Monday, 27 April 2009

The beginning of rehearsals

This week has been a week of stress, productivity and learning lots of new things about myself and the world of community drama. We started rehearsals on Monday and have gotten off to a brilliant start. For myself and Emma as directors we need to learn to think faster and give our instructions to the actors more clearly. The actors need to learn to trust me and Emma , although sometimes they do not know where we are heading with an idea they must trust us to know that we do.

We have had some great work come out of this week, with Mark coming into supervise the Friday rehearsal he gave Emma and I lots of new fresh ideas and good ways to approach the actors. Our notes to them have not always been efficient and I think that is where we are going wrong, also our knowledge of the story and the characters is not dense enough. However we have got a great Water Nymph scene and Milky Magician so next week we will be working even harder and hopefully get some brilliant scene together.

Saturday was a daunting prospect for me. I was tired from the past week and needed a good day off but somewhere in Ham House I found the day off I desperately needed. I had my face painted, played lots of games with the children; who not many were there did hopefull have a good time. The children loved Giants/Heroes/Dwarfs and Bang Splat. Although I was talking with Mark after and he pointed out the use of miming a gun when playing Bang Splat. I am not sure what I think about this yet. I think that in a 'Utopian world' where gangs did not shoot one another then this game is fine; but we do not live in this world and so as Community Drama workshoppers we need to take in consideration of the schools we go to and the young people we work with when deciding what games to play with them.

Going back to Ham House, I really love working here, as Mark says it really does give you a new energy to do things. I think National Trust does this for me a lot, all their buildings are beautiful, welcoming and more importantly the people who work for NT are always lovely.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Hang On

I went to see Hang On last night at the Hammersmith Lyric. Its a co-production between Theatre Rites, Ockmans Razor and Hammersmith Lyric in association with Theatre Royal York. Entering the auditorium you are greeted by six clothes hangers all with different items of clothing hung on them. Then each member of the cast enters, and to the delight of the children notice the audience. They all choose an item of clothing and poor Eric is left with a jacket he does not want. The show goes on and we realise that Stephano likes Tina and Eric is a little bit scared of just about everything; particularly heights. The are graudally replaced by bigger and bigger ones and each time three of the actors explore the hangers and literally hang. This is a very simple concept but works beautifully. The circus and movement are accompanied by recorded music and live percussion by Nao Massuda who is very cool. What was brilliant about this show was its total simplicity and this is what the children loved and what I loved too. The whole design was genius, from the hangers to the lighting and sound. If you can get to see it I would definently recommend it!

Friday, 17 April 2009

An adventure to a seat in the Old Vic

Last night I went to the Old Vic suprisingly for the first time. I don't think I will be going again very soon. I always judge a theatre by how I feel when I enter and when I entered I did not feel good. It was rather unwelcoming and I couldn't find the bar! The doors are like fire doors which is very claustrophobic. Unlike the National (which I am a bit obsessed with at the moment...disertation and all) there is no where to sit and it seems to me very Hollywoodesque as much as Kevin would like to say it isn't!

The stage is another thing completly. OVAL SHAPED? why would anyone design a theatre in this way. My seats had been upgraded and I was excited about being able to see the whole show, boy was I wrong? I had massive railing in front of my face and being short I had to literally climb onto my seat. Once I had finally sat down I realised there was no leg room (I have very short legs, imagine how the tall people feel) then after a mountaneering adventure onto this ridculous seat I had to get back down again because some needed to get past!

This was all in the first ten minutes of my entering the building, so as you can tell I was not in the best of moods.

I was looking forward to a good meaty Irish show. The story was fine, its about a group of sisters and their beliefs, hopes and dreams and some dancing amidst this. The acting was good but the cast as a whole seemed to lack energy and umph so as a moany audience member I was not enthused. The irish members of the audience seemed to enjoy the jokes and the music but it felt the actors relied on the story that bit too much and didn't really add anything to it.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Burnt By theSun

After a day of hardcore studying I went to the National to see Burnt By the Sun. It is set on a hot summers day during the Stalin years of Russia. Kotov a hero from the Russian Revolution and his family are spending their summer in the country, reminicing the past, singing and dancing. One day a childhood friend of Kotov's wife arrives, here the play unravels and we find out that they used to be very much in love. I won't give away the ending but there are spies, betrayal and some death.

As much as I loved the story some of the direction wasn't great. The fight scenes were cringing to watch and did not seem to have any real impact on the audience. The revolving house felt quite strange, although the actors were very comfortable with it. The lighting design was very impressive; Mark Henderson did a wonderful job in creating a hot summers day. Though the sound design went slightly over the top. One minute birds were twittering and the next crickets were cicketing. There didn't seem to be much consistency.

But overall a good performance with some heart wrenching moments and quite a few laughs!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Never let Mark live the dream again!

Saturday Carolina, Mark, Vandu and myself made our way up to Scotland. We drove up the west coast through the Lake District where we stopped for lunch and then to Carlisle where we out our bets on for the Grand National. Myself and Mark (the English) are long running fans of the Grand National and so we had to make the right decision about what horse we picked. I chose Comply or Die and Mark took aproimately 4 hours to choose his horse which I cannot remember the name of but fell within the first few minutes. Carolina and Vandu (the Portugese) picked the horse which to me clearly was never going to win. They sat through race having a chat and mulling over the tour guides of Great Britain and Scotland (their hearts were just not in it) and then with minutes to spare Mon Mome sped into first place and won the race with odds of 100/1. As a wonderful result Carolina won £125! This all happened in a small pub across the border in Gretna Green everyone in there was as gobsmacked and Mark and I.

After Carolina's win we carried on up the coast and wondered across SweetHeart Abbey which was founded by Lady of Galloway in memory of her late husband. As an act of love she wore his embalmed heart around her neck; as much as this sound disgusting I think I would love a man to wear my heart around his neck.

We carried on driving and came across a small town in the middle of no where on the coast. We decided to pitch up here and we went for typical fish and chips and then the pub for a game of pool and a beer. I was particularly excited since the pub had a few arcade games like air hockey and even Pac Man. So whilst I am not very good at pool my Pac Man skills have been greatly improved.

We were up early Sunday morning to take down our tent and make our way to Culzean Castle in Ayr. We walked around the grounds which have an incredible view over the sea and then we paid £13 to get into the castle itself. Mark and Carolina were luckier enough not to have to pay as they had brought their National Trust volunteer cards which I had stupidly forgotten. However for a mere £13 I now have a years membership to the National Trust and this would have been a lot more if I had been in England.

I think I slept a lot on Sunday since I don't really remember much of the day apart from eating in a pub in Ayr and trying to persuade everyone not to camp again. But camping we did! We stayed on Loch Lomond which was absolutly beautiful. We had a quick pint in the pub where Vandu played the piano and Mark fell asleep.

Monday was an exceptional day. Mark had a dream. A dream that in my mind was a bit crazy but a dream he had a dream he needed to fulfill. So we drove John o' Groats, the northerly most north part of Great Britain. I would love to say that the drive was worth it and that we got to see incredible landscapes and the sun was out and were able to see the Northen Lights. But I can't. The clouds covered the sky, the wind tried to blow us over, the landscape was nothing to shout about and there wasn't even a pub insight. But we did it and now we all have a warm fuzzy feeling inside that only comes when you go so far north. However on the drive up we visited Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, we had coffee in Fort William which is a lovely town and we got to drive past Ben Nevis the highest mountain in Britian.

Tuesday we visted Edinburgh where we walked the mile and went to see where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series. I even got a little burnt because the sun was out. Then we head to Rosalind Chapel which although beautiful was covered with scaffolding. But the history of the building and the architecure was very cool! (read Mark Griffin's blog for more info)

Then it was off to let Mark live the dream again. We went to see Oxford United play in York. They lost.

BUT York I love. I really love it. I walked around on Wednesday with the biggest smile on my face ever. We went to the Minster, we had coffee in the Evil Eye shop, we argued about education and we walked the city walls. And we went on the Viking Experience or what I would like to rename How not to do Drama in the Community. The actors were bad, the story was boring, the whole thing needed a boost of energy and a new way to teach young people about the history of York. We also had coffee in the Theatre Royal and as much as I love the National Theatre, this theatre was a new thing entirely. I loved the way they worked and how they involved the whole community and welcomed everyone into the space. If I were to run a theatre it would be like this; unpretentcious and just wonderful!

Now home in London I can't wait to leave again and move to York once I graduate.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Knee High presents...Brief Encounter

Richmond Theatre kindly gave the drama in the community team some free tickets for Noel Coward's Brief Encounter last night. From the moment I walked into the theatre I was brought back to the 1930s and I truly believed and accepted the whole experience. This is the first production I have seen by Knee High and I will be going to see a lot more. Reading their 'About Us' section I found I really like their ethos. They create work for the whole community and this is something I truly believe in.

The play itself uses a combination of the play text Still Life and the screenplay Brief Encounter. Emma Rice (the director) has done a brilliant job in creating an ensemble who work together in a way that I personally have never experienced before. Every move, every gesture has been thought about in detail. However, the front of house team who fit into the play as part of the action are very open with their audience and have fun with us. I think this is a key element to our drama in the community peformance. The actors must and need play outragously with the audience and be open to them as well. They need to be ready for any changes that might occur during the performance because of the audience.

Friday, 3 April 2009


Yesterday myself and Emma audtioned the actors in our project for the final show. It was as new to us as to some of the actors who had never auditoned before. We began the audtion with a few games; bang splat, zip zap boing and the chicken and the chair game. We then put chair in a line and put a piece of paper on each chair which had a description of a character for example an evil pixie, a depressed businessman. These were characters that had some relation to the characters in the play. The actors then had to stand on a chair and act out each character for 30 seconds. They did this at the same time and would rotate until they had done them all. After these warm ups we asked them to find groups of three and read through and rehearse a short scene from the show which we had given them. They then had to improvise the scene to relay the story. This exercise is similar to something I had done in the Chekhov lecture. Instead of them reading from the script it forces them to perform the story and really work as an ensemble. We then gave them a choice of three short monologues which they then had to read for the class.

Before the casting myself and Emma had many conversations looking at who we saw as each character. However after the casting we had both changed our minds on many of the characters. Last night we decided not to talk a lot about the casting, instead we came together today and discussed our ideas and came to a final decision. Suprisingly it did not take very long as we had both had similar thoughts.

We have posted the casting list and rehearsal schedule on facebook so take a look!