Friday, 12 February 2016

The Rose and Crown

Last December, when I began rehearsals for J B Priestley's The Rose and Crown, the one-act play I am directing for the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group ("The Grads") I toyed with the idea of blogging about rehearsals on a regular basis. The toy soon got put back in its box. I have enough to occupy myself during the day without taking on the extra commitment of regular blogging. More importantly, I couldn't, or wouldn't, be honest in the blog. I'm a naturally critical person, who finds it as easy to find fault as to give praise and any piece I wrote would automatically say things about the actors that they might not find acceptable. So, while I have, I hope, been at least a competent director insofar as dealing with the cast face to face is concerned, I have kept any extreme thoughts about their personalities or abilities to myself. That doesn't mean I have had many negative thoughts - I could probably work with any of the cast in a future production - but there have been moments when the vision I had for the play has not been reflected in the words and actions of the people before me. Will that vision appear a week from today when the cast first appear before an audience?  The odds are good that it will and my fingers and all other flexible parts of my anatomy are crossed in anticipation.

It is thanks to the J B Priestley Society that I am writing this blogpost. Earlier in the week I finally got around to some promotion for the play and they asked me for some comments for their newsletter. The rest of this blog is therefore an adaptation of the words I wrote for them. Why this rare play, they asked? Because I had originally offered to direct a full-length Priestley for The Grads and was thinking of Dangerous Corner or Time and the Conways.  EGTG didn't have a slot for a full-length play, but they needed a one-act for the Scottish Community Drama Association Festival and they asked me to put on something. I came across The Rose and Crown while looking for a suitable play and immediately decided I want to do it. It has all the elements of Priestley that I like - good characterisation with a touch of the supernatural.

left to right from top: Oliver Trotter, Oliver Cookson
Charles Finnie, Alan Patterson,
Beverley Wright, Hilary Davies, Hannah Bradley
I was a little nervous at first, partly because it is set in London and I wasn't sure I could transpose it to Scotland or find Scottish actors who could do a London accent, and partly because the play is very time-specific and I wasn't sure how much relevance it had today. The first problem was solved when I found a cast who could all do the necessary accents (not always perfectly enough to fool a Londoner, but the overall impression of Cockney is strong). The second problem - its relevance - faded as we got into rehearsals. This is partly because (spoiler alert coming NOW; to avoid it skip to the next paragraph) I have introduced The Stranger at the beginning of the play, who silently contemplates the empty bar as a series of sound effects takes us through the Second World War and into post-war austerity (he disappears until he returns as scripted in the middle of the play), and partly because the characters involve the audience so much that the period in which it is set in becomes irrelevant.

Priestley's script, published in 1947, involves very detailed direction - I think for the original television version rather than the subsequent stage play. It is very static, with no more than a group of drinkers standing around the bar. I read the Runnymede Drama Group's take on it for their 2013 production and saw that they had some movement with drinkers at individual tables. Our production also uses tables; how much our direction overlaps with theirs, I have no idea. As with any play, the more we have worked it, the more drama and action emerges and although some of the characters barely move from their seats, there's enough toing and froing among the rest to keep the eyes as well as the ears occupied.

I have been impressed by how much Priestley squeezes into a short play, creating not only characters but raising ideas and reactions that are totally unexpected. Assuming the actors pull out all the stops, our production will begin with (another spoiler alert...., or skip to the next paragraph) curiosity, moves on to comedy, then bewilderment and fear before ending in .... ah well, what does it end in? That's up to each audience member to decide for themselves.

At the moment we have only one guaranteed performance, on Friday 19th February 2016, in Edinburgh. It's part of a one-act competition and if we get through there are subsequent stages (in Fife, back in Edinburgh, then in London) where we might appear. No matter how good our production is, however, I suspect that the plays with a more contemporary theme are likely to be the ones that go through. Depending on the audience reaction, we will consider putting it on at the Edinburgh Fringe, but that would also depend on the fickleness of crowd-funding.

Finally, in case you are reading this in mid-February 2016 and happen to be in Edinburgh or are irresistibly drawn to the city, you can buy tickets for our play and two other one-acts on the same evening, from the SCDA website.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Visual and emotional direction

I may not be a great actor (see my previous post - below) but I am still fascinated by drama and film. The fact that the sofa in front of the television is much cheaper and nearer than any theatre seat means I watch many more films than plays, but if I consider working in either medium, I cannot help but be drawn to drama, as much less complicated and expensive than film.

If acting is not an option, four other roles are: producing, directing, backstage and writing. I'll deal with writing another time. As for producing, I've done my share of vanity projects to get my own material on stage. The reviews were medium to good, the losses medium - as much as I could afford and more than I would like. I might produce again, but not in the foreseeable future; money is tight at present and
How do you make £1,000?
Start off with £2,000 and invest
in a fringe theatre production
the Other Half would never forgive me. Backstage? Maybe-possibly-might-do, but I don't have the skills for tasks such as set-building and although I enjoy Organising, I'm not enthused by the idea of Stage Manager.

Directing, on the other hand . . . The director is the magician. The director creates the vision. The director paints the whole picture. The actor sees only part of the play and from a narrow perspective; the director sees it all. The actor spends much or most of their time offstage waiting; the director is always active and never bored. The actor has to learn lines and, much more difficult, the cues that precede each line; the director has nothing to learn. The actor has to throw away the script early on in rehearsals; the director can consult the script at any time. The actor can express their opinion but may have do the director's will; the director can hear every opinion and then impose their own will. Best of all, because the director is in charge and always working, in rehearsal there are no breaks; the energy level remains high and the adrenalin is always flowing.

There are downsides to directing. Actors who are not up to scratch, actors who suddenly decide to leave a project, actors who are unprofessional (arriving late, paying little attention, only giving part of their talent), backstage staff who are unreliable, producers who cannot or will not invest as much time and money and promotion as the project demands; these can all undermine the director's vision. But problems and challenges are part of the job description and a good director will be able to overcome most or all of them.

I didn't use to consider myself a director. Decades ago, at university, I joined a dramatic club and offered to direct Olwen Wymark's The Inhabitants. I remember few details. The script attracted me because there was vaguely gay element and I had only just become aware of my own sexuality, but although I read the play several times, I could not understand it. (This was after I had taken on the task; looking back at myself I can hardly believe my idiocy.) I had a mentor at the club who explained that the three characters represented the id, ego and supergo. I still had no clue what to do. Meanwhile, I had persuaded a friend to be one of the cast; where the other two actors came from I no longer remember; I have no idea if any of them could act. Exasperated, the mentor took over while I slunk into the shadows. There was one performance. My name remained in the programme as director (I think I half-heartedly protested the inclusion). After that I darkened the door of the dramatic club no more. I allowed the deepest recesses of my mind to retain the idea that I might some day become an actor. A director, however? My inmost being burnt read with embarrassment.

Fast forward almost forty years. I take up acting and appear in several fringe plays. I listen to directors, understand how they work. In one play where I have a key role I am acutely aware of the different abilities of the actors around me. The leading man is quiet, unexpressive, almost mumbles his words. A bit player has a range of voices and energy that sizzles. Doesn't the director see the difference? I wonder. Why doesn't he tell Leading Man to raise his voice, show more expression and energy? Other actors' abilities fall somewhere in between. My own performance is uncertain; I get no advice as to how to improve it. When the play opens and I get a good review I'm pleased but also surprised; I don't feel as if I've earned it.

My eureka moment came when Emma King-Farlow of Shadow Road Productions directed me in my own one-man play, Angel. It was a mistake on my part. I was producing four of my plays for the 2012 Solo Festival under the rubric Loss, and didn't have the time to focus on my own role. On stage I lacked confidence and forgot lines. Luckily the performance was not reviewed. However, the goals and process of directing remained with me. What is the play about? Who is this character? What does he want? What does each line mean? What is going through the character's head to make him say those words at that moment? What are the emotions or the memory that he is experiencing? The director's job is, on the surface at least, simple: understand and feel the text and help the actors convey those ideas and sentiments to the audience.

As I continued to act I began to understand directors' different techniques. Some were primarily concerned with the overall look of the play - who stands where, when they move, the actiosn they make; they are creating a spectacle. Others are more concerned with interior lives - who are these people on stage, what do they think, what do they feel, whatmotivates them; it's the emotional and / or intellectual experience that the director is interested in, In my experience very few directors combined both. (An exception was the writer-director of a play I was in, who aimed to bring out both the interior and exterior lives of his characters; unfortunately his script was so full of inconsistencies that it undermined his vision.)

My first attempts at directing after my long-ago disastrous debut were three of my one-man plays, Angel, Now We Are Pope and Tadzio Speaks . . . , which I produced in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe. I pushed my long-suffering actors, Christophers Annus and Peacock, as far as they could go and came out of the experience with the confidence that yes, I knew what I was doing and yes, I could bring out the best in the actors that worked with me. Now I have taken on my first multi-cast production - J B Priestley's one-act play, The Rose and Crown for the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group. It's guaranteed one performance, at the Scottish Community Drama Association Festival in February, but if it does well, it will go on the next stage of the competition and might even get a longer run elsewhere.  But of that, more in a later post . . .

Monday, 21 December 2015

A lack of persistence and consistency

Setting aside last month's post in which in the shadow of the Paris terrorist attacks I gave vent to my natural misanthropy, it would seem that I abandoned this blog over a year ago. The usual reason: other activities and priorities got in the way. My interest in the theatre fell dormant after a mediocre run of three of my one-man plays at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2014 - very few reviews and small, albeit enthusiastic audiences. Soon after came the upheaval of moving self and partner to Edinburgh, followed by increased time spent with and on behalf of elderly relatives, the bookselling business, arranging a new boiler, developing a social life. It was much easier not to blog than to write about something I was paying little attention to. Only now, in the lull before Christmas, do I have time to put down a few thoughts. Today I'm musing on acting; if nothing else gets in the way, in the next 24 or 48 or 72 hours, I'll offer a few paragraphs on directing.

In 2011 I took three part-time acting courses at the Poor School and Actors Centre in London. It was soon clear to me that compared to most other students I had some talent. I could let myself go in a part; my voice had good range; I could express strong and subtle emotions. I did not expect to make a living at acting, but surely I could find regular work in the many fringe theatres of the British capital.

Things may have changed since I was there,
but I would recommend their part-time courses
Four years I look back at that time with a wry expression. I know now I am not destined to be an actor. This is not because I lack talent - it is because I lack two qualities far more important than talent: persistence and consistency.

Persistence is essential for the successful actor - that is an actor who gets regular work or who has outstanding talent or, preferably, both. Persistence requires the energy and personality that has one constantly seeking out parts, contstantly training, constantly finding and making opportunities where one will be seen again and again by the public and agents and directors. Persistence is founded on strong ambition and complete self-belief. I have weak ambition and little persistence. If at first I fail, I will try again; and if I fail again I might try again; but if I fail a third time I'll almost always give up and try something completely different.

What about self-belief? Don't I have any? Doesn't it propel me forward? Well, yes and no. My self-belief combines both arrogance and diffidence: I hold the view that if someone doesn't recognise my talents, as a writer, an actor or whatever, it's either their fault because they don't have the wisdom and insight to see how good my work is or it's my fault because I'm not very good at whatever it is I am doing. Pushing myself forward won't change the intrinsic value of my work. The end result is that while I am very happy for others to tell the world that I'm a great actor, writer or director, promoting myself is a form of mental torture that I avoid at all costs. And so I don't do it. I don't know whether I'm a genius or a fraud, but I'd rather be a genius who spent his life in utter obscurity than a fraud who persuades the rest of the world to admire him.

So, I lack persistence. On the other hand, I might have persistence if I were consistent. By consistent I mean producing the same high quality work rehearsal after rehearsal, performance after performance. I am not consistent. Sometimes my performance flows - I hit the right mark from start to finish, I fluff no lines, the emotions and intensity ebb and flow as the script, the director and the character demand. At other times I'm forgetful and weak. Emotions remain but words disappear; words are accurate but I'm on autopilot. The audience might not see this - as an actor I've never had a bad review and I often receive compliments for my work - but I am aware of my failings and not infrequently I come away from an evening thinking that the last two or three hours were spent with my body on stage but my mind far away. At such times acting does not reward me - it irritates me because I have failed.

Then there's the waiting. Much of acting is doing nothing but wait. Whether it's rehearsal or actual performance, if you're not on stage or on set, you're waiting. You're doing nothing. You're hanging around. You're making small talk with fellow actors. You're trying to complete sudoku. You're fiddling on your smart phone. You're thinking about dinner. You're bored. You're bored. You're bored.  Ok, correct that last sentence. I'm bored. It's not that I want to be on stage all the time (although I wouldn't object if the part was right, I could guarantee to remember all my lines and there was some financial reward) but when I'm off stage I'd rather be doing something worthwhile instead of hanging around waiting to go on stage again.

All these reservations were flowing through my head last summer when I auditioned for a part in the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group (The Grads)'s production of Alan Ayckbourn's Wildest Dreams. There were two parts I was eligible for age-wise. I wanted the shorter one, as the unpleasant household tyrant Austen Skate, which involved me in only three scenes, rather than take on the effort and responsibility that comes with being the lead. In a small part it would matter little to the rest of the cast if I was awful, and if I was good while the production was poor, responsibility would not fall on my head. Besides, my goal was less to act than to get a toehold in Edinburgh theatricals. it would give me an idea of what was going on and some contacts if I wanted to proceed with what was becoming a stronger ambition - to direct rather than act.

With Wendy Barrett in Wildest Dreams
Wildest Dreams, which follows a group of people who sublimate their unhappy lives in a role-playing game, is a difficult play. I respect Ayckbourn, who achieves more in one play than I am ever likely to do in the years that remain to me, but I'm not a great fan of his work and to me WD is more ambitious than coherent. In addition to concerns about the script, in the early days of rehearsal I had doubts about the quality of  the directing and acting, but by the time we opened for a four-day run in November, we had made considerable progress. Audience reaction was changeable - strong laughter one evening, uncertain silence the next - but overall it seemed the show was above average for an amateur production. The only critic who saw it gave us four stars and described my performance as a "compellingly wheezing, sepulchral version of Uncle Fester"; not quite how I envisaged my role, but a comment that was more compliment than complaint.

A single plaudit is not enough to overcome my acting doubts. Four years ago, my ambition was to be an actor not on stage, but on radio. I have a voice that can go into many a register, from male to female and back again, from Scots to Cockney through Posh and the BBC, from young to old, serious to comic. I might be a staple of BBC radio drama and comedy (as long as it is not stand-up). But to get that far I'd have to keep appearing on stage and make voice-reels and persuade producers and agents to come see me and keep pushing again and again at that door. Which brings me back to my earlier comment - the one thing I cannot do is promote myself. That doesn't mean I've given up the stage. I haven't. I'm now busy directing - but that's the subject of the next post, the one above this . . .

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Yes, there is an enemy, but it is ourselves

In the aftermath of the Paris (and Beirut and whichever atrocity came before or which will come afterwards) attacks there will be predictable and understandable condemnation of the terrorists and resolve to overcome them wherever they and their poison appear - on the battlefield, on the internet, in the communities in which we live. And we will once again mourn the irreplaceable loss of those who have died and have compassion for those who live whose lives have been devastated by violence and hatred. But . . .

It doesn't matter where this picture was taken
- it represents every act of violence worldwide:
the source was
Let us recognise that the root cause of terrorism is not religion or politics but an over-populated world where too many young people have no meaningful future. As the years pass, populations grow, climate change worsens and resources grow more scarce, we will continue to turn on each other like rats in an overcrowded cage, where politics and religion are the rationale but not the underlying cause of violence. These events will occur again and again against a backdrop of mass migration resulting from too many people fighting for too little unproductive land.

Nothing said or done by Cameron or Obama or Hollande on the one hand or by the terrorists on the other can change this basic fact. Terrorism may be carried out in the name of religion, but it is driven by despair - despair that lives are meaningless accompanied by the belief that only destruction, of other lives and our own, gives us back some form of meaning. For those of us lucky enough to live in small communities on the edges of continents where life gives us some pleasures, the waves of destruction are likely to be muted. The rest of us, in crowded cities where thousands of new faces arrive each year, all striving for somewhere to live, for work that rewards us and for a partner to share our home with, face an increasingly uncertain and unpleasant future.

This apocalyptic view may seem exaggerated, unlikely and unusual for those with a short view of history, but since we humans first evolved from lesser primates until as late as the nineteenth century, our lives have been dominated by violence, fear and hunger. We are merely returning to the state of uncertainty in which most animals live; the only difference is that today more than ever we are conscious of what is happening to us and we have the imagination to fool ourselves that there is an enemy that we can overcome. Yes, there is an enemy, but it is ourselves - we created the over-crowded, soon-to-be-impoverished world in which we are living; that world gave back to us the nihilists who devastated Paris on Friday evening.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Another day, another class - and Die Konsequenz

I was at my second improvisation class last night. My appreciation has gone up from last week's 5 out of 10 to 7. The acoustics in the church hall are still annoying but the class was more focused this time round and there was opportunity to perform in front of others and to see others perform.

We began with the format of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?. Start performing a scene - any scene - one way then when told to change the style do so immediately. Sci-fi to romantic, Western to James Bond. The problem for newbies like us is that the content often changes with the style. You may start with a young man asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage, but with the change to Western, daughter is likely forgotten as guns are drawn and threats uttered. Nonetheless, I had fun as a Bond villain, with a fellow-actor throwing himself as a cat into my metaphorical lap - although I have to confess to sometimes talking too much and depriving fellow actors of their place in the sun.

The next part of the evening involved having a conversation alternating each sentence with a letter of the alphabet in sequence. Eg: "Are you happy?" "Be assured that I am." "Come on, you don't look it." "Definitely happy." "Everyone says that." and so on. Easy, I thought and in practice I got through the alphabet with ease. Inevitably I failed in front of the whole class, when in response to "Let's see, who can we invite?" I said "Well, Mary", blissfully unaware until it was pointed out to me that I had offended.

Further deflation in part three, where we had to quickly answer every question with a question. "What do you think this is?" "What's your opinion?" "Does it look funny to you?" and so on. I could always manage the first two or three with "Why are you asking?" "What do you think?" but soon found myself, like most of the others, either automatically giving a simple answer or my mouth gaping as my thought processes froze.

The last exercise was the most rewarding - four of us in a small scene having to bring into our roles random phrases drawn from a bag. I was a drunken punter in a lap-dancing joint, obsessed by the woman gyrating in front of me and happy to announce to the world "I want a divorce". Then I ended the scene (again, I wonder, had everyone else had their opportunity??) when the phrase in my hand told me to tell the waiter "Let's go for a beer", so I put my arm around him and dragged him away, saying I preferred guys anyway...

All of which meant that I drove home in a better mood than the previous week, regretting only that I won't be in town next Tuesday and so will have to wait a fortnight until I get to pit my wits again. I now know what I had already suspected, that good improvisation - sticking to one idea, being inventive, allowing others their opportunity to perform - is not easy; it requires a talent and quick-wittedness that not everybody has. Whether or not I have them is something I have yet to find out.

On another topic . . . I finished watching Die Konsequenz (The Consequence) last night, a German television film from 1977. The story of an actor in his thirties sent to prison for sexual relations with a 16-year-old (based on writer Alexander Ziegler's own experience), who finds himself seduced by the 15-year-old son of a prison warden was movingly acted by the then stunningly beautiful Ernst Hannawald (left in the picture) as the young Thomas and Juergen Prochnow (right) as Martin, the older partner.

Shot in a grainy black and white, rendering the beautiful Swiss countryside cold and distant, the film moved at a slow pace that allowed us to become fully involved with the couple. Of course the primary attraction was physical - the two are classically good-looking and, although one is fair and the other dark, similar in appearance - but sexual desire was soon overlain by insights into each other's personalities that made them lovers in the emotional as well as physical sense. You understood why they wanted to be with each other and you cheered them as they overcame each obstacle - and, like Martin himself, you were saddened but not surprised when circumstances which Thomas in his youth could not resist drew them apart. The closing scene, where you suspect that the end has come, is harrowing, with Thomas's angelic face staring relentlessly at you for minute after minute while the credits slowly pass.

It was an insight into a world that has disappeared in less than 40 years. The idea that a fifteen-year-old might freely chose a relationship with someone twice his age is controversial at a time where the public and opinion leaders seem unable to distinguish between the horrific abuse of children and the choices made by sexually mature teenagers. (Thomas's seduction of the older man was more believable than the apparent ease in which the youth reached the inmate's cell.) Most striking was the difficulty of communication in a world where no-one has a mobile phone, where landlines are few and far between and days can pass before a lover can speak to his beloved. And in that time, much can happen that a lover does not know about and cannot prevent.

Ziegler - the Swiss writer of the film - died of an overdose of sleeping pills ten years after the Die Konsequenz was made. Hannawald, who was cast in the film at the age of 17, has had a troubled life, which includes cocaine addiction, the death of his fiancee in a car accident that he was responsible for, and a prison sentence for robbery. Prochnow has achieved some success in films in Germany (most notably Das Boot) and Hollywood, although his face was disfigured on the set of David Lynch's Dune, in which he played the part of Duke Leto Atreides. And Thomas and Martin? We will never know.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


Yes, the city can look this beautiful, just not all the time...
I'm once again a permanent resident of Edinburgh, the city I grew up in and left immediately after I graduated. Throughout the interim I have returned regularly to visit family, but otherwise my connections with the capital have long since faded; I no longer remember the names of streets that I once knew intimately and I lost contact with the last of my friends here long ago.

I'm not a hermit and although I'm happily partnered and the Other Half will join me in February, I need a social network. In London as I prepared to move here, I mentioned the lack of a social life to friend Todd, who immediately told me to take an acting course or join an acting group - which is how he got three good friends. Truer words, the cliché reminded me, were never spoken; indeed, it was how he and I met. That very night I sent off emails to several Edinburgh-based drama groups and colleges, pointing out that I had some experience in the theatah and wondering if I might get involved with them in some way .

The response was underwhelming. I won't name names, because I might yet work / collaborate with them, but I feel no great enthusiasm for those who got back to me. Two responded immediately, in friendly, helpful emails; a third wrote after several weeks, offering no apologies for the delay, and in a tone that suggested that I might grovel at their feet at some point in the future. The others I contacted have not got back to me, although I know at least one of them still functions.

I liked Organisation A. A friendly bunch, with a handful of actors under thirty and a much greater number of contributors over fifty, they put on several productions a year. The problem was that I wasn't inspired by their choice of plays, even though they all deserved to pull in large crowds. Their application form sits on my desk, waiting to be filled in or thrown out. I'd join for the social life, but I'm not sure what that would be. Besides, I'm feeling poor; this month the book sales which provide my primary income have been steady rather than outstanding.

Organisation B give courses. I chose improvisation. Fourteen of us in an echoing hall made it difficult for this rapidly aging individual to hear the tutor. Most of those around me were under thirty; perhaps three were over forty. We were set various tasks in scenarios in small groups. In one I decided to be a father-to-be expecting his fourteenth child; I'm nervous - "the fourteenth is the worst; it gets better after that until the twenty-third. I was a twenty-third". I suddenly have sympathetic labour pains and I'm on my back with my legs open about to give birth. I'm pleased with what I'm doing, but it doesn't mean much; I'm not really interacting with my two partners and we're merely one of several groups trying to make ourselves heard. there's too much noise going on around me. Why, I wonder later, doesn't the tutor do a group at a time, see how we each get on? Give us advice to help us interact better instead of just watching us make fools of ourselves? (Of course, there's nothing wrong in being a fool, but I'd like to be good at my foolery...)

Ah well, it was only the first of eight classes. We wandered off into the night and I returned home to a glass of wine, wondering if I would remember everyone's names next week and whether I really would learn anything. As I fell asleep that night once again I went over the opening scenes of the play I have been planning for months to write - and wondered if it would ever get produced.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

What next?

It's exactly a month since Desire and Pursuit came to an end - a week of three one-man plays that I wrote, directed and produced (and, mercifully, did not act in) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. That month could - and in an ideal world, it would - have been a period in which I could reflect on my theatrical career, review the different strands on and off the stage and make a thoughtful decision as to whither, if anywhither, that career should go next.

The world is not ideal. Real life got in the way. The main distraction was my move from London to Edinburgh, which primarily involved dumping 100+ boxes of books and paraphernalia in a flat that has little room to hold them. That distraction, followed by 12 days back in London to show the Other Half I wasn't abandoning him, was planned. What wasn't planned was the illness of an elderly relative, which meant that the time I had expected to spend unpacking and thinking was spent in regular 140 mile round-trips to the hospital where she is being looked after by what appear to be angels. Thank you, the National Health Service of Scotland for your care - and thank Scotland for not voting for the mirage of independence which would have placed that service at risk.

Ok, ok, I'm wandering off the point. To return to the basic question: will I continue a career in the theatre? Answer: yes to a certain extent, but never, repeat never - no, repeat never ever ever - will I again take on responsibility for funding or promoting a show. I have not the time, personality or energy to keep banging my head against metaphorical brick walls, trying to get individuals and organisations interested in any theatrical performance in any shape or form. I'd be happy to act as a producer, taking care of administration and looking after other people's money on condition that I was obliged to lift not a finger in promoting the show. And note what I said about other people's money. I've spent enough of my own; someone else can take the gamble from now on.

So, promoting is out of the question. Producing is possible in partnership with someone who knows what they are doing in areas of funding and promoting. What's left? Directing, writing and acting.

Directing was fun. It's true I was only directing two actors in three one-man shows, but I enjoyed it. I understood what I was doing  and what I wanted to happen and I was able to work with two actors who responded well, which allowed us to create plays that had depth and intensity and held the audience's attention. That's a long way from directing several actors in a full-length play, but, having been an actor and watching others direct, I'm confident that given the right play and the right players, I could put on a full-scale production that audiences would enjoy and applaud.

So, directing is still on the cards. Don't know what, don't know when, don't know where or who with, but that door is definitely open and beckoning me. What about writing?

Ah... I haven't written much in the last few years - but the brain has been cogitating. There's a short story I wrote years ago that has much to recommend it as a stage piece, encompassing myth, reality, youth and age, desire and sex. I also have three one-woman plays just waiting to be produced. I'm not in a hurry to write for the stage, it's another door I'm aware of and one day I'll make the decision whether to open it.

Which leaves acting. I've only appeared on stage once this year - and that was after a fifteen month gap when my last role was in a short film which was never completed. It was a short part, a comedy, for two nights only. And it was fun. I'd come to the conclusion that the time and effort put into acting (rehearsals, traveling to and from the theatre, waiting backstage) is far greater than the reward of actually being on stage, particularly in roles that are unpaid, but that stint as the Commuter reminded me that at least I enjoy comic acting. Which means another door beckons.

None of this means I am about to devote all my attention to the stage. But I have just moved back to Edinburgh, a city I last lived in 40 years ago, where I can count my friends on the thumbs of one hand, and I need to find a social life. There is, I understand, a thriving scene in the city of amateur actors and drama schools. I have been researching both and have plans to take a short course and see whether my talents and availability are suited to am-dram - I don't expect to find a career but I may find friends. A month from now I should have some news. Hang on, if you can, until then.