Thursday, May 08, 2014

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

A friend and I went to see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake on Tuesday at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. It seems incredible that this is eighteen years old; when I first heard the rumblings about the "All Male" version of Swan Lake I was an impoverished wife and mother with four children still at home, and much as I wanted to, the opportunity to see it never came my way.

Finally, with the sale of ebooks cushioning the worst of the impoverishments, and the production coming to my local theatre - I made it! And was it worth it! It is erroneously described as "All Male", there is a wonderful ensemble of gorgeous young women, too, it is simply the swans who are all male - and what swans they are. Not a pointe or a tutu in sight. Of course, I'd seen pictures and clips of them over the years, so I did know what to expect to a degree, but what I didn't expect was the sheer comedy in Act One. It isn't often I (or anybody else) laughs at ballet - indeed if you're talking traditional ballet you would probably be frozen out of the auditorium. The Northern Ballet, of whom I am very fond, provide lighter moments, and I frequently spend a whole evening in their company with a smile on my face, but Swan Lake actually makes you laugh.

Once Act Two is underway with the Prince stumbling into the swans' world, the comedy is lessened, obviously, but the emotional intensity is ratcheted up. And Act Three had me on the edge of my seat and holding my breath. And finally - the big finish. Yes, dear Reader - I cried. Properly. I felt a complete idiot until I noticed the lady next to me was surreptitiously putting away a handkerchief.

It's a wonderful company, and it seems wrong to pick anyone out, but I can't help it. Liam Mower as the Prince was so exactly right, and such a good actor - we knew what was in his head and what he was going through. Sadly, he isn't in the picture above. But The Swan is. THE Swan. Danced on Tuesday by Jonathan Ollivier, that swan has been swooping round  my head ever since. I've found it rare that a dancer is equally convincing in both roles in this ballet, but Ollivier manages that with bells on. I've said - often - I don't ever want to see the traditional Swan Lake again, but I could also say I don't want to see anyone else dance the Swan. He was magnificent. However, other Swans are available...

In case anyone reading this doesn't know all about it, I shan't give away any of the details. The friend I was with, although a ballet fan, didn't, to my surprise, know anything about the original Swan Lake, and found the story difficult to follow. And it didn't have the same effect on him as it did on me, but there, I'm an emotional old cow.

I am now trying to find other New Adventures productions to track down, and if I could, I would have gone to The Marlowe every day this week. Oh, and I can't stop without mentioning the Cygnets...

Go on - try and see it. You know you want to.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

My Writing Process

My friend Louise Marley tagged me to take part in this blog ramble. She writes romantic suspense, and I love her books. You can read about her writing process on her own blog here.

So here are the questions I’m supposed to answer:

What am I working on?

The answer is always the same, whenever you ask me! It’s always “the next book” and as I write a series, it’s always the next Libby Sarjeant book. I don’t mind discussing it with close family and my editor, but no-one else, and no-one sees it until I send it to Bob (aka Dear Ed). I hate each book as I’m writing it, and by the end of each one think it’s the worst one EVAH!

Which brings me to – why do I write?

Gawd knows! I think it’s in the DNA. Like most writers I know I started writing my own stories when I was a child and just carried on. I slipped seamlessly into writing features for the trade press when I had my children, and could do it from home. One of my poor babies was dragged in her pushchair to such diverse locations as Simpsons in the Strand (sports department!) and the Cambridge Science Park. Then, as a vaguely trained actor, I began writing (and directing and performing in – try and keep me away) pantomimes, and even a musical, based on old Music Hall songs. The pantomimes are still being  performed all over the country, I’m happy to say, and pay for the annual hols. Then I fell over the short story market and finally into novels, my first and last love. And I write what I first read, starting at the age of nine – mystery novels.

How does my writing process work?

Oh, lordy, lordy. Um. To tell the truth, it’s very unromantic. These days, my publishers will ask me for a title for the “next one”. This will be well before “this one” is finished. So between us (publisher, editor, me and my eldest son – and occasionally the sales director) we come up with a new “Murder...” Then I try and find something to fit, and when I send “this one” to Dear Ed, I have to rush through a first chapter to go at the end as a taster. Eldest son has lots of ideas for settings and situations, and for some reason – because he isn’t actually the demographic – understands the books and the concept. So I’ll take one of his ideas and run – well, waddle – with it. As I write I’ll jot things down in a notebook which sits beside the computer, or in a Word document I keep open alongside the book itself. There is no plan, and I frequently tie myself up in knots, but my argument is: you can’t plan life, can you? It always throws up the unexpected. I’m quite likely to change the murderer at the last minute, so don’t believe anyone who says they spotted it right from the beginning. If they did, they’d better start writing the books – they know more about it than I do.

How do my stories differ from others in their genre?

They don’t really. Except that mine are proper novel length, and these days a lot of so called “Cosy” crime stories are barely novellas. I still say I write Murder Mysteries, but “Cosy” has become the accepted designation, which I dislike as much as my friends who write romantic comedy disliked “Chick-Lit”. My books follow the Golden Age Detective Authors and their amateur detectives, although it is so much more difficult these days to be an amateur! Luckily, most of my readers are willing to suspend their disbelief.

And that’s that. Next, I’m tagging the terrific writer Jan Jones. She and I have been friends for a long time, and she writes wonderful books. Her debut novel Stage By Stage is still one of the best books I’ve read, and her most recent release, Fairlights, a delight for readers who enjoy Mary Stewart.