whatever you're doing...

Cut to an office scene, a late-middle man is sat is sat at at work desk, seen from the POV of someone crouching nearby. He is staring at a computer screen and clutching a telephone.

Man at Desk: [Intensely] In informed him on the third night, when fortune gives...

Cut to thirty seconds of footage from cowboy films. Gunshot sounds.

Voiceover: [Intermittently] Ride!

Cut back to Kitchen Scene. The Man and Woman have swapped seats. They are no longer eating but holding hands across the table.

Woman: [Dressed as a Cowgirl] I missed all that.

Cut back to Hilltop Scene. The two men are now viewed from the POV of someone looking across the valley through field glasses.

Shorter Man: It makes me a few days late.

There is a gunshot sound. Cut back to Living Room Scene.

YM1 & YM2: [Simultaneously] And weird stuff like that.

Cut to interior shot of hospital staff in scrubs and masks, viewed from the POV of a patient on a trolley.

Unknown Staff Member: Doctors have brought this specimen.

Cut to Hilltop Scene, now seen from the POV of someone looking across the valley through crosshairs.

Voiceover: They are standing still.

Cut back to Kitchen Scene. The Woman is alone, sitting on a chair, facing the camera and reading a piece of paper with exaggerated motions.

Voiceover: The plan, the telegram.

Interior, cut to a pub scene. An elderly man is sat with a pint in hand, talking. We see him from the POV of a friend sat opposite.

Man: A man without terrors...

Unseen Friend: [Interrupts] False as the headmaster reported to me...

Man: [Angered - to Unseen Friend] Who could tell what he was saying? His voice was low... [Looks up - now wistful] and his eye was high.

Cut to same scene several hours and several pints later. Man is now red-faced and drunk and wearing a brown coat. The friend is seemingly no longer interested and occasionally glances at a newspaper set on the table.

Man: [No eye contact - to the middle distance] So, any road, we went to see the dentist instead who gave her a pair of teeth which wasn't any good at all so I said I'd marry, join the bloody navy and went to sea [Falls off chair].

Cut back to Kitchen Scene. The Wild Man is  alone sitting on a chair, facing the camera. He is wearing medical scrubs.

Man: [Theatrically forlorn] In my broken chair, my wings are broken [strokes his own head] and so is my hair I'm not in the mood for whirling.

Voiceover: How?

Cut to half-body shot of the Detective and Constable standing over the chair from the earlier office scene, now empty, still viewed from the POV of someone crouching nearby.

Detective: [Listing with fingers] How? Dogs for dogging and hands for clapping. Birds for birding and fish for fishing. Them for themming and when for whimming...

Cut back to Dark Room Scene. A figure steps carefully and quietly through the room.

Voiceover: Only to find the nightwatchman unaware of his presence in the building.

Cut back to Kitchen Scene. Man and Woman are sat next to each other holding a piece of paper together.

Man: Industrial output.

Woman: Financial imbalance.

Voiceover: Thrusting it between his shoulder blades.

They turn to each other. The sound of a gunshot.

Man: [Lovingly] The watusi.

Woman: [Reciprocating] The twist.

Detective: [Standing in the doorway] Eldorado.

Cut back to Living Room Scene.

Young Man 1: [Portentously] Take this brother, may it serve you well.

Static shot. Both men look confused. End credits.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Your Face - the movie

About six years ago I cranked out the basis of a short short-story, called Your Face, inspired by a mixture of things, Burroughs, Kafka, the Mighty Boosh and so on. I've performed it at several readings and it has always gone down well, although when I wrote it I thought of it as chilling, it turned out it was chilling and funny, people laughed. In 2013 it was included in the Hackney Writers annual publication and I still have hopes of getting into something more permanent, Penny Dreadful I'm looking at you ;-) And, as such, you won't read it here... yet... I hope... This is the film-script version, a pitch to someone who never got back to me. Enjoy, Your Face - the movie. Picture here.

Scene one: Interior – an unidentifiable office cubicle in artificial light

A rear view of a man sat at a computer terminal. He is typing away at an unseen keyboard. He is of unidentifiable age. He is wearing a suit. He has short hair.

James had a problem.

James stops typing. He sighs and holds his head in his left hand.

He had no face. 

Scene two: Interior – a bathroom in artificial light.

Rear view: James is stood, shirtless, in front of a large mirror. He gently and slowly touches his face with his hands.

Actually he had a face and he knew he had a face. He could see it in the mirror. Eyes, nose and mouth were there where they were supposed to be, on the front of his head. He could see it.

His hands fall to his side.
It’s just nobody else could.

Scene three: Exterior – a busy city street – daylight.

James walks away from the camera. He is dressed in the same suit as in scene one. People pass by, uncomprehending.

They saw through his face, around his face and everything but his face. There was nothing there except visual ambience.

Scene four: Return to scene two – pause.

Scene five: Interior – a living room – daylight.

A woman sits on a sofa. She is cuddling a small baby, swaying it gently and trying to make reassuring cooing noises. She gives up. She looks confused and slightly distressed.

Even from the beginning his mother was puzzled and standoffish.

Scene six: Interior – the same living room – artificial light indicating that it is late.

A small prepubescent boy is playing with toys on the floor, alone, with his back to the camera. A Man enters the room. Cut to POV of the boy.

Hello Dad.

The Man looks at the boy. He initially looks shocked but suppresses the emotion, smiles and extends his arms toward the Boy.

His father came home from work every day and was surprised each time little James spoke. Who they talking to? They weren’t sure.

Scene seven: Return to scene two.
He had no face.

Scene eight: Montage – a football game on a grass pitch – a class room – a busy hallway in a school.
Despite this James grew up otherwise normal. He could kick a ball, count to 100 and find Africa on a map. Nobody noticed, however. Why would they?

Scene nine: Return to scene one.
He had no face.

James takes up typing again.

Scene Ten: Montage – James POV

James approaches three different young women – one in a college lecture room – one in a nightclub – one in an office. They each talk (dialogue is inaudible), listen, interact, laugh and eventually exchange details then part.

James came of age. He found he liked girls. He was completely uncomplicated in this. If he liked a girl he’d go up to her, talk to her, try to find things in common, impress her, make her laugh.

Cut to the three young women each receiving a phone call from James. They answer the phone, speak (speech is inaudible) but warily, confused and anxious before hanging up.

But every time he spoke to her again he’d have to start over. Why? She could barely remember him.

Scene eleven: Return to scene one.
He had no face. [Pause] James had to find a way round this.

James stops typing and stands up. He walks through the office. We follow him from behind. We can now see natural light. The office is large, open plan and on a high-up floor of an office block. People pass by. James is unacknowledged however.

His solution was to listen and look and remember. He would hang on every word, every expression and every inflection of the people around him, reminding them of themselves. It wasn’t all bad, mind you. If people remembered him they often liked him. A blank canvas, people projected onto James what they wanted to be themselves. He could be...

Scene twelve: Montage – film tropes.

A black car with a siren on top pulls up at speed in front of a camera. A man in a working suit emerges from the driver door. We see him from the neck down. He is a police officer. He is in a hurry but stops, holding the door. He sees something off camera in the middle distance, points for a moment, then closes the door.


The same man is now in an interrogation room. He is strutting around the room, talking (not audible), not looking at the person he interrogating. The shot is low. The suspect is facing the camera. We see the suspect's but not that of the interrogator. Suddenly the interrogator lurches up to the suspect, talking loudly, pointing, adamant about something.


The same man though dressed differently, in jeans and a band t-shirt. He is with a similar looking man in what looks like a backstage area of a music venue. They are facing each other around a table, the man away from the camera, the friend toward it, with a piece of paper on it which they both look at while each strumming an acoustic guitar and singing.


The same man though dressed differently, in a fashionable, loose shirt. We see him frim behind at a slight angle. He is sat around a table with a woman, they are on a dinner date. They smile at each other then lean in for a kiss.


Scene thirteen: Return to scene eleven.

We continue to follow James through the office until he reaches a vending machine and stops.
anything they wanted. The one thing he couldn’t be though was a person. He wished he had a face.

James lightly pounds in the vending machine in frustration.

Scene fourteen: Alternating between James sitting at the terminal, standing in the bathroom and at the vending machine.

As this began to weigh on his mind someone came into James’s life, not a person, but a film star, a face, a famous face. Known all over as “Brad” (even though his real name was Charlie) his was the most famous face in the world, his was a wonderful face.

Scene fifteen: A new montage – more film tropes.

A man, short haired, clean shaven and handsome in a strangely familiar suit jumps from a bridge onto a moving train. He lands with uncanny ease and grace, dusts off his jacket and smiles into the camera.

It could grace action movies...

A man long-haired, with stubble dressed similarly in jeans and a band t-shirt runs down a partially lit back alley, hollering and flailing and occasionally smiling at the camera, being chased by a mixed group similarly dressed young men, teenage girls, a TV crew, inaccurately uniformed police officers and someone in an ostrich onesie.

light up madcap comedies...

A man in a loose shirt and flared jeans clutches a woman mid-swoon. Before kissing her he smiles at the camera.
carry romantic leads...

Scene sixteen: Series of illustrative pictures.

Quick recap of previous featured trope/scenes.

Brad’s face was everywhere; in films and on TV...

Slow scan across a series of film posters featuring Brad.
on posters...

Sample clips of Brad endorsing mostly mid to high end consumer products, aftershaves, filter coffee, mobile phones, cars and so on.

in adverts...

Longer montage of a variety of news paper and magazine articles featuring Brad in some way.
in newspapers and magazines... Everyone wanted to know Brad. Stories of his life were everywhere. Everyone wanted to know him yet they knew almost nothing real and true. Brad's public persona, his image was very closely guarded. It was key. He could be anyone to anyone. With such a lack of personal detail people filled in with rumour and there was so much rumour it may have seemed that behind the face was a very ordinary man; fragile, vain and fearful.

Headlines: Separation! Rumour! Denial! Divorce!

Behind the face was a divorcee (huge alimony)

Footage: a man looking a lot like Brad is led by a police officer into a the back of a car, cuffed, head held down.

and a reputed drunk driver (convictions paid off with money).

More footage: a short recap of the earlier film tropes and adverts.

There were suspicions of gambling debts and drug abuse (his career alternated between art-house movies, cash cows and coffee adverts). On discovering Brad, James now knew what to do.

Scene seventeen: James studies Brad from all these angles.

Rear view, silhouette of James sitting alone in a cinema.

He went to see Brad’s films,

Rear view, Brad watching television from a couch.

Watched his TV interviews,

POV of James flicking through the same newspaper and magazine articles as before.

Read all about him in books and magazines. He studied Brad, everything about him, in particular his face. He ended up knowing pretty much all there was to know about Brad, the official and unofficial stories.

Scene eighteen: Exterior, travel scenes.
James POV, in a black cab. Arriving at an airport. Rear view James in a queue. POV, James finds his seat. POV, James hails another taxi. The taxi progresses through Los Angeles. The taxi arrives at the gates of a hillside mansion.

James had saved up a lot of money over the years and now he figured he'd spend it. He quit his job. The morning after he left work he took a flight to America, to Los Angeles. Getting off the plane he immediately booked a cab, up the hills to the great mansions, to one mansion in particular, Brad’s stately abode.

Scene nineteen: Exterior day and dusk outside the gates of Brad's home.

James stands unnoticed amid various street scenes, people come and go, cars, joggers, a tour bus, trucks make deliveries, a police prowl car glides by.

Every day, and some nights, James would go up to the gates of Brad’s palace and watch what went on. He did this for several weeks. Normally someone doing this would be spotted quickly and arrested. No one spotted James. No one ever remembered him. He had no face.  James would watch people come and go, cleaners, builders, executives; he watched and waited.

A black sports car with tinted windows appears at the gates of Brad's home and stops.

Then late one afternoon he saw a blacked out sports car pull up into the drive. The occupant didn’t get out and speak into the little box, asking to be allowed in like all the others did. The gates just parted. It was Brad. It had to be.

Scene twenty: Exterior night.

We follow James up a ladder by a wall. He cuts through a set of wires. He climbs over and jumps down the other side of the wall. We follow James tiptoeing through a garden toward Brad's house.

James waited until it was dark before springing into action. He broke into the compound with a ladder and some wire cutters. Clambering over the wall he then crept up the long garden to the foot of Brad’s house.

POV of James looking at Brad's house. There is a light on at the first floor; at the window there was a silhouette of a man.
Brad was alone. James crept into the house.

Scene twenty-one: Interior, night, the living area of Brad's home.

Brad is roaming randomly around the room, mumbling something, holding a piece of paper and glancing at it every now and then until he spots James standing, a shadow in the shadow of the doorway.

[Optimistically – after a pause]
Hey, are you here about the pool?

[Calm and unemotional throughout]


[Audibly frightened but holding it back]
Who are you?
My name is James.

[Backing away from the shadow in the doorway]
What do you want?
[A quiver in his voice]
I have money.
I don’t want money
[Begins to babble]
Why can’t I see you? Come into the… I’m not afraid. What do you want? I have a car...? A TV, widescreen…? Drugs…? I have drugs…?
I don’t want those things.
[Looking around for something to arm himself with]
Why can’t I see you...? What do you want?

James walks forward, into the light, his face begins to appear in focus then cut to POV of James looking at Brad, who is aghast.
It’s quite simple... I want your face.

Brad opens his mouth to scream.


Monday, 25 April 2016

A bit more Red Wedge

I got an email out of the blue last year from the Red Wedge folks telling me they were printing my story. What story? I'd forgotten all about it. This is an excerpt from an unpublished and likely unpublishable novella. The novella itself felt fairly good while I was writing it, it was a dark comedy, my kind of fun.

I sat back (metaphorically) when I finished the first draft and immediately spotted its myriad problems. Long story short: there was no actual lead character in it and no overall story, just a lot of funky chaos. The victims were better drafted and more rounded than the notional detectives. Also, as you will see from the link it was also written in a brisk and simple style that I like but have worked to get away from.

I am relatively pleased with this piece, except for a few of the deeply silly section headings, which I would change if I could. There's also some mysterious, open-ended bits, like why make threats in Esperanto? What on Earth is M386?  These are questions that come from their piece being a part of something bigger, questions that, if I never come back to this, you will never learn the answer to.

Such is life, it's fast, it's funny, it's apposite and hipsters die at the end, enjoy: The Rise, Fall and Disapparation of Rupert Atwell.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Another link - whoopee!

Although you go this far and no further without buying the book - make sure that you do. I made it into the Kind of a Hurricane Press anthology on Four Seasons last year with a little knockabout satirical monologue called Climate Change You Can Believe In. A page long, I came up with it during a group writing exercise. It took ten minutes to draft and I barely altered a thing afterwards. I later read the anthology. My bit did seem odd next to a lot of very refined, skillful poetry but it's evidence, perhaps, that First Thought, Best Thought is not always a bad idea.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


Scene One
Exterior: a leafy, suburban street. A middle-aged man, clean-shaven, well-dressed and conventionally handsome and appears in half-body shot. He looks into the camera.
Man: [In crisp, confident Transatlantic RP] There has never been a better time to rent your property out. Supply is down and demand is on the up and will be for the foreseeable future [He approaches the camera - stops - a head and shoulders shot] but the future is not always certain [frowns].
Scene Two
Interior: Man is standing in an anonymously busy office, half-body shot. Everyone else in the office is seated at a computer terminal.
Man: [Walks through the office making sympathetic hand gestures] As an entrepreneur and smart investor you know you have to stay one step ahead of the market. We at Marshall, Carter and Dark understand this [stops]. And that is why we have come up with a radical new solution to the problems landlords face.
Scene Three 
Interior: Man walks along an narrow, empty corridor, full-body shot, towards the camera.
Man: [Holds out arms] There is only so much space to go around, [relaxes] what with [in a wry tone] health and safety laws, there have always been limitations to how you can utilise your property and enhance revenue streams. [Stops] Until now...
Scene Four 
Montage of art works.

Man: [Voiceover] Abartists have been delighting us with their ability to conjure dimensionally anomalous art works. But...
using new Eleven-Dimensional Abspace Expansion Technology...
a supercomputer...

and grey market fissile material... 

we can now take this process out of the gallery and into the real world
Scene Five
Montage of various dwellings and structures.
Man: [Voiceover] Our engineers took this two-bedroom end of terrace property in Oldham and added eight further rooms, two bedrooms, a master suite, a drawing room, office, coelacanth tank, dungeon and granny annex, all without affecting structural integrity and with minimal loss of life.

We acquired this four-bedroom detached house in Southampton and installed 
 a fifty-bunk barracks, a fully-equipped armoury and concealable helipad without expanding regular floor space or increasing council-tax bills. But there's more.
Last year we recovered this abandoned aviary in Newcastle-Upon Tyne. It now includes a formula one racetrack and indoor ski centre, all built in less than THREE MONTHS

Scene Six
Return to man standing in corridor.
Man: Space, it used to be the final frontier. Not anymore... Here at Marshall, Carter and Dark we want to help you [points at camera] shake society down for all it's got. Purchase now and we will throw in a free apprentice or work-placement peon of your choice to do with whatever you like [smiles knowingly].
Scene Seven
Man: [Voiceover] Offer ends 2020, terms and conditions apply. Marshall, Carter and Dark: because landlords run this show.