Monday, 28 December 2009

Paper Scissors Stone

So Chain Gang has come to an end and been named Paper Scissors Stone. It is now available for you to listen to in a handy all-in-one omnibus form for the next five days on the BBC iPlayer.

The scripts and storylines for each of the thirteen episodes are online here.

The recording of Episode 13 required reactions from a crowd. Recorded at St Pancras Station, we were that crowd. I cheered and applauded with the best of them.

Friday, 25 December 2009

What The Dickens?

In 2007, A Dickens Of A Christmas was a qualified success, apparently not making a huge amount of profit but it did manage to shift a great many tickets for 2008's show. A loss leader if you will.

The previous year we had rehearsed far more Dickens material than we could ever actually fit into the show. This time the show was tighter and more focussed. It involved small groups acting independently of each other mounting short versions of Dickens novels. Meanwhile other groups were acting out little bits of business at tables up and down the space.

The conceit being that we were actors playing actors playing Dickensian characters, so we came up with our own names. Mine was Johnny Cholera.

It was looking like a good show and we were due to run all through December. We did three performances before it was cancelled. Tickets weren't refunded and actors weren't paid. I won't go into more detail because there are court cases pending.

We did an abridged version of the show at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, partly as a fundraiser but as a cathartic experience as well. The frustration among the cast was extreme. There are at any one time many more actors than there are acting jobs. So to get a paid acting gig and then have it taken away from you is horrific. There was a sort of trench humour that crept into our conversation and a cameraderie in the face of adversity that has endured.

Left: the Evening Standard article on the cancellation.

This time it was Watchdog that visited.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A Dickens Of A Christmas

In December of 2007 whilst Train Of Thought was wending its way through underground London, but I spent almost the entire month at Shunt. An underground venue in London Bridge.

It could have been a bit of a busman's holiday really.

A Dickens Of A Christmas was a part theatre show, part corporate Christmas party. It was made up of bits of Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickeby and A Tale Of Two Cities, all held together by bits of A Christmas Carol.

I played Pip in the Great Expectations sections.

It was a lot of fun and a really good bunch of people.

The Guardian paid it a visit.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Sleeping Beauty

My first Equity contract for actual proper paid acting work was in a panto. I was playing the roles of Carabosse and the Prince in a school's tour of Sleeping Beauty for the Globe Players. Four weeks in a van crammed full of actors and set travelling from school to school to school in December.

In the first half I played the evil fairy Carabosse scarily cursing spindles and making small puddles under small children. In the second half I played the handsome prince liberating a beautiful sleeping young lady with his lips. Within the narrative of the play one hundred years separate these two characters, in actual fact I only had the distance between stage right and left to change backstage from one costume to the other. So instead of course I found myself wearing one costume on top of the other and the reveal of the handsome prince would have been more accurately described as the reveal of the hot sweaty prince. The children were often more repulsed by the hero of the piece than the villain.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Ganged Up

Life gets in the way.

Between rehearsals for various things, other writing deadlines, a film shoot, a film reshoot and a full time temp job in an office, I didn't get round to writing any more for Chain Gang.

I am however attending the live recording of the final episode of Chain Gang at St. Pancras station today.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Slash Reshoot

It's time to head back to Bournemouth to shoot some more Slash, but this time in daylight.

Hopefully it won't break the bank.

P.S. This is this blog's hundredth post.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Story Of A Charmless Man

So the story begins:
Ten years ago today I saw Blur play a gig at Birmingham's NEC and then reviewed it for the King Alfred's Sixth Form Chronicle, that's right I'm dredging up things I wrote at school. Stand by for What I Did On My Summer Holidays and My Favourite Animal Is...

Reading it back after all this time, I'm a little embarrassed by how condescending it is:

I went to see Blur with Elle Pullen on their Tenth Anniversary Singles Night Tour. When we got there we sat while a bad DJ mixed badly to a bored audience (if God is a DJ then I'm Hilda Ogden). As soon as he'd finished Blur came on, slowly we all stood, it was almost like a Mexican wave. To the opening of I Know (almost ironic because no one did) those that could jump, jumped and those that could mosh, moshed. She's So High, Blur's first ever single started after an introduction from vocalist Damon Albarn that used the 'word' um even more times than I did in my German Oral (which is saying something) and he explained the premise of the evening: to play their single releases in chronological order. There's No Other Way followed and everybody feeling things were going well, until they played Bang. It was terrible, a fact it seems, since they admitted it, but only after subjecting us to it.

Popscene was up next and was a Song 2 in the making and was probably better. For Tomorrow was my favourite song played that night since my favourites never made it to be singles. As soon as we peak we are brought crashing down again with Chemical World and Sunday Sunday with their annoying shared la la la la la chorus. The latter however is a wry and humorous take on how we spend our day of rest, a fact lost on the great majority of people watching who simply pointed at the screens and yelled "Ahhh! Cows."

The very same people breathed a sigh of relief when they heard Girls & Boys, their bafflement was over. As quickly as it had arrived it disappeared with To The End, a beautiful song, which is much better sung in the original French. Football chants welcomed Phil Daniels to the stage, as he yelled the introduction to Parklife to us. At a very poignant time of the year, they shared End Of A Century with us and it was a better millennial epic than Robbie Williams could ever dream of.

The chanters were back in force when Country House started, and when it finished The Universal started up to a great response. Stereotypes went down well despite the feeling that we were standing among some of the inspirations for it. Charmless Man was another success.

Things quietened down when Beetlebum was played, despite the nature of the lyrics. Then everything fell apart and the crowd went wild as the unmistakable beginning to Song 2 was played to bassist Alex James' obvious disgust. It seemed that the majority of the audience paid their £20 only wanting to hear 2 minutes of live music, but the sight of drummer Dave Rowntree's arms literally blurring during some impro is one that made this a great night. Damon's Jay Kay impression during On Your Own was lost on most. M.O.R. (Middle Of the Road) was very popular despite being a direct parody of the mainstream that the majority of the crowd seemed to hold so dear.

And now up to date with Tender, which featured the London Community Gospel Choir and is much better live. A gospel choir adlibbing is a great sight. Lead guitarist Graham Coxon sang the lyrics to Coffee & TV, but not before he'd said "we'll just miss this one out". Once again people pointed to the screens when the now famous milk carton appeared. No Distance Left To Run was a good song to end on, almost depressing enough to make it all worthwhile. As the band said their goodbyes and left, so did we.

The concept of playing your singles is not one that appeals to me, especially as my favourites are their lo-fi recordings like Look Inside America and Swallows In The Heatwave, but it seems too elitist and an attempt to pacify either record label bosses or the moronic single buying public (I can see that copy of Daphne & Celeste in your pocket) or possibly both. I did however enjoy it immensely and if I had to give it marks out of ten: I wouldn't. I will say 'It Were Good.'

Monday, 7 December 2009

You Are Cordially Invited

I'm playing Aplombov the bridegroom in Anton Chekov's 1889 short play The Wedding tomorrow at 7:30 pm at Pushkin House.

More details here.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Christmas Around The World

I had to wait a full year for the next production and it was a hell of a comedown after the previous one. I was given a stern telling off when I failed to hide my disappointment.

It was a series of scenes each clumsily illustrating the Yuletide customs of a particular country for the benefit of a visiting alien who walked across the stage from left to right delivering lines like "This is Australia on the continent of Australasia".

I played a Mexican.

It was rubbish.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A Christmas Carol

With Christmas on the horizon, I thought I'd take a look at the various Yuletide shows I've been involved with:

Way back in the Christmas of 1990, the children of Millbrook Junior School's fifth year put on a production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The three classes were each responsible for one of the three time periods. Mrs Glencross' class were alloted Christmas Past and I played Mr Fezziwig. Definitely deserving of a special mention is Ross Sadler who played Scrooge throughout and thus had far more responsibility than any of the rest of us.

I think if I had to blame one moment for making me want to be an actor it was during this show. Mr & Mrs Fezziwig throw a party and one of our scenes ended with us clearing up after it. Mrs Fezziwig took her time and we ran out of dialogue before our exit, so I ad libbed. I was ten so I wouldn't have even had a clue what an ad lib was, but I made up a couple of lines to cover us to the edge of the stage. And they got a laugh. All right, so the audience was made up of the cast's family members but a room full of adults laughing at something you did on purpose is heady stuff for a child.

I was hooked.