Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Four Walls Today...Again

The second Four Walls show is today at the Etcetera Theatre.

The doors open at 6:30pm
The show starts at 7:30pm
The ticket price is £6 (or £4.50 if you are an Etcetera member)

None of which matters if you haven't already bought a ticket, because apparently tonight's show is sold out.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Four Walls Today

The first Four Walls show was today at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen (see left), but now it's not.

It's at the Electricity Showrooms at 39a Hoxton Square instead. It's not far away, it's only the other side of the same square.

The doors still open at 3pm
The show still starts at 4pm
The ticket price is still £4

Thursday, 25 March 2010

One Month To Go...

The big day and the big distance are only a month away...

Recently we were tweeted and re-tweeted and re-tweeted about.

We three ran the Reading Half Marathon last weekend. It was good to get an experience of what running with a few thousand other people is like. The Mayor of Reading chose to start us off with the phrase "Milk your glory". Yep.

It took a while for 18,000 people to cross the starting line and so by the time we had, the front runners were already at the three mile point. Here they are on the left at about half way. Probably mere seconds later.

Almost immediately after I started running my knee flared up again and although it was painful I was determined and I kept running. Slow and steady wins the race and all that. I was surprised by the number of people who started walking at the first opportunity. What's the point? Do a sponsored walk.

Another common sight was people who ran as fast as they could for as long as they could and then walked until they felt they could run again. Surely that sort of stop/start running puts more of a strain on you than just running slower? Very few of the stoppers took the time to look behind them before they stopped. I had quite a few near misses.

The first third of the route was the hardest for me. My knee was tight and it wasn't easy dodging around the other runners. As people sped off the pack thinned and it got a bit easier. We then saw many of the same people further along, often struggling as we passed them.

Being a cynic, I hadn't really believed that the crowd really helped, but the people of Reading proved me wrong. Just you try and quit when a complete stranger looks you right in the eye and says "well done". Brogan's family were at about the halfway point which was exactly when I needed a boost. Suddenly I was running faster and enjoying it. My knee was grumbling less and it was less effort to keep up with the other two.

The penultimate mile or so was a bit of a slog as you are sent off on a big loop and it feels as though you are getting no closer to the finish line. Sooner than I thought we were at thirteen miles and then the last 400 metres. We ran into Madejski Stadium and it was once round the outside of the football pitch to the finish line. I sped up, I ran as fast as I thought my knee could handle. I probably ran faster. We crossed the line together. My time was 2 hours 32 minutes and 48 seconds.

So now I am resting the knee.

Here we are looking like Jim Fixed It for us. You'd have to be cruel not to sponsor us.

Total mileage to date = 81 miles
Total sponsorship to date = £702

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Baited Hooks - Week Three

Scholer: I’m going to tell you two stories that accompany this next item and I want you to tell me which one you think is true.

This is Mermaid’s Hair.

This was lost to me by a pirate captain in a gambling den in Turin. He got it from a sailor who was lured onto some rocks while at sea by the most beautiful singing he had ever heard. As he got closer he saw the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen stood right on the edge of the rocks. The waves were crashing all around her and the sailor decided that she needed rescuing. As he got close enough to pull her aboard the singing turned to screeching in his ears and the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen was gone, replaced by a bitter and twisted hag with pieces of her face falling away. She scratched at him with her claws, but he was quicker and he swiped at her with his cutlass. He meant to do her a serious injury but all he got was a lock of her hair.

Being a strange sort of a fellow he kept her hair as a memento and although he didn’t know it, it was a good luck charm. It made his life easier in ways he didn’t even realise, doors that would have been closed to him opened because of it. He took it to a wise old woman who clocked it straight away. “That’s Mermaid‘s hair” she said “a single strand of mermaid’s hair is an ingredient in the most potent of love potions”. Which is when he got greedy trying to make people fall in love with him. And that’s how he lost it to the pirate and how the pirate lost it to me.

The other story is that this is just a lock of hair I fought in a barbers in Paris, tied a ribbon round it and kept it in a bottle.

Which story do you think is more likely to be true? I’m not going to tell you. More importantly, which story do you think people will pay a higher price for?

So goes my tale of the mermaid's hair. It was slightly different everyday depending on the reactions of the children, but what do children learn from this little story about Henry VIII? Absolutely nothing, but it is sandwiched between me asking questions to try and discover what they already know (and if they reveal that it's not very much, supplying the answers myself) and inviting them to come up with stories themselves in order to help me sell the silks. It's an opportunity for them to relax and it gets them in the right frame of mind to contribute to the coming scenes.

After seeing the play, the children are treated to a workshop in which they write letters with quills to Henry VIII or Lady Knyvett, and then they sing a sixteenth century song, dance a couple of sixteenth century dances and play some sixteenth century musical instruments. Having seen the universal effect it has on children, I truly believe the harp is a magical instrument. I recommend that every school invest in one for the mollification of children.

If you were going to categorise a show like this you would probably call it Theatre In Education, but that conjures up a image that sells it short. What Clio's Company have achieved with this show is far better than a TIE show has any right to be. either we need to stop categorising theatre or we need a new category.

Hardest question to answer this week:
"If your silks are that good, why don't you wear them?"

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Four Walls

The latest Behind The Bike Shed show is almost upon us and this time things are a little different.


As with In The Frame, there is an exhibition before the show starts, but this time it's of other forms of artwork as well as photography.

As usual the first show is at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, this time on Sunday 28th March. The doors open at 3pm, the show starts at 4pm, the ticket price is £4.

As unusual the second show is at the Etcetera Theatre on Wednesday 31st March. The doors open at 6:30pm, the show starts at 7:30pm, the ticket price is £6 (or £4.50 if you are an Etcetera member).

It may seem strange that exactly the same show could have two entirely different prices, but in our defence the seats at the Etcetera are probably £2 (or 50p if you are an Etcetera member) more comfortable than those at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Baited Hooks - Week Two

Last week we thought we'd seen it all. We had audiences of quiet children, we had audiences of noisy children and, thanks to a mix-up in school administration, we had an audience of absent children. This week we had a child obsessed with drunkeness, teachers talking throughout and another who was constantly on his mobile phone.

The audience is divided in half and both halves receive slightly different versions of the show. It's my job to take the children designated as 'Citizens', from the Dolphin pub and around the church in search of somewhere to set up a stall to sell my wares. Ensuring that the timing works out and that the two groups do not bump into each other is a bit of a juggling act.

We work our way down to an undergound chapel where I regale the children with tall tales of silks, spices and mermaid's hair until interrupted by Lady Helena Knyvett. The children and I attempt to sell her silks and she suggests we leave the chapel, thus leaving it vacant for the other group, the 'Apprentices'. They are still in the Dolphin and my group cannot visit there again until they leave. In one show this week I didn't notice that Will had taken the other group downstairs and waited and waited and waited for them to pass, stalling the 'Citizens' for as long as I could before admitting defeat and forging out for the Dolphin. By the time we reach the Dolphin we are into the final scene, the showdown between the various characters and their dilemmas, but not before I have eaten my all-important breakfast. It's my favourite practical prop.

The strangest discourse this week was a series of complete non sequiturs so here's the most insightful discourse instead:
Me: "Her ladyship wants to bring in foreign troops to control the king."
Child: "Like Iraq."

Thursday, 11 March 2010


As has become customary around these parts, if I get too busy to write a post, up goes a video from a gig I've been to.

This is Pulp performing Babies at Reading Festival in 2002.


Monday, 8 March 2010

Baited Hooks - Week One

The year is 1533. England is rife with rumours. Henry VIII has sent his first wife Catherine of Aragon away and may well have already married Anne Boleyn in secret. The break with Rome and the Church of England are in their infancy. Is the Lady Anne going to be Queen? How far will the King's thirst for power go? Will his nephew Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor send in the troops to stop him? Is there a civil war on the cards?

Baited Hooks illustrates these elements of Tudor history for Key Stage 2 schools parties via characters with tangible dilemmas. Alice Carter, a barmaid who is learning to read and wishes to read illegal religious texts, Thomas Dacre, a man collecting money for the King who has lost a good deal of it while gambling, Lady Helena Knyvett, a member of the King's court who thinks it will foreign troops to keep the King in line but who also knows that he will not be the one to suffer and Geerhardt Schoeler, a merchant from overseas who simply wants to make a bit of cash and instead finds himself accused of stirring up all manner of trouble.

I'm playing Schoeler, the German merchant selling silks, spices, medicines, books and most bizarrely mermaid's hair. He's also carrying a provocative letter from within the Holy Roman Empire which is a reply to Lady Knyvett's call for troops from abroad.

The show involves a great deal of interraction with the children in the audience and dealing with some of the non sequiturs they throw back at you. Strangest discourse this week:

Child: "Did you know that Michael Jackson is dead?"
Me: "I'm not aware of the gentleman, but my thoughts are with his family."

Friday, 5 March 2010

Twelfth Night

Along with a monologue from Forty Years On I was auditioning for drama schools with the wooing speech from Richard III. I was getting away with it but I wanted to get some better experience of Shakespeare. All we did at school was interminably read his plays aloud until they were fairly meaningless.

I can't remember how I got involved with The Domino Players version of Twelfth Night, but I was cast as Sebastian opposite Amy Standish as Viola. I doubt it was because we looked particularly alike. The Edwardian-themed staging saw us in identical blazers and straw boaters. We were also taken to the same hairdressers to emerge with the same haircut. I remember very well the anti-climactic response to our twin barnets at the next rehearsal as if everyone had imagined that they would suddenly struggle to tell us apart.

It's the only show I've ever been involved with in which the cast were still given notes after the last performance.

Here we are getting identical haircuts.

The illusion is complete. Here we are in a photograph from a local paper, with Amy and I in equally strobing costumes, either side of Imogen Black as Olivia. Can you tell who's who?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Injury Time

The three of us were intending to run 14 miles last Sunday. We managed ten. Mark's knee was giving him trouble and so we walked most of the rest of it.

The next day my left foot was in a lot of pain and I was limping like a pirate. For the last week I haven't been able to run. The foot improved but the limping didn't stop because my knee hurt. Presumably I was overcompensating and put a strain on the knee.

It's better now, but that's still a week's training missed.

Total mileage to date = 51 miles
Total sponsorship to date = £387