Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More things I'd forgotten about Friday. He (adjudicator) mentioned Caroline and said something along the lines of "born to play the part". Which was exactly right. She's a marvellous actress who seems to do it effortlessly. I'm very jealous. I loved her "it's just their smell I can't stand". And many other of her lines. And her costumes were magic. So that was fitting praise from him.

He also singled out adorable little bouncy-as-anything-in-life but suitably-woebegon-on-stage Rhodri, our seven year old child star. He looked angelic as ever in the Friday show in his little brown hooded top. And I think it was Friday that he toppled over when Caroline gave him a hearty wrench to get him out of the circle. But hats' off to him, he didn't flinch. I would have wept like a baby, I'm sure. And the adjudicator (I should really call him by name - Ron Nicholl) said that he was a born star and we should hang onto him. So Andrea (mother), if you're reading this, can we keep him?

Charmingly, his parents were both in on the Friday and let him stay on for the adjudication though it was after ten by this time so it was great both that Ron was so complimentary but also that he got to hear it.

He (Ron) made some very constructive comments about how it should have been staged - grouping peasants together in the wedding scene so they could be more animated rather than scattering them across the stage. I think I consider things too symmetrically. And he thought I should have brought Grusha and Azdak down stage for the "I think I understand you woman" speech which I'm sure is right. He also thought I should have made more of a fuss of Jussup rising from the dead - and this was even before he knackered his rib so lucky he didn't see it on Saturday. I'm not sure I agreed with this. But all fair comment.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Friday. I got my day off at last. But then it's not all about me.

The poor actors were flagging a little - with the exception of Charmaine who seemed to be glugging cough medicine with a vengeance and seemed little the worse the wear for it. On-stage warm up at 7 which had by now - old hands that we were - comfortably settled into a few rounds of zoom/screech courtesy of Ms Hansman, a Pearl and Dean chorus courtesy of Ronnie and the trusty "many men" song thing.

And tonight was the night of the adjudication. We - I shouldn't try and chare the blame as it was largely me - had decided to enter the play into the SCDA Full Length Play Festival. Which is apparently always a done deal and goes to an old faithful. Usually Tryst or Leitheatre. However of course I was not doing this to win. I thought it would simply be a useful exercise in getting objective feedback on the way the play had been put together. Not to slight the invalable experience of those involved in the group who had commented to date but I meanly felt more predisposed to take a slagging from someone I didn't know.

Excitingly the adjudicator and his entourage - for they always travel in packs, one of the great mysteries of the SCDA adjudication process - had passed by us in the backstage corridor as I sp0ke final words of a feeble geeing up to the actors before the play began. Apparently they wanted to see back-stage conditions as this would also count towards the verdict. The mind boggles.

And then at the alloted hour, we began. Audience of about 50 from my approximate head count. I do love the start of the play. I have no idea what anyone else thinks to it but I love the way that the singers walk onto the stage, spotlight comes up on them, Sarah grins and then the music starts. Stripped by Depeche Mode. And my peasants start shambling up the aisles to take up their positions on the stage. Wendy emerges from the wings onto the ramp and crosses herself (just out of church you see) - one of my favourite bits that the audience just won't get. And everyone shambles into postion, music fades and it begins.

I think it went pretty hiccup-less tonight from memory. A few tiny glitches but nothing so radical that the audience would notice. The adjudicator sat and scribbled with his special adjudicator's light. I laughed as noisily as I could (not very, being a retiring sort of person) to spur the audience on. But actually they were a much more cheerful crowd than the very dour bunch we'd had on Wednesday. And that always makes it a bit more entertaining for the actors.

I watched carefully at the interval to see what the adjudicator thought to the Adzak entrance (which I had 'bravely' decided to keep as is to get his feedback). And his face didn't seem to contort with outrage at the violation of theatrical tradition. But then I guess it's his job to keep his thoughts to himself until the thing is done. They all trotted off for coffee and the thing resumed 20 minutes later.

So afterwards. We reconvene in the auditiorium to hear the adjudicator's words of wisdom. Although as ever it takes me bloody ages to herd the last of them out of the dressing rooms. Some people have no sense of urgency. Or sense of anything. And I sat to recive my fate.

And I thought he was remarkably positive. Of course everyone will have heard the bits they wanted to hear from his comments. But I thought he was very fair in his observations and made some very constructive suggestions. Other bits I violently disagreed with - but he had stage managed the show once before and directed it twice so I guess it was more or less inevitable that he would have some fixed ideas about how things should be done.

Small moments of triumph that were nothing to do with me: he said Ross and Sarah as the singers were excellent - although didn't (I don't think) comment on how we'd used them. Obviously I should have asked but of course I was rather struck dumb by it all. He thought Gordon and Karen as Simon and Grusha were great. And he thought Brian was marvellous. He said it looked as if he'd enjoyed playing the part. For which I felt irrationally pleased.

Tiny petty things: he'sd liked the "moment of tenderness" between Simon and Grusha before he went off to war. And yes! Thank you very much. Take a moment for a small gesture of triumph. As getting them to kiss was an uphill struggle at this particular juncture in the play but I stuck to my guns (for once?) and it worked. According to him anyway. He made some comment about how people could get burdened done with the rhethoric of the play and forget that it was normal people speaking to each other. Just what I had tried to say to them all. But perhaps not eloquently enough. And of course there were various of these other observations about things which I felt I'd tried to talk to them about - but they just hadn't listened. But clearly the actors probably heard "director's fault / director's fault / director's fault" over and over as he said this. But what does it matter.

He didn't actually out and out say that he liked what we'd done with the play - which my mother, god bless her, was outraged about. But speaking to me afterwards, he said he "really admired what I'd done with the play". Which was more than enough for me.

As I was showing them up the stairs, one of his entourage said I "looked like the kind of person who is always happy". A lovely compliment. And a great tribute to my acting skills I felt.

Then in the pub afterwards, Joe Culley snapped his rib.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thursday was less eventful. I got back from a research debrief in Hamilton in the nick of time to set off to the theatre.

We did our on-stage warm-up at 7 - as planned. Show started at 7:30 as planned. Went well again, hardly any mistakes were made. Not that I'm more interested in tiny mistakes than in the greater artistic whole.

And everyone seemed happy. I finally got a precious day's holiday the next day so was able to drink happily afterwards with lovely Sarah and Duncan who came to view it and then with the stragglers amongst my cast til we got booted out of Greyfriars' Bobby. A nice peaceful show night.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm very behind on my blogging so I'm going to play catch-up in chronological order.

First night. I set off from here with suitable trepidation in my heart. Caught up with lovely Jonathan on arrival about the music. Rallied my cast for a warm-up on stage at 7 prior to curtain up at 7:30. Trotting round busily running dull errands for people - apple juice from the front of house people to the girls' dressing room and such like.

Till Richard accosted me at perhaps 6:58 to alert me to the fact that lovely Karen (Grusha) and Stephen (Corporal / GM) were stuck in traffic behind an accident somewhere around Gorgie. And had been for an hour and a half.

As additional excitement, Charmaine (rider / stableman / little fox) was stricken with some weird coldlike ailment that seemed to render her almost incapable of speech.

So this neatly distracted me from my nerves. We felt we could delay the curtain by 10 or 15 minutes but not much longer. So I briefed a couple of boys to read in for Stephen if need be - less of an issue as his part was small. And decided that I would have to go on as both Karen and Little Fox if need be.

Wendy helpfully said (and this is my favourite quote of the run): "But you can't do that. That will affect us all." You don't say.

As it turned out, Karen and Stephen turned up at 7:29 and about 45 seconds. Poor Karen ran into the dressing room, changed, wept and was on stage ten minutes later. For which I shall have eternal respect for her as she gave an excellent performance.

And Charmaine miraculously rallied as curtain up time lately approached and drank cough medicine for the rest of the week which seemed to fix her.

It was a good show. Lighting looked beautiful - although we did have an exciting mid-scene-6 black out in the midst of one of Ian A's impassioned lawyers' speeches. Sound was almost there. Cast did dandily and little Rhodri, one of our 'Michael's', was suitably adorable.

General feedback afterwards was good and we sold about 40 tickets. Not quite enough but I had high hopes for the ensuing nights.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yeah, you see now I feel slightly sick.
We have two great dress rehearsals under our collective belt. Well, the actors do. I guess my job is done now.

The lighting is looking absolutely stunning. The sound is pretty much there. The actors have more or less mastered correct entrances and exits. And we even got adorably cute Rhodri at our run-through last night as his lovely mother wanted photos of him in action.

So I think we have a great show.

I'm sure I won't think this at 6:30 tonight though....

Monday, November 13, 2006

So, into the theatre yesterday. Move-in went beautifully smoothly - helped by the fact that all the rostra had been delivered to the theatre on Friday. And it was great to see my set taking shape.

JGH has worked magic with the lights. He's apparently still not happy with them but they were looking pretty damn good to me by last night's tech. And Jonathan is clearly a very adept sound guy so weird edits of tracks aside, think that should sound great too.

Half of my cast are sick. Ian maintains it's because he wasn't allowed to open the window at Thursday's rehearsal so the germs flourished and spread. So I read in for both lawyers / doctors last night. Ideal. The peasants are all very sulky about not having enough room in the wings to unobtrusively come on and off stage. Then poor Ronnie stumbled on a rostra in the dark and knackered his ankle so he probably won't be able to walk by tonight. Still, despite all this misfortune, we should have a good show.

And lovely Ron, our servitor who's been looking after Adam House for how many years now, did the tail end of the shift yesterday. He always cheers me up. So thanks Ron.

And the dress tonight...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Went to see Mary Stuart at the Lyceum this afternoon. They did a nice line in panic at impending doom. It reminded me (again) to impress upon my peasants that they should seem more terrified by the revolution developing in their midst.

I'm typing this with a black cat perched on the table next to my laptop. Now she's turned away and only the tail end of her bottom is planted on the keyboard. Anyway, I digress.

We met poor injured Nick after the show for a drink and the conversation inevitably turned to the show. It struck me again how much I forget. I was mournfully bemoaning the fact that I've only heard 3 tracks of my sound score so far and we have the tech tomorrow. And someone cheerfully reminded me of how Siobhan had turned up her nose at the choice of opening track when I played it at the rehearsal the other day. I apparently defiantly retorted that I liked it.

I do feel slightly apprehensive about the music. As no-one has really heard much of it. In fact, people have only heard the start and the end tracks. And the poor buggers have no idea really about how it's all going to fit together. I suppose that's what the tech is for..? And what if they hate it all..? They could so easily not appreciate the marvellous wit of my choices...

Still, there are so many other things which could be disastrous tomorrow, I expect that the music will be the least of my worries. I discovered the other night that my sound technician previously did the sound at Live8 and at last year's Hogmanay Concert in the Gardens. So I hardly need to worry about him.

Anyway, I think the cat keeps pressing something. I'm going to post this before the cat strikes delete and my painstaking typing is lost...

Wish us luck tomorrow.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Here's our Evening News article. Exciting times.

I've just been labouring over the programme. How do you sum up six - or maybe nine - months of effort in a couple of paragraphs in a way which makes the show sound appealing, interesting and relevant? Without sounding like a wanker. It's difficult stuff.
They did good last night. Very good in fact. I can now say with some confidence that it should be a genuinely good show.

I feel almost euphoric today - although it's hard to tell whether this is because last night went well or because the end is in sight...

Whichever, we have a fine piece on page 6 of the Edinburgh Evening News magazine today. Dates and details aren't all that accurate but this is surely just a pesky detail.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I feel (maybe stupidly) suddenly optimistic about the show.

Another horrific week is rolling to a close. I had a meeting first thing in Glasgow, rushed back to the office for a lunchtime meeting, rushed out of that into a taxi to another meeting and then skived off home when that finished at ten to five - albeit after severely disapproving looks from the lovely Brian, the Hep C account director. Still, I justified it to myself by making various work-related calls on the bus on the way home. But this isn't a blog about my work-related guilt.

So now, home and fed the cats and trying to psyche myself up to clean out the guinea pigs and then go to the last BP rehearsal before the show week. And I'm quite excited. I think my poor world-weary and dispirited cast will be an excellent show. The surviving cast, at any rate. Our sound man is coming along. I'm expecting a full cast bar the children. Though willing to be disappointed. And then we're into the theatre. Exciting times.

Still, I'm willing to believe I'll be disillusioned again four hours hence. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I remember being disdainfully scornful when Ian Staples started smoking in the run up to Pygmalion however many years ago. Now I must swallow my scorn as I stooped so low as to buy "tranquility tea", whatever that is, after Sunday's riotously successful rehearsal.

I have this jaunty tune bouncing ominously round in my head. It will feature in the play for the judge scenes behind the 'singer' pieces. Just now, it neatly captures my vague excitement and vague sense of foreboding...
We have 4 rehearsals to go. Tonight was quite good actually, although the poor things looked tired and scared. I'm sure the delay to my flight back from London didn't help. And from the snippets I picked up on my belated return, they'd all been bickering amongst themselves in my absence. While the cat's away. Another startling resemblence to a school playground.

We have a replacement for the actor who felt he couldn't turn down paid work in a pantomime with a week and a half to go til our opening night. Endearing behaviour. However he did obligingly suggest a replacement who turns out to be cute as you like and apparently a considerably better actor than the poor departed fellow. However I have now learnt that first rehearsals count for nothing and those who initially seem competent can quickly become useless and shit when it comes to the crunch. So I shall not count my chickens.

More endearingly still, another of my actors failed to turn up and failed to proffer any kind of excuse. Thoughful times. I called her house on the way home and seems she's at work. Clearly we all have to work but a little word of apology might not go amiss. I pity my poor faithful regularly attending members of the cast. No wonder they look scared with such arbitrary absences.

Anyway, I feel a bit more cheerful about the beast that is the show. My props woman is in London working for the rest of week and my poor producer seems to be running round like a mad thing trying to fill the gaps. My sound man wants more money - I say more money when it would be fairer to say 'some money' as he's currently working with none - and I don't think we can afford to give it to him. My stage manager and his faithful assistant don't appear to have met yet. And my set builder - dear faithful Andy who knows the answer to everything and whom I dearly wish I could consult - is thoughtlessly in India. And I don't have my brilliantly digitally remastered soundtrack from my brilliant mixing man.

Still, these are but tiny inconveniences I think. I have some brilliant actors and the set will look great and the lighting / costumes will look magic. Just as well I suppose. We start a week tomorrow.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Seems that as fast as one problem is solved, another creates itself.

My children came along to a special child rehearsal yesterday and were suitably adorable.

But one of my actors has pulled out. Happy days.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Had a 'chat' with them last night. Predicting doom and gloom if things don't improve. We'll see whether this has the desired effect. Or whether they'll all just become more knackered and demotivated.

Ironically, got home to some TV programme about the Grassmarket project (which I confess I thought was in Edinburgh but this certainly was London) showing some director floundering with street urchins in his cast disappearing, having temper tantrums, not doing what he wanted etc. But then it was all wonderful at the performance. Although the director had been reduced to weeping at the end of the dress rehearsal, alone at the back of the theatre. Will this be me in a week and a half, she wonders?