Monday, 31 August 2009

38 days, 2 hours and 33 minutes...

...until 'The Family' opens on Thursday 8 October 2009 at 7.45pm (according to a little ticker on the Archway Theatre page for the play). Note to self: DO NOT CHECK THE TICKER EVERY 20 MINUTES - YOU WILL DO YOURSELF A MISCHIEF!

Last week was a rather unusual and mildly stressful week - have a read of the previous post and you'll understand why. I began Saturday's session with a visit from John who is doing some work on securing the bed frame. We now have a couple of pairs of floor clamps and the headboard is further secured to the main frame. The next step are a couple of wall brackets for the bed legs to slot into which will then be further secured by rope. Once this has been done we'll start to play with the frame and see what limitations we have. But it's getting there.

At the previous rehearsal I asked Ella and David to arrive at 11.30am to allow Pete and Mandy time to work on Scenes 10 and 1. As Pete is no longer in the play, Mandy and I took some time to hunt for bits of costume and set around Horley town centre. We found two beautiful dressers that would be perfect for the set - a dark brown wood, not too high, wide or deep - both for sale in different charity shops. Neither store has hired furniture out before so the kind ladies behind both counters have taken my details to pass on to their managers. Both should be giving me a call this week. We also found a red skirt for 'Beth' for a bargain £4. I've always imagined Beth in a brown skirt and can't decide if red is too brazen for her character. Will have to think this one out...

Following our mini shopping trip, Mandy and I returned to the studio to meet the gathering actors. I have spent most of this week trying to find a replacement for Pete and had hoped for an X-Factor style gathering of wannabes who I'd audition before casting one and sending the others crying into the bosoms of their families; the Chosen One would then ideally stay on for the rest of the day's rehearsal. Due to the short notice, only one actor, 17-year-old Joe Burns from Worthing, was able to attend.

As I had the rest of my cast I asked Joe to read a scene or two with Ella, David and Mandy while I watched. To a certain extent I felt a little sorry for Joe - you've got three cast members who have begun to gel, a production assistant, the guy you're replacing, and the director (who has also written the play you're reading for!). It was also a little odd for me - I've now grown slightly accustomed to how everyone else reads each part and here was another new voice reading the play. Quite surreal.

Joe read very well and, following last week's excellent rehearsal of Scene 7, I wanted to see how he'd cope with the intensity of the scene. We did the scene in two parts: I showed Joe the basic moves for Peter and asked him to act alongside David as Soldier and Mandy as Beth. Again, he did very well.

The audition lasted about an hour and after Joe left I asked for everyone's opinions, which were all very positive. However, I always like to play devil's advocate and am reluctant to go after the first person I see. David has a couple of friends interested and a couple more Archway members have thrown themselves into the ring, so I'm just waiting to hear back from them. I intend to make a final decision before Wednesday evening so that I can have someone in place before this weekend's rehearsals.

After the audition (and lunch) we went back to the beginning and rehearsed Scene 1. As Pete is no longer in the cast I focused on Mandy's portrayal of Beth. In all honesty, I can't off the top of my head think of anything particularly huge that I asked Mandy to do or change; generally little things to work on here and there.

We then moved onto Scene 2 - the Soldier's entrance. We played around with a couple of tracks (Nine Inch Nail - 20: Ghosts; Dust Brothers - Hessel, Raymond K from the Fight Club soundtrack) but neither quite worked to create the atmosphere that the intensity the character needs. There's a track I started writing about a year ago that might work so I'm going to play around with that. We then focused our time on how Soldier moves - the way he walks, crawls, stands, sits. David has come up with an almost broken skeletal movement that is good but needs a bit of definition in places - Louise Adams has added the video to Facebook so if you're a friend of hers on there then take a look (I'll see if I can post it on here too).

After that we moved onto Scenes 3 and 4, with David stepping in as Peter when Pete had to leave. I've really struck lucky with Ella - at the moment I'm finding that I'm having to direct her very little. Part of me wonders if I should be doing or saying more, or if I'll pick up on things more as we progress, but as it stands now I think she's ticking all the boxes. It was also interesting to see David as Peter instead of Soldier: he's clearly a very good actor who is more versatile than the part of Soldier might show (that's not to say Soldier is a two dimensional character..... come see the play, you'll get what I mean!).

Overall, Saturday was a mixed bag - I'd been a little worried the night before as I really had no idea how things would go. But by the end of the day we'd managed to get some work done. As we're recasting Peter it's now a certainty that we'll need extra midweek rehearsals.

Just a quick addition to say that in the evening I went to see Private Lives at Archway Theatre, written by Noel Coward and directed by Michael Beach. The play was witty, well-directed and brilliantly performed and I'd like to say a huge well done to everyone involved (the cast being Paul Richard Simmonds, Joy Andrews, Peter Westmacott and Laura Marie Martin). And thank you to Michael for all the lifts to theatre while I shadowed him as director in preparation for my main house directorial debut in 2010.

So that's all for now but expect another thrilling instalment in a couple of days when I'm hoping to have what will hopefully be the final casting announcement! Third time lucky n' all that!

38 days, 1 hour and 45 minutes. And counting.........

Monday, 24 August 2009

From brilliant to bugger...

Apologies to those of you who have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment of 'The Adventures of Bradley Barlow and the Play Wot He Wrote and Did' - more regularity over the coming weeks I promise...

I realise that I haven't updated you on how rehearsals have been going since Pete Russell joined the cast. The first one nearly a fortnight ago (crikey, has it really been that long since I updated this?! Again, apologies!) was great - Pete stepped into the role with ease and was eager to know as much as possible about the character, always asking questions and thinking things through. The chemistry with Mandy and Ella in the female roles was also great.

The following week, at Saturday's rehearsal, everything shifted up another gear as we focused mainly on Act 2 - it was David's first rehearsal as 'Soldier' and he jumped into the role with great relish. It was also clear that David and Pete would work fantastically well together - this was particularly apparent when choreographing a short fight sequence between the two of them: their combined ideas far outweighed my own in terms of excitement and physicality and the final sequence should work brilliantly. There were also a few moments whilst rehearsing Act 2 where I got genuine goosebumps - as did Mark (the SM), Mandy and Ella: our eyes transfixed on what we were watching - creepy, intense and brilliantly performed. Speaking of Mark, he's leapt in with gusto and came up with (among others) the genius idea of having our crew in balaclavas too - I love it!! John Hankin (Mandy's dad) also popped by to work out just how the bed will be secured so I'm looking forward to seeing what he can come up with. The problem we found with the bed that it's all very well saying ideas and discussing what we'd like to happen but until the bed is in place and the actors can actually physically use it, it's just food for thought really. I think I can safely speak on behalf of everyone when I say that we walked away at 5pm on Saturday positively buzzing with excitement and I for one couldn't wait to get start the next rehearsal.

And this is where the shocking 'Sixth Sense'-style twist comes in (but without Bruce Willis being dead)...

I had a call from Pete yesterday evening - he's been offered some paid professional acting work (one of which is the latest Harry Potter film) which would clash with the performance dates for The Family. I could tell that he'd been having conflicting thoughts on the matter - should he go with his head and take the money, or go with his heart and stick with the play he's been supporting for so long (and he really has supported the play right from the start)? Sadly, he has reluctantly decided to step down from the role of Peter. Whilst it's obviously come as a shock following our fantastic rehearsals and I'm totally gutted that he can't stay in the cast, I 100% respect and understand his decision - hell, if it were me I'd do the same thing!! So best of luck Pete! :-)

I find that at times like these it's best to stay positive and work out a plan of attack (not on Pete, might I add - on how to approach this glitch). David has a few people he knows that are interested and reading the play as we speak. I've sent another 'call to arms' through the Facebook 'Theatre Performers in Sussex' group (the same group that got me David) and this has proved fruitful with a couple of young lads interested too (christ, I'm 26 and using phrases like "young lads" - wtf?!). Gary has come with another possibility through a contact of his, and Mark's husband Chris is also interested, so there should be a few to audition.

So all is not lost. I refuse to use the cliche of 'the show must go on' but I'm going to make sure it does. Pete will be standing in during rehearsals until the replacement is found so this means I can concentrate on the other actors' performances. And I'm sure within a week or so I'll have my (hopefully) final Peter. As they say, third time lucky.....

Friday, 14 August 2009

Every cloud

It is with sadness that I report that Dan Woods has stepped down from playing Peter in The Family. As I've previously said, Dan is also appearing in Dick Barton in September and his schedules have meant that rehearsing for both show would have been difficult. The rest of the cast and myself would like to wish Dan the best of luck in Dick Barton.

The silver lining, however, comes in the form of Peter Russell who will be taking over from Dan to play Peter. Peter (the actor) was involved in the first workshop for the script and has had an active interest in the play ever since. I'm very confident that Peter will slip into the role with ease and look forward to welcoming him to the cast.

This now obviously means we'll pretty much be starting again from scratch at Sunday's rehearsal. Dan has given me his copy of the script with his notes on to hand over to Peter so with a bit of luck there won't be too much old ground to go back over. We'll also try to firm up a rehearsal schedule this Sunday too - I'll have a full report for you on Monday...!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

All hands on deck!

So far the blog 'announcements' have focused on casting, but I can now give you some info on who'll be assisting me on the backstage side of things. Mark O'Halloran has accepted the role of 'Stage Manager', his first at Archway. Ably assisting him is Louise Adams (she's been a fantastic source of knowledge for me during this process) who will be supporting Mark in his role. On the lighting desk is the talented Alex Gibson, and I understand Mark has also roped in Emma Ladd for his crew!

I'd also like to say a quick thank you to Neil Hunt for his assistance in locating a bed frame and to John Hankin for offering to do some work on it.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Casting Announcement (the final piece of the jigsaw)

I am extremely pleased to announce that the role of Soldier has been taken by David Robson. David recently graduated from the The Southern Theatre Arts Centre and has been performing as an actor for many years, both as a student and professionally. David's recent theatre credits include Demetrius in the five star rated Midsummer Nights Dream for the Brighton Fringe Festival and the title role in Roberto Zucco at the Northbrook Theatre in Worthing. David has worked as a performer for outdoor site-specific theatre company Periplum for the last two years, performing in their critically acclaimed The Bell, Arquiam and Snowglobe, throughout the country. In late 2008 David directed the musical theatre show Shattered at The Northbrook Theatre and is interested in creating new collaborative devised theatre in the future.

This now means we've got a full cast - the jigsaw is complete! (A pretty poor jigsaw, mind - it's only got four pieces! Shall we say we got it from the Early Learning Centre? Good, I'm glad you agree)

So the official cast line-up looks like this:
Peter - Dan Woods
Beth - Mandy Humphrey
Soldier - David Robson
Emma - Ella Sowton

We may have a Stage Manager confirmed very soon too...

Thursday, 6 August 2009

(Slightly) Extended Run!

Tiny bit of exciting news - the decision has been made to extend the small run for The Family from two nights to three! This means that opening night will be Thursday 8th October 2009 at 7.45pm. The feeling is that we may be able to generate enough interest in the play to attract a wider audience. Ticket reservations haven't opened yet but details will be posted on here once confirmed.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Rehearsal #1

The date: Saturday 1st August 2009.
The time: 10am.
The venue: Archway Studio Function Room.
The reason? The first rehearsal for The Family!!

Over the last few days I've had a lot of people ask me "Ooh, how did it go?". I stand there. I look at them. And I have a little think. "Yeah, it went really well, thank you". And they continue to look at me, and I think to myself Crikey, that's not enough! They want more from me! So I smile, pause a moment. "Yeah, really really well. Really pleased with it. It's looking good. Thank you". A brief silence, before "Oh good". And off they trot.

And when I say a lot of people, I really do mean quite a few. And it's brilliant that they're showing an interest and offering support etc and I'm not for a single second slating anyone for that because it's a huge confidence boost and fills me with hope that we'll actually have a few people show up and watch the thing. But my problem (and it really is my problem and nobody else's) is that, well, I just don't know what to say! Even now, writing this blog, knowing that people are reading this word here - and now these ones - I just don't know what to write.

The night before (and the hours and minutes leading up to) the first rehearsal, I was bricking it. What if they've changed their minds? What if they refuse to do as I say? What if they laugh in my face, tear up the script and declare they're going to put on 'Cabaret' instead?! Clearly irrational, I convinced myself and headed off to Horley with my folder and duplicate scripts. I arrived to find the Function Room locked and no caretaker in sight - luckily, the main theatre was open for the flat wash for Private Lives, so we borrowed the key from there.

Mandy, Ella and Dan all arrived, raring to go and we entered the Function Room to be hit with the smell of fresh paint - Mandy's hangover was about to get much worse! After opening all possible doors, I took the cast through to the studio to explain how the revised staging would work. There is a bit of a gangway down the side of the stage at floor level - the entrance for which will now form the upended bed. The steps from bedroom to the main room of the house (on stage) will be the stairs at the other end, with the "front door" being stairs at the back of the stage. (Not sure that makes any sense - I'll draw a diagram at some point for you...). We returned to the Function Room and got to work on the first scene - and very quickly we hit our stride. Dan and Mandy have great chemistry and should work well together. Towards the end of the first scene, Peter goes to bed followed by Beth. As the bed is upended, the actors must stand instead of lying down. I moved the actors to the wall and, assisted by Ella, held their scripts so they could position their arms properly - in effect, the first small bit of choreography in the play.

We skipped Scene Two as Soldier hasn't yet been cast (it's in italics for a reason...!!) and moved onto Scene Three. Again, Mandy and Dan were great. It was pointed out that, as the stage is a lot deeper than expected, there would be room for a dresser or shelving of some sort at the back for Beth to potter around at etc. Ella entered as Emma and was great - and again, her and Dan look like they'll have some great chemistry together, with Mandy throwing in a bit wicked sister action.

During a quick lunch we chatted about forthcoming rehearsal dates before starting on Scene Four - a dinner scene with Emma and Peter. As we're mainly only blocking at this stage, I'm not really focusing on performance - but at the moment, I've no worries on that score. At 2.15pm Dan had to dash off to work, so Mandy and Ella went through their couple of short bits together with me reading in for Dan.

Hopefully this blow-by-blow account wasn't too dull a read...?! I think once blocking is out the way I'll be able to tell you a bit more about the practicalities and performances.

And there may be an announcement in relation to Soldier this coming weekend - watch this space... ;-)