Sunday, 17 March 2013

Parting is such Sweet Sorrow

A.H: And so the first half of the journey that is Dr Faustus has come to a close. After three weeks of rehearsals and three weeks of performance Dr Faustus’ tenure at the West Yorkshire Playhouse has come to an end.
But what a time we’ve had. Over the past month and a half through curries, pints, Wardrobe meal deals and an excessive amount of the aptly named ‘Deliciously Moreish Yorkshire Crisps’ this fantastic company of actors has become an even more fantastic bunch of friends.
The last week went brilliantly. Our director Dominic returned from Glasgow on Thursday to see what was, by all accounts, a very good show before a notes session on Friday, a rehearsal of the Marlowe epilogue for Glasgow and some re-rehearsals to tighten up and refocus some of the existing scenes. Having a director come back to a show that’s been up and running for some time is incredibly important.
Dominic (far right) directing Annie (left), Siobhan (centre) and Ollie (floor)
As actors we aim to be consistent in our performances every night so that if an audience member were to come and see the show on opening night and then again on closing night that person would see the exact same level of performance, energy and drive. Having your director back to see the show with fresh eyes helps to ensure this aim and keep the show vital and alive. Dominic left again after the Saturday matinee as we broke for dinner in expectation of the evening show.
But not before a rather important celebration for some very important people took place. At 5 o’clock the cast were invited by the West Yorkshire Playhouse to a small reception of tea and cake to say thank you and to give us a wee send off before the final show. However, thanks to a rather lovely speech by our assistant director Andy the tea and cakes turned into a celebration of a group of people who hitherto have yet to get a mention in this here blog: the community company.
The community company first arrived just before tech week and were predominantly made up of members of the Playhouse’s newly formed youth theatre and two members from the Heydays Company, the Playhouse’s equivalent for older members. On stage they have added to the world of the play immensely while, off stage, they have joined us on several nights out culminating in last night’s mega, mega night out where it was an absolute joy to have such brilliant company to send us off proper. Collectively they have been invaluable and at all times the maintained the most professional of attitudes. And so to Liam, Will, Jacob, Pete, Anne, Amy, Thea, Nicci, Rudi and brilliant Beth a huge, HUGE thank you, you’ll be missed a great deal.
As for those of us who will be continuing to Glasgow? Well, imminently we have two weeks off which means everyone’s off home for a very well earned rest. I will be taking a quick detour to London before heading back to Glasgow to rest well and recuperate. To be home will be lovely but I will miss Leeds a great deal, both the beautiful city and the home away from home that has been the Playhouse, but above all the people. Thank you to you all and I so hope to see you again soon.
And there it is again, another ending. 
Dr Faustus’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 Apr. For all tickets please contact the box office on 0141 429 0022 or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


A.H: So, week. 2 of the Leeds run of Dr. Faustus came and went without a hitch and now this evening (Tuesday) will signify the beginning of the end for the company’s tenure at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Since our director Dominic has returned to Glasgow the company has one very important job to do: keep the show alive. This may sound odd but if the company begins to get lazy or an actor decides to simply repeat the same performance every night the show is doomed to endure a barrage of coughing fits and yawns from the audience in front of them. Thankfully, due to the fantastically talented individuals who make up the cast, said laziness has yet to materialise. In fact, Dominic’s decision to have all of the actors onstage almost all of the time has been one of the great joys of the show allowing you to watch your fellow actor’s performances evolve and become increasingly nuanced.
Dominic too, despite being back in Glasgow, is not yet finished with the evolution of the play, we may be finishing in Leeds but we still have a three week run in Glasgow to go. The whole company is called on Friday so that we can put the final chorus back into the show and rehearse it so that it’s ready to be implemented for the Glasgow run. The decision to remove Marlowe’s epilogue was taken fairly early into rehearsals, however, now that Dominic has seen the finished show several times he thinks it’s important it should go back. One problem this will certainly solve is one with which we’ve had continued difficulty and which is very important we solve: the audience never seems to know when the show is finished. Let me explain...
Night after night, the play has consistently ended in the following fashion:
Faustus in despair is left alone in his study just as we find him at the beginning of the play, the clock begins to strike, being a tragedy and all the language begins to get a bit dramatic with talk of stars and mountains etc, the speech builds to a crescendo, things get a bit devilish, aaaaannnnnnndddd blackout!...but then for a good ten seconds nothing happens. After the ten seconds have passed the house lights come up and we actors, bashfully awkward, swivel on the spot to face the audience looking expectant. Five more seconds pass of just-said-“howsyourdad?”-to-someone-whose-Dad’s-just-passed-away-awkwardness...and then...applause.
Embellishments aside this can get a bit frustrating, so, hopefully, the return of the final chorus will give our ending a very clear full stop, as opposed to our current state of affairs which is more of an ellipsis.
Endings of a different sort are a surprisingly unexpected requirement of an actor’s life. It’s a fairly obvious thing to say but each time a production is put on it must eventually end and make way for a new story to be told by a new company of actors with a new creative vision. This is crucial to the evolution of theatre and allows it to remain pertinent and to comment upon the world it holds its black mirror up to. However, the end of a production also means the end to a wonderful company of friends who after three months of rehearsals, performances, cast meals, and nights out have become a second family. Whilst in Leeds the cast of Dr Faustus have become precisely this, as have the staff of the West Yorkshire Playhouse who have treated us fantastically and made the Playhouse a home away from home. As we prepare to say goodbye to the Playhouse we thank them immensely and know we will miss them greatly.
Dr Faustus’ is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until Saturday16th March, and at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 Apr. For all tickets please contact the respective box office or book online at www.wyp.org.uk or www.citz.co.uk.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Previews and Press Nights

The Cast having a breather
As of two days ago the show has officially been open for a week! And what a week it has been: previews, first audience reactions, cutting out bits of the show then re-rehearsing the show, all culminating on Wednesday with the first of two press nights (the second being in Glasgow).
The period from the first Preview through to press night of any show is always fraught with activity and is an extremely valuable period in a shows life. Last Saturday, with the tech and dress rehearsals out of the way, the first batch of audience members arrived for preview number one and us actors waiting to hear how they would respond. It went well but when we arrived at 10am the next day Dominic had a list of things he wished to cut, change and tighten up based on that previous evening’s performance. It is often the case after four weeks of rehearsing the same jokes, tricks and moments over and over again that you can become a bit immune to the punch lines or the weight of certain moments. So, having a four hundred strong fresh eyed audience view it in its entirety can allow everyone involved to see the show afresh and, for a director, can be very telling.
A famous theatre director was once asked about the key to directing. His reply was simple: “Kill your darlings!” He was referring to the little gems found in rehearsal, or written into the script which may seem either hilarious, beautiful or a moment of genius, but in terms of telling the actual story that moment simply gets in the way. When this is the case, no matter how genius said moment appears to be, get rid of it and get on with the story! Such a moment of darling killing example was part of Dominic’s list of cuts and things to tighten up before the Monday evening Preview. If you view the production photo’s on flickr you’ll notice the following picture:
Photo by Keith Pattison
However, if you come and see the show tonight you’ll notice this moment in the play is nowhere to be seen. That’s because it has been cut. Essentially, Colin Teevan had written a montage in the second half of the show showing Faustus falling from celebrity and it was written that we would hear over the tannoy a new star on the rise who had made the same deal Faustus did: Colin wrote that this new celebrity would be Derren Brown. And he said yes! He recorded lines for the show! We had a Derren Brown cameo in a show about magic! THE Derren Brown! The guy who can do this: . But, alas, after preview one Dominic decided that that montage was muddy storytelling and, in actuality, we just needed to get on with Faustus’ story. So we murdered our darling, but rightly so! If it doesn’t serve the story there’s no point. It is one of many deleted scenes that you’ll find in the script but not on the stage.
Although this week has been extremely busy on stage, back stage is a different story altogether. As the show gets into full swing our dressing rooms have become our new home. The walls are covered with cards and well wishes from press night; the girls’ dressing room has so many bouquets of flowers it could be mistaken for a florists and Ollie, Chris and I have decided to fill our free time with a wee tournament of Cards (above) which has become very serious indeed! It has a rude name so I shall not utter it here.
The week ended with two very well deserved days off. Sunday had a very clear remit: sleep and box sets, but on Monday I decided to be the audience for a change and watch someone else do all the work while at Northern Ballet’s The Great Gatsby. A lovely show in a stunning theatre with some incredible dancers, however, for a story that, in its own way, also deals with a type of damnation I would have liked it a great deal more if it just had a bit more of a punch to it. But then again everyone’s a critic!
‘Dr Faustus’ is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, from 23 Feb to16 March, and at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 Apr. For all tickets please contact the respective box office or book online at www.wyp.org.uk or www.citz.co.uk.