Friday, 10 November 2017

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST - coming to Belper, Chilwell & Arran

If anyone out there is paying attention, you may have noticed that I haven't been blogging much this year. Well, there's been a number of reasons for that. Since my Mum died back on February 1st, this has been a year to get through by keeping one's head down and bustling through business without blowing too many trumpets about it. Also, I took a break from storytelling after February's THE STORM BRIDE and didn't have any new performances to publicize.

The year, to be sure, hasn't been without a few highs among the lows - Audible UK produced my adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's TREASURE ISLAND starring Owen Teale (also in my previous Audible drama ROMEO & JUDE), Philip Glenister, Catherine Tate & Daniel Mays and that seems to have been well received by listeners. You can catch it here....

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Classics/Treasure-Island-Audiobook/B071JSM4H1?ref_=a_pd_Sci-Fi_c8_2_sim_auth

And just a couple of days from now Wireless Theatre Company are going to be producing a piece very close to my heart NIGHT OF THE ORCHID -- but that'll get a separate posting to itself, so watch this space....

And meanwhile myself and my loved ones are going to be moving, leaving behind suburban Nottingham for one of my favourite places in my native Scotland, the beautiful Isle of Arran. Yes - I'm going to have the sea at the foot of my road and mountains and forests at my elbow. A whole new life beckons....

And as part of that new life I'm going to have a crack at bringing my special brand of storytelling to Arran, starting with a performance on Saturday December the 23rd. of my new show THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST.



But, first of all, I'm going to be premiering the show at my two favourite venues here in England, with a performance on Saturday 16th December at No.28 in the Market Place, Belper in Derbyshire....



And then, the very next night, Sunday 17th December at CAT, aka Chilwell Arts Theatre in Nottingham....


That's the posters. What about the show? Well, it's a winter's night ghostly tale in the grand manner of the likes of Charles Dickens & M. R. James. When provost at Eton, Janes used to gather favoured students about him on Christmas Eve to tell them his latest ghostly chiller, a tradition kept alive in the years of my childhood when not a Christmas would go by without the BBC showing a film adaptation of a James ghost story - you could keep It's A Wonderful Life and the Morecambe & Wise Xmas show, these atmospheric shockers were the TV highlight of my childhood Christmases - I can remember being particularly frightened by the adaptation of LOST HEARTS with its ghostly children....


Well, my GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST is a continuation of that tradition. A story of my own creation, it's set in late Victorian Glasgow (where the Church of Scotland had decreed that Christmas shouldn't be a public holiday - it didn't actually become a holiday in Scotland until after the Second World War!) and begins in my native part of the city, in the snow-swept area around Queen's Park as a young homeless woman wanders the streets, searching for shelter while trying to evade a street gang with hostile intentions towards her. But a bit of grand scale seasonal charity comes her way when a Kirk minister offers her food and shelter in his grand house on the edge of the city. A happy ending? Well, not quite - this is a ghost story after all, and in the beautiful house isolated among miles of snowy parkland there might be some ghostly shades of Christmases past emerging out of the snowflakes and shadows.....

So, I think I can offer a thrilling Winter's Tale to all with the nerve to take it. If you want to book in advance for the Belper or the Arran shows, you can book online at www.brownpapertickets.com

Booking for Belper show, 16 December.... - https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3102318

Booking for Whiting Bay, Arran... -  https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3114329

And to book for Chilwell Arts Theatre - contact michael@chilwellartstheatre.co.uk or call: 07772053412



Sunday, 19 February 2017

THE STORM BRIDE: A Fairy Tale For A Fragile Planet at No.28, Belper

Less than a week now till my latest storytelling show at regular venue No.28 in the Market Place, Belper in Derbyshire. This is THE STORM BRIDE: A Fairy Tale For A Fragile Planet, being performed Saturday 25th February at 7.30pm. Tickets can be booked at www.brownpapertickets.com



This show takes strong elements of Scottish fairy and folk tale, yet situates them in a very contemporary context of an environment being fracked, polluted and generally exploited to within an inch of its life. Energy magnate Nathan Gonrad has discovered a whole new source of cheap energy deep in the bedrock under a Scottish highland valley, but bringing it to the surface causes an environmental disaster. Meanwhile, an old sweetheart of his daughter finds himself invited to the daughter's wedding to a very mysterious groom, all of which has a mysterious connection to the disaster - and an attempt to placate supernatural forces within the ravaged valley.

So - plenty of drama, mystery, surreal imagery, creepy stuff and hell-for-leather action. Should be quite a show and anyone within reasonably easy reach of Belper who enjoys dramatic theatrical storytelling, or is concerned with the story's environmental theme, ought to make their way to Belper Market Place for 7.30pm on Satirday 25th of February.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

THE STORM BRIDE: A Fairy Tale For A Fragile Planet - No.28, Belper, February 25th

HI, just announcing my first storytelling show of the New Year, which is THE STORM BRIDE: A Fairy Tale For A Fragile Planet, which I'll be presenting at my regular venue of the No.28 community centre in Belper at 7.30pm on Saturday 25th of February. No.28 is in Belper Market Square, Derbyshire DE56 1FZ and tickets can be booked here, at Brown Paper Tickets... http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2830359




Here's a bit more detail....

Storyteller & playwright Marty Ross returns to his regular venue at No.28 in Belper with a dramatic tale touching on the most important and dramatic relationship of our times: our relationship with the planet we live on.

As in previous shows, the Scottish dramatist draws on traditions of Celtic myth and legend, but in a very contemporary fashion. One of the world's richest men has discovered a new source of cheap energy in the Scottish highlands and has fracked his way right down to it, but only to unleash an environmental catastrophe. And more ancient supernatural forces in the valley demand payment in kind for the damage he has done, in a disturbingly modern version of ancient tales of fairy abduction.

A fairy tale, a serious drama and a statement about the world we live in, this is a "Winter's Tale" with much to offer for all who enjoy theatrical storytelling at its most vivid... truly a fairy tale for the Trump era.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

IN THE DARK: A Whisper Of Black Silk on BBC Radio



Thought I'd focus here on the storytelling drama I performed for BBC Radio Scotland at Halloween as part of their show In The Dark. This is now available to hear on the BBC iPlayer - but only for just over a couple of weeks, so listen now! I'll paste a couple of links below....

LINK 1: This is my story A Whisper Of Black Silk, in isolation... A WHISPER OF BLACK SILK

LINK 2: This is the full programme, as broadcast, in which my story is second on the bill, about 14 minutes in, after an atmospheric and subtle story by Kirsty Logan based on the Scots legend of the Kelpie.... IN THE DARK

Both are admirably introduced and compered by John Kielty who played Edgar Allan Poe in my radio play Moyamensing a couple of Halloweens ago. 

The show was performed before a live audience back in mid-October before a full audience at Glasgow's wonderfully atmospheric Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, the place where Stan Laurel famously made his stage debut.

The remit from our producer Elizabeth Ann Duffy was to tell stories rooted in Scots folklore and I was encouraged to draw inspiration from the lore and legend of my native Glasgow. I had coffee with Elizabeth Ann in Glasgow early last summer, promised I'd come up with something, said "Cheerio" and basically had come up with a story by the time I'd walked a couple of blocks through Glasgow's Merchant City. 

Thinking about the history and strange tales of Glasgow, I was drawn towards a story that has haunted me a good deal of my life - the story of Glasgow's most famous (possible) murderess, Madeleine Smith. In a nutshell, back in the mid-19th century, Madeleine - the daughter of one of the most respectable of haut bourgeois Glaswegian families, got into a passionate (emotionally and, it would seem, physically) relationship with Pierre Emile L'Angelier, writing him love letters of an intensity to make much 'official' Scots literature of the 19th century seem bloodless and sexless by comparison. 




When her family, oblivious of the secret relationship, urged her to marry a much more respectable young Scots gentleman, L'Angelier threatened to reveal the letters to her father. And then suddenly Pierre, in the habit of drinking hot chocolate on his nocturnal visits to Madeleine, died of what seemed to be arsenic poisoning, Madeleine herself being in the habit of purchasing arsenic in nearby Sauchiehall Street, for its efficacy as an exfoliant. 

Madeleine then went briefly 'on the run' only to be caught and put on trial for murder. Famously, the court found her neither Guilty nor Not Guilty, but rather decided the case against her was Not Proven - that rare verdict possible in a Scots court: in other words, "we think you might have done it, but we can't prove it, so go away and don't do it again." And away she went, finally living in America.

The case had always had a fascination for me. IF she did it - and IF Thomas DeQuincey is correct in identifying murder as being one of the fine arts, then Madeleine - I had always felt - was perhaps the finest artist to come out of Glasgow, far surpassing the likes of Alasdair Gray or Charles Rennie Mackintosh with a combination of raw passion and sheer conceptual precision to put one in mind of the early Stravinsky. Against the twin corrosions in the Scottish soul of machismo & puritanism (so inimical to the creation of art in the first place), she fought the good fight for a transgressive, uninhibited and uncompromisingly female eroticism. As a kid, I would wander through Blythswood Square on a kind of pilgrimage - without, to be honest, much idea of which specific house in this grand square at the top of a steep hill (conveniently en route to my youthful haunt in the front row of the Glasgow Film Theatre) Madeleine occupied. 




Some concerted research led me to the right house, complete with its low level window just around the corner, through which - I've heard - Madeleine used to hand up Pierre his hot chocolate. Although I've never been short of artistic heroes and role models - from Emily Bronte to Mary Shelley, Roman Polanski to John Webster, Jan Svankmajer to Max Ernst, Euripides to Howard Barker, Dostoevsky to Edgar Allan Poe, W B Yeats to Bela Bartok - I struggled, frankly, to find a real honest to goodness artistic hero in my own home city, past or present. Even the one Scots author I genuinely couldn't live without, Robert Louis Stevenson, came - inescapably - from that 'other' city to the East. 

So Madeleine, passionate and sensuous in her murderousness, took that 'hero' position for me, assuming a totemic role in my youthful imagination alongside those other figures I considered the patron saints of my own private matriachal mystery religion: Irena Dubrovna (from 'Cat People'), Mircalla Karnstein (from 'The Vampire Lovers' & my own novel - out on Kindle - Dances Sacred & Profane, here's a link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/DANCES-SACRED-PROFANE-Romance-ebook/dp/B00858QERM/ref=la_B004H9DTMQ_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1365784911&sr=1-8 - the fact that the second female lead in Vampire Lovers was an actress, non-murderous, called Madeleine Smith, added an extra resonance) and the Countess Elizabeth Bathory (as featured in my Wireless Theatre Company play Blood And Stone.).  

And after years of thinking about her, revering her with all the necrophiliac intensity of a Poe protagonist haunting the grave of his beloved, I thought perhaps I could use her story as the basis for my In The Dark performance. Certainly, in recent years I had noted that her house, now split into offices, had gained a plaque declaring it to be, officially, "Madeleine Smith house". What, I had wondered in passing, might it be like to work in her house - and maybe one day confront her ghost?

But there was a catch... creating an imaginative Gothic fiction, I didn't want to be too hemmed in by the restrictions of historical fact. And if Madeleine had killed at all, she had killed at long distance, poisoning Pierre in such a way that he died at his own lodgings a considerable distance away. In my story, bluntly, I wanted a crime of passion that would spray the walls with blood in the most immediate way.

So I opted instead for a "Madeleine-Smith-type" murderer in the form of the fictional "Bonnie Annie Sharp". This also gave me the opportunity to shift the setting from the city centre to my own part of Glasgow. Because I'm not just any old sort of Glaswegian, but a Southside Glaswegian - the centre of my Glaswegian universe being defined basically by the hilly sprawl of Queen's Park, my four homes in the city having been at the four corners of the park. And the house in which A Whisper Of Black Silk takes place faces "the dark end of Queen's Park".




But the idea remained: modern man stumbles on Victorian female ghost - and the new twist was the way she doesn't simply confront him at a corner and go "Boo!" but actually slips her way inside his brain and bone to haunt him from within - this giving me a further opportunity to give the story an undercurrent of dark humour... as a quintessential macho "man's man" Glaswegian male, the sort of guy who'd punch your lights out if you so much as suggested his having a feminine side, finds a very pronounced and passionate femininity taking hold of him... from within. A local Glasgow audience can be heard, in the recording, 'getting' this sardonically funny subtext with laser-guided efficiency. 

I only had 10 minutes plus to work with, but I like to think I've packed a lot into this 'monodrama': all my work, let's face it, either rips off Euripides' Medea or The Bacchae, and this manages a little bit of both, within the tightest of constraints. So do listen - before it vanishes back into the BBC vaults!  

Monday, 31 October 2016

My... best... Halloween... ever...!

Well, what a Halloween weekend it's been! Friday night I was off to see Chilwell Arts Theatre to catch a rare big screen appearance of Rosemary's Baby, by one of my artistic heroes (though let me stress a total disapproval of certain incidents in his personal life!) Roman Polanski. 

Then the very next night I was back there to perform my storytelling drama 21ST. CENTURY POE: FALLING FOR THE USHERS, which updates Poe's Fall Of The House Of Usher to the contemporary Scottish conceptual art scene. This was quite a show, where I enjoyed the luxury of a specially designed set, Bauhaus meets Jackson Pollock, complete with some post-Damien Hirst sculpture - as well as seriously atmospheric lighting, with shades of fire and dark water. 




Then, briefly drawing breath, it was out to Belper in Derbyshire to perform THE GORBALS VAMPIRE, my show based on the urban legend from my native Glasgow of an iron toothed vampire haunting the city's Southern Necropolis. Apart from getting a couple of serious carpet burns on my bare knees during a bit of seriously dramatic acting (when I performed it earlier this month at Glasgow's Britannia Panopticon, I accidentally thumped my nose with my fist and played much of the second half with a big bead of real blood on my proboscis: it must be one of THOSE shows), the show seemed to go down very well and I hope to return to Belper before long.




And then today, Halloween itself, the show I recorded for BBC Scotland at Glasgow's Britannia Panopticon went on air. I'll put a link here for the show. As you'll see, the page in question  gives the option of listening to the complete show as it went out - my story, or rather the intro to my story by John Kielty, who played Poe in my Radio Scotland drama MOYAMENSING, starts about 14 minutes in. But you can also listen to Kirsty Logan 's story in the first half or, scrolling down, listen to four separate stories by the tellers who were there that night, presented in isolation. Whichever way you choose, I'd love for you to listen to my story, A Whisper Of Black Silk, which is on one hand a very Glaswegian ghost story, but also a darkly comic comment on the rigidities and neuroses swirling beneath the machismo of many a Glaswegian male - you can audibly hear a local audience latching onto that sardonic undercurrent! Just below is the link...

I N T H E D A R K on BBC Scotland

Just the thing for Halloween (although, PS, as it's on BBC iPlayer I'm not sure non-UK listeners will be able to hear).

And tonight I'm going to round it all off by relaxing and letting someone else do the work, heading to the cinema for a rare chance to see Stanley Kubrick's magnificent THE SHINING on the big screen.

How on earth do I top this next Halloween???

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Halloween Part One: 21ST CENTURY POE: FALLING FOR THE USHERS at Chilwell Arts Theatre

Drawing breath briefly before my big Halloween storytelling weekend... at two of my regular performing venues. First up on Saturday night I'm performing 21ST CENTURY POE: FALLING FOR THE USHERS, my radical update of The Fall Of The House Of Usher, which sees haunted siblings Roderick & Madeline Usher relocated from their misty Gothic manor to the contemporary conceptual art scene in my home town of Glasgow.


I was rehearsing in the theatre just the other day, even as our production designer Stuart constructed the set around me. And I got a first look at a couple of my co-stars.



And here's the set under construction. This will represent, among other things, the converted warehouse on a Glasgow quayside which my modern version of the Ushers call home. Someone might just fall out of that big window.... Note the Jackson Pollock influence on the direction of the screens, hinting at the dark oily roll and chop of the waters of the River Clyde as they flow just below.



It's going to be a great show and anyone who wants to book should contact Michael Schillinger at Michael@chilwellartstheatre.co.uk

Then on Sunday, I'm performing The Gorbals Vampire at No.28 in the Market Place in Belper. You can book for that at www.BrownPaperTickets.com


Monday, 24 October 2016

THE GORBALS VAMPIRE comes to Belper, Derbyshire

Yes, it's the week of my two big Halloween storytelling shows. On Saturday, 29th of October, I'm performing 21st CENTURY POE: FALLING FOR THE USHERS at Chilwell Arts Theatre. More of that in my previous post and if you want to book, contact:

michael@chilwellartstheatre.co,uk

Meanwhile, the very next night, Sunday 30th October, I'm performing THE GORBALS VAMPIRE at another regular venue, No.28 in the Market Place in Belper, Derbyshire. 



This show is inspired by the urban legend from my native Glasgow about an iron toothed vampire running amok in the city's Southern Necropolis. There's more on the background elsewhere on this blog, here's a link....

http://martyrossstoryteller.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/me-gorbals-vampire.html

But the story's close to my heart. I spent a significant portion of my youth - and particularly the bit when I was making my first beginnings in the theatre - was spent living with my dear Nana, Jessie Downs, literally about ten minutes' walk away in her tenement at the corner of Langside and Butterbiggins Road. Basically, she was the biggest influence on my life, and indeed the greatest artistic influence, since it was from her I learned the art of storytelling. 

She was a great, spontaneous storyteller. Crucially, the stories she told were not traditional folk tales, but stories from the old Hollywood movies that she loved so much. I would huddle at her side on a Sunday morning and she would tell me the stories of movies like Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Gaslight, The Spiral Staircase.... not simply synopsising the plots, but retelling the stories in a dramatic and visual detail as rich as that of the original films, often happily taking an hour, two hours, to tell the whole story, often adding her own distinctive 'touches' and flourishes that occasionally made the film itself a disappointment when I finally got to see the 'real' thing.

The influence of this on my own work as a storyteller should be obvious to anyone who's been to one of my shows - which favour single stories taking a whole evening, stories having all the depth and detail of a feature film, stories unapologetic about the influence of modern popular cultural genres from movies to comic books... as opposed to the purist emphasis on snippety ten minute long, rigorously pre-modern folk tales of the more 'trad' approach to the form. I am a storyteller for whom the modern world exists - for whom storytelling is as fully contemporary a form as TV drama. 

Anyway, you can imagine how big a deal it was to me when I learned that ten minutes from Nana's front door lay the site of the last great vampire panic in European history: the Gorbals, and not Hungary or Transylvania. I took to wandering the graveyard, pondering the true story - which, of course, ended anti-climactically as, for all the fuss, there doesn't seem to have been a real vampire in the graveyard.




But what, I thought, as I looked at bare bushes sprouting among the broken tombstones like clawed fingers reaching up, if there really WAS something there - a very distinctly Glaswegian Nosferatu? And what if a vampire-mad boy, like the vampire-mad boy I had been, fell into its clutches?




And a story was born. It's been very well received on native soil, back home in Glasgow, with full houses at both the Southside Fringe and the Britannia Panopticon, as well as a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, as part of my Vampires In The Vault double bill. But now I'm taking my vampire further afield - and I hope Derbyshire will take this very Scottish monster to its big English heart!

Tickets can be booked at www.BrownPaperTickets.com - here's a link below: 

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2666788