Waggling on…

This time last year, I was finishing the script and the music for The Magic Tea Kettle and starting to think about how to make all the bonkers props for the first Waggly Tales production. Now, Waggly Tales has two successful runs under its paws and a great local reputation thanks to the group of wonderful collaborators who made it all happen.

It was so lovely to be involved in a theatre project that simply *worked*. If you have anything to do with theatre, you’ll know what I mean. Small, self-supporting theatre is mostly battle after nightmare after trauma, but with Waggly Tales, everything fell into place. People wanted this kind of work. They came back and saw it again. They sent us emails saying how much they’d enjoyed it. It worked. It made money. It had a future. However, the personal factors that have been making me an utter misery guts for the past few years have now made it impossible for me to continue taking a creative lead in the company. I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t incredibly difficult stepping back, but I know that Eilidh Beaton and Helen Goward will do a marvellous job. They’ve got a brand spanking spangly new show lined up for the Easter hols as well as some rather special prop-making workshops, so keep an eye on the website for booking details.

I really, really hope to be able to do some small solo stuff for children or adults in the vaguely foreseeable future, but I’m not sure when or how at the moment. I’d love to do some comedy again but my funny bone keeps breaking. Hmm. That came out rather more self-pityingly than intended, but it’s *true* and I’m tired of pretending otherwise. Tediously, the ongoing mission is to try to get both body and brain operating in a vaguely helpful manner, however they’re both a bit on the stubborn side (well, gosh darn, who’d a thought it?*) so, well, we’ll just have to see how it goes. Not an approach I particularly enjoy, but that’s how it is. Chin up, shoulders back, best foot forward etc etc.

*This was the name of a pub outside which my brother and I spent many hours in the late 70s and early 80s in the car with the tape player on with a bottle of pop and a bag of crisps while my dad was inside arm-wrestling or whatever dads did in pubs in the late 70s and early 80s. The pub sign featured an astronaut discovering a bottle of beer on the moon. I thought this pub name and the sign and sitting in the car with the tape player on (Beach Boys Summer Dreams) with a bottle of pop and a bag of crisps and my brother were all simply brilliant things. I just did a quick search and discovered that the pub is no more! The site now boasts a group of rather attractive houses. Progress and all that…

Half-term Hallowe’en frolics!

The Magic Tea Kettle by Claire Taylor

Heck, I’ve been so busy doing other stuff, I’ve neglected myself! This is getting to be an all-too-common occurrence… Must be more self-absorbed. Or more organised. Or maybe simply more!

So, a quick plug for The Magic Tea Kettle round two!

This zany, bonkers, badger-filled romp for the under 7s (and their grown-ups) which sprang fully-formed from my zany, bonkers, badger-filled mind, is going on a southeast London family-friendly pub crawl for a few days this half-term, ending with a show at The London Theatre as part of the Lewisham Fringe Festival.

That’s this coming week! Zoinks!

Shows start on Thursday 31st Oct (come in your Hallowe’en outfits!) at The Ivy House, the UK’s first co-operatively owned pub. Friday, November 1st, we’re hosted by the lovely folk at newly refurbished Herne Tavern in East Dulwich, while on Saturday 2nd we’re back under the benevolent – and slightly cheeky – gaze of The Old Nun’s Head in, you guessed it, Nunhead! Then, on Sunday, 3rd November, we’re going to do a most peculiar thing and perform a play in a theatre! The London Theatre, no less, in New Cross.

Full details, as always on the Waggly Tales website!

Oh, we’re doing some fun workshops for the under 7s after most of the shows, so there’s yet another reason to come along!

Happy Hallowe’en, Pumpkin Fans!

The Magic Tea Kettle bubbles on

I’ve been neglecting my online presence, but it’s been a bit hectic of late. I’ve been on jury service, which was very much not what I expected. I thought I would enjoy it and find it fascinating. It was fascinating but, blimey, being responsible for making a decision about someone’s life is utterly exhausting. And not helped by the dreadful canteen. And the lack of any sort of  post-show drinks, chat or other form of debriefing or decompression made for a few interesting days once it was all over. However, it now seems quite unreal and long ago – a strange experience in  parentheses.

So, back to the business of getting on with things. Waggly Tales’ first run of The Magic Tea Kettle at the Old Nun’s Head in Nunhead was a delightful and successful experience.  Super venue, super audiences and super team! We’re now organising more local shows for the coming months and a tour for spring 2014, plus another new show is in the pipeline. In case you missed it, here are a few snapshots of the magic kettle-based frolics:

Sophie the Witch and Prince Arnold

Uh-oh, Sophie the Witch and Prince Arnold in trouble again

The Moody Fairy

The Moody Fairy about to show Arnold who’s boss

The Moody Fairy, Sophie the Witch and Prince Arnold - and a smelly old kettle

The Moody Fairy, Sophie the Witch and Prince Arnold – and a smelly old kettle

The Badger Tea Kettle

The Badger Tea Kettle – he’s wise and brave and bold and hundreds of years old!

Time for a Bath!

Bubbly-wubbly, bubbly-wubbly…Time for a Bath!

Prince Arnold and the Narrator

Prince Arnold and the Narrator searching, searching everywhere

Sophie the Witch and the Badger Tea Kettle

Sophie the Witch and the finest Badger Tea Kettle the world will ever see!





When the bustle stops…

I live in the Borough of Greenwich in Plumstead, which is about a 15 minute-walk from Woolwich. It’s an unsung part of London, with acres of open space, woodland, amazing views, steep hills, stunning sunsets and affordable housing.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be part of a preview audience for A High Street Odyssey, a new show from the amazing Inspector Sands. This innovative, hilarious and warm ‘invisible’ promenade show (with headphones for the audience and stunning, highly technical sound play) is touring UK high streets this summer. It was developed and previewed in Woolwich and will be returning there on 28th and 29th June for the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival  – go see! It’s free, but you need to book and it’s ace!

If you stroll down Woolwich’s main shopping streets, you’ll see a pretty much classic example of an urban British town centre – people shopping, harassed office workers having a quick fag, kids pointing at the cakes in the baker’s window, tough guys in vests walking their Staffies, mothers and nannies corralling herds of children, a man helping a lady pick up the onions that have escaped from her string bag, people running for a bus, buskers trying out a new song, a church choir praising creation, elderly ladies pushing their canvas shopping trollies in front of them, teenage boys pretending they’re not looking at girls, couples bickering about the amount of time they spend shopping, couples having a canoodle, toddlers distraught at having let go of their free McDonald’s balloon, a queue at the traditional ice cream stand, parents taking snapshots of their terrified three-year-old riding on a mini big wheel, market traders yelping unintelligibly about fruit or maybe vegetables, religious people tenderly pressing leaflets into your hand, more religious people tenderly expressing concern for your immortal soul, gleeful schoolgirls dashing out of Primark with glints in their eyes and bulges under their coats…

During the preview of the play, people on the high street who weren’t part of the audience were so interested in what was going on; asking what was happening, wondering whether it would be on TV, wanting to join in, wanting to be part of it, loving the weirdness and unexpectedness and gentleness of it. Human reactions from human beings. Who feel safe and comfortable and at home in their neighbourhood and on their bustling high street.

And then sometimes the bustle stops.

The first time I saw Woolwich stop was the day after the 2011 riots.

The second time I saw it stop was yesterday, after the indescribably horrendous murder of the soldier from the barracks.

What can you do?

Carry on.

Carry on shopping. Carry on wanting a cake. Carry on being willing to stop and help people. Carry on running for that bus. Carry on yelping about fruit or maybe vegetables. Carry on caring about strangers’ souls. Carry on picking up onions. Carry on being curious about what’s going on. Carry on shoplifting. Carry on eating traditional ice cream. Carry on doing plays in the streets. Carry on riding miniature Ferris wheels. Carry on having a sneaky fag. Carry on bickering. Carry on canoodling. Carry on. Carry on living. Carry on living in Woolwich.

The Magic Tea Kettle – coming soon to Nunhead



One of my current projects is Waggly Tales, a company making exciting, fun and funny theatre for children and their adults. The Magic Tea Kettle is our new show and you can see it at the end of May in Nunhead. Inspired by a Japanese folktale, the play has words and music by me and is directed by the magnificent Lora Davies. The hilarious and adorable Helen Goward plays Sophie the Witch, the ever-succulent and cheeky Eilidh Beaton portrays Prince Arnold, the debonair and dextrous Martyn Barmby brings the Magic Tea Kettle to life (and also plays the Moody Fairy) and I pop up as the narrator. With gorgeous costumes from the sensational Lois Ireson and a healthy sprinkling of good, old-fashioned magic, we’re hoping this show will be a hit with southeast Londoners aged 3 and up.

We’re giving a local school two free previews tomorrow and the official run is at the end of the month.Come see!



GOD/HEAD at Ovalhouse

I’m delighted to be contributing a little to someone else’s work this week.

The ever-succulent Chris Goode is currently doing a show about doubting his atheism. It’s called GOD/HEAD and it’s a true story about God, neuroscience and, well, all manner of other things. This is the official blurb:

So there’s this writer.

Thirtysomething, gay, lefty metropolitan writer. Atheist, obviously. History of mental health problems, but those are all in the past.
Sure of himself and his world view. Comfortable in his assumptions.

And then one day, suddenly, without any warning…

There’s God.

In this brand new documentary piece, award-winning writer and storyteller Chris Goode explores the flipside of the familiar crisis of faith: what if there really is a God after all?

GOD/HEAD is a humane, candid, radically unsettling piece about the tensions between religion and neuroscience, and about the limits of language and the edges of desire.

Each night a different guest performer participates in the piece. I’m very excited to be the guest on March 1, so if any of you can make then, it would be lovely to see you afterwards! And, if not, there are plenty of other nights to choose from!

The piece is on at Ovalhouse at 7.45 Tuesday to Saturday from until March 10. You can book tickets via the Ovalhouse website.

Maybe see you there.

**Update** Well, I survived that, but it was an astonishing experience. Being on stage in a show, talking to the audience and not knowing what you’re going to be doing next is quite exhilarating yet simultaneously comforting; you’re totally in someone else’s hands and you simply have to open the envelope and follow the instructions, or answer the question, or build that card house, or read that bit of script – just do it there and then without analysing or fretting or thinking. Just do it. Honestly. Naturally, I managed to blubber at one point. Tsk. Chris admitted he’d put a box of tissues on the set thinking of me and one other guest (the lovely, and lachrymose-as-me, Maddy Costa).

Three cheers!

The Woolwich Grand Theatre is Go!

Having had the planning meeting scheduled for the end of September and then moved to October, it was suddenly brought forward to earlier this evening.

And, earlier this evening,  the arts centre application was passed unanimously by Greenwich Council.

Thank you, Councillors and Planning Officers!

Hurray! Phew! Gosh! Eek! Now the fun really starts.

And something else I wanted to say…

You know how it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind?

Well, I want to change my mind about the council. At least a bit. Recently, I had been feeling  that big business was their major interest, and the people on the Woolwich omnibus were not too high on the agenda, but I was so impressed by their efficiency, pragmatism and good-spiritedness at the planning meeting tonight. There were several applications under consideration and each was dealt with quickly and directly. All questions raised were completely appropriate and, if answered satisfactorily, then the applications were passed with no further ado. I don’t know why, but I expected it to be a much more adversarial process with all sorts of shillyshallying and bluster. There wasn’t any of that. At all. And the councillors even looked quite pleased when we all gave their decision a large round of applause.

Three cheers! Hip hip! Hurrah! Huzzah!

Permission granted!

Permission granted!

The Woolwich Grand Team

The Woolwich Grand Team

Oh, I wish you had seen this with me so we could talk about it

Snappy title, huh? But I do. I really do.

I’m a Chris Goode fanboy. I love him. I love his work (not unconditionally, and I haven’t seen it all, but I do love it) and no other theatre-maker has ever made me produce such a variety and quantity of bodily fluids in public. I do tend to leak emotions in liquid form quite readily, but grace à lui, I’ve almost drowned by inhaling my own giggle-snot, almost choked to death on my own chortle-phlegm and almost suffocated from trying to turn back a tide of molten sadness.Yesterday, I ended up with a soggy cowl neck jumper as it was the only handy absorbent material substantial enough to mop up the range of water-based feelings my facial orifices were emitting.

If you can, do see The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley at the Pleasance Baby Grand and, even if you’re less leaky than I am, I’m sure you’ll leave feeling different to how you went in. I’m simultaneously laughing with delight and holding back tears just thinking about it. It’s on tomorrow and Monday, so hurry!

And then we could talk about it.

Slow Motion Suicide

Nope, not a description of my weekend, but the title of a new musical by the award-winning team of Desmond O’Connor and Andrew Taylor which had a staged reading for the industry at the Leicester Square Theatre a few weeks ago.

There was a cast of amazing musical theatre performers – Rebecca Hutchinson (catch her in Little Voice in Lancaster soon – she’s genuinely astonishing), Stuart Saint (who’s creating a rock ballet in between being a gimp to Des’s platinum-tongued diamond of a host at Sideshow), Jonathan Dryden Taylor (who acts, writes and produces for all manner of TV and radio shows and is organising the Sod Cancer gala at the Bloomsbury Theatre – donate, go see!), Sarah-Louise Young (whose stupendous act ‘The Frumpy Pigeon’ is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen – go see her in her Cabaret Whore show!), and the magnificent Bart, Steve and Jamie who stepped in last  minute and who all do marvellous mixtures of musical theatre and comedy with pizzazz and aplomb. Oh yeah, and me, the token non-sight-reading actor-who-can-carry a-tune. And does Rex Harrison impressions when she can’t.

Slow Motion Suicide is a satirical comedy – a jolly tale of obsessive work, obsessive love, mental breakdown and global financial collapse. With songs! The show was terrific fun and there seemed to be a real buzz from the industry audience about it afterwards. I hope the buzz develops into a veritable roar, as Andy and Des have worked long and hard on this show and, frankly, the world needs a new musical featuring a song dedicated to Fluoxetine.