Tag Archives: Crescent Theatre

I’ve been a Silly Cow…

Apologies (again) for the absence. I’m sure the next post will also start with that due to the months long gaps between the blog posts. Having had the email telling me to renew the domain recently, reminded me that I had the blog and how when I bought the domain I told myself that I’d try to make something of it, and I did try – but then I failed. So renewing it, maybe I’ll try again. No harm in trying is there?

So what have I been doing I hear you ask? (Well the 2 of you reading this in some random places that I’ve never heard of). Boring answer – work. My work life has changed. For those that weren’t aware, my job has always been a bit temperamental but recently this changed to being much more settled and so a lot of my time has gone towards this. Now on a bit of a break before heading back to work soon it’s given me a bit of time to breath.

The exciting answer to what I’ve been up to though is that I’ve just finished directing a play! Annoyingly I had so many ideas to blog throughout the process but as mentioned above, the job thing got in the way, and leaving the house at 7:30am and returning at 11pm several days a week, blog posts took a back seat. Which is a shame, as I’d have loved to have shared my experiences with you.

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REVIEW – Up4aMeet? Crescent Theatre Birmingham & Tour

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Up4aMeet? – Crescent Theatre Birmingham, 22nd July 2013

Up4aMeet? Is the finest example of a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is very aware of what it is, but also genuinely funny.  What could have been a production that was funny for the wrong reasons, this is a very humorous piece of theatre packed full of topical references and some very accurate observations.

The play, set in block of flats, follows the lives of 3 very different (stereotypical) gay men, their mutual friend the celebrity booker, her failing client and the new flat mate of the oldest of the 3 men.  Along with the use of ‘Cock Shop’ aka Grindr on their phones and websites to find sex and dates the action becomes farcical with cross communication, mixed identification and the need to succeed.

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West Midlands Theatre This Week – W/C 3rd June 2013

WMTTWThis week I’d thought I’d try to start a new feature – hopefully I’ll remember to do this weekly – showcasing some of the fantastic array of productions gracing stages across the West Midlands.  Being Birmingham based I’m in a fortunate position (literally) to get to some great theatres hosting or producing theatre of all sorts.  So new month, new blog name, new feature – kind of makes sense!

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Directing Soldiering On – A Talking Heads by Alan Bennett

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I have been so blessed to have been given an opportunity to direct one of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues, and feel very lucky to have been given Soldering On as the one to make my directorial début with.  This week as we enter the week of dress rehearsals and welcome audiences to our performances I thought it’d be time to reflect on the past couple of months of rehearsals and bringing our interpretation of Muriel to life.

The Crescent Theatre is an awesome theatre – both as a building and as a company.  They’ve given me opportunities in the past to perform in a family show, a show that was so dark even the most cold hearted people may have found it difficult and also appear semi naked in a calendar due to me appearing in Calendar Girls at the start of this current season.  I’m also in rehearsals for my first Shakespeare for Merchant of Venice opening next month, but for the last few months I’ve had the chance to direct – something I’ve wanted to do for several years.

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Directing is strange but exciting.  You can read a play and imagine it in so many different ways, and your way may and will vary from another’s perception.  When you’re working with a cast, whether it be of one in this case or many, you have to try to persuade them to give your way a try and it might work, but it might not work too.  You have to be able to let go of ideas you may have had for a while to give something else a try and those things, more often than not, work better!! It’s not compromise though – both director and the cast and anyone else involved are all trying to create the best thing possible.  Ideas don’t get compromised, they get improved and they evolve.  One that has become apparent is that the role of director isn’t to dictate ideas, but to be the ringmaster of the ideas and to work out the solutions, transitions, the props and the furniture, the routes the actor takes and to discuss things through with the wonderful team of creative people working behind the scenes.

Anyhow, let’s go back to how this all started.  I originally had submitted to direct another play in the season – as did Ellaina, the director of the second monologue (Cream Cracker Under the Settee) that’s playing alongside Soldiering On. As both of us were first time directors it prevented us from getting the other play but the theatre’s art managers still wanted to give us a chance to train us up as it were.  There were two Talking Heads monologues left over from the last season and so these were offered to us.  On the same day both myself and Ellaina were both involved with the opening night of Calendar Girls, both appearing towards the end of the play and so we spent a lot of that week in discussion about which one of us would direct which and coming up with some very early ideas.

It might not be the right way to do things, but one of the first things I did was think about music.  My original idea was to use sections of Bach’s Cello Suit which didn’t last long before I considered Gymnopédie.  Both well known pieces of music which would suit the monologue quite happily.  But then by chance I stumbled upon the Cinematic Orchestra’s ‘To Build a Home’.  The first thing that struck me were the lyrics and how they reflected the general plot of the monologue and then the music had haunting tones and also managed to sound like time passing that I felt as though this was the music I needed.  I debated for a while whether to have the lyrics too but made the decision early on that it could be distracting and so instead chopped up the instrumental version to give us different variations to use throughout.

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After casting Jo Hill to play Muriel we started rehearsals and for the first few rehearsals all we did was talk. We would find questions we wanted to answer in the text and discuss them coming up with our own ideas.  These answers might not be what Bennett would want us to come to, but they helped us interpret the text for our production.  We also produced a time line detailing all the important family events and details from when Muriel and Ralph met up to the end of the monologue.  We created back stories for all the characters mentioned, some more serious than others though, but all the same important steps for us to take.  Quite by coincidence we managed to spend a full rehearsal on each scene so that by our Christmas break we had had a concentrated rehearsal on every scene and managed to run it through a couple of times. Seeing words come from a page to a performance is really quite exciting.  Jo has done a fantastic job of bringing Muriel to life and to take on constant changes and suggestions as well as bringing in her own ideas.

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It’s been apt that I have been directing a show called Soldiering On as just before the auditions I found my personal situation changing massively.  If it wasn’t for the play I don’t think I’d have hung around in Birmingham for long.  This project has at times been the one thing that has kept me going when times have got really tough and the one thing I would leave my house for on some occasions.  I remember keeping a lot to myself and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks into rehearsals when I admitted what had been happening.  The support I had from everyone – whether they know they’ve helped or not – has got me through an incredibly tough time and has kept me motivated for the future ahead.

So, tonight I go to the theatre to see the first dress rehearsal.  I cannot wait for Thursday to come along and I can share my experiences with an audience.  I’m not usually one to blow my trumpet or to self promote, but I’m so proud of what we have achieved with this and want audiences to come and enjoy the show as much as I have enjoyed directing it.  I will be a very proud director at the end of this – in fact I already am.

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Talking Heads by Alan Bennett at the Crescent Theatre Birmingham.

Thursday 21st February to Saturday 23rd February 2013 at 7:45pm
Matinee Saturday 23rd at 2:45pm
Tickets £8

www.crescent-theatre.co.uk

Rehearsal photos taken by Graeme Braidwood

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Unrestricted Views: The Crescent Theatre for the Guardian

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I know I’m not the world’s best writer.  This is a hobby of mine to give me an excuse to dwell on my interests and try to make something of it, which is what makes this article/blog post I wrote very special to me.  For those in the know the Guardian is a very well respected newspaper with a website to match.  Last year they asked readers who were interested to send in blogs about their favourite theatres or those theatres that are unknown about.  As a member of the Crescent Theatre I’ve grown to love it and it has fast become a second home so I jumped on the opportunity.  Not thinking anything of it I sent it off and got on with things.  A month or so later I had a message from the boss at the theatre thanking me for the article and that it’d gone online.

As I try to collate things on here and get it started I thought I’d better link over to the Guardian website so you too can read why, for me, the Crescent Theatre is the best theatre!

The Crescent Theatre is now in its 80th year, making it one of the oldest theatre companies in Birmingham. It’s more than just a building; it’s a community of members who are passionate about every aspect of the theatre. Not only are productions produced and performed by the company members, the building is also run by volunteers. The Crescent Theatre company may be “am dram”, but audiences often comment on how professional the productions are.

Read the rest of it here.

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Trivia fans The first picture shows a poster for my directorial debut ‘Talking Heads’ next to the poster for my Shakespeare debut ‘Merchant of Venice’.  The second picture has the image used in, potentially, the best show I’ve ever been in ‘The Pillowman’ on (the apple and razorblade).

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Cooo-eeee

Hey everybody!

Had a bit of a summer break, but now that the wind and rain is battering at the windows I thought I’d better make a return.  Sadly my summer wasn’t filled with theatrical delights, apart from the one stunning evening in which I got to see Singin’ In The Rain at Chichester’s Chichester Festival Theatre.  If you follow my twitter you’ll have seen a very brief review which simply stated that it was fantastic – but I will explain why in a future blog.

So after spending my summer away from the red velvet curtains and the plush purple seats of the theatre, I’m preparing myself for several delights over the coming month or two.  I’m hoping to make it to an amateur production of Just So at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton (cast your mind back to my underrated blog a while back), seeing the touring production of Evita when it visits the Birmingham Hippodrome, and seeing the Judy Garland biopic End Of The Rainbow.  I will also be venturing down to London to attend a very special concert at the Royal Albert Hall by Idina Menzel and while visiting London will probably go see Ghost The Musical to get over my obsession.  I’ll also be venturing down to Chichester again in October to see Micheal Ball’s Sweeney Tood.  I’m also hoping to make it to the tour of Legally Blonde, the opening of The Crescent Theatre’s new season with Talking Heads, and if I’m able to find the time, the world premiere produciton of Top Hat at the Hippodrome.  

As long as I don’t forget the password (again) and don’t break my computer (my laptop went to PC Heaven over the summer) I hope to keep this blog updated regularly and with continuation of the features I started way back when… If you have any suggestions feel free to send my way (and that includes if you can get my hands on any nice, free, tickets!!)

 

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Crescent Theatre

The third, and for a while the final, blog about the theatres of Birmingham, this time a theatre that I have a massive respect towards, The Crescent Theatre.

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The Crescent Theatre is more about the company rather than the building.  The company is one of Birmingham’s oldest theatre companies dating back to the 1920s when it began as the Municipal Players performing in a converted building, formally Baskerville Hall in the Crescent, Cambridge Street.  It all began with a group of council employees wanting to entertain their colleagues and their friends and the rest, they say, is history.  The Crescent Theatre is an amateur group.  It is run mainly by volunteers with people taking time out of their schedules to perform, design, make, build, pour drinks and direct across the theatre.  The members of the theatre are vital in the running and there is a real community feel whenever you go to the theatre.

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It’s current building, part of the Brindley Place development opened in the 1990s.  It’s current building, boasting two performance spaces (a 340+ seat main house and a 120 seat studio), a large bar area and conference facilities as well as a workshop to build sets as well as a large props and wardrobe department.  It thrives to produce quality shows that attract a large amount of different people of different backgrounds and does so with great success.  In the season just gone the theatre produced a sell out production of Sweeney Todd (which, in my opinon put professional theatre companies to shame), a highly emotional All My Sons, a family production of Danny the Champion of the World, and a highly effective production of Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser to name just a few of the productions produced.  

The company produce on average 15 shows a year across the two performance spaces including a summer tour which visits a number of locations around Birmingham and a Christmas Wassail which also tours as well as having a sell out run in the main house.  The theatre is used by a large number of amateur groups from around the region who come back time and time again, as well as by musicians and comedians who also use the bar as a performance area.  Birmingham School of Acting also use the theatre to perform it’s productions in – a great chance to see some new acting talent.  Highlights in the forthcoming season include Talking Heads, Macbeth, and Bedroom Farce as well as The Rep taking residence over the Christmas period for their production of Sleeping Beauty.  I know that there are still some more awesome shows still to be announced so keep an eye out!

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What kind of shows will you find at The Crescent?

The Crescent does a variety of shows, usually mainly plays with a big musical once a season.  However they do ensure that there is a good mix of shows and you’ll find a couple of shows at least per season that will get you interested.

Who goes to the Crescent?

Depends on the show.  You’ll find a lot of members going to shows and the families and friends of those in the cast, but at the same time you’ll find students, families, adults, a real mix really.

 What’s coming up? 

So far announced for the following season are Talking Heads (September), MADEA (devised by the theatre, October), Macbeth (November) and Bedroom Farce (January).  Over December and January The Rep will be taking residence with their production of Sleeping Beauty.

 First show seen here?

Acorn Antiques the Musical (the amateur premier production).

 Last show seen here? 

Sweeney Todd.

Over notable shows seen:

Danny the Champion of the World; Wedding Singer (GBMTC); Arcadia; Julius Ceaser; Dad’s Army; Women on the Verge of HRT

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LINKS:

The tailer for the smash hit production of Sweeney Todd

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Singin’ In The Rain @ Chichester Festival Theatre

Although I’m based in Birmingham, I originally hail from the South coast and so have a life long relationship with the fantastic Chichester Festival Theatre.  In a few weeks I’ll be heading back down that way for a while and hope to catch the big musical from this summer’s season, Singin’ In The Rain.  I’m also hoping to see Sweeney Todd there later in the Autumn with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton – though whether it’ll be as good as The Crescent Theatre’s I’m not sure!

Here’s the trailer for Singin’ In The Rain as released by Chichester Festival Theatre.  The rain and water is nothing new for the theatre which famously flooded it’s stage for the Venice themed season back in 2002!

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