Plays by Deborah Freeman

I have completed `Remedies,` a play about M E.  Background research...

Writing Groups

I am setting up a new writing group in East Finchley, to be held in the atmospheric location of an East Finchley...

Novels by Deborah Freeman

 A few years back. I answered an ad on the Radio 3 website, from the conceptual art company, Blast Theory...

Poems by Deborah Freeman

These appeared in the journal Jewish Renaissance, 2008.  `Fish.` `Fasting.` `Open a Gate for Us. ` `After the...

Under the Palm Tree Blog

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2 years 1 week ago

Saw this at Theatre 503 yesterday. Theatre 503 from my home is a trek. Change of tube, then bus, same back. But yes - worth it. My first visit to this theatre. The play was sturdy as a Devon oak tree. Whichever way you viewed it - it held together. Presumably the writer Bea Roberts grew up among, and knows people like farmer Geoffrey, played by David Fielder, and vet Michael, played by Nigel Hastings.

Minor quibble - it was advertised for Age 12 upwards. I would push that to a bit older.Not because of the language. Every other word being fuck,bloody or whatever seemed reasonably in keeping with these characters (I wondered whether friends and family of the writer are saying `Oh that`s what Uncle Bill did,` or `That guy reminds me of the man my Dad smoked with in the pub.` ) A draw of the play for me was how it moves through time. Actually, I have been deliberately setting the scenes of Remedies, my work in progress, over three or  four years, and have even doubted that. Last night reasssured me, which I should haven`t needed (at my age!) that for those lucky enough to write a Good Play, which And Then Come the Nightjars most definitely is, you can do anything. I sat next to a young girl who agreed with me that all the new media, phone  TV & video technology in the world can`t threaten the buzz and sense of human connection of live theatre done well. In this case, really really well. 

For me there were other connections. In 1996, when I was recovering from a second, three year episode of ` M E` or something like it, I sat in, for several weeks, on the rehearsals of  Brecht`s `The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,` directed by Chris Honer at the Library Theatre, Manchester. It was a gift to a convalescent, as I was. I cheerfully bankrupted us by getting taxis home if exhausted. I could choose my hours. Two hours one day. Three or four the following week. After five weeks I was hugely improved, and had learned a great deal about Brecht, and watched with fascination as David Fielder grew into a briliant Ui. 



2 years 6 weeks ago

Armed with laptop, which magically seems able to record (even when it isn`t switched on!) changes I make to `Remedies` and a new 15 minute play, and poems from my new mini-collection..and ipad, and mobile phones (no reception we`ve been told..) off we go to Shropshire, to house and dogsit for a friend who`s going to Ireland. 

Moving to London, loving London, relishing what it offers us and trying in a small way to offer a bit in return...I have experienced a strong desire to get Out Of London. That desire being fulfilled this week.

Saw a preview of Crossing Jerusalem by Julia Pascal at Park Theatre. So hard to write about Jerusalem. A noisy, colourful play. I was distracted by the poor woman who fell flat on her face - walked past me in row one. There was a hard to spot corner piece on the stage, and over it she tripped....Reminded myself: if and when next production comes along, try not to trip up the audience. 


2 years 7 weeks ago

Saw two plays this week about law and legal systems. Invisible, at The Bush, by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, directed by Michael Oakley.  And The Trial at the Young Vic, directed by Richard Jones, adapted from Kafka`s book by Nick Gill.

I confessed to Jeff my husband that in my youth I never got to the end of the book. He confessed to me that he had never read it at all. As to what exactly Kafka felt guilty about - both the real Kafka, and the Joseph K of the book/play - this is less clear. Far less clear. I found Michael Billington`s review of the production hilarious, and therefore arrived expecting to be disappointed. I think they might have shaved off 15 minutes, because it didn`t take the full 2 hours advertised (no interval) but actually we, and most of the audience, found the production gripping. The travelator that moved us from one scene to another worked well - but I find it hard to give other rational accounts of what gripped me. The woman I sat to agreed that the play was about an internal world, therefore not rational. 

Invisible was a commission from The Bush, and like so many commissions I have seen, had more head than heart in it. For me, there is nothing like a play that someone wakes up one morning simply Wanting to Write. Three parallel stories of people who lost out, or were going to lose out, through the cuts in Legal Aid, were tied together conceptually but not dramatically. So it was a powerful and well-written play, but in clear segments.

Tomorrow I am meeting a director to discuss a play, and meanwhile working on Not Me, which has changed its name now to Remedies.

2 years 9 weeks ago

So, weeks have gone by and I have not returned to my blog. Today, travelling back from the Lake District, I got into conversation with two people from Brighton, both involved with the arts, in different ways, with special interests in fringe festivals and museums. The kind of people I enjoy meeting on trains. 

And afterwards it occurred to me that it is for people like these that I keep this website and write occasional blogs. So that should someone feel the slightest bit curious to know about my work, there is a place they can find out.

I have, over the last few weeks seen several fascinating plays. Three in Israel, at Jaffa Theatre and Cameri Theatre, (`Gorodish,`) four or five here in London. One play, The Oresteia at the Almeida was really three in one. It ran for close to four hours.  I have continued to work on my new play which may be having a name-change soon; I have been in discussion with certain people about a new kind of writing group in a very particular setting, with an unusual and specific group of participants. I have been writing poetry - several poems, in fact, for the first time in a few years. I have been accepted on a ` trial basis` by a group of active poets in London (details when acceptance confirmed, assuming it is.) 

In other words I have been doing the kinds of things that writers do. For every time a writer publishes a book or pamphlet, attends an opening night, does something that merits headlines, or even a mention somewhere, there are countless other writers doing exactly what I have been doing since the last blog. 

Hay was at the end of May. We`re moving to the last weeks of July.  The people on the train saw I was reading How to be Both, which we discussed. Before going away in June I asked for advice about `something to read` in a bookshop, and was asked by the helpful assistant what I had most enjoyed recently. I mentioned What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt. Ah, said the assistant, then you will love Lydia Davis.

Actually, I did. I read, then passed to a daughter in law, `The End of the Story.` When did I discover that Davis was actually the first wife of writer Paul Auster, whose second wife is Hustvedt. According to something I read online, Davis figured as one of the characters in `What I Loved.` Both interesting and irrelevant, I think, depending where you stand on issues such as `where do characters come from?` 



2 years 17 weeks ago

Rather late in the day - ie my first time, I`m going to Hay today.

Saw Oppenheimer the day before yesterday. 

Reading a great book - been lucky with books recently.

Seem to be writing poems again. 

Joining a group called Player-Playwrights - went to first meeting on Monday. Heard a readthrough of a new play filled with the writer`s fluency and urge to write, and the actors` talents - but was reminded just how hard it can be to put the component parts together...

Will take notes in Hay, if I remember.

This seems to be a very brief blog....



2 years 18 weeks ago

I finished H is for Hawk with the same sense of awe and respect for the writing that I had last blog - at which time I was half way through it. But the story of T H White didn`t only inform and illuminate Helen Macdonald`s book. It also, at times, got in the way of it (for me.) 

So out of curiosity  I have now ordered The Goshawk.

Two things please me. One. This is a second `book package` I have discovered, whereby if you want to get someone a reading present, you put together more than one book.  My packages now are:  One: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, with the biography Daphne, by Margaret Forster, and the icing on the cake - Rebecca`s Tale, by Sally Beauman.  That`s a three-book package. The new package, a two-book, (for those people thinking about it in mid-May a nourishing Christmas present:)  H is for Hawk, combined with The Goshawk.

The quintessential Englishness of both the hawk books of course makes me stop and think about my own heritage, and for the first time since she died almost two years ago, I have started writing about my mother. 

A committed Zionist, she and my father moved to Israel after he retired from his academic post in Bristol in 1968. They settled in Jerusalem after two years in Australia and San Francisco, and remained there. My father died in 1994, and my mother in 2013. 

In the last years of her life my mother spoke frequently about her commitment to the Jewish state of Israel. At the same time, she remained an avid reader in English, and her love for English poetry  grew only stronger as she slowly grew weaker. To get herself through CT scans and unpleasant treatments, she would recite Wordsworth`s The Daffodils, Kipling`s If, and Longfellow. 

So much food for so many thoughts out of two books, one of which I haven`t yet read but only experienced through the selective lens of Helen Macdonald. 

2 years 20 weeks ago

Been away for two weeks. Most of the time - at sea. Before leaving I called in to Waterstones for a book or two. Came away with A Secret History, Donna Tartt, and H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald.

Two completely contrasting books, with style and scholarship in common. I`d never read Tartt. Now plan to read more. So often a book that is well-crafted, and a page turner, seems (to me,) to fizzle out towards the end. But this book`s closure (or lack of - same thing I think,) impressed me so much that I reread one particular half page several times. 

As for H is for Hawk - never having had any contact with either hawks or falcons, I was intrigued and impressed. To my taste, of course, a book that tries to talk about emotions without actually talking much about emotions - can occasionally be annoying. Not because the writing isn`t brilliant - in this case it certainly is - but just because to my mind there is nothing like telling it as it is. I read an interview with Miriam Toews yesterday, and was reminded of this. 


2 years 23 weeks ago

Getting busier. New play, Not Me, now moves speedily into scene four, and I`m delighted with how it`s going. A long time since I`ve felt this pleased about a scene. This afternoon I`m off to Actors` Centre, Covent Garden, to post `Playwright WLTM Director` notice. 

As for The Scapegoat, I have hesitated to `source` the producer that this play needs, apart from a probably ill-advised ad I put in The Jewish Chronicle. 

The play is about some of the ideas of William Holman Hunt, who became an early Christian Zionist. Such is the antagonism to the very word Zionism, these days - some high profile theatre people are happy to endorse a cultural and artistic boycott of Israeli theatre, which is actually one of the most liberal strands of the progressive world within Israel.  

I had one reply to the ad from an enthusiastic young man who assured me of his interest. We spoke for an hour. When he failed to call (I`ll call you tomorrow...) I picked up to him, because I no longer let matters like that slide. He told me it was his birthday and he would absolutely call on the morrow. He didn`t. Very young - it was his 28th brithday.  

Fact is, The Scapegoat illuminates the work of one of the most unconventional Pre-Raphaelites, and the deep thread of Christian belief that supported many thinkers who favoured the idea of a Jewish Homeland in the nineteenth century. Not to mention the Christian right in the USA today. 

The play is colourful, carefully put together, and I`m beginning to feel I owe it a producer. 

 This evening we`re off to see Bad Jews. I`ve read it`s good. 

2 years 25 weeks ago

Interesting weekend. Yesterday I saw Stevie. By Hugh Whitemore, at Hampstead Theatre. Zoe Wanamaker, Lynda Baron, Chris Larkin, were directed by Christopher Morahan. He e must have done a good job because overall nothing in the show jarred for me . The fourth character was the required suburban set.

I found Act One not quite deep or quirky enough.  It did not have quite the `gathering of clouds` sense that even slow Act Ones often have. However, Act Two, for me, was a meaningful and thought-provoking theatrical experience. Respect to Hugh Whitemore for making a play that was not really (when you come to think of it,) a play. It was a portrait through time and verse. The poems recited were beautiful.

Not to compare myself with the great Stevie Smith, I nevertheless identified with the issue of suburban living. Can you really count as a great poet (or in my case as any kind of `real` playwright, however narrowly known,)  if you have never lived anywhere but suburbia?

On the way home I wracked my brains and remembered with some relief that for six months in 1967, I inhabited a corrugated tin hut on a flat roof at Number 23 Street of the Prophets in Jerusalem. I sat down daily at a rickety table with my  Olivetti Portable to write stories. The house was an old Arab house with a paved courtyard. On the ground floor lived the landlady, who name I don`t remember, but I remember her German or Russian accent, and her granddaughter collecting her in a taxi. I remember watching from my attic window the tall Israeli teenager holding the arm of the elderly woman whose high heels kept tripping her on the cobbles. 

On the middle floor lived two girls, or young women, about my age (22) and one of them, I think a Swiss girl, had an abortion or a heavy period in the big old bath that we shared. I recall there being blood in the bath. On the ground floor lived an Englishman called Paul or Ian, who read the news on Israel radio. I remember sitting on the windowsill in his room talking about his philosophy and the meaning of life. I think he was a 1960`s Bhuddist, and I identified him at the time as a mystic. He didn`t believe in material possessions, but I do recall he had a pan in which he could boil an egg.

During these months I got a job in a bookshop in Jerusalem. Steimatzky`s. But it came about that I lost that job, because at the back of the shop was a wonderul storeroom, and I used to climb a ladder placed there, it seemed, for my convenience, sit at the top of it and read. I remember the two books I was reading when somehow my time for working there began to draw to a close. The Diary of Nijinski. And Pirandello`s play Henry the Fourth.

Rembering how unsuburban I was for those few months cheered me up!

To be continued....


2 years 26 weeks ago

Getting back to work and into circulation again after several weeks of unpleasant post-viral diminution in stamina.  The good thing to come out of this is that the new play Not Me, is going well again. 

For reading I have loved The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt - her previous book What I Loved also had me riveted. Not to mention her non-fiction book The Shaking Woman. I seem to be a real fan. While gorging myself on The Blazing World I was aware of many reasons why I ought not to be enjoying it as much as I was. But my reading self entered a mode of denial and said to me - keep going, because you love this way of writing, and thinking. Like What I Loved, it made me want (simultaneously) to take up residence in New York, and never to set foot in the city again.  But as ambivalence as a state of being seems to be prevalent in this author`s work, my split reaction seemed appropriate. 

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