Sunday, 28 December 2008

'Going Thunder Crazy!'

Performances yesterday were spent at the Sound Desk during the matinée and in the Lighting Box - operating - for the evening.

It seemed like a good idea to learn just a little more of what everyone does in order to perhaps understand a little more about directing / acting / technical / stage management for future projects.

Certainly no time to follow any script! And so the Sound Man watched, listened, and subtlely - instinctively - tweaked faders up and down at an incredible rate, brought in sub-masters, cued sound effects, Cancans, and balanced the music with tremendous ease, dexterity, concentration and passion. His knowledge of the show was superb and he even had time to sing along with the music - this being most impressive as it indicated an incredible, hypnotic care for what was happening on stage.

Had only intended to watch but ended up operating for the whole show! As the Deputy Stage Manager (DSM) cues the whole show, the operator's job is really just about listening for the 'standbys' and the 'go'. There is great, great drama in all of this over the headsets and so rewarding to be responding with 'standing by' - an acknowledgment that you know what you are doing and doing just that: standing by to make it work!

As your finger hovers over the 'go button', and spasms race up your arm after only a dozen cues (the tension you hold in your body is unbelievable), the excitement and adrenalin rush are just like actors' butterflies.

Challenges arise with multi-tasking, however, as house lights 'go' simultaneously alongside regular cues and 'spell flashes' come thick and fast when the Prince is transformed into the Beast, and Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuvre is set upon by Mademoiselle Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Of the 160 lighting cues, I missed one and improvised one - the latter of which, I think, the Lighting Designer was impressed.

My next job is to sit with the DSM for a couple of performances and understand, even better, the Prompt Copy and the unique - enviable - skills of the DSM.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Frasier Christmas

Frasier (1993-2004): A comedy series to study re: script, wit, character persona, timing and qualitative television longevity. 


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Two is the beginning of the end ...

I have been re-reading J.M.Barrie's 1911 prose version of Peter Pan - Peter Pan and Wendy - which was published seven years after his play was first performed on 27 December 1904 at The Duke of York's Theatre.

The opening is quite stunning in its philosophical narrative, dramatic tension and creation of suspense, and relates to our Beauty and the Beast experience in that Barrie's story has become, curiously, synonymous with theatre experiences at Christmas.

I last directed a version of Peter Pan, by Piers Chater-Robinson, at Easter time, 2004, with the Jersey Arts Centre's youtheatre; and, before that, as an open-air, promenade, community production at South Hill Park in July 1997.

The actors who played both Captain Hook and Peter Pan in the latter are now on their own awfully big adventure, and thus these two original versions remain poignant.

Here's that opening:
"All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in the garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on this subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end."

Monday, 22 December 2008


39 performances in - and how does a company maintain: the energy, a commitment, the sanity; the intellectual, emotional and physical rigour; a discipline and a concentration; to sustain a fresh, tight, engaging experience for a new audience 60 times over?

I don't know! I wish I knew!

Perhaps it has something to do with a discipline of approach, a care, a respect (all loaded and complicated), an awareness and an understanding of something...

Thank goodness there is an abundance of this within the Beauty and the Beast company at South Hill Park this Yuletide.

But perhaps there should never be this number of consecutive performances: 60!

Perhaps the delicacy of the theatre experience is destroyed after a certain number of performances?

Perhaps we can't sustain this level of concentration, commitment, interest, awareness.

What if we can't?

Norman Wisdom once said: it is not about luck and being in the right place at the right time; it is endeavoring to be in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

25 Performances in ...

This was only my eighth performance, having been away from the show for 10 days, but the company's 25th!

The performance was sold out and even the house seats had been issued: superb!

Having been unable to attend the Press Night a week ago (after a week of schools' performances) this was only our seventh public performance. These have a very different atmosphere to the schools' performances as adults alike take a very active part in the participation which can often be very 'adult' and funny.

There were many celebratory elements to the 25th! The Ooh La La! team was tight, focused, concentrated and really enjoyed and savored every moment. There was tremendous energy to their performance and they were very excited afterwards, wanting feedback and notes and 'bits' - the latter I will now use to indicate notes!

Our adult actors had truly inhabited the world of the piece and had beautifully developed ideas and physicalities which enriched the already vibrant, fun and serious atmospheres.

It is still incredible to watch some very young children want to see the actor playing The Beast in the foyer afterwards and kiss him. Perhaps this demonstrates the balance that has been struck between that which is scary (and beastly) and that which is endearing, comfortable, sensitive, accessible (beautiful).

There are still 35 more performances to present, deliver, develop, inhabit. And many of these I will see as I zig-zag across the UK (seeing one or two friends in their Christmas shows over the vacation) and back to the Channel Islands.

A couple of reviews from local papers have been published at:

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Merci beaucoup ...

Having watched the seventh performance of Beauty and the Beast this morning (with the Ooh La Las!) and having given final notes to the adult company last night and our young cast this morning, I head back to Jersey with a tremendous sense of having achieved the impossible.

I have learnt a great deal about theatre these past three weeks: about performance, audiences, actors, processes, text, music, movement, improvisation, day-jobs, 'juggling', diplomacy, commitment and concentration.

But perhaps more than anything, the Beauty and the Beast experience has confirmed the ability to remain positive, supportive and honest at all times when creating a piece of theatre.

I leave behind eight adult, professional actors who have thoroughly enjoyed working with one another, and who will continue to do so, and who will take great care of our young actors, the crew and the piece itself in my absence.

I return in eleven days to give notes next weekend - and can't wait.

Merci beaucoup... et

Bon Voyage!