Archive for August, 2011

Pills, Thrills and Bellyaching: Eddie King and the Death of Rave

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4, 2011 by helenparker1212

So i got asked to write a monologue for a promenade performance, and i did, and it is BEING PERFORMED RIGHT NOW!! I finally have a Venue quote to put to my name, and can call myself a professional writer!!

This is big. This is very BIG.

Hopefully it’s the start of people taking me seriously as a writer, and looking twice at my work instead of giving it that cursory glance before they put it straight back in the stamped, addressed envelope with a single paragraph about how they really liked it but don’t feel they can do anything with it blah blah blah.

Anyway, here’s the blog post i wrote concernign my ‘process’, and below is the Venue and the Bristol Evening Post review of the performance.

I reprint it all here for posterity people.

‘FOR REAL LOVE’ : a blog post for Darkstuff Productions

Writing on a subject I know nothing about is a challenge I usually avoid as a new writer, so when I was presented with the opportunity to create a monologue set during a rave, my first reaction was something akin to panic. I knew I wanted to write a strong piece for a female actress. I also wanted it to be dark,  something for an actress to really sink her teeth into. Trouble was, I knew nothing about rave, and my speciality as a writer is dialogue. OK, I told myself, play to your strengths and go with what you know.

First off, and I admit this unashamedly, when it came to the monologue structure I used a loophole. Thinking of the Listener in Beckett’s ‘Ohio Impromptu’, I included a second, mute character who actively participates in the piece, but has no words to say. As a result, I not only maintained the monologue structure, but I created two meaty roles for female actresses, instead of just one. Bonus.

As for the subject matter itself, my own standout memory of the 1990s rave scene is of the media frenzy surrounding the death of Leah Betts. Teenagers like myself were being told that if we took even a single E then we’d either die like Leah, or become junkies like the kids in Trainspotting. And that’s when I realised I did know something about rave after all – I had been a first-hand witness to its media trial and public execution.

And besides, what better way to symbolise the death of rave than to have a death, at a rave? But I didn’t want to mirror some inglorious and grubby story like the ones the media had revelled in when I was a teenager. I didn’t want to vindicate that ignorant and small-minded perception. I wanted a bigger subject. A more universal explanation for the carnage human beings cause, to themselves and to others. And for me, you can’t get much bigger than love.

We’re all looking for love, right? For real love.

And some of us will do terrible things to get it.

Here’s the VENUE review…

Tobacco Factory, Bristol (Tue 2-Thur 4 Aug)

THEATRE This was the third instalment in Darkstuff Productions’ ongoing ‘Eddie King…’ series. The titular Mr King is a curious (and we mean that positively) creation, a raddled, cynical soul sitting defiantly on the edge of events, a sort of snarling Greek chorus. Here, as in the two previous EK offerings, King’s tirades and poetic wanderings serve as stepping stones between short new monologues/dialogues by local playwrights, all grouped under an overarching theme.

Tonight, with a blur of neon and a thump of bass, the Tobacco Factory bar and theatre revert back to the early ‘90s rave scene. The performance is presented as an evening at one of the bigger and more unwieldy of that decade’s infamous raves, at a vast disused warehouse somewhere in the English shires. Four pieces, in which we meet various of the straggled menagerie of stoners, ravers, little girls lost and more – a sort of Canterbury Tales for the Ecstasy generation – are bookended with King’s asides. The latter, unfortunately, are the least successful part of the evening: replacing Stuart Chapman as the titular Mr King, Gerard Cooke, while watchable enough, has none of the original’s sneering arrogance, striding authority or tinderbox unpredictability. His scripts, by Phil John, also fall wide of the mark, aiming at a kind of poetic impressionism but mostly fairly incomprehensible.

Thankfully, the four playlets have more about them. David Lane’s ‘Trumpton’ follows a mother (played with great quiet desolation and fish-out-of-water awkwardness by Nic Rauh) who has spent the past few years slipping incongruously into these raves, thronged to bursting with monged-out kids 20 years her junior, in the forlorn hope of catching sight of her adored son who left home to go to a free party four years ago and hasn’t been seen since. There’s something powerful about her extraordinary and tragic situation, her utter solitude in among all this noise and togetherness, and the touching, troubling chink of domesticity in among all this youth, abandon, energy and chaos – and how she has, in some ways, assimilated to it, is almost at home in this dark jungle as she is back in the outside world. This was, in fact, the strong point of the whole evening – it captured completely the all-consuming otherworldliness of the rave, with its darkness, noise, impossibility of communication (the music’s too loud, your fellow revellers’ mental states too altered): a strange, dark womb, throbbing to its own primeval soundtrack, where the rules of life back above ground go into abeyance.

Further on inside, Helen K. Parker’s ‘For Real Love’ was another success. Somewhere in the rave’s darker, quieter corners, a savvy, neon-wigged teenager (Anna Westlake) nursed her friend (Francesca Wraith) as the latter shivered, dry-heaved and generally looked close to death. The relationship between these two was nicely, troublingly ambiguous: at times Westlake would cradle the head of her friend, at times she seemed strangely indifferent to her fate, even (with reference to a spiked drink) to have caused it. All sorts of troubling insights here, about how the unbounded hedonism of a rave could, despite appearing to be the ultimate human communion, really be  a series of individuals all pursuing their own selfish (and possibly destructive) ends.

The two monologues after the interval felt marginally more confident. Gill Kirk’s ‘Passion’ was a splendidly fast, fevered monologue by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate Ali Watt, as a sped-up, loved-up Scot for whom the rave was a place less of hedonism than of to-the-death love and solidarity with his fellow men. This man, we learned from the more comprehensible moments of his hyperspeed Glasgow babble, had seen the best and worst of human nature in the first Iraq war, and for him the rave was a veritable Eden of love and togetherness.

Lastly, Simon Harvey-Williams’ ‘Ashputtel’ (‘Cinderella’ in German) followed an ingenue in a white dress (Corrinne Curtis) who had been guided to the rave by a mix of awe, fear and curiosity from her nearby home. Curtis showed a nice mix of naivety and articulate confidence, and the mix of emotions that both drew her to and repelled her from this place felt convincing.

A mostly successful evening, with some promising short pieces and, under Anna Girvan’s direction, a pungent atmosphere of one of youth culture’s most extreme and hedonistic byways.

Copyright Steve Wright 2011

Pic: Graham Burke


And here’s The Bristol Evening Post one…



Thursday, August 04, 2011

Not much substance to druggie rave tales

Pills, Thrills and Bellyaching – Eddie King and The Death of Rave: Tobacco Factory

THERE are some ideas that are great in theory but don’t quite come off in practice.

And while Pills, Thrills and Bellyaching has potential, the latest offering at Southville’s Tobacco Factory definitely fell into that category.

With a title inspired by the classic Happy Mondays album, Pills looked at the rave culture of the early 1990s.

It focused on five main characters, each giving monologues recounting their experience at a warehouse rave. A promenade performance, the audience followed the characters as they moved between rooms to tell their stories. To create atmosphere, the main stage and the bar at the venue were transformed into a night club.

That meant a loud acid house sound track, moody lighting, glow in the dark paint and DJs.

This was certainly not a performance for people who want to sit down for two hours and applaud politely.

There can’t be many plays that have Jericho by The Prodigy as the warm-up music but it all worked surprisingly well.

Unfortunately, the writing wasn’t as impressive as the set dressing.

There’s undoubtedly a rich creative mine in the dark side of clubbing but monologues are tricky to pull off, and the five in Pills were very hit and miss.

The strongest was For Real Love, an unsettling tale of a girl who spikes her friend’s drink.

Anna Westlake performed a well-written piece that was the closest to a coherent story of the five.

It was followed by Passion, which saw an impressive turn by Ali Watt as a soldier looking for his mates.

The other scenes felt light weight by comparison though, bordering on pretentious.

If the five stories had been as strong as For Real Love it might have worked, but as it was Pills felt like a case of style over substance.