pictures of present : tense two

The Old Red Lion: Full to the Rafters.

Liam Gerner

Douglas Henshall in a play by Tena Stivicic, directed by Psyche Stott

Mark Fleischman and Graham Bow in Dawn King's play, directed by Kirsty Housley

Miranda Cook's hands in Ruth Shocken Katz's film

Dominic Fitch, Perri Snowdon and Nicky Gibbs in a play by Glyn Cannon



Just to add to the credits below, in my piece (Glyn's) the voice was Genevieve Swallow.

Now I am safe...

have your say

pop in to the nabokov forum here and let us know your thoughts on present : tense two.

last night you saw...

A play by Duncan Macmillan
Directed by George Perrin
Starring Kirsty Bushell, Michael Colgan and Gary Lilburn

A poem by Joel Stickley

A song by Liam Gerner

A play by Tena Stivicic
Directed by Psyche Stott
Starring Douglas Henshall


A play by Dawn King
Directed by Kirsty Housley
Starring Louise Dumayne, Graham Bow and Mark Fleischman

A film by Ruth Schocken Katz
Starring Miranda Cook

A poem by Ross Sutherland

A play by Glyn Cannon
Starring Nicky Gibbs, Dominic Fitch and Perri Snowdon

present : tense two was hosted by nabokov. thanks for coming.



It is strange to have to show what came out of this little thought I had on the way back on the bus last Sunday. It feels a little out control, I have to say. In the editing which I have now finished, (last night really) a whole new meaning emerged from what I shot which was really interesting. I think that somehow not being able to digest your own idea for very long, when you actually get it done, it does not really feel like your own, because it has the ability to surprise you. Don't know if I am making myself clear. But maybe I feel a little like this is some piece that has it's own thing to say, or show, and I am not sure to what extent I had control over it. In anycase, reading all the other blogs I can't wait to see what people come up with.
See you tonight. R.

breaking limbs

really looking forward to seeing everyone's work tonight. great day yesterday. my cast are fantastic and are bringing a real integrity to the piece. i've even started to quite like it, and i'm enjoying the fact that it's not mine anymore. if it weren't unlucky i'd wish everyone luck for tonight. but it is, so i won't.


47 and counting...

...not that I like to remind everyone of our imminent deadline...

I'm very lucky to have three wonderful actors waiting to spend the weekend with me - Kirsty Bushell, Michael Colgan and Gary Lilburn. I'm off to meet Duncan now for last-orders to prepare for our one and only rehearsal tomorrow. I think he's written a fantastic piece. The challenge that I feel I face is finding a performance language that will capture the atmosphere of the play but also communicate the traces of narrative that Duncan's woven in. I don't know if I'm right but I think it should be a very scary ten minutes.

More tomorrow...


Just recovering from rehearsal. I felt nervous and exhilerated. There's been no time to distance myself from what I wrote. It felt vaguely obscene seeing something I imagined only the day before out in the open like that.

I have jumped away from Dr Turner and her story for my play. Like Duncan I wasn't sure what I could say about euthanasia. For me, in terms of should it be allowed or not, there is no debate. Instead I wanted to think about viewing euthanasia through different expectations of what happens when you die.

The shape and feel of the thing came into my head way before I had even decided that, or had any story thoughts. I knew I wanted beginning, middle, end, and I wanted it to be fast, moving around, with time jumps and a mix of dialogue styles. After that I just went mostly by instinct as I had to do given that most of my brain had shut down with the lurgy sickness and I was too weak to move. Hopefully I managed to get the shape right and also some meaning in there as well.

hearts in mouths

I found it very difficult to read about Ann Turner's final hours. Her family are quite remarkable and I felt humbled by their selflessness. I can't begin to imagine what courage it took to take that journey with their mother, to say their goodbyes, to have their last meal. I love my mum. As I read article after article, I got extremely heavy and found it hard to swallow. How to start writing about this? I spent a lot of time pacing, sitting at a blank screen, wandering around, unable to lose this strange weight I had acquired. The idea of writing about current news stories is brilliant, a great opportunity to provoke debate and to contemplate events. But nobody wants to exploit the suffering of Dr Turner and her family by turning it into entertainment. There was nothing clever I could say about Euthanasia, no big idea that was going to shed radical new light on this issue. Eventually, I wrote for about half an hour, not thinking about what I was writing or what it meant. I emailed it to George, apologetically, asking whether what I had written made any sense, and whether I should start on something new. A while later George rang me and was very encouraging, saying that I should definitely pursue it. He had even identified elements of a story in there, a pregnant woman, a flood, a man who leaves his elderly father in the desert… I didn’t want to analyse it too much, and just carried on writing. Strange things happen in this play. People dissolve, evaporate, solidify, turn to dust or burst into flames. Moments are replayed and repeated, jumbled together. People talk over each other, they talk in the past tense then start having several conversations at once. I emailed it to my agent who got back asking ‘how exactly do I read this?’ My flatmate saw a print-out of it and came for a closer look – ‘Oh, I thought it was a picture.’ It’s all scattered over the page. I’ve never written anything in this way before, I usually start by getting the story completely clear in my head. It’s all a mystery still and I’m fascinated as to what sense George, the actors and the audience will make of it. Looking at it again, there’s definitely a story in there. A man does something which he is haunted by and which causes him to lose his mind. As an old man, he looks back on the event as his child is about to repeat his actions. But that’s just my interpretation.

it's a sell out

present : tense two is now sold out.

The Old Red Lion box office is now running a waiting list for returns, so if you haven't already booked your place, call 020 7837 7816 and get your name down on the list.
Hello folks. I've just been reading all the posts and it's certainly very exciting. I've nothing much to report this end. In fact, I'm starting to feel rather dull in comparison to the other creative and adrenaline filled posts.

Despite being terribly poorly Dawn has managed to get two drafts of "Worms" over to me. It's cast and we're meeting this afternoon to get started. I think it's a testiment to Dawn that the actors have had such a strong response to the script. In her bed ridden state she's managed to write something which crams in so many different reality's and perspectives. I'm looking forward to getting down to it.



Like Pysche, I've spent the past few days drying my palms of the moisture that has pooled upon them from excited anticipation and fearful panic.

Yesterday the rehearsal draft of Duncan's play arrived in my inbox. I'm amazed by what he's managed to create over the past three days. I'm terrified by what faces us over the next three. I simply hope we (whoever that turns out to be) can do it justice.

I, also like Psyche, am extremely fortunate to have some wonderful actors (just about) on board. It's a facinating play and I can't wait to see what comes out of rehearsals.

75 hours and counting...


The Adrenalin is pumping!

I've had a frustrating day having to split focus, rehearsing understudies into one play while at the same time trying to absorb Tenas first draft. We spoke last night and she said she was going to work on it today and email the second draft. I managed to find a computer in between rehearsals in Cambridge to see if it had arrived, it hadn't, but it was only lunch time so back to rehearsals. I didn't get another chance to pick up till i got home tonight at 10pm she texted to say she'd sent it so i willed my train to get me back to London as fast as it could.
It's very different from her first draft but different in a very good way. I've just finished speaking with her about it, difficult as i've read it very quickly only twice and i've not had time to absorb it. But I wanted to chat and just talk about my initial response and casting. Is it really Thursday tommorow? I was hoping to start tommorow and now thanks to the fabulous Dougie Henshall who has agreed to take on the role, we can!Initially he was concerned about the amount to learn in the short time, I completely understood this it's a monologue of about 12 mins, it's a big ask but he's said he'll give it a go.
So i'm off to get my head into the script and to discover the world of this new character. so till tommorow.

Shooting tomorrow

That's it. I am shooting tomorrow. It is such an intereting exercise for me to "go for it" in every sense of the words. I have never worked so impulsively on something and there is something very liberating about it. I find that I am much less restrictive of myself. The worry is always that it would be too simplistic and I agree with what someone else wrote about how hard it is to not become sentimental. But this is part of the exercise for me, just going for it. I have the actor, don't have the scrubs from my nurse friend but will manage without. It is fascinating to cling to one element of this story of Anne Turner, even a word, and make something out of it. I did, I chose a word which repeated itself and it became the pivot for the whole thing. Can't wait to see what will happen tomorrow. And then in editing. R.

Poem draft

Was up to 3 last night trying to get the first draft of my poem down. Its a tricky subject to tackle without becoming overbearingly sentimental/didactic.

Decided to focus on Zurich and the idea of the displacement caused by dying in a foreign country. Switzerland becomes this surreal half-way house between life and death. It seems quite fitting then that Zurich is the home of the clock. It's also the city of Caberet Voltaire and the Dadaist movement...so I tried to use that to give everything an air of ridiculousness (without becoming too facetious, I hope).

Here it is: would love some comments on this. I'm not too sure if some parts become too busy.

117: By the time you read this, I will be in Switzerland

"Tourists come at lunchtime and by the afternoon they are dead.”
- Dorle Vallender, Swiss Parliament.

There has been so much tears and ears popping
But now comes the time, now
As the Alps gouge the cloud cover, and the fuselage
Shakes us into shifting states of near-hysterical grief: Our obsolescence.
Our happy ends…. Now all that remains of the world is Zurich.

Home to the biggest clock-face in Europe,
Home to black truffles, bittersweet and peaceful evenings,
Vaults of gold buried beneath the immaculately swept Bahnhofstrasse,
Home of Tina Turner for the last nineteen years, where
Gentlemen sit down to pee between 10 and 6am. It is heaven.

It's the kind of place where you stop for a day and stay forever, says Joe Ritchie,
American entrepreneur who lives in Geneva and visits Zurich often.
Litter doesn’t seem to even touch the ground. We buy matching
Cabaret Voltaire limited-edition Swatch watches; only 70 francs.
On the strap, they quote Kurt Schwitters: Immortality is Not Everybody’s Thing

In Limmatblick Hotel, each room is themed on a different Merry Prankster.
Ours has a plumbing trap set on a mitre entitled "God",
A remake of a piece by Baroness Elsa, the brochure tells us.
Down in the hotel’s Da-Bar, tourists are listening to a sound poem by Hugo Ball:
“The Caravan of the Elephants”, apparently, at the end of which
Ball had to be physically carried off-stage: a sweaty bishop, lost in a maze of his own irony.

We watch some TV together, a dubbed edition of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,
Until Uncle Phil dissolves into a transmission of illogical twisted phonetics.
We finish our crime novels and reluctantly raid the mini-bar, the Gauloises taste strange.
Across town, twelve Giacometti statues are carefully positioned to avoid each other’s eye contact,
Old men play giant chess amongst the trees in Lindenhof Square.

At seven, the lobster rings. Apparently, our longing for death
has been sufficiently consistent for the authorities. We have the address of an apartment
in Kilchberg and a time. There is a coffee machine and some champagne glasses
and a collection of walking sticks which we’re welcome to add to.
We’re seriously advised not to arrive early.

A woman in the lobby informs us of a performance of Stravinsky's
"Rite of Spring” this evening. But we don’t go.

For dinner we have veal steak accompanied by sautéed vegetables and galettes,
A dessert of rhubarb and strawberry charlotte.