Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mansfield Park

Yesterday I went to see a new adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park for the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. This is going to be a challenge, I thought. A four-hundred page book by one of the wittiest writers I know featuring a largely internalising heroine that takes me well over a day to read even knowing it so well - distilled into a two hour stage play.

But it was BRILLIANT.

A very few characters had melted away, a lot of thinking had been précised down into salient-point speeches, but what was left was pure, rich, essence of Austen. In a lot of ways, the very paring down of the text brought out the humour in the book. It certainly contributed to an instant identification of who each character was and what they were like.

Mr Rushworth declaiming
With a very clever, elegant set designed to suggest the Georgian era, the play flowed effortlessly from one scene to the next. The actors brought masses of energy and realism to their roles and I believed in each and every one of them. One of the lovely things was that the parts had necessarily to be doubled now and then, and it was evident how much the actors really enjoyed the light relief of portraying the raucous, shambolic Portsmouth household for a few scenes after the intense, restrained Mansfield Park itself.

Fanny Price
I can only applaud the stupendous acting from all concerned, the sympathetic direction of Colin Blumenau and the writer of the adaptation, Tim Luscombe. I didn't want the evening to end.

All in all, this was a fantastic production - it's on tour later this autumn, so go and see it if you possibly can.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Gone visiting...

I'm off visiting my good friend Kate Hardy today to congratulate her on her 50th book for Mills & Boon.

I shall be talking about serials and offering a slightly different prize...

See you there.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Life Imitating Art

One of the features of the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference is the annual Chairman's competition for the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. This is only open to members of the RNA attending the conference, and usually takes the form of a chapter of a novel or a short story.

The 2012 competition was for a short story in which an animal played an integral part.

Being up to my eyes in conference administration without a single animal idea in my head, I decided to leave it for this year. But then this insane first line crept stealthily into my head...

Any writer will know what happened next. I abandoned the admin and wrote. And I have to say I felt MUCH better once I'd finished, even though it was a completely mad story.

It didn't win, but it did come fourth (after Alison Maynard, Judy Astley and, er, someone I've forgotten, sorry). So I expanded it a bit, polished it some more and sent it off to Woman's Weekly, who bought it.

So when you read the opening line, just remember that I WROTE IT FIRST

Pardon? You don't understand? What am I talking about? Oh, silly me...

The insane first line in question is:

"It's about the lion," said the woman on the doorstep.

and what was in the news on the bank holiday weekend just gone? That's right, a lion sighting in Essex...

Life imitating art, see?