Headshots of Marie Cooper – June 2022
All the photographs below were taken in Norwich by photographer Nic Skerten.
All the photographs below were taken in Norwich by photographer Nic Skerten.
I will be plotting (see what I did there) my progress here… I will graph my word count.
Only 90000 or so words to go..
Starting ahead of schedule thanks to Arts Council England’s premature rejection. Anyway, they are forgotten already, Arts who?
I started work today on Chapter One. I am beginning in medias res, which is just posh-speak for ‘in the midst of things’. Beginning in the action, at a point in the story where the story has already begun. It is actually feeling rather more tricky than I imagined it might be.
Maybe it’s just the clunky feeling of being less accustomed to writing in prose. I am used to the zippedyalongness of dialogue in a script. It is going to take some getting used to. I’m sure I will get the hang of it, by the time I reach 90,000 words or thereabouts.
It doesn’t feel too shabby a progress for day one. 831 words under the belt and a fair bit of background work on my antagonist. He has a name and, of course, he already seems to have more depth and is more interesting than everyone else in the story. I will look into sorting that out on Thursday. I have to call it a day for now because I still have to prep for work tomorrow.
Only day one and already my aim to look after my health and well-being by walking every day is out of the window. I’ll try to get a quick walk in tonight or tomorrow morning before work if I can.
Music of the day (other than Whitesnake’s Here I go Again stuck in my head for no reason – Arts who?), was listening to the collection ‘Most Epic Music Ever: “Light And Dark” by Audiomachine’ as I wrote.
And today, whilst looking at names for my antagonist and side characters I have been using Behind The Name.
I am enjoying the structured chaos of the process. I thought, that working on such a huge project, I would feel overwhelmed and I would find it stressful. Especially as in this first week I did not get as much written in terms of word count as I had hoped.
On my prettyful Gannt chart, I had planned to have my first 2000 words written in the first three days. My first chapter would be complete by now. Even though I am not on track, I am feeling fine about everything so far. Even when I haven’t written prose or dialogue I have been gathering information in terms of research and learning more about the novel writing process, all of which is drip feeding into my story and building my progress.
I am taking the Eating the Elephant approach, taking one small bite at a time, and I can feel that it will all slowly come together. A bit of dialogue here. A new character there. Some information about the setting. The weather, seasons. The culture. One thing pulling another idea to itself. Connections.
I mitigated the expected noisy neighbours issues by having an emergency writing bag ready to go. So when they were playing loud music on Thursday when I sat down to work, I just grabbed my bag, left the noisy, stressful situation and worked elsewhere.
I think I will put aside some time each week to make sure that if I have gathered any notes on paper, I get them in Scrivener into my outline. I thought that an outline was something that would be like a solid plan of how the book would be written before I even started to write. I think I am realising now that it is far more fluid and amorphous than that and that it will grow and change as I write.
I’ve had some real breakthroughs in this first few days in terms of the culture, magic, antagonist and landscape. There are still some major holes in my magic system that I need to work out.
I am not going to be too hard on myself. Having been rejected by the Arts Council for funding, I can’t pay for the mentor I had hoped to work with. So I have to learn everything about writing a novel alone. I will have no ongoing feedback and support. No second reader for my book when it is complete, no meeting with the agent and editor when it’s done so that I can pitch it. All the opportunity I could have had, locked behind the door of priviledge once more. Not for the likes of me.
Thank goodness for all the wonderful people like Brandon Sanderson putting all his lectures on his website and doing his Writing Excuses podcast. Like Pen to Print running their amazing free classes and workshops in writing for the page, stage and screen. For Writers’ Hour a free safe space for writers to meet and write together. No matter what they write, what stage in their writing they are at or where they are in the world. For Reedsy and all of their free videos, webinars and email courses on writing.
For every organisation willing to slam the door of opportunity in your face and pull up ladders, there is always someone holding a door open or reaching back down the ladder to help you up. Thank goodness for good people.
Bel is reluctantly heading home to her family home, Bridge House, in Vermont. She’s late. She’s been thrown out of a car. She has lost her shoes and she’s hungry.
Some scripts that I work on, I hardly look at again once the initial draft is done and the story is out of my head. Whilst there are others that I am unable to get out of my head. They wriggle around inside until I have no choice but to go back and read them again. The short horror script, Acoustic, had been irritating my brain meat since the autumn of 2020. So, when the opportunity to submit it to a horror screenwriting contest arose a year later, I knew that it was this script I wanted to work on and submit.
Usually, when you enter a writing contest, there is a good, lengthy, wait. It is common for it to take months for the judges to read through the scripts and make their decisions.
The advantage of this competition for me was that there would be no long wait for results. There were several themes throughout the year based on different horror monsters. Each theme had its separate deadline. It serendipitously turned out that my screenplay fit the final theme. The only downside was that the cost of entering the contest increased at each stage of the competition as the deadline drew closer.
My script was submitted for the final theme deadline on 31st December 2021. So, as I write this, there isn’t much time before the results are announced on 31st January 2022.
I wrote my first ideas for this script and a very messy draft on 12th October 2020 during Scriptly Writing. As well as the prompt for that day of the challenge, I randomly generated words and images to help get me started.
Almost immediately I could see her. My character. She was walking along a road, towards a distant bridge, swinging her radio. The odd thing was that the clothes she had on didn’t seem warm enough for the time of the year and she had nothing on her feet.
I thought she seemed nice, albeit maybe a little ditzy. After all, she was walking on the road in bare feet. Why would she be doing that?
I remembered picking up a huge, caterpillar that had fallen from a tree outside work one morning. It was laying in the middle of the pavement and I moved it to the verge, under a bush to prevent it from being stepped on. I thought that was just the kind of thing that my character would do too. So, in a later draft, I gave that experience to her.
I felt that this young woman didn’t want to head home yet. She was reluctantly heading back, slowly, making the most of her walk through the forest that she appeared to love. She carried a guitar on her back. She’d been singing in a local bar the night before. One last performance before collecting supplies for her family and heading home. Then a man offered her a lift home. Initially, my character had been picked up hitchhiking home in my first draft in a twist on the hitchhiker trope. But in the later draft, I decided in the rewrite that the victims were purposefully hunted and preyed upon by the demon/s rather than just unlucky chance encounters along the road.
My first rough draft sat on the metaphorical shelf for a year. When I saw the Frights Camera Action contest, I knew I had to enter. People who gave feedback on the contest described it as “fun”, “friendly”, “affordable” and “that results were given promptly”. At my early stage of screenwriting, I felt it took off the pressure to be perfect. There were also various prizes for films and scripts…
It was the “Most messed up death” category that amused me and grabbed my attention to this contest in the first place. Characters in my demonic horror come to a rather bizarre end, so I thought that, if nothing else, my screenplay might be a contender for that category.
I dipped in and out of the screenplay throughout December, re-reading and revising. As soon as I made the decision it was done and proofread, and even after I submitted I was still thinking of further changes I could make. Every time I read it through, there were more questions. Further things I could add or remove. But I had to let it go.
Then it was gone… and in the hands of the judges.
The winners and runners-up were due to be announced on the 31st of January. The website did not say when the unlucky non-winners would hear back. I can’t bring myself to say losers, because, in my opinion, everyone who has worked their ass off in the creative process and submitted a script is winning in life.
I have to confess that, as the date drew near, I began checking the competition page and my email regularly just in case the announcement was made earlier than expected. When it got to the evening before the announcement, I was so on edge that I had a ‘Call of the Void’ urge to press the ‘Withdraw from Festival’ button to avoid having to face not winning, removing any chance of rejection. If I had done, that would mean not winning either. My brain is stupid sometimes.
I did not win the prize my heart was set on, which was the ‘Most Messed Up’ death. However, I was extremely happy to receive an Honorary Mention. I have not been writing screenplays long so to be recognised at all at this early stage has been overwhelming.
I am still new to Screenwriting and I am very much learning the craft as I go. This Screenwriting Battle was an invaluable experience that did not give me time to over-research and overthink (which I am prone to do). just like Scriptly Writing, I had to just take the brief, or in this case, card prompts and write with it.
A theatre director, Jen told me about the Screenwriting Battle. I had never come across it before but I took my usual approach to these kinds of opportunities. That you have to be in it to win it and the prize money was tempting enough for me to enter.
For most competitions, the entry fees are offputting, despite the potential prestige of winning a prize and the pile of prize money that means it might be possible to both eat AND pay bills that month. Usually, when you enter a writing contest, it feels like you are ****ing your money into the sea if you don’t win. Not only that, nobody tells you that you haven’t won. You have to wait for the winners to be praised and you see their smug happy faces painted all over the unfurled sails of the long list before you realise that you have been shoved unceremoniously off of the fail plank back into the murky depths of the poverty-ridden ocean of obscurity once more. Not sure where the piratey metaphors came from.
The Screenwriting Battle makes the contest entering process fun and engaging and not all just about winning and losing. Everyone gets something out of it.
As the battle progresses you know exactly where you are. Emails and your page of the Screenwriting Battle website keep you updated. You draw your three cards to receive a prompt at the beginning of the battle. You draw a Genre card, a Location card and an Item card. You can redraw, but once you do you can not go back to the previous card if you feel your choice is not as appealing as the one you discarded.
There are nice little deadlines along the way to prevent too much in the way of procrastination. Once your hand is set you have until the next deadline to write your screenplay which can be no longer than ten pages long. Then once the writing deadline has passed you become an arbiter of other screenwriters for the Genres that you did not choose. You read pairs of screenplays from each genre and decide which you liked best. You leave comments to say what you liked and what you thought might need improving.
The great thing about this screenwriting battle is that not only can you see where you are in the contest every step of the way, but you receive praise and constructive feedback from other participants wherever you finish in the overall war. So, no matter what, even if you don’t land the luscious loot you had your eyes on (last pirate reference, I swear), you still come away with something of benefit to your writing.
I stuck with my initial card dealt for the genre, which was Science Fiction. Not because I thought I would be any good at writing in that genre, but because it is one of my favourite genres to both read and watch. My location card was Pharmacy and my item card was a Mallet. That had me stumped (intentional woody pun), but I had already re-dealt once. Also, I had just handmade a mallet from a single piece of tree on a nature reserve getaway. So, I have to confess, that it felt a serendipitous deal, so I went with it.
It was difficult. The writing time fell over a weekend when I have my granddaughter and even though there was an extension to the original deadline due to an error on the website, I could not take advantage of it because I had work that day. I did the best that I could do in the time that I had. It felt rough and rushed and my writing did not feel as good as it could be. Not my worst. Not my best.
I am keeping the constructive feedback to myself, to re-read and to make use of going forwards. I have already used some of the feedback to improve the horror screenplay I am currently working on.
The positive comments I am sharing, in no particular order. I feel that I am gradually improving and I am enjoying celebrating every little win, even if I haven’t managed to land a prize… yet… Yay! Go optimism!
You’ve built yourself quite a world in 10 pages, it was enjoyable.
I love the world you created. So mysterious but ouch, depressing and hitting close to the bone of today’s world. It’s a creepy cautionary tale but definitely a little spy/thriller in there too. An exciting world that holds a lot of intrigue. And hope!
I’m totally captivated by this world and want to see more of it.
Another thing that your script has going for it, is that it not for hardcore sci-fi types only but could be done with enough science to catch that audience and also people who have no science background. It’s a universal worry but still has the good guy/bad guy appeal.
Original idea too.
Great script! You did a good job keeping the audience wondering, driving them forward. I wanted to keep reading, so that I could better understand the world you had created.
I also think the title is very creative! It summarizes the story perfectly.
It is a wonderful concept for a story, with lots of complicated layers. The whole time I was wondering what “Barbiture watches” meant – and I think that’s a good thing! It keeps your readers engaged, even after the story concludes.
Overall – you did a great job!
This is a very interesting concept. I would love to see it as a larger piece. Very relevant given our current ecological situation and I can really see something like this being a reality. You’ve envisioned a very detailed world with a history and scope that stretches far beyond the confines of a 10 page script. Nice twist at the end.
Interesting concept, well described environments. Seems to be a thought out world, feels like it has breadth.
I really see the world you are building it almost feels more inmense then the characters.
Marie Cooper wrote fourteen screenplays from the 11th to 24th October 2021 during the Scriptly Writing challenge.
Scriptly Writing is an annual screenwriting challenge, run by the Literal Challenge. The aim is to write fourteen complete short screenplays in just two weeks.
This year I wrote 14878 words over the course of the two weeks of the challenge. The fourteen screenplays consisted of 69 pages and 106 scenes, containing a total of 97 characters. Well, there were many more background characters and wildlife, but I left those out of my count.
Looking at the ratio of male to female characters, it might initially seem as if my screenplays were male-dominated with 60 male and 29 female characters. But, there were groups of male characters in some of my plays that skewed my stats. Despite the stats, many of my main characters were actually female. If I were to count the time characters were on the page and their lines, then the figures would most definitely be reversed. But I am not going into that much detail. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I wrote 1107 fewer words compared to Scriptly Writing 2020, but I wrote in more characters this time. Or had become more aware of including those in the background to my scenes.
I did spend far less time on my work this year though and therefore did less research for each brief and felt I wrote in much less detail.
It has been incredibly difficult to write my screenplays for this year’s challenge. Last year I had the luxury of lockdown, which provided time to think and create. This year the challenge has coincided with the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, pushing me into dire straits financially and with the impending doom of the Minimum income floor on the horizon. Sadly, the UK (well, the Torys) does not value its artists, arts and culture, or heritage or, well anything that does not fill someone’s already bulging coffers. Prices rise and Brexit empties our shelves in the UK, my face is still messed up and waiting to be fixed, forcing me off the stage and any unmasked acting work. I am working face to face again when Covid cases are currently higher in the UK than they have been since March, which is a worry.
I can’t deny, it has been incredibly difficult to work under these conditions. Trying to write around work and under pressure has been stressful. It only took receiving a Council Tax demand to send me to the edge this month. As a result, I really don’t feel that the standard of my writing has been as good as last year and this has left me feeling despondent. That the stress and pain have not been worth what I accomplished. But maybe that is what I thought at the end of the challenge last year. I will reassess now that the challenge is complete and once I have given myself a week or two of space to recover.
Whatever is cooking in his oven, it doesn’t smell good.
An explosion of angst-ridden frustrations of planetary destruction explode out of a woman’s vagina, and then things get a bit weird.
Crow has no choice but to be crow, until his captor sets him free.
Don’t eat spiders.
Protestors are holding up traffic at Dartford again and the locals are not happy.
In 1810, two men discover each other in their small riverside, town.
The masks we choose to wear.
Watching from her window, a woman creates worlds.
Nina has been missing for three days. The community gather together to search for her, hoping to find her safe and well.
Taking a musical track as inspiration, a story of a woman’s first day on the job.
Immortality is lonely.
A strange occurrence at a local school attracts international press coverage.
Scriptly Writing brief Day 3 from 2020, from the perspective of Jess’s sister Emma.
Let little doors lie.
My short poem, ‘Arm in Arm in 1888’ celebrating the achievements of the Matchgirls, is included in the book ‘Feathers and Pennies: Poems and Stories for the Matchgirls’. Published by Thamesis.Continue reading “Arm in Arm in 1888”
This last project Norfolk actor Marie Cooper was working on, just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, was Duelo with Edward Heredia, Paige Fisher and Norwich University of the Arts. Filmed on the weekend of 6th March 2020. Duelo is a short film produced in Norwich, Norfolk.
I was playing Clemence, mother to both Tristan, played by James Crawley, and Stephen. The scene I was in was a funeral scene, filmed on location in a church in central Norwich.
The short film is now doing the film festival rounds. It is being shown at the Prague International film festival and the Reading International Film Festival.
The team crowdfunded for the project raising money to fund the film, from set design, props costumes etc, right through to the payment of film festival entry fees. The project was professionally and impressively run, with catering on location and actors being paid for their work.
I met up with the director and fellow actors for an afternoon of rehearsals. I am far more accustomed to theatre than film and analysing the dialogue of stage scripts, rather than the descriptive visuality of a screenplay. So, it was immensely helpful to have the opportunity to meet up with the director and fellow actors to get to know each other and to run our scene beforehand.
Duelo was filmed on location in Norwich on the weekend beginning Friday 6th March 2020.
This was such a wonderful project to work on because, once more, I was working with student filmmakers Edward Heredia and Paige Fisher from our very own Norwich University of the Arts. This felt like an extra special project to be part of because I worked with Edward from the beginning to the end of his course. He is a deeply thoughtful, reflective and professional Director, who I am sure will be incredibly successful when all of his hard work pays off after university.
Cole Ben Wheatley
Tristan James Crawley
Clemence Marie Cooper
Amy Estelle Long
Funeral Director Andy Turner
Director/Producer/Writer Edward Heredia
1st Assistant Director Bram Kwantes
Producer Vaineta Keraityte
Cinematographer Ethan Cassidy
Production Designer Georgia Pett
Sound Designer Sally Gilbert
1st Camera Assistant Paige Fisher
2nd Camera Assistant Frances Pesquera
Make-up Artist /Hair Gemma Simmons
Production Assistant Cameron Cassidy
Production Assistant Finlay Cassidy
Set Dresser Assistant Emily Brown
Production Assistant Christos Chyrsanthou
Drone Operator Alex Woosey
Check out the May/June 2021 Radical Hospitality edition of The Dramatist – Page 40 – 41 for a two-page feature written by Jo Brisbane about the Walking Plays. I am joyous to see our beautiful, small medieval city of Norwich get mentioned in a New York magazine.
During lockdown in three countries, twelve states, playwrights walked. Inspired by their wanderings, they wove stories and came together to share. Tales of social justice. Of magic and the tragic. The comical and the historical. Horror and fantasy. Where their minds wandered, their characters followed. Across time, across generations. Diverse and dispersed, they brought their plays together and walked the world. Well, some of it.
The International collection of Walking Plays, written by a talented bunch of twenty-eight playwrights from the US, Canada and the UK, curated by Claudia Inglis Haas. All of the plays were written for outside – so they can be performed over Zoom, as a podcast or radio play. If your theatre, podcast or radio station would like to perform our anthology our plays, visit the Walking Plays Facebook page for the performance rights.
My audio play ‘Unlocked’ was inspired by my walking Norwich during the pandemic lockdown. Particularly the riverside area of the city and Norwich Cathedral Quarter. Unlocked is part of the Walking Plays collection, and is also now available on the New Play Exchange.
Hannah discovered something about her partner, Ryan that unnerved her. She panicked and ran. Both Ryan and her friend Lauren are out looking for Hannah along the riverside.
“…you start to feel breathless from the movement. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed audio play that tears your emotions a zillion ways before letting them go.” Lee R. Lawing
Although I live in the city, I am fortunate that there are many green spaces dotted around the urban centre. The river walk nearest to our Cathedral is the section of the riverside I tend to favour – from the train station to Whitefriars – because it is mostly set aside from housing and industrial units.
You can walk right up to the water’s edge for most of the way. Unlike further upriver, where walkers are sandwiched between housing and the steep fenced-off, bricked-edges, or further downstream where the riverside is somewhat marred by blocks of apartment buildings, restaurants and concrete.
On the section in between, running from the entrance through the patio of the Angler Pub, you can feel the spongy grass beneath your feet. Allow the weeping willow leaves to run between your fingertips. If you are there at just the right time of year, you might find some areas of grass turned white by poplar tree fluff.
Although the brief of my play was to write in the modern time, the area I walked is steeped in history. I tend to walk the greener sections of old Norwich, from the Cathedral Quarter and Pulls Ferry to Whitefriars bridge. So, it was at this point that my short play also begins.
Lauren leaves the Cathedral coffee shop and spots Hannah walking by the old red post box. Lauren is dressed for the office, not snow, so it takes some time for her to almost catch up with Hannah. She reaches the picturesque Pulls Ferry before being close enough to shout…
Pulls Ferry sits at the end of Ferry Lane where a canal used to run from the river up to the Cathedral, It was used to ferry the Caen limestone up to the site where the cathedral construction began in 1096. The two main characters, of my play, Lauran and Hannah, come together near this point and walk along that stretch of river.
Further along, the Red Lion pub nestles at the side of Bishop’s Bridge. This was where Robert Kett fought for the rights of the poor in 1549, when his army of rebels attacked Norwich, crossing the river Wensum and forcing through the city defences.
Beyond the pub is another stretch of trees and grass with the path meandering through it. A side path leads closer to the river’s edge. There are benches dotted along the walk to rest or just stop, to breathe in the wonders of nature. To watch the swans glide by or the gulls dipping under the surface for fish. There is a small area on the turn of the river where local children tend to come to play during the summer. It is known locally as ‘the beach’.
On the left of the path before the beach is the Skywatch seat, carved from redwood, a memorial to a local musician. The Japanese Cherry Blossom tree that partners the polished seat, stands adorned with colourful trinkets.
Overlooking the beach stands the flint-built Cow Tower. Once part of the city walls and defences for the city of Norwich, now it stands alone and gated. It didn’t use to be so exclusive. I remember going inside as a youngster. My friends and I loved going inside. I don’t recall why to be honest, as there wasn’t much more to find inside, other than the pigeons and pigeon poop. Yet I feel sad now to find myself lockout out of somewhere there was part of my wanderings growing up.
Behind the Tower, away from the river is a pond. When the river rises, the area becomes flooded and the wooden-planked river walkway becomes a bridge. The pond freezes over in the winter. When I was writing my walking play, the pond was solid and there was snow crunching underneath my footsteps and so that was the environment into which I placed my characters into their story.
Crossing a short wooden bridge, there is a small inlet from the river that leads to what remains of the 18th-century swan pit. The tidal water would lead into the grounds of the Great Hospital where the swans would be fattened up and then consumed by the local gentry,
A little further along, across a car park, sits the Adam & Eve pub, the oldest pub in Norwich, dating back to 1249. It was used by the construction workmen whilst the Cathedral was being built and according to the website of the pub, still has a Saxon well underneath the lower bar floor.
Spanning the river, leading away from the Adam and Eve toward Mousehold heath is the curving, modern Jarrold’s bridge. This was the point at which my story ended for my characters, as they go their separate ways.
Monologues written by Marie Cooper. The first is ‘Six’. A dramatic monologue for a female character on the subject of bereavement, grief, guilt, motherhood, and police shooting.
Six is a monologue created by Marie Cooper, written during the inital 2020 pandemic lockdown. It is written for a female performer and reads at about four to four and a half minutes. The monologue can be read over on the New Play Exchange.
A grieving mother agonizes over how she is ever going to tell her little girl that her daddy will never be coming home.
Please do credit me if you use my monologue.
“ A beautifully sad piece where anyone would struggle not to shed a tear. Death can be a cliched subject to explore but I believe the phrasing here brings something new and gives the character a unique voice. It would be a powerful piece for an audition. ” – Rachel Feeny-Williams
I originally conceived the initial idea for ‘Six’ during an online playwriting workshop run by Rosa Torr on 8th July 2020 with South East Creatives.
The workshop was a fantastic twelve step process over the course of two hours that guided writers through exercises to stimulate ideas. From freewriting, prompts, questions and lists, progressing on to developing those ideas into monologues and dialogue and dropping random ideas into existing work.
It was a brilliant workshop and by the end I had pages of potential ideas, snippets of monologues and dialogue. One of the exercises had encouraged us to envision and create a location that could be set up and recorded from home in the new post-pandemic world of lockdowns and Zoom. This was particulary exciting for me as I was considering writing a monologue but had been stuck for ideas. During the exercise I created an entire list of setups. One of which was “Home in bed”.
At the time I had established a regular, daily writing routine thanks to London Writers’ Hour which I woke for, every morning, at 7am. I worked towards finishing my first play and exploring creating new work. During Writers’ Hour I took the dialogue I’d scribbled and rewrote it as a monolgoue. I then put the monologue aside as I worked on completing my full play.
I dipped back into the monologue every now and again to edit, add bits, remove bits. It was good to not look at it for a while and ocassionally revisit and read with fresh eyes.
I do keep meaning to learn it and record it, but still haven’t got round to it. But one of our lovely local actors, Helen Fullerton, very kindly read and made a recording of it so that I could hear my monologue with a voice other than my own or that inside my head.
Hearing Helen bring it alive and give good feedback on it, I felt more confident that the monologue worked well, so I posted it up on the New Play Exchange. I was surprised and happy to receive a recommendation from another NPX member (see recommendation above).
28 plays were written by Norfolk playwright Marie Cooper in February 2021. The plays were created whilst taking part in the 28 Plays Later playwriting challenge, along with other writers from all over the world.
28 Plays Later is an annual playwriting challenge, run by the Literal Challenge. The aim is to write 28 plays in 28 days.
The challenge stretches you as a writer. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and gets you writing about things you might not have otherwise done. You don’t have time to plan or procrastinate as there is a new brief and new deadline daily.
I decided to take part in 28 Plays Later after the success of the Scriptly Writing screenwriting challenge in the previous year. It was a fantastic productive month for me.
I wrote my reflections on writing 28 plays in 28 days over on my blog. Below is the full list of plays, the day on which I wrote each one, along with a short synopsis.
The short play from Day 15, I integrated into another longer piece. I carried across the name ‘Unlocked’ to the longer play. It is due to be aired on AirPlay radio in 2022, as part of The Walking Plays collection.
I have plans to continue working on a few of these pieces. I am currently editing and adapting the play I wrote on Day 9 into an audio play.
A message doesn’t make it in time to who, where and when it is supposed to be.
A woman returns every day, to visit the same place that her daughter died.
A tea stop on the Dover coast.
It’s simple enough to get into the facility. But is it possible to get out?
A wealthy man chats to a salesperson about his funeral options brochure.
Even the old black dog comes when he is called.
Two people who care about each other, but who can’t tell each other.
Hatshepsut and Grace O’Malley bump into each other, on a hilltop in the midst of a tank battle. Yeah! This short play has been further researched, edited, revised, and renamed since the challenge.
Purposely not making any sense.
The day the hanging tree falls.
A woman has outstayed her welcome in the hotel lobby.
The very first draft of this play was brought to life during its first reading at the 28 Plays Later reading over Zoom. My play begins at approximately 1 hr 47m 33s and runs for 10 mins, to 1 hr 57m 54s
This short play was edited and renamed, “The Jade Palace”. The Jade Palace is now up and available on the New Play Exchange.
Petty Gods and the mortals unlucky enough to get in the way
A strange poetic monologue
A woman finds her partner’s phone unlocked and doesn’t like what she finds.
This short was integrated into a larger piece that became one of the audio plays I was working on at the time. I liked the title of this too, so I also used this as the title of the audio play. the full audio play script for ‘Unlocked’ can be found over on the New Play Exchange and is part of the Walking Plays anthology. It is due to be performed on AirPlay radio in May 2022.
A woman notices a ‘Sold’ sign has gone up in her neighbour’s garden.
All characters and events in this play, even those based on real people– are entirely fiction. Even the anti-social neighbours who kept me awake for four years who do not make an appearance. Imagined resemblances to anyone alive, dead or (at 2 am and sleep-deprived) wished to be dead, is entirely coincidental. Celebrations, alcohol, whooping and a happy dance did most definitely happen though.
A man searching for answers finds riddles
A woman talks to herself
A trip to the zoo.
A man becomes a horse.
A little girl has disturbing aspirations
The party doesn’t go quite as expected
In the church ruins, a stranger comes to the fire.
I signed up for the Scriptly Writing Screenwriting Challenge for the first time on 8 September 2020 during the lockdown. I saw an ad for it on the BBC Writer’s Room Twitter feed. It asked the question, “Could you write 14 short scripts in 14 days?” I didn’t think I could, but me being me, decided that I could not leave the gauntlet just laying there. But it turns out that yes, yes I can.
I confess it was a stressful couple of weeks, where I got up and wrote until I finished a script. Even when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about what I might write. Everything I did write I thought was rubbish. I was tired and grumpy by the end of the two weeks. But it was an amazing experience.
I wrote 14 short screenplays between 10th to 23rd October 2020. Not all of them… No, none of them was great. I wrote one script a day between 9 am and 10 pm, for goodness sake. I wasn’t going to write my masterpiece. But, by the end of the fortnight, I had 14 screenplays that I would never have had otherwise.
Plus, prior to the challenge, I had never written a screenplay before. The only script I had written was for the stage that relied very much on dialogue. I didn’t even have any idea how to format a screenplay or write so visually.
The wonderful thing I found afterwards though, was that as first drafts go, not all scripts were half as bad as I had originally thought. The sometimes bizarre themes and prompts had forced me out of my comfort zone and made me write things I would not have considered had I not taken the challenge. And there are a few I would definitely like to re-read and work on further in the future. These are the scripts I wrote during the 14 day challenge.
Marie Cooper performing as Ann Wingate in Stewart Burke’s ‘Murder in Neighbour Watch’ at Great Hall Theatre at the Assembly House in Norwich, Oct – Nov 2019
Ann gave up her career as a travel courier to become the dutiful headmaster’s wife to her husband, Andrew. Ann felt stifled to have settled in the village of West Lynstead, near Worthing, with its coffee mornings full of gossips and people in and out of each others’ houses.
She returns from three months away on holiday in New Zealand visiting her parents, to find that village life has been turned upside down by a murder in local woodland.
Feedback following the performances was positive. There were some funny moments at the start of the play and the cast worked incredibly well to bring the characters to life.
Audiences seemed to enjoy it, discussing who they thought had committed the murder during the interval. I did not enjoy the play, in and of itself, but I did like pushing myself out of my comfort zone in terms of line-learning once again and the challenge of the emotions that Ann is put through when she returns home.
Marie Cooper performing in Murder Mysteries and Comedy evening with Dreamstone Productions.
Thanks to a recommendation from a lovely director, who I worked with at Great Hall, I got an email from Dreamstone Productions, asking if I would like to work with them on a Murder Mystery event in Norfolk.
I was nervous, and at first and wasn’t sure whether to say yes. It’s been some time since I’ve performed anything so improvised, but I was emboldened by my director having confidence in my acting ability.
I am immensely happy that I went along. It was a fantastic evening. I worked alongside some great actors and gained new experience in working in immersive, improvised theatre. It’s been relatively busy workwise over the past few weeks and I am feeling incredibly grateful and fortunate to be surrounded by talented artists and doing work that I love.
Check out the Dreamstone website or Facebook page to get more information about their upcoming Murder Mystery evenings in and around East Anglia…
Whether you call the people helping to bring realism to movies and television background artists, supporting artists or extras, they are often vital for creating the authenticity of the scene. Many supporting artists are actors who do this work as part of their portfolio career in the creative industries when they are between other acting jobs.
We are incredibly fortunate to have some fantastic scenery and buildings for film locations in Norfolk, so background artists are often in demand by local and national casting agencies. Before Covid hit the country and halted productions I was working with NBA Norfolk.
I work with an agency called Norfolk Background Artistes who source local actors for work that is filmed within the region. This is brilliant because it not only provides much-needed work for local performers, it also cuts the carbon impact of production by reducing the need to drive people in from further afield.
In 2019 I was invited by NBA Norfolk to work with October Films as a background artist on an episode of the US TV show ‘First Ladies’. A series about the wives of presidents in the US. It was aired in Oct 2020 on the US channel ‘CNN’.
Marie Cooper performing Hilda, the maid with an interesting past, in ‘Someone Waiting’ at Great Hall Theatre. 22 January to 26th January 2019
I managed to tick quite a few things off of my acting bucket list during this production in a small, but challenging and fun role. One of which included slapping one of my fellow actors. It turned out to be surprisingly effective. The audience oooooh’d and gasped when Hilda struck Mr Nedlow across the face. I was very pleased with this as we had practised it a number of times. Hilda’s slap managed to shock the audience, despite my not making any contact with Mr Nedlow’s face at all.
I also had to perform drunk. What I mean is, I acted drunk whilst on stage, I didn’t actually get drunk to perform. I got some nice comments from fellow actors saying that Hilda was nicely drunk and that it wasn’t overly done, which I am very pleased about. Acting drunk is a tricky thing to do convincingly, whilst still trying to enunciate so that the audience can hear.
An in-depth review of the play was written by Rob Fradley-Wilde and published on Facebook and in the Great Hall Theatre Company newsletter.
“the maid Hilda was able to go to her death with style, in Marie Cooper’s vivacious and feisty example of the mid-twentieth-century servant class. “
Andrew Cliffe of Norwich Photo photographed the following images during the dress rehearsal of Someone Waiting.
Hilda Marie Cooper
Mrs Danecourt Glenda Gardiner
John Nedlow Chris Higgins
Vera Nedlow Samantha Elmhurst
Martin Steven Logsdon
Walter Fenn Kevin Ford
Miss Lennie Rachel Miller
The photos below were taken by members of the cast
Marie Cooper perfomed as the younger Margaret Thatcher, ‘Mags’, in Handbagged, performed at Sewell Barn Theatre in Norwich, 11 October to 20 October 2018
The fantastic photographs for Handbagged were taken during the dress rehearsal by Sean Owen of Reflective Arts
The bad thing (and good thing – I hate seeing and/or hearing myself) about theatre is that you never get to see the play. Especially for Handbagged, as our entire cast were on the stage for almost the entire duration of the play…and yes, this was a worry if nature called.
This was my absolute favourite role so far by miles, one of my proudest achievements and most challenging, as it was the first time I’d attempted to portray someone who actually existed. The play also the most lines I had had to learn at that time as well as the most time I had needed to be on stage for. Both Mrs Thatchers and the Queens are on the stage for all but a few minutes of the play. I have written further reflections about the show on my blog which also includes reviews of Handbagged.
The pressure was on as I didn’t have much time to prepare. The person who was originally cast dropped out just before rehearsals began, so I didn’t have anywhere near as much time to prepare as I would have done had I got the role just after auditions. It was a race against time to research and learn lines, whilst simultaneously rehearsing. Thankfully I had, that very morning, completed and handed in the last course work of my MA so I knew I would have the time to invest into the role.
Mrs Thatcher was most definitely not someone I shared the politics of. Yet it was a little disturbing (and helpful) during my research, to find that the ‘Milk Snatcher’ and I did, surprisingly, have some things in common, other than being female. We both studied for a degree in Chemistry and contained the resilience and perservance to stand up and fight for what we want and believe in, to not let anyone stand in our way of what we aim to acheive.
Alexandra Evans – Mrs T
Marie Cooper – Mags
Mandy Kiley – Liz
Gill Tichbourne – Q
Denis Thatcher, Peter Carrington, Gerry Adams, Ronald Reagan,
Michael Heseltine, Arthur Scargill, Rupert Murdoch, Geoffrey Howe
and Prince Phillip.
Palace Footman, Kenneth Kaunda, Nancy Reagan, Enoch Powell,
Michael Shea, Neil Kinnock, Kenneth Clarke, and a Protester.
Marie Cooper performing in the short film Lily by Yuqian Tong, student filmmaker at the University of East Anglia – Filmed on location in Norwich, August 17th – 18th 2018
I found myself very quickly attempting to learn lines in August. An unanticipated opportunity popped up to take part in the short film, Lily by Yuqian Tong. The film was written, produced and directed by the student filmmaker who is currently studying here in Norwich at the University of East Anglia.
The photos below were taken by Tuqian Tong on set during filming.
Marie Cooper performing as the ‘The Spirit of the Place’ in promenade street theatre with the Jenny Lind Arts Project and Slow Theatre Company, 2018
8 – 9 June 2018
It all escalated quite fast. One evening I turned up for a free scriptwriting workshop being run by the Jenny Lind Arts Project and Danny O’Hara with the Slow Theatre Company. I thought it would be a great help to learn some new creative writing techniques and generate some ideas to kickstart my creative coursework.
It turned out that writers could submit a piece of their work to be part of the project’s performance in June 2018. The next thing I knew, my “Abandoned Places” script, with Megan and Josh, was included as part of the theatrical promenade piece. I performed as the ‘Spirit of the Place’ too. It felt odd, but exhilarating, seeing the words that I had written being performed. I had put my toes tentatively onto the edge of the path to becoming a playwright.
It was an immensely ambitious and unique piece of community theatre, a promenade piece composed entirely of local writer’s work which was then beautifully sewn together with the words of playwright Danusia Iwaszko, who created the Spirit of the Place as a guide, leading the audience around the stage, following the walkways, green areas and stairwells that make up the community space. There were many people working incredibly hard to bring the show together, both performing and behind the scenes,. It would not have been the same if even just one person had not been there.
I grew up, an artistic child, in an area of Norwich that was in the top 10% of the most deprived areas of the country. For poor families, this meant that opportunities to get involved in the arts were next to zero outside of the school curriculum. So, the opening up of provision of the arts for everyone, no matter what their background or income, is something very close to my heart. The work that the Jenny Lind Project does, bringing the arts into local communities is invaluable.
The short film, ‘And I saw my world from my Home’, is a collaboration between the Jenny Lind Arts Project, BBC Voices and the Suffolk Square community. The footage is composed of clips that we filmed around the area. The poetry and readings are by the local community. The poem I am reading between 2:09 and 2:58 is by writer and poet, Salah El Nagar. Other contributors to the movie include Cate Oliver and me.
It was a privilege to be part of the project. I have some wonderful new people in my life. People who I might never have even met if I’d not gone along to a little community scriptwriting workshop a few months ago. My life has been enriched for taking part. I hope the community feels the positive effects of the project long into the future.Wall of Feedback for Spirit of the Place
In January 2018, I attended a writing workshop that was part of the Jenny Lind Arts Project and run by the Slow Theatre Company. It was with a bit of reluctance as my lecturer at university was encouraging me to write some material to perform for myself. I resisted petulantly, saying that I was an actor, not a writer.
I had gone back to uni to help with my career as an actor. I picked up bits of work here and there and gave my time free to local community theatre, but I wanted my career to be more sustainable in the long term. It made sense for me to go back to uni. I wanted to act more. I didn’t expect to be told to write in order to act.
Serendipity has a habit of putting good things I need in my path, so when I saw the Writing for Performance scriptwriting workshops, I signed up. It turned out that the art project was putting together a performance and they were asking people in the community who were attending the class to write something for the production. The theme was “Place”.
I was totally stumped at first but I had been talking to someone about urban exploring at the time and also someone had mentioned that the local children had been doing parkour around the buildings in the area and the idea stuck.
On my walk home from uni, following a talk from a visiting artist from Goldsmith’s, a little bit of dialogue popped into my head whilst crossing the road. The artist had shown us images of his work and one had included a “lemon” in his sculpture. What seemed to me, a random lemon amused me and rattled around in my head.
I typed a little snippet of dialogue onto my phone and later added it to my very short play, Abandoned Places, about my characters, Meghan and Josh which I completed on 3 March 2018.
My short play was performed in the stairwell of one of the blocks of flats.
By a twist of serendipitous fate, I ended up playing Saha and encouraging the audience to follow me during the performance.
It was a strange experience to be leading the audience around the stories and then watching on as people watched my scene, played by other performers.
I leaned up against the wall of the flats observing the performers embody characters that I had created and speak the words that I had written. It was incredibly surreal to hear people laugh at something I had placed onto the page.
I walked through the area in March 2022 on the way home from work. I couldn’t believe it had been four years since I had performed there. I could still feel the elation of jumping up onto a bollard next to the lamppost, beckoning the audience to me, the little bells on the ribbon attached to me jingling as I jumped up, encouraging everyone to follow me with haste lest I become invisible to them once more.
I remembered the little snail I had seen on a wall and had incorporated it into my wonder and joy of the ‘place’ I inhabited. The laughing as I tried to ‘vanish’ at the end and the enthralled little children tried to continue to follow me, behind the wall and ‘offstage’.
It was strange passing through the area, to see trees without their multi-coloured wool decorations by Helen of Norwich, the pavements and walls empty of chalk words, and the characters of that brief world no longer overlooking the balconies, sitting on the stairs or hanging out by the bins
It was a lovely project. I never expected that a play I wrote about a place, would be performed in that place. That the memories of the people, pavements and unusual performance spaces would still warm my heart years later. A little magic of the Spirit of the Place still lingers…