Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I spent last night in my typical post-show cleaning frenzy. Although frenzy is possibly inaccurate as the whole ‘frenzy’ lasted perhaps 45 minutes. But I did get a wash done and the bathroom cleaned. And before that, a little first outdoor run of the season. I need to try and sustain this effort.

Anyway, Saturday night yielded up “In Room 504” by Jimmie Chinn, “Glamorgan” by Don Nigro and “The Happy Journey to Camden and Trenton” by Thornton Wilder.

“Room 504” was sweet. The sorry tale of a girl who married because she got pregnant but was torn between him and another. Except it was 1942 so she had no choice. The main girl was very good. It was hard to tell whether the main boy was terribly good or terribly nervous. There was an older version of the same woman who sat alongside the proscenium arch reminiscing. And the grumpy landlady. It was standard SCDA fare. Nice. A little poignant which was less standard SCDA fare. And fairly well done but nothin’ amazing.

Second on was one of the most extraordinary plays I’ve ever seen. “Glamorgan” was set varyingly in a gothic castle, a ship, The Bunch of Grapes Inn (slash brothel) in Boston, Massachusetts and a house in Northampton, all between 1736 and 1780. It began with a beautiful backlit tableau featuring the five cast silhouetted against the white backcloth. But it rapidly went downhill.

One of the central protagonists was an ageing man with quite a paunch dressed like the hunchback of Notredame from the Disney film in strange brown pajamas. And rubber sandals. He wailed to the sky to rue his misery and hurled himself to the ground – and so the play went. Also featured were three girls who all wore ballet frocks (and bare feet). And a school teacher who was dressed in less of a pantomime fashion but still featured the rubber sandals.

The hunchback who wasn’t had had a string of miserable relationships that ended in death, whether by design or unfortunate accident. This was kind of the point of it all. He then found love with his cleaner and she had a miserable girl child before carelessly dying herself. The girl child grew up alone and unloved and untouched it seemed – although there was a sinister suggestion of child abuse later. As she became teenaged you may presume, there was a terrible accident and the hunchback’s castle burnt down and he was dead – not before he’d flung his arms in the air many a time and wailed (with dramatic red lights behind him) “I’m burning I’m burning”.

The girl was forced to seek refuge with a local school teacher who handily loved her. Who persuaded her to take a ship somewhere to escape their misery. She refused to let him touch her as she was unused still to human touch but they set sail. On arrival, it looked like she might settle but then she paniced and went to work in a brothel, presumably overcoming her anxiety about the touches. I think it was this location which led her to declaim my favourite line of the play: “copulation is forgetting”. Must remember that.

A little before this, she’d managed to throw a succubus into conversation. The vocabulary was impressive. If only it hadn’t been so ridiculous.

Anyway, eventually the school teacher came to save her. She went home, lived happily, succumbing to the touches eventually and lo, a child was born. To whom, for some reason, by way of a bedtime story, she decided to recount this tale.

It was an amazing piece. Incredibly sincerely delivered. Hats off especially to the skinny little girl who as main protagonist threw her arms around and shouted about succubi (?) with the best of them. I don’t quite know what the point of the whole piece was. But I have not laughed silently (I hope) so much since I saw Ernie in "The Bear". Glorious stuff.

The third one was an incredible anti-climax. How couldn’t it be? A dull tale of a family going on a car journey. Slice of life stuff. Nicely done and costumes looked good but basically dull.

Then we had the public adjudication. He liked the Room, was gentle with Glamorgan and thought the teenage girl in the car journey was wonderful. The raffle saw me lurking backstage waiting sick-hearted for the result and saw Russell winning a giant bottle of Perry.

The results and we had Tryst, Room 504 from Kirkcaldy ADS and in third place, Innisfree. A surprising result as Leitheatre deserved the final more than Kirkcaldy I would say. Not more than us, mind. But what can you do..?! Tryst appeared to get most of the other cups. Of course I am pleased for them. Pleased I say.

Monday, March 30, 2009

But of course we did not get placed at all. Grrrrr.
Fri 27th March 2009

It’s been a fantastically productive time here. Thursday morning, DG very kindly fiddled around with various scraps of this and that to put together a publicity puff for Antigone for the Cloud Nine programme. Gordon showed us the work-in-progress website he’s putting together for the group.

Friday morning, DG auditioned Brian for Wit. And we hosted Jo, Jo’s dog Oscar, JGH and Iain Kerr and read Antigone to get an idea of timings. Gratifyingly, an hour and fifteen which is what I’d kinda guessed at. And it meant I – at last – got to read Antig. If only I wasn’t too old (and directing)… And then Russell painstakingly navigated the Fringe office website to complete our fringe programme entry. So it’s not been an entirely idle break we’ve had up here.

The shows. My my. Well I liked “And go to Innisfree” much more than I did last time around. They do it very well. Then we had a terrible show called Purvis by Leslie Am Dram Club. Well the girl spoke in a Minnie Mouse voice but was very attractive so her ‘vocal register’ didn’t seem to be a problem and in fact, the adjud said she gave a stunning performance. The man was a stoical actor. The tale told of a bereaved man who had lost hope in life but found new momentum from being assigned health and safety responsibilities at the local church. But oh how humourous, he got a bit carried away and many accidents resulted. There was one funny line – he wanted to put a sign saying ‘mind the step’ on the altar – which struck a chord with anyone with a mildly churchy upbringing. But aside from this, it was a turgid play.

The last one I can’t really comment on as I had a tactical sleep. It was some young farmers group. They were very enthusiastic. But when two characters appeared dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Watson in some (deliberately) faux-Victorian living room, I felt my theatrical education would not suffer if I took a rest.

DG believes we are still placed third overall. But there are still three plays to go so time yet for us to get bumped lower!
Thursday 26 March 2009

Show tonight. We ‘opened’ the festival and indeed, my worst conspiracy theories have been confirmed by various conversations between various people but indeed we were tucked away at the very start in the hopes that fewest possible people would see us and so fewest feathers would be ruffled. Sat in the middle of sleepy sheltered Killin, I wonder is this such a bad thing? I’ll get all wild and angry again when I get back to Edinburgh I daresay. Anyway.

We went first. And the boys did just brilliantly. All of them. DG was more or less immaculate as ever. (Too immaculate it seemed as the adjudicator’s first point was that the suits were too nice for shabby East European detectives.) Chris was adorable but grumpily impatient and as anxious as you would be for your brother. And Gordon excelled himself as the meanest cop with the blackest eyes you could hope to see. JGH clearly decided that relying on my cues was risky so marked up a script and used that instead. I managed to play the scream in the right place at (to my mind) excellent sound levels. And Andy brilliantly got us on and off stage in the right sort of time so we with luck lost no points for practical things. I was delighted and proud like a proud mother hen whose chickens have just swum for the first time. If chickens swum.

It made no difference to the adjudicator. Although it’s hard to know how biased we were. DG has recorded his comments with trusty iPhone but he appeared to say the suits were too nice, the set looked ok for what it was, the boys all spoke from the middle of their mouths, they didn’t stand close enough together to be menacing, DG was too quiet, the fight was very good (result! And indeed I thanked Heather silently as Gordon shook off his hand after the first and very effective punch), Chris was good although perhaps he should have been more quirky like David Tennant might have been when he played the part at the National although he hadn’t seen it (??!!). And that was about it.

Which wouldn’t have been a problem if he hadn’t been so kind about the other two. Tryst followed us with some terrible play about relationships featuring three couples that were maybe aspects of the same people or three different couples but it hardly mattered. It looked astonishingly beautiful. Gorgeous pinky purpley orangey lights. A huge pink heart shaped helium balloon floating in the middle of the stage. And apples on strings floating above their respective heads. I think it’s possibly the most beautiful set I’ve ever seen in the One Acts. And they started with the curtains open so you got all that on the way to your seats. It was lovely. The play was dull and patchily acted but it seems that in terms of overall achievement – translation of script to stage – they did very well according to Mr Adjudicator. Damn our simple beginning middle and end storyline.

The third group did the Bear. Chekhov. Which I remember fondly as Fran and I years ago wept through a performance of this self-same featuring Ernie as the “bear” and he was just dreadful. This bear wasn’t as bad. But wasn’t as bear like as Ernie. But the adjudicator seemed to quite like it anyway.

It appeared quite clear by the time he finished his pompous and self-loving account of what we’d done wrong and everyone had done right that he hated us and we have no chance in this here festival. Not that we’re bitter or biased. It takes the pressure of speculation off for the next couple of days.

We angrily stomped ‘home’ to drink.
Retrospective posting:

Wednesday 25 March 2009

The tech tonight. Drive up to Killin after work. DG, Gordon and I. Chris was going separately in his shiny new Mazda. Andy separately in his Condor van with the table and the filing cabinet. JGH separately in his smart sleek shiny silver whatever it is with the borrowed from St Serfs chairs.

We arrived, stuffed down some starters at the Killin Hotel (more Qype fodder!) and then darted back over the road for the tech. And being in the theatre just makes me smile and smile. It’s just the same as St Serfs. But with a balcony. And apparently higher and deeper but this means nothing much to me (I guess I don’t have to do to the projecting) as the stage is the same size.

We have our fluorescent tube lower here. Aside from this, all looks much the same. JGH and Andy tried in vain to make me understand what they were trying to tell me from a lighting point of view. I failed them. I must somehow learn. The re-recorded scream miraculously worked though I totally missed my cue with it. We are going to bang a real door at the start and finish as the hall thoughtfully has a door that bangs. The run through itself was fluffy but that’s to be expected.

So they’ve benevolently let us leave it all set up. And there it’s sitting, back through on the stage on the other side of the village. We went for a drink (Killin Hotel) afterwards and the man who counted up the number of bad words in our script was nice to our faces. And then DG, GC and I headed cottage bound. I’m sitting just now on my bed on my laptop. Small Carrie Bradshaw. Night.

Monday, March 23, 2009

And oh my goodness my blog is three years old. Happy birthday, blog.
From the surreal to the surreal. I saw The Watchmen on Thursday night. I would struggle to judge it honestly as I managed to fall asleep at the climactic moment but I agree with Mr DG that the acting left a lot to be desired. I don't think I'd even go so far as to give it 3.5 out of 5 as he did. However, it did look beautiful. A cinematographic feast. So maybe I should forgive some very insincere performances. And given the ridiculous far-fetched story, how could I really expect painfully honest acting?

Having said that, Saturday night's show was gloriously surreal and beautifully acted. The poster alone is worth a mention.

I'd forgotten altogether that it was written by Anthony Neilson and so had low to no expectations when I approached the Citizens (almost twice in just over a week. Practically Glaswegian). And indeed, it featured his (signature?) visually tricky upended bed with actors laying vertically atop / along it.

View from the Stalls (who violently disagreed with my cruel take on the Pillowman) violently disliked it - you may read for yourselves here. I quite liked it. The plot - well, you probably could see it coming a mile off. But it was nonetheless poignantly executed, fantastically choreographed, imaginatively staged and to my mind, altogeter charming. But then I very much like Neilson's amazing visual sense and enduring relentlessly miserable outlook on life. And men in black tie always make me a bit feeble around the knees. So. A surreal and unexpectedly satisfying Saturday night.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I’ve read nine versions of Sophocles’ Antigone. The famous Jean Anouilh script (and that, at last, is his name spelt correctly). Some knackered old Penguin translations by E. F. Watling and Robert Fagles. An OUP version by H. D. F Kitto.

A ‘new’ version from 10 years ago by Declan Donnellan for the Donmar Warehouse. Full of hope, I read a newer version by Seamus Heaney, The Burial At Thebes. It was beautifully bound but for performance purposes, it was a sorry disappointment.

I read a very old version by Walter Hasenclever, courtesy of Mr Aldred, written in 1917 but because the man thoughtlessly didn’t die til 1940, it’s still JUST in copyright.

And predictably, I’ve gone for the most recent, most sweary, most overtly violent version, courtesy of Owen McCafferty. I am a child of my time. And again, endebted to my friend Mr Neill who pointed me towards this ‘new muscular version’ in the first place.

Now midst auditions. I hope we can do it violent justice.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Amazing bus stop related events!

My buses home from work are diverted at the moment so I'm using different further afield bus stops for my return journey. The key thing to say here is that there are now two separate possible stops I could use so the gamble is always well which bus will come first. (Oh the stuff of my life. Such excitement!)

So I stepped off last night and spied a bus approaching and rushed towards the appropriate stop. And there was The Man At The Bus Stop. Full of the joys of spring, I crazily impulsively Spoke. And said "well twice in one day is surely too much!" Which actually was a lie as I hadn't seen him that morning as I'd taken a later bus but anyway. I can surely be forgiven in my shock. He laughed politely and clambered aboard the bus.

Back home, I was meeting a friend in the pub at the end of my street for a post-work beverage. And as we sat within, exchanging pleasantries, so miracle of miracles and strange coincidences, Man At The Bus Stop walked in. He saw me, called out "well, now you'll think I'm stalking you!" and it was my turn to laugh politely and resume my conversation.

I feared that Kate Fox's conversational barrier might be broken. But I managed to avoid speaking to him at this morning's bus stop. So I might be alright...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An inane observation about my day job but I can't marvel about this on my work blog as then I'll look gauche.

I went to an (advertising) industry talk a couple of weeks ago by a digital marketing guy. I blogged about it subsequently and observed that someone in the talk had been taking notes on their iPhone which felt wholly appropriate.

The iPhone note taker has since left a comment on the work blog saying that indeed, it was him.

Lovely stuff!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Whereas a Pillowman which we saw last night in Glasgow at the Citizens was quite terrible. It felt like a lot of missed potential. But I'm probably not the most objective judge, right enough.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I saw an impeccable production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" last night at Dundee Rep. I might even go so far as to say it was faultless. In my humble opinion anyway.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday afternoon’s Pillowman rehearsal and we had a new girl in attendance who’d expressed interest in the group, come along to Wednesday’s reading and suggested that it would be interesting if she could come along to a rehearsal to see how things worked.

So along she came on Sunday. And we did the usual line run and then ran the first portion and the end portion with notes to each respective character in terms of their development.

We did a bit of work on the “violence” scene as the adjudicator had commented that this could be more violent yet. I had no ideas about how this might be done. (What a girl.) The boys had many. So we ran that a few times and got it looking a bit more violent to my delicate girly eyes.

And then we finished and I pleasantly said what did new girl think? And she pleasantly said would we mind if she made one small observation? And we must have sucked our collective teeth as I have come to dread the incomer out of context comment. Though I’m sure that just makes me insecure.

But we sucked our teeth and said yes, please, feel free. And she said suddenly and surprisingly, it’s just the thing is I do karate and I was in the army for several years so I know violence and I wondered if you might etc etc. And made some very good suggestions about how it could all look a little bit more real. It was a brilliant moment. Thanks, Heather!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Though I'm obviously grateful that it allows Gordon to join us as I don't have time to rehearse a back-up! And poor Matt had looked quite alarmed at the prospect.
Well. First on Thursday night wouldn't have been my first choice of position for the divisional final. But I guess there's some dubious honour to opening the festival. At 7pm in the middle of nowhere. Not that I'm bitter.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I am allowed to use my favoured version of Antigone, a recent version by Owen McCafferty, if I wish it. Got an email yesterday from the poor agent who (whom?) I've been badgering for a fortnight. How very very exciting.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I took advantage of mother having a prior commitment last night to see a lovely ramshackle French film, A Christmas Tale or Un Conte De Noel at the Filmhouse.

It was very typically French. Lots of tortured characters, a sliver of dark dark humour, the odd speech delivered straight to camera now and again for no particular reason, some unrequited love, many meaningful pauses, some random arty shots of empty streets, a hopelessly ambiguous ending and lots lots lots of relentless melancholy.

Needless to say, I loved it. After the neatly disciplined Benjamin Button, it was a fine example of European vs. American film making. And it featured my favourite Mathieu Amalric. I must see if he's on twitter.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I had a veritable film fest yesterday which, after nigh on a month's cinematographic starvation, was a very welcome cultural injection.

I saw Benjy Button in the afternoon and marvelled again at Cate's astounding beautifulness. And she can do ballet too, it seems. I prayed it was a body double although I bet she can just dance marvellously as well as being beautiful as you like. Not fair, as mother would say.

Anyway, the film itself, it struck me, was the film that the rubbishy Notebook should have been. Exceptionally sentimental but a respectable and imaginative enough story to get away with it.

Then I saw at very long last Red Road. This I have wanted to see since Ross raved about it however many years ago it came out. I'm perhaps not best placed to judge as I missed the start and slept through a little sliver of the middle but this I felt was Hidden set in Glasgow and executed far less elegantly. Just call me a terrible reductionist.

These both were interspersed with the middle Bourne film. Which is just a cracking wannabe thriller that's really an action movie. But none the poorer for it.

A fine day of celluloid thrills and spills. Today in contrast, I have finished one antigone, read a second and am about to recommence rehearsals. Such devotion to duty.