They’re a superstitious bunch and a select few scary shows

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I love the theatre world, and the colourful and fun characters that inhabit it. BUT one gripe I have is the excessive and over the top superstition theatre folk have. I suppose part of it is no different to any group of people who have their own traditions and words and rituals that identify you as part of their group. However you can’t seem to do anything in a theatre without someone saying “don’t do that, it’s bad luck”.

Very superstitious…..

The most common superstitions that I know and have experienced are:

  1. Not saying Macbeth. Apparently it’s a cursed play, but I think the fact it’s still being performed puts pay to that one.
  2. Leaving a light on stage even when the theatre is dark (shut). Not superstitious just common sense, theatres are dangerous places and walking in to a pitch black theatre with props, ropes, weights, orchestra pits and trap doors is not a good idea. This tradition (allegedly to help the theatres ghosts see where they’re going) is proof that the theatrical world was well ahead of our current obsession with Health and Safety.
  3. Never saying “good luck.” Saying “break a leg”, is still as popular as ever. The reason for this saying is shrouded in mystery and I’ve heard all sorts; from Abraham Lincoln’s assassin breaking his leg on his escape (thanks for that explanation Saskia!), to breaking the line of your body/leg as you bow, to my favourite which is that the actors should need to bow/curtsey so much at the end of the show they will break their legs.
  4. Every theatre having a ghost. When I performed at the Jermyn Street Theatre, I recall a VERY creepy sound akin to wailing in my dressing room. I asked the Stage Manager about it and they matter of factly said, “oh that’s just the ghost – don’t worry they’re a friendly ghost.” I assume he’s called Casper then?

As it is Halloween today, should any of you fancy a theatrical fright here are my recommendations:

Phantom – spooky, stylish and spectacular

Top of the list is The Phantom of the Opera, playing all over the world, and a thrilling musical with a few scenes that’ll make you jump. There is a scene where a backdrop crashes to the floor (it’s meant to) and I was recently speaking to an actress that had played Christine and she spoke about how one night it came crashing down on her. She was quite badly injured but lived to tell the tale and resume her career on stage thankfully.

Boo!

This play is still scaring audiences every night in London, and the recent film version has taken the spine tingling story to many more. I still think the theatrical experience can be more scary though.

The above production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, is getting rave reviews, I read Act 1 this morning and think it’s a great adaptation (I’ll read Act 2 tomorrow). I’d like to get over to Dublin to see it but don’t think I’m going to get a chance to. Let’s hope it comes to London soon.

Finally if you are in Moscow you can catch Ghost Stories as it opened there the other week. An homage to the whole horror genre and certainly contains its moments to make you jump.

Have a happy Halloween – break a leg 🙂

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End of the Road

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All good things must come to an end, and that’s what has happened to the run of The Long Road. I mentioned in my previous post how I’d enjoyed it and found it has helped me grow as an actor.

Theatre is an existential art form and now all that remains are fond memories. My thanks to my co-actors, Jen, Chris, Saskia and Helen who were such fun to work with. Thanks also to the director Iain, who pushed us to be the best we could be. I’ll miss you all.

Going to miss these folks!

I’ve spoken previously about Post-Production Depression  and how I always feel low for a few days following a production, as I miss the people and play. That’ll be especially acute following this play I know.

It won’t be long before I tread the boards again though (February 2013), so I’m looking forward to having a chance to see some theatre over the next couple of  months and the reviews will be here soon!

Being part of a production that moves people

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The Long Road run is going well. It’s been a real joy from the first day of rehearsals. We’ve now only got 4 more nights left and I will really miss it when it’s over.

Being part of a play that actually touches people (we’ve had people in tears some nights) has been a new experience for me and has renewed my conviction that theatre can touch people and act as a catalyst for change. The themes of restorative justice, forgiveness, grief and family have resonated with audiences in ways that I think they too were surprised at. All thanks to Shelagh Stephenson’s script.

The chance to do an opening soliloquy was one of the main attractions for the part of Joe for me.

As an actor I feel I’ve really grown taking on this part, it has been hard and I do come off each night feeling emotionally drained, but I love the opening soliloquy I have and there is no greater buzz than the curtains opening and the light being on me and having the opportunity to capture the audience’s attention from the outset.

My onstage mum and dad

Like any production this has been a group effort and I’m loving working with the talented actors and despite it being a “heavy” play we’ve had plenty of laughs backstage and after the play, which I think we’ve needed otherwise we’d all end up a bit depressed. Iain McGrath the director has been a gem to work with and has really focused my attention and  helped me to bring my character to life and fruition.

It’s been an experience I’ll treasure as I’ve learnt so much from it that I know I’ll take with me into future plays and projects.

(photos courtesy of http://www.avriljonesphotography.co.uk/)

Ten Out of Ten – Ovalhouse – Review

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My first visit to Ovalhouse was to see this charming, thought-provoking piece of theatre.

It forms part of a series with the theme “Beside Me”, which the brochure describes as, “an eclectic trip around a carousel of light-hearted and heart-felt ephemera.”

Ten Out of Ten, follows a fictitious character’s search for recognition, success and achievement and also the inevitable failures and disasters in this strange thing we call existence.

The cast of Terry O’Donovan, Stuart Barter and Clare Dunn (who devised the piece too), use this character to actually hold a mirror to our own absurd quests for attainment. I found it profoundly challenging and moving on occasions. Their use of physical theatre and music help communicate this longing and fear we all have effectively and I found several moments extremely percipient.

There is also humour aplenty, I loved the job interview section and I’m sure anyone that has endured an interview will recognise the bland generic questions we are all asked at such times.

It’s a theatrical piece that does require audience participation, but I felt the cast handled us all with care and there were no awkward moments. I found the audience involvement actually helped us to bond with one another and the universal themes that we were exploring. The redundancy scene was especially poignant and relevant to our current economic climate.

I left the theatre and felt affected in a way that I’ve not been by a piece of theatre in a long time. It may sound a bit pretentious but this felt like an absurdist play for the 21st century. Terry O’Donovan, Stuart Barter and Clare Dunn are to be congratulated on not just their excellent performances but their accurate devising of this innate need we all have for recognition in its deepest or most trivial way.

STARS : * * * *

Tom Stoppard, The Muppets and a bit of Theatrical Trivia

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I love a bit of theatrical trivia, and here is some I heard last night:

In February I shall be playing the part of Moon in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. Moon is a theatre critic (I’ve been typecast I know!) and he and theatre critic Birdboot comment on action throughout the play from their theatre seats, which mirror the audiences.

Apparently Jim Henson was inspired by these characters to create two of my favourite Muppets – Statler and Waldorf the curmudgeonly critics in each Muppets episode.

Not sure we’ll use these as our inspiration for Moon and Birdboot in our production though!

Location, Location, Location

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It may be the mantra of estate agents but I think it equally applies to the theatre world too;

Location, Location, Location.

I was invited to a fringe venue this week and the location chosen is what ruined it for me. The cast performed valiantly, but I couldn’t stay for the second half as the venue was cold, visibility awful (I was only three rows back!) and as it was under a railway bridge the frequent trains rumbling overhead made it difficult to hear the cast despite them projecting fully.

Perhaps on a sunny summer afternoon it would be better but on a cold and wet October it was grim.

I’ve since found out that heaters are being installed and hot drinks are now on offer. So it appears the producers are responding to the audience (and casts) needs. Which is a good thing.

Now I know a fringe venue isn’t going to reach the salubrious surrounds of the Royal Opera House, but I think the audience should have had some warning. Numerous fringe venues or site specific theatre does warn the audience and forewarned is certainly forearmed and makes for a more enjoyable experience.

I also wonder why so many theatres still in the 21st century have uncomfortable seating that is more akin to a torture device than a seat designed to be sat in for 60+ minutes at a time?

I shall be returning to the anonymous venue later this month, lets hope the heaters are working, but I’ll wrap up and take a flask of something warm just in case. Wish me luck.

David Blaine, Mr Electric and the Greatest Electrical Piece of Magic Ever.

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David Blaine is going to be performing his latest theatrical stunt in a few days, “Electrified”, standing between two Tesla coils emitting one million volts, should make for a more visual stunt than some of his previous ones.

The teaser trailer can be seen here:

When I heard about this stunt, it brought to mind Marvyn Roy who had an act in the 60’s as “Mr Electric”, there’s a clip of it here:

The use of electric bulbs was quite groundbreaking for its time. Although it looks soooo dated now.

It’ll be interesting to see how the public react to David Blaine’s latest stunt, I remember seeing him when he was starving himself for 40 days in a box in London and popped along a few times to see him there. I think the UK crowd gave him more than he bargained for with people drumming loudly when he was trying to sleep, helicoptering burgers up to his box, cooking BBQ’s below and splattering his box with paint bombs. I doubt anyone will want to get near him this time though as the one million volts is a healthy deterrent.

For me though the below is the finest piece of electrical magic and one of my favourite pieces of theatre ever: