Sunday, 25 November 2012

'Sleeping Beauty' rehearsals come to a close

Today has been an extraordinarily good day, In fact, it has been a day I’ve been looking forward to and longing after for at least the past 48 hours. Today was Sunday! Not a Wednesday, nor a Thursday, not even a good old fashioned Saturday. But a Sunday! And, having been a Sunday, it can only mean one thing: we have had no rehearsals today...at all. “Oh no” I hear the twitter-sphere cry, “Did something go wrong?”, “does everyone hate each other?”, “is the show really going so badly that being in THAT rehearsal room is now unbearable”? Thankfully, the answer to all of these questions is no. Quite the opposite, there’s an energy in the room that comes from knowing you’re working on something good, we really can’t wait to get it in front of an audience.
The actual reason I’m so glad it’s a Sunday is because after a very long week I am absolutely knackered. At Saturday rehearsals yesterday I may have been walking and talking but I don’t think my brain was properly awake until half way through the second run-through of Act. 2 and that probably means I was away with the fairies for around 3hours of rehearsal, not good! This was mostly due to a very long and hard working Friday which itself was followed by a long recording session in the evening.  However, it has all been absolutely necessary. Yesterday marked the end of the final week of rehearsals and, as such, we’ve been squeezing as much as we can out of every available hour. Particularly complex has been Act.2 due to the fact that half of it is essentially a giant chase sequence involving a mix of continuous song, character’s appearing to almost instantly disappear again topped off with several fight sequences. Choreographing all of this so that it is safe, keeps its momentum and, most importantly, interesting to watch takes a surprising amount of precision and, therefore, an unsurprisingly long amount of time.
As is customary with rehearsals reaching their end we’ve also begun to ‘run’ the two halves of the show. This is where we finally begin to put all the scenes we’ve been rehearsing and dissecting individually into chronological order and run it from start to finish, without stopping and complete with as many of the props and as much set as production can muster. This allows the actors to work out how each scene blends into the next, to get a feel of the show and discover how quick their costume changes will have to be. For Dominic, our director, it allows him to see how the play looks as a whole and if there’s any glaring issues that need to be resolved or bits that simply don’t work.
Run-throughs are incredibly useful for actors but can be equally infuriating. If you feel something isn’t working with your character it can be frustrating to see others handling their scenes so competently only for you to come in and drop the ball (for me the Minstrel is still not quite what he ought to be). However, all experiences, whether good or bad, are useful and always feed back into your work while Dominic’s notes and observations, which he writes down through the run and then gives to us afterwards, are invaluable. There’s a reason why he’s been in charge of three of the major theatres in Scotland.
So, rehearsals are over and now the Technical rehearsals begin. For the actors this means we move from the rehearsal room to the stage, we get to work in costume and see the finished set which four weeks ago were merely sketches on paper. And here I am on a wintry Sunday evening in Glasgow with the Observer and a big pack of McVities Dark Chocolate digestives to hand, sausages cooking in the kitchen and Abi Morgan’s The Hour on the Tele, waiting for the excitement of the coming week to begin.
 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 1 Dec to 6 Jan. For all tickets please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022, or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Week 4 of Sleeping Beauty Rehearsals


This week started with a massive smack into a horribly familiar brick wall: don't know what I'm doing, where I'm standing, where I'm going, who I'm talking to, who I AM or what play I am in. I was hoping that this wall that I usually meet in week 4 was just an insecure drama student thing, but apparently it happens in the professional world too. I look around and everyone else seems to be on the right track. Full of confidence and flare. Suddenly my character seems completely unattainable and one (utterly helpful and completely justified) comment from the Dom about being careful not to play Beauty too young makes me want to run far far away.

SO (after a bit of self hatred fueled rocking in the corner) I get back to work and start from the beginning again. Luckily I had some time to myself during rehearsals today (SLEEPING Beauty) to stop wallowing and to just get on with trying to hammer through that wall. After a nightly phone call to my good friend Sam (half friend, half life coach) and a watch of the Disney film 'Tangled' for research (surprisingly, ridiculously helpful. A young feisty princess locked in a tower her whole life... duh, that's how to play it!!) and I start to feel like I might be on the right track. Wednesday begins with a run of act one and things finally start to fall into place. For now. To be honest, what I was doing before probably wasn't much different but at least I feel like I know who I am again again. I wonder if anyone noticed...

Two members of the cast have been hit with illness this week and the whole room has gone into ultra paranoid panic mode. Dominic brought in 3 bags of oranges so we can stock up on our vitamin C, I ran out to the shops to buy Berocca, Echinacea, some sort of horrific anaseedey cough syrup and made a firm decision to swear off alcohol. I have only ever done a week long run before now so I just don't know my limits. It's a pretty full on show vocally and physically (I AM ONLY ASLEEP FOR 20 PAGES ALRIGHT!!) so I guess this is me until January. Currently sitting in at 10 o clock on a Saturday night blogging...

 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 1 Dec to 6 Jan. For all tickets please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022, or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Week 4 in Pictures

The week began with the announcement of the stupendous new season

A sneak peak at the set
Thorn Evaluation

Alasdair Take One
Alasdair Take Two

Prince of Nerds

A bit of everything

Debbie, ensemble and the fairies.

Kath's wheelbarrow of goody's

Al tries on his table.

Lucy getting into gear

Lunch break

Lucien and Benedicte in action

Competition entries for the design of the Sleeping Beauty programme cover

The Musical Theatre Ensemble take a power nap

The directing team

 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 1 Dec to 6 Jan. For all tickets please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022, or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Music of Sleeping Beauty

Spot the Ukulele

Week three of Sleeping Beauty rehearsals have come to their end, and, as the final week of rehearsal looms, the show is in great shape. The actor’s have asked their “Who am I’s?” and “Why do I’s?” while Lucien and Bendeicte (our movement director’s) have solved a multitude of technical quandaries, from “How would a Thorn fight?” to “How does a shoal of Fish really move?” (read Lucy’s most recent Blog for more details).

However, being a Christmas Show, we have an extra dimension of detail we have to accommodate and seamlessly add to the show: songs. The important task of composing all of the play’s music, including songs, and then the teaching of said songs to the entire cast, complete with their respective harmonies, lies with our Musical Director: Paddy Cunneen. It is a task that requires a Herculean amount of patience as the only way to teach four lines of harmonies to a bunch of actors is simply repetition, repetition, repetition. Needless to say, under his expert tuition we are a well oiled song learning machine! Our routine for song learning goes something like this: gather round the piano; we split into Bass’, Tenor’s, Alto’s and Soprano’s, everyone learns their part of a section of the song, we sing our respective parts altogether, mistakes are made, mistakes are corrected, we sing it again, perfect it, learn the next bit, repeat. Once the full song is learnt we step away from the piano and Dominic steps in as we begin to work on how to integrate the song into the play.  
A song learning session with Paddy Cunneen
Due to the amount of singing in the play a vocal warm-up to avoid injury is a vital part of keeping us match fit. So, every morning for half an hour the whole company gathers round the piano and Paddy takes us through a hodgepodge of vocal acrobatics, tongue twisters and Christmas songs. A lovely addition to these warm-ups has been the staff from all the various departments of the Citz who Paddy invited to join us early on and who have since continued to come back daily and sing increasingly boldly. Our repertoire now spans many-a-genre and includes such classics as: In the Bleak Midwinter, O Little Town of Bethlehem, the anthem that is John Lennon’s Merry Christmas (War is Over) and we’ve even been known to break out into a bit of Bowie’s Life on Mars. So, if you find yourself in need of a choir to fill your Town Hall/ Church/ Cathedral/ Buckingham Palace let us know.

Finally, the theme of music brings us to Here We Stay, which Lucy has already mentioned but as it was, quite simply, incredible it deserves a second mention. A partnership project between the Scottish Refugee Council and the Citizens Theatre, Here We Stay addresses the complex issue of those people who, due to unfortunate circumstances, have had to leave their country of origin and arrive in the U.K seeking asylum and safety. What the cast and Director’s Neil Packham and Elly Goodman have done is go one better than verbatim theatre by having no actors at all, and, instead, have those who were once refugee’s themselves share their stories through the “song[s], spoken word and live music” of their respective cultures. The result is heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and astounding in the truest definition of the word. A vital piece of theatre.
 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 1 Dec to 6 Jan. For all tickets please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022, or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Sleeping Beauty; End of Week 3.


Coming to the end of week 3 rehearsals for Sleeping Beauty.The ensemble (five second year Musical Theatre students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) have been working ridiculously hard. They really do create the entire atmosphere of the show and they are doing a brilliant job. But it means they are basically in every scene; either as uptight Courtiers, starving slaves or mischievous thorns. Transformative lot! So while I am busy falling asleep on the sofa (HAPPENED ONLY ONCE I SWEAR!) they are up singing 'feed me feed me' over and over, working on their perfect knife sharpening techniques.

A couple of photos of the ensemble in action..and Al's Ukulele...

The last couple of days we have mainly been working on staging Act two. There is A LOT of action in the second half and its pretty mental, so its taking a while. And every now and again there's a really meaty piece of writing that we need to stop and work on very slowly in order to try and hit the right tone and to find the right stakes (fairytale stakes, which are prrrrretty ridiculously high). Dominic is great at picking out moments and finding opportunities to tell the story in the most exciting way possible. We also have the luxury of two movement directors, Lucien Lindsay Macdougall and Benedicte Seierup, who teach movement at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. They taught Al and I when we were training there and we have always been huge fans. They are absolute masters of movement; encouraging us all to think about and explore physicality, rhythms  beats, tensions, style and detail. They know how to bring a space to life and never let us forget the absolute detail of the world we are trying to create. They work fantastically with Dominic and are bringing so much to his vision and to the (rather mad) style of the show. We ALSO have an assistant director, Deborah Hannan, who is a graduate from the MA CCT course at the RCS and a very good friend of mine. I have worked with her before on an Arches Live project and she's a fantastic director. It has been very calming having her in the room in fact. If I'm ever feeling a bit unsure and don't want to burden Dominic as he has ridiculous amounts to think about at once, she always knows and can always help to guide me in the right direction.

Al is playing a minstrel (and table slave) and in one scene he has to run on in a panic shouting 'BEAUTY!' ..Easy enough you'd think. Instead, he ran on, found his place, opened his mouth and out came 'Cinnnddersleeeping BEAUTY!' I think he's a bit confused. Bless him. However, as long as he remembers which christmas show he's in, his minstrel and table slave are going to be ACE. Hilarious.

On another note, Al and I just went to see Here We Stay, a partnership project between the Scottish Refugee Council and the Citizens Theatre exploring the life stories of asylum seekers, refugees and residents living in Glasgow today. It was brilliant. So moving and honest and brave. A well deserved standing ovation. 

'Sleeping Beauty' is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from the 1 Dec to 6 Jan. For tickets, please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022; or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Interview #1: Kathryn Howden

As our Blog aims to explore all aspects of day to day life at the Citizens Theatre, once a month we will be interviewing a different individual/department working in the Theatre. Today, we bring you an interview with Kathryn Howden, one of Scotland's most established and prolific actors. Recent credits include the National Theatre of Scotland's production of  The Guid Sisters at Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre as well as King Lear, Footfalls and now Sleeping Beauty all for the Citz.

How are you finding Sleeping Beauty rehearsals and playing the part of Goody?
I'm having a great time. I think its always difficult at Christmas because its one of the most difficult shows to put on and it needs the longest [rehearsal time] but it never gets the longest. Because kids have such an imagination you need to match that so therefore you've got to be really confident about what you're doing. But thankfully Dominic is giving it a wee bit longer this time. I'm enjoying it [but] I'm not quite sure of the character yet, I'm not quite sure I've got it yet but that's part of the challenge.

This is your fifth time working with the Citz Artistic Director, Dominic Hill, you obviously have a successful working relationship, why do you think that is?
I just like the way he works, I like his passion, I love his mind , I love how he thinks about things and I always feel like I can trust him. Even when, sometimes, I feel like 'ooh maybe that's not the right way' I instinctively trust him and he's always been right. Our very first time together, I'd heard a lot about him from a lot of actors and actresses I really respected and they always said 'oh, he's fantastic to work for', and the very first time we just clicked and we very quickly got a short hand [and] so we didn't have to go into huge details about things. What I'm finding now is that I'll be thinking something but he's already ahead of me. And I like the fun, he makes me laugh.

Why do you think Dominic's appointment as Artistic Director at the Citz has been so successful?
It was in the wilderness for quite a long time and it just needed someone with Dominic's vision. And I think it will be a hard job but I think if anyone can do it, he can. I think he will choose interesting and exciting plays and I think people will want to come again. Last season it was just so lovely to see people in the bar again. For some reason, its always seemed so far away but now it just seems like its the central theatre that we've got because its really vibrant and working and happening and I just think its great. I am so glad because it could have just gone the other way and disappeared completely.

What would be your dream role? Or have you already played it?
I've never really had dream roles I have to say. I love doing good work, I love work that excites me. I did Footfalls with Dominic and I never imagined I would ever be doing Beckett, it never really interested me, I couldn't really get it. But when I did it I fell in love with it and its one of the best things that I've personally got so much out of. I'd still like to try Lady M and I've not done any of the Tennessee Williams, I'd love to try one. With Shakespeare, I have to say, I'm more interested in the men than the woman. Cleopatra is one I'd love to try and I think, in a funny way, you can play that at any age if its done properly. I like doing a mixture of comedy and serious stuff as well, so this years been good for that, I've had a very varied year.

What advice would you like to go back and give to yourself as a young actor starting out? 
I would say to relax more. And trust in my instincts more. And I think just to believe in myself more. I think that gets in the way of a lot of actors and I think it's the worst thing. Because its not about confidence or an exaggerated confidence in yourself, its just about a belief in yourself, and you can be the shyest person in the world, which a lot of actors are, but if you have a belief in what your gift is then you can still be the same person. I would say to be yourself and to believe in yourself and believe in your dreams and really to keep believing in it. I've wanted to be an actress since I was 3 and sometimes I still get a big rush of 'Oh my God, I'm getting to do what I've always wanted to do' and its a joy, it's a real joy. I think what I would probably say to younger actors would be not to get caught up in competitiveness because I think that destroys you. Just keep your own council, look after yourself and don't worry about other people because everyone's unique and individual  and it doesn't matter what other people are doing because you have an individual gift that only you have and if you believe that and work on that then the other things will fall into place. I think that's what I would say.

'Sleeping Beauty' is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from the 1 Dec to 6 Jan. For tickets, please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022; or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Sleeping Beauty Trailer


Trailer for Sleeping Beauty has been released! Bravo to Marketing. They are a cracking team. Have a snoop...



Sunday, 11 November 2012

Week 3 of Sleeping Beauty Rehearsals


About to begin week 3 of rehearsals for Sleeping Beauty and I THINK I have all my lines learnt. It helps a lot that I am in fact asleep for a fair chunk of the beginning. Definitely got that bit down.

Al and I had an article in the Herald today which was very exciting. I think we were rather cleverly fooled by our photographer (who was lovely and who, it turned out, went to the same primary school as me and had bought a cat from my family back in the 60s!) when we were posing among the costumes in the wardrobe department: 'Oh we won't be using these photos, these are just for fun, but lets just give it a go anyway!". So a bit dissapointed that Glasgow didn't get to see our casual brooding actor poses. Definitely been practicing...Probably for the best in fact. We are both very pleased to be in the Herald and interviewed by Mark Brown. Here's a link to the article:


As I was saying, lines are now learnt and scripts are coming down. This is the bit that gets messy. No more hiding behind the book, hands are free to look awkward and useless and most of your attention goes to searching for words. This being my first professional play since leaving the RCS, I wasn't sure of the official line learning etiquette. When is the right time? Too soon seems cocky, too late seems lazy. What do I do!? Thankfully I am in a room of highly experienced actors, including Kathryn Howden and Mark McDonnell in which to follow suit. They are both great. Kathryn and Dominic clearly have a fantastic working relationship. The perfect balance of work and play. Everything is taken seriously but never without fun. She is very relaxed in the room which I think has a hugely positive effect on everyone and her openness is really inspiring. Mark is going to be great as the King and Ogress. Very dry humour, which works perfectly. Another actor who isn't afraid, always suggesting and helping and a great laugh. Being one of the most established actors in Scottish theatre and a regular on the Citz stage this past year, we thought it would be a good idea to start off our monthly interviews with Kathryn Howden. So look out...

‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from the 1 December to the 6 January. For tickets, please call the box office on: 0141 429 0022; or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

One Week Down, Eight to go!


So, writing this at the end of week one of rehearsals and on the cusp of starting the second everything seems to have got off to a brilliant start. There's been no mishaps, everyone's rather friendly and we’ve made plenty of head way in terms of getting the first act on its feet and seeing what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. This involves working through the play from beginning to end, scene by scene. First we sit round a table to discuss the scene: working out the motives of the character’s and then we put it up on its feet in order to 'block' the scene (effectively working out where people move on the stage and when) and how certain technical aspects will work. These initial discussions and ideas all contribute to creating the rules of the world within which we will be working for the next four weeks of rehearsal.

For the actors rehearsal time is absolutely invaluable and provides a time for us to play and try anything that we see fit. The first weeks of rehearsals are always like this as the outlines of characters initially sketched out start to be refined as the smorgasbord of possibilities an actor comes up with are tried, tested, kept or thrown away. For example, for me, this week has been an exercise in exactly this. I have two characters: the Minstrel and the Table-Slave, for the latter I have a very clear idea of how I perceive the character and, therefore, how to play him, but for the former, I had no real insight. The only information available about the Minstrel in the script (always the first port of call for an actor when building a character) is that he constantly sings. Now, one week of rehearsals on and several suggestions from Dominic later I have a clearer idea of which avenue to pursue . Surprisingly, this has led to me having to learn the Ukulele (a suggestion of Dominic’s), for this task I have been lent a 'Ukulele for Beginner's' book and a Ukulele (surely the most vital of the two). Let's see what happens.
Lucy in 'Thornbush' Rehearsal Mode

However, the company is made up of more than just the principal cast and the creative team are equally invaluable in helping piece the world together: we have Lucien and Benedicte, our Movement Directors who have been making thorns come to life; Paddy our musical director teaching us songs, assistant director Debbie and Cathy our Stage Manager. We also have an ensemble made up of five Musical Theatre students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who will play a plethora of different parts and also understudy the principal roles.

When Dominic took over the Citz’ last year using RCS students in his productions was something he was keen to introduce as well as for there to be a relationship between the school and the Citizens. In the space of a year this has gone from strength to strength with RCS students in King Lear, Dominic directing the MA Musical Theatre’s at the fringe this summer in Company and now Sleeping Beauty. When Dominic came to the school to talk to us (Lucy and I were in our third year) I remember very much appreciating him actively taking the time to speak to us and establish that relationship. As a Drama School student you spend a lot of your time vying for the attention of Agents, Casting Directors and Theatre Directors yet here was an Artistic Director actively seeking our attention and asking for our involvement in his theatre. It was very impressive.
Finally, Saturday brought about the company’s first birthday! Lucy Hollis (my fellow intern and blogger) is now officially a year older. This meant Saturday morning rehearsals were punctuated by a healthy dose of cake and our Saturday evening punctuated with some fairly vigorous dancing.
Now, where’s that Ukulele?
 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from the 1 December to the 6 January. For tickets, please call the box office on: 0141 429 0022; or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Rehearsals Begin: Day One


The first day of a rehearsal process is always exciting. It’s a potent mix of nerves, thrills, curiosity and fear as you meet the horde of new people who will undertake this journey with you as we attempt to transform a 76 page script into a fully functional, well -oiled, entertaining piece of theatre.
The morning began with a meet and great for all the cast, technicians, stage managers, movement directors, assistant directors and, of course, the director to meet each other. It’s a chance for old friendships to be rekindled and new ones to be tentatively started (all of which was definitely helped by a healthy serving of tea, coffee and a variety of chocolate biscuits), before a welcome speech from our director: Dominic Hill.
Then it’s off to work as everyone returned to their various focuses for the day and the cast broke off into the main rehearsal room to begin the read through. A read through is essentially exactly what it sounds like : everyone involved in the main production gathers around a table and listens to the actors reading the script aloud, complete with stage directions, for the first time. Not only does it give the Director a chance to hear all the different actors’ first takes on their characters but it can also bring the script to life and clarify bits which reading alone weren’t clear. Rufus Norris’ script is fantastic and I think the show has the potential to be really brilliant. I will be playing both the Minstrel and the very literally named Table Slave while my fellow intern, Lucy, will be playing Beauty.
At the end of the read through Dominic began to talk us through the origins of both Sleeping Beauty and the theme’s of the version Rufus Norris has written. As it turns out, the Disney version we all know, where Beauty waking up signifies the end of the adventure, isn’t actually the end of the adventure! That was originally amended by the Brothers Grimm. In fact, in Charles Perrault’s original quite a lot happens after the ending we all know so if you come and see the show and think “what’s all this stuff in the second half about Ogres?” we’ve actually been strikingly accurate to the source material...well...mostly.
Finally, there was one particular piece of advice Dominic was keen to impress: not to take the piss. It’s very easy with a Christmas play or a panto to get carried away with the silliness of it all and not take it seriously. By this Dominic isn’t saying we shouldn’t have fun, more so that the ordeals the character’s go through are very personal to them and there is a journey that they embark upon. The jokes and silliness should always support the needs of the story; the laughs are earned through the actor completely believing in his or her own ordeal (no matter how outlandishly silly that may be). The second the actor begins playing for the laugh is the moment the show stops being funny.

‘Sleeping Beauty’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from the 1 December to the 6 January. For tickets, please call the box office on: 0141 429 0022; or book online at www.citz.co.uk.