Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yesterday for I was not just a day of culture but a day of international culture, no less.

Proceedings kicked off with a giant latte and The Last Witch, the sellout theatre production of the EIF. It's been much publicised so you kind of knew what you were getting before it started. Janet Horne, last woman burnt for witchcraft in Scotland in 17something&something. Although Rona added a bit of a cheeky twist to her version of events with a little question mark over whether it was in fact the daughter that was woo-ing the Dark Lord and not the mother at all. Along with a big dollop of victimised woman backed into a corner by vengeful (cowardly) and overbearing men.

It was very impressive as a production. Set was gorgeous. It was beautifully lit. There were some really nice effects. The Dark Lord appearing suddenly atop the imposing set was my high point (geddit?). They had a mighty powerful projector of which I was predictably jealous.

But as a storyline, it left me curiously unmoved. Yes, the women were victimised by a male-dominated society. Tell me something I don't know. Mother said I wasn't old enough to appreciate the poignancy of the story which is perhaps true. Though I'm more inclined to agree with Joyce's verdict.

Then again, I was also curiously unmoved by The Yalta Game. A Brian Friel adaptation of a Chekhov play. This at the King's. This again looked beautiful. Rather more cheerful than the dreary witchy play. A simple set of nine or ten chairs and a white panel across the stage on which they cast various pretty colourful tones by the art of lighting throughout.

Wayward husband was very good. A nice laconic delivery (though I didn't get the urgency that his female counterpart attributed to his character. But what a pedant I'm becoming). Girl was heartfelt, cute although slightly unrealistic interplay with the imaginary Pomeranian, melodramatic when she was meant to be, tragic when she wasn't.

It didn't help that I was expecting a modern-day tale as I hadn't read the blurb beforehand so was slightly perturbed by this not quite comedy of manners. But then Ross loved it so maybe I was just having an unmoved day. I did at least manage to stay awake for this which was more than I managed for Witchy.

But the day was rounded off with some considerable panache with Michael Clark at the Playhouse. The first piece was, to my could-write-what-I-know-about-dance-on-the-back-of-something-small mind, a little bit unexceptional. They wore very nice sleek shiny blue leotards. But although titled Swamp, I didn't see anything much swampy about it. It felt rather flung together - and slackly lit - though I see they've done it before so maybe I'm doing his art a great injustice.

But the second piece was all you could hope for. Stunning costumes. Delightfully gorgeous lighting. Strutting dancers. Quirky movement. A thumping soundtrack of a little Velvey Underground and a lot of David Bowie. A title of which I eminently approve: come, been and gone. It was absolute magic. I'm almost tempted to go see it again. I have til tomorrow at 8 to make my decision.
We did not win at the Evening News Drama Awards.

Instead, many congratulations (from Camille) went to Edinburgh Theatre Arts for their fine performance of A Tale of Two Cities.

Friday, August 28, 2009

So the review the review. It was printed yesterday in the Evening News to my enormous excitement. I've been scouring the net for it to no avail. But it seems that Fiona like an angel has faithfully transcribed it so here, courtesy of her kindness, it is.

Photo of Neil shouting at Jacques captioned, "TALENTED: The cast portrayed their characters beautifully."

Headline: Strong performances in unsettling tale of conflict
**** (four stars from Thom Dibdin!)

Stark in its outlook and sparce in its staging, the Grads production of Owen McCafferty's modern version of the great Greek tragedy of Antigone remains true to the feeling of Sophocles' original.

This is powerful and unsettling stuff. It unfolds with deliberate attention to detail as the body bags pile up on stage and the deaths of all who Antigone holds dear become ever more inevitable.

It is set in the immediate aftermath of the Theban civil war - started by Antigone's two brothers who headed the rival factions. The new king, Creon, is a military man who claims the throne by dint of marriage after the brothers killed each other in the final act of the war.

One brother is to be buried with full honour, the other left in the sun to rot.

In the role of Antigone, Karen Whytock brings a shrill wee girl full of outrage to the stage. Religious law demands that a body be buried before its soul can move forward into the afterlife and she is in full-on revolt at Creon's slight to her royal blood.

Jaques Kerr's Creon is equally determined that his decision is obeyed - whether it is right or not. Kerr's is just one of several beautifully worked performances as he takes Creon into the realms of madness, depicting an ultimately weak ruler, bolstered by the sound of his own voice.

Greek tragedy demands a chorus to give a voice to the common person. Jo Butt takes on the tricky role, an old man who's job is to gather the dead of the war - as he looks in each body bag for his own son.

Butt conveys one with the knowledge and humility to advise kings - and he holds the stage without dominating it.

Around these key roles, director Claire Wood brings strong performances from the supporting cast. Whether they are simply standing around on guard duty, bringing news that Creon will not want to hear or trying to reason with Antigone, there are never any detracting voices. Which, with a very plain but subtly nuanced design, allows the play and McCafferty's excellent treatment of the language to speak out strong.

This might be set in ancient Greece and updated by a Northern Irish playwright, but the power of this production is that it is particular to neither. Rather, it speaks of all the conflicts inflicted by those with intractable views on the people around them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Father and I saw a nice little show last night. It was chosen not entirely arbitrarily. We sat in Chocolate Soup at the weekend inbetwixt shows, squished onto a couple of seats alongside what looked like father, mother and grown daughter.

Daughter was clearly in a show. Parents were up to visit for the weekend. Daughter darted off somewhere. Mother said fondly (clearly she'd been listening listening in to our conversation) was I a reviewer? I explained the circumstance. She said fondly that daughter was in a show that they were going to see that night and they thought it would be very good. They hoped it would be very good in fact as they were paying for her to go through drama college so hoped it was worthwhile. They explained when and where it was.

So when it came to Tuesday and you have the whole of the Fringe (theatre) to choose from, it seemed only fair to go to the one remaining show that I had a connection with, albeit the feeblest of connections.

Called Cross Purpose and on at C cubed, this play was based on a story by Camus. Apparently one of his most important works. I have never heard of it but that, as any of my good friends will tell you, means nothing. It did, characteristically, revel in the pointless absurdity of life.

And it was nicely done. Lovely opening with the daughter pacing about looking anxious and the mother stirring stirring at a tea cup. The real life daughter who played the daughter fittingly was excellent actually. A really lovely performance of a woman sent bitter over time. (An unfamiliar character to me, as my good friends will tell you.) The others were less convincing. A nice bumbling fellow was a bit too nice and bumbling. The mother was, god love her, despite convincing white make-up, far too young. The young pretty wife of the bumbling man was slightly too angst-ridden and sweet for my liking. The silent servant was magic in his braces with his single line. But the daughter stole the show.

A serendipitous outcome.
Two nice things in the Evening News today.

Narcissistically, my review of Barflies.

And remarkably, it seems that Camille is to present the theatre award at the ENDA (Evening News Drama Awards for those unfamiliar with this acronym) on Friday. I wonder if she might sing. That would make me happy irrespective of the result.
A comically vivid dream last night that the Scotsman printed a 3 star review for Antigone. It was written by Thom Dibdin. So clearly that can't be right.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Both the uniforms are now back at Leith Army Stores. A sad day.

Dear Ian, owner of this estimable store, said that he tried to come along to the show one night but we'd been sold out.

Dear Ian.

Monday, August 24, 2009

And I've just 'filed' (don't they say?) my last piece of copy for the Evening News this Fringe. Kursk so a rather impressive end to my reviewing stint. 18 shows. Though I saw 19 but picked up that day's paper just after having seen Precious Little Talent only to spy that someone else's review had been printed that very day.

So another thing to miss. The reviewing, I mean, rather than Precious Little Talent.

I was sad not to be at the theatre when the fighter jets flew over at 9pm tonight. They seemed to go past my house. A detour to torment me?

Still, I felt Kenny MacAskill was rather Creon-esque in Parliament today ("it was my decision...") so that lessened the withdrawal symptoms a little.
Crossing off the final things on my show to do list, I finally - a whole two hours before the deadline which I've known about for hmmm about 5 months - submitted the details of the much debated music tracks to the PRS. I find it faintly gauling to have to surrender box office money for what was mostly inaudible. Still, honourable I suppose.

Et au revoir to our brief moment in the edtwinge sun. It was nice while it lasted.
It's been an unprecedented (based on my abnormal past week at any rate) 25 hours since I last scoured the internet for references to Antig.

Today, great excitement was caused by a part kind part spiteful review posted on the edfringe site by a mysterious "oliver". Sadly, since this was first drawn to my attention, I've been otherwise occupied with my pesky day job. Now streaking back up the country, just having passed Carlisle, I thought (as my two colleagues considerately sleep) I'd take the chance to slyly check for myself.

And obligingly in the interim, an enthusiastic Mr Allen has given the show 5 stars. I shall not look such a gift horse in the mouth. C Venue doesn't after all, shamelessly using edfringe review star ratings on their posters. So why should I??!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Things I will miss

Clustering alongside the balcony edge outside the venue on Victoria Street

Worrying about whether or not Jacques will lose his voice and not be able to scream so loud

The scream

Karen nibbling her way through rehearsals

Not worrying about whether or not Antigone will turn up

The soldier-lined opening of the play

The salutes

Being able to peer down at them all clustered in what passed for wings anxiously exchanging tales of misfortunes in the medium of sign language

Heather staring

Heather’s march across stage with the gun mid-Antigone / Ismene scene

The crowd scene

Ross’ “needless to say there was a certain panic in the air” amongst other great lines

Neil’s stiff little fingers

The Thom Dibdin lie to Jo about seeing the show on the Tuesday

Seeing my boys marching about in desert combat fatigues – very hot

Being able to call them my boys

Spending hours in the dead of night on edtwinge obsessing about our karma rating – even though it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference to anything

Wondering if Jacques might, once just once to please me, pay an aisle visit that second time

Jo’s speech about love

Brian who’s supposed to be in France walking into the theatre

Matt and Umi back from honeymoon that very day walking into the theatre

The girl who we’re not allowed to mention publicly in connection with the show being so superbly efficient and proactive and thinking ahead

Miriam patting the seat to show her mother where to sit

The late morning dash to the newsagent to see whether we’ve been reviewed

Jon’s accusing “you Creon you”

The blonde haired angel child sitting at his feet giving Creon the evil eye

The day the sound didn’t work. Thank god for father

Larry looking anxious

Looking down on the silent conferring in the wings about where Larry should go next

The night we had a lady in a wheelchair sat in the aisle and we (they!) had to navigate the stretcher through the gap

The night the evil kicking boot smashed the photo frame irreparably

Dressing in (mostly) black which I don’t normally do for fear people think I’m morbid (just in case they hadn’t realised already)

Lorraine: “Queen of Thebes. I never asked to be that”

People being turned away at the box office because we’re sold out

Siobhan’s delight at overhearing Germans declaring (in German) that they can’t get tickets because we’re whatever the German word for sold out is

The audience member who didn’t clap

The body bag fights

Gillian: the cleanest soldier ever

Jess: the foxiest soldier ever

Miriam grinning at her aunt in the audience

Sitting alongside my daddy in what passed for a lighting box

Being able to go and see another show afterwards

Hilary, the picture of a tragic heroine at the end of the play as the death count mounts

DJ Cam’s Twilight Zone during Jo “he thinks I want to ruin him because he is the king. Stupid fucker” speech (even if I’m in a distinct minority here)

Jacques in rehearsals being all terribly serious and shouty and angry and then laughing terribly when he forgot a line

Miriam flinging her arms around Gillian whenever she came off stage

Karen who learnt all of her lines in 4 days alongside a day job and preparation to climb Kilimanjaro

Oddly, Jo’s “whisper no prayers now”

The spotlight on the shrine at the end just before the curtain call

The facebook comment from someone saying they didn’t like the way the cast stared accusingly at them while they were trying to clap

The first pint in the pub afterwards

Things I won’t miss

Staggering out of bed at 8:30 this morning for the move out after the tiniest portion of post-after-show-party sleep. But at least it was quick
I have x1 set of desert combat fatigues currently hanging up to dry in my living room. I'm weirdly tempted to keep them.

Also one Jesus-type brown overgarment. Less tempted to keep that.

The not long or slow decline. And so it goes. We're still higher than Sea Wall though. A comedy injustice!

The morning after the night before.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Last night of my sellout run. Good luck everybody!
To distract myself from my last night misery, an afternoon's Fringe viewing.

Incidentally I noticed that the Scotsman gave The Devoured 4 stars. For nothing, nothing, fucking nothing I would say. Clearly my appetite for misery isn't as great as it could be.

First off, I saw a fabulous little show called Stars on the Ceiling by teater fredag, a Swedish theatre group. It was one of those terrible gamble shows. I'd read nothing about it, seen no reviews of it, never heard of either it or the group but the precious 40 words in the Fringe programme sounded interesting so I thought I'd give it a whirl. And it was marvellous.

It's about a 13 year old girl, Jenna, who's beset with the usual 13 year old worries. Except about to be ladled on top of that, her mother has cancer. Her father ran out on them when she was two. And she doesn't much like her grandmother.

It's played by 4 actresses, grown women all, alternately playing sulky teenagers and trying hard adults. There isn't much in the way of the set (though it's worth seeing simply for what they do with the flats at the end) aside from 4 tables of varying sizes. So do not be surprised if a table nest features in my next show...

They use music, some bits of costumes, the varyingly sized tables and that's about it. And it's beautifully directed. Lovely movement. Lovely appropriate sentiment. And very funny too.

As stories go, it's relatively inconsequential. But they did it so charmingly that were it not for the fact that I'd hauled my dad along too, I'd have darted into the toilet for a little cry afterwards. You know, cos it was so good and so sad and they did so well. And they had about 7 people in the audience.

Go see. It's on til the 31st. At 2:15pm right enough so not exactly convenient but worth making an effort for. If only because - depending on your proclivities - one of the Swedish girls is absolutely gorgeous. It's been a sellout in Sweden. They deserve more than 7 viewers a show. I hope they get it.

And then, because Katy, technician for our show, is kind, I went to see her show. Screwloose by Village Idiots. (Impressive use of a favicon - or is it a flavicon? - on their website by the way.) It was a great fun little show. A more or less completely inconsequential storyline but a great set, really nice performances and brilliant masks.

I'm not really a fan of masked stuff on the whole. I avoid it where I can as well, surely god gave us faces for a reason. But (so benevolent) made an exception here. And I'm very glad I did. They're only charging £5 for tickets. It's on at 4:30pm til the end of next week. And Katy is as adorable as I'd expect her to be.

As I left the show, the venue manager collared me and gave me a feedback form to reflect on our time in the Meeting House. I said I could hardly complain about anything as the show had been such a freakish success. He said yes, he didn't know why it had done so well either but there we were. Thanks, mate.

The competition is snapping at our heels!
The old familiar pattern.

All week, completely hyperactive. Going to bed too late after hours scouring the internet for reviews and attempting to nudge our edtwinge rating in the right direction. Springing up from bed too early to do exactly the same thing. I haven't picked up The Night Train to Lisbon since Saturday. But then I'm only about 5 pages in.

By yesterday, the usual mournful nostalgia had closed in. I love them all. I'll miss them all. Are they not all amazing? Isn't it a cracking little show and how unjust that beyond tonight, it'll never see the light of day again. All that stupendous amount of work and line-learning and effort. And what on earth am I going to do with all my time now?

Although Susan seems to have taken it into her head that we should regroup for a final performance in some church hall at some point in the presumably not too distant future for one final performance. In the light of the (peculiar) enthusiasm for the show this week, she seems to think we'd get plenty of interest in tickets. I'm not sure that I'm convinced though it's a gratifying idea in theory. Vanity is a terrible thing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I have to preserve this comedy moment for posterity!
On a much lighter note, it seems we're now sold out for tonight. I'm alright, Jack.
Back in my newly adopted favourite café at the Fruitmarket Gallery. Today’s show. Oh my. As a director and sometime performer, I don’t like to be wilfully cruel. There’s surely some good in everything. I guess just sometimes it’s harder to see than others.

The Devoured
is a cheerful piece which recounted the tale of one (Jewish) family struggling to survive in Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. Let me try and do it justice here.

So three or four of us are shambling around outside the venue, the Pleasance Over The Road. Unfortunate that it took me a trip to the Pleasance, then the Pleasance Dome, then the Pleasance again to procure a ticket and work out where it was. But I got there.

We get in. Small black stage surrounded by black curtains. 8 rows of x8 seats. A nice size I’m thinking. Maybe ten people take seats in all. As we enter the auditorium, one man is on stage in a spotlight, wearing the signature grey-striped pyjamas, running and running and shouting out over and over “run for the beast run for the beast”. It took us maybe five minutes to get in and get settled. The house lights go down. He runs and shouts for perhaps another three to four minutes. The same cry, the same run, obviously sweating pretty seriously by now. He’s not a young man so you fear a little for him.

He slumps to the ground eventually and starts recounting the night of the bombing. He, his mother, his child, his wife, sheltered in a cellar, not knowing what was going on outside. They were scared, scared, fucking scared. Eventually he decides he’ll have to go outside and see what’s going on. At this point, he was more scared, scared, fucking scared. He prowled around a bit, found out nothing, saw some of the city burning, burning, fucking burning. He saw a German who looked at him with hate in his eyes and he was scared, scared, fucking scared but he did nothing, nothing, fucking nothing. He went back to his family in the cellar. His child asked him what was going on and would they be alright and he lied, lied, fucking lied and said everything would be alright.

As Ismene would say, you get the picture here.

And so it went on. Things went from bad to worse for the family. They were decamped to the ghetto. His mother was humiliated by the SS in front of everyone. He was scared, scared, fucking scared. They had nowhere to live, they had no food, but he did nothing, nothing, fucking nothing. Most of them time he shouted. And sweated. He dropped his voice at one or two points. Both of which were easier to listen to – although obviously didn’t display the same rage at the situation that he was so eager to convey.

They were decamped to a concentration camp via a barbed wire encrusted train. They were starving, scared, tired but he did nothing, nothing etc. They got to the camp. Men and women and children were lined up separately. He got put in the healthy man’s queue, waited about a bit and was then told by a big Polish prisoner (really?) that their wives and children were dead, dead, fucking dead. He worked, worked, fucking worked during the day because it took his mind off things and at night, he screamed, screamed, fucking screamed. But still did nothing nothing, again etc.

Luckily, about here, it finished. Having established that he was ashamed and a coward, accompanied by a lot more repetition and swearing, the actor disappeared between the curtains at the back of the stage. The spotlight dimmed. Everyone stared slightly stupidly at the stage.

Eventually it emerged that he was not coming back. Everyone got up and left.

I approached the guy in the lighting box (who must have had to sit through that for how many long, long, fucking days) and said I was so sorry that no-one had clapped, the actor had worked really hard (a euphemistic compliment – Siobhan would be proud). The technical boy who was a venue member of staff as well as being just a boy said I shouldn’t worry, no-one ever clapped, it wasn’t really appropriate. So the poor actor rants and sweats (his pyjamas were sodden by the end) for fifty minutes every day and never gets a sniff of a clap.

I wondered if this was a clever part of the point that he was making about collective guilt. I waited and waited to see if anyone else would clap. No-one else did. So I felt stupid striking up with a clap – even though it was mostly out of pity.

Now the poor man is part of – I say part of but actually, he’s writer, director, founder of the company and actor – a group that specialises in performing new work that draws attention to human rights issues. And god love him and them. What a worthy ambition. What a worthy cause. What an honourable and well-intentioned thing to do.

And certainly the rage and impotence that must have been experienced in bucketloads by the poor Jews were feelingly conveyed. The exhaustion, the abuse, the haphazard nature of the abuse, the misery, the outrage, the injustice.

But in his shouty fervour, he left me feeling vaguely irritated, vaguely amused, vaguely bored (at one point, I thought I might count the “nothing, nothing, fkin nothings” which seemed to be his hallmark statement). I did come away thinking that I mustn’t be so shallow. But what lazy writing. Way too much swearing I thought, even given my very high foul language thresholds. And given that I snickered half way down the street as I walked away from the venue, I’m not convinced that, for me at least, he achieved all that he wished to with this piece.

Anyway, go and see it for yourselves. It could be that I'm just a shallow bitch.
Oh, and more delightful yet, our first review. Can we enlist David and Sally to translate..??!!

All my dreams come true.

We have one ticket left for tomorrow and we're sold out for Saturday. And we're number 9 on edtwinge. For now anyway.

O happy day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm in the Fruitmarket Gallery cafe. I've got a pack of students on one side of me - two plump and pretty girls looking bored and two bland faced boys, one of whom is holding court describing his visit to Palace of the End ("there was a second monologue from that guy who, y'know, was accused of sexing up the dossier, and it was like really, really sad". Heartbreaking I thought it was but perhaps I am just too used to dealing in superlatives). On the other side of me, three more interesting looking people and the girl saying "so I made a giant pair of wings and stretched them from the top to the bottom and it looked really good". I love the Festival.

I've been doing pretty well til now, not sleeping through shows. Unless they're really boring in which case I allow myself some small naps. But I totally failed today. I've just been to see Walden. Which was a lovely piece of theatre. Again in illustrious company as there were 35 seats, to be found on two beautiful but uncomfortable wooden benches (not an auspicious start to a nap time you would think) and I was sat directly opposite Mike Russell who I'm very fond of, not that he would know me from Adam. So between him and the close proximity actor, you'd think I'd be able to keep my eyes propped open for 50 minutes.

But it seems it was not to be. I was doing beautifully for about twenty minutes. But the actor had a soft soporific voice, kept making soft swirly patterns in the sand on the floor and it was a soft and soporific play for the most part. Albeit a beautifully done one. So my eyelids started drooping and I ended up in the old familiar battle of trying to keep them open. But I clearly failed as I opened them again at one point - who knows how long they'd been shut - to find the actor staring hard at me. Luckily the alarm perked me up and kept me lively til the end of the play. But I noticed he did not meet my eye when he took his curtain call at the end.

Ross - several cast members in fact - were very put out at one particular audience member who did not clap on I think it was Monday night at the end of the show. Maybe he'd just been napping so didn't feel that he could clap with any justification. Luckily I'm not so principled.
Tonight's performance was absolutely storming.

Less of a plump rat now. More of a plump and delighted mother hen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It seems that being in the Trav bar simultaneously with Mark Ravenhill, Alan Carr and David Greig was not to be the pinnacle of my excitement for today.

I then had the pleasure of overhearing a conversation between Joyce MacMillan and presumably some other reviewer. She plopped down next to me in one of the few remaining seats for The Doubtful Guest. She then spent three minutes writhing around and squinting about the place to see what fellow cronies she might see. Eventually she alighted on this fellow a couple of rows behind. "So, have you seen anything good so far, as they say?" she quipped to he. They fell into a conversation about Faust out at Ingliston. The only five stars he's awarded so far apparently. She agrees, wholeheartedly gave it five stars. Thought it was superb. And so thought-provoking. The only trouble she had had was those bastard subs who had cut down an already too mean 300 words. And my goodness she could have written so much more. And they stuck it in a measley bottom of the page position. Wholly undeserving.

Good to know that even Joyce doesn't always get the recognition her reviews deserve. I also got a very substandard bottom of the page position for my latest Evening News review. I know how she feels.
For those of you that haven't avidly been following us on Twitter, we sold out Monday.

We sold out tonight.

We have sold out for Wednesday. And Thursday.

Fringe allocation is sold out for Saturday.

It's the most remarkable thing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh my goodness. Tonight's performance is all sold out!

A little sneak preview in (dark) pictures. Plus work in progress. Me ordering someone about I daresay. Thanks Fiona for snapping.
Oh and to whet your already surely very whetted appetite, here can be found a minute long sneak preview courtesy of the endlessly kind to amateur groups Evening News. Enjoy!
Well well. The day of days.

The run-through was close to perfect yesterday. If you added in a little extra dose of feeling and heartfeltness, that is. Which will come with the adrenalin so I don't need to worry about that. Jo did a near perfect rendition of Old Man's lines. I could have kissed him. But erred on the side of proper cast / director fraternisation (a real word??).

Then the tech. The venue is lovely. Specifically the theatre space we're in. A lovely steep enough to have great sight lines rake on the seats. They've taped black floor stuff over most of the floor so it's a proper little (mostly) black theatre space with the curtains. Father seems satisfied with the lights. The sound worked eventually. But on account of all the fussing and uncertainties, we had rather less time to actually run any of the play than I wouldda hoped. But that, after all, is surely what a first night is for (??!).

Like a disgusting pig, I got a takeaway when I got home for hmmm let me think the fourth night in a row. My ambition for today is to cook a real meal.

And then delightful Karen just called me with the rather happy news that we've sold 50 tickets for tonight. Given that we were sat at 40 at about 1 in the morning according to the Fringe ticketing system, this rather suggests that either the fringe ticketing system is rather flawed or tickets are selling like the proverbial toasty hot cakes. I know which I would rather believe...

So we appear to be all set for a rather storming first night. Wish us luck.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In between "Palace of the End" at the Traverse (four stars I'd say - with an incredibly impressive performance from Robert Demeger) and Diaspora this evening in the EIF at the Playhouse, I dropped flyers off to lovely Ian at Leith Army Stores and tried to lure him to the show with tempting talk of the soldiers' drill.

I finished off some work that I'd had to rush away from last night in aid of "The Tale of Two Cities" by Edinburgh Theatre Arts. (Iain was lovely as ever. Other performances were hmmm patchy. Although The Evil One was very good.)

I frantically ran off some photos for the venue (so late!).

Ran off a ticket report from the fringe office (we seem to have sold 30+ tickets for Monday and Tuesday plus copious handfuls for the other nights - IF it's accurate).

Ran off a picture of Karen for the long neglected photo frame. Although at least my slackness saved me doing it twice.

Panically burnt the music tracks onto a CD.

Managed to squeeze in some play time with my new love edtwinge.

And then flew off to the Playhouse, courtesy of my father's fine new (old) camper van. Thanks, daddy.

(Incidentally, what could be a happier shout through the shower door than "can I defrost your fridge?" When the ice is growing out of the freezer compartment but you know you'll never do anything about it til you can no longer shut the fridge door, believe me, there is no happier call.)

Diaspora was, well I didn't expect anything much so it wasn’t disappointing, but well, maybe a little example of unfulfilled potential. It was billed as a multi-media extravaganza. Which is was. To the extent that they had four video screens behind the much-billed 52 piece orchestra and a screen over the front of the stage onto which they also projected moving imagery. Underneath the four screens, they had a small ledge so actors could wander along ‘through’ the pictures. It was beautifully lit. Multimedia stuff was pretty impressive. There was some ‘live’ art from a girl who drew onto a magical backlit board that was miraculously connected to the projector so her art (such as it was – though, be fair, she did it very fast) was strewn all over the stage sized cloth.

The concert / play / piece / art made an interesting point about the lack of roots or excess of roots when you’ve moved about a lot and have scattered parentage. Where does that mean you’re really from?

But I was left aghast at the fact that the 52 piece orchestra sat there mostly in the dark, sometimes picking up their bows to tap at their fine instruments, sometimes making unimaginatively shrill sounds – and we were far too near the front for this – but mostly sitting idle and silent. What a waste. I feel very sorry for the Chinese Singapore Orchestra. I do hope they’ll come back for a proper concert sometime.

Friday, August 14, 2009

If you're not already, you should be following the show on tweeeeter:

My boys and girls didn't quite get the hang of posing for a photo but they did good last night at the dress rehearsal. Which is a worry if you believe the faithful little 'terrible dress / great show' adage. But there was enough fluffy stuff to leave them plenty room for improvement.

My father arrived in the nick of time to watch wisely and observe that I should under no circumstances have put Antig in white as it'll be a pain to light. Good directorial judgement there.

And everybody turned up and (mostly) behaved.

I'm starting to get little portions of lines popping into my head at inopportune and sometimes opportune times. Regular readers will know this is a good sign!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tonight, a line run with Karen / Antigone, Hilary / Ismene and Jacques / Creon. That turned into a baby rehearsal. And a most constructive bit of work on the final scene (to my mind anyway though I think Jacques / Creon was less impressed).

They all did marvellously. They will be quite spectacular.

For the first time, slumped wearily on the bus on the way home, I had a flicker of nostalgia about how much I would miss them all when this is done.
I'm not really in the habit of pouring myself a first glass of wine at 11:15pm but I figure I can make an exception given the circumstances.

An almost dress rehearsal tonight. Real dress is Thursday but this was dress in waiting I suppose.

Getting started was again like herding cats. I feel so sorry for all those that are left patiently and endlessly waiting around. But we began in the end. And finished in the end as we're currently (how can this be with such a tightly written script??) running fifteen minutes over time.

And all things considered, it went pretty well. There were a thousand small things wrong with it. Though Karen was mostly perfect. I wonder suddenly if all shows should be rehearsed with only 2 weeks to go. I start to see how professionals get away with it as it's a wonderful focus for the mind.

But actually, if you put aside all the people not coming on when they're supposed to, cursing themselves for forgetting lines, Jo cursing me for introducing music into the equation and thus inducing him to forget every line he ever learnt, overlooked and underused props (those that haven't been stolen at any rate), then my goodness, we've got ourselves a pretty good show.

Enhanced by Jo's (pregnant) daughter Nikki's sterling work on distressing the body bags.

A couple of them even choked out a few tears tonight. I almost thought I might weep myself at a couple of points. But perhaps that wasn't so much to do with the acting. But I have high hopes for next week.

I hope at least that we can do Mr McCafferty - and I should really mention Mr Sophocles too - some kind of justice.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Well now, I shouldn't moan because I obviously bring every bit of this upon myself. But latest hiccup is to do with the silent soldiers. Silent but vitally important. We've been rather blighted by terrible bad luck with regard to these three.

I recruited three, initially as a bit of a nice to have, it must be said. I thought it would look all very organised and official and menacing and important if we had a few of them marching about a bit. Scene setting and that. Given that the play is set the morning after the "mother of all battles" an'all.

But I've become fond of them over the past eight to ten weeks. Brilliant Heather doubles as our military consultant. Jess is the foxiest soldier I've ever seen but impeccably professional with it. The third has proved trickier. Our first post holder had to pull out for enormously valid reasons and procured not just one but two replacements. Plan was for them to turn about with the nights which made my heart selfishly sing as I thought of swelling ticket sales. But poor 3a has had to pull out for horrible health reasons, leaving 3b womanfully (already having been coerced from prompting into actually appearing) committing to do most nights but she can't do the Friday. So I am 3a less currently.

Anyone fancy a brief (but vital) stage appearance on Friday 21st August?? There are only a couple of rehearsals left that you could physically come to. It's not a vast time commitment!! I thought briefly about urging my father to take the part. But the other problem is ideally we want to re-use the same costume. So if you're a girl of slender 10 / 12 means, you'll be put first in the queue...

Friday, August 07, 2009

Oh my god. Karen is officially amazing. She had learnt it. All her lines. Just like that.

Weell, not 'just like that' at all. She'd taken two days off work and clearly slaved and slaved at it.

A very big and enormous hats off to her.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tuesday's rehearsal might be closely compared to what I might imagine to be the experience of herding cats.

Last night, I spoke to Karen to check she hadn't had a nervous breakdown. She hadn't. But sounded terrified.

Onwards and upwards. I'm sure tonight's rehearsal (with poor terrified Karen) will be wonderful.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On a much more cheerful note, I picked up my journalist accreditation at lunchtime today so I'm officially a reviewer again. He's agreed to all but two of my wishlist, saying hungrily that he wished more people wanted to review theatre rather than endless comedy shows. At least one of the two that he didn't agree to looks turgid so I feel it was a lucky escape.

And with a gentle 'remember who you're writing for', i.e. stop being such a middle-class ivory-towered wannabe intellectual - in print anyway, he sent me on my way.
Well, gentle readers, if you happen to be of a nervous or sensitive disposition, I suggest that you look away now. The mild-mannered and affable “I can’t imagine you angry” director has turned.

Maybe it was the cumulative effect of a couple of shows starring a boy or a girl Who Let Me Down then triumphed always at the eleventh hour. Perhaps it was the collective disappointment but residual stoicism of this cast in the face of ongoing adversity. Perhaps it was the sticky humid airless not summer.

But the no show on Thursday last week made me boil with rage. To the extent that I texted my plan B post-rehearsal. The silly girl replied in the affirmative. And now she has found herself, with two weeks to go, playing Antigone in the Edinburgh Fringe.

I am tormented with guilt. Poor Shirley who was reading up on the historical significance of mythology. Shirley who was going to faithfully clip in 8 hours of colourful dreadlocks to give herself the required quirks to be a fitting Antig. Shirley whose face is now plastered all over the website, the flyer, the twitter account.

Still, I suppose the play is the thing. I feared another couple of missed rehearsals tipping a jovial cast over the edge into grumpy anxiety. And grumpy anxiety, as I know well from CCC days, does not sell tickets. Nor does an under-rehearsed play.

So the monster struck and did the evil deed at the weekend. Sweet pretty Karen has now had two rehearsals, coping womanfully with the adrenalin-fuelled circumstance. I suspect she is frantically scouring her script for helpful memorising inspiration as I write. I need to break it to those of the cast that weren’t exposed to new Antig at the weekend, at tonight’s rehearsal. Maybe they will mount a coup.

Monday, August 03, 2009

As a little light relief, there are, quite literally, 1,250 photos across two flickr sites documenting the rather glorious wedding day of my friend Ros at the end of May. Here are very edited highlights as tis not every day that I attend a wedding in a chateau.

Can you spot me?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Oh my goodness. I think I might be the biggest plumpest rat in the world.