Friday, August 31, 2007

Off to Fuerzabruta tonight. I'm almost frothing at the mouth with anticipation having spent the past month listening to people rave about it. At £25 a ticket, I hope I shall not be disappointed!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The victors (some of them) celebrate.

A rogue sunny day towards the end of the Fringe. And a poor sad clown balloon lady that no-one was paying any attention to.
I saw some excellent shows at the weekend, packing them in with that terrible frenzied panic that always comes upon me when the end of the fringe looms and I haven’t seen half of what I actually wanted to. Exacerbated this year by having my show in week 3 when more usually, I’d be done by the end of week 2.

So Saturday morning, a horrifically early start saw us struggling along to the Traverse to catch “Ravenhill for Breakfast”. By Saturday, the piece had won all kinds of awards so an all-star audience was in attendance. To our great excitement, Hannah Ringham (she of England ‘fame’) was sat two places along from us. I believe I also saw Tim Crouch. Which would make sense as they were both appearing in Sunday’s show. The atmosphere was full of pretentious self-indulgence. Good for listening in to people’s chat.

In hindsight, I picked my day for Ravenhill well. Saturday’s show featured the largest number of actors he’d used to date – along with Ravenhill himself. So we had 13 beautiful boys parading with their sheaves of highlighted scripts in front of us. It was delightful good fortune.

Ross was disappointed with the content of the play. Ravenhill’s pet topic of the so-called war on terror. And this particular piece looked at the motivations of those on the ground who end up doing all the deeds or misdeeds. The fighters themselves. With a fall of a dictator thrown in for good measure.

Ross spoke astonishingly eloquently (for twenty past ten in the morning) when the play had finished about how disappointed he was that writers of the day couldn’t find something other to write about than the war-torn state of the world. But then I wonder whether theatre isn’t just a reflection of whatever society is concerned with. And at a practical level, I suppose he needed a pretty loose theme to eke out 17 scripts.

I was hopelessly charmed by the appearance in the final throws of the play of a young boy who spoke appealingly about the importance of a country’s soldiers fighting to protect his future. He had choppy brown hair and a little (well, boy-sized) Superman T-shirt. So for me, any amount of derivative scripting was forgiven for this heart-string-tugging moment. But then I am a girl and easily swayed by such things.

I’d have liked to see more of the Ravenhill pieces. Apparently Sunday’s final show was equally impressive. And for £7.50 with coffee and a bacon roll, this, to my mind, is innovative theatre at its best. Faithful Paines Plough, the production company, premiered Tiny Dynamite six years ago. A nice full circle moment.

I don’t really approve of back-to-back theatre going as I feel it dilutes the impact but equally, after rave reviews from Ross and Nick, I was half desperate to see Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce. So I caught that 40 minutes after Ravenhill.

And what a cracking piece of theatre it was. A magic set – a dilapidated house filled with coffins made out of cornflake boxes and unkempt carpets. Really exceptional performances from the 3 male actors particularly. And a brilliant script that appealed to my sense of the ridiculous and had me weeping with laughter at one point. But alongside this, it was also incredibly bleak – exploring I suppose the human ability to reinvent the past to suit their own purposes. So a perfect combination for me. I would dearly love to produce it one day but feel it’s the sort of play that needs to be done with money to be spent on it or not at all.

On Sunday I allowed myself a moment of trash and watched the Bourne Ultimatum. Good popcorn movie. And then Ross and I stepped along to see Mabou Mines Dollshouse on Sunday night, supposedly one of the jewels in the crown of the International Festival. I should have been suspicious of the director, Lee Breuer: “legend of New York’s avant garde”. And this particularly production had become rather notorious for featuring actors under 5 feet tall in all the male roles.

But I went along full of optimism. And was just horrified by the result. Now maybe we’re not cultured enough. Neither of us knew the play. So I guess it’s difficult to appreciate the tremendous leap from the original that they apparently made. But to me, the production was like a slightly lunatic technicoloured pantomime featuring cod Scandinavian accents, a blonde Minnie Mouse voiced Nora and a bunch of these ‘under five feet tall actors’ who couldn’t really act.

It was certainly spectacular. They managed to fit strobe lights, smoke, stilt walking, tiny dollshouse-sized furniture and plenty of crawling through windows into the first half. And I hear the finale was extraordinary. I’m sorry to say I can’t comment on this as we left at the interval. Something I haven’t done for years. Have possibly never done. And might not have done if I hadn’t been working the next day so was perhaps disproportionately eager for my bed.

According to the (4 star rave) reviews, the second half was better than the first. So I suspect we missed the denouement that made sense of the first half’s madness. Still, I don’t much regret my impatience. To me, this was the International Festival at its worst. Full of self-congratulatory and self-indulgent nonsense. And it must have cost so much money to put together. I must try to use actors under five feet tall in my next production and see if I can similarly ride the wave of interest in the little people…

I was much consoled by Camille at the Spiegeltent on Monday evening. She cooed her way through various ballads, largely bleak, looking foxy in fishnets and a series of sultry dresses. Her band beamed at her. The audience peered through the smoke, universally adoring her. And surely most people went away a little bit in love. A fitting end to my Fringe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We got an absolutely disastrous review from Three Weeks which I shall reprint here for the entertainment of my beloved readers.

Productions like this only inspire one to give up watching theatre altogether. The direction has no sense of timing, pace, energy, characterisation or drama. Long scene changes kill any interest in the action, which is overlaid with a cringe-worthy soundscape and dreadful lighting design. Chris Condie is the least bad of a very poor cast, the others sucking all life out of their characters by delivering every line in soulless monotone. Any quality there may be in Abi Morgan's script is frustratingly snuffed out by the woeful company it has found itself in. When good writing is butchered like this you are better off reading it at home than going anywhere near the catastrophe.
rating 1/5[tl]

Thanks tl. View from the Stalls were much kinder. For which I thank them sincerely.

And a mixed review from fellow committee member Lorraine in the Edinburgh Guide. Though it seems that she's finding fault with the script rather than necessarily the production. Or maybe I'm clutching at straws.

I'm quite astonished that we got so many reviews actually. Normally we strive and struggle to get even one. Maybe we have the Evening News to thank for this.

So now we're in the extraordinary situation that google-ing our show (using the right combination of search terms you understand) throws up an entire first page of results that are just us. The 2001 Traverse premiere only features on the second page. I'm quite excited about that. Even if half of the coverage is ambivalent.

Bless you all. (Except Three Weeks.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The morning after plus one.

Obviously bereft without it but it was strangely pleasant to walk across the Links this morning with only a work 'to do' list in my head.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My cast were all delighted about the review. It occurred to me rather belatedly that perhaps they had been rather more apprehensive about the Fringe experience than I had quite realised. I feel I was maybe a bit cavalier with them earlier on the week. Should perhaps have been a bit gentler and a bit less enthusiastic with doling out my usual dollops of sarcasm.

My suspicions were particularly reinforced as I wandered down Cockburn Street with Anthony after another late night in the post-show pub and was ramblingly congratulating him on his giant speeches. And he said he was glad they were ok as he was always terrified that something was going to go wrong. Lesson to be learnt is that I should be a bit kinder to people I don't actually know that well. Perhaps the 'electrifying performances' were born out of fear rather than skilled direction. Still, whichever, it did the job. For the Evening News at least.

On Wednedsay night, fresh from the glory of Les Dennis in the Gilded Balloon library, I lectured them heavily on not letting their concentration wander in the heat of the delirious moment. They all rose to the occasion impressively and delivered a near as dammit perfect perfomance/ Of course it was me that failed them again with anothert UV light kerfuffle. So the romantic fireflies moment was again lost in the gloomy darkness of an un-UVed stage. Though we did get a little more impact in the final dramatic moment. Some consolation.

Last night, I entreated them to leave my work mates round eyed with awe - as my department staggered into the theatre straight from an alcoholic post-planning day Bar Roma pizza fest. And they came up with the goods again. Siobhan - not the most forgiving of critics - appeared to be impressed. So I'm sure my workmates weren't being too fake with their praise. Although they were mostly drunk so can't be taken too seriously.

I need to work out how I'm going to inspire them to greatness tonight.

I feel less nostalgic about the impending end than I did a week ago. I guess practicalities set in. We haven't sold nearly as many tickets as I'd like. I forced myself out onto the streets to flyer yesterday before the show but could only bring myself to part with two (4 stars newly attached) flyers before slinking back to the venue. Perhaps if there had been more attractive people about on the Royal Mile, I might have been more inspired.

I shall miss my beautiful boys. And my artfully crafted soundtrack. (Infuriatingly credited to Iain by Mr Dibden - though I brought this upon myself by failing to credit Ross or myself in the programme.) But poor old Anthony is getting tired out. And Madeleine apparently spent all of yesterday dozing on the sofa. So it might almost be nice to have my life back. Though having said that, I have various shows lined up over for the final throws of the fringe so I suppose I won't feel desolate til I wake up on Tuesday morning.

I've just been to see Venus as a Boy at the Traverse. A brilliant performance and a really sweet little tale. (Though can you die from Hepatitis B? I didn't think you could - and I should know. I must check!) I too had a little teary moment as he appeared in his golden finery at the end.

But then I had that 'back to earth with a bump' moment as I shuffled out of the theatre, surreptitiously wiping my eyes and overheard a sweet white haired lady saying to her friend that all she could think about at the end was how much she wanted to step up and disentangle one of his 'wing things' when it got caught in the mesh of some of the very smartly designed set. This is why I particularly enjoy going to the theatre alone!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Four stars from the Evening News. And a commendation in their Drama Awards. Great days.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

So first night last night. And having spent Sunday night cursing my half-witted cast for leaving various costume garments behind in the rehearsal rooms as they all darted off to the pub, I spectacularly managed to leave aforementioned garments at home last night when I set off for the venue. Good. Can't get the directors these days.

But my boys were philosophical about it and seemed remarkably unphased. Possibly because the first arrival, Anthony, despite my explicit instructions, had just been informed that all of the Evening News judges were coming that very night. I found him scrumpled up against a wall in one of the venue courtyards looking white and pale. And lured him to the dark side, entreating him to keep the terrible truth secret from the rest of the cast. Which, god bless him, he faithfully did. An honourable burden to bear. So I guess he had greater things to worry about than whether or not he had swimming shorts to discard onto the stage.

The performance went pretty swimmingly. Given that it was the first real-time run-through that we had in the venue. Iain did a cracking job with the SFX. I got most of the music playing at the right moments. But made a bit of a hash of the lights failing to light Madeleine in the glow of the street lamp at one point and completely failing to operate the UV cannon properly so my magical flourescent effects were lost. Lost. Which meant the 'finale' such as it ever was, was a bit of an anticlimax. But I guess I have five more nights to get it right. And hopefully the judges didn't notice!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Les Dennis is presenting the Evening News Awards on Wednesday evening. Exciting days!
Great good luck card here from Mr Neill. Though I'm not wholly sure how to turn it onto its side so it's upright. But you get the general idea.

Tech yesterday. First time in the venue plus set plus lights plus sound. It was the usual chaos. But as this is par for the course, I'm trying not to worry.

First night tonight. With all of the judges for the Evening News Awards piling in to watch. Good.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another comedy day spent juggling work, several too many meetings and trying to reply to anxious emails from Iain asking for clarification on SFX, trying to finish the programme design (which I'm sure is riddled with mistakes as I've done it so quickly), trying to concentrate on preparing a workshop structure for the chief executive. Oh my goodness me.

And a weekend ahead packed with shows (obviously self-inflicted) and technical rehearsals and meetings to fuss with lights and find unbreakable vases and vegetable boxes and on and on.

I suppose at least getting the play out the way will mean that I can go back to just doing a day job.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Late entry to the soundtrack. Track 12. I'm not actually sure what it's called. Beautiful something or other. All this faffing around with the first track and hundreds of versions of Nature Boy. And I will go for a little something by M83. I think it should create a nice atmosphere.

Lovely faithful Iain ran the SFX alongside the run-through last night. And what a lovely job he's done. Little suggestive static-y crackles all the way through. It's magic.

And the actors rose to the occasion suitably. Slithering in and out of their costumes. I don't think anyone took a prompt so dear Caroline sat mute throughout. Clearly adrenalin is kicking in now as aside from some careless little fluffy edges, they were all really marvellous. Though I suppose I'm biased.

Made my little i-pod accompanied stroll into walk this morning across the Links, half sick with excitement and half-sick with sadness that it'll soon be over.

I would say my job is done now. But actually I've got all kinds of undirector-y things to do before Sunday - costume stuff, finding props to replace the stolen and broken, daubing fluorescent paint, playing with UV cannons. I guess I'm not quite out of the woods yet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Managed to skip out of my meeting this afternoon to hear the interview of fame and fortune on Forth One.

My hoarseness had been condensed to a single sentence describing the plot. Don't think I'll be getting work as a voiceover just yet...

Still, if it was really on x5 today on Forths 1 and 2, great publicity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Oh my god I'm going to be on the radio.

Seems the rasping interview with Radio Forth is going to be broadcast. Not just once but maybe up to 5 times. Schedule apparently (approximately) as follows:

Forth 1

Forth 2

So tune in. Cruelly I'll be in meetings at all of these times. Is excusing myself on the strength of listening to myself on the radio acceptable? I expect not.

And almost even more excitingly, my flyers turned up today. Delivered to the office reception area no less. And they look just gorgeous. Happy days.
Something amazing happened last night. For all the journalists that are probably reading this as I type, spurred on to find out more about my show by my captivating press release, bear with me for a moment. As for those that don't know, this blog should probably be subtitled "and my ongoing obsession with The Man That Lives Opposite".

So last night. Backtracking for a second, I'd had a great little chat with two of my fellow workers, Brian and Kirsty, on the train on the way back from an inconsiderate 3:30 Friday afternoon in Glasgow meeting. I told them all about The Man Who Lives Opposite and how my obsession had grown to the point that I was starting to seriously consider leaving a note on his £60k vintage Porsche windscreen saying who knew what but something witty, clever and surprising. Practical Brian suggested that this was a slightly lunatic approach. Surely better just to 'casually' encounter him in the street and strike up some debonair chat.

I dismissed this as farfetched and ridiculous. What were the odds of me actually crossing paths with him in the street without actually lying in wait for him? (Although of course this path-crossing did actually take place a couple of weeks back as I returned from a beach-side run pouring pleasantly with sweat and that time, culminated in a breathy "hi".)

But then last night, got in from work, about to set off on my run / gym trip and I heard the tell-tale chug of his vintage motor. So I shot into my bedroom, flung on my most respectable gym kit, seized up my trusty i-pod and darted out the door. And then slowed to a casual preparatory stroll as I passed his car. And he was footering around getting the convertible top back up. A perfect opportunity for a "Is that your car? (State the blindingly obvious, Claire. Always a good move.) It's just gorgeous."

If it had been some kind of soppy american movie, I would then have stumbled, fallen with my face in a discarded ice-cream cone and had the subsequent chat with streaks of ice-cream adorably daubing my face. However, it was not. So nothing of this ilk happened. I stood lumpenly in my shabby gym kit and we made small talk about his car.

But the amazing revelation. He (The Man Who Lives Opposite in a street a little way out of town in Edinburgh, Scotland) comes from Nottingham. My city of birth. And residence in fact for 18 years. Incroyable.

He's a property developer apparently - which apparently sometimes involves living in squalor, presumably in the flats he does up - and would explain his sometime absences from his flat. And might explain his long hours on the computer - if that is in fact what he does for long hours in his window bay into the night. And he had to take his car into a garage in Essex for 3 months a while back which would explain its long absence from the street. So many loose ends obligingly tied up!

Eager not to seem like a total freak, I didn't dawdle but darted off on my run after a casual (and meaningless) "see you later". "Are you off for a run?" he said. (Thank god he didn't think I normally dressed in those slightly too short baggy trackie pants.) "Well, these lovely evenings..." I said. "Do you run on the sand or the path?" said he. "Oh the path. What kind of glutton for punishment do you think I am?"

I became uncomfortably aware that my key ring ("What did the blonde say after sex? Are all you guys on the same team?") was dangling out of my hand and hid it away hastily. And then I was off, running like the wind down to the beach.

And then had to stop round the corner as I'd run too fast and winded myself.

Now of course I'm a bit freaked out that this guy can see straight into my living room. Somehow it's one thing with someone I know nothing about. And another altogether that a property developer from Nottingham should be watching my life. Time to get a blind put up.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My festival going began in earnest at the weekend. "England" by Tim Crouch at the Fruitmarket Gallery kicked off my Friday night. I was pretty impressed. Interesting script and more interesting concept (lines were mostly not pre-allocated to the two actors - they just pick and chose who said what on the hoof). I thought it was pretty effective whereas Ross was less impressed. But then I liked the story more than Ross did.

But a catalogue of misfortunes involving Siobhan, wrong venues and free flip-flops saw us starting on the rose wine when I'd meant to go home and finished with Ross and I drunk as little skunks in Potterrow at 5am. The out of focus-ness of the pic is pretty fitting.

Saturday afternoon saw me slumped through Harry Potter. Not exactly cutting edge intellectual cinema but entertaining and I continue to love Alan Rickman. The evening saw us at Big Village's "Almost Haunted" which was great fun. And Ross, despite a hangover from hell, did marvellously. And on Sunday evening, I caught "Ballerina who loves a b-boy" at ClubWest. Which was a cracking show. Not sure if I'd agree with the Scotsman's 5 stars but there was some magic break dancing and a charming 'innocent sweet girl turns funky cool street kid' story so I was quite happy.

In between all of this, I sandwiched (Anthony is still saying sangwich - I suspect he's a lost cause now) a cheeky little rehearsal. Dearest Iain has been devoting most of his time as far as I can tell to collecting SFX for the play. So we got some of them on Sunday afternoon before he darted off to his Fringe show.

And they did a pretty credible run-through. Almost no prompts. Only setback was when the vase - which we were convinced was plastic - shattered into several hundred pieces when it was swept to the ground. So we'll be needing a new vase. And rather mysteriously, someone seems to have stolen our suitcase (unfortunate as it belongs to Caroline) and our box of bananas.

So if you're out there and selling them on ebay, can we have them back for another fortnight? Then you can feel free...
Oh my god a week today!!!

Friday, August 10, 2007

I managed successfully to put the fear of god into my cast a week or so ago by reminding them lovingly that we'd be starting in a fortnight. So on Wednesday, they were all mournfully speaking about having gone home full of fear and nerves.

I spoke with bravado about how my job was nearly done and I was just starting to miss the play in anticipation of it all being over. But stepping into work this morning, I turned my mobile off as I got into the office, noticed the date and oh my god we start in ten days. I felt sick to my stomach. Not quite so brave now. Still, another lovely auspicious sunset last night. Though I'm not sure how much longer these auspicious sunsets will comfort me now.

Roll on drinking in the spiegeltent post-successful performances!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ross is in a show at the moment ("Almost Haunted" by Big Village) that opened on Monday to a sell-out, sold out on Tuesday, was 3 tickets short of a sell-out last night and probably sold out all over again tonight.

They are of course aided by the fact that their show will be publicised throughout the Royal Bank of Scotland as its resident theatre group. But nonetheless, I feel mildly outraged (wholly unjustifiably of course) that they are doing so well.

The plus size is that it has at last spurred me on to making some feeble efforts on a self-promotional front. I wrote a rather dull press release (what is there to say aside from great acting, great writing, brilliant show?!) and sent it out to various newspapers / fringe publications on Tuesday. I haven't been inundated with interest yet but I'm sure it's all on the verge of happening. Probably we keep getting knocked off the centre spreads by The Bacchae.

And persuaded by my pathetic efforts flyering at the fringe launch party (stemming in large part from my flyer envy - as at this stage, I was only handing out my rather scrappy produced-in-Powerpoint flyers - I have been so wild as to seek treasurial approval for printing some real flyers of my own. Which will be delivered next Tuesday. A whole 6 days before we start. Useful.

I was also helped in this endeavour by the lovely Lizzie, freelancing with us at work at the moment, who like an angel - before she goes off even more angelically to save children in Tanzania - designed several different versions of my flyer not in Powerpoint. They are all lovely.

I wish I could post them here but blogger won't take pdfs and I don't know how to convert them to jpegs and I daren't ask Lizzie to spend more of her precious final hours in this land to do the deed. So they shall remain ever unviewed by my blogging public. Unless I find you in the street and thrust one into your sweaty hand in the coming days.

So not a moment too soon, I'm going to make some small effort to get my show an audience. Do come, my lovely readers. It's going to be very good.
Fourth last rehearsal last night. If we count the tech. We did a speed run and then ran the final scene - the scene of anger - again.

The two lovers did their kiss. And it was magic! They've been skirting around it for a few weeks now. Holding hands and clutching each other in a slightly delicate way. But they totally snogged last night and it was a brilliant heart stopping moment.

Then the moment was rather ruined when Lucien laughed wildly at the music I'd chosen for the end of the play muttering about South Park. I think I might defiantly go with it anyway.

Think I'm a bit fucked for my sound. My dream - of a bed of static sound running throughout the play - may not come to fruition sadly as it appears to be rather more complicated than I'd thought. But then again with a week and a half to go before we open, I think I must be grateful for anything I can get. Oh to be a professional and to have a proper sound technician. Oh for Hamish...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dark days. The strange mute sound boy has now not turned up for two rehearsals. So I've sacked him.

Dear patient Iain Kerr is going to step into the breach - although I don't think he quite realises yet what he's letting himself in for.

Another of the chaps who'd promised technical support has had to pull out for various reasons.

It's a strange reverse of the CCC situation where my actors were deserting me at the eleventh hour.

I'm too scared to tell Andy, my technical manager, that I've gone so far as to sack the mute boy. Having procured invisible UV paint, he's trying to work out how we can get a sandwich falling from the sky in a venue that has no over-stage rigging...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pics from last night's Fringe launch party. Disappointingly a very sodden launch party for most of the night.

I managed only to tell two very inconsequential people about our show. I'd make a rubbish PR girl...

And another day at work after 4 hours sleep. Need to break this pesky habit.

Friday, August 03, 2007

There have been some beautiful sunsets in Edinburgh in recent days, despite miserable weather in most of the rest of the land. I feel it's a lovely auspicious sign of how good my play is going to be.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I played a possible alternative track for the start of the play to the boys on Sunday. "Teen Angst" by M83. They're weren't very impressed.

So back to faithful "Nature Boy". I looked it up on i-tunes and there are in fact 150 versions of it that I could choose from. But mostly jazz versions. A few latin / R&B / soul versions. One "electronic" and it was impossible to tell whether this had any lyrics in it from the little free taster that you can listen to. And a few "pop" including a fine version from Rick Astley. Celine Dion's version was suitably soulful but a bit slow - thanks Ruth.

The most promising sounding version - to my pretentious heart - was a "french pop" mix but unfortunately the lyrics are almost drowned out by noisy whipping wind. Why would they do that? So the question is: is this atmospheric or just distracting..?

I think I'm spending way too much time thinking about this...