Thursday, 31 May 2012

"They're Going To Be All The Rage In 1994"

So says EastEnders character, Gita Kapoor, about a horrible jacket in Dimensions In Time, the show's crossover with Doctor Who.

1994 was the year that the Rwandan genocide began, Edvard Munch's painting The Scream was stolen in Oslo, the first passengers travelled through the Channel Tunnel and South Africa held its first fully multiracial elections.

These are a few of my favourite things from 1994:

Bullets Over Broadway
Woody Allen's sharply scripted exploration of theatre takes in fairweather morals, the mob and actor's neuroses to great effect with brilliant performances across the board. Here's the trailer.

Star Trek: Generations
The seventh Star Trek film sees the crew of the USS Enterprise-D graduate from television (see below) to the silver screen. Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, James Doohan, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Malcolm McDowell and Whoopi Goldberg are all wonderful that blends action in the real world with the abstract in the Nexus. "They say time is the fire in which we burn" and the Nexus affords the film a unique form of time travel. The torch is passed from one generation to the Next. Here's the trailer.

The Shawshank Redemption
Frank Darabont's adaptation of a Stephen King novella is so often cited as one of the greatest films ever made. It probably isn't one of the greatest films ever made, but I can't fault it so it might as well be. Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler and James Whitmore are wonderful, The Marriage Of Figaro has probably never sounded more beautiful and a brilliant appearance by Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. Here's the trailer.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Johnny Depp and Darlene Cates are great, while Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance which marks him out for bigger things in this enchanting coming of age story. Here's the trailer.

Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello are excellent in Luc Besson's visually stylish and graphically violent tale of a New York hitman. Here's the trailer.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Pegasus; Homeward; Lower Decks; Thine Own Self; Genesis; Journey's End; Firstborn; Bloodlines; Emergence; Preemptive Strike; All Good Things...
The seventh and final season continues with a great Riker episode as the Enterprise searches for The Pegasus and Jonathan Frakes and Terry O'Quinn are fantastic. Paul Sorvino, Brian Markinson and Penny Johnson are wonderful in Homeward, an inventive take on bending the Prime Directive. The brilliant Lower Decks concentrates on a handful of junior officers and the change of emphasis gives a insight into life aboard ship and lends the ending greater weight. Brent Spiner is great as Thine Own Self recasts an amnesiac Data as Frankenstein among a primitive culture, while Marina Sirtis gives Troi's efforts to get promoted a touch of class. SF horror tale Genesis is a lot of fun as the crew revert to earlier stages of the evolutionary scale. Wil Wheaton returns as Wesley reaches his Journey's End, has a touching goodbye scene with Gates McFadden and sets the stage for the coming Cardassian border disputes on both series. Michael Dorn and James Sloyan are great in Firstborn, a great Klingon tale with an innovative use of time travel. Picard's vulnerability comes to the fore in Bloodlines and Patrick Stewart gives a wonderful performance. The Enterprise is responsible for the Emergence of a new life form in an episode that is like a holodeck greatest hits. Michelle Forbes makes a welcome return as Ro in Preemptive Strike which cements the Maquis both as a force to be reckoned with and as a sympathetic cause. All Good Things... must come to an end as Picard moves through times past, present and future: the recreation of the first episode is impressive and the future time period is fascinating. The stakes are suitably high, the anti-time paradox is an intelligent obstacle, Q's "different perspective" and the final poker game are great scenes. Stewart, Frakes, Burton, Dorn, McFadden, Sirtis, Spiner, Denise Crosby, Colm Meaney and John de Lancie all give excellent performances. The final episode has a lot to live up to and it does not disappoint.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Rivals; Armageddon Game; Whispers; Paradise; Blood Oath; The Maquis; The Wire; Crossover; The Collaborator; Tribunal; The Jem'Hadar; The Search; The House Of Quark; Equilibrium; Second Skin; The Abandoned; Civil Defense; Defiant
The second season continues with the very silly Rivals, but the build up to O'Brien and Bashir's racketball match is a great beginning to a beautiful friendship. They take another step towards being firm friends in Armageddon Game and Keiko's insistence about her husband's caffeine habits until the final scene is a nice idea. Colm Meaney is fantastic at portraying the extreme paranoia of Whispers. Sisko and O'Brien visit Paradise and find it riddled with hypocrisy. John Colicos, William Campbell and Michael Ansara are all fantastic in Blood Oath reprising their roles as three Klingons from the original Star Trek and Terry Farrell seizes the opportunity to show a new side to Jadzia Dax. Tying in neatly with the contemporary DMZ episodes of TNG (see above), The Maquis is a two-parter that rewrites the politics of the region again. Quark's explanation of the price of peace is great, Marc Alaimo is wonderful throughout and Sisko's Earth speech is wonderful and further distinguishes DS9 from the rest of Star Trek. Andrew Robinson is fantastic as The Wire throws the focus squarely onto plain, simple Garak and yet manages to maintain the character's mystery. Siddig El Fadil and Paul Dooley are great and the scenes of addiction and withdrawal are reassuringly unpleasant. Kira and Bashir Crossover to the 'Mirror' universe which is always a great excuse for the cast to play very different versions of their characters and Odo, Sisko, Smiley in particular do not disappoint while Nana Visitor is great as both versions of Kira, but it is her disgust as 'our' Kira the impresses the most. Louise Fletcher is magnificent as Winn charges Kira to find The Collaborator in the run up to the election for the Bajoran Kai. O'Brien's Tribunal is both a well constructed courtroom drama and a the show trial with torture scenes that make uncomfortable viewing and Fritz Weaver is astonishing as Kovat. Avery Brooks and Armin Shimerman are wonderful as the hints about the Dominion finally come to fruition and Sisko and Quark encounter The Jem'Hadar in the season finale. Thanks to great performances from Cress Williams and Molly Hagan the eponymous villains well and truly live up to the hype and raises expectations even higher.
The third season begins with The Search for the Founders in a two-parter that delivers on the promise of the previous episode and shapes the rest of the series. The USS Defiant is a fantastic addition, Martha Hackett and Salome Jens are great and the Great Link is very nicely realised. The House Of Quark is a great comedy episode that makes the most of the culture clash between the Klingons and the Ferengi and Shimerman, Max Grodénchik, Mary Kay Adams and Robert O'Reilly are all wonderful. The masks and the music make for an episode with a very eerie feel as the Equilibrium between Jadzia and Dax is upset. Everyone except Kira is lying as she finds herself with a Second Skin. Odo attempts to mentor a young Jem'Hadar in The Abandoned and Rene Auberjonois gives him a palpable sense of disappointment when he fails. The counter-insurgency program of Civil Defense is a brilliantly implacable foe, and Alaimo and Robinson are fantastic. Jonathan Frakes returns as Riker and steals the USS Defiant in a nice surprise for the established audience and the ramifications of actions on the wider political landscape will be felt for a long time to come.

Northern Exposure: Baby Blues; Mr. Sandman; Mite Makes Right; A Bolt From The Blue; Hello, I Love You; Northern Hospitality; Una Volta In L'Inverno; Fish Story; The Gift Of The Maggie; A Wing And A Prayer; I Feel The Earth Move; Gran Prix; Blood Ties; Lovers And Madmen; Dinner At Seven-Thirty; Eye Of The Beholder; Shofar, So Good; The Letter; The Robe; Zarya; Full Upright Position; Up River; Sons Of The Tundra; Realpolitik
The fifth season continues as Ed discovers that showbusiness can be a dog eat dog eat dog, while Shelly has Baby Blues and hallucinates a bizarre Caryl Churchill's Top Girls-esque afternoon tea. Mr. Sandman sees the people of Cicely dreaming each others' dreams and gives great insight into the various dreamers. Maggie becomes obsessed with dust mites and her conversations with one is inspired, while Maurice's investment in a violin and the lengths to which Cal the musician will go to hear it played are great in Mite Makes Right. Ed is struck by lightning in A Bolt From The Blue and his disappointment at the experience is touching. Shelly's existential time travel is fantastic and so is the town's involvement in her labour in Hello, I Love You, while while a stranded Ruth-Ann and Walt are great. Joel struggles with Northern Hospitality, the town meeting to discuss Chris' self-censorship of his show following a suicide note and Holling singing 'This Land Is Your Land' are brilliant. Shelly teaching Ruth-Ann Italian in Una Volta In L'Inverno and Walt's addiction are fantastic. Joel finds himself in the midst of a bizarre Fish Story, Ruth-Ann shuts up shop and becomes a biker chick and the conversations of her fellow bikers are wonderful. Maurice depends upon the kindness of strangers in The Gift Of The Maggie and Maggie being maternal toward Joel is very funny in the last scene. Ed struggles with gossip and the Holling versus Priest arm wrestling match is fantastic in A Wing And A Prayer. Ron and Erick's wedding and Holling's catering penny-pinching is great in I Feel The Earth Move. Gran Prix's wheelchair racing, Ted's lesson in capitalism and Ed's struggle with External Validation are brilliant. The scenes of Ed and Ronaldo Pinetree Private Investigator are great in Blood Ties. Semansky's reaction to Cal on the run, the reveal of Walt with the woolly mammoth is great and Chris' high school crush three times are all brilliant in the season finale, Lovers And Madmen, but Joel's last line "I'm a Cicelian", is fantastic.
It's a line reinforced by the sixth season opener Dinner At Seven-Thirty as Joel finds himself in an alternative reality practicing medicine in New York at a party with his fellow Cicelians recast as unhappy Manhattanites, it's brilliant and the ending is very rewarding. Ed as a PI and Shelly in the dollhouse are great in Eye Of The Beholder. Joel undergoes A Christmas Carol for Yom Kippur in the brilliantly named Shofar, So Good. A cancer scare makes Joel re-evaluate his life as do The Letters received by Maggie and Shelly. The drugs, the devil and the dummy are all fantastic in The Robe. Christopher Neame is great as Lenin in Zarya which serves as a sequel of sorts to the episode that saw the founding of Cicely, but elevates it to potentially international historical importance. Joel and Maggie's Russian holiday and Chris' artistic interpretation of electricity are very funny in Full Upright Position. It's the end of an era as Ed heads Up River in search of an AWOL Joel who tells him a story to illustrate why he isn't coming back and Ruth-Ann's declaration of love for Walt is very touching. Holling tries to join the Sons Of The Tundra, Ed struggles with the responsibility of seeing the future and Phil and Michelle, the new Doctor and his wife arrive in town. Maggie's election as mayor of Cicely has a peculiar affect on Chris while Phil and Joel play a profound round of golf in Realpolitik.

The Day Today
Chris Morris, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Patrick Marber, Doon Mackichan, David Schneider and Harry Towb are fantastic in this slick news parody. The show features stories are as varied as bullying in the Church of England, a fight between John Major and the Queen, bomb dogs and The Day Today itself causing a war between Britain and Australia. Chapman Baxter's multiple executions are extraordinary, the weather is reported with several brilliantly bizarre methods, Alan Partridge's erratic sports reporting is hilarious, the trailers for Attitudes Night and John Fashanu are excellent, the inserts of documentary series The Pool and soap opera The Bureau are wonderful, while the Speak Your Brains vox pops are terrifying. The use of bombastic graphics and promotion of opinion over fact was especially prescient: practically all news programmes have become The Day Today now.

Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge
Alan Partridge transfers his chat show to television and finds himself not interviewing Roger Moore, defining moribund and singing a spectacular ABBA medley. Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Patrick Marber, Doon Mackichan, David Schneider, Melanie Hudson, Alan Ford and John Thompson are all great. The dialogue is brilliantly observed, even down to relative catchphrases "not literally, that would be hideous", "on that bombshell" and "Aha" is exactly the awkward gimmick Alan would employ. The series is fantastic and the highlights far too numerous to count, but I love Alan's enjoyment of Keith Hunt's parental visitation situation, the juxtaposition of a beauty contest and a political by-election and everything in the French episode.

The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes: The Three Gables; The Dying Detective; The Golden Pince-Nez; The Red Circle; The Mazarin Stone; The Cardboard Box
The final series of Sherlock Holmes adventures starring Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke is more reflective in tone. Mary Ellis and Peter Wyngarde are wonderful in The Three Gables. The cruel irony that lies behind the filming of The Dying Detective is a difficult one to ignore and Brett, Hardwicke, Roy Hudd, Susannah Harker, Caroline John and Richard Bonneville are brilliant in an exceptional episode. The Golden Pince-Nez is a great, if Watsonless, tale and sees the welcome return of Charles Gray as Mycroft and wonderful performances from Frank Finley and Nigel Planer. Betty Marsden, Kenneth Connor, Tom Chadbon, Kerry Shale and Joseph Long are great in The Red Circle and it's nice to see Rosalie Williams getting a bit more to do. The search for the The Mazarin Stone is a strange one which sees Mycroft taking Sherlock's traditional role as Brett's health declined and Charles Gray is marvellous and the three Garridebs are very funny. While a shadow of its former self and despite its unassuming title The Cardboard Box is a fitting last episode for this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, Ciarán Hinds, Joanna David and Deborah Findlay are great and there are some wonderful scenes between Brett, Hardwicke, Williams and Chadbon.

Why Bother?: Eels, Love & Guns; Bears; Christ; Prisoner Of War; Drugs etc
Chris Morris interviews Peter Cook as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling in these brilliantly acerbic ten minute chunks. Revealing among other things his time in a Japanese Prisoner-Of-War camp during World War II and his equal opportunities ethnic cleansing during the LA riots of 1992.

Pulp: His 'N' Hers
The fourth album from Pulp is another lyrical masterpiece with style and sophistication lurking among the synth pop and sexual alienation.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'Joyriders', 'Lipgloss', 'Acrylic Afternoons', 'Have You Seen Her Lately?', 'Babies', 'She's A Lady', 'Happy Endings', 'Do You Remember The First Time?', 'Pink Glove', 'David's Last Summer'

Blur: Parklife
From the brash Europop of 'Girls & Boys' to the beautiful 'End Of A Century', 'Badhead' and 'To The End' via the bombastic title track (with a fantastic appearance by Phil Daniels). Blur's third album practically invented Britpop.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Girls & Boys', 'Tracy Jacks', 'End Of A Century', 'Parklife', 'Badhead', 'The Debt Collector', 'To The End', 'Clover Over Dover', 'Magic America', 'This Is A Low'

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
A new musical phenomenon permeates the lands of the Disc and its effects mirror those of rock and roll on our own world. "This was music that had not only escaped, but had robbed a bank on the way out. It was music with its sleeves rolled up and its top button undone, raising its hat and grinning and stealing the silver." Crammed full of jokes about rock and roll music, the sixteenth Discworld novel never reduces its subject to parody and manages to tell a fantastic story as wizards, dwarfs, trolls and even Death himself fall under the spell of the music-with-rocks-in.

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
"Rincewind could scream for mercy in nineteen languages, and just scream in another forty-four." The next Discworld novel takes its title from the phrase "May you live in Interesting Times" and it appears that Rincewind's curse is that he does. The Wizzard (sic) travels to the Orient-inspired Agatean Empire, is reunited with Twoflower and in a reversal of fortunes sees the latter acting as guide to the former. Also making a welcome return is Cohen the Barbarian. The geriatric Silver Horde are great, the culture clashes ae all very funny and you've got to love the idea that "Probably the last sound heard before the Universe folded up like a paper hat would be someone saying, 'What happens if I do this?'"

Ghost World: Punk Day; The First Time
The third chapter of Daniel Clowes' Ghost World sees Enid redefine herself in Punk Day, make a stand against the obnoxious extroverted pseudo-Bohemian art-school losers and leave an unfortunate answerphone message. In chapter four, she talks us through The First Time and makes a hilarious millinery purchase. It's arguably these two chapters that show Ghost World getting into its stride and taking more risks.

Star Trek: The Customizable Card Game
I'd never been interested in Magic: The Gathering, but when Decipher released a customizable card game drawing on elements from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was hooked. Later incorporating elements from other Star Treks, the game expanded to thousands of cards representing hundreds of ships, characters, missions, artifacts and much more (eventually including tribbles). Crucially the game successfully reflected the flavour of the series.

Recommendations welcome.

Next month: 1993

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Cherry Orchard Yesterday

The performances of The Cherry Orchard were yesterday.

We spent the fourth week hotseating characters, which proved a very fruitful exercise and proved to me that there was a good level of understanding among the cast. We then ran the whole play, followed by the first half again. Costumes were coming together and I had various meetings about lighting, music and sound.

Our fifth week was spent running the play in two halves and then in full on the Friday. Lines were still not being learnt and blocking was being forgotten.

Week six saw a crisis of confidence among the cast and so we slowed down. Working our way through the play at a pace more akin to week three. There was some really nice insight from the cast and stronger characters were definitely developing. There were still lines unlearned and if this continued there would be some harsh lessons learned as well.

This is week seven: our performance week. We had our get-in and technical rehearsal on Monday and we were supposed to have our dress rehearsal, but the cast were not ready. Many were not off-book and very few seemed bothered that the show was tomorrow. A stern talking-to was in order and the effect was obvious on the second run of the day. Things were heading in the right direction, but I was worried it would be too little, too late. I delayed the dress rehearsal from the previous Friday, to Monday and then again to the day of the show, which was hardly ideal. The dress rehearsal was a qualified shambles. Many of the scenes were fine but the transitions between them were appalling, cast members wandered off missing whole scenes and I was forced to prompt several times.

I was very anxious as the matinee performance began. Things went wrong, but the cast carried on and crucially carried on in character. They helped each other through and they adapted to the constantly-changing circumstances. The lines jumped around Act One and I was leafing through my script to try to find where they were in case I needed to prompt again. I would find a line that had just been delivered and then the next would jump back or forward two or three pages. Acts Two and Three were more straight-forward. Act Four had its line jumps, but they all went in the same direction and merely got us to the end a little quicker. I was required to prompt twice, which was unfortunate, but obviously a vast improvement over the last few runs. Having an audience forced the cast to commit to decisions, some we had discussed and some that we hadn't. The character moments that were created during the performance were fantastic. We were meant to have an interval, but the cast carried on regardless. I was a little surprised as this, but I was glad of it. It meant that the pace of the show was great and as most of our audience for the matinee were press-ganged students from other courses, it meant that we managed to retain them for the entirety of the play. There was some confusions as we changed actresses, but the jokes got laughs and the fate of Firs garnered a sympathetic "Ahhhh".

After the first show, I felt I could relax and the evening show was another improvement. There were still line jumps, but they were fewer and farther between. The cast remembered to allow for an interval. There was no need for any prompting. There were still laugh, but they fell in different places. The audience was largely made up of parents and Pishchik's lines about his mortgage got laughs that they hadn't in the afternoon. Many of the students that watched the first show stayed for the second as well, which is a favourable review in itself.

Both shows were great and I'm enormously proud of the cast for all the hard work they've put into the show, but it's a shame that they left it to the last moment to put in the effort.

Photograph used by kind permission of Tom Holmes at

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Top Ten Doctors

After my top ten lists of spaceships, captain and first officers. I decided every spaceship needs a doctor.

I should clarify that this is not a list of my favourite characters who are also doctors, but a list of the top ten fictional doctors that I would have the most faith in as a patient.

Special mentions for Northern Exposure's Dr. Joel Fleischman and Leonard Quinhagak, Dr. Mann from Y: The Last Man, Dr. Martha Jones from Doctor Who, Zhaan from Farscape and Dr. John Carter, Dr. Elizabeth Corday, Dr. Robert Romano, Dr. Abby Lockhart, Dr. Neela Riscotra and Dr Archie Morris from ER. I'm also very fond of Futurama's Dr. Zoidberg, but his lack of anatomy knowledge precludes him from making the list.

Here is my list of Top Ten Doctors:

10 - Dr. Simon Tam
The brilliant trauma surgeon in Firefly and Serenity who gave everything up to protect his sister, became a fugitive and traded his medical abilities for protection. He treated gunshot wounds, narrowly avoided being burned as a witch and began to uncover the mystery that was River's brain.

9 - Dr. Beverly Crusher
The Chief Medical Officer of two USS Enterprises and head of Starfleet Medical for a year. She was mother to Wesley, one of Captain Picard's oldest friends and over the course of Star Trek: The Next Generation this doctor wrote and directed plays, commanded the ship, found herself trapped in a warp bubble, got turned into a dog, unwittingly caused the crew to de-evolve and was known for a time as the Dancing Doctor. Sadly, Crusher was the TNG character given the least to do in their four film outings.

8 - Dr. John Watson
Sherlock Holmes' friend and the chronicler of their adventures was a doctor written by a doctor. Watson tempered the irascibility of Holmes and his medical knowledge was vital in solving several cases.

7 - The Doctor
Describing himself as a doctor of many things, initially the Doctor of Doctor Who denied being a doctor of medicine and said that he failed to get a medical degree, but somewhere on his travels he did study medicine and gained a doctorate under Joseph Lister in Glasgow in 1888. Later he had advanced medical knowledge and assisted in complex neurosurgery, used cloning, could diagnose by touching someone's ear, could cure time vortex problems with a kiss and made a cure as infectious as the diseases it cured. I have used a photograph of the Second Doctor, but it could easily have been any of them. Just don't follow the advice of his predecessor on treating a fever from The Ark...

6 - Dr. Phlox
The Interspecies Medical Exchange doctor aboard Star Trek: Enterprise's NX-01 had a dozen degrees, cured the Klingon Augment virus and is apparently the only person to resist Borg assimilation. Phlox used his time aboard Enterprise to study humanity and refreshingly did so with a smile on his face.

5 - Surgeon Lieutenant Harry Sullivan
Doctor Who's UNIT doctor who initially saw the Fourth Doctor through his post-regenerative trauma, helped defeat Think Tank and the Giant Robot. He travelled in the TARDIS into the future and helped humanity survive a Wirrn attack and a Sontaran experiment, he witnessed the genesis of the Daleks, the Cybermen's attack on Voga and helped prevent invasions of Earth by the Zygons and the Kraals. In the words of the Doctor (the other one) "Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!", but he was probably the most endearing imbecile to ever walk on this or any other planet.

4 - Dr. Mark Greene
The lynchpin of ER and easily the best doctor on this list without the benefit of space medicine or time travel. Greene had excellent bedside manner. He was intuitive and caught many conditions his fellow doctors missed and often remained at the hospital long after his shift was over to deliver news, good or bad. Being a doctor was shown as effortless for practically all the others listed here, but Greene suffered for his patients and ultimately paid with his own health. His loss was felt for the remainder of the show.

3 - Dr. Leonard McCoy
Doctor McCoy was Chief Medical Officer on two starships Enterprise in two Star Trek series and across six movies. In a long and distinguished career he earned the nickname 'Bones', euthanised his own father, reattached Spock's brain, contracts xenopolycythemia, is cured of xenopolycythemia, eradicated a plague on Dramia II, retired, was drafted, stored Spock's katra in his head, was framed for assassination and helped launch the Enterpise-D.

2 - The Doctor
Activated following his ship's violent relocation to a far flung corner of space and the death of its medical staff, Star Trek: Voyager's Emergency Medical Hologram was forced to grow beyond the limits of his programming as he became the de facto Chief Medical Officer. His knowledge of medicine is encyclopaedic, his interests varied and his bedside manner is abrasive. Initially confined to sickbay he later enjoyed extensive freedoms with the use of his autonomous holographic emitter.

1 - Dr. Julian Bashir
The genetically-engineered doctor of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine mistook a preganglionic fibre for a postganglionic nerve on purpose and graduated second in his class, helped destroy the Harvester biological weapons, survived a telepathic attack from a Lethean, nearly freed the Jem'Hadar of their addiction to Ketracel-White, developed the vaccine for the Teplan Blight, he was kidnapped and replaced by a Changeling infiltrator, he was almost the template for the Long-Term Emergency Hologram (see above), tended wounds and fought in the wars with the Klingons and the Dominion, played as a spy in the holosuites before being recruited against his will to spy for Section 31 for real and was the youngest ever nominee for the prestigious Carrington Award. Bashir had the perfect blend of brains, skill and bedside manner.

Who are your favourites?

Next month: Top Ten Engineers

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fox Pops

Wes Anderson Month continues apace over on Phil Reed's site. Phil is obviously a big fan of Anderson's films, except one. For some reason Phil doesn't like Fantastic Mr Fox and as such it has barely featured in his writings about Anderson's films. Until now.

I've written something in defence of the film on Phil's site. It's not up to Phil's usual standard and I apologise accordingly. It's more of a ramble than a reasoned argument.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Carruthers Camera #24

Five more photos that I took for the Carruthers blog:

Revenge was a spectacular piece of graffiti that appeared in an alleyway in Bounds Green in London.

Judgement was taken further along the same alleyway during the same spate of very odd graffiti.

; was taken during the March For The Alternative.

Another piece of graffiti although somehow not as objectionable as those above, Aliens Have Landed was taken between Turnford and Cheshunt.

Sticking with the graffiti theme, here's Taken, which struck me as more considered than any of the others that littered Bounds Green.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Devising The Undiscovered

The second years are busy devising their own show. I've tagged this post as directing, but I'm really more of a facilitator for their ideas. The group have come up with some fantastic ideas, but convincing them that they are ideas worth keeping is the hardest part of the job so far.

The first week we talked through the initial ideas that the group had and improvised around them. We got into a routine of working on things in smaller groups, showing scenes to the rest of the group and making obervations of how they could be improved.

Many of the cast came prepared for the second week with ideas, scripts and we had a great flurry of activity. A narrative had begun to present itself which was fantastic, but there was a danger that it would limit the creativity of the group.

For the third week I split the cast up into pairs and smaller groups, none of whom would normally work together. This proved fruitful and the scenes that cam out of these improvisations are some of the most interesting. The narrative developed into a running order and the cast were getting very good at deciding what best fitted where and what their characters ought to know and when.

The fourth week was curtailed by losing the Bank Holiday Monday and getting the cast back into a working frame of mind. They are filming some elements today. I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

I haven't quite been sworn to secrecy, but I'm loathe to reveal too much about someone else's story. Especially while things could still change. The cast have written and improvised various scenes. There is a possibility that they are incorporating songs and dance routines.

The cast have come up with a name for their play...The Undiscovered. I like it. It doesn't reveal too much, but it does give the audience a flavour of what to expect. I thought that naming the play would be more of a problem, but they all agreed quite readily.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

"Does This Seem Fake?"

Noiseless chatterer / writer / friend (titles in ascending order of importance) Phil Reed is currently celebrating Wes Anderson Month in the run up to the US release of Moonrise Kingdom. This makes him possibly the only person on the planet not talking about The Avengers.

We were discussing Anderson's films and I asked whether the hallmarks that turn a Wes Anderson film into 'a Wes Anderson film' could prevent it from being a great film in its own right. It was a rhetorical question. This is how we roll.

The question angered Phil and then inspired him to write an article: Art From Artifice. It's very good.

You're welcome, Phil.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

A-To-Z Reflections

Here's my reflections post for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge:

So that's that. The dust has settled. The quick brown fox has jumped over the lazy dog.

This month I learned that:

People were very supportive of my career choice, I'm not the only one who fears blog stagnation, there are Browncoats everywhere, people were very supportive of my most recent career development, maybe etc means more than we think, free is relative term, that my girlfriend isn't as thrilled about my photo choices as I am, Pulp are as great as ever, people were very supportive of my drawing, you can write a piece all about conversation that contains no dialogue, it doesn't matter that kommand is not real word, awards are better when people have invested an interest by nominating an eventual winner, not everyone is as obsessed with film DVDs as I am, my memories and reviews of a seven year old play are possibly not a good A-to-Z post, red soup with couscous is lovely and Thai green curry pizza is not, smutty photography is funny, nobody answered questions 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25 or 26 correctly, I'm not the only person who likes rhinos, 1995 is longer ago than I would like to admit, not everyone is as obsessed with TV DVDs as I am, a semi-identified UFO is a SIFO, Vegetarians sometimes fear meat and meat eaters sometimes fear vegetarians, there's no wrong reason to write, there are Browncoats absolutely everywhere, I'm coming to visit you, the answers to the quiz...

I wrote 26 posts, which got 210 comments and I'm very grateful for the time people took to make them. I also got 47 spam comments. My favourites of which were the rather prosaic "The mistake can here?" or "Today is good poorly, isn't it?" The rest were a mix of gibberish and dodgy links. I think it's time to turn word verification back on...

Would I do it again next year? Absolutely.

Would I have an overarching theme to tie all my posts together? Probably.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Blocking The Cherry Orchard

Rehearsals for The Cherry Orchard are now well under way.

I held auditions in the first week of term. When casting the play, I decided to split the parts of Luba and Varya between two actresses and Pishchik is being played by a girl. The cast members in question all seem happy with this. We had a cast read-through to get everyone on the same page.

During the second week we worked our way through and blocked Acts One, Two and part of Three.

We picked up where we left off in the third week and blocked the rest of the play. We lost one rehearsal as our theatre became the polling station for the local elections.

Understandably, many of the cast have struggled with some of the Russian names, but as we have worked on the text that doesn't seem to be as much of a problem any more. We've also had some very interesting discussions about the historical and social context of the play, how the characters in the play might fit into that society and the life of Anton Chekhov.

The cast need to learn their lines. I've heard many bold claims from people about finding it easy to learn lines or having already learnt Act One or the first half of the play. I suppose I'll find out next week...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Send The New Factory To Cesky Krumlov

My friends at the New Factory Of The Eccentric Actor are off to Cesky Krumlov to perform a new translation of A Jubilee by Anton Chekhov as part of the first Soulandi Festival in July 2012. You can help them reach their destination:

Here's what they are looking for, in their own words:

"Who we are:

The New Factory of the Eccentric Actor was formed in 1996 with the aim of staging both large and small-scale radical theatrical work in unusual spaces (not usually used for theatre) - a collective of performers, musicians, writers, designers, and others. Since 1996 we have staged 26 pieces in many different venues before thousands of people. It has only been possible to create our work by utilising the commitment of more than 250 individuals, who have given their time, skills, and energy for free. Core to our work is that our performances have been free to the general public.

The Project

The New Factory has been invited to perform at the first Soulandi Festival in Cesky Krumlov, in the Czech Republic in July 2012.

The Festival is headlined by the renowned Czech performer Jaroslav Dušek, and we will be presenting a brand new translation of A Jubilee by Anton Chekhov. We will in fact be performing in both Czech (with local collaborators) and English, and bringing to bear the full eccentricity of the company on the work as we perform in a large Chapito (tent). There will be music, passion, not a small amount of madness, and a mass eccentric dance.

10 members of the company will travel to and from the event by train to keep our carbon footprint down to a minimum. Travelling light, taking the bare minimum in terms of costume etc., this is a carpet bags and suitcases trip. Our designer will create the set from found materials when we arrive, as we create the show specifically for the space. (With the support of members of the local Cesky Krumlov community) We will be accommodated in a mixture of local homes and tents.

Having dipped our toes into the world of film last year with our short 'Lenin's Lunch', we are very excited about filming the entire trip, and releasing a Lo-Fi documentary of the whole process as a key part of the overall project.
Your support

As ever with The New Factory all those involved are working unpaid, and the company itself will receive no fee for the production. This is definitely a no-frills trip for everyone, but we are looking for support to help with what is for us an expensive enterprise. By far the largest expense is the cost of travel to and from the Czech Republic, and we are looking to raise £4,000. We have to do it quickly as well, to take advantage of cheaper rail fares. Any support you can give, large or small, will be greatly appreciated."