Keeping up appearances

This evening Doug and I were able to start getting our teeth into our nosy neighbour roles. We’re not on much but we’re going to have so much fun when we are!

The lines Bennett has written for these condescending, curtain twitching characters are fantastic. Rufus and Pauline are self centred, gossips whose biggest concern is making sure they look better than everyone else. Pauline is definitely excited by the idea of trying to be bohemian – mixing with writers and the like – but when it comes down to it, the most important thing is house prices and not-so-exotic trips abroad in the Volvo.

There’s an air of caring for Alan, but more like a pet or a distant nephew. It’s all about keeping up with the Jones’s and making sure everyone knows it.

We still have a lot to do to nail this saccharine-on-the-surface pair; I can’t wait to get myself completely off book so I can really enjoy the challenge!

Don’t forget to book your tickets now. We’re on in the Key Theatre Studio from 17th – 20th April. Book tickets now!

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The third Alan Bennett

We began rehearsals for The Lady in the Van tonight. I’m writing this now with Alan’s voice in my head; his dulcet tones narrating every word.

It’s a super exciting start to our 2019! A real challenge of a play but a proper corker! The cast is surprisingly large for a play that is essentially a three hander, but tonight only the Lady, Mam and the two Alans were called.

Yes, two Alans.

The play is a true story about a lady, Miss Shepherd, who parked her bright yellow van on Alan Bennett’s driveway, and lived there for 15 years. Bennett’s play contains two versions of himself, the writer and the real Alan.

Phil and Carl who are playing the Alans spent a lot of time tonight talking about the different aspects of him and we concluded quite quickly that there were in fact three Alans at play in the piece, fictional real Alan, fictional writer Alan and real writer Alan (it’s like French grammar isn’t it?). The play was written in retrospect so real writer Alan has imposed a lot on the younger version of his writer self. Ooh it’s complex.

Anyways, on top of all this, our Lady is in her mid twenties, everyone’s got an accent to wrap their tongues around and somehow we have to get an actual van on stage! Who says we don’t love a challenge?

Tickets are already on sale so book yours now to guarantee a seat! https://vivacity.org/whatson/theatre-and-arts/the-lady-in-the-van/

The final week

The final full week’s rehearsal! And in a queer twist of fate, we’ve unusually been rehearsing in the space for the whole run, and yet this week, the week before we’re really truly on stage, it was needed for set-up and opening for the fabulous Lamphouse Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast. And if you didn’t know about that, it’s not too late to catch it on tour or pre-Christmas show back at The Undercroft – find out details at www.lamphousetheatre.co.uk – but not yet!! Finish reading this first! 

So there we were in the cavernous but somewhat dusty (and as winter draws in, decidedly chilly) backstage and artists’ studio, imagining where the stage would be, just like a normal rehearsal! We ran through scenes and worked bits on Tuesday and tried a full-run on Thursday – we carefully ran the second half first, as we have had a decided tendency to run out of time on the final scene which has been terrifying some of us (me). But on Thursday it went reasonably smoothly, only using the prompt a minimum of times (and freely ad-libbing where required). We finished with a run time of 1h50 (plus interval). 

And Sunday was get-in! The struggling actors were kindly banned from assisting, and aside from bringing along contributions to the set and nosily sticking our heads round from time to time, we were sent to run anything we wanted to. For Phil and I, that was mainly our noses, as we’ve somewhat unsurprisingly contracted the same cold, despite my refusal to snog him on Thursday. However, we mustered a little energy to play with the second half, and it really is coming together! 

I think we have a show, Ladies and Gentlemen, and I think you’ll want to see it! 

Alone in the Dark…

This week we had another set-back… our director… was on her back! Poor Helen couldn’t make rehearsals on Tuesday or Thursday, so the cast and crew met up without her, and Hannah gave over her prompt script to Di, and we really started sharpening up the characters we play. On Tuesday, we really worked through one of the stories, and really played with the script and the stories. We came up with some smart new moves to run past Helen, which made the story mould together better.
On Thursday, we analysed postures and stride lengths, we played with voices and waving arms, and gave our characters a good grilling. We decided Edith, for example, would have an excellent Victorian posture and was really in control of the space: she’s the host, after-all, but more than that, she’s in her writing study, and she’s entertaining a somewhat nervous young man – who, unlike her duplicitous husband, she really does find hugely entertaining. We had lengthy debate about the housekeeper Biddy, and whether she’s at the spiced punch most of the time, or whether she’s pushing the boat out for Christmas? And while she’s clearly very fond of t’Mistress, how far is she allowed to overstep the boundary, what’s really acceptable? Claire now deliciously slips into a bit of Yorkshire at all times. Phil’s (natural) youth exerts itself and he is boundlessly enthusiastic in his quest to meet Miss Nesbit, and rather out of his depth with this self-confident cougar (I mean, really! She is!), at turns embarrassed and intrigued. 
Meanwhile, our shameless self-publicity continues, we’ve continued letterboxing flyers, and have now started exit-flyering shows! I find this hugely hilarious. It appears saying “it’s about Edith Nesbit” is a big draw, and saying “It’s a Christmas Ghost story” is hugely divisive – either the good folk of Peterborough love a good ghost story, or they will actually give your flyer back and run away. I have also flyered a meeting, and have hopes that a colleague from Norfolk is coming to see it, and the British Gas service engineer (who loves a good ghost story). 
Well, Helen was back on Sunday, and the fruits of our labour went down well “with t’boss”, who signalled her approval for our characterisations and additional flourishes! Leah came back (she came back! amazing!) and got to add some make-up to my face, I whispered that she’d better make me look younger than Biddy, and she said she’d see what she could do. 
On with the show! Roll up, Ladies and Gentlemen! 

Off-book…. not off-Hannah!

We’re a scary two weeks away, and it’s feeling good on stage. Now Tim’s focus has moved away from the rather fantastic Porter’s Lodge, and we have his full attention, we’re getting familiar with sound cues and finding out what they sound like in the theatre. Today we had some of the set to play with as well, and it started to feel a bit more real. 
Distressingly, every time I complain to someone that I’ve got too many lines, they just roll their eyes at me and say “well you DID take the part of the title-role, what did you expect?” – which is a fair point. It made me realise what Peter Crerar has been going through all these years :D. And in fairness to Peter, I have his words ringing in my ears nightly… “there’s no secret trick to line-learning. I’m not ‘good’ at it. You just have to work at it.” And that is what we have been trying to do…. We’re at a stage, I would say, where we each have a strong inkling of the GIST of the line, but not necessarily all the words, (he really does like his adjectives), and certainly not in the right order. 
We’re still playing about a bit with the characters, but they really are starting to “spring off the page now” (as it were) and we’re relaxing into them a bit more… as well as building confidence in each other. When you can nervously glare at your fellow actor, and he immediately picks up, and nods “I’ve got this”, because you left a prop the other side of the stage, and he grabs it wholly in character, you know you’re reaching a state of trust. 
We also met our hair and make-up back stage today, which was exciting! Leah sat through our whole rehearsal, looking only slightly perplexed, and even accepted a huge pile of flyers, which she’s promised to distribute around college “shamelessly”. We said that was a key requirement of a good flyer-er. 
And as for the very busiest member of our cast and crew, well, I hang my head in shame, and confess it now… it’s the prompt. She’s very long-suffering. She even had to project quite loudly over some banging going on in the back of the theatre today… we’d go, pathetically, “line???” and she’d give us the line, and we’d scamper over to her and ask her to shout it a bit louder. 
Have you got your tickets yet? Edith in the Dark, 6-8 December at The Undercroft in Hampton Hargate; available for £10 from Edith in The Dark | Eastern Angles 

All in the dark? Edith reveals all…

Our very own Edith, sometimes known as Emma Goldberg, sheds some light on Edith in the Dark rehearsals (so….many….puns)
I know, I know, it’s been so long since you’ve had an update… we must be keeping you in the dark, deliberately! And so much news you’ve missed! We have made it, with trepidation, through the whole play. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’m terrified! Oh no, wait, that’s just because of the number of lines I have to learn. 
And then there’s been the whole Guasto debacle! Tragically, we lost a cast member. I mean, we didn’t “lose-lose” him. He didn’t fall behind the sofa. I hope. It’s just he had to pull out of the play unexpectedly. So we set up the search for a new young man for Edith to cougar over. (I mean, seriously, she’s shocking). We were inundated with wonderful offers, and thanks to all who got in touch. Sadly, many of you were then not able to help for one reason or another – “I’m in Thailand for most of November” was my favourite one. But we eventually found a very willing and gifted actor, albeit one that doesn’t entirely fit the age profile. But with such a good looking chap, it’s nothing a bit of Just for Men won’t fix! And Welcome Mr Guasto, AKA our very own Phil Lewis! 
So we have a cast and let the shenanigans begin. Phil and I have to exchange many a sultry glance while I’m trying to fix him with my allure. And failing. And corpsing. Hannah, who has kindly stepped in as prompt, is probably the busiest of any of us. We like to make the prompt feel valued. And I’ve learned a valuable lesson about why being wordy is incredibly annoying. I frequently have more admirable adjectives inserted into each well-honed sentence than an ordinary, plebian bloke would ever shake an angrily tangled branch of petrified rowan at. That’s all I’m saying. 
Oh and I get to push Phil over. So… more soon! 
Come and see Edith in the Dark at the Undercroft at Serpentine Green Hampton Hargate, from 6-8 Decemberat 7:30pm nightly. Tickets are £10 and are available here: Edith in The Dark | Eastern Angles

Are ye fantastical, or that indeed which outwardly ye show?

Books down for Tales from the Porter’s Lodge and excitement and tension are in the air.

 

This week we had transitions, which is probably the most frustrating rehearsal in any play as it involves just the beginning and end of scenes and very direct directing. “You stand there, you walk that way, you cross the stage in this direction, you leave by this exit”….etc; very bitty and nothing to really get your acting teeth into. Still, it did give me a chance to do all of The Porter Interludes for the first time.

We have also had all of the sound cues this week (though not always as dramatic as they will be on a full PA rather than on laptop speakers) and they are adding proper tension and atmosphere to the three plays, while not distracting (hopefully) from the fabulous performances that the actors are working up to. As an unrepentant “techie” the sight of a fully programmed sound cue system fills me with disproportionate delight!

In other news, the set has been painted and looks brilliant, we are sorting lights and the PT has asked for some cast shots for the press release.

So, onward and upward and let’s bring this wood to Dunsinane!

Get your tickets early for Tales from the Porter’s Lodge at The Peterborough Theatre Function Suite (formerly The Broadway Suite) – October 31st to November 2nd, 2018.

Available through the website or on the door.

 

The spaces between the words

It’s not just the words, it’s the spaces between the words.

As the rehearsals for Tales from the Porter’s Lodge continue apace there is a real buzz building. The cast are now finding the people behind their characters and new nuances are appearing with each run through – we are digging deep for the emotional aspects that bring the stories to life for the audience and the tension within the tales is beginning to shine through.

Highlights this week (for me, at least) have been Matt and Tonia working through the emptions of bereavement, Kiera and Karl choreographing a tense dance around the stage, Rich and Sam enacting Romeo and Juiet and, especially, “Dead Millie”.

This week we have been working a lot on space: the space between the lines that leave us wondering what the actors are thinking, the physical space between characters on stage to highlight relationships (or their lack) and the space between the audience and the play (which may not remain a constant during the performance).

Even with scripts still firmly clenched in hands for some of the scenes, there are moments of tenderness, humour, goose-bump inducing tension and spine-chilling horror.

Get your tickets early for Tales from the Porter’s Lodge at The Peterborough Theatre Function Suite (formerly The Broadway Suite) – October 31st to November 2nd, 2018.

Available through the website or on the door

A director down – Edith in the Dark

Unfortunately, this week we were down a director due to illness, but we intrepid three soldiered on…mostly.

We quickly learned that blocking scenes without an outside input is awkward at best as actors suffer from an abundance of creativity; we all had different ideas about how a scene should flow and look.

Instead, we focused on what we knew and had done before; the opening scene is really coming together and dare I say it, I may even know my lines!

We had a play with one of the stories as we will be performing this in due time as part of some cheeky marketing.

I love the little breaks that the tales within the play give; they are often funny with a dash of slapstick in some places, but make no mistake, they are just a ghoulish as the rest of the play!

Get well soon Helen, and congratulations on being the PT Hero!!

Edith in the Dark begins

Alex Tyler tells us about the first Edith rehearsal

Let it be known, I love the Undercroft in Hampton; It is a cracking space and I’m glad Mask is finally making use of it for Edith in The Dark.

Right, mini-gush done. Everyone always says first rehearsals go well, I have been guilty of it in the past, but I actually mean it this time.

We only got through the first seven pages, but we are already mucking around with movement and basic blocking. Plus, Emma threw a book at me…with little prompting and no hesitation…

The script is wickedly dark and just as funny, and that’s only the first few pages of the first act! I wish I could see it, you lucky devil’s you!