Tired but Enjoying It (except for wearing a corset!)

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Working hard backstage

Firstly, I must say a big “sorry” for not posting over these last ten days. A combination of new job, college assignment and rehearsals have got in the way.

As most regular readers (yes I do have such things at this blog) will be aware, I’m currently rehearsing for a musical, The Matchgirls. This is the first time I’ve been in a musical and I’m loving the challenges it’s bringing. I’ve always heard musical theatre performers say how hard it is, and having now had my own taste, I agree, they’re VERY hard work.

I’m only in two musical numbers, but that’s giving my brain more than enough to cope with. As ever though the rehearsal period is teaching me more about myself and theatre and that’s great. It’s also fab working with others that are into theatre and having conversations about all sorts of random theatrical things, such as Hamlet being a girly play, the works of Sarah Kane, The Railway Children and finding out what others like and dislike in this crazy theatrical world.

The females in the cast are having to wear corsets as that’s part of the period dress. A word of warning, if you’re a male, be EXTREMELY sympathetic to your female co-stars if they have to wear these weird things. I thought they were just moaning, so I got strapped in one today – OUCH!!!! How they can do a whole musical in one I’ve no idea! Kudos to the Matchgirls!

Me laced up in a corset, suffering for my art!

“If that’s 12 foot, we’re £$%@&* !!!”

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These folks have serious competition from us.

“In 2011, a crack team of theatrical technicians, actors and wannabe directors were sent to a small studio behind the Miller Centre Theatre for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from this maximum security stockade. They now reside in the Caterham underground. If you have a theatre that needs it’s set/scenery and chairs moving, and you can find them (and afford them), maybe you can hire the M Team…………”

Yes, forget your recent remake of the classic A Team, watch instead the hard graft that’s done at the Miller Centre theatre.

Tonight an intrepid team of us, helped changed it from a Proscenium arch theatre, to one with a major thrust, that almost makes it playing in the round. This involves lugging groups of chairs that are bolted together in two’s, three’s and the colossus that is the four seater. These are now surreptitiously hidden in strange locations around the theatre (TOP SECRET). Also assembling rakes for the chairs to go on and building the thrust stage.

As for comparisons to the A Team, it goes;

Vernon = Hannibal, at the end, he almost said “I love it when a plan comes together”

Me = “Howling Mad” Murdock, my witty comments and lack of fear from crawling under raked seats, must make me a contender for this role?

Daniel = Face, smooth talking, smart dressing, yet always lending a hand.

Graham = BA Barracas, “I ‘ain’t liftin no chairs you fool”, and the title from this post comes from him!

Becky = Amy, who showed she could match the men no problems.

Two others helped too,  Alister and Chris – Thanks for being part of the team too!

All in all a productive and fun evening, alas I forgot my camera, but I’ll try to get some pics up asap.

Thanks guys (and gal) for all your help, any theatrical production is the sum of its parts and The Miller Centre Theatre Company has some great parts. (most notably George Bernard Shaw in the next production!!) 😉

Rehearsals continue apace

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Rehearsals continue apace for the Matchgirls. We spent a whole day yesterday rehearsing and we actually got through the whole show. I always love the camaraderie in productions and this one is no different. Despite it being a large cast, we’re all getting on well and having a good laugh along the way. We’re an eclectic group of all ages, abilities and experience, which is making for some humorous and interesting rehearsals. What’s nice is the support we’re giving each other and how people are willing to help each other out.

The Director John Harries-Rees in action

Our director John Harries-Rees, is getting to grips with us, and we seem to be slowly getting the play into some shape. We move into the theatre later this week for the remaining rehearsals. That will be a great step forward as we can then get the movements/blocking confirmed/learnt too. A key thing I’m learning from John, is the importance of technique. Getting that sorted is the first step, once the breath, position, lines are learnt we can then develop the play.

Doing further research into my character of George Bernard Shaw has been fascinating, the character of Annie Besant is my main foil in this play, and finding more about her, has also been a discovery. Which bits we use for character development I’m not sure yet. My Irish accent is coming along, but my beard hasn’t, so I’m going to get one made up. (picture to follow)

Tickets are available from here.

We are Star Dust Hurtling Through Space -Cirque Du Soleil – TOTEM – Royal Albert Hall – Review

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The circus is in town and so three thousand of us made the trip last night to the Big Top that is the Royal Albert Hall to witness their new production, TOTEM. As mentioned previously this was my first time seeing the Cirque Du Soleil live, despite the fact I’ve been aware and admired the Cirque Du Soleil’s work since the mid 90’s, when I saw a video of their Saltimbanco production.

Along with the CdS brand this production also has the added bonus of being written and directed by the creative visionary that is Robert Lepage.  So my expectations were running high.

The theme for this production as you can see from the picture above is the evolution of mankind, which is a fascinating and amazing story in and of itself, could it be told by jugglers, acrobats, clowns and other acts I wondered? As we took our seats, several of the cast were mingling and interacting with the audience, which as anyone that reads my blog regularly will know, I think is a really good thing. The ringmaster character had a wonderful top hat that contained a really powerful light which he used to spotlight the crowd and was visually striking and a very clever idea, that would be utilised in the show.

The lights dimmed and we were off on our journey. What follows is a two and a half hour spectacular, that is honestly hard to put into words, I’ll try, but they really won’t do justice to the visual, audio and theatrical display.

“TOTEM is about life. The life that drives us; fragile at birth yet strong by nature.” Guy Laliberte, founder of CdS says in the programme. As I witnessed what looked like the impossible I was caught up in joy and wonder that is human existence. ALL the acts are brilliant but for me the highlights were;

The Tsodikova Sisters

The Tsodikova sisters foot juggling, where they juggled what looked like cloaks, individually then between them, then with one of them balancing on the other. How they kept their own balance while keeping their cloaks spinning was incredible. The costumes and design took this to another level though, this was a visual recreating of the big bang, from which we all came , as the programme states, “Born of chaos…From the mineral depths, energy and beauty emerge.” This routine was both energetic and beautiful, as are the Tsodikova sisters!

Ante Ursic and his batons-du-diable

 

Ante Ursic did a passionte flamenco styled devil stick routine, with the poise and dynamism of a matador. One man, and three sticks kept us enthralled as they spun, flipped and defied gravity.

Greg Kennedy and his atoms in perpetual motion

Greg Kennedy played a scientist character throughout the show. Then in Act 2 he steps inside his laboratory and while the band accompany him by playing on the test tubes and pipes, he steps inside a giant conic vase and starts juggling balls that light up/change colour whilst whizzing around the cone. The scientist watching and manipulating the atoms was such a clever and innovative routine, and a theatrical vision I’ll remember forever.

See the world from new heights, and awaken to love

Rosalie Ducharme and Louis-David Simoneau, gave a beautifully trapeze routine, that was incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen. Throughout it showed the trials and exhilaration of love and romance. Now I know that’ll sound strange, a trapeze act show that?? YES! I was genuinely moved by it.

Don't try this at home, with a few planks and some mates.

Finally, the show closed with a Russian troupe of flyers. I’ve always wanted to see this feat performed live as I’d seen it on TV when I was a boy and literally my jaw fell open then. Seeing it live now had the same effect, as they leapt, spun and flew through the air and then landed on a thin plank. As Robert Lepage says in the programme, “Out natural curiosity calls us ever upwards – we seem possessed by the desire to fly.” Well these performers can fly.

The above simply scratches the surface, they are all accompanied by a fabulous score, stunning costumes and make up that adds to a total theatrical package. ALL of the performers are top of their game and the creative team with Lepage at the helm have created a piece of theatre that celebrates the amazing fact that we’ve come from star-dust, evolved and can do some pretty amazing things. It also leaves one filled with a passion and desire to see humankind move onwards and upwards.

I left the Royal Albert Hall filled with a buzz, joy and a greater appreciation for this crazy thing we call life. As we whizz through space, we are all part of this evolutionary journey, and will forever continue to be, as we return to the star-dust as it continues ever onwards.

Swimming With Sharks – Miller Centre Theatre, Caterham – Review

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All I knew about this play was that it, a) contains a LOT of swearing and b) has a torture scene in it. So as I went off to see it tonight, I thought that perhaps it wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but I’m keen to support my local theatre and I will declare now I know most of the cast as I acted with them in A Few Good Men last year.

What surprised me most was I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this play. I wasn’t expecting it to be so humorous and the tension builds brilliantly to a wicked twist at the end.

Peter Whittle the Director certainly made the right amount of cuts with regards the “bad” language, but without it seeming like these folks didn’t swear, they certainly did, as indeed I’m sure they do in the offices of Hollywood (and in fact most offices – usually at the IT department I find). The torture scene was also superbly well done, not too gratuitous but likewise not wince free, and the gun shots certainly made most of us jump!

Chester Stern is a gem of an actor within the Miller Centre Players (the recipient of the 2010 Miller Centre Theatre Actor of the Year Award, which I was pleased to see was displayed in Buddy’s office) and I knew I’d enjoy his performance. He didn’t disappoint. Playing Buddy perfectly, he’s (Buddy not Chester) such a nasty piece of work, yet he toys not just with the characters emotions but the audiences too, in the torture scene as I started feeling sorry for this “boss from hell”.

 

Gerard Kelly as Guy and Chester Stern as Buddy

 

Gerard Kelly gave a wide-eyed and innocent portrayal of Guy, who starts to climb the ladder and become more like the boss he despises. Not an easy journey to show, but Gerard did it admirably.

Sharron Cox, played the love interest and key foil to both Guy and Buddy. She too, took us on a journey and I was never sure who she was screwing both literally and figuratively until the plays end.

The rest of the cast gave suitable back up to the above main three and helped to create this weird world of Hollywood in sleepy little Caterham.

 

The bewitching Mitzy played by Becky Gordon

 

It is on until this Saturday (15th Jan) and I really do recommend it. It’s great going to the theatre and being surprised and I really thought my review for this would be “Great Cast, Bad Play”, I’m pleased to say it’s not, it is “GREAT CAST, GREAT PLAY.”

Ionesco’s Influence

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Ionesco knows how I feel when an assignment is due for college

Well by this time next week, my next assignment for college will be done and dusted. It’s for my Theatre of the Absurd module. Every module with college, stretches me and opens my eyes to other ways of doing theatre and throughout the last few years, I’ve gained a list of theatre practitioners that I’ve grown to love and admire their work.

Ionesco is the one for me from this module. As my tutor has remarked he is quite “unfashionable” at the present time, and this is represented by the lack of material on him and his work available in English. This is a real shame, as I’ve found his plays, witty, thought-provoking and in the context of The Theatre of the Absurd and theatre generally, very influential.

I saw his play The Chairs last year and I reviewed it here. I mentioned at the time, that I wasn’t too keen on how they’d presented it, and the more I’ve read of Ionesco’s own writings and thoughts on that and other plays of his, I have to say I think they missed the mark from what Ionesco envisaged.

Unlike other Theatre of the Absurd writers (especially Beckett), Ionesco wasn’t shy of telling others what his intentions were. While part of Beckett’s enigma is his refusal to define or talk about his writings (even though he was exacting on how they were to be performed and that his text was definitive), Ionesco in many cases leaves no doubt as to what is representing what. As someone who is writing academic papers on him, it’s refreshing to be able to quote and consult the writer. His plays do however give the audience and performers the chance to bring their own thoughts and interpretations to it, and he frequently changed his work while it was being originally performed, based on how it was being received by the audiences seeing it being performed live.

His book, Notes and Counter Notes is certainly in my top ten of favourite books on theatre (I must do a post and perhaps create a page dedicated to them), and I recommend it wholeheartedly to you if you have an interest in theatre or Theatre of the Absurd. Some choice gems are;

” One must write for oneself, for it is in this way that one may reach others.”

“A genuine dramatist has the theatre in his bones, he expresses himself spontaneously in the medium of drama, which is his natural idiom.”

“There is only one thing that I’m sure of. It is that my plays make no claim to save the world or prove that some men are better than others.”

“A play is a whole performance, the subject is only a pretext, and the text is only a score.”

As part of the Theatre of the Absurd movement, his work is obviously part of that mindset and influenced by existentialist writings and the turmoil of post war France. While the world has moved on, I find there is much in these writings that resonates with me and I agree with Ionesco’s concern to express the absence of meaning in life. His allusions to fascism and totalitarianism while more pertinent in 1950’s France, there are still similar political and religious regimes still with us, and may well be in ascendency in the next few decades.

So while much is rightly owed to Beckett, I feel that perhaps Ionesco has been sidelined, his play The Bald Soprano was the first absurdist play put on in France and the his play The Lesson the first absurdist play put on in UK and the innovations that genre brought to theatre as an art form do seem to be forgotten by some.

Influencers of The Theatre of the Absurd

Another reason Ionesco and his writings have appealed to me is his influence by the great early movie stars such as Charlie Chaplain, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton (who would later appear in Beckett’s Film) and the Marx Brothers (whom Ionesco cited as his greatest influence). These acts had their grounding in theatre and many of their theatre skits were transferred direct onto celluloid. Again many forget these stars theatrical roots. The Marx Brothers would tour and perform their skits before theatre audiences, find out what worked best with the live audience before committing it finally to film. The absurdity of these performers is perhaps easier to see with hindsight. Slapstick humour, absurdity of language and visual imagery all key components of Theatre of the Absurd and its genesis can be seen in these early films. It’s also been great that as a fan of these films I can watch them and claim it’s for my college course!

So if you’re not aware of Ionesco, I recommend finding a copy of some of his plays and giving them a read, or seeing a play of his if one is put on near you. Two of his plays are constantly running in Paris (The Bald Soprano and The Lesson) and have been since 1957! I’m keen to try to catch them later this year if at all possible. Other plays of his I’ve enjoyed are The Chairs,and Rhinoceros (regarded by many as his best). Once my assignment is done, I’m looking forward to working my way through all his works. Which shows how much I like his writings as very few writers have I wanted to and read all their works.

Anyway, I’d better crack back on with my assignment as I don’t get marks for my blog posts unfortunately!

2010 in review

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 67 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 104 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 21mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 26th with 165 views. The most popular post that day was Blasted by Sarah Kane at The Lyric Hammersmith – Review.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, lyric.co.uk, en.wordpress.com, alistbloggingbootcamps.com, and vle.bruford.ac.uk.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for sarah kane, penn and teller, national theatre, penn teller, and blasted sarah kane.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Blasted by Sarah Kane at The Lyric Hammersmith – Review October 2010
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2

Penn and Teller – London Apollo – Review July 2010
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3

Love Never Dies – Review November 2010
11 comments

4

Lets Twist Again – Dreamboats and Petticoats – Review June 2010
2 comments

5

Assignment Options : Brecht and Boal March 2010