Friday, June 27, 2008

A week of popular (pulp) culture. Saw Sex in the City on Wednesday. A brilliant example of a film that should have been a two part episode. And Indiana Jones on Saturday though the alien cheat was rendered tolerable by the fact that I was there with Miriam who was touchingly 6 year old frightened by some of the more ridiculous scenes. But the rubbishness was tempered by a Film Festival showing of The Wackness on Sat night which I really loved. Managed to cry a few easily wrung tears which always make me feel like I've got value for money from a film. I shall try and be more cultural this weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cleaned my two-month-dirt-encrusted bathroom last night (with all this free time I now have). And this morning it was so sparkly fresh for my shower I was delighted. I'm sure it's the stark contrast - the before and after as all the ads tell you - that makes it so satisfying.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My horoscope in the Observer magazine (not that I’m superstitious) this week says:

If you’re in a glamorous profession - wedding planner, art dealer, politician – this week’s planets are the ticket to another turn in the spotlight. The rest of you can schmooze at a more modest level, reminding people of your achievements.

So Twelfth Night Director Gordon, if you’re reading this, remember my achievements.
I’m out of the office way too much at the moment so poor blog is suffering. Must get my home internet access sorted, slovenly dog. Along with the non-existent blinds at my windows. Along with my dust-laden carpets. Along with along with. All these things that I’m definitely going to do now I’ve got no show to distract me.

So today (which was really yesterday by the time I’ll post this) I spent on the train to and fro a client’s office on the other side of the Lake District. It’s a startlingly beautiful train route from Edinburgh, through Carlisle and Lockerbie and Oxenholme and other pastoral sounding places. And the sun was obligingly showing off the green green countryside to best effect. One of the guys I work with said last year en route to a meeting down there that he thought the Lake District should be razed to the ground and I always think of him fondly when I make this journey now.

Anyway it would have been a perfectly inspirational journey for setting to work on my unwritten masterpiece but on the way down there, I had a presentation to write and on the way back, I managed to get immersed, with a sugar and caffeine fuelled intensity, in a (now ridiculously overly prosaic) proposal.

I would mention that when I then got back to my house, the Man At The Bus Stop was walking, Panama Man casual, up the street to the cashpoint and the Man Who Lives Opposite was sitting at his laptop as dishevelled as he was in last night’s caught-out-in-Costcutter trip. But Russell’s brother is apparently becoming alarmed at the frequency with which I mention these fellows, not realising these are purely anthropological observations. So I shan’t dwell on them.
(Imagine I wrote this on Friday just gone for in fact I did, I just could not post it then.)

I don’t even know if this is true but a Dundee taxi driver told me yesterday that today is the Summer Solstice. And that this is the first time it hasn’t fallen on the 21st June since 1975. (The year of my birth for all those that don’t know me. And he must have been right because google offers a bright sun in its second “o” today.)

I love the Summer Solstice, purely for being the longest day and so the most sunlit of the year. The fact that it’s downhill from here, light-wise, I shall overlook. Particularly since I’ve been waking up at ten to five for the past week, clearly subliminally wishing to enjoy these lengthened days.

So it seemed fitting that I should spend the evening (after a ratty ratty day) in the pub at the end of my street with my dear Siobhan after several cups of gin and cucumber. More fitting still that I discover that the manageress of the pub at the end of my street used to manage a favourite pub of mine in Leith.

And we gobbled burgers and Camembert and some kind of mushy onion chutney thing along with a fair quantity of the least chilled Pinot Grigio you could ever hope to meet as we set the world to rights and the Summer Solstice sun set over the sparkly sea.

Happy summer, everybody.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Having vowed I would take the rest of the year off and devote myself to writing my masterpiece, five minutes later I was auditioning for Twelfth Night.

Although as a cheerful client pointed out today, I might, of course, not get cast.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What I also keep forgetting to say is that I have a new love. The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. Brian sent me a copy of this fine 2003 script for my birthday and I'm ashamed to say that my interest was first piqued by the fact that David Tennant featured in the original National Theatre production. Then I noticed that this was the man wot wrote the Beauty Queen of the Unpronounceable Place which I've always thought I might like to do (remarkable really, given that I haven't ever actually bothered to read it). So finally, Choderlos de Laclos out of the way, I took it away with me last week to accompany me through several sittings in Wagamama and a few tube journeys. I think the clammy claustrophobia of the tube did much to enhance the claustrophobia of the piece as it happened. And anyway, I love it. So thank you, Mr Neill. Another fine choice.

The plot is incredible. Very twisty turny. I regaled long-suffering family members with two thirds of the plot at the weekend and even my most loyal supporters lost interest and artfully changed the subject before I could reach the climax of the tale. So it perhaps needs to be seen to be appreciated.

There's a very nice write up of it here. So I shan't try and recreate the experience for you. But suffice to say that I agree more with the New York critic than with Michael Billington who seems rather unjustly harsh. Though I see he got some awards for it so I feel consoled on his behalf.

It poses certain problems for those that wish to stage it. Not least of which is the recreation of the crucifixion of a relatively young girl. (Still, Miriam was cheated out of a stage appearance in CCC so maybe now is her time...) But I do wonder whether the first act might stand sufficiently alone to make a one-act. Hmmmm.
I keep forgetting to post this but before it's lost for ever to the ether annals of history, here can be found Mr Dibdin's review of DL / LLD.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I went through a farcically quasi-superstitious phase last summer when I was directing Tiny Dynamite and kept taking all kinds of photos of the skies and claiming it was this or that auspicious sign of the quality of the impending production.

I have rather lost patience with this kind of nonsense talk now. But for information purposes only, this was my beach at approximately 5am last Sunday as I staggered home post-show and post-after-show-party. Pretty, huh?
Oh dear god so today I’ve been down in London for work. Almost a dream job. Interviewing theatre producers for a Festivals project.

Went to the Royal Court and spoke with the Producer there and tried my hardest to impress her with my casual innate understanding of her world.

Desperately name dropping, I pathetically tell her I’ve done a play writing course with Zinnie Harris, vaguely thinking that Zinnie is doing something with them at the moment. Luckily she is. But in the same breath as me slagging off the others on the course for endlessly writing and never getting anywhere, I cheerfully admit that I have never written anything. And she tells me that Zinnie did a Royal Court workshop up in Edinburgh ten years ago that she herself attended and they knew within the first day that Zinnie was destined for greatness.

I think sadly of my slagging off the other writers that achieved nothing, in the next breath telling her that I myself have achieved nothing and of the fact that after however many playwriting sessions at the Traverse, I have not been plucked from obscurity and earmarked for stardom. Good work.

I came away resolved to set aside the nights I'd otherwise be rehearsing a week to write my masterpiece.

My final interview of the day was with the Artistic Director of a theatre company called Tall Stories. Toby Somethingorother. I have a bit of a thing about the name Toby. And by a delightful twist of fate, I'd seen a couple of early productions of theirs in the Fringe at least ten years ago, maybe twelve. So I was able to fawningly recount this to him.

He has a greatly inspiring story about holding down a day job at a publishers and taking, with his co-artistic director, several shows up to the Festival, purely out of love. Until they produced the Gruffalo, just before the book really took off. And the Gruffalo became their cash cow. So they went full time, toured internationally to great acclaim - and money. And here they are today, still dragging up to the Festival, purely for love now. Him with his three year old child in tow.

So I came away from him resolved to give it all up and become an amazing innovative theatre company.

Decisions decisions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

So it’s all over. I have one cruelly bruised knee and one that is less so. Less hair than when I started. Perhaps a little less waist. A head full of useless lines. DG has a flat full of empty glasses. And so it goes.

I spent yesterday in bruised, slightly hungover, slightly resentful shock. But now, when I flick through the pictures, old faithful nostalgia taps on the back of my head demanding a look in.

The last night was, according to DG, an 8 (or did he say an 8½?) out of 10. Friday - the night that the critic came - made a 9.

I remembered all of my lines. And smugly revelled in the fact that consistent Matt who barely appeared to have put a foot a wrong in our scenes until that point, forgot a precious line. Relatively inconsequential, it was only a “So you’re determined to refuse all of my suggestions, however respectable?” from scene 2. And I was able to demonstrate my amazingly skilful grasp of the script by replying with the right line rather than the line before. But I was pleased to see that the til then infallible had an armourary chink.

Apparently my faint was the best I had done to date. But then I’m losing track of the ‘best til’s – I think they demonstrate only how consistently off the mark they had been til then. I blame the coffee table.

I tried my very best to savour the moment but only really got round to savouring it when I’d thunked my knees on the mahogany and was sobbing my little heart out precariously close to the chaise longue. I sobbed extra noisily as Siobhan hauled me off the stage to make the moment last.

And then the show is over, curtain call done, costumes wrenched off, jumbled into cases and everyone is running like maniacs to dismantle the set as quickly as humanly possible to get to get to get to the after show party.

I am always particularly mournful at the moment when the army of helpers have finished their scurrying, the theatre is empty, the stage is bare, the house lights up and not a single task left to be done. As that is the end of all of the effort. So I have my little moment of quiet reflection about the madness that is all of this four months’ worth of tremendous effort that has been collapsed in the best part of two hours.

But this time, worse still, it was maybe our last time in Adam House as we simply can’t afford it any more. So for a terrible moment I thought I might cry. So overly sentimental. The faithful servitor who has been enjoying his lunchtime pints for the eleven years that I have been serving shows in Adam House, looked like he was even closer to weeping. Though that might have been the cumulative effect of the lunchtime pints.

I have endeavoured to capture some of the grimy magic of one of my favourite little theatres in a selection of variable quality pictures which can be found here. And if you take pity on us and want to give us a massive donation so we can return to our faithful red-threadbare-velvet seated venue, do feel free.

Adam House, in all your filthy malfunctioning inadequacy, we salute you.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I am anxious not to convey an impression that I have any kind of obsession with my weight. It has however been preoccupying me since the start of this rehearsal process because of the carrying situation.

So maybe I check it now and again at the gym, just out of curiosity you understand. I am making no concerted effort - or indeed effort of any kind - to lose weight. But somehow the nightly striving for perfection and associated symptoms (patchy sleep, scant appetite, general nervous agitation) seems to have wrought its own rewards.

After a very entertaining Latin Rhythms class this morning (I always avoid the mirror where possible but today, inescapably trapped in front of it, I couldn't avoid the sight of myself wriggling and springing around like a demented pixie), I clocked in at 63.4kg. Which if their conversion chart is right, brings me in at under 10 stone. Which I don't believe I have weighed since my teenage years.

It'll all load back on at 10:05 tonight.
I forgot a line I forgot a line. Albeit one of my least favourite (down to its pointlessness) lines: "And you will never be received in my house again." Stating the obvious rather, given the rest of the scene in which I discover him with a whore and almost confront but then relent and forgive him.

As ever, Matt coped admirably. He blinked, slightly frightened. And then jumped to the line after the incorrect cue. Commendable. And he almost growled some of his final lines (long after I'm dead). At least as far as I could tell from the stage intercom thing.

According to which, I was panting like a dog during my kissing scene and shriller than ever in my being dumped scene (according also to Esther). I'm not sure I like to trust this stage intercom scene. Maybe it distorts people too much.

I did however manage to faint without the Olympic swimmer gesture. Be grateful for small mercies.

Cheered up on the night bus (taken in a mix of laziness and stubbornness) by a couple of tailend-of-teenagers discussing strippers.

"I'd love to go to a stripper but I just can't afford it."

"You need to get yourself a burd, mate. Make them strip off and dance for you. Just as good and it doesn't cost you."

"But I dunno. If you ask them early days, they think you're saying that they're a durty slut."

"Need to give it a couple of months, mate. Then you can ask them."

And so it went on.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Oh, but my faint was apparently slightly ridiculous. Dear Cathy said it looked great. But DG said that I flung my arm high in the air in anticipation as of the catch as if I were doing backstroke in a swimming pool. Perhaps this is why some wicked wicked person in the audience snickered with laughter which at the time, seemed highly inappropriate.

So my mission tonight is to get my lines right and to offer a more credible faint to my audience.

Google today has small Shakespearean actors posturing on a stage intertwined with their logo. Clearly a tribute.
First night over.

Reviewer was not in.

I managed to get my lines out in the right order at the right junctures so I was delighted.

Although I think I lacked a little feeling. I didn't eke out as many outraged tears as I've managed on previous nights.

And would you believe it, I forgot the kiss that Matt had pulled me up on the night before? I delivered it pathetically late as a feeble compensation.

Overall, it was sluggish. Although I don't know if newcomers noticed.

Iain Kerr said I was believable which was all the compliment I needed in a role that I find slightly absurd. Clearly I can be convincingly insincere sometimes.

James was fascinated by the narcissistic nature of the post-show pub chat. He'll learn.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Oh, first night tonight, BTW. I think Mr Dibden is due in. As are 14 of my workmates.

More about me.

I've spent all week fiddling around with my hair trying to get it to resemble a style from 1936.

On Monday night, I tried to curl it into Grace Kelly style cascading waves. It looked a little crimped.

On Tuesday, I rolled it round a fat piece of hair net to try and get it to sit demurely in a sausage at my neck, showing my demurity. DG said it looked ugly. Well, he wasn't quite as blunt as that but you could see the ugliness in his eyes.

So today, I went for the chop. My best offer as an alternative was to have it bobbed. Which I thought was maybe a little too 1920s but then Madame de Tourvel doesn't have much in the way of fashion sense.

And then Esther suggested that Chicago was set in the 30s and I thought of Catherine Zeta Jones and suddenly a bob was desirable.

Needless to say, a bob cut later, I do not look like Catherine Zeta Jones. I tried to take a beauty sleep this afternoon to get rid of the terrible frown lines and deep purple surrounding my eyes. But I possibly slept for about 8 minutes so it didn't make much of an inroad.

Still, you can't say I'm not trying.

And the hairdresser won my eternal adoration by saying, as she fell onto my hair with her greedy scissors: "so, are you an actress then?"
Oh and I still have this ridiculous comedy cold. Though it's not entertaining me quite so much with the brilliant irony of it now.

Tech yesterday and of course us actors didn't get really have to do anything very much. A fact which, after the event, was greeted with some grumpiness. As if actors have never done a tech before. It was delightful because I didn't have to speak much but infuriating because I was too fuzzy headed to remember any very much of my lines that top and tail my scenes. Slow as an oaf. Which irritated me.

Today was the dress. The day began inauspiciously with me hideously stricken with racking coughing fits in a workshop this morning. Conveniently I was running the workshop. Coincidentally the workshop was for a whole crowd of theatre people who essentially spent three hours asking me how they should market their shows. Asking the wrong person, I think. So I took a raincheck on a further client meeting this afternoon and came home for a nap.

Lucky oh so lucky a couple of Nurofen and a faithful Diet Coke saw me through this evening without a single choke or voice loss moment of horror (VLMOH). So I have a little more faith that even if this bastard catarrhy cold insists on lingering tomorrow, a little injection of adrenalin might see me right.

But it's all too eerily reminiscent of playing Joseph (and this amazing technic etc. etc.) aged 14 or thereabouts and hoarse enough to not hit the high notes. Please oh please go, cold.

Anyway, look at that. Another post all about me. Small self-obsessed.
I'm finding it really interesting sitting on the other side of the fence for this whole process. Totting them up, I've directed three shows since I last acted in one. And I wonder if everyone should be forced to do both to learn sympathy with each. Or whether that would just be a recipe for disaster.

Anyway, the first thing that is striking me like a giant sledge-like hammer is just how self-centredly you approach a play when you're acting it. Although I'm mindful that this is maybe just me. But I find I analyse to death, picking and picking over, every little thing I have done. But pay very little attention to what others actually do, unless they're outrageously wrong with that.

I realise as I say this that actually, I'm barely on stage with anyone but Matt. And he, as I have possibly said before, is disconcertingly professional in his consistency. But I worry when I know I haven't looked in the right direction, when I teeter on my heels, when - as I invariably do - I hunch my shoulders (bad bad girl) when I fall off the rostra at the end of a scene in the blue-out (clumsy clumsy girl), when I forget (as has now happened twice) a vital kiss and so the list goes on. I wonder if I will ever achieve a perfect (technically at least!) performance.

But where did this terrible self-centred-ness come from? I'm sure I didn't used to be like this. I guess the kind answer is the actor must think about the detail and the director, the whole. But how have I slipped so easily into the detail obsessed to the point that I can barely see the bigger picture?

Of course the counterside to this - which I'm loving incidentally - is the glorious lack of responsibility. Beyond remembering all the aforementioned points. And my lines of course. So you don't have to be everywhere for everybody seeing everything that happens on stage while simultaneously observing set, lights, sound. That's kinda nice. And you don't need to clock watch like a maniac and grump at people when they don't appear to be following instructions. And you don't have to bear the weighty burden of whether the casting and the concept actually work.

As to which I prefer, I shall reserve judgement til Sunday.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

From nowhere, a ridiculous comedy cold. I spent Sunday sneezing but clutched at the dusty knackered Adam House straw as I almost always lose my voice when I have a cold.

But yesterday, sitting innocently at my desk, the sneezing progressed farcically speedily into a stuffy head and a streaming nose. How can this be?!

If willpower counts for anything, I have talked myself into it being a head only cold that will be gone by Wednesday, dress rehearsal day.

And right on schedule, I like to think it peaked at 2am last night when I thought my head might burst. This morning, heavy head and yucky nose but no suspicious throat symptoms.

I've been guzzling vitamin tablets so let, oh let willpower win the day.

Monday, June 02, 2008

BTW, we got a great write-up in the Evening News on Friday.
Three line runs later, I finally finished reading Choderlos de Leclos' Dangerous Liaisons. In translation I'm ashamed to say. I bought it at least two and a half months ago and have been wading through it incredibly half-heartedly in the name of rounding out the portrayal of my character.

I don't mean to rubbish de Leclos' achievement but Christopher Hampton certainly did a fine job of trimming his novel into something a bit more manageable. Having said that, the novel is undoubtedly a literary classic. It was banned for years and you can imagine the horror that it was greeted with in eighteenth century France. I'm not sure if you could necessarily attribute the beginning of the French revolution to the novel as the most recent Penguin translator endeavours to do. But nonetheless, it must have caused a bit of a ruckus.

And in the midst of the long long explanations of the plot, there are - scattered here and there - some amazing lines. Brilliantly insightful for an eighteenth century reasonably well-off frustrated soldier who aged 45 or thereabouts finally settled down deliriously happily with a woman half his age and proceeded to live out the rest of his life in delightful marital bliss.

So I think the novel deserves its reputation (in my humble opinion). But goodness, don't tuck into it for frothy nonsense as you shall be sorely disappointed.

As to whether it has added anything to my portrayal of the unfortunate Madame de Tourvel, only time will tell. I certainly have a deeper understanding of her descent into madness and death as the book is much more detailed than the playwright who kills her off in a line or two. I shall try and convey this sense of impending madness in my tortured eyes.