Friday, March 28, 2008

Humiliating times last night. DG has cut much of my shivering, shaking and fitting in DL. (Which is Dangerous Liaisons.) But at one particularly dramatic moment, some reaction to suggest I am ailing is called for. So the consensus was that this should be represented with a faint.

So poor Matt. Last night, we tried various versions of me slumping into his arms. From a standing start. From the edge of a platform. Forwards and backwards. Worse still, he then has to pick me up and carry me across the stage and lay me down on a convenient chaise longue. He managed manfully but even masterful DG appeared to stagger when he tried to demonstrate so I fear the internal anguish which Matt suffered but strove not to show facially as he hauled me around the stage. I made Russell pick me up this morning to see how easy it would be and I thought his head was going to burst. So hats off to Matt for remaining apparently calm.

By the time we finished all the fainting, I was sweating like a slimy fish. An unappealing, heavy and slippery prospect.

On another matter altogether, I saw the Man At The Bus Stop both this morning at the bus stop and then again - shock - in the local shopping centre at lunchtime with - shock - a woman. I have never seen him with anyone before so my heart sang with joy for him. It didn't look like his mother. She looked of an age with him. Maybe a lover. Maybe a wife. Maybe a friend or dull long-suffered colleague. But nonetheless some company for him. We exchanged another of those startled out-of-context looks / half smiles. I wish I'd been quick witted enough to give him a thumbs up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We were thwarted in our attempt to visit the Tait Hall in Kelso, scene of our second round, this weekend. I got a paniced message from the organiser on my answerphone when I got home on Saturday night, saying that we were the only people that wanted to come and look at the stage so it seemed pointless in opening up the theatre just for us so he wasn't going to bother but oh my god I hope you get this message.

So Easter Sunday morning saw me leaping up and phoning round Andy and JGH earlier in the morning than you would hope. Andy sounded full of rage - I was a bit scared. But JGH sounded, honourable man that he is, delighted that he had longer to spend doing real Easter Sunday things rather than looking round devil's theatres.

So my theatrical exploits this weekend were confined to one simple rehearsal for 4:48. What a lightweight.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I looked out of my living room window at 11:30 last night when I heard a strange trundling sound to see six youths, some of whom were dressed as pirates, pushing a giant wooden boat down the middle of my street. Clearly seaward bound.

Not exactly what you would expect to see in the heart of Portobello on a Wednesday evening in March.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Frabjous day. The Man At The Bus Stop was there this morning.

It was my own slovenliness that led to the encounter. I've been getting the 7:30am bus for weeks and months. But last night, I enjoyed a drink at the pub after the 4:48 rehearsal (which lacked concentration) and I thought that the extra precious 15 minutes in bed would be worth the delay in arrival at work.

So dragging along to the bus stop at 7:50, I was ambling and meandering waiting and waiting. And suddenly there was The Man. Who didn't appear to have shaved but at least he's alive!

He's obviously a cannier bus taker than I. I jumped on the first bus to come that goes in the required direction and it piled fuller and fuller of schoolchildren as it wended its way. Then a child started wailing and screaming. I saw the bus that had arrived behind the first bus and was bearing The Man At The Bus Stop snaking ahead of my bus. And I thought momentarily about wailing too.

I shall be cleverer tomorrow.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dangerous Liaisons. We had a character workshop on Monday that was really a group bonding session, intended I think to persuade us all that it was a simple day-to-day occurence to be falling half-dressed onto couches with each other. Luckily, we did not end up running round semi-naked with each other as I'd feared. Although I managed nonetheless to humiliate myself by wheezing with laughter throughout a bonding exercise lying on the floor in the midst of the group. Good self-control, child. I was proud of myself. Not.

Thursday saw us start blocking it. I'm a cynical bitch at the best of times. You'll have gathered this by now. Delighted at the prospect of acting in something respectable, I was nonetheless horrifed at the prospect of having to shiver, faint and weep uncontrollably at the touch of Valmont. However, to my eternal gratitude, Mr G seems to have abandoned many of the ridiculously melodramatic stage directions. I happily scored through a bunch of them last night.

So I look forward with even more pronounced anticipation now to this production. Thanks, Mr G.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Adjudicator's verdict on our first round triumph!

"This director was not afraid of silence and stillness...

Good use of all acting areas and I liked bringing the audience right into the centre of the performance by having actors acting in the audience. There were some really nice touches where the director found the humour in the piece. Although an exceptionally 'wordy' piece of theatre, we never got bored due to the variety of pace and beautiful pictures and groupings.

I think most of the humour was found which relieved the darkness of this work.

The acting was real teamwork. The main character (Emma) had good facial expressions in particular as the two actors in black (Alex & Esther) spoke what was going on in her mind.

The doctor (gentleman with beard - I quote!! - Brian) was very convincing and opened the piece well. The Blonde doctor (Wendy or Siobhan??) managed to portray genuine sympathy with her body language as well as speech.

Two actors in black had a stillness about their performance that conveyed the girl's thoughts very convincingly.

This entire cast had good clear diction and was aware that anger need not be shouted and screamed.

When I read this piece I was looking for despair, anger, fear and vagueness (??!). This group found most of these. Despite her self-loathing and lack of interest in people other than herself, the main character managed to keep the audience interested and supportive. This is because she articulates a feeling of disintegration and alienation that many of us have encountered at some point (she knows her SCDA audience well!).

When first performed this play used only 3 actors. I think the use of eight in this performance enhanced this production. I was really delighted to get a chance to see it."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

As another cruel reminder of how cool London is, we took in a late opening evening at the V&A last weekend. And by an amazing (cruel) coincidence, the evening was themed "design for performance". So along with a very interesting little exhibition about set / production design for various UK theatre productions over the past few years, we also had all kinds of performances dotted around the gallery and a DJ in the beautifully chandeliered entrance hall.

Sadly, dinner called so I didn't get to sit self-indulgently through nearly as much as I would have liked. But I was particularly charmed by the above set design for someone's production of Dangerous Liaisons. David (or Andy in fact, really), take note.

Monday, March 10, 2008

All the world's a stage it seems, when it comes to beating the smoking ban. I wonder if this will catch on here...
First read through for Dangerous Liaisons on Thursday evening. It was delightful to skip up the steps to our rehearsal rooms with absolutely no directorial responsibilities. No milk and biscuits to hastily procure from some inadequate corner shop.

Although at the same time, it was slightly disconcerting to be "in" something again. We worked out that the last show I did with this group must have been four years ago: Tom Stoppard's Arcadia in which I played the usual young flighty flippertygibbet.

I have done one or maybe two shows in the interim with another (good quality??) theatre group. Most recent stage outing was Audience, possibly by Michael Frayn although with that script, you wouldn't necessarily think it. And that was a terribly rehearsed and terrible show (to my mind). So the prospect of participating in a show of superior quality is tempting to say the least.

Mr Grimes showed us the set - which looks very smart. Told us about rehearsals. And then we were off. I enjoyed screeching "Liar" at the climax of the play very much. Small payback for many small injustices. I shall direct it at someone different every night.

It's very well cast I think. Alex of course will be excellent as the Marquise. You feel she was practically born to play this part. It will be lovely to be in something with Margaret again. We worked out that our last "joint" venture was our 50th anniversary production, Terry Pratchett's Maskerade, a terrible script but well executed given the circumstances. I'm delighted that Esther is cast as she's a lovely sweet and kind girl. Matt / Valmont I have to kiss so can't quite meet his eye at the moment. But all in all, it looks like we're in pretty good shape.

Rehearsals commence in earnest tonight. Plenty time yet for it all to go horribly wrong.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Unchronologically (still playing catch up), I saw Speed the Plow in London at the weekend.

I love Kevin Spacey and have always had a strange slimey crush on Jeff Goldblum (as evidenced in an obscure obsession with a film called The Favour, The Watch and The Very Big Fish which features the aforementioned Mr Goldblum). So I must admit that it was these baser sentiments which drove my desire to see Mamet's work than any kind of artistic quest.

But I have never been to the Old Vic and I was particularly taken with going now that it's under the artistic leadership of Mr Spacey. Bound to see him after all, loitering in the bar area smoking a rakish and illegal cigarette before the show starts... And we were in London anyway so it was rude not to, really.

The play was typically Mamet. The more I read / see of him, the less I'm sure whether I like him. I can see that his rambling circuitous writing style might be very naturalistic but it must be a wee bastard to learn (and I know that Ross knows this following on from his froggy starring role a few years back). But I do like the themes that he tussles with: what might tempt people to venture out of their day-to-day cosy existence and how they cope with them being sharply dunked back into it. So as a character study, I thought the play was interesting. Though I got a bit tired of the nonsensical (deliberately so) rambling about the alternative film script.

Kevin was marvellous. A cracking actor. Completely believable. Slightly ridiculous, full of self-importance but underneath all of this, a desperately hopeful man. Jeff I felt struggled a little bit with being on the stage. He almost seemed to be shouting many of his lines at the start of the play - but maybe this was just nerves. But he is such a marvellously unusual looking man and did, I think, have that almost element of exotica that makes the ending particularly convincing. So maybe as the Guardian suggested - he was actually pretty good too.

The girl was just annoying. But then given that she was strutting around on stage with two of my loves, was I ever going to warm to her..?

So all in al, I would go see it if you're passing. Just for Kevin Spacey really. And Kevin, if you're reading this and are seeking an assistant, think of me! I'm good, honest......

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Chorus Line last night at the Churchill. And it was very good. It was their first night and consequently a bit raggedy in places. I expect they will get used to the stage and neaten up. But there were some really magic performances. Some really nice casting. A couple (at least) of prospective Danceny's as we are currently missing this young fellow from Liaisons Dangereuses. Some great chorus numbers. The staging itself I felt was a little dull but then the script doesn't really invite anything very imaginative. But the lighting was lovely. JGH had spoken sorrowfully beforehand about one page requiring 14 lighting cues. To my uneducated eyes, he coped admirably. Brian said grumpily that there was too much red. Go see for yourselves.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I saw a lovely production of a play called Static at the Traverse on Thursday. Tale of a girl whose deaf boyfriend is killed in a car crash and her struggle to come to terms with his death. Tellingly, I haven't bothered to find out who wrote it.

It was brilliantly produced, I thought. Nice set - though Mr Grimes would beg to differ. Nice lights. Very intricate soundtrack that leapt about from genre to genre. Nice story idea. A couple of brilliant performances and lots of very heartfelt emotion. And some brilliant lyrical signing from the (deaf?) actor.

But the script was a funny little thing. The start of the play was bittily irritating. I spent the first fifteen minutes thinking I was going to hate it. Despite the fact that it featured that adorable little girl who has featured in something else I've seen recently though I can't dammit think of what it was. But she bless her had to leap from searing emotional angst to mundane calm in minutes which I thought was careless writing.

It got better and featured some lovely language and some better thought through scenes. But still peppered with oddly inappropriate cliches. Easy to blame the writer of course but I at least felt this lovely idea could have been better executed.

Joyce MacMillan - just discovered her blog which is quite exciting - suggests that the play itself is a little too trite. And memorably ends her review:

"the final impression is of a generation who now urgently need to get a life, and to get over the shock of discovering that they, too, are not immortal."