Thursday, November 28, 2013

Courtesy of photographer, Rob Gray, some really rather beautiful shots of my pretties at play in costume.

You have three further nights to see the rather magical spectacle of 25 people telling this blood-thirsty story at Adam House on Chambers Street. Tickets here.

Give them a pat on the back if you see any of them lurking about muttering lines or song lyrics to themselves in the street. They're doing a spectacular job.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

He was a cobbler because that's what his dad did. And his dad's dad. And his dad's dad's dad, for that matter. The tools skipped a generation - as the owner usually lived long enough to pass them on to whichever grandchild showed enough of a shred of aptitude.

He liked to keep his head down as a rule. His grandad always used to joke that a good cobbler would not only fix your shoe soles; he'd fix your soul too. And he was constantly surprised by the stories he was told in the name of doing his job. Wedding shoes that needed fixing second time round. Job interview shoes that were guaranteed to bring luck. Children's shoes that needed adapted when the oldest died suddenly and the shoes had to be commandeered for younger siblings. He was amazed always at how much of life - how many hopes, fears and crazy optimistic dreams - could be contained in a shoe. 

But as to whether a cobbler could mend souls? He wasn't sure.

In his experience, souls were flimsy things that needed a sort of spiritual nourishment that his life didn't leave much space for. Up before dawn, likely no breakfast as they gave most of what they had to the kids, trudge to his tiny stand at a muddy corner of the street, spend a day, often in the rain, trying to waylay people with perfectly adequate shoes and persuade them that they would really benefit from a new pair of heels, quick pint down the pub with his mates at lunchtime if he was lucky, an afternoon of the same till long after dark and then a boisterous, under-nourished meal with the wife and kids before an early bed to conserve oil for their exceedingly smoky lamp.

He knew of men that read books and Thought Things and spent time in church beseeching Himself for grace and favours. But he had no faith in Himself. Little enough faith in Caesar who sat up in the old crumbling Senate building pronouncing on things that would - supposedly - make people's lives better. 

The only thing he really believed in, if he were brutally honest, was his leather apron and his rule. They would never let him down. His dog, Doug, would be faithful to him till the day he died. That went without saying. His wife meant well but things got a bit deceitful with the housekeeping budget whenever she decided she needed a new dress for some feast day or other. And he would swim the Tiber any day if it put more food on the table for his kids. But that aside, he didn't believe in much.

Claudius said he needed a hero. He would retort that she'd spent too much time reading Salve, that trashy magazine that covered the latest exploits of the senators or the petty civil servants to fill up the back pages. He became his own hero when he'd had a few beers and a nip - or five - of whisky of a night. And his kids were still at that age where they believed he could do anything.

But by and large, he kept his head down. He was no hero. He was a regular cobbler who could fix plenty of soles but had nothing to offer as far as souls were concerned. And that suited him down to the ground. 

Feet on the ground. Head on when he could next get himself nicely drunk. And right now, that was the feast of Lupercal. Forced to close their businesses, to "celebrate and honour" Caesar, he was meeting Claudius in the city square, hip flask at the ready, looking forward to another spine-tingling show from
The Sunshine Band. 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

She supposed that everybody had one. At least one. A - however you want to put it - love of their life. A soul mate. A person for whom you would cast yourself under the wheels of a chariot if it meant saving them from certain disaster.

Looking back now, it was hard to remember exactly what it felt like back then. Certainly, she did her best not to feel anything much these days.

She knew she'd been wide-eyed. She knew she'd been in love with words - she was never any good at sport. And this man spun words in honeyed golden tendrils across her horizons. Seventeen. Trying to look like she knew what she was doing. In the days before she knew what she was doing so many steps ahead that most things the world served up ceased to be a surprise.

Cicero. A foppish flamboyant pseudo-intellectual philosopher. On scrutiny, she suspected a lot of what he said was nonsense. But like all the best orators - for she's made a point of studying them since - he used forty different words to repeat the same simple point. And the people lapped it up and rewarded it with waves of adulation. The campus rockstar. Though he was only flown in for guest lectures by the time she got there.

She considered herself to be a cynic. What seventeen year old doesn't? And she was more ascerbic than most. Though she had no reason to believe this back then, she was certain that the life intended for her was an endurance test. If she made it past Cerberus, maybe there'd be a thousand willing virgins somewhere in the afterlife. But the earth bit of things was set up to push her to be quicker and smarter and more cunning than she thought her DNA permitted.

Intolerant? And some.

But Cicero made her melt.

"You, miss, you on the third row from the back in the baseball cap. You look like you're here to prove a point to the world. That a girl can be just as smart. But you're not actually interested in a single word I'm saying. Are you?"

Her confession slipped out of her mouth at the same time as her heart stole out of (where? her ears?) her unsuspecting soul and she was lost.

Dinner. They discussed it over dinner. She suspected they all thought - in the velvet lined restaurant - that she was out for dinner with her dad. The baseball cap and plaid shirt alongside his red velvet smoking jacket and bottle green scarf didn't help. And to her prickly, defiant, defensive horror, he Got Her. She, who thought she was unique, who thought her own peculiar brand of spike was a one off, was forced into (seduced into) sitting and listening in meek submission as he sketched her deepest darkest hidden soul in three paragraphs of apposite words.

"But you've never met me," she stuttered at last.

"It's all in your eyes," he said. Well, he said it in Greek first (he claimed) and then generously, to the fawning onlookers, offered a translation.


Skinny little thing, she couldn't have been further from the voluptuous lovelies who more commonly hung off his arm. But she believed him to the moon and back when he said that she was different. This was intellectual as well as physical. This was him reconnecting with his inner child. This was how love was meant to be.

And so it was for her.

She shrugged off the photos in the Daily Amphora. Ages old, he said. Out of date. Those women were publishers, agents, people he had to be nice to. He'd been up till all hours writing her another of his eloquent, heart-wrenching, soul searching declarations of undying passion in Greek. Here was the proof. How could she possibly think he would have any interest...?

But she snuck into one of his first year lectures one day. Stayed to hear "you look like you're here to prove a point to the world". And fled.

Kinda hard to trust anyone again when your soul has been served up to you on a plate in between the starter and the main course by a man who used 64 words when 3 would have done.

It would be a terrible cliché to say she swore to get revenge. Cassius didn't believe in wasting time on such unsatisfying suppers.

But she did swear to prove that a girl can be just as smart.

That felt like a good start.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

People often mistook him for sullen when he was growing up. He had one of those faces that appears to be set in a permanent frown. And with dark hair and dark eyes and a naturally down-turned mouth, it was an easy mistake to make. 

When in actual fact, he was just listening. For two reasons. He liked to know how things worked. And things for him encompassed the stars in the sky, the way some plants grew up where others drooped down, the way some dogs permanently panted and the way some clocks ticked where others only ever tocked. Some people somehow knew about that kind of stuff, he discovered. So that was the first reason to listen.

The second, he found harder to articulate. He noticed it first in his Latin teacher. He observed that she would sometimes smile at the class, when she wished them good morning for example, and her face would look happy but her eyes would look sad. And other times, like when he brought her extra homework he'd done to try and make her smile, she'd look at him crossly - " now now, you're not to neglect your other subjects just because you like this one, you know" - but her eyes would have something in them that sparkled. So he realised eventually that you have to listen extra hard because people don't always say what they mean. 

Beyond clocking that he was either sullen or in a sulk, people didn't pay much attention to him when he was growing up. If they did try to speak to him, he frowned even more and replied so sulkily that they presumed he wasn't interested in conversation. And with a reaction like that, nor were they particularly. A pity really, as in his bedroom, he would read and read and read. So he could have told people a whole lot about how things worked. And how people worked. If anyone had ever asked. 

He'd have talked his way into the officer training college, irrespective of his exam results. Which were incidentally flawless. The handy consequence of not knowing very many people. His time was entirely his own. So he flung himself into his studies. 

His interview was a revelation to him. The panel asked him a whole bunch of questions and - for once - he got to talk about everything he knew about. Clearly, with a heavy sway towards the nature of power, governance and the role of the army in a healthy more or less democratic society. He realised suddenly that this was why he gravitated towards reading so many of the philosophers. He was fascinated by the nature of power. Of authority. Of honour. And how to enforce obedience. 

The generals looked at each other when he left the room. "That one will go far. If he doesn't become a megalomaniac."

He noticed her on the first day of term. She lurked on the edges, watching everyone as carefully as he did. He kept watching her as term unfolded. She avoided the boys. Rubbed along with the few girls in their year group with the boisterous camaraderie that the military seemed to demand. But she had a look of suspicion in her eyes. The look of someone who has been let down by the world. 

He bumped into her in the kitchen one 3am. She was making hot chocolate. He'd been looking for something to do to distract him from not sleeping again. She offered him a digestive biscuit. (All this food and she was such a skinny looking thing!) And they only stopped talking when they went their respective sleep-starved ways to shower before morning drill. And that was it. Friends for life.

He credited her - and her alone - with getting him through military college. He'd presumed he'd float to the top almost instantly. His family background - high-flyers in government, albeit emotionally stunted ones - surely guaranteed it. But plenty of other people were taller, had more muscles, were quicker at the physical or practical tasks than he was. And the army, for all he privately derided them, seemed to have a knack for picking out the all-round good eggs. 

"You don't have to be faster and stronger," Cassius would insist, "you just need to outthink them". She was always the smart one. He'd nod vigorously and level some petulant insult at Mark, the golden boy. But inside, a secret sulking bit of him grew defiant. And wished that he had the wit to scheme like she did. 

She would laugh it off. "It's not about what you look like," she'd say. "Or how drunk you get the night before. How many girls you sleep with. None of that. That's a distraction. It's about being in the right place at the right time. That's all. You wait."

So he resolved that he would. He put his faith in his skinny little friend. And waited and hoped and willed it to happen that one day, he, Brutus, would be in the right place. 

At just the right time. 
Rehearsals. My pretties at play.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday night.

I've been frantically trying to write a brief but coherent and compelling plot synopsis for the programme. Along with 150 punchy, incisive and insightful words to explain just why JC is the play for me.

DG has spent the night tinkering with the show programme, thanks to slovenly people like me who haven't given him what he needs to finish the job properly sooner.

Gordon has spent the evening stuffing old Caesar's body, judging from instagram.

And he travels to new Caesar's house tomorrow to measure his head for the final element of the mix n' match statua.

New Caesar must have spent the week's evenings when he wasn't at work tethered to his script as he was word perfect last night.

Costume Chloe has spent the last week manacled to her sewing machine.

And the band have been practising and practising and last night, sounded fabulous.

Two weeks today, we'll have two shows left.

Monday, November 11, 2013

O Caesar.

I'm sorry.

Monday, November 04, 2013

First day with the whole cast (shock!).

First day in the venue.

First day with the band in front of the actors. And the actors in front of the band. Presenting music, much of which no-one beyond the band themselves had ever heard.

First day that the band got to figure out how / where they could plug in their kit (right round the corner stage left. Ah hah. Yes, my "vision" of this show does indeed feature half of our beautiful bass player in sight of the audience and - to quote Lucia - nothing else.)

Mix in a little key-related excitement meaning we couldn't actually successfully enter the very venue itself. 

And you have a perfect heady cocktail for an afternoon of pleasure.

Apologies to everyone I barked at.

Apologies to everyone who sat patiently for three hours only to have their lines cut when we got to their scene because there was No Time.

Thank you to everyone who took their stage directions delivered to date and Interpreted them in the space. 

Thanks to Mark Antony who took his stage directions and embellished them with buoyant bouncy grace.

(And most thanks to GM Ross for ingenuity and AD Debbie for happening to be able to authorise security to let us into the building.)

Lig, I love you crouching down and peering. Brutus, love your sprawling seat on the stage. Varro, loved your Brutus herding - thanks. And Cassius, I promise we'll come up with some during-the-song business between scenes 12 and 13.

Raggedy would be the best way to describe all these firsts. But don't they say that the raggedy-er the first run-through in venue, the more stellar and stunning the final production? 

Thought so.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

I should've done a proper before and after photo documentary with this.

But in the beginning, there were nine rolls of various assorted tapes.
(Well, actually, in the actual beginning, there were four. Two duct. Two masking. But we ran out so this was supplemented with five rolls of packing tape. Cue much raising of eyebrows at my local store.)
Two rolls, 60 metres apiece, of cling film.
And a man in pants.

In the end, we had a shed snake skin of Caesar, courtesy of Gordon's undaunted creative mind and a little help from the Internet. And a Very Patient (and slightly sweaty) Caesar.