Sunday, November 28, 2010

My reasons for wanting to see Noel Coward's Design for Living were shallow. Principally I liked the publicity shot.
Beautiful, huh? Secondly, I thought I would probably like to be in it. You can draw your own conclusions about that. (And I was not wrong. So, director please.)

Luckily, the show looked as beautiful as promised. Three gorgeous sets. A garretty paint-spattered attic. A very art nouveau flat in London. And a Manhattan penthouse complete with sweeping staircase, balcony and expansive NYC panoramic view that, I'm ashamed to say, caused me to utter a small under my breath gasp as the fire curtain was winched up. The costumes were beautiful. Which reinforced my desire to be Her. And the people were (where necessary - obviously servants don't count) beautiful too.

The story is pretty stupid. The three love each other. And couple and uncouple and recouple over a period of time. All ends happily - though only unfortunately for the three. Much like Grid Iron / Douglas Maxwell's Spring Awakening a couple weeks ago at the Trav, the themes of it would have been shocking - not to say appalling - in its day but seem relatively inconsequential today.

But this isn't to say that they didn't do it beautifully for they did. Impeccable timing. A majestic command of the text (as you'd hope, as this was the last night of a couple of months of it). Mr Director, Anthony Page, has a lovely sense of comedy. And his two boys played to it superbly. The girl of the three has a ridiculous part as she's all conscience riddled and full of the vapours so this is a part that would be hard to do well. Given the circumstances, Lisa Dillon did pretty well. I found her slightly irritating but suspect this was character rather than portrayal.

The taller of the two boys, well I'm sure he was very good but I had no interest in him - shallow to say - as my attention was principally taken by the shorter boy (no change there, then), the lovely Andrew Scott. Who was superbly captivating. But perhaps my motives for saying this are too base? I discovered on programme scrutiny that this same boy was he who featured so beautifully in Seawall at the Trav a couple of years ago. I loved him then and shall love him again now. My new actor crush.

So all in all, a cheerfully frivolous night. I'd urge you to go and see it but you can't as it's finished. I did have one flicker of regret when they were taking an ecstatic curtain call. As this was us last Saturday night. How time goes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I've just clambered out of a taxi, the driver of which demonstrated to me once again how beautifully remarkable people are.

He started off - after the usual pleasantries - with a bold "well I find I'm bored out of my mind doing this job". Dangerous but I ventured a "what did you used to do?" It paid off. "Well, I used to drive the only 1,000 tonne crane in the UK." So we chatted a little about the logistics involved in this. £36,000 to rig it for a job. Another £36,000 to un-rig it - whatever the phrase would be. And £12,000 a day for it to do whatever you want it to do. So it's apparently a fairly well-paid job. (I didn't dare ask precise amounts.)

"But I guess when you're dealing with that size of crane, when things go wrong, they're pretty spectacular?" "Oh yes, and I had a few f**k ups in my time, I don't mind telling you." "What happened?" I'm sure my eyes were more saucer-like than usual in the dark taxi back. "Well, put it this way (not quite answering the question), once I was operating one of the smaller cranes and I misjudged it and it tipped right over the quay and into the water. I was lucky as it was a warm day (hypothermia?) and I got out with a bad back and a broken ankle." The crane sank without trace.

"But of course I only fell into operating it. My supervisor called me in one day when I was operating one of the smaller cranes and said did I have any experience driving a (can't remember the detail but basically, a) big long lorry? And I said, course I did, I used to drive them all the time in the army. And he said 'great, we need someone to take this down to London.' And I looked at it and it went on forever. And I thought well, if I can get it out of the carpark, I can get it to London."

And the Army? Well, he turned out to have been in the Argylls. Well, now I know that this is a very northern battalion. The Argyll and Southern Highlanders, to be precise. "How on earth did you end up up there?" "Well," he said, "that's another story. I was something of a lad in my time. I had more hair then and a six pack. And I wanted to join the army but I didn't know where to go and one of my mates was a sniper and, not to put too fine a point on it, he got all the girls. So I thought, great, I'll be a sniper. And then I was looking for a battalion and one of my mates was in the Argylls so I thought well, I'll go up there. And there were three of us from Edinburgh and we got a lot of stick from the other boys for our accents."

So a sniper for the Argylls. A crane man. And then his missus put her foot down because he was away too much with his biggest crane in the UK and so he drives taxis. "And I know I'm a hypocrite but if my 6 year old ever says she wants to end up with a soldier, well I tell you, I'm having none of it."
Whisked from one world and plonked sharply into the next, I've had a bumper crop of research this week. Monday night was Edinburgh, Tuesday, Glasgow and last night. Aberdeen. Which means that right now, I'm speeding (well, technically being sped) down the East Coast in a super fast super cosy train, gazing out (between paragraphs and a cup of tea) at the snow-soaked landscape. It's incredibly fetching. Right now, for example, the sun is trying its hardest to burn through a particularly stubborn clump of cloud so it's like a little white circle in a giant sheet of grey, the trees are spindley spiking through the fog and on the breast of a distant hill, a handful of wind turbines are lazily lifting their blades. It's a lovely land.

I feel a little bit bad because what all of this has meant is that I've barely had time to miss our Secret Rapture. Though some would say this is a hundred times healthier than the absurd protracted period of more or less mourning offered up by our Festival endeavour.

Perhaps when this particular project is out of the way, I shall be hit with a wave of sorrow for my "mmm"s and the cumbersome though no doubt eloquent to the ear phraseology: "like for instance tonight".

But for now, for now, I'm blissfully untouched by it.

It must be a measure of my mediocre ("pleasant") talent.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The adjudicator's report came in last night.

I apparently delivered a "pleasing performance".

Shan't be rushing to give up my day job then...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Had a bit of a moment this morning when I got up to go to the gym and then thought 'but what on earth am I going to do there?' But I thought of the value for money failing if I didn't go and struggled along. Took my headphones and oh, I learnt a little about the world from the BBC. No bad thing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What I don't suppose anyone will miss is having to deliver the powerful utterance, "mmm" with meaning and feeling. Specifically, 3 m's. Try it. It's pretty tricky.
Girl at work said she thought Tom had nurtured a secret love for Isobel and was hoping to run off with her at the end (well, you know, until the gun misfortune). As he'd spent the whole play giving me loving looks.

Oh the possibilities.
And to the lollipop man, I screech: "I've done it. I'm free."

"Then I think, yes, just remind me, what am I meant to do now?

In my case, there's only one answer."

I must rediscover my pining friends. That's it.

(Oh, and go to Spanish classes.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

As per Irwin's early afternoon tweet, "thank god it's over".

Now don't think I'm rude, ungrateful or unappreciative. As it was wonderful. I loved being Isobel. I loved my fellow cast and shall miss them dearly. I loved rehearsals and laughed drain-like in them often, much to Wendy's chagrin. But three shows in one small year is too much. For me, at least.

Last night, our last night, skipped along. As some sort of poetic justice, I at last experienced a proper moment of empty headedness. Not the empty head that is swiftly superceded with exactly the right words after approximately half a second. But a proper genuinely have no idea what the words are meant to be moment. Luckily, it struck as I was footering about with a prop so it was easier to conceal. And on account of the prop, I had some loose idea of what I was meant to be saying. So spat out something that kind of kept us on track. But I'm interested, not to say morbidly pleased that this happened at the final hurdle. A small fluffy catharsis.

The rest of the show appeared to pass uneventfully. Despite careless guffaws from We Know Who in the audience. The small-hearted ad man got a whole bout of hilarity to himself. And I felt a little bit sad as I flung myself off stage to avoid the (never quite believing they were fake) bullets. But mostly relieved that I'd survived.

Silly melodrama. Over-tired I think. (Also why I can't spell accurately.)

And then we had the pack everything up and cart it back to our infested store. My favourite moment of the night came as I (constitutionally incapable of carrying things) crowed proudly to Richard that I'd perfected a brilliant carrying technique for some giant unwieldy but not remotely heavy struts, demonstrating my clever co-opting of my shoulder. I peered down at the floor to suss out the prize resting place for them. And noticed that my clever carrying technique had resulted in my struts crushing his foot. "Yes," he said forgivingly, "I didn't like to say".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Last night started a little bit sluggish but we got into our groove. As best we were able, at any rate.

I forgot (self self self) two small portions of lines. One which mattered because it deprived DG of the chance to say a line which raises a little ripple of laughter from the audience. And one which mattered because the thing which I went on to say made no sense. But in both cases, I realised only after the event. In the DG line case, because he pointed it out. And in the other case, because it dawned on me a little bit too late that I'd left out the middle of the sentence. But it was too late to reverse.

On the plus side, I didn't once handle the supposedly oven-hot shepherd's pie dish with my bare hands. A careless error on previous nights. I did not shriek so much that I spent the rest of the second act post-fight scene on the verge of being hoarse. Irwin's voice is kind of mostly holding up despite an impending bout of laryngitis. And I don't think we had a single yawning silence last night which must be a first.

The audience were polite to our collective faces (as far as I know).

So we have all the building blocks for a rather super (Isobel speak - must wean myself off this, starting tomorrow) show tonight. Wish us well.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Btw, before some other clever clogs gets in first, I now understand that panicky is spelt with a k.

For the record, I was pretty certain that this was so but it just didn't look right...
So last night, we enjoyed a double whammy of adjudicator and newspaper critic. Although as luck would have it, I only found about the latter when I'd made my final (line-speaking) exit.

Wednesday's performance had flung up various audibility issues so, in a bid to counter this - and unfortunately not really knowing how to 'project' - I shouted my way through last night's show, just to be sure that two rows from the front adjudicator wouldn't miss a moment of my so-called art. And as Mr Critic was sat up at the back, it's probably just as well.

I screeched particularly loudly at the start of the second act and spent the rest of it beset by (more) fear that I would go utterly hoarse. But luckily, a cool sleek in the pint afterwards seemed to sort that out and today, my throat feels all smooth and ready to screech again. Lucky.

Anyway, because this isn't meant to be all about me (who'm'I kidding?), the performance as a whole seemed to pass reasonably uneventfully. I mean in a good way. The technical stuff all worked beautifully. The note dropping through the imaginary letterbox in the third scene in the first act was accompanied by an appropriate SFX rather than a more musical one. There was no interminably long pause at the start before the opening music began - I almost missed it. The projectors all seemed to behave themselves. Gordon dressed me impeccably. A few lines were missed or mangled (cue Wendy: "but Claire, you could have just said your next line". Well, absolutely I could have if I hadn't been thinking so hard about what was meant to be said instead) but nothing very noticeable. And indeed the biggest misfortune seemed to arise when a superfast change left my hair in a static mohican which left Cari struggling not to laugh at my absurd appearance. But she held it together with aplomb and so we went on.

Hard to know what Mr Adjudicator made of it. He said some kind things and some niggley things. He promised notes on individual actor's performances by the start of next week. A thought which makes me skin crawl slightly.

And despite I'm sure most of the six cast members frantically checking The Critic's blog repeatedly throughout today, he as yet appears to have made no statement.

But none of these opinions really matter of course as you can come along, if you haven't already and judge for yourself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

So. The first night.

Well. It would be fair to say that by the time the time approached, I was terrified. All the usual symptoms.

My hair had been burnt by my hairdresser into some semblance of a 1988 style. Crimping irons were applied - I had no idea that such things existed. I used to have to create tens of tiny plaits "in my day" - to the under the top layer of hair roots to give them 'body' so the overall hair achieved that slightly helmety look. A round the circumference snip to make an overall fairly even coarse blunt length. Inches off. Some (in my head at least) sharp burns to the scalp. And a sharper intake of breath in front of the mirror in a rare not obsessing about the impending show moment when I spy new shortie(ish) style.

But anyway, this was a distraction. Running through my script was a kind of a distraction except unfortunately I couldn't seem to get the lines out in remotely the right order. A kind of odd impending performance paralysis. Though - dressing room talk - this seemed to be a common problem.

And at the theatre, all sorts of panicy technical problems created a bit of a diversion. But time inconsiderately passed and suddenly the doors were open and the People were pouring in and there I was sat concentrating hard on my 'dead' father.

For what I haven't mentioned here to date is that I begin the show sat on the stage. Which means that when the People come pouring in, there I am. Sitting, gently hyperventilating. I haven't ever had to do this before. Lovely idea. Lovely director's vision. Lovely tableau for the audience as they pour in so the scene is charmingly set. Horrific as the actor in question.

But wonderfully, moaning about this to last year's last minute Antigone, she laughed derisively and retorted " 'is that girl down there alright??' " for this last year, had been her fate as she crouched atop the stairs of the venue before the play started, cast out of the technical people's spaceless strip as she awaited her dramatic entrance. Easy for me to say. And now, pay back.

So anyway, the play begins. And despite my catclysmic predictions (though I still can't quite work out exactly what cataclysmia (??) I expected), it all went fine. Some of the lines were wrong. Some of the technical bits didn't quite work. There was a bit of excitement, I find out later thanks to the medium of twitter, that the gun almost wasn't retrieved from safety in time to play its part. But all in all, I think we did pretty respectably. Oh, apart from the one thing which I did which actually ruined everything but the less said about that, here, the better.

And now night two is almost upon us. I feel less categorically scared. Though perhaps this is foolish as we have Mr Adjudicator in tonight. But then again, all I need to do is remember my lines and try and act a bit. Easy, right?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dress rehearsal last night.

Always a slightly tense experience and in this instance, exacerbated by the fact that we'd had such a truncated tech on Monday.

But you know, it was ok. I forgot more lines that I hadn't ever forgotten before. Dear always thinking the best of me director Wendy (except when she snapped momentarily at the tech and told me to stop fidgeting about at the very start) questioned my dramatic pauses in a climactic scene. But I sharply burst the bubble by foolishly sharing the truth of the matter which was that I had forgotten what to say.

And we limped to the end. Crept home. I slathered on the St Tropez so I don't look too ghostly in my pretty pure summer dress. One more sleep and it's the day.

So I've printed off my photos of my 1988 celebrity (guess) as a reference for my hairdresser. And I guess we're good to go.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tech last night. Which, on the whole, I love. As you suddenly see the show start to properly unpack itself around you. And it's suddenly not all about the actors but just about how you make them look and sound pretty.

Unfortunately, last night's tech seemed to drain any limited acting ability I might have had previously from my bone marrow. Which I found disconcerting. But I was a little reassured when my (on-stage) sister - who for the record is excellent at this acting business - said that she felt exactly the same. In fact, I think she might have said something along the lines of "god, pity the people that have to come and see this". Though I might be putting words into her mouth there. So at least I'm not alone in the draining.

Dress tonight. Onwards and upwards as they say. After all, there isn't much lower we can go.

Monday, November 15, 2010

OML. Into the theatre yesterday. A shabby line run. And now it's The Week. Gulpety gulp.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Best way to foil the lollipop man. Get in before 8. Sorted.

I left 4 precious flyers (as they're in short supply now) in another local coffee shop. Actually, as the ones I left in the coffee shop over the road appear to be resolutely untouched, I could have stolen a few back and scattered them around. But there's still time.

A full run-through last night. I remembered the lines forgotten on Tuesday. Of course I forgot other lines to make up for it. And despite the fact that on Wednesday night, I made up a short song to remember a particular "of course not" that I then paced about my flat singing, I forgot it again. Better not rely on short songs then.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I made the mistake of 'acting' some of my lines to the mirror last night.

I think, when it gets to the show, it would be best if I wore a bag on my head.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

So what is endlessly surprising about this malarkey is the way in which, at any moment, you can forget a line which you always previously repeated perfectly.

e.g. last night's run of act 2 saw me suddenly and surprisingly say, instead of "tonight we have a lawsuit" - "tonight we have a mortgage". Well, not quite such an unfortunate thing. And awkward to recover from. "A mortgage. Oh and a lawsuit." Well, it hardly trips off the tongue.

This obviously kicked my subconscious back into its panic setting. Last night, I dreamt that I was in the wings of some unspecified theatre waiting to go on in some unspecified play. I was due on stage midway through the first scene but couldn't really remember my cue and could not remember my first line. So I picked up a script lying nearby and flicked through it looking for my line which was on approximately page 30. Couldn't find it. There was no page 30. A table nearby offered someone else's copy of the script. And guess what? No page 30. So I ended up darting about the wings of the theatre in panic picking up copy after copy but none of them offered up the appropriate page with my lines. Luckily I awoke before I had to fatefully step out into the footlights.

A week to go. It figures that the panic would start to bubble up again. Ulp.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Although let's not be complacent slash smug as the actual line is "It's fine. It's not a problem".

Silly misplaced self-congratulation.
This will only mean anything to cast members but oh my lord, I just said "it's all right. It's not a problem" on the phone to a colleague. Isobel is leaking into my day to day life.
Sugar is to be the drug of choice to struggle through this week. This is my current favourite snack of choice. But if you buy it to share, it's fine, right?

Monday, November 08, 2010

This morning in the gym.

"That must be a really good book."

I wanted to snap back, "you don't think you're original, do you?"
I wrote this last night and fell asleep over the keyboard. But I include it plus nonsensical last sentence for your Monday morning entertainment.

Bumper rehearsal yesterday. 2pm til 9pm. The prospect made me feel slightly faint. Even if it was to be punctuated with pizza.

We were in another 'life-size' space. Always good to get the adrenalin going. And the absurdity, as (fake) sister mine said, of the fact that the backstage people sitting about triggers this sudden realisation that soontime, you'll be doing this in front of a real audience, despite the fact that in my case, they've seen me pretend to act about one hundred times before.

And so a little character work. And then a limp through act one with swifty costume changes. All boded farely well. Pizza break and line run. And then act two.

The lesson here is don't buy an 18" pizza laden with stuffs, gobble it down like a ravenous wild boar and then expect to be able to move about full of nervous agitation while also handily remembering your lines. Because you can't. Or at least, I can't. The first scene of act two was consequently shocking. Lines were fluffy as a soft marshmallow cloud. Acting. Well, less said the better.

But the major cause for celebration is that we managed a full run today. Seems I might be up to remembering all my lines in the right order. But don't tell anyone. It's better if they're concentrating so hard on what you're doing that you can do a small madness and no-one will care.
I've been sadly lagging behind in this here blog. Makes a change.

What I've most importantly missed out is last Friday night which seems impossibly long ago. But on this night, I had a twofold pleasure. The best little whorehouse in Texas by Allegro at the Churchill and then one of the debut performances of the newly formed Stantons line up.

The tiny Whorehouse was a peculiar show, replete with missed storyline opportunities as far as I could see. What of the sweet pure girl who was driven to join the whorehouse by some darkly hinted-at circumstance which never quite emerged but despite her butter wouldn't melt appearance, took to whorelife as the proverbial duck? And what of the easily led girl who came to the tiny place as the latest in a long list of other equivalent locations but wanted nothing so much as to get home for Christmas to be with her child? None of these tousled ends were adequately tied. Nor was the simmering under for the whole of the show romance between the madam and her sheriff resolved. Not really.

So storywise, full of disappointment. However, from the point of view of seeing a bunch of my friends pranking about in a series of daft costumes, it was great fun. Helen handstanded (handstood?) with a vengeance. In fact, with a verticality which made me quite jealous. I was also a rubbish handstander. Yvonne was tassled and slutty. Just as she should be. And DG. Well. I would pay money over and over if only I could for the delight of his little shoe-shuffley dance and perky little song piece. He was truly deliciously wonderful. So this, coupled with pink prosecco, was a fine night in itself.

Yet more greatness was to come.

We flew then to an excellently hidden away basement in the Tron to see The Stantons plus Cari and Umi. And O! How Neil (and fellow band members) have fallen on their feet with these pretty girls. As they also happen to be able to sing rather finely. You see, I had most of an inkling that Cari was pretty competent given our Tempestuous times. But there was no reason at all to suppose that Umi could also hold a more than competent tune.

As it turned out, they were the perfect complement for each other. I loved the previous Stantons gig I saw. But maybe I have to confess that I felt that this topped it. Though I am hideouosly biased as the last one that I saw did not feature 'my' girls. I suggest, Mr one-time Musical Director, that you hold onto these ones tighter than a fisherman clasps onto a tough slippery salmon. But I think you know that. O, and loving the new Circus song too. Almost a perfect soundtrack for a circus themed party, were such a thing in the offing...

All in all then, a finer Friday night than I could have hoped for. I came away feeling inappropriately proud as none of these talents are anything to do with me but how lucky to know such clever people.

Friday, November 05, 2010

I observe how much easier it is to 'sell' a show when you're actually in it.

I saw a long lost (super posh - I love the posh) work colleague / friend this morning as I lurked in the coffee shop waiting for my breakfast. And he asked if I had any shows coming up. Well, as it happens....

And he looked one thousand times more interested than if I'd said I was directing. I don't know how I learn from this. Lie in the future and they only find out when they've sat through it..?

Thursday, November 04, 2010


The lollipop man seems to have accepted that I have an orange book permanently welded to my arm for this morning, we had perfectly British meaningless chitchat. With not a "still on the same one?" in (audible) sight.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Meeting on the boat today. Two in fact and the second was last thing.

It was awful dark, you know. We could never have done our little show in the middle of winter. Mind you, I think the rain might have got a little more in the way than it did if this were so too. So it's all for the best.
Last night, I dreamt that I was telling someone about the first gig that I'd done with Neil's band.

Over it already.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

So. It's done. I have submitted my suggestion for the 2011 Fringe Festival to our committee. And shall await their judgment.

I'd give you a clue but you'd only google it. And then the proverbial cat would slip loose from the already wide-necked bag. And then where would we be?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Yesterday, for the first time, we ran through all of act one in the right order.

Anyone who spends any sort of social time with me will, by now, well know that my great fear has been not so much remembering the lines per se but managing to repeat them all in the right order consecutively.

And it was kind of ok. Well, my monotone delivery was not but Wendy should have focused on was the simple joy that I managed to choke out most of the right words at the right sort of time when I concentrated hard enough. And given that I was slightly the worse for wear after a rather superb Saturday night, this was all the greater achievement.

As I appear to be able to measure my psychological state in my dream life at the moment, last night's was interesting. I was on a boat in some misty marshy fenlands with my sister. For one of these inexplicable dream reasons, we had to transfer a whole bunch of stuff from one boat to another. I was unfamiliar with the layout of these boats so sister showed me to a hideous submerged walkway that consisted really of one rope at water level, principally submerged, with another rope running along at boat height for clutching onto as you edged precariously across.

"But don't be ridiculous", I said to sister, "I can't get across there." "Well you have to", she said with slight sisterly irritation, "it's the only way." So I stepped off with trepidation in my heart. And oddly, as I stepped, the submerged rope became a planked walkway that wasn't submerged at all. Handy.