Tag Archives: Theatre

Tweet Seats…. #YayOrNay?

Must accept this is only an occasional blog….

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Anyways, this week the Birmingham Hippodrome announced on its blog with great fanfare that they were ‘introducing’ tweet seats for a performance this week by Brazil dance group Grupo Corpo.  “The great thing about this idea” according to the press department at the Hippodrome “is that spectators can share their thoughts as the show happens without having to wait until curtain down.” But what’s the point in live tweeting a show that only a handful of followers will be at and what about the people sitting around these so called ‘tweet seats’?

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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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London’s Small Theatres

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A recent BBC news story that grabbed my attention was about the future of London’s small theatres.  A small theatre is one that has a capacity  of 300 or less.  The closest I’d got to a small theatre earlier this year was seeing performances in studio spaces but earlier this year I visited the Union Theatre in London to see the musical Bare.  I was blown away at the theatre space and at the time had plans to blog about it but they were way laid with work commitments and so never happened (although when I see the transfer of Bare at Greenwich Theatre in October I’ll endevour to blog).

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Carousel – BMOS at the New Alexandra Theatre, BIrmingham

Earlier this week I went along to see BMOS’ production of Carousel to review for WOS.  As a fan of amateur theatre, being involved in it myself, I always have hopes for companies to push themselves to their maximum ability, but to also have realistic expectations and not to take themselves too seriously.  Whether or not BMOS fit in with my personal point of view n am-dram is to be decided.  The full review can be found on the Whats On Stage website here – but for a sneak peak follow the jump…

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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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Charlie and the Underwhelming Chocolate Factory – ONE OF THE FIRST EVER REVIEWS!!

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Last night I was part of the first ever public audience for the new musical ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘.  Based on the Roald Dahl classic which has spawned two films (depending what camp either one’s great the other’s not or both are great or whatever…) the musical joins Dahl’s other classic ‘Matilda‘ which has taken the theatre world by storm.  Whether or not the new Sam Mendes’ directed musical will be as bigger hit I’m really not too sure as I left the theatre last night deflated (unlike Violet) and underwhelmed by the whole thing.

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The Lady Killers – Tour

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Last month I was fortunate enough to go review The Ladykillers for What’s on Stage at Wolverhampton Grand.  An infectiously funny play with lots of dark comedic moments kept th audience riveted through out.

Full review here on the What’s on Stage website, but here’s a preview:

The Ladykillers is a hilarious evening out. Great performances from all the cast – including the slightly suspicious looking ladies, a tantalising set all with a great script and direction that will keep both the new lady killers and the old professional lady killers happy.

4 stars

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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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