Saturday, August 30, 2014

Increasingly I think directing is nothing more than an exercise in brinkmanship. Who will give in first? You? Or - who? The play that wants to be put on, I suppose. The gods of the theatre. Fate. I don't know.

It's certainly a test of nerve.

I haven't started autumn's show yet. Rehearsals begin on Tuesday. I have a theatre. I am almost cast. I have an assistant director, someone who's willing to entertain the thought of making a set, a couple of delightful people who look like they might bail me out when it comes to publicity, a possible solution for lights (Inshallah), a potential costume person, someone to write the music, a queen of props, even offers to prompt. And to all of whom, thanks and thanks and many more thanks.

I am missing a young black man to play the final member of the cast.

And I'm trying.

Following a distinct absence of suitable candidates at audition, I have:
  • approached someone. Too busy.
  • approached someone else. Also too busy.
  • sought help, via dear Susan Wales, from the assorted 'theatrical' community in Edinburgh and the surrounding regions. 
  • posted a call for assistance on the SCDA's local and national facebook pages.
  • posted a call for assistance on the QMU theatre students facebook group page.
  • approached (via someone I work with) someone else who's busy being groomed by BGT. Who knew? Too busy.
  • contacted numerous groups and societies of Edinburgh University. Liaised, negotiated, wrote out this and that, got a lovely message posted on the facebook page of the Afro-Caribbean Society directing interested parties to me and to date, this has yielded nothing.
  • approached (via someone else I work with) someone else. Loves the script. Too busy.
  • put an ad on gumtree.
  • tried to catch on the phone someone who had responded to the ad on gumtree. Repeatedly failed. 
  • discovered that the man who had responded to the gumtree ad not only lives in Liverpool in the summer but also all year round. Because when he said he was starting uni term again in October, he meant uni term IN LIVERPOOL. Not even crossed but ridiculously optimistically ensnarled wires. 
  • posted a call for an (sorry sorry amateur sorry sorry no pay sorry sorry sorry not even travel expenses) actor on Casting Call Pro
  • emailed the heads of theatre courses at QMU, Edinburgh College and the esteemed RCS
And now I shall wait.

God loves a trier, right?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

And so it went.

The final James on Friday night. A proper rollicking romp through a snippet of the life of Mr III. Another spectacular set. Pharrell Williams' Happy on the bagpipes should be made a compulsory part of the Princes' Street pipers' repertoire. Lovely costumes. And Sofie Grobel was fantastic. Really brilliant.

Saturday saw me at a death-drenched Snow Dog with Madeleine. She bore it well and - a "when is the real dog coming on?" whispered aside, aside - appeared to enjoy it. Huff again which possibly terrified her, judging by the strength of her grip on my hand. And then The Moth in the Book Festival which converted me instantly back to their cause after a bad (somnolent) experience with Richard Dawkins the week before.

Sunday brought the Fringe to an all-round impeccable close with Lippy by Dead Centre at the Traverse. Proper imaginative theatre. And then Letters Home tried its very best to be proper imaginative theatre but for the most part, didn't quite pull it off. But it was a magic idea and I suspect the problems weren't Grid Iron's fault.

Monday night was Sweet Mambo by Tanztheater Wuppertal. Choreographed by the late and great PiƱa Bausch. And that was beautiful and funny and sad. A brilliant showcase for women to be women which doesn't happen very often in dance. The music was magic. Lights to die for. A brilliantly billowy set. And the costumes were catch your breath gorgeous.

A proper feast.

And so the cacophonous cultural gluttony draws to a close.

I'll miss it. Of course.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Loads of people (=1) have been asking about where they might find all these reviews I've been writing this Fringe.

So for the ravenous hoardes, as follows:

Light. The latest from Theatre Ad Infinitum. I must confess to being slightly disappointed in this one as their Translunar Paradise was one of the loveliest shows I've ever seen and The Ballad of the Burning Star packed a punch.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Expected not to like it. Loved it. Always more satisfying.

The Colour Ham. Expected to HATE it. Loved it.

Boxman. Expected to hate it. Uh huh.

And maybe that's it. Though it's not over till it's over.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Assembling (painstakingly) a rehearsal schedule for Festen. And trying to imagine what it must be like to be paying people and thus, they have to be there. Bliss, surely?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Testimonial theatre is a funny thing. I've seen a wee bit of it in recent years. A great piece perhaps two years ago about the Australian bush fires. A potentially interesting but less so in person piece maybe last year about oil. 

Deep Cut, however many years back, did a stupendous job of knitting real words into an actual (and gripping) play but it's a feat that's difficult to pull off.

Particularly if you're one small slim Australian woman trying to be children, women and men, young and old, all with the addition (or subtraction) of a headscarf.

I went into SmallWar at the Traverse last week, not knowing it was anything of the kind. It was only when the credits rolled (and that's the only clue I'll give you to the astounding technical wizardry this show serves up) that I realised that this was all genuine real actual people's words. Feeling curiously timeless although some were harvested from centuries long past.

These were testimonials plucked and knitted and woven together from sometimes ancient books of words and other times (presumably) newspapers or blogs, whipped and whisked into a seamless story of war and wishing and love and survival and barely surviving and the cold empty reality of it not working out your way.

Acted brilliantly and pretty much (apparently) effortlessly from incredibly inventive creator Valentijn Dhaenens.

Whereas walking into Forgotten Voices at the Pleasance on Monday, I expected nothing but testimonial theatre. I didn't expect the lines to be lying ready and waiting on the stage (on music stands, in folders) but five seats placed in a semi-circle chimed entirely with my expectations.

Forgotten Voices was a series of books before it became a play, produced by the Imperial War Museum to house themed collections of first-hand accounts of World War One. So I wasn't expecting very much more than extracts from these, perhaps with a little bit of acting thrown in for good measure.

In fact, I was nicely surprised. Actors did just walk on stage, sit and read from their folders. But accompanied with a nicely engineered sound track of pertinent SFX and (in effect) a slide show of paintings by contemporary artists that chimed with some of the content of the speakers' words.

In hindsight, the folders make perfect sense. Alongside the regular actors, we are given "guest artists". I had the pleasure of Robert Vaughn and Julian Sands (not that I knew this till later). And both were very good.

But I confess that I was more touched by the performances of the jobbing actors who'd obviously had longer to familiarise themselves with the text so did less 'reading' and more 'acting'. A trade off, of course, as names get an audience so a smart move on the part of the producers. (And I would rather fancy seeing Celia Imrie play the lovely young lady part later this month.)

Now interestingly, I sobbed as if I were chopping strong onions when I saw the more conventional rendition of testimonial theatre at the Pleasance. I had a small cry but nothing so wet at Mr Dhaenens' show. So it makes me wonder whether, when the words (or the content) deliver a such an emphatic emotional punch, technology and other such fancy trappings help or hinder the story telling. 

Go see for yourself. They're both stunning.