Thursday, 28 August 2008

Home Calls when Abroad

Doesn't checking your email on holiday just feel wrong? Our hotel in Venice had a free internet point so it seemed churlish not to have a look at what had come in, but it felt like being briefly transported back to the UK. Most odd.
I'm glad I looked, though, as Andy had sent through details of a casting with Vienna's English Theatre for Charley's Aunt. This is notable for two reasons - I've been seen by them before and I gave my worst audition to date (and that is up against some stiff competition); and I am being seen for the character of Sir Francis Chesney. I've done this show before, ten years ago, and I played Jack Chesney then - Francis' son (see posts passim)
This is a sort of memento mori, I suppose - I have an album on facebook called "Getting Older in Public" which I sometimes add to, which shows me getting more and more decrepit as the years bite. What next? Falstaff? Prospero? Lear? I should be so lucky!
Here it is:

Monday, 4 August 2008


And so the season closes with a barnstorming Sat mat and slightly less assured evening show. I very nearly deliver my last line pronouncing "horrible as "hoggible" but control my wayward mouth at the last instant. Which made me think how unmemorable some last lines might have been if the actor hadn't been concentrating, viz: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a suitable friendship" etc.
On the drive back I slip into murmuring my lines and find them comfortable friends now - something I never felt actually during the shows. The same goes for much of the other fundamentals of acting when applied to rep; it's rare that you get to concentrate on the drama as much as you'd like to amid all the prop/costume/blocking worries which never fully evaporate, and that's a terrific shame.

If I've learned anything over the last month, it's this: that rep will expose, cruelly and immediately, any guilty secrets you have as an actor. Whether it's a problem learning lines, fear of long speeches or holding the stage, remembering blocking, a confidence issue or a problem with focus, it will all be thrown into VERY sharp relief with absolutely no chance of resolution in the immediate present (and sadly, that is when you need it most). And that's scary.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Arrivederci Wolver

The goodbyes have started, even though we have two shows still to do. Su, our director, left on Wednesday (although she may visit this evening) and there were many fond cheerios at the friends evening on Tuesday, where CV himself made a short speech (after addressing the crowd at the show, too).

Of course, in all this, we are trying to decipher whether the rep will be returning next year, and if so, in what form. This season is about half the length of past ones, which is a disturbing factor. But the audiences, reception and general bonhomie seem to indicate that the theatre would be greatly the poorer without it. The girls are having lunch with the Friends Chairman, as I write, so perhaps they'll try to pump him for information over their dim sum and fried rice. Marcus and I aren't invited, of course. We don't get asked for autographs at stage door that often, either. It's a gender thing.

The endless, and unwelcome task is clearing my dressing room. I have a small mountain of Thomas the Tank Engine toys which I've bought for Jake, plus a fridgeful of milk and other things that I can't leave behind but can't take. Then I have to decide what bizarre gift I can leave for the next actor. The Russian Ice Stars Andrei C and Andrei B left me a drawerful of Alka-Seltzer. Bless.

In the fridge I have a plain bottle full of decanted Martini Extra Dry which was a "Dangerous Obsession" prop. It looks rather like a night-soil. Perhaps I'll leave that...


I guess every town is famous for something - Bill Bryson talks about small towns in America which are famous for doing great grits (We're REAL proud of our grits, man! YEAH!). Don't know what Wolverhampton is famous for, but it leads the world in bad spelling on signs. Bejesus, it does. Here are some of my favourites:

There's a sort of classical beauty to some of it, and a breathtaking irony too. See this one on the right:

As a piece of postmodern criticism, it's genius. As advertising, it's an absolute catastrophe

And here's another corker. Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps there's something wrong with their oven and this is the only way of describing it accurately. In any case, the guy sitting at the table behind got his comb out imediately after I snapped this...

But here, on the right, is the jewel in the crown. God knows how many local government mandarins and pencil-pushers this got past before it was sent to the signmakers. At least it's pointing towards the right street for the Learning Quarter.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Tempus Fugit

Nearly a week since our Saturday stagger-through, and last night (Thursday) was the first time I think any of us have felt anything approaching comfortable on stage. Me especially. A casting director friend of mine said once that it's impossible to do too much work for an audition and I think this definitely applies to performance. In weekly rep, if a performance is completed it seems almost to be in spite of the (limited) preparation rather than thanks to it. Plus "Gaslight" is a properly written play, with nuances and shades of meaning and characterisation, and a multi-faceted set of themes and relationships which is in direct opposition to the rather two-dimensional dramas which have preceeded it.I can't help but think it deserves better than we can give it in the time.
That's not to say that the reception hasn't been warm - it has. Emily's husband Terry said that the sense of ownership and fondness in the audience was palpable last night, and you can certainly feel that on stage.
It occurs to me, suddenly, that I'm totally unprepared for this finishing tomorrow, so obsessed have I (and we) been with getting through it at all. Perhaps this is why people come back - after all, the relationships deserve so much more than you can offer, and next year you get another chance. Maybe.