Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I've been puzzling for days about what to write about my First Ever Gang Show at the weekend.

And I conclude that - as ever - the problem arose from the gap between my expectation and the actual event.

I've always been fascinated by the idea of the Gang Show.(For the uninitiated, the gang used to be composed of boys in uniforms. In this age of equal opportunities, they had to broaden their intake to girls in uniforms too.) In my head, it's always existed as a be-sweatshirted Bugsy Malone, shimmering like a mirage in the impossible to reach mid-distance. So over the years, I've always clocked the forthcoming show advertised at the Kings and felt vague regret that I had no possible legitimate pretext to attend.

This year, I celebrated. The Child auditioned and was cast. Thus entering the ranks of the elite worthy few. The Mother was organised, took our bookings very early doors. And this made complete sense. Who would not want to be present at the scintillating debut of their darling? Understandable that tickets would be hotter than those for the final night of the One Act Play Festival Final. Even ice-creams had to be pre-ordered. The anticipation was exquisite.

I was taken aback on arrival at the theatre on Saturday night at the quantity of men in uniforms. Avid readers will know that this, in itself, is not a problem for me. But a valuable learning: the nature of the uniform is everything.

A uniform that marks out those that help others = alluring.

A uniform that marks out those that boss about big packs of young boys = hmmm.

So you can rest assured that I won't be rushing to direct Scout Masters Anonymous anytime soon.

The show itself. Well, it started rousingly. 260 kids dashing about the stage delivering Take That's Kids. I expected to be reduced to a quivering mass of soggy tears within about 29 seconds. But lucky for me, the dashing was so over-bearing that the singing was less - soaring, let's say. More campfire fervent than heart-rending.

And so it went. A motley (though exceptionally well-thought through and choreographed) collection of pop songs, hymns to queen, country, land and lord above, musical medleys and sketches of assorted entertainment value. So far, so easily dismissed.

Til The Child stepped on stage. Handily in a Nativity number. Looking all very angelic and ethereal in her Mother's Triumph ebay outfit and feathery wings. In amongst the other 60 odd angelic / shepherdly / inn-keepery / star sparkly cast members. And trotted her way through their musical medley which of course was wonderful. Necks craned, hearts clutched, hankies wafted, eyes wide with pride.

Therein, the point.

I hope - if She chooses to sign up for the Guides - that She features in a couple more numbers next year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I love an audition.

There's something delightfully liberating about pitching up to do your thing after one (albeit attentive) reading of a script with no idea what the director hopes to do with it and no fankley practicalities about where to stand and how to say things knocking around in your head.

For one night only, the "actor" (and pay close attention to the inverted commas - I am under no illusions or delusions about my capabilities) can skip about, footloose and fancy-free, unencumbered by anyone's burden of expectations. It's great fun.

Having said that, for these particular auditions - Six Degrees of Separation, spring show - I had not taken into account the peculiar terror of having to deliver this aforementioned skipping in front of one of your oldest and dearest friends. Hats off to all of you that have done said gambolling for me over these years.

To add to the paralysis, oh, there's trained actor sitting at his right hand (well, left hand actually, but you get the picture) watching watching you with oh such a sweet attentive face. And suddenly, your two dear friends - Ross of a thousand late night collective inanities and Caroline of a thousand snorting when we shouldn't on and off stage (in her pre-pro days) are transformed into the arbiters of your fate.

Take this already horror and ladle on - for good entertaining measure - The Accent. American. Well, I felt I should step in there and represent The Common Man (well, woman) so my "accent" (as before) was a glorious patchwork of states, nations and continents. In my head, I was Blanche Dubois. But from my forays into Irish ("are we gathered?" still haunts me. Losing Venice. Jo Clifford / B S Neill / 1998 I think), I am all too aware of my vocal limitations. Bless them all, they sat deadpan as I skated and skeetered through my mongrel rendition of (glamourous, poised, elegant no more) Kitty's lines.

But see these things principally as a social occasion - for there were bundles of nice people waiting alongside me - and the night is saved. It's an odd hobby that we have. But I would not change it for the world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm sorry to see that Senna didn't make the Academy Awards shortlist. I might powerfully use this blog to campaign for its reinstatement. (Or 'instatement' possibly as I'm not sure it was ever on the (short)list to fall off.)

I slyly slipped off to the movies for another cinematic treat tonight. BEB. (Behind Everyone's Back.)

It was a last minute notion (your honour) based on a happy collision of several factors:

- a nigh on miraculous trip from one side of Manchester to another on / in a combination of legs / vehicle including a bag stop to reclaim my luggage, shed this morning at the obliging hotel, in approx 12 minutes which meant that I caught a train I had no right to catch

- a disbanding of my Spanish class on account of the absence of one and the sickness of another which left me footloose and fancy free

- a jilting by a recently returned from Caribbean luxury friend who shunned sushi and me for silence and solace (incredible!)

And so thanks to these collected circumstances, I slipped along to my trusty not-local and was roundly entertained by The Rum Diary.

Let's be clear. I don't think B S Neill would like it. It was a pretty silly story. Though grounded in some sort of quasi-truth if Jonny Depp (and his miraculous manuscript discovery) can be believed. Though with enough of a sprinkling of vaguely political overtones to keep me happy.

It rambled a little and sometimes, in its self-indulgence, it lost its way a little. But hey, it featured Jonny Depp looking hot. It featured a very pretty girl also looking hot, should this be more where your interest lies. It featured some great actors. Some great lines. ("How can someone drink 161 miniatures?" "I thought they were complimentary.")

And it made me think of my summer holiday. Which for two hours, in the middle of a brisk and frisky November, is no mean feat.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In the year BB (Before Blog), a boy met a girl during our autumn production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.

I don't remember much of this show beyond it needing a tortoise, a hideously long dining room table, Gordon being very good as something prodigal, Asha also, Ian A making inappropriate comments backstage, Ross fretting about learning his intensely intellectual lines and my wearing of jeans that were inappropriately low-slung. (My own - so my own fault.)

But during this show, Gordon met Lorna. The spark that is the spark that matters was - whatever the spark is. Kindled? Ignited? Teased? Provoked? Lit? Whichever, this is where it began.

And yesterday, they were officially wed.

In the loveliest of ceremonies in the midst of the very loveliest of celebrations in the midst of the wilds of (Western - just) Scotland.

We wish them all the very wellest of wellness with their marital bliss.

(Though I don't think they'll need it as they seem to have got this togetherness thing down to a fine art. Well done, lady and gentleman. And have fun.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sorry, beloved blog, I've been neglecting you.

And will be neglecting you again this weekend.

I promise to do better next week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I don't know what possessed me at the time that I thought going to see Scottish classic, Men Should Weep, was a good idea. But I was not in the same passionate grip on Saturday afternoon.

My lord, what a dreary play.

I mean, goodness, it was beautifully (dingily) set. Beautifully (dingily) costumed. Beautifully acted. And very nicely directed by the man who directed the RSC workshop that I've still got a half-written blog post lying about for. (I hadn't much liked him at the time so it was wonderful to see the fruits of his oh so practical for amateurs workshopping approach so nicely realised....)

But goodness, it was miserable.

It cheered up for about five minutes towards the end when at last the poor drudge family could afford biscuits and spindly paper chains in honour of the impending Christmas season. But then loads more bad stuff clambered out of the closet so the biscuits were all but forgotten.

To top it off, the dreary scenes were punctuated with dirge-like / traditional rousing Scottish ballads delivered by an earnest looking fellow in a flat cap who hovered near the front of the stage and addressed us in his medium of (dingy) song with an earnest pleading tone.

Now, as ever, I'm not the best critic. As if to highlight my wriggling disinterest, when I did finally fall asleep (and this, surely, was inevitable), I awoke to find a fine long string of drool trailing down my chin.

I'm not leaving myself much room for further maneouvre when it comes to growing old disgracefully.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I've now seen our Hamlet (as opposed to the Michael Sheen version which opened on the same day) x3.

It's a cracking show. I do hope you'll be coming to see it tonight if you haven't already. (7:30pm, St Brides on Orwell Terrace.)

Having seen it thrice, I feel I'm now at slight liberty to take brief attention away from the actors to ponder the audience and their reaction.

So I witnessed a prize moment last night.

If you don't want to have any sort of indication about what happens in the plot, don't read on.

If you don't mind (or indeed, already know what happens), there's a gun shot towards the start of the second half.

It's very sudden and startling so the audience reactions are quite entertaining.

Last night, I was sat in the bank of raked seats so I had a prime vantage point.

The shots were fired.

A few people leapt about a bit like salmon flailing on one of those fish ladders that I still hunger (bad choice of word) to see in action.

One lady clapped her hand over her mouth in horror. She was directly opposite the incident so was fully exposed to the outrage.

And then I spied She Who Shall Remain Nameless, sat upstage, looking utterly unruffled while smoothly, confidently, guiding her glass of wine to her mouth.

I'll give you a clue as to her identity.

A child of hers features in the flyer for my 2012 festival show.

Orla Guerin, eat your heart out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sunday was a fun day.

Unconscionable time of bed departure aside.

For it was the move in for our autumnal show which begins tomorrow. Mr Hamlet.

So to Home Street to humph (in my case, small light) things out of The Store and into the van, tetris style.

To Orwell Terrace and the venue to decant it all.

And then getting busy busy with setting it all out and up and making sure the lights were pointing in the right direction and the set would accommodate (oh let's not spoil the surprise) The Things it needed to accommodate.

I clambered up and down the ladder of death to the lighting box TWICE. Known to those that know as a cat (?) ladder. (I do not know - hence, not knowing how it should be spelt. But cat feels appropriate as no human should have to haul themselves up such a vertical.)

And then I slunk away before they were even done.

But I saw enough to see that the show will look stupendous.

I love a get in.

And now we've got, make sure you get your tickets here. The Hub is listing our Hamlet as its second biggest seller. So get busy with it or you'll miss a treat.
Six months ago, I posted a bunch of postcards in Trinidad, the beating colonial heart of Cuba.

They turned up in the UK today. Six months on, to the day. In Nottingham and Canterbury respectively.

As did the card that B S Neill posted to his brother and sister-in-law.

A conscientious amount of quarantined time I think.

Oh, to live on Cuban time.

Monday, November 07, 2011


I went to see this purely because the script is by Abi Morgan.

Now I know it's hard to imagine a time BB (Before Blog) but I directed a play by this aforementioned lady called Tiny Dynamite some years back. A gorgeous little script that told the tale of three - two boys and a girl - and they were all kind of in love with each other.

A young person's modern day version of the Noel Coward play I'm so keen to do. (I say "do" but actually, I mean, "be in".)

Turns out that it's also a National Theatre of Scotland production. So I could (unwittingly) bang the sanctimonious drum about the thriving Scottish theatre scene.

And it was directed by Vicky Featherstone who I also feel (obscurely) fond of - for no reason other than having seen her give a talk to students at QMU some time back. And she looked cool. (So superficial!)

Anyway, luckily, given the great concatenation (Siobhan, that's for you) of auspicious circumstances, I liked it.

The script is a little ponderous. But the themes are laudable enough. And not so weighty that they drag the story down into the dark and dusty nether aisles of the library you hope you'll never have to visit because it's too worthy and dull.

I'm possibly inclined to agree a little with Mr Graveling who was outraged at the liberties taken with scientific truth and felt that the characters verged at some points on caricatures. But for I, the non-scientist, this was much less of an issue.

The set was gorgeous. Though lacked the dilapidation referenced in the script (thanks to Father for that observation).

And it was very nicely acted. The 'breaking points' were all suitably delicately executed. Which is important, I think, in a Abi Morgan play. (Lord, listen to me. What do I know?) She is not heavy-handed with her drama, that one. (Snide aside alert.) (Oh, unless she's writing for TV.) (But that's a different audience. I'd argue you need a heavier hand.) (Danger - patronising.)

Not all of the audience at our particular showing made it all the way through the show. Some were absent in body from the second half. Others (and maybe I too fell into this camp) enjoyed some quiet restful times at certain points as the story wended its way homewards.

But an admirable creation from all concerned. Lots to think about. I'm still - three whole days on - thinking about it around the edges of everything else. Which I think is the finest possible tribute to a piece of theatre.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Hey, this is cool. I don't think I've ever known people in a band with a video on YouTube before.

Though actually, I bet they've had vids up there for always and I've just been a bad friend. That's more likely.

Anyway, many congratulations and I hope you end up as stellar stars - as long as you don't shun me when you're famous.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I just tried to write "cheering up the troops".

I spelt it "troupes".

Spot where my head is at.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Ides of March is very good.

Terse. Sparse. Spare. And gripping.

Thingumijiggy Young Goose is very good as the main man.

And George may feel he's sufficiently old to warrant saving his skills for behind the camera endeavours.

But George, if you're reading this, I'd find a place for you on stage any day.

Just give me a bit of notice. So I can find a suitable 'vehicle'.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

And now, for something totally different.

Story (still) to follow.