Thursday, February 28, 2013

I'm lagging behind in my consumption of the Oscar contenders this year. It's almost like I've been busy with more gainful pursuits. Although in truth, I've been in no small measure deterred by B S Neill's unenthusiastic reviews of many of them.

But Russell liked Django and Russell is a man of taste. And I do tend to like a Tarantino film so I hauled myself along to the cinema last night, did not allow myself to be deterred by a pre-show whisper that the film lasted three hours and settled down with my sack of popcorn.

Well I'm glad that I did. What a fun film. Fabulous historical context. I felt Mr T was trying to do the same thing with mid-nineteenth century history that Mr M tried to do with French. But in this instance, I actually cared.

Great performances. Some brilliant actors. Beautiful costumes. Fabulous settings. Delightfully not too much gore by his gory standards. And what a great story. All twisty turny, full of rank injustice, romance and triumphant righting of wrongs. Great fun.

So Mr T, I loved your film. One thing distressed me only. A director's vanity is a terrible thing - my oh my how I know - and of course you'd want to be part of something so pretty. But did you really have to succumb to the seductive siren call and cast yourself..?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lovely lovely.


(For the time being anyway.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hijacking my blog for one second for untheatrical purposes, I tried to do a small good work on Saturday. I was all signed up to go and shake a bucket outside an ASDA and was very looking forward to it.

But at 5:13am (or thereabouts), a mysterious vomiting bug struck. My slot was 12pm. I threw up a few more times, debated phoning in to cancel, fretted about all the people that have ever cancelled on me with "mysterious" vomiting illnesses, thought fretfully that I didn't - on my sole charitably active day of the year - want to be one of these people and dragged myself into the shower with minutes to spare.

Well, on arrival, I was worse than useless. Couldn't stand inside as I was too hot, could hardly stand outside as I couldn't stand up very convincingly. I sweated anxiously inside my giant daffodil yellow too tight as my head is too big for all normal hats top hat, pinned a few daffodils onto the lapels of coats of adorable children and capitulated after 55 minutes. (Having at one point, managed to upend the bucket with all my hard-earned collectings on the floor, thereby breaking the security seal. Luckily no-one saw this. But they will, of course, now think I'm a robber.)

I feel racked with guilt about my inability to complete the two hour slot. Two hours out of however many there are in the year. So I thought I'd ease my anxious conscience with a little post here and if you'd like to contribute to the upended bucket, here you may. Then I shall (as it instructed on the little hang it round your neck box of daffodils) look you in the eye and say Thank You.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'm writing a thing. Just a thing. If it's alright, you'll find out more soon enough. But meantime, I am enjoying doing the research.

Look at this little loveliness. Just needs a little music to perk it up a little.Courtesy of Gandini Juggling.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A long long time ago (and very far away) I directed a play called 4:48 Psychosis by a very smart girl called Sarah Kane.

Aside from being smart, this Ms Kane had an absolutely lovely way with words and this proved to be one of the principle pleasures of directing her work.

So when the cast of eight universally rebelled and said they would not could not should not have to learn one particular section of dialogue, I felt the director's old faithful familiar flash flicker dab of rage. But we practised and practised and indeed, it appeared to prove impossible for them to learn it. So in the end, capitulation was forced onto me. We pre-recorded the rogue section and played it out over their shameful shame-faced heads come the performance.

Not that I have never forgiven them or anything.

But this month, eight or maybe nine years on from the pre-recorded debut, I find sympathy in my heart.

I have about three lines in Jerusalem. But I'm finding them IMPOSSIBLE to learn.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Time and the Conways by J.B.Priestly at the Lyceum last night.

Big sleep.

Nice set.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I attended a rehearsal as a (so-called) actor last night. It reminded me (and I always say this as it always reminds me) just how difficult it is to walk and talk.

I've never been great at the walking alongside talking bit. So we began. Ross patiently said "so, Claire, I'd like you to stand here, walk about a bit here, be here for this line, here for this one and there for this." He told the others where to stand and sit.

We ran the scene. The others executed his suggestions like show ponies. I spoke most of the correct lines. But unfortunately clattered about the place like an errant pony gone wild at a gymkhana.

"Claire, you might just want to try this and this." (Roughly translated as "why not listen to what I said, because I said it because I've spent months thinking about it and this is what I would like you to do".)

I clatter about again hopelessly, executing the moves approximately like a pony standing on its hind legs and making like it's a person when actually it's only a neighing equine.

"Claire, you might just try..."

Poor, patient Ross.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I've just been to Lochgelly.

I have never been before.

Looking at a map in advance, it appeared to be easy to get from the train station to my destination and indeed, the destination claimed to be well signposted. So I boldly struck off without taking a map.

On arrival, black as the night.

One of those spindly train platforms with no fixed abode or dwelling and barely a shelter for comfort. A small spindly set of steps taking the two other alighters and myself down to the dark street.

On arrival in the dark street, suburban houses one way. Suburban houses the other. The two other alighters melted into the dark side streets. No sign post.

Pick a way. Any way.

I went right. Up a low hill. If the worst comes to the worst, I boldly thought, I can always go back to the left.

Up and up. The dark street wound into the distance. A woman and child skittered across the road, some distance in front of me, their voices swallowed up by the night.

A stolid young person emerged from a house ahead. I contemplated verifying my direction. But stolid melted away down a side street.

A tiny newsagents loomed up. I stepped into the sudden shocking bright light and asked with trepidation for my destination. She behind the counter smiled reassuringly: "it's just up ahead. You won't miss it."

Back into the starless night. Stepping stepping ahead. A weird mix of estates of terraced houses and large lush detached villas flanked by urns and 4x4s.

The Lochgelly Centre, familiar only from the website photo, was inconsiderately tucked with its face pointing away from me, therefore delaying the sweet relief that here the location actually was.

I stepped inside. Council carpets, apparently abandoned canteen style cafe, four people conversing behind a front desk. They chatted on for a bit. I shifted my feet with mild impatience.

Eventually, one of them: "can I help you?" I explained my intent. "Oh yes" said another of the four, "it's the only thing that's on here tonight." May I buy a ticket? "We'll give you one. A comp." Now hopelessly disorientated, I explain that I don't need a comp, I'd like to buy one. No, no, they insist, they'll give me one. BUT I WANT TO SHOW MY SUPPORT BY BUYING ONE, I bawl in my head. "It's a good seat" said the lady, right in the middle. As if I would question the credentials of a free ticket. "There are only twenty in the audience" said a man, ruefully. "Only twenty." That'll be the director, then. I wanted to tell him that for our show, our DF experience, we had nine. So twenty was a coach party. A glut. An influx of audience. But then I had the shock thought that the four might not be interested. So I retreated to the canteen to buy a "San Miguel only £2" beer and await the start.

I had undertaken this alarming journey for Kirsty. Kirsty the pretty. Kirsty the patient and incredibly sweet. Kirsty, the sulky dysfunctional goth of #ForgiveUs fame who liked nothing more than a cup of vodka with a dash of coke for light relief.

Here, she was performing with Physical Theatre Scotland. A piece of theatre with puppets and music. "After the wave."

"I don't really know if it's any good" she'd said, as we trundled back from DF on the Carlisle train. "I mean, we think it's good but we're so close to it. I worry it might just be a lot of nonsense."

Well, for all I know about this form of art, I would say it was good. Very good. If not actually excellent.

The last piece of physical theatre I saw was by Derevo. Stunning, sinewy, resoundingly impenetrable.

This was lovely. And maybe partly penetrable.

A big pack of people lived somewhere nice and had a lovely time. Then they started seeing something bad headed towards them, some of them got a bit anxious and then. Horrors. Loads of (brilliant) giant black bird puppets people swept into view and caused a calamity. Many of the sweet happy people were lost. The lovely village was left in shabby ruins.

Part inspired by the tsunami and part by Alzheimers' patients, the remaining piece looked at those left behind and how they clutched onto what they had in an attempt to come to terms with what had happened. Aided by some - well I'm sure they weren't but they looked as if they were made of cling film - very beautiful puppet people.

All accompanied by a man alternately on the piano, electric guitar, drums, likely other instruments I didn't notice.

When it began, in that silly loyal way that you have, I watched only Kirsty, convinced that she outshone her 20 or so companions. When my hopeless bias settled down a bit, it became clear that the rest of them were none to poor themselves. Though I maintain that Kirsty has an astonishing honesty on stage that means that you (me anyway) can't help but believe in her whole-heartedly.

So I am glad that she didn't have any cling-film dead / forgotten person time as I spent most of the cling-filmed section with tears rushing down my cheeks, snurfling like a sentimental fool. And in the twenty TWENTY (though actually I think it was more than that, Mr Director. The advantage of not being in a Secret Venue I guess) strong audience, this was already all too audible. I fear her cling-filmed love would have provoked me to howl.

So Kirsty, Kirsty, so well done.

I ran off like a thief into the night, the second it was done. Full o' dread that the Lochgelly Centre would shut and I'd be stranded on the cold dark streets and shelterless platform for One Cold Hour.

And I'm sorry for that, pretty Kirsty, as I would've liked to have chatted about how brilliant you are and they were and your clever director (Mr Simon Abbott) before I set sail for lands more familiar. But I was afraid of the cold and the wait and I wanted my tea so I ran back down the hill to the station.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

We are moving.

As of Friday.

We sat in our regular rehearsal rooms tonight, home for getting on for ten years to our most narcissistic of efforts and read one of our Fringe shows, Lorna's edit of Romeo and Juliet.

I'm ashamed to say my mind strayed to the first show (I think) I directed in these premises. My second ever. Little Crave. Or did I only ever 'direct' the 'revival' of Crave for the Fringe from there? Maybe the first incarnation was done at number five.

I know 4:48 Psychosis took place in there. I can still see the tiny wooden blocks scattered about wiry neutrally coloured carpet. And remember the flash flicker stabs as my first pitched battle with a cast. (I lost.)

Then we had Some Explicit Polaroids and the first Boy That Let Me Down. I mostly remember this show now for - well, two things actually - Ian Aldred's beautifully deployed lechery and Ross' ongoing despair that his beautiful playmate (and o how essential to the reciprocal action) hadn't turned up again.

Or did that come after CCC? Thus making Jerusalem the last time that a director didn't ask a cast to dance on stage.

Ten years of readings. Of rarely well enough attended first Wednesday of the month meetings. Of mince pies and plastic forks and soggy biscuits. Pork pies and tailends of wine bottles. Of props always left securely in the shower room (in stark contrast to the horrors of the Tempest days when the cleaners on the Mary of Guise persisted in throwing out my hard bought bottles of Buckfast). Of heated (committee) tempers. Of AGM speeches. Of read-throughs honourably delivered. Of audition speeches haltingly - and astoundingly - presented. Of awkward kisses. Of (do it again. Do it again!) faints. And feints. Of passionless embraces. Of ill-intentioned passionful embraces (oh ho you know who you are). Of people greeted politely for the very first time. And who could've predicted which would be the people with whom we'd stay in touch, with whom we could now not do without?

Thank you, Rooms, for guarding our carefully hoarded moth-eaten relics and obscurely sourced objects and no-one ever drank them sachets of cappuccino. Thank you, Room Guardians, for having us.

And thank you most of all for:

- letting me crawl on your floor in my white tights and silk dress 

- my favourite late night confession story (girls, girls, you know of whom I speak)

- a hundred and three curled up in the corner reading a book rehearsals

- cartons of wine

- looking after my favourite red mug for however many years

- all of the people you've given me who now make my little strutting and fretting such fun

- (and by no means least, for) forgiving my voluminous projectile vomit in the girls' toilet one pretty unfortunate day. Thanks for nonetheless having me back.

We'll miss you, Rooms. Hope you get just as much impropriety without us.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


26 to 30 November 2013.

Commit these dates to your diary if you please.

For you'll want to come and see a wonderful show on them.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

We had sort of two techs.

Officially, our tech was Friday night. 7pm till 10pm.

But when we rushed into the venue, fresh from fish and chips in the very nice pub located slightly eerily on Buccleuch Street, Stuart, our tech guy said enticingly that the mid-afternoon show the following day had been cancelled (I guess their audience was as slim or p'raps slimmer than ours) so we could get in at 3 and do our set up then if we wished. We wished, particularly as three fifths of the cast were due the following afternoon. So we were able to retire, exhausted, back to the aforementioned location.

The next day sort of went as it should. Two of 'my' kids arrived. Big hugs all round. The sofa turned up. Woop! The set got dressed. They had a clever lower it windy windy down rig which made pointing the lights simples. Father fiddled about the lighting board. And I gainfully - I thought - enlisted the help of Stuart to hang the ugly landscape and Sacred Heart of Jesus pictures along the backcloth. The third kid arrived in the nick of time.

A top and tail run. Entrances and exits negotiated. Interval confirmed. And the kids were despatched to play nicely at a food providing location.

At which point, the lighting board went nuts, forgot all of its cues and seemed to retain only a memory for a blackout state. Which was nice and heart-racing. I carefully placed the audience chairs in an artful configuration to conceal the fact that we'd, at that point, sold a prize total of 11 tickets. Poor stretched everyway Sandy, king of Technical Things, and a little sidekick, came rushing back to try and fix the lighting board. To erratic avail. But then it appeared to settle itself so - well - deep breaths and fingers crossed and all sorts of hoping for the best so as not to disappoint our enormous audience.

There's a line at the start of the final scene. In his final crisis of faith, Dad talks to God and suggests that if He really exists, he might make "that picture fall off the wall". Keep that thought in your head.

So the play begins. Gavin on. Searching searching. Off. Gary on, all nervous just arrived back home after however many years. Places his suitcase down on the floor. Looks around. Gavin swaggers struts pads back on stage, speaks - and the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls off the wall.

Handily, I think the audience were too mesmerised by their powerful performances to really notice. Maybe.

The first (newly created) act trotted by. They've done better. They've done worse. Kirsty cried twice in her speech. Half the audience cried. The lighting board behaved. The set - Sacred Heart of Jesus aside - behaved.  Nothing catastrophic went wrong. I sat at the back, messing up my sound cues in my rage that there were only 9 people in the audience. Well, eleven inc. Siobs and Emma. But nine. My life. Barely worth getting out of bed for.

In the interval, one of the audience members collared me. "But this is wonderful" she said. "A wonderful play. Who are you? Where are you from?" I explained. "Well, thank you for coming. It's wonderful to see such good theatre and here on our doorstep. I'm only embarrassed that there aren't more people in the audience. You know, we complain often enough that we never get anything interesting here and then when it comes, people don't even turn out to see it. I'm so sorry."

Needless to say, I sat down for the second act soothed mollified and full of slightly more love for the audience.

And the second 'half', refreshed in the interval perhaps or spurred on by Kirsty's tears perhaps, was brilliant brilliant brilliant. The actors cried in teary abundance. I cried. I hope the audience cried. Again. They were wonderful.

The Nine seemed to swarm around us when we were done, heaping praise on us. I didn't know that Nine could swarm. Now I do. And I would like to say thank you to them for turning out on a cold, dank night, sitting in a slightly creepy Masonic Hall for two hours, not laughing at my 'alert there's an interval' introduction at the start - we felt we should warn them in case they had other shows to go to - and then on top of all of that, for being so warmly sweetly nice. We have at least two vows that they will defnitely come and see Jerusalem. So perhaps, £3.36 loss aside according to DG's reckoning, it shan't all have been in vain.

We snatched everything that belonged to us, hurled it into the back of the appropriate cars and dashed off to the pub.

Another little piece of magic folded up and put away again. For now.