Friday 31 March 2017

A Thank You . . .

Some time ago I wrote a story called 15 Days without a Head. It was about two brothers and a single mum struggling to keep their family together. I never dreamed it would ever be published—but it was. When I saw that first copy of 15 Days on a shelf in a bookshop . . . well, I didn’t think things could get much better than that!
     And then this happened …

Last Wednesday evening my wife and I went along to our lad’s school. He was performing a short play, based on a book adaptation, as part of his A-level Drama exam. It was a piece he and his group had written, staged and directed, and would be acting in themselves. I’ll admit—as we took our seats and waited for the play to start, I was a little nervous—I knew how much this meant to our lad, how many hours of work his group had put into it.
     Finally, the lights dimmed and the actors took the stage.
     They began, and there was something strangely familiar about the opening lines . . . the names of the characters . . .
     No way! They haven’t! 
     Oh, yes they have . . .

It has to be one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had—seeing the characters from 15 Days without a Head come alive right before my eyes! 
     It took a few moments for the shock to pass, but once I’d reconnected my jaw and started breathing again, I got drawn back into the action. 
     What I saw was familiar, but also not. The characters on stage were doing what characters should do—they were taking control of the story, telling it their way. The book was there, but this was better, sharper, leaner.
     There was Laurence towering over them all, doing his best to keep it together, fighting a losing battle against circumstances, frustration and fear. There was Mum, the anger and bitterness flying from her lips as she slammed around the stage, before slipping seamlessly into another character—local radio DJ Baz, all corny catchphrases and slick delivery. I noticed the quiz questions were new though—chilling statistics about children in care—so much more powerful than what was in the book!
     15 Days without a Head is a tough tale to tell—it took me years and two hundred plus pages to get it down! This group had done it in two months, and created a thirty minute play that had the audience rapt. At the end, when Mum is (literally) surrounded by her demons—drink, self-loathing, desperation and anger—while her two boys fight to get her back with nothing more than their simple, heart-breaking offer of love—like most of the audience, I was fighting back tears.
     Re-running it in my head now, there are so many moments that keep coming back to me—great bits of physical theatre like Jay on the swing made from two other cast members' arms; the brothers cleaning their teeth in a human mirror; the comic relief of the telephone box with its living, speaking adverts—“Call Cheryl for a real good time!”; Baz and his radio crew; Mina and Laurence in the library . . .
     When 15 Days without a Head was published it was literally a dream come true for me, and I appreciate all the incredible experiences and opportunities I’ve had over the years as a result of writing books. But, I have to say—the events of last Wednesday evening will take some beating. It was a very special moment, and one that I will never forget.
     So, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the talented cast and writers. Ashlea, Kym, Lewis, Sarah, and Dylan—you were brilliant. Huge respect and thanks to you all.



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  2. That is SO amazing, Dave! Oh I wish I could have seen it! 15 Days Without a Head is up there in my list of the greats! Kudos to the children. Maybe someday the rest of the e world will be lucky enough to see it too!

    1. Thanks Candy! I must admit I was sitting there thinking "I wish more people could see this!" They did such a good adaptation—presenting the story in a new way that was so powerful and really brought it to life.

  3. Wow! How wonderful, what an amazing surprise! I can only imagine what an emotional night that must have been, hopefully tissues were available :) I can imagine 15 days transitioning to the stage beautifully, well done team.

    1. Thanks Katherine, yes it was somewhat emotional! An evening I don't think I'll ever forget. It's strange, I would never have imagined the story working on stage, until I saw it. They wrote such a clever adaptation that brought it to life on stage in ways I would never had thought of. Well impressed!

  4. Sounds fantastic, Dave, and it's such an amazing moment when someone connects so strongly with your work that they want to reinterpret and develop it! Last year my 14yo created a Lego scene from my (unpublished) book as the carrier for my birthday present - I felt like I'd reached the pinnacle of success right there and then :-)

    1. Thanks Mel. You're right, it's those moments when other people connect with something you've written that are the high points of this strange thing we do! When they then create something new from it . . . well, it doesn't get much better than that! I hope your book gets published so it has the chance to inspire more readers to immortalise the story in Lego!