Saturday, April 30, 2011

I've failed my friends abysmally recently, what with the restaurant situation thwarting my attendance at Lorraine's Experiment and then my pesky day job preventing me from seeing The Memory of Water (reportedly brilliant) and the always lovely Stantons this week.

When it comes to professionals gigs however, I've been spoilt.

I've just watched Flare Path, a play by Terence Rattigan. Now this is a writer I know almost nothing about, thanks in part to another great letting down incident years ago. And he appears to be performed a fair amount so this felt like an amply fed (or rather, totally starved) gap in my theatrical education.

I was sceptical about its worth, I must confess. Trevor Nunn was directing so I assumed it would be alright. But Sienna Miller was starring. And my recent Knightley experience has left me a little bitter and burnt when it comes to celebrity acting. But I need not have feared.

There were two real stars in this production. Actually, make that three. The play is fabulous. A proper story. Lots of (gentle) twists. Haystacks of understated (stiff upper lip) (World War Two RAF pilots) repressed emotion. A fun bunch of characters. And of course I love a war story so I was sucked in quite quickly.

Star Two. Mr Director. Helped by a gorgeous set that spilled over with furniture but you so didn't notice and it meant he could create such pretty pictures with his people that it didn't matter at all. And helped by an amazing little effect at the end of act one which showed you, hovering over the set, the various planes taking off on the last minute hazardous expedition. But neither of these things alter the fact that Mr Nunn did a really lovely job of wringing all of the not even pathos but genuine miserable tragedy out of the lives of these pretty ordinary people in the middle of a war.

Star Three. Should be Stars, plural. The actors did a tremendous job. Lovely characterisation. Helped by a script full of lovely characters. And Mr Billington is right. Sheridan Smith did a particularly captivating job of her working girl made good part. But I couldn't fault Sienna. The two main boys (Hadden-Paton and Purefoy) were excellent. And supported by a lovely set of cameos. No-one overacted and no-one threw any of it away. I snuffled my way through a good deal of act two and I'm always happiest when I'm having a good cry. So very very pleased with this night's entertainment.

And then barely a week and a half ago, I saw a play called Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris and directed by Dominic Cooke. My expectations for this were also low. A recommendation from someone whose opinion I'm not wholly sure about yet. But I had no better ideas and wanted to see something. So trotted along.

And hoorah. It was stupendous.

The plot isn't remarkable. 1950s America, nice white family, black servant whom they treat pretty appallingly. We laugh a little bit guiltily at the shameful behaviours because obviously, we would never behave like that - would we? Second act transfers to the modern day. Same neighbourhood. Black couple just moved into the white streets. Surely we should be behaving better now..?

But the play is elevated from being a lecture about the wrongs of racism by a handful of other subplots that knit together to serve up the point that we don't like people that are different. And we might not mean to but we tend to be pretty bad at keeping this to ourselves.

It all sounds desperately worthy but the beauty of the script (and this production of it) is that it's quick, witty and fairly skips through its polemics. So you don't even notice that you're being preached at.

It's also beautifully costumed, beautifully set (v clever overhauling of the house) and beautifully acted. I don't believe that there was a C list (or A list for that matter) celebrity among them.

For one happy night, I could slump back, swallow up the story and revel in a night of properly written, properly acted, properly polished theatre.

What a treat.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Cast all signed up.

Rehearsal schedule of intensely intricate detail circulated.

Now I can await the fankling fluffy "can't do this or that or the other date" responses.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh, hey, I've got myself a cast!
Rehearsal schedule in progress.

I lazily overwrite last year's.

Which means I'm having to overwrite lots of "Location: The Boat"'s.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


The rehearsal schedule is going to be a real pain in the a**e fankle and irk.

As it seems almost no-one is in a scene with the same set of people more than about twice.

Dear lord. I've cut approx one hour and forty minutes out of Antony and Cleopatra and my edit still has 28 scenes.

My oh my.

(What have I done??)

Friday, April 22, 2011

I've had two more yesses.

I relent a little bit.

Some headway.
I saw a stupendous play last night. The best thing I've seen for quite a long while.

Unfortunately, I'm simmering with too much irritation to write about it right now.

Fuelled by a train journey replete with restless children and rousingly loud musical toys.

(Remember. Never travel on a bank holiday. Unless you have small children of your own in which case it's a perfect opportunity to blend into the riotous cacophony.)

I still don't have a cast.

I must have - if I sit and think calmly about it - at least two thirds of a cast.

Thank you in boundless lurches of enthusiasm to those that have so far said yes.

To those that have not found a way to respond to me yet, can I just suggest to you that your hesitation means that I cannot actually tell the rest of the auditionees whether or not they might be blessed with inclusion in this happy blessed band of cast?

And then maybe think about giving me a call?

Quite soon please.

Extreme irritation doesn't suit me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Well, tonight, let me think, approx 28 days since my first audition, I at last have something like some shreds of a cast in place.

It feels like it has been a mammoth struggle to get this far. And of course it hasn't really.

It's only that my hankering for tidiness has been affronted by the sluggish way in which this process has dawdled along.

I must not be complacent. As some inconsiderate offer-ees have been out or at least, not answering their phones.

So I'm not out of the disreputable woods yet.

But a little chink of light between the tough sturdy trees.

Which is all you can ask for, right?

(Oh, and to all those that have been in and have said yes, hoorah! I salute you. And I cannot wait to Begin.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sorry about yesterday's horrible looking post. I could blame all sorts of things but suspect author ineptitude nestles at the heart of it. And I've tried so many times to fix it that I feel I can't waste any more of my life's minutes on it. So it can stay an ugly block. Don't hold it against me.

I'm inching closer to having a cast. I have one outstanding unresolved issue to be resolved. And then. And then. Perhaps something like a completely recruited and ready to go cast might be assembled.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Saturday night. I set out with the best of intentions. Lorraine is directing and various others whom I might be so bold as to call good friends were starring in her latest play, An Experiment with an Airpump. So I intended, planned, reserved tickets to go along and see this. But the gods were not sympathetic. I made the mistake of enjoying a little pre-theatre nourishment with The Kindest Man In The World. Everything was going swimmingly initially. The sun set gently, picturesquely over Edinburgh. The sauvignon blan... was delicious. The walnut bread plus two fine courses. Yum. But then the restaurant started filling up. The coffees were sluggish. The bill was more so. We rushed off with vigour and verve to the theatre with not quite enough time to spare. And lo! Arrived a moment too late. Our tardily unclaimed tickets had been (entirely reasonably) sold on to another, more respectful pair of theatre-goers. I cursed. And cursed more later on once we'd sat / intermittently napped through an ambitious but ultimately unsatisfactory popcorn movie. The Lincoln Lawyer. I entreat you not to see it. You won't be disappointed. I, on the other hand, was. Disappointed that carelessness meant I had to substitute the Airpump for a film that was plump with hot air. There's a lesson to be learnt there somewhere. Don't eat and theatre go. Or something.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tinkering tinkering with the script and though I've added one whole line back in (shock!), the script now runs to my immense (anal) satisfaction, to a nice even numbered 66 pages.

(Although with only one digit off The Devil's Number, perhaps this is a bad omen.)

This at least distracts me from the most ridiculously malingering casting process ever. (To all of those involved, eternal apologies. I will tell you soon soon soon...)

Now I'm about to trot off and meet a prospective costume girl. You'd think that almost four weeks since the first audition, I might be in a position to tell her whom has been cast.

Oh well.
I saw the most gorgeous little show last night. A Fistful of Mondays by a chap called Joe Graham.

It's a stupid enough story. Poor heartbroken Annie is eking out a meagre existence by dragging her ghetto blaster from downtrodden community centre to shabby ill-frequented pub, teaching fools to line dance. Poor heartbroken Tom sits night after night in one of these aforementioned ill-frequented pubs, reading an astonishing array of literature and unchallenging magazines but refusing to seize life by the metaphorical horns. Barry tends to this ill-frequented pub, eking out his existence with an enduring grumble about how little his customers drink.

And alongside these delicious characters, we have a motley crue of poncho man, gay tap dancer, toothless crone, frustrated (female) lecher and flightly (female) fool, all finding who knows what fulfilment from their weekly achy breaky sessions.

It had all the potential to be dreadful. A kind of Rent without any of the "edgy" (and I use the inverted commas advisedly) themes that make this show half interesting. A step up from a suburban comedy as it was located not in a living room but a dingy pub. But a half step as far as my theatrical preferences go.

But in actual fact, charming. Charming. Charming.

The script was surprisingly entertaining - you know, in bits - let's not go overboard here.

The set was very nicely done and it was actually beautifully lit.

But the acting saved a potentially mediocre thing from fulfilling all of its only just about average potential. As it was lovely.

Well, I'm biased a bit. Cari was Annie. And who'd have thought that you'd end up caring so much about the slightly predatory line dancing teacher? But she had such a lovely soulful wistfulness that you cared enormously about whether or not she managed to work things out with the socially inept Tom.

Tom was a newbie (to me, anyway). And did a brilliant line in seeming like The Most Unprepossessing Man In The World as he slouched over his bar stool with his scrappy Betterware catalogue. But when he straightened up his shoulders and smiled, you wanted to give him a big huge hug and wish him all the luck in the world. So it became desperately important that they worked out their differences.

Barman Barry was suitably anonymous - not a back story in sight - but did his grumbling shambling shoving of the two wishing-they-were-lovebirds together with a lovely light but heartfelt touch.

And Mr Farrimond did a great line in pretending to be gay.

A delight of a show. Rounded off with an ensemble dance. Mirrorball, cowboy hats n'all.

I would urge you to rush to see it. But I think they're sold out for tonight.

Very big (cowboy) hats off to them all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two lovely shows to choose from in Edinburgh this week, btw.

A Fistful of Mondays featuring various of my friends with Edinburgh Theatre Arts. Which received a rather lovely review from the Evening News.

And then we have An Experiment With An Airpump at Lauriston Street Hall from Wednesday til Saturday, also featuring (and directed by) various of my friends.

Miss either at your peril. I expect them both to be very good.
I wondered idly recently (after some surprise from Mr Larry at my flagrant - apparent- theatrical disrespect) whether I might change the name of this blog to Nap Time.

So this blog post from The Guardian feels almost as if it were written for me.

To sleep, perchance to dream ... Is it ever OK to doze off in the theatre?

Luckily, she was. Worth the wait, I mean. Now I need to start making some decisions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tonight, The Final Audition. I trust she's worth waiting for. In the meantime, considering considering considering. I'm certain that at least one of the auditionees will have changed their mind about wishing to be cast. I've urged them to tell me if this is so. (But obviously that isn't the game. The game is to tell Herr Director only when you're cast that you can't be.) How much cross-dressing? How many snakes to cast? Lurking in casting limbo land.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

And of course the RSC must be right.


(Thank you for your comments, todos.)
Here's a question I hadn't considered. Alexas. Girl's name or boy's name?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Round four of auditions tomorrow. Four and a half if we count the wild impromptu girl at the party.

"I am dying, Egypt, dying."

To be fair, it will have been almost four days since I last heard these words by the time they live again tomorrow.

I daresay I'll grow fond of the speech in time.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Big Village's Crucible on Saturday night. Which put me in mind of The Children's Hour which I saw about a month ago.

Ostensibly, the two plays couldn't be more different. The Crucible, you've probably heard of. The Children's Hour? Unless you slavishly read the London theatrical pages, I doubt it.

But actually, both are remarkably similar. Both deal beautifully with the horrifyingly broad repercussions of the actions of a hysterical (or vindictive or simply thoughtless) child.

In The Crucible, a bunch of supposed suspects get hung.

In The Children's Hour, two girl teachers - who've struggled and striven to build their little school up from nothing - lose all their pupils on account of the false accusation. The more unfortunate girl teacher shoots herself to boot. (Well, you know how it goes. She's in love with the other girl and can't cope with the (lesbian) shame. This is, after all, 1934.)

Both are brilliant plays. Carefully constructed, properly twisty turny things that keep you guessing (if you're not napping) up to the eleventh hour.

Interestingly, I fancy I saw better acting (controversially) in the local Big Village production of The Crucible.

Keira Knightly came into her own in the final moments of her Children's Hour with a chillingly empty devastation. And Elisabeth Moss was both very competent and very sweet.

But this Crucible was immediately raised up from the ranks of a million poorer versions by a stunning John Proctor. (Tried trepidaciously to recruit him for A&C but he's already busy.)

They were burdened with children that were far too old. Whereas the London production had the budgets to afford 'children' that looked a little bit more like children. The luxury of money.

But all in all, I'm left campaigning defiant again for the (sometime) virtues of a lot of this amateur stuff that we wade around to watch.

With nothing more - as I've said before - than bundles of love and enthusiasm, we often (if I may clump myself for a second in this community) don't do half bad.

Pats on the back all round.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Having watched my way through most of the five hours and forty minutes of Cleopatra starring the very gorgeous (and may she rest peacefully - or noisily if she'd rather) Elizabeth Taylor and handsome as you like Richard Burton, I can see why Ms Taylor reportedly delayed shooting so the script could be rewritten. And rewritten. I dread to think where it started out. But it did bring me (literally) hours of entertainment for all that.

To follow, some of my favourite lines.

Caesar (to Cleopatra): I'm not sure I want you to rub me at all, young lady.

Cleopatra: The corridors are dark, gentlemen. But don't fear. I am with you.

(Bitter) Caesar: I've given up wine. And trusting.

Caesar: You should attack my guards more often. Battles become you. You grow more beautiful every time I see you.
Cleopatra: And you grow balder.

Cleopatra (as Antony kneels to her): You have such bony knees.
Antony: Not only bony but unaccustomed to this kind of thing.

Antony: I have a fondness for Greek things.
Cleopatra: As an almost all Greek thing, I am flattered.

Antony: Never. Something women say to begin with.

Cleopatra (inviting Antony to stay the night): How long would you stay?
Antony: Until I have nothing left to say.

Antony (to Cleopatra): Don't ask me to be clear about my feelings right now. I'm too tired. And with you, even at my best, it's too hard.

And on Antony's return to Rome.

Cleopatra: How will I live?
Antony: The same as I. One breath upon another.

Beautifully melodramatic. They must have had a ball making it.

You should, by now, know how it ends. Badly is the answer. Antony jabs himself in the heart with a sharp thing and Cleo shoves an asp (or a man in a lycra suit with a blue mohican) down her front.

In this particular film, it's very delicately rendered.

Antony stabs himself more or less bloodlessly and gasps his last with a manly furrow of the brow, many touching sighs and a powerful longing stare.

But Elizabeth / Cleopatra is exquisite. After a conspiratorial nod, her maidservant trots in with a dumpy little basket. On opening, it contains only innocent figs. But wait. Look closer. The innocent figs are seething. And then. Oh my. A dark asp comes wriggling and writhing out of the dumpy basket. A long look at Elizabeth Cleopatra. All big beautiful eyes and haughty cheekbones and a look - The Look - of despair.

And then she womanfully raises her hand and - shock. gasp. - plunges it boldly into the dumpy basket of not so innocent figs. She wrinkles her nose ever so slightly as the asp's fangs sink into her finger, imparting its venom into her ivory skin. And then she lays herself back, ever so gently, onto the handily placed bier, murmurs a few final epic tragic words. And softly dies.

Elizabeth, I hope the asp was as gentle in real life.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The power.
Oh. Unless I just kill off Alexas too.
Oh dear. My cavalier script cuts have (I think) left someone alive who should be dead.

"For this pains, Caesar hath hanged him"

Is pretty unequivocal, is it not?

I think a little more script trimming is in order.