Thursday, 31 January 2013

Next stop Leeds!

A.H: Naturally for a play as epic as Dr Faustus it is very apparent that we have a lot of work to do. In total we have four weeks of rehearsal and, as we reach the end of the second, it seems that we’ve barely scratched the surface. This past week and a half has involved going through the play scene by scene making sure that we understand all the 16th Century text before getting it up on its feet and knitting together a skeletal version of the play which we will then develop and fold copious and ever more intricate detail in to.

Above: 'Primum Mobile'(left) and 'The Firmament'(Right) two of several references we've had to illuminate
However, it’s also like working on two plays. The work we have to do on the 16th century text is entirely different to that of the modern section which is more like working on a new writing project. This involves going through the text, making sure it works, seeing whether there’s lines that can be cut, or alternatively cut lines that need to go back in. After this initial work Dominic will then pass any notes on to Colin who will rewrite these sections before passing them back to us to work with in rehearsal. So with two weeks to go there’s fight’s still to choreograph, illusions to learn and then disguise and 16th century text to mine further but the cast are more than up to the task (and absolutely lovely to boot!)
However, In comparison to Sleeping Beauty, I’ve had quite a bit time off. This is because Dr Faustus is essentially a two hander. The very first line of the play is the Chorus telling the audience that, actually, this isn’t going to be a play about mythical wars and heroic Kings but of an ordinary man’s journey through the world. As such, this means that the play is filled with characters whose sole purpose is to briefly aid the narrative before rapidly disappearing in order to give way to the next archetypal character the story requires. However, as a result this past week and a half has been a great amount of fun filled with a great amount of dressing up; we have three very large cloth rails in the rehearsal room which have every sort of costume on it which, depending on the scene’s requirements, means we’re welcome to mix and match to our heart’s content.
Another facet of the project which has been an entirely new experience for me is the logistics of the fact that we’re off on tour! This means that the end of last week was largely spent making a bunch of phone calls to various Leeds households to arrange accommodation, but only after learning as much as I could from other members of the cast about the perils of the world of ‘digs’. However, another peril that comes with touring is one that is far less easy to prepare for. The West Yorkshire Playhouse’s theatre is quite similar in its design to that of the Olivier Theatre at the National in London, the stage is very wide and curved allowing the audience to sit all around the stage and thus we will all have to play to two more sides of audience than we will at the Citz which is a much more traditional stage in the sense that that proscenium arch means the audience all, more or less, view the same image. As far as fitting the Leeds set into the Citz space is concerned, well, as our director Dominic put it: “you couldn’t find two more different types of theatre to stage this on”. But I’m sure the tech staff will enjoy the challenge.
So, as the Glasgow run of rehearsals come to their end and the skeletal shape of the show is set Leeds is where the real work begins. We’ll have to incorporate set and costumes into the work we’ve already done, the final rewrites of the Teevan section will be finalised and signed off and, of course, the show will open to an eager audience who will pass judgement on this strange world we’ve created...who knew damnation could be so much fun?
‘Dr Faustus’ is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, from 23 Feb to 16 March. And at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 April. For all tickets please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022, or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Dr Faustus Rehearsals Begin

A.H: And now for something completely different! Adieu to Ogres, Fairies, Table Slaves and Princes and a hearty welcome to tales of damnation, fame, asylums and soul music. Sleeping Beauty is over and Lucy and I now move on to the next phase of our Theatrical endeavours with the Citz. However, sadly, this also means that there must be a parting of the fellowship as Lucy heads to Edinburgh to rehearse Takin’ Over the Asylum at the Lyceum while I remain in Glasgow to rehearse Dr Faustus. In a way it’s rather apt that we’ll be spending the next phase of our internship apart, it was fantastic to be with Lucy on Sleeping Beauty knowing I had a wee confidante in the room going through similar challenges and worries as we found our feet. However, now that said feet have been firmly found and, moreover, thoroughly worn in, it seems right that we now stretch our legs apart before coming back together for what will hopefully be the triumphant Far Away.
But what a journey lies ahead till then. For Dr. Faustus it’ll involve four weeks of rehearsal in Glasgow, two in a different city, a four week run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse before returning to Glasgow for another four week run. The first league of this journey began on Monday at 10am as the full cast arrived from all their different corners of the country and began the process of getting to know each other over copious cups of tea and shortbread. Then it was through to the rehearsal room for a read through of the script, the first time that Dominic Hill, our director, and Colin Teevan, our writer, will have heard the full script out loud in full.
‘Hang on!’ I hear you cry, ‘what do you mean by “our writer”?’ Dr Faustus doesn’t need a writer, it’s already got one: Christopher Marlowe! Surely we’re not augmenting a well established 17th Century?  Well, you see, actually...we are. Dominic has had two acts of the play entirely rewritten by Colin Teevan, his writer and collaborator on the acclaimed NTS/Dundee rep production of Peer Gynt. As we sat round the rehearsal table preparing for our read through Dominic clearly laid out his reasons for rewriting the middle two acts: first, it may come as a surprise to find out that there are actually two versions of the play which are known by academics as the ‘A’ text and the rather different ‘B’ text both published within ten years of each other and so the text we all know and revere is actually already corrupt. What is Marlowe and what is not is estimated but a definitive version of Dr. Faustus written solely by Christopher Marlowe does not exist. Secondly, if you read the original version of the text the middle of the play is noticeably uneven in tone and structure. And so when Dominic first reread the play with the idea of potentially putting it on these factors stuck in his mind and eventually led him to the idea of having these troublesome middle acts rewritten by Colin. And finally, Shakespeare’s tragedies were given happy endings in the 19th Centuries and so in comparison to that blasphemy we’re not really being that drastic. So, cut to a year later and after several drafts and redrafts we now have a new version of Dr. Faustus to show the world, part Marlowe, part Teevan, and it is completely fantastic!
Obviously, I won’t give anything away but what I will say is this: as Monday drew to a close and I was walking my 20minute walk home and the combination of the design team’s ideas, the casts read through and Dominic’s vision for the play ringing in my ears I simply couldn’t shake the sheer excitement of it. The script simply by itself is dark, funny, disturbing and amazing, and then if you throw a bunch of insanely talented people into the mix with the intention of bringing that amazing script to life then I don’t know what could go wrong!
‘Dr Faustus’ is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, from 23 Feb to 16 March. And at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 April. For all tickets please contact the box office on: 0141 429 0022, or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The End In Pictures.


52 shows down and our story of Sleeping Beauty has reached its end. 

To make up for my lack of blogging of late (well done Al) I have a selection of visual treats for you to feast your eyes upon...(photos. I just mean PHOTOS)

Backstage before curtain's up.

Ladies dressing room.

Cards from cast and crew

Organised within an inch of its life. I swear. 

Beauty and Queen hanging out to dry.

Ding Dong the Queen is Dead.

Al, Owen, Lucie and Ros post show drinks.

Ros perfecting her thorn look.

Backstage emergency table.

Spot the Breasts...

'End of The World' party as hosted by Owen Whitelaw(prince) and John Kielty(Ogre)

'End of The World' party treats courtesy of John Kielty.

Final Night Celebrations with the Thorn.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Things What I Learned

A.H: As Sleeping Beauty enters its final few days I thought I’d take the New Year break to reflect back upon this fantastic wee show, see what I’ve learnt and post the sum total of all this new knowledge here in this Blog for all to see. If you’ve been a regular follower you’ll find the final solutions to theatrical conundrums that repeatedly outwitted us for the entire rehearsal process and if you’re a new reader it’ll be a catch up to all that’s been going on here at A Season at the Citz. So, without further ado, here are the surprising, and not so surprising, behind-the-scenes revelations of Sleeping Beauty:

1)      The show in numbers
In total 13 cast members will have done 51 performances, 2 hours in length (including a 20 minute interval) over 37 days which means, if I’ve got my maths right, we’ll have racked up a total of 4488 minutes of performance time. Surprisingly, there were only 10 early morning School shows (though it felt like a hell of a lot more). Out of a 37 day run we’ll have had 10 days off, including 1 Christmas Day and 1 New Year’s Eve. My dressing room alone, which has 3 occupants, has gone through 6 tubs of expensive ‘White Face’ clown make-up and 8 rolls of microphone tape. Over 2 acts there are 13 microphones in use; 8 trap doors used; 8 quick changes; it takes 7 tech staff to make the show run smoothly and musically the show requires 1 Bassoon, 1 Coconut, 1 Double Bass, 2 Ukulele’s, 2 Tambourine’s and a recorder. The shortest running time for Act. 1 was 54minutes and for Act.2 33 minutes. Number of estimated hours sleep to recover when the show is finished? 4,50087.

2)      No pain no gain
Literally because repeated appliance of microphone tape (which in the medical profession is named ‘surgical tape’) to the same area over and over again makes your neck look like this:

And metaphorically because whereas in an earlier Blog of mine I spoke of the importance during a long run of staying present to ensure that fatigue and complacency doesn’t creep in, in practice, this was one of the toughest things we all had to grapple with. Simply because when you’re doing the same show over and over, twice a day, every day some shows are a lot harder than others. I will be honest and admit that there were moments when I caught myself on stage watching the action but thinking about what I need to get from Asda later. However, doing a show for such a long run also gives time for every line and movement to become incredibly detailed and nuanced. For me it was little things like realising half way through the run that I’d been putting an emphasis on a certain line in the wrong place or realising that as the Minstrel there was a way of holding my Ukulele that looked as if the instrument was barely being touched and that it was incredibly light. A small thing that’s barely noticeable but something that adds to the bright, light and austere world of the palace.

3)      Sick is unpredictable
Face before I get Sicked on:                 Face After I get sicked on: 

Nuff said.

4)      The Cast get the applause but there are so many others who deserve it :
I’m bound to miss someone out the number is so vast but there are so many people who have worked so hard just on this one show and the vast majority of name’s below have probably already started doing it all over again for the show after us. So a huge thank you to:

Karen & Elaine plus the several drafted in (wardrobe); Barry, Emma, Lindsay, Cathy, P.B, Neil, Nat (the tech team); Guy Liotta (sound); Guy Hoare (Lighting design); Naomi Wilkinson (designer); Dominic Hill (director); Debbie Hannan (assistant director); Paddy Cunneen (music director); Lucien & Benedicte (movement director’s); Jamie and everyone in workshop (set builders); Helen, Alison, Jennifer & Keren (Marketing); the entire front of house team who collectively run the bar/ usher/ sell the tickets/ diligently keep the peace during a show. Finally, a special mention has to be made to Tom, Molly, Lucie, Grieg and Eve: 5 second year Musical Theatre students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who, on their first professional production of their hopefully long careers, have only ever been incredibly hard working and professional.

5)      There is no one-size-fits-all solution when closing Trap Doors

As a member of the ensemble in Act One it means that half my time is spent under the stage dressed as a Thorn popping up out of any one of the 8 trap doors built into the stage. However, quickly and seamlessly disappearing back into the trap door without getting any one of your head or hand thorns trapped is a martial art. Each member of the ensemble has developed his or her own method to dealing with this most complex of issues. One of my most intricate trap door closing movements I call the ‘Curl and Drop technique’ which is essentially a mix between a parachute jump, a break dance and wilfully falling on your arse...albeit gracefully falling on your arse.

6)      Trust your Director!
For those who are regular readers you’ll recall that while I have two characters in the show, Table-Slave and Minstrel, I was continually having problems working out how to play the latter. With the Table Slave I knew instinctively what to do and the more I worked on him the more images came to my mind to draw upon.
A selection of which included:


Monty Python


Ultimately, with the T-Slave very little changed between the performance in the rehearsal room and the one you see on the stage.

However, Minstrel continued to elude me all through rehearsals and, worryingly for me, half way into the tech. Surprisingly, what finally unlocked it was a 2minute conversation with our Assistant Director Debbie during a break in the tech. In this conversation she explained to me about a certain type of Clown work known as ‘Buffon’ and that often the person with the lowest hierarchical status has the most power as he/she has nothing to lose and thus can do whatever they want to whoever they want. After that brief conversation in the middle of a hallway which took minutes, the lock I’d been trying to pick for four weeks was suddenly open and the character began to grow very quickly in a very short amount of time. The lesson: Always trust your director and never be afraid to ask for help! 

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