Friday, June 28, 2013

There isn't much to say about (last) Saturday night and the show. Aside from a marvelling at the unalloyed remarkable delicious wonder at seeing the product of lots of hunched over my laptop till 1am nights suddenly swaggering about on 'stage' in front of me.

And the band. Excuse my foul tongue but the aptly named Jo, the initially apparently surly sound engineer who turned out to be like a god of pressing buttons and making auditory magic, made the band sound f*****g amazing.

The tech was terrifying. The band's sound check took two hours. We had three - and six radio mics to get fastened onto anxious actors' bodies. I paced like a pacing prowling cat. And did my best to get in the way as much as possible.

The pre-show ritual was much more fun.

Most favourite moment: Le Grand Amant in black tie and tails playing the piano in my spare room as Cassi applied jewels to her face, Matt sat slouched on the sofa muttering lines behind his hand and I pressed biscuits on a - for once - utterly disinterested audience.

Second most favourite moment was less of a moment and more of an episode but involved my miniscule bathroom being turned into a tiny tattoo parlour. (Thanks, Chris.)

So two hours of band sound checking. One hour to go. And I'm trying to disguise how feverishly I've wrenching open the huge heavy cases (handy timing for Le Grand Amant to put his back out, for sure) in my pants and fishnets, trying to look like a director in control and thrusting these tiny mics at people as if I know what I'm doing. ("And you really attach them to your hair???" "Oh yes" says she, trying to sound like she does this all the time, "you just need a couple of hairgrips.") (Most many thanks for the micropore plus good old-fashioned plasters go to the ever practical without whom this whole venture would have been a major shambles Chris. Not just a pretty face Leonard.)

Sudden pre-show intimacy and I'm sliding my arms down all sorts of naked backs to get wires concealed under clothing. Jo's doing his clever stuff with all the buttons on the huge enormous sound desk and I want to screech out "I can't hear them at all. It doesn't sound like they're amplified AT ALL. Are you SURE you know what you're doing, Jo? Because this is IMPORTANT." But I think it's best to keep these words inside my head as the Director Does Not Panic. Particularly when she's in pants and fishnets. And even if she did panic, a tiny top hat would ensure that no-one took her seriously.

And then we're on. 7pm. Doors. And people start hurrying in which does surprise me a little bit as I don't really expect anyone to come. But I'm so worried about the sound that the people are really just an inconvenience that get in the way of me standing over Jo, breathing threateningly. Except for then suddenly, at 7:10pm, Jo says "well, I'm going to go and get some tea" and slides out of the door.



Obvs, Jo comes back after a while stuffing some sort of sandwich down his throat. We haven't discussed cues or the nature of the show really and his mouth is full of bread and I'm in my pants and trying to show people to seats and lecture them sternly on the fact that the first half will LAST AN HOUR AND FIVE MINUTES AND THEY SHOULDN'T GO TO THE BAR DURING THE SPEAKING BITS PLEASE OH PLEASE DON'T.

And I say tremulously to Jo: "So would you like me to talk you through the script?"

"No, no, let's just wing it."

Right. Great.

So I give everyone a number. Every actor. And make him listen to the basic concept. And casually leave the script lolling open in front of him. And pray.



Le Grand Amant staggers onto the stage. Mic 1. Go.

And we're off.

And Jo is amazing.

Nothing but nothing (sound wise) goes wrong.

The band sounded outstanding. I'd always known that they were tinkly gorgeous. I had not always known that there was so much - So much - going on in amongst all the tinkly gorgeous. That man who sits with that flat thing in his lap and looks a bit intense. So that's what that does, then? Right. Amazing.

The band into radio mics sections which had been my principal terror was a breezy breeze. Jo, thank you.

And the actors. Some hilarious straggly moments aside (favourite? Hmm. Either Le Grand Amant snarling his chair in the wiring and lack of space on stage while Tiogar's ever patient, ever-unflappable face looked on. Or Alexei the clown being so irreparably sad that he forgot to speak.), they were magic.  

And then it was 10pm.

We packed up our sequins and our greasepaint.

And the circus left town.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Two weeks ago, I saw a play in London. A play that I loved in script form. The Cripple of Inishmaan. By a writer I love. Mr Martin bleak as you like McDonagh. Featuring a cast - a lead actor at least - I should've loved. Daniel Radcliffe stars. Saw him in Equus. And obviously Those films. And he's brilliant. And a stellar production company. Michael Grandage. He knows what he's doing, right?

I arrived at the theatre half sick with excitement. It began. And set, acting, sound, lights, all excellent. Spot on. Perfectly timed. Perfectly thoughtful. Perfectly heartfelt. Perfectly brilliant.

But it didn't clutch at my heart in quite the way that I expect from something that proper enchants seduces enthralls me.

Last night.

Let The Right One In.

Tiny (relatively) theatre. Dundee. A Local (and I use the word advisedly) Production. The National Theatre of Scotland. A script they nurtured into existence, based on a film, albeit an exquisite film. About vampires. An inauspicious start.

The whole endeavour - return train, theatre ticket, lovely Thai tea, interval ice-cream, couple of taxis - probably cost about as much as the ticket alone for the London show.

And the show. The show plucked up my heart like a daffodil (for Alex) and I was lost. Within the - there wasn't even a lights up moment. The set was just there - opening beautifully choreographed and utterly innocuous scene.

I won't say anything much more about it in case Ross is reading. (SJ, DG, JGH, I'd love to compare notes.) But the set wasn't just marvellous. It was marvellous in four different ways. Gorgeous choreography. (Steven Hoggett, if you're free in the autumn, I'm doing JC??) Perfect acting. Well done, oh so well done to the wee girl. You are the actor I would oh so like to be. The music. A symphony.

It was spine-chillingly heart-racingly breath-holdingly lovely.

John Tiffany. Man alive, we'll miss you. Will you come back and guest direct..?

Last night was a night where the theatre scoops you up, whisks you along on a magical marvellous sleigh ride and puts you down gently at the end with some of the White Queen's special Turkish delight, wishing it would start all over again.

Two weeks ago was "just" a really great show.

Well done, NTS, John, Steven, wee girl, little Oskar, set designer, lighting designer, music man. You do Scotland very very proud.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Not only has our ringmaster's profile pic been updated to reflect his ongoing exasperation with his petite etoile, he's also been trudging the streets of Paris in an incredibly admirable tribute to the earliest days in his career.

Alexandre Amant, merci beaucoup pour ta hommage exquise.

(Et pour corriger tout mon francais mauvais.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

I remember when I first saw The Stantons play and I was a little bit awe-struck that people that I knew were part of such a thing and could make such a lovely noise. Not only make, in fact, but they had created it to boot as they write it all themselves.

The gig came to an end. I expect a few drinks were had. The pub endeavoured to shut us out. The band - these rare music-making creatures - decant their stuff into the street. And I loitered like a groupie, not quite daring to speak to Them because They were in The Band.

Fast forward to last night's dress rehearsal. I still haven't really spoken to The Band beyond Neil and Fraser aside from barking general orders at the assembled company to get things up and running. (One hour and six, boys and girls. Speed it up!) And I'm still slightly concerned that they're all sitting there through the talking bits thinking WTF, can they not just skip ahead to the next song?

But we're dithering about before we start and I boldly speak to one of Them.

My opening gambit: "Hi. We haven't really met properly but I'm Claire."

(He acknowledges that this is so.)

"I was just wondering if you might wear a dark hat instead of a light one but I hear you have a really big fat head so I don't know if it'll be possible to get you one."

(Oh, Claire. Nice to meet you too.)

The dress rehearsal begins. The band sound lovely. The drummer even does a magical little thing in the thingummy bit that made Larry stop in his tracks when he first was introduced to it but commendably, lolloped on through it last night.

And we finish. They finish. And I launch - poor things - into three pages of notes including - audacity - a brave direction for the band. And eventually - poor things - I stop speaking and we pack up and leave the warehouse which I now unquestioningly love irrespective of its rickety deficiencies.

And the drummer suddenly appears behind me, says "it's looking really good". And I stare back at him like a mute fish thinking "but it's so much down to you (all)." And I stutter something idiotic about how I've always loved really loved their music and I manage to hold back from sounding like a complete fool and talking about the honour - the privilege - of it but really, this is what I'm thinking.

And Alex in his - outfit - is climbing into his car having got up at 3am to fly back from France for this. And Cassi swishes her giant hair and her jewels into her car. Helenka's net skirt is back in the suitcase, clown shoes are in the back seat, the buttons are weighing me down and the band's instruments are all shut away, waiting to play another day. And I'm thinking wow and wow again.

So Saturday, tomorrow, 22 June, I must remember to find some excuse, some reason to say to someone who doesn't know: "hi, I'm Claire. And I'm with the band."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It would be boring if it all went to plan, right..?

But the good news is not only do you have us to choose from on 22 June, the Real Circus is coming to town next week.

It's a sign. I'm sure of it.

(Cast trip?

While that bitch Cassi's away out of the country and we're free from her wickedly lashing tongue...?)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

After a day of - let's just say unexpected - events yesterday, I was both late and preoccupied leaving work.

Rushed to BP as DG had kindly loaned us a room prior to his Agnes rehearsal having carelessly cast one of my cast members in his festival show.

And burst into the rehearsal rooms (doesn't that make it sound grand?) one hour and twenty minutes late for a rehearsal scheduled to last one hour and thirty.

And the show wasn't the first thing on my mind. Let's just say.

But I figured out the room they were using by the peculiar sound of "my" words audible through the door.

What a peculiar sensation.

These people with lives and jobs and sh*t days (thank you for rushing, Cassi) and Family Situations and Romantic (and not romantic) Situations and all sorts of proper important real life preoccupations squeezed around the edges had taken (more) time out of their busy, real life lives to come to a(n albeit now nicely decorated) husk of a set of rooms to say my words to each other in preparation for saying my words (and most importantly, singing some songs to launch an album) to a paying audience on Saturday.


Thank you.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

With a sort of mind-blowing vanity, I am now resorting to tweeting my own words - my own script - to try and drum up some business for this here show.

Of course my tweets are usually my own words. In some measure, at least.

But quoting yourself quoting yourself??

A whole new level of self-importance.

Still, the tickets for this one-off extravaganza plump with effort, love and diamanté must get sold.

So vanity must rule for a moment.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I swear, that Neil Colquhoun, (half the) musical mastermind behind The Stantons, is a magician.

Or a wizard.

I know nothing of music. Have I said that before?

Really nothing.

I can play half of chopsticks on the piano. Chopstick then, I guess. And I can tell you what a treble clef looks like. Oh, and I like listening to it. But that's it.

Neil, on the other hand, seems to know all things.

Aside from being able to segue seamlessly from Come Fly With Me (now sadly abandoned for technical reasons) into one of his own band's masterpieces, he can create. Spontaneously conjure up musical notes from the thinnest of air.

"Can you just do something during this speech on some tiny instrument?"

Yes, he can.

"Can you just do, I dunno, some sound effect here to denote and evoke a heart being plucked up like a daffodil?"

Yes, he can.

"Can you just play, I dunno, something backgroundy that feels, I dunno, a bit like being in love with a trapeze artiste?"

And last night, it seems that yes, indeed, he can.

To the point where poor old Alexandre Amant staggered over his words on account of the unquestionable beauty of the "dunno, something backgroundy" from Mr Colquhoun.

I have a bad case of hero worship.

Neil, I don't know how you do it but that you do it at all, I am inestimably grateful.

Let's do it again sometime, can we?

November, p'rhaps?

Monday, June 10, 2013

When I was young, we'd now and again go to the circus as a treat. Not very often, mind, as it was pretty expensive.

And we wouldn't go and see any old circus. The regular British touring circuses with lions and dogs that leapt through hoops were unofficially off limits.

But when the Moscow State Circus came to Sherwood Forest (actually, I don't think that's where they parked up but it sounds more romantic), off we trotted, hearts in mouths. We were off to see The Clowns.

I remember:

- popcorn trampled underfoot and the smell of hotdogs

- the dim judder of the diesel engines

- the spotlights, the sequins, the band, the ebullient band skittering through the set

- the clowns, beautifully Russian, beautifully absurdly tragic in a way that a 9 year old could only fractionally understand

- terror that the trapeze artistes - or the tightrope walkers - would fall

- weeping with pity (sentimental child) for the show pony that ran round and around in endless dizzying circles while a slim girl pranked around on her (or his) back. This was surely the cruelty to animals for which circuses were known, thought young cmf in her lower middle class suburban way

- clapping till my hands were sore in an endless standing ovation because their show was surely - how could it be other? - just magic.

Because we didn't have cinemas and three screen households full of CGI and fakery in these days. The Dark Crystal was mystical. Health and safety wasn't endemic. Calculated risks hadn't been invented.

Risk was risk.

The circus danced along the tightrope between normality and the extravagently audaciously dare-devilishly bold.

And the trapeze artist really might jump and fall.

Fast forward to Spain. A couple of weeks ago. And I snapped this.

The Grand Circus of Alaska. And Peppa Pig.

We've lost our sense of wonder.

And I wonder if it's too late to get it back?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

For Cassi and Leonard.

The street in Buenos Aires. Suipacha.

You go there for tango lessons. Or shoes.

There's a marble slab in the pavement with the footsteps for the tango marked out on it in gold.

Friday, June 07, 2013

So pleased, so proud, of my little cast.

I'm frightened I might burst.

(Sorry. A misquoted in-joke. But true.)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Pretty pretty pleased with this little write up from Claire White at STV.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Linda's husband was attending a role play conference. It was the third that year. Normally, she made a point of avoiding them. A Travel Inn packed with long-haired people who persisted in wearing curious leather jerkins and weren't overly familiar with soap was not her idea of fun. Particularly when her breakfast got hijacked with overly enthusiastic conversations about the goblins' latest exploits.

But this one was in Scotland. She'd never been to Scotland. So she made a B&B rather than an anodyne chain a condition of her attendance and her husband leapt at the chance, his eyes aglow at the thought of post-goblin-discussion delights.

His imagination may have been working overtime. But his bank balance was getting the usual sparing workout. His condition attached to the B&B was that it would be located as far as possible from the city centre to ensure maximum cheapness. Linda supposed that this was ok although her pre-holiday day dreams about idle meanders through the little cobbled streets of the smokily exotic Edinburgh receded slightly, nudged out by lace curtains, concrete and suburban bliss.

They ended up staying in a funny little place called Musselburgh. It didn't appear to have much to recommend it beyond a plethora of ice-cream shops. But once Linda discovered that by crossing a curiously quaint stone bridge, you found yourself on endless exposed flats heading out to sea, her faith in the restorative powers of her seaside holiday flickered with wistful hope.

She hadn't felt quite herself, you see, since the nasty incident involving the sudden and ever-since unexplained fire in the wood a few miles out of town. She still found it hard to put her finger on quite why the incident had upset her so much. The rest of her co-workers at the Council had made it the topic of conversation over their limp rich tea biscuits for months afterwards. But Linda felt that a little sparkly sense of possibility had died the day she heard about - they all just called it Rooster's Wood - the obliteration of that little magical piece of olde England.

The mornings were easy. Her husband was up and out before the B&B owner got busy with the bacon. The appalling thought of missing a moment of scintillating conversation with his fellow goblin lovers getting him onto a number 44 bus before 7am most mornings.

The evenings were a bit more awkward as the goblin lovers weren't particularly adventurous. The final sitting of dinner was scheduled for 7pm and whilst some of the rowdier amongst them might sit chatting over a dandelion and burdock till gone 10 o' clock, there was no guarantee that her husband wouldn't be back at the B&B by 10:30, lurking around like a labrador wanting to play. Being as it was a Holiday.

So she'd taken to taking long walks, handily scheduled to start at the danger time. 9pm. And last until the light ran out. On the grounds that he'd usually cease leafing through the worn copies of National Geographic offered by the B&B as reading material and start snoring by approx 11pm.

The night before they left, a Thursday, she'd discovered that in fact, if she didn't mind a bit of pavement scenery, she could work most of the way round the coast to the - well, she had no idea which way the compass pointed but she was headed to the - left. At which point the coastline got a whole lot less scrubby and a whole lot more suburban. Little pretty houses. Fish and chip shops. Even a couple of amusement arcades. Edinburgh's beach. Who knew?

Past a car park, a leisure centre that promised 3 games of bowls for £3.99, another car park, a couple of pubs that had seen better days and then the concrete coastal path stretched out in front of her towards - well, who knew - some sort of land on the other side of the sea as the sun sank into the hills.

She approached the concrete strip with trepidation. There were a couple of ramshackle vans and what looked like a miniature coach parked up in what passed as a car park before the seaside walk turned industrial. Dance music was thumping out of one of them, doors flung wide. Smoke was drifting up from an impromptu fire which had been kindled on the beach. The smell of indiscriminate meat burning. A little collection of long-haired, even dread-locked people, shambling around the fire, telling tall stories and swigging indiscriminate liquor from indiscriminate bottles. She crossed into the shadow of the pub so they wouldn't see her - these wild and free people - and scuttled past, pretending to be intently focused on the sewage works ahead.

It was almost dark when she walked back past them. She knew it was late but she didn't care. It was her last night, 400 miles from home and she wanted to make the most of it. She looked with a - where did that come from? - flicker of longing at the flames of the beachside fire flickering against the sea. And she was just passed the cluster of bohemians on the beach, just re-entering comfortable seaside suburbia, when she heard it.

"Yuk yuk yuk."

A laugh like a machine gun.

She froze in her stride. Her heart inexplicably leapt.

Two years on. It couldn't be. Could it?

A particularly vigorous wave crashed on the shore and the sound was drowned out. She turned. Tried to peer at the collection of people clustering around the fire. But the light was too dim...

...for her to see the taller than all the other figures on the beach detach itself from the pack, take a few steps towards her, salute her through the gloaming. Stand for a few moments more, stare with - what left unsaid? - and turn back to the fire and the familiar.

And Linda went home.

Monday, June 03, 2013

I wish I'd been bold enough to apply. Sounds like they're taking all sorts of applications judging from this finery.
There's something disarmingly easy about directing a thing you've written yourself.

Much conversation when rehearsing a thing crafted by someone else - a stranger - is spent on trying to figure out what this or that character means when they say this or that thing. You look at the other things the character has said, you look at what the other characters have said about that character, you look at the overall story and try to figure out, in the context of all of that, what the original intention might have been.

But when it's a laboriously alliterative thing from your very own pen, of course you know. I know. And if They disagree, well, there's a clear winner in every argument.

Unfortunately for the cast, what this seems to translate into as far as Mme Directeur is concerned, is a pouncing on every potentially ambivalently delivered line along with a barked "do you know what you're saying there?" for heaven forfend that the poor actors don't see the 64th nuance in this or that weary old cliche.

Pity the actors.

I feel they've started to tense and inwardly perhaps roll an eye at the dreaded words. A similar visceral reaction to the "before we begin, we're going to do some exercises" line.

When we are done, if nothing else, they must all be given a prize for patience.