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Book Launch (courtesy of Polygon)

Method Actor's Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, A

Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, A
08 September 10

Last night, in deepest, darkest Cowgate, Polygon, all aglow with excitement, launched Kevin MacNeil’s A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde.

Award-winning venue, The Caves, provided the perfect setting as Kevin performed two excerpts from the novel and took questions from a happy crowd of well wishers (he loves sentences, would like to walk the past and present streets of Edinburgh with Robert Louis Stevenson, doesn’t watch Big Brother or support either of the Edinburgh football teams…). Ably supported by two brilliant musicians, Iglue and Christin Mackenzie, nobody was in two minds about the success of the celebration.

In A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, troubled young actor Robert Lewis crashes his bike in a foggy Edinburgh and wakes up to find that life has changed for the darker. And the weirder. He’s still a deceitful egoist but now life seems to be deceiving and manipulating him. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. He’s losing control of his love life, his starring role in a new adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, and, quite possibly, his mind. A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde is a dark, maniacal thriller that explores many kinds of duality – individual, social and cultural, and is a heartfelt tale about the search for belonging and the nature of love and desire. It is also clever, intricate, bloody funny, and your next purchase!

 Polygon and Kevin MacNeil would like to thank The Caves for their great venue and staff, The Royal Lyceum Theatre for the picture frame, Emma Crossan for the wonderful photography, Iglue and Christin Mackenzie for the brilliant music, and, of course, all those who came to help us celebrate.

 

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An Interview, not always serious

A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde,
03/09/10 11:03

 

Jekyll or Hyde? (Or, if you prefer, Britney or Christina?)
Hyde is bad through and through, whereas Jekyll, like the rest of us, is an admixture of good and bad.

I’ll take sugar over salt, happiness over money, coffee over tea, cycling over walking, karma over dogma, breakfast over lunch, PC over Mac, girls over boys, Stevenson over Scott, two wheels over four, Edinburgh over Glasgow, Stewie over Lois, good mornings over bad nights, this over that and almost any music at all over either Britney or Christina.

Who would play you in a film of your life? Who would play you in the US remake?
I’d love it if they used a sock puppet to play me in the Scottish film of my life and a sock puppet with an American accent for the US remake.

All the other characters would be played by actual people, but I’d be a sock puppet. And occasionally someone would sit down and take his shoes and socks off and I’d get all melancholy and a song like REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ would start up in the background and I’d crumple up beside the guy’s shoes and cry sock tears beside my two inert, rancid friends. That would be sad and beautiful. Ooh! I just got an idea for my next book.

Best advice for a method actor playing Robert Lewis in A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde?
Quit mumbling. Eat more vegetables. Be considerate of others.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (and did you take it)?
‘Don’t listen to me.’ I did.

Have you ever pretended to be something or someone you’re not to get something … or someone? How did that work out for you?
I don’t play the ‘don’t-you-know-who-I-think-I-am’ card. I did once randomly meet a guy dressed in a tartan suit at an event in New York who, it turned out, had the same name as me; I could maybe pretend to be him? He was a Scot-made-good in Noo Yawk City – he made many, many bucks out of Manhattan property. He bought me an amazing tuna steak, which he pronounced ‘too-na’ and I pronounced ‘tshoooona’. Come to think of it, he was my successful doppelganger and I should’ve thought of dedicating this novel to him.

What novel or film would you like to live in?
For spiritual practice: ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring’.
For camaraderie and laughs: ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ or a good Laurel and Hardy.
For sheer intense passion, ‘Brief Encounter’ or ‘Before Sunrise’.
In fact, my life is more like something you’d see on ‘You’ve Been Framed’.

Just two years after Robert Louis Stevenson published the original Jekyll and Hyde he left the UK for warmer climes. Where in the world would you go and how – if at all – do you think it would affect your writing?

I’d love to go to Japan. I imagine I’d write more haiku:

writing a love letter
too quickly, I upset
my cup of green tea

Or senryu:

in the heart of town
two santas
fighting

You can change one thing about yourself. What is it?
I’d become much better at time-travelling. Amateur time-travelling these days just isn’t what it’s going to be. Have you seen what they did next year?

Why write? What is it you seek in the act of writing?
All I’m looking for is a container for my own feelings. And feelings, I find, are full of implications and ideas. I’m trying to make sense of life.

Do you know any good literary anecdotes?
Hundreds! Everyone knows the witty ones, but here’s the saddest. John Cheever won the prestigious O. Henry Award and the next time he saw his mother she said to him, ‘I read in the paper that you won a writing prize.’
‘Yes,’ he says, ‘but, you know, I just didn’t tell you about it because it really wasn’t terribly important to me.’
‘No,’ says his mother, ‘it wasn’t to me either.’

Finish this sentence, “Kevin MacNeil’s novel A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde is …”
‘…his best novel ever.’ (Jekyll)
‘…his best novel since the last one. Which was even worse.’ (Hyde)

Tell us a joke (a clean one):
Credit where it’s due, this one belongs to Emo Phillips:
‘I once posed nude for a magazine….I’m never going back to that newsstand.’

What is the worst Christmas present you ever received? Names can be changed to protect those involved.
A second-hand T-shirt that couldn’t have looked cool first-hand.

You can change one thing about people in general. What is it?
I’d uninvent smoking. Or I’d make it legal to throw a bucket of water on anyone who smokes in public. Carcinogenic water. That would make sense. Oh, I should definitely be king. And I’ll insist on calling my house World Headquarters. Second thoughts, don’t make me king. 
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Brighter Still

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Leila Angus is an amazing photographer – very creative, and a lot of fun to work with. If you need a Hebridean photographer for a project, she is the very person to go to.

Check her website here:

http://www.brighterstill.com/

 

Heck, she even makes me look presentable, though the thought of two of me is quite terrifying.

 

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Perceptive review of my new novel in The Scotsman

Book review: A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, by Kevin MacNeil

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Published Date: 04 September 2010
Polygon, 221pp, £12.99
Kevin MacNeil is a writer prepared to take his chances, pitching this novel in the shadows of RL Stevenson’s timeless classic, producing a tiny artistic nugget, shapeless yet shapely, daring and burnished. Ernest Hemingway once defined “art” as “some

thing made through your own invention that is not a representation, but a whole new thing, truer than anything true and alive, if you make it well enough to give it immortality”. 

MacNeil’s novel, though drawing on Stevenson’s novella, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, is never slavishly derivative. His Method Actor’s Guide is, in its finest glinting moments, that “whole new thing” of which Hemingway wrote, and from first to last an enticing read.

Thematically, it spirals ever more tightly around the question of identity, spinning a whirlpool that delves into matters of human consciousness and love, with a central relationship that fragments and then coheres: a literal matter of life and death, of touch and go, as the tale proceeds. And, if duality of identity adheres to it, as it did to Stevenson’s classic, then a duality of a different kind – both of structure and of mirroring, presenting the different sides of a single story – is at its heart. It is a duality that conceals a shrewd duplicity, one that is cleverly achieved despite its risk of falling apart.

For at first we are lured inside a narrative which is not what it appears. Its forceful narrator is Robert Lewis (!), a novice actor whose talent is dwarfed by his outsized ego, relating the tale of his early life – a resented pillar-to-post existence as a foster child, followed by acting school (entered fraudulently on a bogus application), where he flowers, and after which he receives his big break in a showcase production of Jekyll and Hyde, playing both leads.

The setting is Edinburgh, a moonlight-seducing cityscape through which our hero travels to rehearsals on his bike – which is the unlikely love of his life, until the appearance of fellow actor Juliette, who steals his heart the moment they meet. Succumbing to ardour, he rushes the courtship, and then, without warning, takes a tumble – it is the bike (and not the love affair) that flies, hitting thick traffic.

Robert is in, then out, of hospital, convalescing before returning to rehearsals, where Mr Woolfe, another actor of devilish, surreptitious charms, has been cast to usurp him.

Rancour and jealousy inevitably follow, as Lewis and Woolfe become loc

ked in an enmity which intensifies once Juliette breaks with Robert, and leans towards Woolfe, whose prospects career-wise seem stratospheric. Juliette’s nature, viewed through the prism of Robert’s perhaps paranoid perception, looks subtly altered.

His fellow luvvies adopt a new terseness; Lewis himself seems on shifting ground, entering states of altered consciousness, sudden shifts that might be dreams or something other. Recalling Picasso, Robert wonders if “dreams are like art … lies that tell a greater truth”.

The jealous rivalry drives the plot – and so centre stage comes a brilliant set piece with Robert commandeering attention at a party thrown by Woolfe, part of the gothic convolutions of plotting and vengeance at which MacNeil increasingly shines. Then something happens, and in an instant the story’s fabric is torn apart, and the tale we’ve witnessed becomes a chimera, and behind it another world, in which all the same characters exist in a different light, is revealed to the reader. A different truth.

Stepping forward into the spotlight comes Juliette, bringing her version of what happened – her version of Robert, and of the bicycle crash, the play, a multi-faceted, plaintive, affecting, newly lit re-run of what has led both herself and the reader to Robert’s bedside, and into an endgame which brings to the fore the novel’s novelty and freshness.

It is a freshness which sees the author take the question of identities and deepen it beyond Stevenson, adding the actor’s dimension (Woolfe’s and Robert’s and Juliette’s), presenting them as creators of new identities through the characters they inhabit – just as the author does. 

For MacNeil in a sense is all of them, and none. In an interview in the addendum to the narrative he talks about “the parallels between creating or becoming characters”. The novel’s concluding image combines both conceits: it is that of Robert typing furiously beneath a sky-draped moon. 

The writer, the actor, and the moon in a kind of cahoots – the moon which, famously too, has its dark side.

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A Sideways Ride Through Jekyll and Hyde (Article in The Skinny)

A Sideways Ride Through Jekyll and Hyde

Posted by Keir Hind, Thu 02 Sep 2010
Kevin MacNeil is a writer from Lewis whose previous work has included poetry, plays, and a debut novel The Stornoway Way – which Rodge Glass named as his choice for ‘Best Scottish book of the 21st Century’ in our Unbound pullout. His latest book, A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, is out on 1 September

Happily, it turns out that A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde is a great book, and no mere retread of the classic original either. “I thought that would be a bit cheeky to do,” says the author. “Instead I wrote something that alludes to the original Jekyll and Hyde story, but it’s not a retelling. If you have a knowledge of the original Jekyll and Hyde it might help you with appreciating some of the subtleties in the novel – but you don’t need to know it.” To give a flavour of what this means, in this novel an actor called Robert Lewis, who’s appearing in a stage version of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, is involved in a terrible bike crash, (MacNeil too is a keen cyclist, having cycled the length of the Danube last year) and finds himself in hospital – and attended by a nurse Stevenson too – after which things get stranger still. Later there are further developments that not only change Lewis’s life completely, but also the way the story is told.

Remember though, that Stevenson’s book was told in an unusual manner too, with different narrators gradually revealing what was going on. “I think I partly took my cue in structuring this novel from Stevenson,” MacNeil says, “but I also think it’s fair to say that I write novels with unconventional structures anyhow, because I don’t really follow the tradition of structuring novels the way that ‘How to Write a Novel Books’ tell you to.” He’s right – his novel is refreshingly different structurally, whilst still exploring familiar themes, of identity, and of place. MacNeil has brought this story back to Scotland, if it ever left. “I think the London of Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde is…. I agree with GK Chesterton, it’s a very Caledonian London, and to me it’s quite like Edinburgh,” he says, and it’s very true of Stevenson’s novella. And more true of MacNeil’s novel, which is set directly in Edinburgh. “And Edinburgh does have that feeling of being a divided city, “ MacNeil says ”which I love. It’s got these grand avenues and little dark secretive seedy closes. It’s got the old town and the new town. It seems perfect for this novel.”

Oddly enough for a story dealing with duality, Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde had a double, an earlier draft that Stevenson’s wife didn’t like. “I love that” says MacNeil “He threw it on the fire, and who knows, that’s one of the world’s great lost books. Or was it great – maybe his wife was a good critic?” he laughs. This work has some parallels with reality – MacNeil mentions “the guy whose vehicle ate my bike” in the dedications page – but thankfully not too many, as he escaped harm – narrowly. Happily, he’s enjoying his work now, brushing off any notion of second novel syndrome, and telling me, “Although it’s my second novel, it’s my fourth or fifth book, so I didn’t have any great anxieties over that. In fact if anything, I’m bursting with ideas. I’ve got a new play commissioned that I’m desperate to do, I’ve got two ideas for new novels, and I’ve got a non-fiction book about my Danube cycle, so I’m not shy of ideas. And the album’s coming out and there’s other little projects, and I was doing short stories as well.”

But for now there’s this novel, an excellent story about an unusual man, who creates characters but who turns out not to know his own reality quite as well as he should – with his crash, and the play within the novel all contributing to this. It’s a dark novel in places, but there’s no small measure of hope in the book too. Sadly, I can’t really say more than this without spoiling what is an excellent read. Imagine reading the original Jekyll and Hyde without knowing about the dualities involved in the story, having not had the plot spoiled by innumerable sources from popular culture – and you can get a flavour of that by reading this intricate, powerful novel. A novel whose author says that “I didn’t want to look at mere duality, I also wanted to look at multiplicity.” And then slyly adds “But I wanted to resolve that in unity”.

Really, you’ll have to read the book to find out what it all means.

 

Jh

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Saturday 4th September, Stornoway

Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, A
04 September 10

P1130480

In his long awaited second novel A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde, critically-acclaimed novelist and poet Kevin MacNeil splits the difference about what it’s like to be in two minds. After a bike crash in a foggy city, young actor Robert Lewis wakes to find that life has changed. For the darker. And definitely the weirder. What was his role in a new play is now shared with ‘the next big thing’, Edward Woolfe. His lovely Juliette isn’t his anymore as her career moves on and up whilst his begins a slow, embarrassing reversal.

Join Kevin as he reads from the novel, and performs a song or two from his upcoming album with Willie Campbell on Saturday 4 September at 8.00 p.m. in the auditorium at  An Lanntair Arts Centre, Kenneth Street, Stornoway HS1 2DS. Tickets are £6. For more information go to www.faclan.org.

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Audiobook of ‘The Year of Open Doors’

-Chemikal Undergdound have released an audiobook of ‘The Year of Open Doors’, which features my short story with a long title, ‘A Snake Drinks Water and Makes Poison, A Cow Drinks Water and Makes Milk.’

“There are two stand-out contributions, those of Duncan McLean and Kevin MacNeil – both, significantly, authors with an established track record. McLean’s brand of anarchic comedy and exasperated pathos is in fine form in Here Wouldn’t Be There, a story which manages to use the word “jitteryer” as if it wasn’t newly formed.

MacNeil’s A Snake Drinks Water And Makes Poison, A Cow Drinks Water And Makes Milk is set against the 2004 tsunami, and manages to balance a striking sense of actually witnessing the events with a feeling of reflective distance. The sentences expand and contract in imitation of the sea’s retreat and apocalyptic resurgence; and MacNeil weaves in reflections about the supernatural and the divine in a purely human manner.” Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

Link: http://shop.chemikal.co.uk/acatalog/CHEM146.html

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An Lanntair, Stornoway – Reading

Faclan – Kevin MacNeil PDF Print E-mail
Faclan logo
‘A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde’
With Kevin MacNeil
Author Kevin MacNeil

After a bike crash in a foggy Edinburgh, troubled young actor Robert Lewis wakes to find that life has changed for the darker. And the weirder. He’s still a deceitful egoist but now life seems to be deceiving and manipulating him. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. He’s losing control of his love life, his starring role in a new adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, and, quite possibly, his mind. A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde is a dark, maniacal thriller that explores many kinds of duality – individual, social and cultural, and is a heartfelt tale about the search for belonging and the nature of love and desire. It is also bloody funny.

Kevin MacNeil was born and raised on the Isle of Lewis. A poet, novelist, aphorist, lyricist, screenwriter and playwright, his books include Love and Zen in the Outer Hebrides (Canongate), Be Wise Be Otherwise (Canongate), The Callanish Stoned (Theatre Hebrides) and The Stornoway Way (Penguin). His first book won the Tivoli Europa Giovani International Poetry Prize for best poetry collection published in Europe by a writer under 35. The Stornoway Way was a bestseller and is currently being optioned for a film. At Faclan he will be reading from his new novel which will be available for the first time at Faclan!

We will have the first 100 copies of Kevin’s book and ticket holders are invited to join Kevin for a glass of wine and book signing in the gallery after his talk.

 'A Method Actor's Guide to Jekyll & Hyde' by Kevin MacNeil!

Disathairne 4 an t-Sultain Saturday 4 September

Tiocaidean Tickets: £6 / £5

Book tickets online HERE

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Moniack Mhor

I’ve just been co-tutoring (with Zoe Strachan) a novel-writing retreat at Moniack Mhor (the Arvon Foundation). The course participants do the cooking and on the last night they put a special message in the apple pie!

Awww. What a lovely group they were.

Applepie

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Inverness Book Festival

I will be doing a Creative Writing workshop (Saturday) and a reading (Sunday) at the Inverness Book Festival this weekend. Then I’m off to Moniack Mhor to co-tutor a novel-writing course.

http://www.invernessbookfestival.co.uk/events/A-Method-Actors-Guide-to-Jekyll…