This is the point where reality bites. I’m just back from a three-day training course in one-woman show in the UK, with a brilliant guy who doesn’t mince his words. That’s what you want, right from a teacher? Except that the first thing he said was to “get rid of Anne”. He was convinced that the heroine of the Guilty Secrets script as written – which he slated as “too expository” about my “pet issue” ( of toxic sugars) – was a thinly disguised version of me. At this point I did dare to say that as a journalist all I wanted to do was to exploit what I saw as the comic potential of said issue, but he was already suggesting that I should change the protagonist, make it male, ethnic, anyone but “me”. By the time I’d rewritten chunks in time for the session next day, the protagonist was now the vegan 22 year-old Mimi, the daughter of the alleged “me” character, Susie. This was deemed to be an improvement, and at the end of that session, my tutor says, “go on, surprise yourself”. This proved to be the best advice of the course, and I think for my writing in general. By the third day, we were looking into Mimi’s soul and the dark world of addiction. And yet Guilty Secrets is still a comedy: I was in stitches watching him play Mimi and Susie gorging on vegan chocolates, or a scene where Mimi is arrested. This brings me to an insuperable problem thrown up by the new script, however: there is no way that I could ever be credible by playing a central character in a monologue who is a 22 year old woman, no matter how much training I invest in.
Incidentally, here’s a link to an excellent 7 minute feature on a one man show, a cautionary tale on what NOT to do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcyJW-GeMDc
So where does Guilty Secrets go now? First, I must finish the script, and consult with my lovely actress friend Katie who’d offered to direct, and who had of course discreetly flagged up the obstacles as she saw them in our first rehearsals. But all is not lost. Stay tuned.
This is my new blog on taking my one-woman show, Guilty Secrets, to the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2017. I saw a couple of superb one-woman shows there this year. One was Angel, a powerful piece about a pacifist Kurdish law student turned fighter in the war on ISIS, and the other, Jane Eyre, An Autobiography, which movingly captured the Bronte novel. In both shows, the solo performer played different roles in a long-form monologue. This got me thinking about the comic potential of my own novel Food Fight, a send-up of the food industry, as a show for next year’s Fringe. I reckon that its theme of the perils of hidden sugars in our food is still pretty topical and could be engaging in a live show. So I wrote to the writer and director of Angel who immediately replied that he already had plans for next year’s Fringe but that he’d try to come to my show. Until that moment I’d assumed that I’d find an actress. But what if I do it myself? And that, dear reader, is why I’m writing this occasional blog to chronicle the process from start to finish.
The Fringe is so well organised that there is an exhaustive guide for would-be participants, and its main attraction is that it’s open to all. Essentially, I need to get my ducks in a row by next January. For me that means having the material ready as soon as possible, crunching down Food Fight to a minimum of colourful characters. I’ve whittled them down to four: Susie, the naive heroine who is duped into marketing an addictive product (the boxes of chocolates called Guilty Secrets) and then turns whistleblower; Barney, her evil American boss; Mimi, her vegan daughter who rails against Big Food but with whom Susie is eventually reconciled; and Mark, the lawyer who comes to Susie’s rescue. The idea is to depict in dramatic, and hopefully comic, form one woman’s struggle against a multinational which puts profits above public health.
What are my qualifications for doing a stage show as a professional journalist, I hear you ask? I remember being crushed, when I was working in Montreal as a cub reporter, when a colleague mentioned to a friend – who of course passed on to me – that I was a “gifted amateur” because I hadn’t had formal training in journalism. So you could say that the same damning verdict applies here. My acting abilities haven’t been on display since I was in Dramsoc at London university. (My singing in one show even captured the attention of my first husband, but as he said recently to the Daily Mail, “enough said” about our failed marriage, so let’s not go there.) Now I’m wondering whether all those tap dancing lessons I’ve been taking might come in handy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained so I’m reaching out now for comic training and help in developing Guilty Secrets. Initial reactions have been hugely encouraging. I’m also pitching to independent TV producers to film the process of mounting my one-woman show from start to finish. If any of you out there are reading this – get in touch!
But first – to the script. Please Like this page or follow me, and spread the word, if you’re interested in future updates.