Thursday, June 26, 2014

They were astoundingly efficient. Hazel, Stage Manager, phoned me mid-afternoon to say we were their only scheduled performance that night so could they come early? For sure.

She phoned me again at 7pm on our arrival at the location to tell me we would see them at 8pm rather than 8:25pm as agreed.

They arrived at approx 7:45pm. At (thank you thank you thank you, Neil's dad) the appropriate office. Lovely Hazel. (How can you instantly tell that someone is nice? But it appears that you can.) And camera, electrician and sound man in one and owner of the world's largest backpack, Ryan.

The actors were dithering about. preparing. I felt the sly lurking impatience with actors that I always awfully feel, like they're an inconvenience, when the technical people turn up. I love to think that this is a sign that I'm beautifully well-rounded as a director. Probably just means I'm intolerant.

Ryan darted about Setting Things Up. Hazel explained the procedure. These calls here, this question there, dress rehearsal at 25 minutes before performance time, one minute countdown before the Thing Itself went love. I felt the deep sweeping gratitude that the director feels when someone eventually says "your bit is mostly done, I'm in control now, I'm calm and composed and will remain unflappable and will get this (baby) show on the road."

Hairspray. Varying colours. Suit jackets. Panic tidying of desk and re-arranging of pictures. Hanging (with cellotape) of the flag. The rampant lion. Re-hanging of the flag. Moving the desk. Moving the chairs. Taping the floor. Fiddling the (locked off) camera angle. Sneaking in a couple of run throughs amidst crouching Ryan hidden Hazel.

A gap. When it's more or less ready. Actors at rest in the "changing" (meeting) room next door.

But then. But then. The internet connection speed was sluggish. (Did it lie to me, sly tricky two Fridays ago?) The NTS baby crew tried to fix it by leeching off the office internet connection. #leechfail

So it's announced after much mysterious tinkering that we won't be streaming live at all. Which was pretty disappointing but also curiously soothing, judging from the faces of the actors at the announcement.

So we crack (they crack) on and herd the small but perfectly formed audience into position and start a whole 4 minutes early.

My perfect as a dandelion puff cast nailed it. Their one shot.

We (they) finish and there's a long silence as Ryan records the silent extra footage required to presumably allow some sort of filmic handover between pieces. And then whoop, he says!

"We could give it another go?" Ryan says wistfully. Mme Director the Pessimist says she doesn't think he should worry. It was about as good as it gets.

And so we all went home.

Another firework has its moment in the dark night sky.

Monday, June 23, 2014

We have a stage manager apparently. And cameras plural. And lights. 


Sunday, June 22, 2014

For the fully fledged Five Minutes, tune in here at 9pm, there or thereabouts, tomorrow.

So seems there aren't too many people using the Five Minute Theatre hashtag on instagram!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Almost last but one rehearsal. On the most beautiful summer's evening so thank you to all of them (and my AD) for giving up wine in the garden or cricket on a lawn or a (Cari, envious: "it's real pub garden weather, isn't it?) pint at a trestle table in a jostling backyard. For our little slippy small but hopefully perfectly formed #fiveminutetheatre.

And phsew. They all know their words. Thanks, kids.

They all look like they mean what they're saying. Except perhaps when they're doing a line run.

They're all now (how would you say if you were being pretentious - which clearly I am not) inhabiting their characters and twitching and shrugging and wry smiling without really thinking about it.

My work now slides into nagging and reminding.

Almost done.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Wednesday's rehearsal and I had a full complement of cast. First Minister, Private Secretary, Artist. 

It surprised me all over again that you can spend two hours working on something that lasts five only FIVE minutes. 

The Private Secretary (aka Alan) has perhaps about twelve lines. Maybe not even that many. But the time it took to figure out where he would step when was astonishing. And then how he might say "I'll get off then" and then this and then that and the other. 

The Artist began to laugh. Somehow, (unsurprisingly perhaps), Alan speaking of pants is far funnier than I speaking of pants. And I feared slightly for our five minute one shot at perfection.

(Likely to be 9:25pm on Monday 23 June.) 

But we must hope that the eyes of one million people on them will encourage them to get lively, learn their words and be perfectly brilliant. 

One week and three days to go. As Kylie once said (sang), let's get to it.

Monday, June 09, 2014

I'm (approximately) following the RSC school of an approach to rehearsals, following on from a nicely steep learning curve over two pretty stupendous RSC-sponsored Open Stages weekends, one in conjunction with the NTS and one back in January at Dundee Rep.

Last week's rehearsal - week one - was mostly about trimming the script. Despite my very best efforts, it was running at 5 minutes and 47 seconds. So some judicious nipping and tucking was required. The two leading ladies were most supportive, not remotely motivated by ending up with fewer lines to learn, I'm sure. So we cut, slashed and burned and fought back the perimeter to something like 5 minutes and a handful of nanoseconds.

(Cue an interesting debate about the merits of swear words. Useful to convey a mood or an emotional state. Sometimes (note the sometimes) superfluous to the required narrative.)

We did some character work around delivering bad news. About trying to persuade someone to do something they don't want to. About clinging onto backbone and certainty in the face of insistent persuasion. In the hopes of every minute of nuance being wrung out of the aforementioned five minutes and nanoseconds.

And then they lolloped through it. Boldly venturing where no highlighter yet had trod. And did pretty respectably, given that they were squished round my fit for just that piece of furniture and no more dining room table. Compact acting.

Sunday just gone, I was reminded yet again of the actor's amazing capacity to speak words without any clear idea of the meaning of them. Particularly pronounced with Shakespeare of course but I was amazed all over again at the variety of interpretation possible with just a handful of words.

We did something like actioning - and you wouldn't think that would take very long given the length of the script. I wasn't even applying a Graham McLaren style precision. But that took up something like an hour. Some few run throughs later and we were summarily interrupted with the production's first casualty. Hilary's poor Chris phoned feebly as he'd sliced his hand open. So First Minister to the rescue and off she sped.

On Wednesday, we put it all together. FM, Artist and Personal Secretary (to the FM, not the Artist) shall all be in the same place at the same time. I like these rehearsals. They remind me that there's a play in the offing and not just teatime fun round my dining room table.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

I'm touched, impressed and enormously warmed of heart by the number of people who are helping with The Quest for a location.

The National Theatre of Scotland (lovely, sweet Elena) have been extremely kind, supportive and encouraging of what is essentially a gigantic pest for them. I could've just turned up quietly at one of the performing hubs. Got my girls and guy to say their piece and slunk away again into the night. But they embraced my wistful dream to go straight to the beating heart of power in this fair country, spoke enticing words of promise to the Parliament themselves and commiserated when the chance slithered from my grasp.

They could (should) have shoved me towards the hub at that point. Rather than saying "yes, Claire, of course you can inconvenience us some more by fankling around trying to find an alternative". But they didn't. They said "we know you should've given us x, y and quite a lot of z by now but it's ok. We have faith. Wander forth and find yourself a new playground." So for them - and / or for Elena - my sincere gratitude.

Then we have Cari (aka The Artist) who suggested Dundas House in St Andrew's Square, smart girl. And sent me a passel of serviced offices. Alan (aka the Private Secretary) who explored the possibility of using an office at the (posh) school at which he teaches, only to discover extra-curricular activities which would thwart that. Siobhan (Assistant Director) who ventured into the jaws of the lion (well, RBS) to get contact details for the "owner" of office space at Dundas House. And to Sandra who kindly shared my email with the no doubt myriad of people who would need to vet such a decision at the bank. ("Don't hold your breath but I've tried" she said, in a beautiful show of pragmatism.)

Thank you to the girl on reception at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society who let me prowl in and look at their boardroom (yup, beautiful). And gave me the contact details for the events team.

Thank you to Helen, the extremely creative TV producer, who sent me a bunch of suggestions first off. And then contacted someone whose name I don't even know but nonetheless sent me a pack of ideas for places including (WHY didn't I think of it??) Creative Scotland. So that's another email winging its way.

Thank you to Sara who told me my suggestion was impractical and suggested another better one.

Thanks to Phil who emailed a friend of his in South Africa (that's SOUTH AFRICA) because this friend once was the beneficiary of business investments from a handful of beautifully-officed companies in Edinburgh. Who are clearly more than likely to give up this space on a Monday evening for a girlfriend of a friend of the man they invested money with some several years ago. Who wouldn't respond to a plea like that?

And thank you to Neil who, notwithstanding the imminent addition to his family, forced his father's arms open to this collection of marauding mummers. For his father happens to be the owner of an office in the industrial east side of Edinburgh. And this assistance purely on the strength of reading this. This blog. Not a jovial emailed entreaty in sight.

What stars people are.

I now need to visit this aforementioned father's premises to do - I don't even know what - some sort of speed test for that thing called t'internet. To check that the no doubt long-suffering camera crew would actually be able to properly do their thing on the middle east side of the 'burgh. So that is my what next.

The rest of you, if you're watching and know that your office has posh chairs, a shiny desk and a quick t'internet, get in touch. My deadline's Friday.