All posts by Kai Durkin

Fringe Fun

Hello all! Can’t talk long, as I’m writing from the Ed Fringe!

 

Today is preview day, so I hopped a train to Edinburgh with my trusty sidekick William in tow. We stopped by a stand-up/storytelling show called “A Very British Lesbian” and then it was time to watch the preview for Cumbernauld Theatre’s own Fringe show, Lip Sync.

 

In Lip Sync, two women play the same character, Kirsty, as she describes life with Cystic Fibrosis. Often they speak simultaneously – that is, in sync. One of them is the “real” Kirsty, who wrote the show based on her own experiences. It’s a heavy-hitting show, but handled with humour. Its been a privelege sitting in on rehearsals, and today I had the opportunity to observe an audience react, and witness what does and doesn’t work.

I’d best be off, I’ve a musical to run to: “Unfortunate: The Untold Tale of a Sea Witch”

My Big Break

So, I’ve deliberately held off on the blog update this week until tonight, because I wanted to see how one particular predicament shook out.

Things were going as normal in the internship; I was continuing to sit in on rehearsals for the 13+ kids, and had also joined in the 9-12 year old classes. But then an unexpected favour was asked of me yesterday afternoon. As it turns out, one of the boys in the 13+show (who joined late) is getting cold feet. As of writing he’s still wavering, two hours before the show starts, so I am waiting in the wings, script-in-hand, as understudy for Lysander!

This is it folks, I’ve finally made it.

They say that teenagers scare the living – wait, no, no swearing in front of the kids

Bad news first. I’m back on the network at Cumbernauld Theatre , but all of my work from the past two weeks has been deleted. In between redoing that work, I’ve been sitting in on the Summer Youth Academy classes.

The good news is those classes are really fun! As I stated in an earlier post, there’s lots of familiar games to play. I’ve mostly been sitting in on the 13+ group. We seem to have the same sense of humour and taste in musicals – I don’t know what that says about me.

As it turns out, the 13+age group is apparently the hardest to work with. They’re very determined to devise and perform a play entirely written by themselves, and to them there’s no such thing as too ambitious an idea. Or too angsty an idea. Or too cliché. As such, I haven’t been called upon for any actual writing or writing  advice; the kids all want to go their own way, and the adults would rather put on a polished production of Midsummer Nights Dream than rush the writing and rehearsing of an entirely new show. The real shame is that, given a lot more time, some of the kids ideas could develop into something quite impressive (they’re a frighteningly precocious bunch).

On the other end of the spectrum is the 6-8 class, who’re putting on a 15 minute show that was already 90% planned out by the tutors before the Academy even started. So once again my writing skills don’t come in very handy.

Next week, the 6-8 year old class will be replaced with the 9-12 year old class. I’ve been told they’re more willing and able to structure their own stories than the 6-8 year olds, but much more “malleable” than the 13+ group. Hopefully this means I will finally have the chance to prove myself as good for something other than a game of Splat.

As for my own writing, I’ve finished a first draft of my play. My main concern just now is making it more “theatrical” than “conversational”. We now have more physical comedy, voice overs, imagine spots and a musical number.

Splat! You’re out!

Kai

Progress and Setbacks

You could say I rolled a 7-9 and scored a mixed success on this week,  if you were a nerd.

Things were going well on Monday. I’d been working on my archiving task, while also getting to know the staff better. Having compiled a good collection of “interesting visual memories” – i.e. photos – from the theatre’s past, I spent the day writing the text to go along with them (75 words per page, and I’m likely to have 4 or 6 pages to play with). I’m essentially going for a series of words and images illustrating the variety of performances Cumbernauld Theatre has produced and hosted over the years; the ways they engage with the Cumbernauld community; and  the interesting history of the cottages, without getting too sentimental before the move to the new building.

Tuesday and Wednesday offered a break while I returned to Dundee for a flat viewing and a job interview. Thursday I returned to the office, ready to start compiling my text and matching images into a document to be sent to the graphic designers to prepare for publication, but disaster struck! Long story short, some electrical problems have resulted in me being locked out of the theatre’s servers, which means for the past two days I haven’t been able access any of the files I was working on!

My supervisors seem confident I’ll be able to catch up on the missed work once I’m back online, so, rather than sit and worry, in a rare show of proactive reasoning I’ve been using this unexpected time off to write more of my play.  So far it’s coming out…strange. A vague plan, loosely inspired by the set of Kennedy’s Children, to have a piece set in a gay club (and featuring characters based on people I’ve observed in my own local gay club) has (de)volved into more of a 20 minute angry monologue about LGBT+ issues that tend to be put aside, offering no solutions, but at least some acknowledgement. It’s a departure, but we’ll see how it works out! Don’t worry, there’s still jokes.

Next week the Summer Youth Academy starts, so wish me luck!

Getting Stuck In

The theatre from the outside still looks like farm cottages
The original studio theatre, now used mainly for classes and workshops

Today was day two of my internship in earnest at Cumbernauld. I’ve been going through their collection of archives, looking for interesting stories and visuals that could go in the Autumn brochure – or, as Ed, the artistic director, puts it, I’ve been indulging in some “creative archaeology”. I’m not going to give everything away here, but did you know that Cumbernauld Theatre once took over the local shopping centre, transformed it into a medieval street and performed a morality play of Noah’s Ark?

And, as promised, here’s some pictures!

Some boxes from the archives
The 250 seat auditorium, as seen from the stage
I always told mama some day I’d make it in showbiz
I have an office desk but the dressing room makes for a pretty good workspace

 

A Summer In Cumbernauld

Hello again world!

Like Hamzah down in Leeds, I’m also going to be doing another internship over the course of the summer – with Cumbernauld Theatre!

The building doesn’t look much like a theatre from the outside (I promise I’ll get pictures). In fact, Cumbernauld Theatre was originally built in 1960, converted from abandoned farm cottages by members of the new town who, seeing that the town planners had neglected to include any cultural facilities, endeavoured to create their own as volunteers. Things weren’t perfect – the 55 seat studio theatre has a tin roof, so when it rained during performances the audience certainly knew about it. But now, 59 years later, the theatre boasts a 250 seat auditorium (with the original studio playing host to workshops), the centre is run by the professional Cumbernauld Theatre Company, and next year the company will be moving to a state-of-the-art new building, in a more accessible location from the town centre and train station.

That’s where I come in. After much liaising about where to fit in an aspiring playwright as an intern, I have been asked to research the theatre’s archives, dating all the way back to the 60s, and present a spread of their history to appear in the Autumn programme – this Autumn being the last ever season to be held in the original building. So, expect more and much more detailed accounts of Cumbernauld Theatre’s history in the coming weeks!

I’ve also been asked to help out with the theatre’s summer youth programme. The Summer Academy is a series workshops aimed at different age groups of children. 6-8 year olds and 9-12 year olds are given a week-long course in which to devise a performance, to be shown at the end of the week, while the 13+ group have a more intensive two week course. All the classes will be drawing inspiration this year from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and my job will be liaising with the tutors, taking part in the workshops myself and helping the children plot and write a performance. The real trick, apparently, is striking the right balance between steering the kids without taking over what is supposed to be their project – something I’ve found to be a key part of collaborating in theatre no matter the age range.

I’ve been to Cumbernauld Theatre four times in the past few weeks. The first time for my initial interview, to discuss whether the theatre and I were a good fit for one another, and more recently to witness some of the kids who’ll be attending the Summer Academy in action. I sat in two Saturdays ago on the term-time classes for 6-8 and 9-12 year olds.  I haven’t worked much with children, certainly not a big group of them before and never as young as 6, though I have been mistaken for a 12 year old boy on several occasions. I was, to put it mildly, terrified going in. What if a child started crying? What if one kid started bullying another? What if they all started bullying me? At what age do you not need to support their heads anymore?

More than anything else, however, the day proved overwhelmingly nostalgic. I recognised games and songs I used to love in drama classes years ago. And the kids – who I’ve been reassured I’ll never be left alone with, saving not just the cost of a PVG but also me from bursting a blood vessel from stress – are actually all sweet. Although they all seem to have an alarming compulsion to gravitate towards the most dangerous looking objects in the room whenever they think no one is watching. By the end of the day I was in awe of the two tutors who somehow manage them all every Saturday.

Last Wednesday and Thursday I was up again, to watch another group of children rehearse a show called Remote, written by Stef Smith in 2015 for the National Theatre of London, about young people navigating this age of technology and information. Or, as the Cumbernauld Theatre programme puts it: “Remote is a play about protest, power and protecting yourself.” What was most interesting to me was seeing how hard the children worked, and how much they improved from the first run-through I saw to the dress rehearsal the next day. All of them were guided and motivated, of course, by their director Hannah, who doubles as Cumbernauld Theatre’s Drama Practitioner.

From July 1st I’m going to be visiting the theatre and archives on a regular basis, while surfing the couches of some very gracious friends in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I await the next few weeks with excitement and (just the tiniest bit of) terror.

Until next week,

Kai

P.S. Having taken 130 hours to finish it, I am never touching Persona 5 again. At least not until the new downloadable content comes out. In the meanwhile I’ll have to find another game to report on for the sake of quirkiness.

History Talks and Boat Walks

Captain’s Log: 09/02/19, 16.35

Back with another update!

First of all, I’m delighted to announce that I am now doing a second placement! Along with Loretta, I am going to be helping facilitate a creative writing workshop as part of the Dundee Women’s Festival. The event, titled “Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices” will be occurring on the 2nd of March, and is composed of two parts: the morning will be talks from three different historians about extraordinary women from history; while the afternoon will be a chance for attendees to write in response to these talks. I don’t want to give too much away about the talks, but the topics span from right here in Dundee all the way to Germany, and I can tell you right now you don’t wanna miss any of them!

The main goal of Loretta and myself as facilitators is simply to encourage the women attending to put pen to paper. I have technically lead a writing workshop before. One person, a very smart, cooperative and forgiving 11 year-old turned up, and we mainly talked about her Harry Potter fan-fiction. Despite this bountiful wealth of experience and knowledge to draw from, I am as nervous as I am excited. I think I might defer to Loretta, who actually has real teaching experience.

In news regarding my placement at the Rep, on Thursday Hamzah and I met to share our ideas of people and places we might want to investigate and interview. This included a trip to Dundee’s own HMS Unicorn, one of the oldest warships in the world. We conducted a little research, explored the exhibition onboard the ship and established some potential contacts to interview later. I also took a plethora of pictures, though I unfortunately didn’t manage to catch any of the ship’s supposed ghosts on camera:

A narwhal horn
The gun deck
I think this is called the hold

Following this visit Hamzah and I headed to the library to record our first interviewees – ourselves. Next step is trying to edit out all the background noise so they’re usable!

This is Captain Kai,

Signing off.

P.S. Did you know that Captain Kidd, supposed pirate and inspiration for the persona of Ryuji Sakamoto in Persona 5, was born in Dundee?

 

It’s All Kicking Off

After a few weeks of waiting and rescheduling, I am delighted to be able to report back with an update on my placement at the Rep!

Yesterday (Monday 4th) was our first meeting, held in the Rep bar. I only ever seem capable of arriving early or late to things, so I had fifteen minutes to distract my friend on reception from his work before we started.

When the show’s director, Ewan Donald, arrived, there was that surreal moment of meeting in person for the first time a talented actor you’ve seen on stage in a dozen different guises. The immediate recognition of someone who is in fact a complete stranger. But he and everyone else proved to be very welcoming.

The show itself, A-Z of Dundee, is apparently still in its early stages, but the job of my fellow intern Hamzah and myself has been confirmed: go out into the public, gather up as many different stories as possible, and find out how the world relates to Dundee, and how Dundee relates to itself. Even though I had been told already this was what we’d be doing, now that our work is beginning in earnest it all feels much more real – and exciting!  All through yesterday I kept getting distracted from whatever I was doing, pausing in my work to add to the list of people and groups I think it might be interesting to try and interview. My hope is to try and gather as diverse a range of interviews as possible, showing both Dundee the old and the new. Gail, our tutor, has also emphasised our opportunity here to showcase the communities and stories that don’t often get told, so from my end expect an obnoxious barrage of rainbows and glitter.

Hamzah and I have already agreed on a few targets, and have arranged to meet on Thursday for some research in a certain nautical, supposedly haunted location, so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, I have another meeting tomorrow about another placement I have agreed to join…

Your intrepid journalist,

Kai

P.S. In far more important news, I have just beaten the Casino of Envy palace in Persona 5, and survived the half hour long cutscene that follows it. I knew a certain “ace detective” was too good to be true!

 

Hello there!

Hi, Kai here!

An introduction? Well, let’s see: my star sign is Aries, my moon sign is Taurus, my rising sign is Virgo and according to one Facebook quiz my primal sign is Piranha. I don’t know what any of these things mean, but I do think they sound pretty cool.

Perhaps it would be more useful to say that I’m 22, a writing student, born in Perth and living in Dundee. I own too many t-shirts with cartoons on them. I read just about everything but fantasy, sci-fi and comedy are my favourites. I like writing in a variety of formats but the only things I ever seem to “finish” are plays. I’ve been getting really into comics and graphic novels lately. I want to explore different kinds of storytelling: prose; comics; film; theatre; video games; that one guy who works for Buzzfeed and made a scary story out of Tweets; recordings of table top role-playing games transformed into ambitious feats of long-form improvised collaborative storytelling; TV. I write sentences that are too long. I’m currently reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I make tangential Star Wars references in my blog titles. The last book I finished was Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine.  I picked Makoto to date in Persona 5.

I will be starting an internship at the Dundee Rep Theatre soon, so stay tuned for that. Unless you’d rather hear more about my progress in Persona 5. If enough people asked for that instead I’m sure the university could work out some kind of compromise.

I’ll think of a catchy sign-off later,

Kai