Saturday, 27 February 2010

Baited Hooks

I'm currently in rehearsal for a schools theatre project in London called Baited Hooks. I'm too busy to write about it in any real depth now. Normally I'd post details and links and the like, but the show has already sold out and you are probably not a school.

We open on Monday and the show runs for three weeks. I'll post something about it later.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Other Davids Black

As we've established my name isn't really David Black. With there already being a David Williams in Equity I was required to come up with an alternative. It's a very strange thing to be asked to do. I decided I would keep my first name, since I didn't trust myself not to forget what I'd replaced it with at a crucial moment. Theatres and film sets are potentially dangerous places and you don't want any confusion that when they mean you, you know what they'll shout.

The problem with David is that when you pair it with a recognisable surname you can think of a corresponding actor. Equity ask for three choices and I cannot remember what my other two choices were, but when I discovered that David Black was unclaimed. David Black it was.

It varies from country to country, but David Black is the name of the victim in certain editions of Cluedo. See that X in the middle of the board?

That's him.

Apparently there are 2035 David Blacks in the USA.

Four Davids Black are sportsman: a Canadian American footballer, a Port Vale centre forward, a Scottish international football player and a baseball player. Others include an Australian historian, a Canadian newspaper publisher, a South African-born Scottish poet, the producer of Law & Order, a cinematographer, a special effects technician, an actor who played the US President in X-Men and someone who is thanked in the credits of Full Frontal.

It was also chosen by the American singer David Blatt as a stage name for a time. He is better known as Jay Black but oddly he adopted the name David Black when he replaced Jay Traynor in Jay And The Americans. Departing singer Jay Traynor went on to tour with Jay Siegel And The Tokens.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A Doll's House

The third and final show that year was also one of the set texts for those of us taking A-Level Theatre Studies. What better way to study a play than to stage it?

That was rhetorical.

A Doll's House is most famous for giving theatre the seminal character of Nora. The part was split into two and shared by Clare O'Donnell and Melody Strange. Despite a similar workload Nick Brewer played Torvald Helmer solo. I played Nils Krogstad, once again opposite Cat Millard, as Christine Linde.

Romy Thomas the director wanted to insert a kiss between Nils and Christine into a scene. A teacher getting two teenage pupils to kiss is awkward enough, but describing the quality of a kiss in detail and at great length as if to two people who had never even heard of the practice was excruciating. To be more thorough would have required diagrams. After a while Clare broke the tension and said "They have done this before". I suggested we just get on with it in as non-chalant a voice as I could muster. We did the scene, we did the kiss and then there was a lengthy silence. Ending it, Mrs Thomas just said "That. Do that". So we did.

With some excellent forward planning Mrs Thomas also bore us two children to play the Helmers young infants. As you can see we also got them to draw the posters and programmes. At least if we were breaking child labour rules, we were breaking them in the name of theatre.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A Runner's Code Of Conduct

OK, first up I'll admit that I'm new at this running lark and maybe it's just that the novelty has yet to wear off, but so far in my experience runners are rude.

I imagined that when people out for a run passed one another in the street that they would acknowledge each other in a similiar fashion to those aboard passing narrowboats on a canal might. I was more than a little disappointed to discover that they don't.

I don't really understand why that is. It doesn't matter who you are, from the haughtiest of ultrafit superhumans to the sweatiest most out of breath of the New Year's resolute. We all have the same things to contend with: pedestrians that don't look where they're going, motorists that don't look where we're going, unfortunate lungfuls of car exhaust or secondhand smoke. I assumed that we would rise above it all, together.

So I'm proposing a sort of a code of conduct for runners.

1) Acknowledge each other. It doesn't have to be much, a simple nod or a smile will suffice.

2) Make way for pedestrians. I don't care if it puts you off your stride, let them through.

3) Stick to the pavements wherever you can.

4) Wear bright clothing in case you can't.

5) Eat. Not during admittedly, but an empty stomach won't get you very far.

6) Travel light.

7) Run around large groups of people, not through them.

8) Encourage those less fit than you. As a wise man once said: "It's much easier to be fit than get fit". If a sweating struggling slick of someone passes you then they are working harder than you and deserve your respect for making the effort.

Total mileage to date = 41 miles
Total sponsorship to date = £292

Monday, 15 February 2010

Habeas Corpus

In the wake of Oklahoma! Richard Hypher, one of the school's teachers invited a group of us to a clandestine meeting, where he revealed he wanted to stage Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus and hot on the heels of the last show we all agreed.

I was really looking forward to this show partly because I was still on a bit of a high from the last one, but mostly beause it wasn't a musical and a not-musical comedy at that.

There were no auditions, we were simply cast from Mr Hypher's observations of us during Oklahoman rehearsals. I played Dennis, Dr. Arthur Wicksteed's hypochondriac son.

I seem to remember rehearsals were a lot of fun and all started with The Kinks 'Sunny Afternoon'. When we opened everybody knew their lines but nobody knew that they knew their lines. As a result every performance featured a huddle around the props table as everybody read up on the beginning of the next scene.

Dennis was a great part but I probably went overboard with his feebleness and I can't remember a single line of his. Wicksteed's final monologue on the other hand has stayed with me for years and is still some of my favourite theatre dialogue:

"Dying you'll grieve for what you didn't do. The young are not the innocent, the old are not the wise;
unless you've proved it for yourselves, morality is lies.
So this is my prescription: grab any chance you get
Because if you take it or you leave it, you end up with regret."

Habeas Corpus led me to read my way through Bennett's other plays and my finding the part of the aged Headmaster in Forty Years On irresistable as my exam piece. We performed our various monologues and group pieces for an audience ahead of the exam. The headmaster's speech was a big hit and got some impressive laughs. Then when the exam arrived we performed our various pieces again for the same audience plus one examiner and there were no laughs. Not a one. Undeterred I decided to use the speech for drama school auditions thinking it showed my range or some such pretentiousness. To my surprise at auditions for drama school it as expected that you perform a piece which fits your casting. Needless to say I did not get in.

We had a lot of fun working on this show. I don't know if Mr Hypher directed any other plays after we left, but I hope he did.

The cast (below, from left to right): Venura Pereira, Nick Brewer (kneeling), Me, Clare O’Donnell, David Croft, Ellie Mills, Charlie Brockliss, Alex Lewcock, Mel Strange & Lizzy Suffling.

King Alfred’s Sixth Form Chronicle
Reviewer: Bricky Newer*
Easter 2000

Love, Lust And A Lovely Bust
Last term was the Sixth Form production of Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett. The play was under the direction of Richard Hypher and featured a cast of excellent actors from the upper and lower sixth - Nick Brewer, Charlie Brockliss, Clare O’Donnell, David Williams, Alex Lewcock, Lizzy Suffling, Mel Strange, David Croft, Ellie Mills, Venura Perera, and Daniel Jezzard. The rehearsals were challenging but also hilarious as the actors attempted to shorten the hesitation when it comes to the passionate kissing, as well as their unsuccessful attempts to seduce each other (especially that of Nick and Clare).
Habeas Corpus is the tale of mistaken identities and sexual encounters in Brighton’s Hove, and contains more sexual innuendo than one can handle. The production was a ‘must see’ and will hopefully be worthy parallel of the recent production to the Oklahoma. Congratulations to all those involved. It will surely encourage a greater number of people to be involved in next year's production.

* The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed the similarity of the name of the reviewer and that of the star of the show, Mr Nick Brewer.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Other Davids Williams

Despite information to the contrary all over this blog, my name is David Williams. I was forced to change it because there was already a David Williams in Equity. That is a story for another day.

As you might imagine it is a very common name in Wales, but they also come from parts of the world as far flung as Trinidad, Australia, Canada, the West Indies, New Zealand and there are 20,789 in the USA alone. The minimal research I have done reveals that David Williamses come from all walks of life: musicians, politicians, sportsmen, photographers, academics, journalists, etc.

The musicians are as varied as an Aboriginal musician and artist, the late lead singer of rock band Drowning Pool, an incredibly prolific session guitarist and bassists for bands as different as The Dear & Departed, Son of Dork and various Jazz musicians.

Among the politicians is a 3rd Baronet MP for Breconshire from 1697 to 1698 and 1705 to 1721, the founder of the Royal Literary Fund in 1788, the Governor of South Carolina from 1814 to 1816, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Merioneth from 1868 to 1870, the Labour Member of Parliament for Swansea East 1922 to 1940 and the President of the Kentucky Senate, USA.

The sportsmen who bear the name play ice hockey, football, American football, cricket & rugby league.

Other David Williams include an astronaut, a geologist, a historian, a industrialist, a judge, a Methodist minister, a philosopher, a professor of law, a director, a producer, an Ojibway aboriginal painter, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University from 1856 to 1858, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 1989 to 1996, one of the soldiers who captured British spy John Andre in the American Revolutionary War, the Director General of the British National Space Centre, the President of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Second Sea Lord from 1974 to 1977, the inventor of the floating chamber used on firearms and the screenwriter of four episodes of Captain Scarlet.

A special mention for the Little Britain star David Walliams who was also born David Williams, but encountered the same problem with names in Equity that I did.

(below clockwise from top left: Dafydd Williams, astronaut; David Williams, firearms inventor; David Williams, professional poker player; David Williams, footballer; David Williams, rugby league player known as 'Beardo'; Neal McDonough as David Williams in Desperate Housewives; David Williams, known professionally as David Walliams; Dave Williams, lead singer of Drowning Pool; David Williams, Indigenous Australian musician & David Williams, mathematician)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


And here I am looking like a puppet of Woody from Toy Story.

The year after Kiss Me Kate we went from staging one play a year to three. The first was Oklahoma! and it is, to date, the last musical I've been involved with.

I played Will Parker opposite two different Ado Annies, Ros and Cat, which was great for me because I got twice the rehearsal.

During one show my mind went completely blank during one scene, and to the horror of Ros, instead of saying my line I launched into the first line of 'All 'Er Nuthin' long before the orchestra were expecting it. The musical director was not pleased.

Will Parker's solo effort is 'Kansas City'. The choreographer, Ann, came up with a tap dance routine for it. I had never tap danced before and I have never tap danced since, but I think I got away with it. I'm reliably informed that it ended with my asking Aunt Eller, played by Eleonore Mills to dance. It's not surprising that I needed to be reminded since apparently I regularly forgot to instigate it. Quite what filled the void I was leaving, I've no idea. Ann's notes for the dance routine are below. Looking at it now I can't quite believe I ever did it.

For some reason I'm both hatless and wearing very conspicuous and incongruous trainers in the photo below.

And here are a couple of reviews:

Reviewer: Harold Brew
May 2000

Oklahoma was the first of the new American musicals to come to London after the end of the last War. War weary audiences at Drury Lane theatre were stunned by the show's youthful vigour and tunefulness. Rodgers and Hammerstein at their very best. Britain's situation has changed but King Alfred's School continues the tradition of a first class entertainment for the Town with this production.

The play captivates the audience from the first note. The male lead, Curly, has a peach of a part with his first song starting off-stage. Alec Richardson brought an intriguing, impish interpretation with his fine singing and stage presence.
Sub-leads were cast cleverly, Ros Harries and Catherine Millard sharing the comedienne Ado Annie with not a ringlet between them. Her partner Will Parker (David Williams) underplayed well opposite this female handful. Aunt Eller (Eleonore Mills) was perfectly made up as an old woman. (Is she really a student?). Here we saw mature acting and ability to hold the show together. The words can suffer when achieving an American accent. Juds (sic) Fry (Stuart May) was not helped by nervousness but has a singing voice worth attention. Smaller parts Ali Haki (sic)(Robert Tidbury) and Carnes (Venura Perera) were filled with humour. As for Laurey (Clare O'Donnell) - season King Alfred watchers have been awaiting Miss O'Donnell for some years and were not disappointed. She was splendid in every way, singing, acting, stage craft, looks and must be welcomed at any professional audition if that is what she wants to do. But no voice should be pushed beyond its natural limit. Ann Robson devised choreography to suit actors with little dance experience. David Williams' Kansas City and a stage full of pretty dresses in Many a New Day will long be remembered.

A mature orchestra under Jane Cockerill enriched the show.

The Modern, comprehensive, co-educational King Alfred's inspires loyalty in it's teachers even more than the old grammar school. It is to a group of assistant staff, who in many cases have given much of their professional lives to the school that we must pay tribute for producing, out of normal hours, a bench mark in extra curricular activities - the annual musical at KAs.

King Alfred's Sixth Form Chronicle
Reviewer: Lucy Scholes
Easter 2000

We Bid A Persian Goodbye To Oklahoma!
Last month saw the performance of the latest school performance of 'Oklahoma!' For those of you who are fortunate enough to not know the play, it is set in the deep south of America at the beginning of the century. A story of stubborn lovers, a jealous farmhand and which ends with the three-marriage scenario and the death of Jud Fry (the afore-mentioned farmhand). Against these odds the cast, headed by members of both the lower and upper sixth put on a performance well worth watching, if only to see David Williams as the spitting image of Woody from Toy Story. Clare O'Donnell and Alec Richardson as the lead roles did a fantastic job. These two were supported by Ros Harries (played by Catherine Millard during the matinee performance) and David Williams as the two comical lovers of the piece. The other leads were played by Claire Bateman (with her amazing laugh), Robert Tidbury (proving the true comedy value of stick-on facial hair) and Eleonore Mills exercising her authority as the formidable Aunt Eller. Robert, as the ill-fated in-love Ali Hackim (sic), stole the limelight in most of the scenes. The orchestra were as professional as ever, with the backstage crew working hard and succeeding to prevent any costume, set or technical crises! The entire production team produced another top-class event; the hard work certainly paid off.

It seemed a pity that with the talent the school possesses it chose to produce a play that needed a significant number of male characters. The supposed 'male' chorus behind David in his brilliant tap-dancing routine was nearly ninety-nine per cent female. Perhaps a serious rethink of the choice of the school production would see the boys flocking back to the stage, certainly something a little more modern would be welcomed. (Any suggestions of suitable modern productions of which the copyright is available to buy - ed). Despite these drawbacks, they played to full houses practically every night and everyone involved deserves to be congratulated for the amount of work they put in. Perhaps in some cases a little too much was put in as at the cast party, many proved that they really were girls "who can't say no"!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

I've Run 26 Miles

By the time you read this I will be out running and I will have run 26 miles. There I've done it. That's it, I've run a marathon.

It's OK that I've run it in instalments, right?

We are running the marathon in costume, but which particular costume is entirely up to you. A few suggestions have been made already but there is still no frontrunner for a costume, so there is still everything to play for. If you make a donation you can make a suggestion as to our attire on the day, so there is still everything to pay for. The bigger your donation, the more likely your idea will get worn.

We now have a Facebook group with a wall to debate clothing options on, but costume recommendations unaccompanied by donations will fall on deaf ears. Here's a link to our Justgiving page, all the better to hear you with.

Total mileage to date = 31 miles
Total sponsorship to date = £122

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Kiss Me Kate

The school musicals were usually an annual event, but the year after My Fair Lady there was no production. At the time I was disappointed but looking back this was a blessing in disguise because it meant I wasn't distracted when I took my GCSEs.

I was initially frustrated when I was cast as Second Gangster. It seemed like a step down from a part with a name, however small. A small part, not a small name. It took me a while to realise it, but the part of Second Gangster is the best part in the show.

Lots of comedy lurking, some good gags and then a duet of the best song in the history of musical theatre*. 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare' is an quite simply an exercise in upstaging. The show doesn't quite recover from it.

As you might imagine the Second Gangster is always accompanied by a First. One night, Daniel, who played the First Gangster, inexplicably said my line instead of his own. He looked at me wide-eyed in terror. I said his line and vice versa. We worked our way through the entire scene with our positions swapped.

* I don't know enough about the history of musical theatre to be certain of this.