Some areas of the world have unique cloud formations, caused by specific geographic/meteorological factors e.g. the Morning Glory, a series of rolling clouds that form over the Gulf of Carpentaria in North Australia, Brocken in the Alps etc. In 2012 a new cloud type Undulus Asperatus was defined, a type of ruffled, dramatic cloud.
Parzival (originally entitled Absolutely Nothing) was inspired by the idea of a cloud/sky phenomenon visible over such a restricted area that only a handful of people ever see it; so dramatic and powerful that it triggers a conflict over the right to exploit it.
Billy is undergoing an early mid-life crisis and separated from his wife. When he learns that his father Jim may have seen something bizarre in the sky above his remote farm (after Jim makes an unexpected appearance at his local pub), Billy hurries to the farm, full of ideas about exploiting what may have happened.
The play – around 20 minutes in length – was workshopped by Kerry Irvine’s Theatre Lab at Bath Spa. It ends with Billy learning the truth about what his father has seen… and how infrequently the phenomenon occurs. I plan to continue the story, with more unexpected arrivals; friends of Billy’s girlfriend Suzie who has been less than discreet about the whole affair.
Absolutely Nothing ended up as a 45 minute stage play that didn’t really go anywhere. I liked the original idea but I couldn’t find an ending that worked.
And then in 2016 a conspiracy theorist called Max Spiers died in Warsaw, after leaving his mother a cryptic message. I heard about him when his mentor Miles Johnston was interviewed by Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s PM program, Johnston dropping heavy hints that the late Spiers was some kind of super-warrior who had somehow given his life to preserve a future for humanity instead of a recovering drug addict who may have relapsed.
This gave me an idea for a totally new approach to the project, now renamed Parzival after the Grail Knight.
Conspiracy Theorist Dan blags his way onto Alison’s remote farm in search of sacred mysteries that will impress his mentor Frank. When Alison can’t call his bluff and kick him out, Dan believes he has been vindicated and is close to a Revelation.
A struggle of wills develops between Dan and Alison for the soul and allegiance of Alison’s daughter Emma, whom Dan has used as his way in to the farm. Dan explains his wild theory, only for Alison to give a far more prosaic explanation. Alone with Emma, Alison reveals the truth, a completely natural (if dramatic) cloud formation that she refuses to share with the rest of the world… but Emma doesn’t believe her.
After a final confrontation between Dan and Alison’s theories, Emma is finally convinced that her mother has been telling the truth. Emma thinks of an unexpected middle way, a chance to resolve their differences, give Dan a chance to escape the manipulative Frank and Emma an opportunity to fulfil her ambition and leave for University.
The final script ran to over 70 minutes and was submitted to the Bristol Old Vic Open Session opportunity in June 2018. In November 2018 I was informed that Parzival had been selected as one of the 5 scripts. The script and I will receive a year of support and development and be produced in Spring 2020.
So far the play has been workshopped at the BOV Theatre School and a second draft submitted.