Thursday, November 29, 2012

So. Richard Three.

I trotted along to see it on Friday night. And of course, what weirdness. Because if ever I direct a show, it's very rare that I just sit in the audience and watch. Well, I don't, in fact. For that makes me jittery. I invent some pretext - "I'll do the sound" - how handy - to get me out of sitting on my hands idle itching with anticipation while they do their thing.

But two weeks of directing doesn't entitle you to gainful employment during The Show. Pity.

So I just had to - horror - sit and watch.

And how I loved it.

They did a lovely job. The weirdness of watching a show that was David and Emma's with tiny shreds of my dabbling hand every now and again. 

As David wisely observed, I didn't sleep once.

Saturday, I was elsewhere, singing like a midway through strangling cat. Endeavouring to sing Mr Mozart's Requiem. A piece of music I love love love and would never deign to think that I can sing as I can't really sing. But the miracle of this performance was that all you had to do to take part was - pay. Christopher Bell, marvellous man, spent x3 hours with us on Saturday afternoon and on Saturday evening, the cacophony was unleashed. And it was a pretty hideous cacophony.

But do you know, despite the fact that I should have been happy as a happy thing, making up a little shrieking scrap of this epic albeit partly faked by somebody else work, I had a little moment, mid Quam Olim Abrahae's, when I felt a little internal pang that I was missing Their Last Night. And missing the Get Out. And the guilt! And back to Abrahae.

Despite my miniscule involvement, they got me the loveliest of cards. Tiny little pictures of all of them. Lovely little messages. Poppets.

I lack the directorial right to list a self-indulgent scroll of favourite moments from the rehearsal process. After all, half of my fortnight belonged to Emma who was entirely responsible for keeping things on track. But if you'll just permit me a short trot through my absolute favourite moments?
  •  The oldest of the young princes (man, I don't even know their character names!) and his listening face as he listened to Hastings and Buckingham plan
  • The oldest queen - or mother of the queen - or whoever she was - being regal and extraordinary, consistently, beautifully, without fail
  • The Cockney accent (yup, secretly loved it) 
  • The youngest prince's Grandam / whatever it was plants and whatever it was weeds series of speeches. Oh princes' mum, you poured work into them and didn't they do beautifully?
  • Richard's suit
  • The story-telling exercise that culminated in Richard III choking to death on a doughnut
  • The misery management (great comment in my card - thank you!)
  • The hug betwixt the two young princes that was awkwardly - and then beautifully delivered
  • The kiss choreography
  • The eleven minute scene the first time it was eleven minutes (thanks, boys)
  • And more or less every time one or other of the young princes opened their mouths. For grown people, I know you did your best but the boys the boys the boys.
Next, I shall be offering up Bugsy Malone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I started out angry with Matthew Bourne last night. Who was he to continue to profit from our poor man's theatre-deprived appetite for souped up fairy stories (for the Festival Theatre was laden with the poor in their best dresses)? Who was he to take Tchaikovsky and stamp all over his art, chop it up, nurture the best bits, discard the rest and re-assemble it any old how? And worst of all (my new musical sensibilities lying close to the surface), who was he to put so many fine musicians out of a job by making recourse to a piped over the tannoy version of the bastardised score? Who he, indeed?

(But it's no worse than what you do with Shakespeare - quoth B S, reasonably, in the interval.)

It's a measure of his art that by approx 21 minutes in, I was head over heels in love with his Sleeping Beauty.

Man, they have budgets. The most lovely lavish old marble columned and giant drapey brocade curtains that a late Victorian house could wish for. Costumes. Oh my the costumes. Please don't worry yourselves as I've already briefed B S that I want the Carabosse dress for Christmas. A little cheeky puppetry snuck in there and almost persuaded me that I should book book again to see War Horse when it tours.

And beauuuuutiful dancing, giving this little souped up fairy story wings enough to fly. Their little pretty Beauty herself and her soulful, faithful little Greyfriars Bobby of a love were particularly adorable.

So once again, albeit with some mild reluctance, I'm left in awe of Mr Bourne and his souping. Would that I could soup so well.

Proper magic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I had my photo taken at work today for our website.

Bear in mind I've been there less than five months.

I was smartly wearing a shirt the same colour as the background colour that we'd been (pre)warned about.

"We'll need to photoshop your top so you don't look like you're just a floating head" the boys jested. "Oh yes, and we could make your hair black too."

"Oh please" I flung back (with wistful sincerity), "I've always wanted black hair."

(Exacerbated today by the fact that beautiful Helen has just had her hair lopped into a (jet black) bob and looks as 1920s elegant as you'd like with her tiny pixie face.)

"Then we'll photoshop it for you" says Graham, full of kindness, as yet innocent of the fact that my head looks as big as the moon on camera.

"And do you know what we can also do? We can add in streaks. So see here?" (he runs his hands around the perimeter of his head) "we'll give you a white stripe".

And then he stops (a step too far) looking horrified. "I can't believe I just said that."

Yes, boys and girls.

Less than five months and they already think I'm Cruella de Ville.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I watched Julie Taymor's Tempest last night, a long delayed pleasure that turned out to be so much less of a pleasure than I expected that I was almost sorry I'd waited so long to do it in the first place.

It was always going to be a dangerous endeavour as I loved our version so hopelessly that any mere celluloid cousin was going to have its work cut out. But I screwed my courage to the sticking place and pressed play.

Well. Hated the silly melodramatic shipwreck start. I realise it's in the script. And it was a nice opening to the film. But did you notice the little sneaky fake line they inserted for Ferdinand: hell is empty and all the devils are here! Now Ariel says that later when he's telling Prosp about what's been going down but there's no Ferdinand in the first scene. Then again, is it a bad thing that Julie set this up? Maybe it helped the storytelling.

Then we get Helen / Prospera (so glad we left her as Prospero) and pretty pretty Miranda and the background scene. A fake line inserted here too about Prospera's kindred having been burnt for less. Interesting. Not Shakespeare. But you can see what she was trying to do. I think though I fundamentally quibble with adding bits in to Shakespeare. By all means, cut and trim but to add?

Anyway, Miranda and Ferdinand were suitably fresh-faced and love struck. That was pretty cute.

Ariel was too wispy for my liking. Nice and androgynous but she went a bit wild with the visual effects IMHO.

Alfred Molina and Russell Brand gave Cari and Matt a run for their money. In an exceedingly over the top caricatured way. But I still prefer my quayside version of the four legged monster to their lumpy desert-based encounter.

I MUCH preferred our Gonzalo. This illustrious actor, whoever he was, all very world-weary. But Gillian had a lovely quirky charm to her that made her less sanctimonious and more sensible. But maybe I'm biased.

Caliban. Man alive. Caliban. Well, you can see where she was going with it. And we got an admirable heartfelt and wracked with pain performance from Djimon Hounsou. But so far, so nicely embracing the cliche.

I did like Sebastian and Antonio. Chris Cooper looked eerily similar to Chris Allan which satisfied me. Preferred our Helen to Alan, controversially.

The dogs the firey dogs when Trinculo and Stephano are chased chased away from the riches. Versus our dog-eared bitches? Infinitely inferior.

The songs? Not on a patch on our Beyonce / Pet Shop Boys / etc etc. loveliness conjured up by Neil and Tommy. Silly unimaginative Julie.

And then ProperA. Well, it's Helen Mirren. Who is clearly brilliant. But I'm ashamed to say that thing I liked best was her leathery dress when she appears in all her regalia to the wicked ones at the end.

It's a sorry tribute to our marine magic that I, two years on, remember so much of the Shakespeare text. Though I guess I did hear it every day for a fortnight.

I did think we were better. But then you can't really compare theatre to film, can you? It's like comparing a picture of a chocolate cake with the real thing. Thoroughly inadvisable.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

You should all know this by now as you've been avidly reading your Richard III programmes.

But just in case, with thanks to B S Neill, this up next.

Well, more or less.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ahhhhhh the first night.

I was FOHing.

Which really meant, as soon as the audience were safely placed, loitering with intent and keeping an eye on people's bags.

But because he's smartly doing the show in the round, although I was at the theatre front door, I had a constant stream of excitable actors (adorable Princes!) dashing past en route to or on return from the stage.

I love the sparkle in the eye of a person 'on' (en route to) stage.

The little extra excitable flicker to the fingertips because They're On Show and The Audience Are Watching Them and They're Telling A Story.

It's a very remarkable thing.

They're all beautifully costumed which helps. Lots of 1930s hair and some very fine hats in evidence last night.

Of course I was left feeling faintly jealous.

So you should come see. (St Brides, Orwell Terrace, 7:30pm til Saturday) I gather they did a cracking show.

I toast them for three more nights of winters of discontent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I thought I quite liked The Master last night at the cinema.

Though it's undoubtedly not a popcorn movie.

Now I'm certain I did.
A cracking piece from Mr Liam Rudden in yesterday's Evening News.

Thanks very kindly, sir.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A new low today in the name of my Art.

Meeting early afternoon at our costume / set / props store to load the van with everything needed for the show so they'd have it for the rehearsal with the Returning Director.

(Yes, yes, I know I'm done with the show. But I can't just leave them to struggle on unaided, can I?)

The bus is at a standstill and I'm somewhere approaching the East End.

I need to be at the West End. And some.

I get a text from Ross. He must e about three buses ahead of me. Also stuck. We have the only keys. As the director is on his way back from Fife, having touched down in this land and dashed immediately to get his armoury.

I leap off the bus and hangitall, I'll walk. So off I stride.

Wisdom catches up with me mid-Princes Street and I climb on a now less congested bus. (My former bus sails ahead of me, tauntingly, but at least I can walk quick as a bus.)

Bus stop. Descend. Run.

Yes, readers, I ran.

Conscious of a cast of 21 or maybe more helpers piled up in the street outside our store.

Running running.

Arrive. "Everyone" is crowded around the van. I unfasten the door. And triumphant: "come on slow pokes! May I have some help?"

O the surprise on their faces.

Only seven minutes late.

Ross arrived one minute later having sat tight on his bus.

So bus, trot, bus, run and super-dishevelled gave me one minutes' advantage.

Well, I tried.

I increasingly despise photos of myself but I concede (grudgingly) that these are quite fun on account of the pretty convincing Mr Connery. (And his voice was brilliant!)

From last Friday's Bond-themed La Mascarade.

(I was Miss Moneypenny.)

(Born to the role really.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

I started last night's run through at 7:36pm.

Without even a complete cast.

Heh heh heh.

That'll learn 'em.

(Except it won't. But never mind.)

And now my guardianship is done.

A little sad.

A lot relieved.

DG, I hope I haven't undone all your progress. And thanks for entrusting it to me.

AD, it's been an absolute pleasure again. Thanks.

Now, fly, fly my (DG and AD's) pretties. And do us all proud.

(Results on show next week at St Brides. 21 to 24 November. 7:30pm. Tickets at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Two things.

It's not my show. It's nothing to do with me. I have hardly even one iota of responsibility for it beyond this fortnight. So why do I feel The Rage?

7:20 last night. The conscientious ones arrived shortly after seven. The ones who believe they're too busy to be on time (yes, yes, unfair and I would be in this camp if The Shoe Was On The Other Foot) at approx quarter past. A few stragglers at 7:25 who immediately start jumping into costume as they know they're naughty. 7:30. Cast of twenty-two. Approx six are missing. One absent all night and accounted for (though the excuse wouldn't cut it in show week). One absent for part of the night and we'll forgive that one on account of remorse displayed / unavoidable circumstance etc. But the other four?


Oh, they tiptoe in, grinning and capering with apologies. But DON'T THINK I DIDN'T NOTICE is all.

Thing two. It's not just me.

My festival cast were a dream. Don't forget - shout the gods of the theatre everytime I step into that noisy distraction-filled room - don't forget, they boom, that your cast of five festival show was a picnic in the park. This is real show life. Hoarse throated hollering over the babble never everyone paying attention all of the time show life.

And the festival show was not without incident. The vest and the supposed ill-fitting shoes stand out. And you always wonder (I always wonder) whether it's just me. Just because I am directing.

Well, this isn't absolute proof. But I notice to my pleasure that despite numerous warnings, still last night, a pack of them not in costume. Or half costumed. Or pretend trying. Others - and I love you all - trying their absolute level best. And for this we thank you.

One pair of 'lost' shoes through simple inattention. And now I must sacrifice my own shoes that I WEAR for her. One pair of reindeer socks (but we'll let him off as he's small and his mum is being a star). One far too modern shirt but I guess he was trying. And acres of inappropriate foot and head ware.

Man they're like sheep.

Must remember to never do a big cast show again.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanks, B S. Much obliged.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

While not yet plumbing the depths of the (festival show) post-rehearsal night that I ate, for my evening meal, a tin of chickpeas, I have achieved new heights of culinary excellence this week.

Pre-general meeting and during the committee meeting this week, I ate a Greek salad that poured balsamic vinegar onto the table all the while from a foil takeaway carton.

Post-Thursday's rehearsal, I made an exquisite evening meal of.... pasta and peas. With butter. Courtesy entirely of a late October freezer compartment defrosting exercise that was perhaps approximately two years overdue. And means that I can now store frozen peas. Frabjous frozen day.

I can't entirely blame the show as I was only rehearsing Sunday and Thursday this week on account of my long standing commitment to 42nd Street. (Which incidentally, for all you'll care, first featured at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and not the other place that I'd incorrectly thought it was. I stand corrected, thank you, Mother.) But I was away at the weekend last so I suppose this did not help my preparations for the week ahead.

Anyway, you'll be relieved to know that today, I Bought Vegetables. And even a little fruit. You'll not know me for radiance when next we meet.

Friday, November 09, 2012

I can't tell you anything about Kai Fischer of Vanishing Point's - let's call it - installation theatre at The Old Ambulance Depot in association with the Trav.

Except for the fact that it goes by the name of Entartet.

I think it's on till Saturday in its most theatrical form.

And if you have any interest in the nature of art, culture and freedom of speech, you should go and see it.




It's brilliant.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

When I was, I don't know, approximately ten, I was taken down to London, trip-purpose-concealed and we ended up trotting along to the Savoy Theatre, me in my sweet little pink polyester elastically-ruched twin-set, to see 42nd Street. One of Mother's friends was playing an ageing (though I think she was approx 35 at the time) fading grande dame of the theatre, soon to be superceded by sprightly-footed whipper snapper Catherine Zeta Jones.

Attentive readers of this blog may remember how much the horribly adulterated Starlight Express upset me earlier this year.  So I trekked along to the Playhouse tonight with a slightly weary heart. Though it lifted a little when Mother declared that Her Friend had declared that the conditions of performance of this masterpiece required not very much messing on the part of the producer.

Amd happy days. Two songs aside, of which I have absolutely no recollection - and I grew up on this soundtrack also, remember - it was a pure rendition. It made me very happy.

It's a foolish Cinderella story. 'Catherine Zeta Jones' is a young hopeful. 'Mother's Friend' is ageing fading. There's a show. Pretty Lady. It's everyone's last chance. Mother's Friend (SPOILER ALERT) breaks her ankle. Catherine ZJ steps into the breach at the eleven and a half-th hour and is Amazing. The end.

The dialogue is a little limpid. The sets were touring. The costumes did their best in the limited space. The cast was as extensive as a touring cast allows. The singing was sometimes beautiful, sometimes aspirational. The band were a treat. And the tap dancing. Just sizzle-y magic.

I remember being picked up from the train station by Mother's Friend, Christina, in her Mini (can this be possible? We were four. She was one. She had a Mini.). We'd owned family vehicles by this point but never what you would call a car. And Mother didn't drive at the time. I remember being equally awe-struck by the fact that Christina was a girl driving, was a girl who had her own car, was zipping about Piccadilly Circus in the middle of giant streets-paved-with-gold London FFS (this an adult addition - I didn't think in that horrible coarse way when I was pure and ten) and not only all of that but she was an actress in THE WEST END too.

On arrival - or maybe after the show - or maybe the car journey was after the show - I stood in her dressing room in silent awe.

Maybe that's where it began.

(To save B S Neill writing a comment, yes indeed, it's a shame it didn't have more of an effect on my adult relationship with cars.)

Anyway, great show. I'll be Lullabying Broadway for weeks to come. Thanks, ATG.
I am babysitting a play.

Poor old DG has had to trek off to the other side of the world to sort out some tricky business shenanigans. And my heart brims with sympathy for him as I would be inconsolable - well, you know, for a while - if this were to happen to me.

So for a brief fortnight, and - luckily - ably and capably assisted by AD extraordinaire, I'm babysitting a cast of 22 including - oh my life - two - yes, that's TWO - children.

I'm overseen two rehearsals to date. And all very fun it was too. As whenever some silly upstart actor questioned the blocking, rather than having to defend my artistic (or not) sensibilities, I could bat it right back at them and say that it was DG's art at work and they could debate with him when he comes back but for now, their job is to execute as best as they are able.

And there are a lot of executions as it happens in Richard III.

So I've been a little blase about it all.

Then I woke up at 5:45am worrying about this blocking situation and that character development work and That Thing That Happens At The End that really needs a bit more work yet.

Clearly, babysitting comes with a bit of responsibility too.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

My clarinet teacher called me a bitch last night.