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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4 years 20 weeks ago

Too much going on for blogging? Well, yes. Though if you walked past the house day to day you wouldn`t notice. The Scapegoat and The Song of Deborah out in one or two places; my desk cleared of plays for the moment. One month ago, I sat down to draft a programme for a forthcoming workshop I plan to run with director Ariella Eshed called `Two Into One.` This is an idea I had for a workshop to be done with actors - exploring ways of pulling two plays together that I felt needed each other.... But as I worked, two ideas really did become one. What were the two ideas? Write a new novel. The other was to tie the plays together. I discovered that the two pieces would blend with each other, and with the creative backcloth that has been in my mind for a long time - as a novel.  And it`s going well. 15,000 words already. When I get to 20,000 I`ll have one quarter of a novel. No going back, then. Meanwhile - best thing is that I am writing the synopsis as I go along - a few lines with each chapter. How come I  never thought of doing a thing like that before?

I left the all-women Sacred Sounds choir, and will now not be performing in the Bridgwater Hall on July 7th, and not singing two pieces composed `for us` by Sir John Taverner. I was sorry to leave the choir, sorrier that I didn`t stay to become one of its `bloggers,` and sorrier still that I haven`t fitted into current projects an attempt to describe my turbulent and complex feelings about it.  I wish them all luck luck luck and happy singing. The novel, trips to London, discussions on plays, and work with a talented young illustrator on my children`s book Hanna and Zara....not to mention that I`ve had to read about Galileo and his cloistered daughters in preparation for a first ever visit to Florence.

 

4 years 25 weeks ago

Spring. Albeit freezing. I have so much going on, creatively, that it is hard to share much in a blog. As for commenting wisely on what goes on in the theatre, literary, whatever worlds - well, there are countless others who do that.  Most of these look to be more deeply embeddded in those worlds than I feel. Though I am aware others see me as `embedded` as a writer reasonably needs to be....

Ariella Eshed and I are moving forward with plans for The Scapegoat. Also, discussing other projects. The first is the workshop we are setting up at the Actors Centre, with the theme Two Into One. This was my suggestion, because I am currently working on putting two plays together. Remedies, and Mental Health Act.  To clarify things for myself (?) I am simultaneously starting a new novel. which is not new, but uses material from two previous novels, and new material. The first five pages have gone perfectly. Now for the next five. Five pages a week =  250 pages in a year - a novel.

(More interest in The Song of Deborah, too.)

Wednesday nights I am now committed to the Manchester International Festival Women`s Choir - Sacred Sounds. There is something very sweet about singing religious songs with lots of other women, when, if you listed all our the beliefs on a flipchart it would be immediately obvious that there are mutually contradictory, irreconcilable differences of dogma, between us. Like, for example, as I once pointed out in my play Candlesticks, Jesus Christ cannot both have been the son of God, and not have been it.  My cynicism about religion received a sad boost with the tragic news from Myanmar (Burma,) about Buddhists persecuting Muslims in the south. I have had Buddhist friends who have seemed persuaded that of all the world`s religions, Buddhism is the one least likely to lead people into violence. Whatever my general reservations, these get instantly drowned by our 60 odd voices. We do harmonies, too. Such fun.

 

 

4 years 26 weeks ago

I am in Jerusalem for a week.  There`s plenty going on here. But my life has been side-tracked by Life After Life - Kate Atkinson`s new book. This book took my concentration away from everything else - I felt more deeply involved in it than in any book I can think of. Perhaps not since I lost myself in books like Siddhartha, when I was in my twenties, or perhaps Pride and Prejudice, when I was fifteen. The astonishing detail she gives, as she sets up and develops her scenarios, is, I think, what draws me in so completely. Those brief word-etchings about parent-sibling relationionships - gems of writing. She never overstates. The conceptual framework did puzzle me from the beginning; actually, until (perhaps shouldn`t admit this?) the end. The blitz scenes, and bombing of Berlin scenes - horrifying. Every character - convincing.

Then I asked myself: did the finale, or finales, confuse me just a little too much for comfort? Was the novel as much about the nature of writing itself, as about the nature of Englishness, war, and identity?  Waiting for friends and relations to read the book now.  Look forward to discussing.

 

4 years 28 weeks ago

Life moves on. The Times Crossword seems hard today. I have joined a choir. Sacred Sounds Choir - it came to me in an email from somewhere. All women, we meet every week between now and a perfornance at Bridgwater Hall on July 7th, which will be part of Manchester International Festival. So far so very good. Last night was the first session. I loved it. But two problems loom. The first - how much to allow myself to discuss in a blog.  Clearly, I will not name or describe any of the 30+ other women who attend. Supposedly `of all faiths and none,` though there were not many Jewish or Muslim women, as far as I could tell. And quite a solid Bhuddist contingent. A charismatic and talented choir leader, and I suppose I can name her, as hers is a public role. Beth.  In no time at all we were dividing ourselves into sopranos altos and bases, and singing in harmony.

After the Scapegoat reading BBC Drama Producer Sharon Sephton asked to see a script - though explaining she has a full slate of other writers at present. Still, I was happy to send one.  As this is my current BBC contact, I sent off an excited email just before I left for the first rehearsal. Let me produce an autobiography in sounds, linked with a diary of my choir experiences. Very excited about the idea.

Something bothered me, though. We sang the beautiful round - By the Waters of Babylon.   Heard it late last night on utube sung by Don Mclean. Before we started, Beth asked gently and quite genuinely whether anyone would be offended by the use of the word `Zion.` I do not know Beth well yet, and so far am deeply impressed by her lively, musical warmth, clearly based on deep musical talent and knowledge; also by the sincerity of the Manchester Festival folk - names to follow - who welcomed us. The good intentions, multi-faith values, of all concerned, are absolutely beyond doubt. And yet I found myself a little surprised by this question.  "Would anyone be offended if we used the word: Zion." 

4 years 30 weeks ago

Back to the quiet internal world, then. Around me is the house. In the kitchen a pile of vegetables wait to be chopped.  A swede, celeriac, sweet potatoes, onion. But the soup can wait.  I`ve finished the morning`s emails. Put my phone to charge upstairs. Made a couple of phone calls. There`s a mental health hearing this afternoon. But for the morning - Jeff being out into the bargain - today gives me freedom to think. And I think I`ve got it. 

I say to myself: go back to basics. Look at the two plays which are each based on interesting material, the kind of stuff you want to do next, and ask the question: what is the thing that happens without which this play couldn`t even start? 

The answer  is: the experience of one of the plays is the thing without which the second couldn`t have been written. So is that the answer, as I began to suspect in previous blog? Put the two together at last, where they belong? 

 

4 years 30 weeks ago

Back to Manchester today. The rehearsed reading of The Scapegoat at London Jewish Museum went so well - I loved every moment. Thanks again to Ariella Eshed, Stephen Connery-Brown, Kate Cook, Ruth Lass, Drew McKenzie, Neusha Milanian. Thanks also to all at London Jewish Museum. 

A generous audience of 40 + provided interested and interesting comments and questions. Great to meet directors Robert Fried and Franceen Brodkin, who were so positive too.

Back home to decide what to do next. Some quiet time to reflect, and more work on Remedies, Mental Health Act and The Committee. All these plays have one thing in common. They do not require me to spend months researching.....They are each work in progress. Thoughts on this? Perhaps to amalgamate two of them into one? Look for why I am writing three plays at one go?

And for the future? Funding. Funding. Plans. Productions. The hard work of writing the plays is one thing.... 

 

 

4 years 31 weeks ago

Although I have worked with some excellent actors and directors in recent years, it has not yet been my lot to have the `admin` surrounding readings and productions taken completely out of my hands by agents or producers. (Actually, the one production I once had with a committed producer involved me in a great deal of work.)

So currently I have been occupied with a certain amount of involvement in the forthcoming reading of The Scapegoat. (Sunday Feb 17th  2.30 pm. London Jewish Museum. Tickets 020 7284 7384.) Also, for some reason, the hearings I do, (reviewing the detention of patients held under the Mental Health Act) have been filling my days. So I haven`t been concentrating on new work.

Instead I have been reading. Latest book - The Song of Achilles. Madeline Miller. It won the Orange Prize last year. It reads like an antique clock with engraved silver surrounds. The words woven skilfully, as familiar as silver (The word I didn`t know? Yare. Of a boat. Answering swiftly to the helm.) But incredibly subtle craftsmanship. All designed around something as basic as time itself; or, to return from metaphor to book, built around the Iliad, and its tale of Achilles and Patroclus.

I might have felt under-involved - on the grounds that I not studied the Iliad and the Odyssey closely, and was not up to the background material; or - more significantly, on the grounds that I don`t believe in Greek gods.  But then, only today, I saw on the news that a meteorite struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk (where, astonishingly, we have friends,) and suddenly the awe in which ancient Greeks, Madeline Miller, the people woken this morning by flash bang thud tremor..suddenly we were all one. One random sample of humanity overwhelmed by the reality of the world and its heavens.   Not sure what to read next.   See you on Sunday at the Museum!

4 years 32 weeks ago

The cast for the forthcoming reading of The Scapegoat at London Jewish Museum:  Stephen Connery-Brown, Kate Cook, Ruth Lass, Drew McKenzie, Neusha Milanian.  The day: Sunday February 17th. The auditorium seats 100. Bookings are going well.To be certain of getting in, the museum suggests you book in advance. Call - 020 7284 7384.

I have offered to give a talk to groups. One or two already coming. The talk is not about the play itself - but about the fascinating three years of research that accompanied it. I spent time in the John Rylands Library, reading handwritten original letters written by William Holman Hunt. So evocative. One in particiular sticks in my mind. He was, I think, in a tent by the Dead Sea, writing to whoever it was by the light of a candle. I read: `As I write this the canvas is flapping in the wind.`  I was there, at that moment.

New work? I am preparing a book proposal for a book on a particular area of Mental Health. And when space clears in my brain - it`s back to new stories, and my two one act plays. Mental Health Act. And The Committee.  Did I mention that that one is not about a committee?

4 years 33 weeks ago

Off to London for the first rehearsal of The Scapegoat, prior to the reading at London Jewish Museum, Feb 17th.  As soon as I have the full names of all the actors, I`ll put them here. Meanwhile I`ve made cuts and changes to the script, which were necessary.

Seats selling nicely at the Museum.  I`ll put a final estimate here next week, just in case anyone gets left out.

I recall years ago...my delight that a production of `Candlesticks` at the Studio Theatre of the Royal Northern College of Music, was so full that they had had to turn someone away. Then to my horror I discovered the person turned away was an actors` agent. Was this tale true, I wonder? I was certainly told it.

4 years 34 weeks ago

An interesting week in Jerusalem. I visited the Anglican School, in Rechov Hanevi`im, Street of the Prophets, just down the road from the house William Holman Hunt built in 1876. Designed by the same architect. Schick.  The building originally housed the Church`s Mission to the Jews, and Hunt`s foe Bishop Gobat ruled over it.

In a brief hour there I met several fascinating people, read The Lord`s Prayer in the hall - in Hebrew - and discussed adapting The Land of Socks and Teaspoons for classes of Jerusalem children, of every denomination and creed. Great fun.

Land of S`s and T`s is still in planning stages. More certain is that Judith Litoff, head of music at the school, will be singing our song The Olive Tree, at this April`s Jerusalem symposium of the international  forum for green pilgrimages.

From tomorrow, back in Manchester preparing for the reading of The Scapegoat, at London Jewish Museum, on Feb 17th.  On Feb 11th I am `in conversation` about the play with Julia Weiner, Art critic and historian, at London Jewish Cultural Centre, at 8.15. Looking forward to that.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah Freeman
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