Tag Archives: show

From Page to Stage (via Rage) – a GIF Guide to get to the Fringe

Hello, lovely reader.  How’s everything with you?

I must apologise for my prolonged absence – this is about 20% due to a bit of a confidence crisis, 10% due to laziness and 70% due to being completely brain-swamped by Tumbling After, the fabulously physical show that I’m taking to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with RedBellyBlack Productions.

It’s a gorgeous show that combines all kinds of ideas and disciplines, but as a devised piece it’s been an enormous (and welcome) challenge.  Everyone’s journey from page to stage is different, and the great thing about the Fringe is that you can take almost any performance genre imaginable up there and find a receptive audience.  Comedy, theatre, spoken word and performance art (and every other sub-genre and hybrid of those) show up on the Fringe programme every year.  Isn’t it amazing that the arts hold so much variety and such a wide range of skills?  (I’M TALKING TO YOU, CAMERON, YOU UNCULTURED SWINE.)

Ahem.  Sorry.  Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about getting ready for the Fringe this year is that, no matter which genre or sub-heading you’ve picked for your show, you go through a lot of the same stages:

Realising that your show idea is actually pretty darn good

Realising how much work this great idea is going to need

Refusing to acknowledge the huge amount of stress on the horizon

Getting into the swing of it

The first time you really and truly force yourself to look at the budget

The second, third and fourth time you look at the budget

The amazing moment when you can see how it’s all going to work

When the first cast/production team member cracks up

When it’s YOUR turn to crack up

Realising that you’ve only got a few weeks left

Still knowing, even after all the stress, that your show really is a great idea.

If you’d like to know more about Tumbling After and the magical mischief we’re getting up to, search #TumblingAfter on Twitter – there are lots of ridiculous photos and short videos to enjoy.

Have a cracking Wednesday!

“Can You Drink the Water in Scotland?”

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Hello, dear reader!  Happy Friday!

Despite the lovely weather and the cheerful atmosphere, mid July has become the time of year that lots of people associate with stress.  In years gone by it was the worst point during the long wait for exam results, and not so very long ago it meant the end of another university year, and the inevitable drinking/farewells/moving house that followed.  These days, a lot of my friends find this time of year stressful, exciting and nerve-racking because we are about to pack our bags and trundle 400 miles up the road to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

There are some very specific things that southerners (Londoners in particular) feel and experience when they make the performance pilgrimage to the capital of Scotland.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Coffee Conundrum: the moment when you realise that it will be easier to meet a friend for coffee when you’re both at the Fringe than it would to try and organise something in London, even thought you live a twenty-minute tube ride apart.

Tourist Tantrum: resenting the tourists all over the Royal Mile, even though you’re just as much of a visitor as they are.  (Except a friend of mine who, before coming up to visit us while we were performing in 2012, genuinely asked us whether you could drink the water in Scotland.)

Regression Renegades: no matter how sensible you are or how long it’s been since your student days, the second you get to the Fringe you take advantage of the fact that every drinking establishment is open til 5am.

Fan Phenomenon: people go and see dozens of shows during the festival, but every so often you come across a show that turns you into an instant fan of the performers.  It’s amazing to find that you can get just as involved with and passionate about the work of non-famous (but fabulous) people as you do about the main players on London stages.

The Edinburgh Bar Principle: something I mentioned in this article I wrote for Everything Theatre – you never know who you’re going to meet at the festival, including very drunk, very interesting or very famous people.  You may even find yourself photo-bombing Rhod Gilbert and having him call you a maverick.

Whatever you’re up to this summer, I hope you have as much fun as physically possible.  Give me a shout if you’re planning on being at the Fringe.

Have an unbelievably brilliant weekend.

Smells Like Team Spirit

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s your week progressing?  Getting through your to do list at a pleasing pace, I hope?

“Team work” is one of those phrases that fills us with dread and fear.  This is because we secretly think that “team work” means “unable to think for yourself”, “willing to let others do your work” or, horror of horrors, “always up for those God-awful trust exercises that supposedly break the ice, but actually make everyone feel cripplingly embarrassed”.

What you discover very quickly in working world (particularly when you work in the arts) is that when it actually happens, team work is flipping brilliant.  Of course we should all have independent approaches, unique ideas and confidence in what we bring to the job as individuals, but we should also enjoy the many advantages that proper team work offers.

As you might remember from previous posts, I am currently working in a front of house team on a large-scale kids’ show in London.  The job is difficult and the show is not really aimed at my demographic, but the experience is ace.  As they say in The Lego Movie song, everything is cool when you’re part of a team.  Here are a few lovely things about team work that might dispel some of those trust exercise (shudder) memories:

In jokes – weeks, months and even years after the event, in jokes can help a team to feel connected to one another.  In jokes are also a good way to just have a bit of fun at work when the chips are down.

People understand why you’re stressed – if you turn to a colleague and go “aaaargh” (or something slightly more articulate), nine times out of ten they will get what you’re on about.  Not having to explain your stress and still managing to get sympathy is pretty darn efficient.

The play’s the thing – working with a whole bunch of people who care about the same project you do is brilliant, because you are constantly reminded that you are all working towards something bigger than any of you.  This can be scary and inspirational in equal measure, but it is always a motivator.

Down time – it is so nice to unwind in the company of people whose day you’ve shared.  There’s a sense of mutual achievement and good humour when my colleagues and I get the train home from work together, even though most of us have at least an hour’s commute ahead of us.  Stopping at the amazing frozen yoghurt place on our way from work to the station helps, too.

Going crazy – work can sometimes take over our lives a bit, and when it does it’s nice to know that the people you work with are going crazy at exactly the same rate, in pretty much the same way and for precisely the same reason.  For instance, the kids’ show I’m working includes some very distinctive music.  Surprisingly, it’s actually very cheering to hear my colleagues humming it all day long, because it means that I’m not alone.  The one time that it’s good to crazy is when you’re in great company.

Have a delightful Friday.

Aaaaaaaay Macarena!

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Good morning, and a very merry Sunday to you!  I’ve just put the kettle on.  Do you take sugar?

Last night a friend and I went to a dance performance at Sadler’s Wells.  My friend is a ballerina and all-round dance expert, whereas my knowledge of dance extends as far as the Macarena, so the experience was a new one for me.

When we left the theatre after the show, I genuinely had no idea what I thought of the piece.  I have never, ever left a theatre without having formed a strong opinion on what I’ve just seen, so I was a bit discombobulated by this turn of events.  As far as I could see, the show was an extremely well-executed performance of the bleep test, combined with some energetic writhing.  That is not an insult to the show or the performers in any way; I’m sure that to a fan of dance the piece was extraordinary.  But I am not a dance fan.  I’m a words girl.  I can’t feel anything about a show that doesn’t have any words in it.

Bizarrely, the friend I saw the show with had the opposite view.  To quote her directly, “I don’t want to hear words.  Tell me the story with your bodies!”  This confuses me slightly because she did a Drama degree…the same one that I did, in fact, which is how we met.  And there were, as I recall, a fair few words involved in that.

I love going to the theatre with people whose views are so different to mine.  I have a friend whom I go to the theatre with quite regularly, and we nearly always agree on what we like and dislike about performances, which is great.  It’s always nice to have your opinions validated by someone you like and respect.  But it’s also a lot of fun to expose yourself to the weird and wonderful, and to try to see something you care about (i.e. performance) through someone else’ eyes.  I’m not saying that everyone should love every genre of performance, but it’s good to challenge ourselves a bit from time to time.  Go and see that show you’re not so sure about, or read that book that’s had mixed reviews.

But first, have a coffee and relax a bit.  It is Sunday, after all.

Revision Panic

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Good morning to you, dear reader!  I hope that you’ve been enjoying this sunny weekend.  Is it barbecue weather yet, d’you think?

If you’ve read this post from a couple of weeks ago, you will already know that my house mate and I recently auditioned to go on the television show Pointless.  I am delighted to announce that our audition was successful, and on Tuesday we will potter off to the studio in hopes of being on the show.

Our appearance isn’t entirely guaranteed, because they have to allow for things like a good spread of age groups, specialist subjects, unexpected drop-outs, etc.  So basically we’ll turn up on Tuesday, but if the other contestants are all drama graduates in their mid-twenties with an unfortunate propensity to get distracted by shiny things, Ash and I might not make it onto that show.  C’est la show business.

Although we’re both very excited, Ash and I have come up with two pretty major concerns.  The first is that we’ve been asked not to wear black clothing or patterns; respectively speaking, that screws me (who never entirely grew out of my ill-advised goth phase) and Ash (who loves a pair of patterned tights) over pretty thoroughly.  We had a mooch round the charity shops yesterday and found a couple of potential outfits, but we each have to take FIVE clothing options to the studio for the wardrobe people to choose from.  FIVE.  If we’re not including hoodies and pyjamas, I’m not sure I even OWN five outfits.  Although my red hoodie is quite presentable, and it’s very comfy…no.  Stop it.  I can’t go on television looking like I just fell out of bed.

I know it shouldn’t worry me too much what I wear, since it’s a show about knowledge rather than appearances, but still: we’re going to be on television.  We don’t want to look rubbish.  Apparently they’re going to do our make-up for us as well, which Ash and I both baulked at.  Ash is a connoisseur of vintage make-up stylings, and is more than capable of making her face look its lovely best.  I usually go for the Claudia Winkleman/panda look myself, and I think it works for me, so I would prefer to be left alone with my gallons of black eye-liner and vampish mascara, thank you very much.

The second concern (which is actually a bigger one than the clothing issue, I promise) is that I don’t think I actually know anything.  Nothing useful, at any rate.  If you put me on QI I would absolutely rock out (mostly because I’ve seen every episode a thousand times, but also) because I’m the queen of the random fact.  But I don’t know the kings and queens of England, or the periodic table, or ANYTHING about geography.  I’ve been watching some episodes of Pointless this week as research, and I can tell you now that if a round about the England cricket team or celebrity culture comes up when we’re on there, I am screwed.  Ash is a clever girl and an excellent actress, so if we get a bad topic I’m sure she’ll style it out, but odds are I will just stand there in open-mouthed horror.  The other possibility is that I will swear loudly, which is probably not the way to go…

Even stuff that I think I do know about, I’m now beginning to second-guess.  When you apply to go on the show, you have to put three specialist subjects on the form.  I put Theatre (I have a Drama degree and I run a theatre company- fair enough), Literature (I read a lot) and Dad’s Army (mainly a joke, but I do love that show).  I HAVE STARTED WATCHING EPISODES OF DAD’S ARMY AS A FORM OF REVISION.  I’m not even enjoying them, because I’m too scared that Alexander Armstrong is going to ask me an obscure question that I won’t be able to answer!  My life has turned into this scene from Short Circuitexcept that I’m panicky rather than curious.

The obvious solution is to calm the heck down, have a cup of tea and brush up on whatever we realistically have to time to revise.  This is perfectly sage and sensible advice.  I will endeavour to do just that.  But could someone please explain to me why, when I was always terrible at exams, have never had a good memory for general knowledge and am almost twenty-five, I have deliberately put myself into a position where I am forced to revise?  Glutton for punishment, perhaps.  Or just a subconscious craving to look stupid on television.  If that’s the case, I sort of wish I’d just applied to Big Brother

Enjoy your Sunday everyone.  Go to the park or something while the weather’s nice.

What is it About Adaptations?

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Hello, reader!  Got any exciting plans for your weekend?

Last night I went to see Headlong’s production of 1984 at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.  The performances were excellent, the design was incredibly inventive and the concept was inspired.  I won’t say anymore in case you’re planning to see it for yourself, and I really think that you should go if you get the chance.

It’s difficult to make an excellent adaptation of a novel like 1984 for two reasons: firstly, the concept of the novel itself is pretty complex, and pinning down the issues of mind control, sanity, truth and fiction are hard to do off the page.  Secondly, the novel is a well-loved and respected work that many people feel strongly about.  If Headlong had got it wrong, they would have been unpersoned by the critics.

An adaptation of any beloved work of fiction runs the same risk.  The Harry Potter films came under massive fire (just from my social circle) for being completely unfaithful to the books, and reducing cleverly constructed plot lines to unsteady, baffling narrative turns.  There were also many debates about the casting: Emma Watson was too posh (and WAY too fond of acting with her eyebrows), Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t likeable enough, and Dobby was an atrocity.

People are already up in arms about the potential casting of Harry Styles in a movie adaptation of Wicked, but I wonder how many of them know that the musical stage production is already an adaptation of a novel.  The novel is completely different in tone to the musical, and when I read it for the first time I wondered who on earth would read this dark, disturbing story and think “Well, that’s got singing and dancing written all over it.”  Don’t get me wrong: I saw the musical a few years ago and loved it, but in my head it isn’t an adaptation of the novel in the traditional sense.  It’s just too different.

And this is the interesting thing: what is it about adaptations that provokes such strong reactions in us?  When we read a book we get a unique picture in our minds of the characters, the settings and the story, which have been guided by the author but not prescribed.  When we see an adaptation of a novel on screen or stage,the directors have had to try and compile every reader’s mental picture into a universal picture that cannot possibly match up to everyone’s expectations.

Is it better to take a well-known story and try to match it exactly to its original medium, like William Goldman managed with his adaptation of the The Princess Bride?  (Although he had a significant advantage, given that he was adapting his own novel.)  Or is it best to recognise that one medium cannot possibly imitate another – which is why they all exist, in fact – and that an adaptation has to be a kind of translation of a piece in order to make it work?  Wicked in its original essence would not make a good musical; it’s too depressing (but brilliant, by the way).  It needed to be translated into the kind of story that works in the West End with big sets and even bigger smiles, and it is a good show.  It’s just not a faithful adaptation.

I think that part of the issue is the cashmere-wearing, cigar-smoking, bling-adorned elephant in the room: we can all see that making successful novels and plays into films is about making money, not about making the piece accessible to more people.  It’s the reason that The Hobbit is being strangled to death by a painfully laboured and ridiculously patch-worked adaptation into three epically long films.  Shame on you, Peter Jackson.  Shame on you.

In general, I do approve of adaptations.  I like seeing other people’s ideas of a well-known story shown in new ways, and I enjoy the possibilities of a translation from medium to medium.  I just wish that the motive was always the exploration of worlds, not the expansion of wallets.

Have the most awesome of Fridays.