Magnetic North Blog

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Nicholas Bone is Artistic Director of Magnetic North and has directed all of the company's work.  He has also directed for Scottish Opera, Traverse Theatre, Opera North, Actors' Touring Company, Bristol Old Vic, NIDA and Dundee Rep. Nicholas wrote the text for A Walk at the Edge of the World, co-wrote the libretto of Happy Story (Scottish Opera), co-created Pass the Spoon (Magnetic North/Southbank Centre) and adapted Henry David Thoreau's Walden for the stage.

Sex & God - an introduction

We're about to start rehearsals for our latest production - a new play by Linda McLean called Sex and God - so I thought I'd write about how the project has developed up to this point.

Linda and I first worked together 9 years ago on Magnetic North's second-ever production, a beautiful play about language and identity called Word for Word.  Afterwards, we started talking about what to do next.  We talked over lots of ideas, and the central image of what was then called The Big Bang (also known as The Big Bag after a finger-slip at the Scottish Arts Council logged its funding under that name) was Cornelia Parker's installation Cold Dark Matter (in the Tate's collection) and the idea of a moment (or series of moments) frozen in time.

In 2010, after she had taken part in our multi-artform creative development programme Rough Mix, Linda wrote a first draft very quickly.  When I read the play, it seemed as if the whole thing had poured out ready-formed - I don't think I've ever read a first draft that seemed so finished was so perfectly formed or was so confident about what its form was.  The finished play is different in many ways  to the various ideas we discussed and experimented with, but the more work I've done in preparation for rehearsals, the more I've realised that Cold Dark Matter is at the very heart of the piece.  When I was talking to the composer Kim Moore about the play, she said she hadn't found it easy to understand on the page, but as soon as I mentioned Cold Dark Matter she said "OK, I get it".

Sex and God is an extraordinary piece of writing.  It crystalises something I always say to directing students, which is that a script should be thought of like a music score - something that contains the possibility of performance rather than being complete in itself like a book - but in this case, the text actually is a score.  It's full of rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, polyphony - sometimes atonal, sometimes gloriously tonal. One of the things I love about the script is that it contains no instructions about how it should be performed, just the lines the 4 characters speak (fragmented stories leaping over one another to be told).  But the script also clearly asks the question "how can this be performed?"  The setting is abstract - where would 4 women from different eras be as they each tell their stories? - but the stories and characters are concrete - real people communicating their experiences.  The next stage is working out some answers...
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Some materials

Some books referred to while working on my Walking project as part of Rough Mix

Wildwood - A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin (London, Penguin, 2008)

The Pocket Book of Poems and Songs for the Open Air ed. Edward Thomas (London, Jonathan Cape, 1950)

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry Garrard (London, Picador, 2001)

One Green Field by Edward Thomas (London, Penguin, 2009)

No Such Thing As Silence - John Cage's 4'33" by Kyle Gann (New Haven/London, Yale University Press, 2010)

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, trans Richard Howard (London, Flamingo, 1981)

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby (London, Secker and Warburg, 1958)

The Rings of Saturn by W.G.Sebald, trans Michael Hulse  (London, Harvill, 1998)

Rauschenberg ed. Wingate and Florido (New York/London, Prestel, 2010)

Collins Gem Trees by Alaistair Fitter and David More (London, Collins, 1980)
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Ros Steen : thinking about voice....

During these two great weeks I've been aware that while I have managed conversations with some of you and 'soundings' from others, there hasn't been time within our packed schedule to allow for the reflective discussion which would normally form part of the voice process. Also, some of you have asked how you might continue with the work having found an 'opening' through it. Tomorrow we will be caught up in working towards the showing and later we'll disperse, so I just want to say I'd be keen to continue the dialogue at any point, now or at a future date. Should you have anything to reflect back to me which might inform the usefulness - or otherwise - of having this voice work in the Rough Mix project, or any other thoughts or observations, I'd be most grateful to have them.

Looking forward to our last session!



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The tree from our window

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Lynda Radley - Rough Mix Experiences

We are half way through the second week of the wonderful Rough Mix Process and, until now, I've been sweeping the rest of my life and other projects under a big carpet in my head. However, certain creatures are beginning to creep out. So, as I write this I'm keeping these distracting thoughts at bay.

However, I know that as soon as I enter any of the studios in Dance Base -be it to work on Viewpoints, or Voice or on any of the projects being developed- I'm gently immersed in a generous and absorbing process that allows me to 'just be' in the present moment in a way that I often find difficult within my own writing process. I'm hoping that I'll be able to take some of that feeling with me after the week is through.

I've been working on a new script and idea that is in the very early stages. Some of things that I've discovered are:

  • that working with Voice can be a great aid to dramaturgy

  • that thinking about Viewpoints can move the relationships between the characters to unexpected places

  • that there is nothing better than working with generous actors

  • that string has a million uses!

Like Nick, I've been struck by the connections between projects and processes. I look forward to seeing how things knit together.
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Latest Comment

J. Sharp Taking A Walk
07 September 2014
Very much enjoyed your show at the Brunton Theatre last night and the silent walk to start was an excellent addition, creating the perfect atmosphere....