A Review – Part 2

Today is a significant day. It is the first day in over twelve months that I haven’t had a production to think about – and don’t know exactly what my next project will be. It feels nice to relax -fun and rewarding as theatre is, it is also highly challenging and stressful – and a short break will give me chance to decide exactly what I want to do next. The emphasis is on short, though – I have lots of ideas and several applications in and imminent, so will be itching to get going on new projects and productions very soon.

So, it’s a good time to review. The easiest way is through pictures of the main productions which have happened in 2012. It means missing out the various workshops – one of which was mentioned in A Review- Part 1; the reading of a verbatim text devised by a local writer, which happened at The Dukes with a range of theatre professionals – a gathering which focussed on a new actor-centred approach to new writing which is being piloted in various places; the fun I had leading the audience around a castle for a local theatre company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing; the Litfest Mystery Launch – it was such a hectic time (detailed in earlier blog posts) that I didn’t have time to arrange – or take – photographs; and the recording of All The World’s A Stage for an Australian online festival  (though a link to part of that recording can be found at www.vimeo.com/channels/elartproductions ). Despite the omissions, though, I hope it gives a real flavour of what 2012 has been about.

Things started properly early in March, when The Dukes flatteringly asked me to revive All The World’s A Stage as part of a city-wide Shakespeare Festival. A couple of the original actors were unavailable, so we took the opportunity to adapt and revise, culminating in The Play’s The Thing! which was performed at The Ashton Memorial.

The acoustics in the building were very strange, but some wonderful effects were achieved by using the stairs. With playing and hard rehearsal, we finally cracked the overall acoustic too.

As an all-male cast, one of the real challenges of The Play’s The Thing was producing serious scenes involving female characters. This scene – Lord Capulet berating Juliet – worked beautifully.

The whole cast made me laugh in Pyramus and Thisbe. This is a tiny moment when Pyramus and Thisbe whisper through Wall’s chink.

The amazing venue of The Play’s The Thing from the outside.

The Play’s The Thing! was swiftly followed by The Vigil, a community production in a lovely village church. The Vigil by Ladislas Fodor re-tells the Christian Easter story as a courtroom drama, with the gardener on trial for snatching the body of Jesus. The production was moving and hugely enjoyable and it played to extremely receptive audiences. For various reasons, I found myself acting and directing, something I greatly prefer to avoid, but in this case it seemed to work out satisfactorily.

Rehearsing The Vigil by Ladislas Fodor in a lovely village church was a joy. It was amazing how well the church suited the courtroom set and the pulpit was a fantastic dock.

Using some of the church features suited the message of The Vigil very well.

Next came The Crucible (detailed heavily earlier in this blog). I loved this production so much, that I’m going to indulge myself with a number of photos – tirelessly taken at rehearsals by a friend and member of the cast.

An early rehearsal – April 2012- for June’s The Crucible.

Working with such a talented and committed cast between April and June 2012 was a real highlight of the year. Explosive moments, such as the one pictured in rehearsal here between Proctor and Abigail made the production very special.

Rehearsing Act 1 in a different rehearsal room. May 2012.

Working hard in the priory cafeteria!

Some of the fabulous girls – and the equally fabulous Proctor!

Placing Danforth in the pulpit worked well, allowing him to dominate proceedings in Act 3.

Pre-dress rehearsal (minus long socks for the men!)

The whole priory in use as the court springs to life in Act 3.

There were challenges in using the priory space, but also some wonderful bonuses, such as this fantastic shaft of light illuminating Abigail as she is confronted by Hale.

The whole cast and crew – a fantastic group of people!

A quieter summer followed, and then in autumn things got going again. The next production with photographs had the largest cast of the year – two casts, in fact! It was a youth production of the opera Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten and alongside a core of teenagers, who played the lead roles, were two teams of over 30 primary age children, who played the animals at alternate performances. A good, if hectic, time was had by all!

The whole show was medieval in design and these wooden waves (handled by stage crew) worked beautifully in the storm sequence.

At the end, as well as a wooden rainbow, sun and moon, the children moved into colour groups according to the colour T-shirt they were wearing, and became the rainbow themselves.

And finally, we come to last night’s Theatre Uncut show, which seemed to be a great success. The audience was certainly appreciative, and the seven shows fitted together very well, with only minimal scene shifting needed. This allowed the evening to flow and really gather momentum in a satisfactory way.

Ama and Lou in prison.

A disagreement.

An intimate moment of persuasion – one of my favourite parts.

And there it is. 2012. A huge thank you to anyone who has been involved in any way at all – and to all who have supported the shows. All ideas for future projects gratefully recieved; all considered.

2013 – Bring it on!

elaru xx

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A Review – Part 1

A review – something that strikes fear into the heart of any director (well, probably). I have had some great reviews for my productions over the years –  and one or two terrible ones – but I can honestly say, despite respecting critics and their opinions, that by far the most important reviews of my work for me are the informal ones from audience members, cast and crew – and the reviews I give myself constantly through the process and in retrospect, when the dust has settled; I aim to be my own biggest critic and , hopefully, achieve that as often as I can…

Anyway, this is my review of 2012, part 1. Why review now? Well, it struck me this morning that tonight is (probably) my final show of 2012. It’s a 9 minute two-hander for Theatre Uncut – very simply directed to fit in with six other plays on one bill and I’ll be spending most of the afternoon at DT3 at The Dukes working out the technicalities and how to swap from one play to another etc. It should be fun!

It also struck me that I’ve done a lot of shows this year – in a large number of venues: two spaces in the Dukes Theatre, two churches, the Ashton Memorial and others… – and it would be good to reflect on them.

A Review Part 1, then, will be a series of photos to give a flavour of the year, and Part 2 (hopefully tomorrow) will include more detailed reflection and some more pics. Hope you enjoy them….

 

 

 The Play’s the Thing! Actors rehearsing in the Ashton Memorial. March 2012.

Rehearsals for The Vigil in Warton Church – including me acting (not a pretty sight!). March 2012.

A one-day young people’s drama workshop for a Morecambe sea wildlife organization – complete with full size replica basking shark. Huge fun! April 2012.

Dress Rehearsal for The Crucible – showing the great use we were able to make of the fabulous Priory space. June 2012.

This was the presentation of the Litfest Mystery Launch theme 48 hours before the event. How self-conscious was I having this photo taken…! October 2012.

Dress Rehearsal of large youth production in Lancaster Priory – exhausting, but fun! October 2012.

Rehearsals earlier this week for show tonight! November 2012.

Whew! A few workshops etc missing, but the above represent 2012’s main events. It’s been a really busy, fun year. Thanks to all who have been involved in any way at all.

Off to the theatre for tech now….

elaru xx

The Secret Library

What a strange experience this has been! On Monday at 6pm I met Andy the Litfest Artistic Director and a photographer from the local paper for the hand-over of the Mystery Launch theme. (I dread to think what the photo will look like – I had rushed to the meeting from the railway station and found myself posing by a headless statue just outside the priory…)

The theme was “The Secret Library”, which (after a quick Google to check I wasn’t missing anything specific) proved to be nice and broad. Between the hand-over and mid-afternoon Tuesday, a huge number of emails, phone calls, texts and tweets were exchanged between potential performers and me  and gradually a structure began to emerge – in my head at least – for the show. An hour’s meeting/rehearsal followed, where performance material was given out and where I talked way too much in an attempt to explain what I hoped would happen. My group of performers  left, slightly bewildered, I think, but still wonderfully willing!

And then there was Wednesday.

Wednesday included an interview on local radio (which I did in a complete blur), a manic shopping trip to spend the £33 budget on appropriate items, and a three and a half hour rehearsal in the theatre, complete with lighting technician and stage manager. Good will abounded and I think – hope – everyone had fun. Somehow, we walked through and then ran a complete hour’s show – with singers joining for the final hour of rehearsal to add some finishing touches. There were still sections we couldn’t fully rehearse – namely the two brief “interactive” segments  -where we hoped members of the audience would come onto the stage to return books given to them as they entered the theatre – and the finale – on which most of the budget had been spent and  which was something we could only really run once fully. So, at 5.30pm, a nervous, but focussed, cast took a brief break before the show began.

At 6.00 an good-sized and expectant audience sat  in The Round theatre space and  we began. The audience were very supportive and seemed to like what they saw: 12 performers (plus 6 singers) were on stage throughout, reading books as if in a library,while 3 librarians patrolled the stage and audience, and the show itself comprised a series of different stories and poems, including romances, adventures and ghost stories, told, and read by different cast members and linked by appropriate songs. Because I had confidence in the high quality of my performers, I was able to relax and enjoy much of what happened – especially as I could sense (I think!) that the audience was on our side.

As the finale drew near, though, I began to get nervous – really for the first time that day (not because I’m over-confident, but because I’d been too busy to worry!). The finale, you see, as I mentioned earlier, was where I’d spent the majority of the budget and I suddenly started to worry that I’d been too flippant – or surreal – and that it would fall flat. The finale was to be a “firework display” – every good opening event needs one! – and so I had bought loads of shiny tinsel, confetti and balloons and hidden them in the balcony of The Round for the the three librarians to pop (balloons) and shower over the audience (shiny things) while the singing group sang a piece of classical music and the cast shared chocolates with the audience. It worked in my head, but everyone I’d mentioned it to over the 48 hours – including the cast and singers – had nodded at me sympathetically and looked away.

Thankfully, however, the audience got into the spirit and really seemed to get – and enjoy – it (maybe it was the chocolates!), so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and enjoyed it too.

Phew!

Reader, we did it! Perfectly? Of course not! But energetically and to the best of our ability given all the constraints.

An enormous thanks to any performers – and crew – who are reading this – I was really proud of you all.

Here’s to the next challenge…

elaru xx

Becoming Real…

Yesterday I went shopping. I bought blue material (3 metres), dark green material (quarter of a metre), light green material (quarter of a metre), 2 broom handles, a black feathered eye mask, 4 plastic pint cups and a black marker pen. At the end of my shopping I felt satisfied, as I had completed the buying necessary for Noye’s Fludde, which is on at the end of next week.

While shopping, however, I couldn’t help thinking about the Litfest opening event, and the fact that I couldn’t do any shopping for it – couldn’t spend any of the £33 pound budget – because I still don’t know the theme! Thankfully, Monday evening is getting closer, as I’m at the stage now where I can’t wait to get going…

I have managed to do a couple of very useful things over the last two days, though. Yesterday morning I visited the venue – The Round at The Dukes. Although it’s a space I have been in many, many times as an audience member, it’s very different looking round with a “director’s head”. I only stayed about 30 minutes, but it was extremely useful – being able to visualise the backstage space, working out where various exits go, getting a copy of the floor plans, finding out a little about available props/furniture and where exactly the audience will sit. (There’s going to be an audience – a few tickets have already been booked – AARGH!)

Additionally, I have contacted all the performers who have (crazily, but wonderfully) agreed to take part and I have given them a rough rehearsal schedule. Rehearsals, obviously, will be extremely limited, so it’s important we all know where we’re supposed to be at a given time.

All these things make the event begin to seem real.

Wish us luck! And hope to see you there…

elaru xx

10 Days To Go…

The mystery launch event for Lancaster Litfest is getting closer. Much closer. But my preparation remains frustratingly much the same.

It’s a very strange experience, not knowing what the theme of the event will be. I’ve got to the stage where I’m trying to second guess – and a couple of days ago I even nearly held a rehearsal with a group of the performers who will be on stage at 6pm on the 17th. There would have been little point, though, so I’m glad I managed to hold my nerve and not waste their time!

Roll on October 15th… At least then I can make some decisions and get on…

Contrastingly, my other main current project – Noye’s Fludde – is following a much more usual pattern and is nearing completion (it’s also on next week!). It’s largely a youth play, and there have been six hours of rehearsals over the weekend, involving over fiifty young people aged seven upwards. The majority of these are playing animals on the ark. Particularly memorable so far are a pair of constantly (and I mean constantly…) bouncing kangaroos, two fabulously waddle-y penguins and a lone wolf, who will have a partner next weekend!

Never work with children or animals? So far, I’m having fun!

elaru xx

A Mystery…

As I’m just about to start my next set of projects, I thought I’d resume blogging. Autumn is here and as well as wind and rain (so not much different from summer, then), it has brought with it a range of new challenges, including Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde (complete with cast of thousands – well nearly), some political theatre (for Theatre Uncut – very early stages with that) and a Mystery Launch Opening for Lancaster Litfest.

The Mystery Launch is the one that is mainly occupying my thoughts at the moment as it is the first event of all. It takes place at 6pm on October 17th at The Dukes Theatre (in The Round); it will involve quite a large number of performers (not certain how many as yet); it will involve music, story-telling, comedy and drama; it will last an hour; it will cost £33 exactly (that’s the budget, which reflects the number of years the Litfest has been running); it will be free entry for audience members, though they must book in advance; and, er… that’s all I know.

That’s all I know, and the event is in two and a half weeks.

This is because another name for the Mystery Launch Event is the Flax Challenge (Flax Publishers), and the challenge is that I only find out the theme for the event 48 hours before it is performed!

With this in mind, I’ve contacted performers to secure their good-will, time and talents, and I’ve been reading around Flax publications for potentially useful material, as well as thinking about how to feature the £33 budget. But that’s about all I can do.

In some ways this makes it one of the most relaxing run-ups to an event I’ve ever known – normally with this amount of time to go, life is chaotic to say the least – but in other ways, stress-levels are high…

…though probably nothing compared with the levels they’ll be on the 15th of October…!

Wish me luck!

elaru xx