Introducing Memorandum

Memo Poster

In just over a month, ELART Productions will be presenting the play Memorandum in Lancaster Library (May 6, 8 and 9 at 7.30pm to be precise). Written in 1965 by Vaclav Havel, the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia, and translated by Vera Blackwell, Memorandum is a very funny, surreal, black comedy that takes a swipe at a whole range of issues, still all-too topical and familiar today – bureaucracy, language, conformity, business practices and inter-personal relationships. It’s a play I first came across years ago at university and I’ve wanted to put on a full production of it ever since. With its political edge, it seems fitting somehow that this will finally happen during election week – I am expecting some of the lines to have particular resonance due to the timing!

As always, it’s huge fun to work with a group of talented and committed people to bring a play to life. We’re a reasonable way into rehearsals now – a certain amount of blocking done and lines well on the way to being learned (aren’t they, any cast members reading this…?!). I’m looking forward to the next stages – adding as much detail and polish as we possibly can, while continuing to learn about the characters and plot. The addition of props will also be particularly interesting on this occasion, including, as they do, fire extinguishers, lots of knives and forks and lots and lots of fruit…

Here are just a very few rehearsal photos from earlier this week. I’ve chosen interesting gestures as the theme for this selection (as always, an area in which I seem to do particularly well…)

elaru xx

 

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Going Forward

Today is one of my very favourite days of the year: the day the clocks go forward! I love the extra light, the sense of spring – and I don’t mind in the least the slightly bleary feeling due to an hour’s loss of sleep – it’s more than worth it.

This year the clocks going forward has come two weeks after the ending of my most recent theatre project – “I Have A Speech of Fire” performed by The Rose Company in Lancaster Castle’s A-Wing (the ex-prison – reputedly haunted and hugely atmospheric) – but before I have fully got going with my next show – an ELART summer production still in early planning stages, due to be firmed up in the next 3 weeks. I always find “in-between” phases a little strange and disorientating, so used am I to structuring my life around rehearsals and the rhythms of performance. I am, though, at this lovely time of year, enjoying a little extra space to contemplate exciting projects ahead.

More of those in future posts… First, though, just a few pictures from The Rose Company’s last show, mentioned above.

Prospero

Prospero

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Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Charmian, Dolabella and Iras - Cleopatra's maids

Charmian, Dolabella and Iras – Cleopatra’s maids

Julia from 2 Gentlemen of Verona

Yours in light –
elaru xx

Iphigenia Pics

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The last three weeks have involved: rehearsals; a Rose Company mini-tour (Lancaster Castle, Homerton College, UCL); a feature on Woman’s Hour (here if you missed it – about 16 mins from end –http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03jfk1v); and the booking of new mini-north-west tour for January – King’s Arms, Salford, January 12; The Continental, Preston, January 16; Lancaster Castle, January 17; The Lantern Theatre, Liverpool, January 18. It’s been busy (and I haven’t thought about Christmas shopping yet…).

Here are a few pictures of the story so far…

 

Dress Rehearsal

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The Chorus

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Menelaus and Senex

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Clytemnesta and the Chorus

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Agamemnon and Iphigenia

Lancaster Castle

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Achilles and Iphigenia being recorded for radio

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Whole cast being recorded for radio

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The green room!

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The whole cast.

Homerton College

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Warming up.

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Clytemnestra and Orestes

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The touring cast.

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Clytemnestra, Nuntio (and me in background!)

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Iphigenia and fans – lovely audience members who wanted a photo with the hero!

UCL
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Iphigenia, Orestes and Chorus

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Agamemnon and Senex

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Chorus and Orestes

Really hope to see you at one of our January shows!

elaru xx

Iphigenia by Lady Jane Lumley

It’s happened! The Rose Company’s first show – Iphigenia by Lady Jane Lumley – the oldest known dramatic work by an English woman and the earliest known translation of Greek drama into English. It happened- and it was well-received – and it was fun!

I travelled to Reading by train and so was the first to arrive at The Minghella Building at Reading University. I was impressed with the space – very new and with great facilities – and had a brilliant time being shown all around by one of the space’s technicians. (The highlight of this part of the day was getting to walk on the steel-wire mesh above the theatre to play with the lights (see photo below)!)

When the cast arrived, they too were pleased with what they saw and we got straight down to an intense rehearsal afternoon, really finding out how to use the space.

And then – seemingly in a flash – it was time for the show. Although some of the cast were suffering from colds and coughs (I feel to blame for passing one around…), Doctor Theatre worked its magic and everyone performed with huge energy and skill – I was really proud of them all!

The audience – an academic one, staying at Reading for a conference – were responsive and clearly relished seeing such a rarely performed piece. We enjoyed performing such a rare text too – and are really looking forward to playing with it again when we revive it in autumn.

 

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Agamemnon and Menelaus

Agamemnon and Menelaus

Drirector on the lighting mesh as the cast warm up.

Director on the lighting mesh as the cast warm up.

Do take a look at The Rose Company’s site for more photos – http://www.therosecompany.posthaven.com

As one of The Rose Company’s founders said on twitter this week: “Watch this space; this rose has only just begun to bloom!”

elaru xx

Every Picture Tells A Story

I love rehearsing. It’s probably my favourite way to spend my time, which is lucky as it’s a huge part of my job! I love the focus a really good company has in rehearsal and how everyday issues melt away in the challenge and fun of exploring a text or devising a show – discovering the best way to tell stories.

I’ve been very fortunate with my last (ELART Productions’ All the World’s A Stage – Shakespeare/Rucastle) and current show (The Rose Company’s Iphigenia – Lady Jane Lumley) to have 2 willing – and able – photographers to capture some rehearsal moments. Do take a look:

 

Introducing Iphigenia to her baby brother Orestes!

Introducing Iphigenia to her baby brother Orestes!

Some directing - at least, I think that's what I'm doing.

Some directing – at least, I think that’s what I’m doing.

Clytemnestra and Senex

Clytemnestra and Senex

Clytemnestra and Achilles

Clytemnestra and Achilles

Iphigenia

Iphigenia

Clytemnestra

Clytemnestra

The Chorus.

The Chorus.

Agamemnon confronted by Iphigenia and Clytemnestra

Agamemnon confronted by Iphigenia and Clytemnestra

Agamemnon isolated.

Agamemnon isolated.

Clytemnestra and Chorus

Clytemnestra and Chorus

Iphigenia and Agamemnon

Iphigenia and Agamemnon

The Mechanicals dance.

The Mechanicals dance.

Looks like I want to join in! (I didn't.)

Looks like I want to join in! (I didn’t.)

Directing the dance.

Directing the dance.

Having fun.

Having fun.

Lord Capulet - scary!

Lord Capulet – scary!

Waiting in the wings (well, sort of)

Waiting in the wings (well, sort of)

The witches (trying to fly?)

The witches (trying to fly?)

Portia- deep in thought

Portia- deep in thought

All the World's A Stage

All the World’s A Stage

Applauding my own show!

Applauding my own show!

"Our revels now are ended."

“Our revels now are ended.”

Waiting to dance

Waiting to dance

Lion!

Lion!

Pyramus and Moon

Pyramus and Moon

The Mechanicals perform

The Mechanicals perform

Wall, Pyramus and Thisbe

Wall, Pyramus and Thisbe

The Mechanicals prepare

The Mechanicals prepare

Portia, Antonio and Bassanio

Portia, Antonio and Bassanio

The witches

The witches

Cleopatra on the run.

Cleopatra on the run.

Cleopatra on the attack

Cleopatra on the attack

Cleopatra's tantrum

Cleopatra’s tantrum

Clarence's death

Clarence’s death

The Fool

The Fool

Hamlet

Hamlet

Richard 3

Richard 3

The Rose’s Company’s Iphigenia happens in 9 days from now, so lots more rehearsal hours beckon.

That’s great!

elaru xx

Feeling Connected

I’ve just waved my cousin off on a big adventure. He’s emigrating to Australia and starting a new life with his wonderful partner. He’s one of my favourite people in the world; we’re very close and I know I’m going to miss him hugely. But I am very proud of him and thrilled about the adventure upon which he is embarking.

Technology is going to help enormously. All his family and friends will be able to email, facebook, tweet, Skype, phone etc… and once he is fully settled, we won’t feel (I hope) all that disconnected at all. What an amazing world we live in!

So, how does this link to my current theatre project with The Rose Company? Tenuously, but importantly, through the idea of connection. The Rose Company, as stated a few posts ago is newly formed, so we need to get to know each other – to feel connected as a company – to start to trust each other and each other’s ways of working. There is no quick way of doing this, but, hopefully, slowly but surely over the rehearsal period this should begin to happen.

Additionally, though, there is the connection through time to the writer Lady Jane Lumley, who wrote the play we are performing well over 400 years ago, and in her turn she must have felt a connection to the Euripides’ Iphigenia, which apparently premiered in 405 BC! It’s amazing to me how characters from such time-scales can still be so relevant and immediate today, but they are. They really are! I already feel an incredible connection to Iphigenia and Clytemnestra, to name but two – and not just because of the plight they find themselves in. In Lady Jane Lumley’s hands, at least, they are strong, passionate women about whom it is very easy to care and respond strongly to.

Amazingly, to accompany the play – or bookend really, as we are using it at the beginning and end – we are using a tune suggested by a member of the cast: Seikilos Epitaph, which is the oldest surviving complete musical composition in the world – thought to be from the 1st century BC. It’s a beautiful, haunting little melody – entirely appropriate for our production and with lovely moving lyrics which I’ll reproduce when we’ve decided exactly the form they will take for us.

I find the idea of being connected through theatre to dates like 1st century BC (and obviously 405 BC with the Ipigenia premiere) somewhat mind-blowing – and very, very exciting.  

Here are just a few photos of the Rose Company in action in our first rehearsals:

 

 

 

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Yours – connected-ly,

elaru xx

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

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

Closure

So, that’s that. The Crucible 2012 is done.

We had good-sized audiences at each show, and comments I have heard have been extremely positive, which is very pleasing. It’s always hard for me to judge how a show has gone – by the time it’s being performed, I am way too close to it – over-aware, perhaps, of its flaws and over-pleased, perhaps, with its strengths and high points.

I do know, however, that on this occasion, I was as confident as I have ever been in what I saw happening on stage at the Saturday matinee (the only one of the four shows I watched all through). Cast and crew were working together beautifully, and every single person seemed to me to be performing at the top of their game. I was really proud of them – and not a little emotional!

And now here we are three days later: props have been returned, costumes will be collected Saturday, photos have been uploaded and shared and “normal” life has resumed. Images of The Crucible still flash often into my mind, however – like some of these from the dress rehearsal.

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And this one of the whole cast and crew after the final show:

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So, has my love-affair with The Crucible ended? On balance, I think not. I have a feeling I’ll want to revisit it sometime. To play with it again. But not for a long time. Now other projects beckon – some involving some of the fantastic people I have worked with on this show.

Watch this space… there’s more to come…!

elaru xx

Snapshots

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Here are just a few of the great rehearsal photos taken by a friend of mine, who is also playing one of the marshals in the play. If he’s reading this, I extend my sincere thanks.

The photos are in no particular order, but hopefully give a flavour of our work so far.

ImageProctor and Mary Warren in the court.

ImageProctor and Abigail in Parris’ house.

ImageHale and Tituba at the end of Act 1.

ImageThe Proctors at home with Giles and Francis.

ImageThe girls.

And here are a couple of me directing (just in case you think I only blog about it  and don’t actually do anything.) I’ve been told I wave my arms around rather a lot…and on the evidence of these pictures, I guess I can no longer deny it!

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Ah well.

elaru xx