The Show Goes On

Nearly 2 weeks have past since my most recent production finished. I find myself looking back with very mixed emotions.  

Firstly producing Company has been a long time wish. It is one of Sondheim's pieces that connected with me when I first saw a recording of the Donmar Warehouse Production some 20 years ago. The central character is complex, as we all are, this is what I like. Bobby is a real person, we can totally relate to him and the thought processes he goes through.

This was also my first co-production. Working with Merriman Theatre Group was great and whilst I will confess to not always remembering it was a co-prod and happily carrying on making decisions without consultation, I believe it was a successful experience for both sides!!!

The group of actors that we assembled was also a joy. Sondheim’s music is never an easy sing, there are complex harmonies and at times 7 lines all doing totally different things at the same time. After an hour of our first rehearsal the sound produced from the cast was just superb. It wasn’t perfect but it showed what this group of performers could do after just one hour, meaning the next few weeks were going to be very exciting.

The week of the production arrived and (thankfully) audience sales had picked up (as a producer there is nothing more stressful than everyone buying tickets at the last minute!!) I was feeling suitably proud and emotional at this production and we headed to the last night far too fast.

A lot of the time in amateur theatre we do not have understudies. There are many reasons for this and for a week we have faith that things will work out ok. Unfortunately there are occasions where things don’t go quite as planned.

Image courtesy of Stewart McPherson 

Image courtesy of Stewart McPherson 

During Act 1 of the final show our leading man was taken ill. This is something he had started fighting during the week but his body refused to let him continue. The show was stopped and decisions needed to be made.

It was a situation you hear of others dealing with, in fact I have been in a production years ago when one of the principals literally “broke his leg” during the curtain call. This time I found myself in the position of addressing the audience and working with the production team and cast to bring around a solution.

It became clear that “Bobby” could not continue in the show and reluctantly the decision was made to replace him with another member of the cast with the script.

Addressing an audience midway through a show is a very surreal experience, explaining the situation is one thing, telling them we are continuing with a replacement is not an easy speech to make. However there was no need to fear, the audience embraced the situation and the warmth coming back was quite something.

It felt a very human response, in the face of adversity everyone rally’s round. The audience, cast, production team, theatre staff, all as one worked and supported each other. The standing ovation was a mix of respect for our Bobby stand in and for carrying on and delivering a high standard production that they enjoyed.

I have never been in such quite a strange head space by the end of a show but will admit to a very emotional end sat in the lighting box full of pride and relief!!

The old adage of the “Show Must Go On” has often been used and you often wonder why must it go on? I am glad we could carry on and also happy to report our original Bobby is recovering well. So my final musical production ended in a more dramatic way than planned, but life is made up of stories and I know this one will keep us going for some time to come.

I am now 5 weeks away from my next production “A View From The Bridge”, thankfully all ills seem to be happening during rehearsal process so production week may go to plan!!! This is live theatre though and as I have learnt, anything can happen!!!

 

The Final Curtain

Back in 1999 along with Steve Woolley I formed ProAct Theatre Company. The plan was for me to produce a variety of plays and Steve would direct them. Over time Steve has also appeared in some and I have branched out into producing a couple of musicals as well.

ProAct was something I always wanted to do, running a theatre company and working with so much talent has been a great experience. It has brought many challenges and as producer there is a plethora of roles to undertake that at the beginning you have no idea even existed!

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Back in 2003 I put ProAct on hold whilst concentrating on “normal” life but ProAct was always with me and in 2011 it resurfaced and the past 5 years have exceeded all expectations. The number of productions have grown year on year, the range from comedy to drama to thriller plus musical have kept the subject matter totally diverse. We have gained an appreciative and loyal audience base, which have provided fantastic feedback on our productions.

So with all this in mind and whilst still turning out high quality productions I have made the hard decision to put ProAct Theatre Company to bed.

We have 2 more great productions to come this year. Stephen Sondheim’s Company will be at the Rondo Theatre, Bath, 21-24 September 2016 and Arthur Millers A View From The Bridge will be at the Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol, 8-12 November 2016.

There will very likely be one more production, potentially next October, which will be ProAct’s swan song.

I am not saying ProAct Theatre Company is going for good, we may well resurface in the future, if there is a production that I can’t say no to, anything is possible. For now though our final bow is approaching.

Personally I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all the talented casts I have worked with and continue to work with. To the people that have turned up to help get my productions in. Support from friends and family (in particular Mum & Dad for their legendary catering services enjoyed by many!!). Special thanks to the talented and fabulous team that support ProAct and get it to the stage, Darren Williams, Geoff Rennie, Anne Holloway and of course the theatre legend that is Steve Woolley.

Theatre is a true team effort and it is also a way of life. Once it gets into you it never leaves you. I am incredibly lucky to have experienced so much and pleased to have been able to share my passion with others and our audience.

You still have time to catch ProAct in action, so please help us go out with a bang and pop along to our last few productions.

Thank you all for the support and for coming with me on this fantastic "journey"

Andi

Wetness, weirdness and whimsy!

Over the past 3 days I have seen Titanic the musical at the Charring Cross Theatre, Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre and Present Laughter at Bath Theatre Royal.

It has most definitely been an eclectic mix of productions.

I have never seen a production of Titanic and whilst I had heard the music (and knew the ending) I had no idea what to expect. Everyone’s comments on this production, which originated at the Southwark Playhouse, had been unanimously strong in praise. I was pleased not to be let down. The musical is a true ensemble piece and this “chamber” production showed that to the full. Most of its performers were playing 2, 3 or more characters and backstage must have been manic with costume and make up changes.

The dialogue was clear and each performance, no matter what part they were playing at the time, had its own character. You are clearly aware of the outcome for the majority of these poor souls, yet it doesn’t drag you down. There are some lovely light touches and brilliant class distinctions (still noticeable today!!) Once the Iceberg is struck you are into emotional territory. Again this is played with sensitivity and humanity. Seeing the list of over 1500 people who perished that day is a sobering moment amongst many, the waste of life along with hindsight is forever paramount.

As the realisation of their fate grows amongst the characters the passing of tissues and sniffing noticeably increases within the audience.

The cast, director and all involved with this production deserve high praise. The powerful silence that emanates from the stalls prior to resounding applause and an audience that stood as one in admiration speaks volumes.

In its last month I urge anyone that can to go and see this production.

Following a cup of tea to restore the emotions and settle our nerves the next production was Threepenny Opera.

This is a piece I knew nothing about when it comes to a story, with the exception of Mack the Knife I knew known of the music either. By then end of this production I am not sure I was any the wiser.

Rory Kinnear is certainly one of my favourite actors, having seen him opposite Adrian Lester in Othello, I was looking forward to what he would do with a dark musical show. On this occasion I’m not sure it worked for me. He wasn’t dark or menacing enough for a serial killer, how much that was the production though I don’t know. A lot was played for laughs, no matter how dark those laughs are!!!

It was certainly a surreal night at the theatre, whilst the first half bobbed along quite well and held my attention enough the second half seemed to disappear into an even stranger world. The end pay off never really came, the blackmail seemed to get lost and I was not remotely upset when the house lights came up and I could go.

Certainly a mixed day of theatre, I’m still glad I went to The Threepenny Opera as the only way you can make an opinion on something is to see it.  The amount of times you hear people state they don’t like a particular show or play but have in fact never seen it always amazes me. Challenge yourself, experience different things and sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised. Just not on this occasion for me!!!

Next up was a bit of Noel Coward, I confess to loving a number of Mr Coward’s plays. Having produced Private Lives myself and marvelled at the energy of Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit, I find it a great world to enter.

Present Laughter was no exception, Samuel West (clearly his father’s son) commanded the stage with great charm and charisma. Delivering a performance that was lively and forever moving. Changing between cad, to lover, to confidante and of course some appropriate “over acting”. Whilst hearing a number of critics disliked the play because of its chauvinistic story, I found myself not entirely getting their meaning.

Nearly all the woman in the piece are written as clever, confident characters. Mocking the men and manipulating them more often than the men could manage to reciprocate. Clearly painting the men as children who are seeking their mothers approval and trying to lie themselves out of trouble by well observed tantrums. Certainly not weak or insignificant woman in this production!

The set was beautiful and made full use of Bath Theatre Royal's stage. This was a production you left the theatre smiling and feeling uplifted. A few hours of light relief is very welcome, not only after a couple of deeper & darker pieces of theatre but also in the current climate of uncertainty and worry. 

Not everyone's choice!

Shakespeare really doesn't do it for a lot of people. Why is that? Is it just the language? Is it the investment you have to make in it? Is it the thought of a long night in the theatre? I don't have any answers, just my own feelings. 

I've loved Shakespeare's work since I was 13. Some of it is very hard to get to terms with in a modern world. However it still resonates and has meaning to this very day, I'm also sure it will be well into the future. But why??

My love affair with the Bard began when studying Macbeth for GCSE English. I was blessed to have a teacher that brought it to life. Mrs Williams drew us into the power crazed machinations of the Macbeths in a way we could understand. Her enthusiasm of that piece and down to earth explanations gave it all meaning. Add to that allowing us to watch the positively debauched (at least at 13 it was) Polanski film built on her excitement. 

Shakespeare's writing (be it his own or others, depending on your viewpoint) is something special. It touches themes and feelings that to lesser or greater extents we can all relate to.

His impact on the English language is so far reaching that terms and words we use today can be traced back to invention in his work.

So why do people get totally turned off by it, in my view it is more the thought of watching/reading Shakespeare. 

People have bad memories and experiences from their youth and it becomes ingrained. It's easier to say "I don't like Shakespeare" than giving it another chance. 

Like all theatre there can be some really bad productions, I have certainly seen some. A number of years ago I saw a truly dreadful production of King Lear, the stage split to signify the breaking kingdoms but so did my will to sit through it.  

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Then there is the retelling and "modernising" of the bards work. Again this can work brilliantly, I've seen productions at Bristol's Tobacco factory, The Globe and the RSC in Stratford all of which changed the way people think of his work. Seeing The Merchant of Venice in Stratford with Patrick Stewart, where one seen turns into a reality show with votes being cast was a revolation. Yet it worked, again showing the power of the work aligned with an inventive and clever director. More recently the RTD version of Midsummer Nights Dream on BBC1 left me totally cold, and shows modernising or reinventing it doesn't always work.

What all this demonstrates though is how effective the work is. 

Relevant, at times, full of action, at times full of comedy and of course, at times full of tragedy! 

Returning to the subject of King Lear, the other day I went to see Michael Pennington as Lear in Bath. This production was great. It was understandable (the actors got the text and knew how to deliver it). The production was well paced and drew you in. Yes Lear is a long piece but with a good, strong production the time flies by.

Going back to the original question of why people don't like Shakespeare is not one I'm qualified to answer. Why don't people like marmite? Why should we stay in Europe? Everyone is different but with Shakespeare I do believe it comes down to your first experience of it. I was lucky and am totally in awe and wonder of his work.  

The only thing I can ask is that if you don't like it, give it a second chance. Some are more accessible than others. Just don't give up on it! 

Before and after the West End

Recently I've been fortunate to see two productions at Bath Theatre Royal, one was The Truth which I saw the Monday after it had finished its run at the Menier Chocolate Factory and the other, Breakfast at Tiffany's that is heading it's way to The Theatre Royal Haymarket. 

Both productions very different, The Truth was an enjoyable look at the implication and fall out of lies. A strong cast made good use of a well designed set. Whilst the play was certainly funny I did find the script was signposting the comedy moments and even with the twists and turns these were predictable and the end was certainly not a surprise. This does not detract from the play though, the cast made the most of the lines and Alexander Hanson must have been exhausted as his stage time was almost continuous.

I move now to Breakfast at Tiffany's, a play that I was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying as I knew it was based more on the book than the film. I hadn't seen the previous version of this play so certainly had no comparisons to make. This production managed to do something that I can't remember experiencing for quite sometime. I sat there at the end feeling absolutely nothing, nothing for the cast, nothing for the set, nothing for the play and certainly nothing for the acting!

I didn't even feel enough emotion to rant about it, it just left me cold and wondering how on earth that would survive in London. Maybe I just missed the point and didn't understand what the director was trying to do, but certainly in my opinion it was a good couple of hours I had entirely written off.

Yet this is why I love theatre, it's impossible to like everything. Yet if you don't go and see different things then you'll never expand your horizons. Bath Theatre Royal is a shining example of a thriving regional theatre. The productions are varied, from crowd pleasers to unknown works, add to that their own in house production company and you have a huge eclectic mix of theatre on the doorstep.

I do get to London a lot and see numerous productions, and I appreciate I am lucky, but the standard of tours and productions we do get in the south west is equally exciting.

Tonight I shall be back in Bath to watch King Lear featuring Michael Pennington and at the weekend will be in London to see Funny Girl. Probably hard to get two quite so different pieces of Theatre in a week. Yet it's what excites me about the theatre world, having your emotions and mind pulled into a different world. Taken away from normality and (hopefully) entertained for a few hours. So whether I enjoy all the productions I see or not, I will continue to go and experience as much as the theatre can throw my way. 

A producers mid life crisis!!

The inevitable arrived, that day I had been fighting and denying for the past 10 years!! Yes I turned 40, a fact until a few days ago I would have totally been unable to put in words. However I find myself sat in the bay window of my room in a beautiful B&B in Devon, sun pouring in and I am relaxed and at one with the world.

This turn of events is certainly something that surprises me, as of 5 days ago I was still denying and dreading the day itself. 

I arrived in London on the eve of my birthday having had a total wobbly and pretty much cancelling all events planned for the weekend. That night was due to be a quiet night in with the fab friends I was staying with, cooking me a meal and we would consume maybe the odd glass of wine!!

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As one of my hosts had forgotten to get milk he nips out and here everything takes a turn! Forgetting his keys there is a knock on the door, up I get to let him back in. However upon opening the door I discover 2 of my closest friends (who live in Devon and were not going to be able to get to London) standing there. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I won't quite say I was speechless as my host was now filming my reaction and it's possible a few choice, Anglo Saxon, words may have escaped my lips.

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Needless to say the night progressed well and with great jollity. Resulting in me waking up on the big day with an ever so slightly fuzzy head. 

Following a relaxing mooch around Little Venice and a lovely river trip to Camden we move on to the theatrical element of the celebrations. Starting the celebrations in my favourite restaurant we then go to see Amanda McBroom in cabaret at the Crazy Coqs. 

Amanda McBroom

Amanda McBroom

Ms McBroom who wrote The Rose, made famous by Bette Midler, is an extraordinary songwriter and performer. She performed a set that included her own work as well as others. What is so great about her performance is her ability to tell a story through music. Explaining to us why a song was there or the reason for it being written, she would then perform it and even with such a personal story her work has universal meaning.  You can apply it to you own experiences and tap into the soul of her music. Very powerful a performer and one that really should be more well known than she is.

Meeting the lady herself afterwards was also a pleasure and the real beginning of a theatrical night that took a surreal turn. 

One of Amanda's friends is Liz Robertson (another performer, famous for many production particularly My Fair Lady, she was also married to it's writer & lyricist Alan Jay Lerner), whilst we were talking my friend mentioned it was my birthday, at which instead of a passing "Happy Birthday" she decided to perform a rendition for me. Another great moment, from yet another lovely person. It is easy to see why theatre performers get a reputation for "luvvieness" but when people are so kind and thoughtful it's hard not to over enthuse about some of these experiences. 

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Returning to my favourite restaurant for post cabaret drinks and dessert, the staff (who are always so friendly) delivered my dessert. Yes it was lit with a candle and piped with a birthday message. At this point the whole restaurant sang...... This is certainly nothing new, as most of us have witnessed it in restaurants up and down the country. The difference this time is when the restaurant is filled with various actors and performers. Being sung to by Samuel Holmes, Tracie Bennet and one of my all time favourites Julie Atherton takes the experience to another level. Topped off with birthday hugs and chat with Michael Xavier again and my evening had literally reached heights of theatrical surrealism the like of which is only nearly matched by the time I spent drinking wine with The Krankies (but that's another story!!)

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Having been totally against and trying to fight the inevitable onslaught of age I find myself at the point of having such an amazing time I couldn't possibly be grumpy. Whilst I was considering pulling back on my ProAct work, I now find myself thinking of producing more productions, different sizes and different locations. I have also signed up for a 10k mud and obstacle run for Macmillan Cancer (training begins after the birthday celebrations). 

Instead of being gloomy and depressed it's time to continue with my very lucky life and keep up the challenges I do now and grab some new ones. Some things will work others will fail, but with my amazing friends and family around me it's all about living life not observing. So here's to the future, long or short I'm going to continue to enjoy making experiences and having a life to be proud of.

Thank you, you mad bunch of people xx

 

It's the pictures that got small.....

As a fan of the theatre, like many of us, I get asked the age old question.

What is your favourite show?

The answer can regularly change, like all things it can depend on the mood I'm in, what sort of entertainment I'm after etc etc. However one show that has always been in my list and always floating around the top and often at the number 1 spot is Sunset Boulevard. 

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I saw the original production at the Aldephi Theatre, I was still fairly young then and not had the chance to see many west end production (a state I have rectified quite considerably over time!!) The scale of this production alone blew me away. The set was a work of art, the fact the whole lot then lifted for the contrasting New Year Eve locations left me speechless. The scale of the score, giving it the required filmic feel, made it, in my opinion, one of ALW's best musicals. Casting Glenn Close in the original LA production was just brilliant casting. An actress who can sing, not a singer who acts. I had to get the recording of this production. I bought this on my first trip to New York and have treasured the CD ever since. In those days we couldn't just download it!!!

I knew I would never see Glenn Close in the role but at least I had the recording. From this point on my love affair with Sunset began.

I booked to see the first tour when it arrived in Bristol, but the least said about that the better. Put it this way, it was enough to nearly make me fall out of love with the show. Thankfully my memories of London were strong enough to put this production to the furthest reaches of my brain! 

2008 saw the Watermill production, directed by Craig Revel Horwood. I saw it once it had transferred into town and it became a revelation once again. This epic show and grand score could be scaled back and work in an intimate setting with the actors also playing the instruments. It wasn't the huge lavish production of the original, but it was something new and by casting away the grandeur it really brought focus to the story and the characters.

Fast forward to 2015 and the announcement that Glenn Close was coming to the ENO for a limited run of Sunset Blvd in 2016 and I was not going to miss that.

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The production is semi-staged, so the cast are in costume, the numbers are fully choreographed and the acting is spot on. The only thing that makes this production "semi-staged" is the fact there is no real set and the full orchestra are on stage. None of this in anyway detracts from the production. It is in fact that enhancement that focuses the brain and you watch the talent in front of you without any distractions.

Glenn Close is everything you want her to be, she acts the role of Norma with reality. It was not a caricature performance, it was nuanced and believable. I feared the audience would adopt this penchant for applauding as soon as a famous face walks on the stage, thankfully they didn't. Speaking the famous line about "pictures that got small" did invoke a large proportion of cheers and claps from the auditorium, this did not stop Ms Close or even make her pause. She continued her performance of Norma as if no one else was watching.

In all the excitement of seeing Glenn Close made me forget the pivotal role of Joe Gillis, this whole show is his story. Michael Xavier gave a performance that oozed confidence. His strong vocals where a joy to hear and his performance was more than a match for Glenn Close's Norma. 

Having the full orchestra performing this sumptuous score is something you can never tire of. Live musicians make a musical and an orchestra of that scale filling the London Coliseum was quite literally music to the ears.

This was a polished and creative production that returned Sunset to the top of my favourite musicals list. To wait 20 years and finally get the chance to watch Glenn Close as Norma Desmond did not disappoint.

If you can get to see it do. 

Book Of Mormon

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This was a show I'd heard bits of the soundtrack, not all the way through and heard that it took a swipe at everyone. Religion, sex, race, nothing got away unscathed. 

Apart from the fact that those who had seen it loved it, that was all I knew of this show. So off I went to see it expecting a show that would be crass and bawdy. Instead I watched a show that was warm, compassionate, incredibly funny and with more depth than I expected.

Yes the language for some may be a bit to strong and the content does attack pretty much everyone. Yet it's all done with immense skill and holds a mirror up to humanity and makes us laugh (and sometimes worry) at the ridiculousness of the world we live in. 

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The main reason for not seeing the show before is the cost of the tickets. They are ridiculously high in my opinion and that is regardless of the quality. We know theatre productions cost to produce, yet I fear the theatre world will turn elitist as those who can't afford some of these ridiculous prices will lose out.  

They do run a ticket lottery and that is great, I was fortunate to get this and be able to pay £20 to sit in the stalls 3 rows from the front. A ticket that at full price is upwards of £150.

The problem with the lottery is those who need to book and plan in advance have to pay full price, I'm fortunate in being able to be flexible others don't get that luxury. 

However, if you can be lucky enough to get a BOM lottery ticket or you can afford to pay full price, this is a genuinely must see show. 

You will leave the theatre laughing and also ever so slightly reflective. Who knows even maybe a little more tolerant of each other!!! Heaven forbid we could live in an understanding and tolerant society!!! 

And the Olivier goes to.......

In a matter of weeks I shall be "celebrating" reaching a certain age. To start the celebrations off I was given the chance to attend the Olivier Awards yesterday, they also are celebrating the same anniversary as I shall be!  

As a lifelong fan and theatre enthusiast this was an opportunity I have been looking forward to for a very long time. 

Would all my expectations be realised and the event live up to my dreams?  

I can give a qualified yes, the whole experience was something I will never forget. 

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Walking the red carpet was one of those theatrical experiences you see on TV yet never imagine doing. Press, fans, shouts for pictures (not for my picture I hasten to add), I was the only person I hadn't heard of, and banks of photographers is quite surreal. 

After posing for a number of pictures to record this memory I was into the Royal Opera House and a pre show champagne reception.  

One of the main hazards I faced was not standing on the trains of several actresses who were wearing creation the likes of which you do not see in M&S.

Taking my seat among the great and good of the theatre world I sat back to experience what an award show would be like in person as opposed to on the television.

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You hear the jokes about the length of an award show and I can't deny it, it is long. There is a brief interval to stretch the legs and off we go again. Although we were there for a few hours the show never felt long. The time whizzed by and that was down to the staging, the big production numbers, some great retrospectives and the humour and skill of host Michael Ball (even including some jokes that didn't always hit the mark).

A parade of well known faces presented awards, a couple who seemed to fail to grasp how the process worked but even this gave the room some amusement. Those cringe moments can be quite fun!!!!!  

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Those winning awards kept the speeches, on the whole, within the 40 seconds allocation and the part that surprised me the most was how some of them certainly brought a tear to the eye. The arts get the reputation for being gushy (rightly so at times) but the heartfelt and modesty behind a lot of the speeches was genuinely touching.

The finale of past winners singing What I Did For Love in a beautiful and inspired arrangement was the perfect ending to a great show.

The after parties (yes I use the plural) I attended were great fun and being served my favourite Fortnum & Masons chocolate was another bonus. Meeting an array of people I've admired and watched for years swept me along, helped with a few glasses of wine. Also being at an event and sharing it with friends really made it special.  

The 5am finish is not something I'm used to these days, although some may not believe it, but an event like this you don't really want to end. 

Taking the big names away, I met a lot of dedicated, theatre professionals who work tirelessly in an amazing industry to provide entertainment to others. This was the night they could relax and have a party........ That we all certainly did!!! 

Expectations were certainly well and truly exceeded and the opportunity to attend a theatrical event of this pedigree was a true honour.

I won't forget it and for someone not wanting to celebrate their birthday month this was an amazing start to not celebrating!!!! 

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Our Gracie

26th March I arrived in a Oldham amid what could best be described as apocalyptic weather. Driving into a place you don't know is never easy, add in rain the likes of which Noah would have loved, and my first impressions weren't great. A whistle stop drop off at the Coliseum and then on to my hotel.  

The reason for a little padding is to give you the idea of what mind set I was going to the theatre in. On  first impressions this place seemed bleak, and my mood was setting that way. Arriving at the theatre it was a warm welcome and a glass of Pinot was certainly a lot cheaper than the prices I'm used to (it was a good wine at that). 

Slightly thawing I took my seat for the show, to see a new piece that was premiering at the Oldham Coliseum about Gracie Fields. I will be honest and the reason I was there was to see and support my good friend Ben Stock. I don't know a huge amount about Gracie Fields but was ready to be entertained.  

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"Our Gracie" was played by the ever talented Sue Devaney (who I grow up watching in Johnny Briggs). Her enthusiasm, charisma and joy bounded across the stage and into the audience. The piece itself I felt flawed at times as it shot through Gracie's life almost to fast. It certainly sparked my interest and the actors/musicians did a fantastic job. I wish there was perhaps a focus on a shorter timespan of her life, as opposed to trying to cover everything in 2 hours. 

That being said, it was certainly an enjoyable evening in the theatre and the fact that Sue & Ben's comedy duet got the biggest applause and cheer did make me very happy. 

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The one thing I don't get is how Oldham and other theatres can produce their own in house productions. Run the theatre as a successful rep system and yet in Bristol we just can't seem to pull it off financially and artistically. I think there is much to be learnt from understanding your audience and giving them what they want. Mix in new and challenging pieces but not every time. Oldham managed it and very successfully as their track record shows.

Driving up there is something I am unlikely to do on a regular basis, but if there is something of interest I would be keen to see what else they do. 

Another fun night at the theatre had! 

 

Branagh

A week ago my latest production was coming to an end. A play that tested the actors, tested the audience and delved into the world of violence and rape.

Fast forward 7 days, I am sat in the stalls at the Garrick theatre in absolute hysterics watching Kenneth Branagh trying to kill a man on stage!!!

This is the whole reason I adore the theatre. No production is the same and each one delivers a totally different range of emotions from the previous one.

I have always admired Branagh as an actor and director. To see him live was not an opportunity I wanted to miss. Unfortunately up until now I was unable to get tickets for his current residency. As luck would have it a couple of tickets came my way and off to London I went. I've always thought him a strong classical actor but was not sure what he would be like in a comedy.  

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The play is a full on farce, sitting 3 rows back in the stalls you certainly get to be close to the action, I certainly saw more of Rob Brydon than I expected! The piece begins at full speed and like all farce it's about timing. Every actor on that stage nailed the timing to within an inch of their lives........ Quite literally on occasions. The pace never let up and for 90 minutes there was a theatre full of joy and laughter. 

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It really couldn't have been further from my previous week, yet both delivered such varied emotions at a high standard. This is what good theatre can do, laughing uncontrollably at Kenneth Branagh collapsing in a catatonic state on a bean bag or wanting your lead actress to slice the throat of an attempted rapist, theatre pulls you in. It gets you, holds you, shakes you, won't let go of you and (in my opinion) spits you out a better person.

So thank you to Messrs Branagh, Lloyd and Grandage for the seasons of art you have, are and will put on. One day I may well manage to run a season of productions in Bristol, it's certainly a dream I have. In the meantime, however, I shall take my enjoyment from the professionals delivering fantastic productions and great diversity. 

The one remaining question....... Was Branagh able to deliver comedy as well as the straight pieces????? Hell yes. 

Risk taking

We have arrived at Friday night of a play that has been on ProActs list since we began. Circa 15 years we've been talking about putting on this play. As I type, the screams of a woman who's attempted rape is happening a floor above (acted out, not for real) fill the pub.

During the past couple of months we have been rehearsing, I've had the joy of working with such brilliantly talented actors. I also have an amazing team that bring all my productions to the stage...... So as I sit here I still can't get over how well this production has gone!!!

Now as previously explained it is not a slight on the whole production team but more the audience. I knew selling a play that tackled the subject of rape was going to be unbelievably hard, yet I also knew we needed to do it. I had a gut feeling the audience wouldn't come and see it, as they would want a night of light relief in these troubled times we live, as opposed to a deep angst ridden production.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Whilst the audience may not have WANTED to watch a play centred around rape, yet they came. They turned up and until tonight we have sold out. People have gone away upset, divided on what happened and also, dare I say, slightly elated from the pure adrenaline witnessed. 

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The reaction and feedback has been like none other I've received.  

I am so glad I chose to finally put this play on, I'm also thrilled to have worked with such amazing actors. Ruth Harries & Simon Vardakis have plunged headlong into a very dark world and produced stunning performances. They have been strongly supported by Emma Smart and Nicola Williams in two vital roles to the story. To have the audience reactions and attendance we've had is just brilliant. So it really proves taking a risk in the arts and theatre is absolutely worth it and the payback is just unquantifiable. 

Thank you for restoring my faith in risk taking! Here's to many more risks!!!

New Website

Welcome to our new website and to the first blog post. This blog section will be an area that will contain info, thoughts, discussion points, reviews and general ramblings around the world of professional and non-professional theatre.

Hopefully you will enjoy some of these musings and maybe even interact.

For the next few days ProAct will be finishing set and doing the get in for Extremities, so who knows what thoughts and ramblings may come out of the next 10 days!!!!