Friday, 19 November 2010

Other People In My Shoes

"Abigail's Party" was on telly the other night, and I watched a goodly chunk of it. It's odd - before, all I could see were the faults and the things we did differently, but fresh eyes are a great thing. I mean, there is some howlingly hammy acting - the bit where Laurence comes back in, realises he's forgotten the light ales and exits again was straight out of Norman Wisdom, but otherwise it's amazingly fresh - and I speak as someone who's seen it at least 200 times. Alison Steadman is amazing - massively OTT but totally believable (take note, Steve McFadden), likewise Janine Duvitski. Elements of grotesque caricature but so carefully done that it's entirely credible. I watched Laurence's "talent" speech and was almost moved to tears, it's so sensitively delivered.
The matter of watching other people do parts you've done/were up for/feel you should be getting is a vexed one. Apparently one of the other recallees from "Vertigo" lives so near the OTC base he could have seen the dress rehearsal from his bedroom, but he didn't, and I don't blame him. My dear friend Jo says one of the big things that made her leave the industry was having to watch other people playing the parts she wanted - and she was Ophelia to Olivier's Hamlet at the embryo NT, for God's sake. But the necessary public posture is much like the one you have to adopt when a friend tells you they've landed a job at the RSC. You smile and nod and all that, but a little bit of you wants to hit them with your shoe...

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Sprinter Beckons...

Pete, Sophia, self and Dan, all in protective get-in gear the day before the tour started. Adieu "Vertigo", and thanks for all the good times x

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

So Here We Are Then...

One thing today's venue, Carterton, has in common with the JR is that it's a venue OTC haven't visited before, and last week it was reported that it wasn't selling very well. Which strikes fear into you for a last night - I mean, a bang not a whimper, not the other way around, right?
But Vertigo isn't destined to close under a cloud. Despite many potential drawbacks (including the news that there won't be any booze on sale - which is mistakenly announced just as someone starts uncorking wine in the bar...?) a good crowd gathers and we set about doing everything for the last time.
Of course it's emotional. It's an age since we first landed the parts back in May, and we have all been gently considering how to play them - making decisions from the limitless number of possibilities - up to and during the rehearsals and run. There were certainly moments, scenes, which could have been played differently, possibly better. Over the next few days I, for one, will be seized by the fear that I was inadequate, that more research, more enquiry might have improved the performance.
Tonight, though, we relish what's left. Act II is a dream, everything is high stakes. The laughs are better, the silences more electric, the emotions more raw. At the end, when I look down at the twisted curtains on the stage and beg Ballard "May I kiss her?", I completely break down - experiencing, perhaps, a tiny shadow of what the loss feels like.
My friend Ali once wondered whether ending a play was like a mini-bereavement, and I've always thought it too trivial for that, but today it seems to qualify on such terms. There's talk afterwards about whether "Vertigo" will have another life - and yes, it feels as though we barely started - but experience and reason suggest it's unlikely. Thank God it happened at all, I say.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Infirm at the Radcliffe

The last time I was in the John Radcliffe Hospital my grandmother was very ill. The time before, my missus gave birth to Molly; when I was a teenager I was treated for what I self-diagnosed as a brain tumour but which was more accurately discovered to be bewilderment and angst. So to say it feels odd to be doing a show here, let alone one with the subject matter we're tackling, is an understatement.
Our contact, Ruth, is charming and chatty and all smiles and enthusiasm, though, and this demeanour lasts right up until she collides with some scaffolding Pete is carrying, whereupon she leaves. Possibly to go to the neurological department to have the lump on her head seen to.
After a start like this you'd be forgiven for expecting the worst, but as the Oxford Playhouse are in the crowd tonight, together with Karen and most of OTC, it can't be the worst. It sort of has to be the best, really.
We're up against it, though. The room is a badminton court, there's a huge wall hanging of a pink gangsta elephant dressed in a doctor's coat facing the stage, and even though it's October it's hot enough to grow orchids.
It's a nervous start, and with phones going off, watches beeping and the side doors opening every now and then, the audience must be having trouble with focus. I have forgotten my show pants, so I'm forced to wear a terrifyingly large and baggy pair of y-fronts which are period but massively impractical. As I remove my PJ trousers under the towel after the dunking scene, I feel the accursed underwear slide over my bum, gangsta stylie, and the audience nearly get an eyeful. Not the way I would wish to be remembered.
 In Act 2 it really starts to fly, though, and there's some great work from Sophia, Pete and Dan. And perhaps me, but of course I couldn't possibly comment on that...
Afterwards I talk films with Chalky, Si Porritt and Baz in the foyer. The top secret film on rugby lines has been put back a couple of months and will be shooting in the Spring. Exciting casting developments talked of, too. My parents watch all this with interest  - and my mother, I believe, has a tear in her eye. My father is very enthusiastic, and despite inadvertently mentioning that I've been "wooden" occasionally in the past, clearly loved it. Good times.