Dark Doors

Ask. I will tell you a story.

Tag: performance

Orthros @ Hyde Park Book Club

Orthros returns from the Underworld, moving from shadow to shadow, with something between a growl and a howl hovering in its throat.

Steve Toase and I are pleased to announce that we will be performing at the Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds on 21st January and on 25th February. We will perform new stories, as well as dark favourites.

Both nights are 7:30 entry for an 8pm start, free admission. Because space and seating is limited, please book your ticket through EventBrite. You can pay what you decide after the performance, or – even better! – buy a book afterwards. Copies of Steve’s anthology project, Haunt, and my own collection, Dark Doors, will be available for adoption on the night.

We invite you to join us for an evening of dark and disturbing prose .

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Orthros – A night of aconite prose

Autumn hangs ragged on tree branches, while the sun succumbs to the night.
Join Steve Toase and LMA Bauman‐Milner as they sprinkle grave dirt, rattle dungeon doors and fashion poppets from fear and leaf mould.

 

 

 

Light and Dark – 28 Feb

 Day 28 – I’ve completed my challenge. But this isn’t the end of writing every day. There isn’t anything more to be said at this point other than thank you – for liking, commenting, following me on this journey. I have learned more about what writing means, how to approach it, how to bludgeon through writer’s block, how to harness inspiration, how to shake inspiration by the throat until it coughs up an idea.

I hope to set a new challenge for myself, bringing out polished stories instead of first drafts, quality not just quantity. That challenge will have to wait for a bit, though. I’ve got an anthology to edit in March for the MA. Watch this space, and don’t give up on me.


On stage, she is transformed by words. Glowing gold, angelic, while I crouch in a corner, ugly, crabbed, covered with demon-spawn, black ichor flowing in my veins. Her lyric voice soars, lifting and lilting, a heartbeat rhythm. Though she speaks of heartache, of heartbreak, she is beautiful, her hair a halo in the light, despite the blood pouring from the wound in her chest, from her broken heart. I hunch in a corner, the malignant darkness my shroud, and the demons stir within. Though her story is sad, her words are beautiful, the memory of the feelings lingers, though her words fade as she leaves the stage.

She shines and glimmers, and in between the sparkles, there am I. Shadow-creature and grim. I graze through the darkness she discards. I pluck and pick and save the evil, turn it to my own design. Could I stand in the light? In the light, raw and naked, without the armour of the demons I harbour.

Without me, the witch the mouthpiece of the demons, her light would dim. Without my darkness, the light cannot shine so bright. I am the witch, the foundation of flight of light, pouring forth the darkness so light shines brighter through it. I scrabble in her shadow, gathering darkness, collecting nascent demons, rocking away their fears, shielding them from the burning light. I cover their eyes so many eyes nictitating lids and facets, ignore how they claw and scrape at my neck my breasts my stomach, and shush away their cries.

My heart burns as they enter, tearing through in their desire for dark and peace. I choke, gag, stretch and absorb them. I know they are mine to tend, mine to heal, mine to reveal. Through them I terrify and teach, and make the light shine. Darkness is mine, though I long for light.

Could I stand to stand in the cleansing light? Watch and endure the flames as the carapace burns? Shed the darkness? Will the ichor drain from my veins, or scald me from within? Would I dare the light, naked and new, born from the darkness?

For every ray there is shadow, in all gold is black. From the shadows, I write, and show the fear of the world to the world, forcing others to seek the light. But I will not stand there. It is not my space my place. I am the witch and this is my season. I show you your demons, and be thanked.

We Burn a Hot Fire Here – “The Crucible” review

The Old Vic’s in-the-round production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” surely does burn hot, distilling this story of hysteria, deceit and vengeance into a performance that scorches the audience. Miller’s play focuses on the events in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, creating a scathing commentary on the McCarthy trials of the 1950s. The inevitability of Proctor’s downfall is startling, as Miller held his audience in suspense throughout, dropping subtle hints of the vengeful heart of a young woman, combined with the misplaced doubt of Proctor’s wife, leading us to the realisation that Proctor’s belief in goodness and reputation is so deep that he chooses the noose so as to keep his name.

Let me be honest with you at this point – I am a fan of Richard Armitage (and my previous post illustrates this quite clearly), and I bought tickets to see this because he was cast as John Proctor. As the production opened and the reviews started pouring in – five-star review after five-star review – I was worried that people were hoping to see a great performance and that they had forced themselves to see it. Thankfully, “The Crucible” cast has earned every last star attributed.

Armitage crafted a role of depth and dignity as Proctor, presenting this strong but flawed man in a performance that was approaching perfection. Jack Ellis as Danforth was the immovable object onstage, embodying how belief can become dogmatic and inflexible with a skill that left the audience despising him, though still hoping that he might see reason. Samantha Colley as Abigail Williams – in her first professional theatre role – brought explosive energy to the role, chasing Proctor to make him hers once more. Colley’s stage presence matches Armitage’s, and her portrayal of Abigail was chilling, as the girl is rebuffed and cast aside, which turns her anger into fuel for vengeance. Adrian Schiller as Reverend Hale brought this character to his redemption without hypocrisy, highlighting the regret Hale has for his part in the hysteria that grips the community. The domestic scene of Proctor and Elizabeth hummed with tension as the ghost of Abigail seemed to linger between them, forcing Elizabeth to keep her husband at arm’s length. Anna Madeley delivered a delicate performance, showing both tenderness and steel as Elizabeth Proctor, as well as presenting the fragility of a woman recuperating from illness and heartache.

The runaway performance of the night came from Natalie Gavin as Mary Warren. At times, timid and fearful, at times, rebellious and strong, Gavin balanced the tearing conflict of emotion and loyalty felt by Mary with professional skill, and fulfilled Elizabeth’s summary of Mary: “It is a mouse no more.”

Yael Farber’s direction used the in-the-round stage to create her own crucible for the performance, as the play bubbled over the fire of tension throughout. This play could have sunk to mere talking heads, but Farber’s staging and vision created a dynamic piece of theatre. With part of the audience filling the fringes of the stage space around the actors, there was a risk of the players becoming mere mortals treading the stage. The talent, skill and trust in each other displayed by this entire cast built a performance of giants, as each actor filled the space and became – for a little while at least – something more than human.

The intensity of this production will remain with me for many years, and will be my measure for all future productions of “The Crucible”.

‘The Crucible’ continues at The Old Vic, London, until 13 Sept 2014. Most performances are sold out, though return tickets occasionally become available on the day.

“Of Mice and Men” stage production – West Yorkshire Playhouse

Those who know me, know how much I love Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”.  As a teacher, I have had the pleasure of teaching this novella for nearly a decade; every year, my students show me a new way of seeing the story and I learn something new.  Last night, I treated myself and my son to the stage production of this iconic story at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.

Mark Rosenblatt, the associate director at WYP, may not have known that he would have to impress me, and that such a feat is nearly Herculean because of my enduring passion for Steinbeck’s story.  But he succeeded.

The set was unique, opening up Steinbeck’s claustrophobic descriptions of the bunkhouse and the barn, creating a fluidity to the acting space while maintaining fixed features – like the pond.  It was the strength of the acting from the entire cast that kept the audience’s focus where it needed to be.  Even the lighting paid homage to Steinbeck’s light and dark imagery throughout the story, adding subtle hues of meaning throughout.

Henry Pettigrew (George) portrayed a character of many levels – torn between self and duty, joy and pain.  Pettigrew delivered a performance that brought George to vibrant – and venomous – light on stage, and shifted my own loyalty from Steinbeck’s favourite character, Slim, firmly to George’s shoulders.

Dyfrig Morris (Lennie) brings serious lightness to the production, and delivers a performance of a perfect balance between Lennie’s intensity and his inadvertent humour.

Cast in the role of Curley’s wife, Heather Christian had the most difficult part to play of all.  A character without a name (even Slim’s dog is given a name), Curley’s wife is the fulcrum around which George and Lennie’s fortunes pivot.  Christian showed the audience a character filled with loneliness and pain, as well as her own thwarted dreams, but still filled with a naive optimism that dreams could still come true.  Her arrangement of music created an atmosphere of melodic melancholy, gripping the audience tightly and never letting go for the duration of the performance.

“Of Mice and Men” is playing until 29 March 2014 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  Go see it.  Whether you’re studying it for GCSE, read it for your own enjoyment, or remember any of the George and Lennie references in cartoons.  You’re in for a treat, I promise.  Even as Burns’s poem says:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,

An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

 

For in this story, there is joy, and pain, and grief.  This is not an easy watch, but you will not forget the experience.

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