Line learning, Paracetamol, Lucozade and the Long Road of Rehearsing.

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I’ve not written about the current play I’m rehearsing yet. Primarily as I’ve been busy rehearsing!

I’m playing the character Joe in Shelagh Stephenson’s play The Long Road. It’s an intense play looking at the issue of forgiveness and examines how a family reacts to the murder of their son. My character Joe, is the brother of Dan who has been murdered.

The poster encapsulates the blood, sweat and tears rehearsing can be.

I’m finding it a real challenge as the play has a couple of monologues for each character and these are particularly emotional and so getting the balance right is hard. As we don’t want to go over the top, but also we’re trying not to reign in the emotions too much either.

I’ve come down with a bit of a cold (“Man Up!!” I hear you cry!), and so am relying on paracetamol and Lucozade to get me through this afternoon’s rehearsal. I’m pleased that the rehearsal process has been great fun so far. The cast is only 5 of us, we’ve bonded well and even though it is a serious play we’ve been able to have some laughs as we’ve rehearsed it, which I think has been necessary otherwise I think we’d get depressed.

I have a feeling the director is going to push us hard this afternoon, and that’s no bad thing, in fact it’s the part of the rehearsal process I enjoy the most, as the sense of achievement you have once you’ve stretched yourself is one of the things I like the most about acting.

I must dash and work on my lines now though.

TTFN

(it’s on from 18th – 27th October, tickets can be bought here )

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The Magic Cavern – Baron’s Court Theatre

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The Barons Court Theatre is a special and magical place for me. It was here I made my professional debut at The Magic Cavern. That was nine years ago. I returned the other day to see the 10th anniversary performance of family friendly but fiendishly baffling magic.

The show has evolved over the last decade, but its current format of every Sunday at 3pm with a set show presented by creator, producer and performer Richard Leigh or his deputy David Major has been a winner. The multi-aged audience gathered on Sunday were wondering at the wizardry.

The theatre is transformed via set and back drops into a cave of conjuring. The magic flows accompanied by a classical soundtrack the serves to punctuate and emphasise the magic.

There is plenty of audience participation for those that want to, there was a large contingent there for a 10th birthday so the magician was not short of willing volunteers when I was there!

David Major performing some hot magic.

Normally either Richard Leigh or David Major perform. As this was a special show we were treated to a shared performance that contained them both performing, both are competent and engaging.

I don’t want to give anything away but there is strong magic aplenty with the highlight for me being Richard Leigh’s thumb tie. It is certainly one, if not the best I’ve seen.

Richard Leigh’s mind-boggling Magic Square

It’s London’s only weekly magic show. Seeing magic up close like this really is the best way to see this theatrical form, so if you fancy an alternative way to spend your Sunday afternoon, make your way to The Magic Cavern.

Calendar Girls – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Caterham

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We’re going to need considerably bigger buns!

Aiming to break a record for most performances of a single play in a 12 month period it was the turn of The Miller Centre Theatre Company to be one of the first amateur theatre groups to stage their version of Calendar Girls. There are over 200 other theatre groups putting it on between September 2012 – September 2013.

The Caterham Calendar Girls

The play has proved to be a great start to our season selling out the entire 10 performances and the cast have even taken their “method acting” to include making their own calendar! Funds raised going to the charity Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research which is set to have a boost to the £20 million they need to run each year with the 200 + shows throughout this year raising much-needed capital for them.

I lost a friend to this vicious cancer last year and was surprised how this play touched me, it’s a bittersweet tale and the cast bare all bringing it to life. Keith Orton’s set is especially clever and took us from the church hall to Yorkshire Dales with the sliding of two walls. It takes you from laughing heartily to having a lump in your throat and tear in your eye, as we see this group of friends seek to raise money by their unorthodox Women’s Institute Calendar.

I’m certain if you’re in the UK, a theatre group will be performing this near you, support them baring their all, and support the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research by seeing it and giving generously.

Shakespeare’s Globe On Screen

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I walk past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre almost everyday on my way to and from my office. The crazy thing is I’ve never gone further than the bookshop. It’s been on my list of “must got and see something there this season” , but I’ve never quite got round to booking a ticket. (to my shame, I know!)

So I was delighted to have the chance this week to actually go inside and see the theatre but also to find out more about the Globe on Screen season. Globe on Screen enables those not able to come to this theatre a chance to see productions that have been put on here in their local cinema. They are also released via DVD aswell.

I firstly got to see the technical crew setting up and getting ready to record that evening performance of The Taming of the Shrew. I knew it must be a special theatre but to actually sit in it and see the space was wonderful. I’ll certainly be aiming to see something here before the season finishes, if not it’ll be top of my list for 2013.

I got to chat to Technical Manager Paul Williams and he explained how the production is filmed twice and then edited due to the surprises that an outdoor venue can provide such as helicopters circling and the beloved British weather. They also want to give a flavour of how the audience are such and integral part of plays at the Globe and so the technical demands are different to incorporate them as well as the action on stage.

I was pleased to hear that they also record the whole production via a static camera and so can I selfishly suggest they put a static camera version of the show on the DVD too? As I’d love to have the opportunity to see it presented like that rather than via the directors cut.

I also got to meet the director filming The Taming of the Shrew Ross MacGibbon and he explained how he goes about filming these unique productions. His meticulous and highly organised way of dealing with the plays is the reason I think he captures them so well. He explained that the advances in HD technology now make it possible to record live outdoor theatre and enable it to capture the essence of what it really is like to be there. Take a look at the trailer to see how well they’ve done it;

I got to see clips from each one of the upcoming plays in this Globe on Screen season, All’s Well That End’s Well kicks off the season on September 26th. Much Ado About Nothing continues the run from October 10th and Doctor Faustus concludes the season from October 24th. As you can see above, the quality is superb and they really had managed to capture the way the audience is part of the appeal of productions at the Globe. I kicked myself for missing Doctor Faustus when it was on last year and so I’m chuffed I can now see this production at a cinema near me.

Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole was away in Washington with a production of Hamlet but he had a left a video message which explained why they wanted to share their productions in this way. His passion for what goes on the stage here and wanting to share it with as many people as possible is admirable. I also salute them for then sharing them via DVD, as he was keen that these productions be kept for posterity and shown for many years to come which I was so pleased to hear. If only other theatres followed suit and allowed their recorded productions to be released on DVD.

So if you live too far away to come to the Globe or like me have been tardy in getting to see something there, catch these at a cinema near you, or order online and watch in the comfort of your own home. These are some of the premier versions of these classic plays, getting to see them at the Globe is a real treat, for those that can’t this on-screen season will be the next best thing.

Was It Worth The Wait? – One Man Two Guvnors – Theatre Royal Haymarket

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I didn’t get a chance to see this when it opened. Over the last year if I had a pound for everyone who said “have you seen One Man Two Guvnors?” I could certainly have paid for  a trip to see it on Broadway.

So the other night I went along with some pals to finally see it. For 2 of my friends this was their second visit and for one it was his third time. With such a theatrical thumbs up I thought I was in for a treat. Alas this show failed to live up to its hype for me, let me explain why:

Firstly I’ve seldom seen a cast “going through the motions” as much as most of this cast did. It lacked any sense of spontaneity and the cast seemed to lack panache and zeal.
Some lines were lost as they failed to project fully, it felt a bit tired. They have a two-week break soon, it appears they need it. Except this is a West End show, they should be firing on all cylinders EVERY night. Nicholas Hynter needs to pop down and cast his directorial eye on it as they’ve grown complacent I think.

Secondly I think Act 2 really lets it down. The best jokes are in Act 1, in the second act we descend into plastic penis territory to get cheap laughs. As a wise performer once told me “not all laughs are good laughs”.

Thirdly the repetition of gags, pratfalls and jokes enters the realm of the law of diminishing returns far too often. It may have been funny when Martin Barrass falls downstairs the first time however on the third one it failed to get much more than a titter.

I felt Owain Arthur was too egotistical and self-indulgent in his role. My friend felt he was too aggressive compared to James Corden and didn’t engage as well with the audience.

The use of stooges was really the final nail in the coffin for me though. I think this is the root cause of why it felt complacent and tired as a show. I felt cheated when I realised they were stooges. I also don’t think there’s a need for them either actually, as the performers should be able to cope with handling “real people” as is occasionally shown by some of the banter they have with the “real” audience.

I think this would be better as a one-act play as I really don’t think it holds the attention for the 2hrs and as I’ve said Act 2 just doesn’t deliver, as the plot has nowhere to go really.

I DID like ; Ben Mansfield as Stanley and Phil Cornwell as Charlie “the Duck” Clench. They certainly gave their all and got the biggest laughs from me.

I did laugh out loud on occasions, don’t get me wrong, I did try to engage with it, I didn’t sit being all curmudgeonly. It’s just the laugh out loud moments were not as regular as I was expecting and I certainly wasn’t rolling in the aisle.

It’s not awful, I just fell for the hype so only have myself to blame, I should have known better. My friend who was seeing it for 3rd time commented how poor he felt this cast was in comparison to original one. The National Theatre have been striving to make a point the show was bigger than its original cast. It looks like that this is not the case.

Was it worth the wait? I’m glad I got to see it, and it was an enjoyable night out with friends at the theatre, but I can’t agree with the plaudits and praise some have heaped on this show however I’m aware they saw a different cast and so it seems a different show to me.

STARS : * * *

Andy Nyman Interview – “I really love what I do”

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Andy Nyman

Andy Nyman is an actor, writer and director whose positive enthusiasm is contagious. After my 30 mins interviewing him I felt excited and empowered in my own life. The mustachioed actor told me the secret to his success:

Firstly we talked about Abigail’s Party the play he’s currently in at the Wyndham’s theatre in the West End. I asked him how that’d been going?

“I love it, it’s fantastic, great reviews, packed houses, what’s not to like.? I’m such an annoying and enthusiastic f*&^!$r though! It’s been one of those jobs that has been absolutely lovely”

I asked him as this is such a classic play, did he immediately jump at the chance to play Laurence?

Andy as Laurence

“Quite the reverse, I said no, I said no a couple of times to it as they came back a couple of times to me. I was desperate to work with Lyndsey but I’ve never really been free previously. I was excited it was Lyndsey but my memory of seeing the original was that Alison Steadman was extraordinary and huge in a brilliant way but everything else was sort of invisible. So I didn’t really remember the play that well, my memory of Laurence was that he was a weak, brow beaten individual and that didn’t have any interest for me whatsoever. So I said no. They came back to me and asked me if I’d read the play and I said no, I was just going from my memories from 30 years ago. So I re-read the play and was absolutely astonished and thought it’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It’s an amazing piece of writing and this is a remarkably dysfunctional relationship it terms of Beverly and Laurence they’re both very strong characters that have just got trapped in the wrong marriage. So in reading it I called Lyndsey and said I think it’s amazing but my feeling is that they’re both very strong characters and he is an equal to her and that’s what makes it all the more painful and awful. Lynsey said that’s exactly what he thinks and why he wanted me to do it.

Buy two copies one for you and one to give to a moanny actor

Moving on we spoke about the other project in his life right now his new book The Golden Rules of Acting How had this come about?

“I wrote it for me, I love books of quotes, and there was a book I’d bought years ago called ‘Go for the Gold’, it sounds so cheesy. It’s just quotes  from anyone and everything. I always used to carry it in my bag, and one day something happened at an audition or something, about 6 years ago and I thought I just want to scribble that thought down, so I scribbled it into the front of the ‘Go for the Gold’ book. Then I wrote another down, and about a week later I wrote another down and before I knew it that cover and the inside cover were full. So I thought I’d transfer those onto A4, then that became 2 sides, then 5 sides etc. I was never thinking I’m writing a book, it was purely for me and I loved it. It was a really useful reminder of all the things I loved about acting and so I found it invigorating. 

I then put it into a PDF with photos. I showed it to a couple of actors,  only out of ‘what do you think of this?’ they loved it and after we’d finished Ghost Stories I gave a copy to Jeremy Dyson (Andy’s co-writer) and despite it being about acting I felt it crossed over to all creative thinking and he came back and said it was brilliant and sent it to his literary agent who said he could place it, and felt he’d most like to place it with Nick Hern Books.

The finished article in your hands is literally what was in my head. I had an incredibly strong vision of what it was. For actors, I hope it’s a fantastic book as it is really from the heart, but it doesn’t matter what job you do, Richard Weisman who’s a psychologist thinks it a real key into how to create success for yourself.”

I’d noticed that within it there did appear to be a frustration with actors and how it was refreshing to see him address the moaning many tend to do. I admired how he’d made a point that acting (like any) profession is hard work.

“Yeah there are a couple of important things I really, really believe. First is it is your job, it’s your business and who you are and how you present yourself and how you conduct your business – aside from how good or bad an actor you are, it’s a given that you’ve got to be good at what you do. I don’t know that being a good actor is 50% of it, it might only be 30% of it. Being able to put yourself in a position where you can afford to do this job because make no mistake, I’m currently in the West End in a show and the wage isn’t terrible but it’s certainly not WOHOO! The shocking thing is that I left drama school in 1987 and if you put on a play now, building the set is more expensive, renting the theatre is more expensive, buying the tickets is more expensive and not just relatively, a lot more. What you get paid as an actor can sometimes be less, sometimes it can be a bit more but not relative to everything else. Making a living as an actor is really hard.

It becomes acceptable and cool to pretend you don’t care. I don’t hold any truck with moaning really. I’m incredibly lucky to be sitting in my dressing room in the West End starring in a play. You’re incredibly lucky just to have a passion about something that you want to pursue and so few people have the courage to follow their passions or even know what they are. It’s more important to put yourself out there properly and with the full commitment to say I really love what I do and I’m not embarrassed by that.”

Finally I wondered what the future held? As to be expected I was bombarded with a cacophony of projects, a Ghost Stories film “that’s a way down the line, Jeremy and I need to write the script. We wanted a bit of distance before we approached it as it’s a new challenge, but we’ll do it definitely. We’re also working on another film script and another play. Ghost Stories is opening in Moscow on October 19th.

5 days after I finish Abigail’s Party I fly off to play one of the bad guys in Kick Ass 2, which is very exciting as I loved the first film so much.

Then in the beginning of next year I’m writing and directing the new Derren Brown stage show. I just did not have time for Svengali (Derren’s most recent show). It’s a scary challenge that’ll be the 6th show Derren’s done of which I’ve written and directed 4. They’re really good fun though. So it’s a very busy and exciting time really.”

Is this his secret to life, success and happiness, having different challenges and things to do? “Yeah I think that really helps. As I say again, and again, and again in the book the priority is to be happy. That’s number 1. The work won’t make you happy I believe. Being busy, being successful is not what leads to happiness. Being happy is what helps lead to being busy and successful. That’s why it’s important not to moan and to cherish the things and people who you love and enjoy being around because that’s the fuel for the passion and excitement that should drive everything. “

“I was talking to Mark Gatiss the other day (who I’ve known for 20+ years)  and we were marvelling in what each other has done, and the thing we were saying which I honestly believe is that it isn’t extraordinary that I’ve done or do a lot of different things, I’m always surprised how little other people do. That’s one of the things that I think magic has given me, because that’s my glorious hobby that I love but I think because I learnt about 12 or so years ago a creative process that allowed me to invent. when I invented my first magic trick I just thought ‘I can do anything’. It opened my eyes.”

So I left my time with Andy feeling I too had caught that ‘can do’ attitude, I look forward to seeing him in these future projects and on the West End stage again  in the not too distant future. Andy’s book The Golden Rules of Acting can be bought here.