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Touring Theatre to the East of England and beyond
FIINIGAN'S ELBOW: Actor moaning about his age....

7am Ely residence.

Well Jon has asked me to write my first blog for this show and I have not a thought in my head, except for the usual autumnal teaser: 'is it too early to switch on the central heating?'.  It's been very mild so far, hasn't it?Nevertheless I've been playing the Viking hero, impervious to cold, saying solicitously to my delicate orchid of a partner, 'Well, look, if you're cold we'll have it on for a bit' and meanwhile thinking, 'Please say yes, by Odin's therma s, it's bloomin' brass monkey weather in here'. She, seeing my cunning game, will say, 'Well, only if you want it on as well.'  Neither wants to be the first to break: pride I guess.  You see, we need someone to blame when the exorbitant bill hits the doormat in Feb. 'You had it up to 75 degrees in October! Missing Hawaii are we?'  Domestic bliss!  This draws me on to the question of age.
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FIINIGAN'S ELBOW: Actor moaning about his age....

7am Ely residence.

Well Jon has asked me to write my first blog for this show and I have not a thought in my head, except for the usual autumnal teaser: 'is it too early to switch on the central heating?'.  It's been very mild so far, hasn't it?Nevertheless I've been playing the Viking hero, impervious to cold, saying solicitously to my delicate orchid of a partner, 'Well, look, if you're cold we'll have it on for a bit' and meanwhile thinking, 'Please say yes, by Odin's hermals, it's bloomin' brass monkey weather in here'. She, seeing my cunning game, will say, 'Well, only if you want it on as well.'  Neither wants to be the first to break: pride I guess.  You see, we need someone to blame when the exorbitant bill hits the doormat in Feb. 'You had it up to 75 degrees in October! Missing Hawaii are we?'  Domestic bliss!  This draws me on to the question of age.
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FIINIGAN'S ELBOW: Actor moaning about his age....

7am Ely residence.

Well Jon has asked me to write my first blog for this show and I have not a thought in my head, except for the usual autumnal teaser: 'is it too early to switch on the central heating?'.  It's been very mild so far, hasn't it?Nevertheless I've been playing the Viking hero, impervious to cold, saying solicitously to my delicate orchid of a partner, 'Well, look, if you're cold we'll have it on for a bit' and meanwhile thinking, 'Please say yes, by Odin's hermals, it's bloomin' brass monkey weather in here'. She, seeing my cunning game, will say, 'Well, only if you want it on as well.'  Neither wants to be the first to break: pride I guess.  You see, we need someone to blame when the exorbitant bill hits the doormat in Feb. 'You had it up to 75 degrees in October! Missing Hawaii are we?'  Domestic bliss!  This draws me on to the question of age.
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Ragnarok: Rehearsal Blog - Week 3

Our third week has been about finishing where we needed to get to and starting to polish it all up.

Finding out how we feel our way through these glorious characters and starting to understand how we make everything look as good as it can.

A short week due to the bank holiday, Tuesday was all about getting back in the flow, Wednesday was emotionally connecting the dots and finishing blocking, yesterday was revisiting from the beginning - polishing - and today is all abo t movement.
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Ragnarok: Rehearsal Blog - Week 2

WEEK Two Blog Post:

This week has been all about getting the show up on its feet. So the drill has been:

talk through detail section and intention point through walk through experiment and perfect ... and wait for all the technical details to complete the final scene.

We've got to grips with kite puppets, hand puppets, giant puppets, people puppets, held puppets and dead puppets.

We've tried on cost mes and hoped they would fit.
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RAGNAROK: Rehearsal Week 1

Hello, I'm Drew, the Assistant Director for Ragnarok

I'll be your blog host for the next little while...

We're nearing completion on week one of rehearsals at the John Mills Theatre: a beautifully aged, well decked out, wondrous building to work in.

Day One: Intro

Chats, meets and greets, get-to-know-you games, conversations and comparing notes... moving into initial physical sweats from not having exercised for a while and mental sweats at the prospect of the task ahead... and then we read, the whole thing, start to finish, everyone in. Glorious. Oh, and we decided, together HOW TO SAY IT PROPER... working our way through all the Norse terms, agreeing on how to say them
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PALM WINE & STOUT - First Week

First week of rehearsals of Palm Wine and Stout was fantastic as I got to meet the whole company as a family. We had a company reading of the play, had a lovely lunch provided by the company and really got on with the cast from the get-go. I was welcomed as a member of that family and I felt that has been one of the strong points of this experience so far.

During the weeks of rehearsal, whilst having fun, I've been finding characters for the roles I play: Femi, Abraham and Bride fro Hell. It's joyful to work with a company that's full of energy, optimistic and everyone's on the same page and always willing to try.
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PALM WINE & STOUT - One of the family.

Whenever I meet anyone who has worked for Eastern Angles, the response is always the same: ‘Ohh! Is Penny still there? How's Ivan?' And, on one occasion, ‘Is the cheese board still in the van?!' I know exactly where that comes from. This morning Itoya commented on the family atmosphere, which is evident from your first day with this theatre company. It's not that easy to welcome others into your home with open arms as they do here, especially as those interlopers change on a regular asis. Bringing Parkway Dreams to Ipswich, last spring, felt like coming back to the family nest.
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RIVER LANE: First steps.

On Saturday and Sunday Eastern Angles started their River Lane auditions. If you've never acted before but are dying to become part of a theatre group, this is a perfect opportunity for you, River Lane is a community play and there is no experience necessary.

The play is set in the heart of the city River lane and takes us back to the days of Frank Brierley's supermarket, Walter Cornelius and the Peterborough Birdmen, Desmond Dekker and soul music that became the soundtrack o the main character's lives.
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BRONTEBLOG: Totes emosh!


Our dark and dingy theatre is transformed with numerous lights (all over the blessed seats) and paint (ditto, the floor). Totally OTT!

Stage Management and the techies are showing some real skillz and the designer is really scoring the lad points. The director's as chilled as ever, but the actors have a freaksome mania, judging by the constant muttering and weird noises emanating from the loos. Totes emosh!

Can't think why. If I forget my lines I just lay the "I'm from a different world" card. Should have lots of chances to try that out over the next few days. Or I could wail, I  Quite surprised my vocal chords are still intact and even more surprised the mortals haven't invested in earplugs yet.
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BRONTEBLOG: A week in the life...

WARNING: This blog contains in jokes and tantalising hints. For help, seek the Box Office where they will give you the key to these mysteries in the form of a ticket.

Dear Reader, it is I, Cathy of Dunwich.....yes, it's alright, I would be excited too.

How are you? I hope you are as stonkingly good as I tend to be! This week has been a pure corker, filled with wonder and adventure both prodigious and perilous LONG MAY IT CONTINUE. So allow me to spin my spinner, tell my tale and let me show you the Dunwich doings (and thereabouts) through my eyes......
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Dear Reader,

Well, what an exciting first week! I always enjoy meeting new people - they give me such inspiration for my rudimentary storywriting. The crowd that gathered early on Monday morning are a delightful bunch.

We've been battling a bitter chill both inside and outside on the theatre this week. I must confess I have invested in a number of thermals, I layer them under my skirts which makes movement a little tricky but I tell you, it's worth it!

We h ve, this week, been focussing on how to tell our story. There are so many exciting elements to our production we have been having such fun experimenting with different means of conveying them to the audience. Could a monologue work instead of a song? Or vice-versa?
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Dear Reader,

Well, what an exciting first week! I always enjoy meeting new people - they give me such inspiration for my rudimentary storywriting. The crowd that gathered early on Monday morning are a delightful bunch.

We've been battling a bitter chill both inside and outside on the theatre this week. I must confess I have invested in a number of thermals, I layer them under my skirts which makes movement a little tricky but I tell you, it's worth it
read more


Dear Reader,

Well, what an exciting first week! I always enjoy meeting new people - they give me such inspiration for my rudimentary storywriting. The crowd that gathered early on Monday morning are a delightful bunch.

We've been battling a bitter chill both inside and outside on the theatre this week. I must confess I have invested in a number of thermals, I layer them under my skirts which makes movement a little tricky but I tell you, it's worth it!

We h ve, this week, been focussing on how to tell our story. There are so many exciting elements to our production we have been having such fun experimenting with different means of conveying them to the audience. Could a monologue work instead of a song? Or vice-versa?
read more

DARK EARTH: No sign of flagging as Dark Earth enters its second week

Into the second week and another two full houses for Dark Earth, currently performing at Flag Fen in Peterborough. And, even better, the weather forecast says no rain expected for our last performances!  There are still some tickets left for the Saturday and Sunday performances but hurry as they're selling out fast!

So far, it's been a real adventure on site at Flag Fen - the atmospheric surroundings,  the wonderful archaeological mysteries on site, and the theatre marquee a big white box on the outside, but when you step past the threshold it opens out, TARDIS-like, to reveal the landscape of the fens, and the world of the play.
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DARK EARTH: It's almost there...

It's almost there...

It's the last few days of rehearsals. We got the "let-in" to the set on Sunday, much excitement. I can only say, it looks amazing. If you can imagine doing a play that feels like you are sitting in the fens during the seventeenth century, but less cold and windy, this is it. Plus, the audience will be able to go around Flag Fen museum and see some of the bronze age remains themselves, before the show starts, if they choose - so they should properly be in the moo by the time they get into our amazing marquis!
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DARK EARTH: How the professionals do it...

A blog from Emma Goldberg, who is currently rehearsing DARK EARTH in Peterborough, and is playing the part of Cristeen:

How the professionals do it...

I love Eastern Angles. Their productions are exciting and innovative. I've laughed and cried. So imagine how excited I was at a chance to be involved in one! I was happy (and concerned) to land the part of Cristeen, the Dutch drainage expert's wife - concerned because of having to put on a Dutch accent. Not too Germanic, hat's the top tip there. I think. Hope. 
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DARK EARTH: Our girl in Peterborough

After working for Eastern Angles as their girl in Peterborough for nearly four years, I often have a thousand reasons to count myself lucky but with the latest production, 'Dark Earth' I have had my faith in art and its absolute mastery of getting to the pinpoint of the matter, rekindled and restored.

Dark Earth is a play set in the 17th century at a time when the Fens was still considered a place of isolation and magic, some would say that this  is still the case. However the lay written wonderfully by Forbes Bramble rediscovers the fens of that time and brings it to life and presents a number of themes, from loss of livelihood, love, tragedy along with the unearthing of  hidden heritage that lies  beneath our feet, taking it out of the very mud of the land into the light.  He is able to do this through the questions that the characters ask in the play, throughout their stories and these often unearth bigger philosophical arguments such as  can there be a  consistence of science and religion? or is progress always what local communities desire and if not why?
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DARK EARTH: The Development Weekend

To Peterborough for the first reading of Forbes Bramble's new play DARK EARTH  which is being produced by Eastern Angles for a unique set of performances at FLAG FEN  in September.  Led by a professional creative team the cast and crew of the show are being drawn from the local community in and around Peterborough.

This weekend was what we called the Development Weekend for the piece.  Two days of frenetic activity - led by the shows director Naomi Jones - culmin ted in the first full reading of the play. 
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BLOG:My Time with the Angels

My Time with the Angels 

My name is Matthew, a 41 year old who fell by the wayside a few years ago after being suddenly discharged from the RAF. I am a serving prisoner at HMP Hollesley Bay (open prison), Suffolk. I have been at Hollesley Bay since June 2011, and I am now coming to the end of my 2-year sentence. Due to the type of prison that I'm currently residing at and the fact that I'm a ‘trusted prisoner', I'm afforded the opportunity to work in the community as a vo unteer to prepare myself for my impending release and to get back into a routine of a working practice. The prison tries to prepare prisoners for their release by placing us on community work so we can get used to dealing with the general public and society in a step-by-step manner, rather than just releasing us on the last day of our sentence and expecting us to adjust accordingly without any preparation.
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DIAL M FOR MURGATROYD: Actor Finlay's Casebook

Well here we are.  Was it only seven weeks ago that my agent rang with the news that Eastern Angles would like me to play Lady Fitzall in their Christmas show? And now already we are at the end of our first full week of shows. What a whirlwind adventure it has been. Packing up and leaving London, (losing car to MOT and having to quickly buy another from a rather dodgy car dealer), arriving in Ipswich and settling into digs, meeting everyone and starting rehearsals.

I think my f llow cast members will agree with me when I say that Mrs G's Pantry saved us during the rehearsal process.  With a large script to learn, songs to memorise, props to consider and numerous costume changes, (I alone have ten - yes ten) ,sometimes a bakewell tart is the only option to see you through. Or a sprinkle cake. Oh I don't know...maybe some tiffin? Evidently, some tough decisions needed to be made. Rehearsals were full of laughs, although by the end of week three we were ready to sample an audience's reactions...(hoping that we weren't alone in finding it all rather hilarious).
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DIAL M FOR MURGATROYD: Just a week away

We're just a week away from the start of rehearsals for DialM for Murgatroyd.

This year Eastern Angles' trip into wonderful seasonal sillyness is being guided by the masterful hands of Julian Harries and Pat Whymark - who need little or no introduction. That said my introduction to Julian was bizarrely through a book. I'd just been appointed as General Manager to EA 18 months ago and happened to be reading a book on understudying McKellen during the seemingly never ending RSC tour o Lear when I came across this..
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My Margaret Catchpole Blog.

Having initially approached Matthew Linley about the potential of doing some work experience in the office at Eastern Angles, I never thought I would end up performing for twenty nights as a Violinist (and of course, the front of a horse!!) in Maragret Catchpole.

Over the rehearsal period, I was kept busy shadowing the Cast rehearsals, standing in for the occasional Revenue Man or Smuggler, and sometimes chipping in with what the chorus had r hearsed in the scene, hoping I had remembered it correctly! 
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MARGARET CATCHPOLE 2012: Dressing-Up Games

Penny is one of our loyal band of volunteers, and is also married to Roger who played an assortment of characters onstage as part of our Community Chorus. Here are Penny's memories of Margaret Catchpole:

Bentwaters Park and Slide - A Madge Memoir

May  The community chorus begins to evolve from a mixed bag of differently-gifted individuals to an all-singing, all-dancing troupe. Some are more musical than others, some have two left feet, but no matter - a rough bunch is what they are and WYSIWYG. Some are even allowed to talk.
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It seems totally at odds with the idea of a protected and safe rehearsal schedule to slap a 'performance' in the middle of the final week; to expose actors still experimenting to the judgement of an audience. It feels like forcing the end product far too soon. However, the 'Work in Progress' performance that the team presented last night, in the final week of rehearsals, seemed a very natural part of the process helping the show to find its centre and, of course, an obvious way to introduce the hird character to the piece; the audience.
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So it is clear I haven't written anything for a few days but things have been getting hectic in the rehearsal room and Peterborough. Not least today with a phenomenal downpour causing us to leave the rehearsal room for short while due a leak, or 5. The Nene is looking pretty swollen here, and the theatre is very close to it!

It's been an exciting week in the movement of this play. What you are always looking for and hope will happen is when an actor suddenly throws in an idea which urns their performance around and finds the missing link that takes the piece to a different and surprising level. Milo made the dramatic move of playing Lulu in a more outrageous and seemingly inappropriate way in order to play and force some changes. However, it revealed how the script could cope with such a dramatic shift and served as a reminder that rehearsals are about making those choices you feel, or even know, won't work but can often provide some impressive solutions.
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Day out of the rehearsal room today, researching.

So far with I ♥ Peterborough we have a gay Dad, a troubled musical son, a drag act and now a tornado. Why not? It is Peterborough after all.

Not necessarily a tornado hotspot in the same way as parts of America but Peterborough has had two in the past seven years and consequently makes a hugely important contribution to this production. So, my task today was to find out more about these phenomenons to help place t em in context for Joel and the cast.
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I ♥ PETERBOROUGH: Assister Act

I should explain a little about what I am up to in this production.

I am assisting Joel so I am there to help wherever I can. This has ranged from checking availability of space and researching some props through to participating in rehearsals and researching material for either Joel or the cast but more of that tomorrow.

We were joined today by Silki, the Stage Manager, so one of my duties, to follow the script, has been taken over by her, freeing me up with other work
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So back on Monday and straight into the lads, all three, director included (never getting anyone to do what he wouldn't do himself), learning the Len Boone Shuffle to the iconic track Love Won't be Denied. Film was to be attached, but annoyingly the sound didn't record, so I will get another and post asap.  This particular dance seems pretty central to a night out in Peterborough so its inclusion was essential; we're just looking for an opportunity to go out and practise in situ. Good Luck! br />
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Here is a first report back from a sadly very wet and grey Peterborough, having completed the first week of rehearsals for Eastern Angles new production of ‘I  Peterborough.

The elements seem to know this play and the nature of the piece, having blasted us with an atmospheric introduction to the city, a city very much at the heart of playwright Joel Horwood's latest work. This weather is helping tap into Peterborough. A city often overlooked but we're quickl discovering it has a very strong character and presence; a personality built from medieval streets, 70's planners, diverse cultural mix, railways, fens and the skies.
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MARGARET CATCHPOLE 2012: Dressing-Up Games

The first two weeks of me working at Eastern Angles as Costume Supervisor has been exciting and challenging.  As costume supervisor it is my job to make the designs a reality, and to do this I have to source, buy and make the costumes. For this production I am hoping to source most of the costumes because I don't have the manpower or the time to make too many of the costumes.

A large majority of my time so far has been scouring local (and not so local) costume stores. The play s set in the late 1700s, and unfortunately not many plays were written in this time. So, because of this not many costumes were made, resulting that this is a difficult period to source for.
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MARGARET CATCHPOLE 2012: Horsing around

Sunday 20th May 2012 - The final performance of Private Resistance comes to an end inside a tent at Parham Airfield Museum, and we bid farewell to Bish, Frances, Fred, Matt and Phil. It must be about 7pm. By 8pm we are back in Ipswich and meeting the cast for Margaret Catchpole. It must be one of the quickest turn-arounds we've experienced.

Monday 21st May 2012 - The morning sees the first readthrough of Catchpole with our new company: Rosalind, Becky, Frances, Liam, Peter and Garet , and a chat with Rosie the designer who shows us the model box of the Hush House with the exciting playground that will be our set. Jetties, boats, sails, carts, barrels and a huge hill, even a real shingle beach. We are reminded of the huge scale of the place, and memories of Bentwater Roads come flooding back. We all take a deep breath and plunge straight in to some singing work, followed by some detailed work on the script. We're in the saddle and the journey has begun.
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PRIVATE RESISTANCE: Around the World in 30 years...

Written this week by Phil Pritchard, the actor playing Frank/Alan in ‘Private Resistance':

I start this blog (on my lap top) at 2.15pm as we are heading to Maldon in Essex on the tour bus, with only just over a week to go till the final show!

It has been an amazing experience and one that I will always be grateful for. To see East Anglia like this is unique; travelling out every day to a different village or town playing in spaces as diverse as converted old Grana ies & Barns, Theatres, Village/School/Town & Community Halls, Churches, and even (in Norwich) in a Shakespeare's Globe replica (The Maddermarket). We are variously greeted, helped, fed, entertained and generally welcomed by those at each venue who organise the visit; from the Experienced theatre managers to the charming City ‘expats', and village Hall committee members.
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PRIVATE RESISTANCE: Perchance to dream.....

Easter Holidays...We are actually more than half way through as my head starts to contemplate being unemployed at the end of May...This is what we like to call not living in the present...If it's not fear of the future, it's dwelling on the past...But the truth is, life will happen whether I worry or not so now I choose to take steps to ensure my self employed status remains employed. Last night I dreamt I walked on stage and had no idea what my lines were..classic. I was standing there an Fran (Frances Marshall) was feeding me lines and I was thinking...'That is not ‘Private Resistance' what is she on about...I've never heard these words before in my life...' Surely all stemming from the fact there is an agent coming on Thursday evening to Ipswich...The Drama continues...
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PRIVATE RESISTANCE: Don't tell him your name, Pike...

It's early to bed at 1am after a very enjoyable performance at New Buckenham. The alarm is set and my head has hardly hit the pillow before I'm dead to the world. What seems moments later and it's time to get up and out. A brisk walk through the misty streets of Ipswich and I'm on the 0826 to London, heading to a Wardour Street studio for the first day's recording of 'Dear Arthur, Love John', an afternoon play for Radio 4. Taking the form of a letter from John le Mesurier to Arthur Lowe and flas backs to days on set and off, the play tells the story of the legendary comedy series 'Dad's Army' and its stars.
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Walsham Le Willows... A day to remember..

Arriving in Walsham Le Willows yesterday was like stepping into a fairytale...Tudor house after tudor house rolling by, green fields, a glorious church at the end of what seemed to be a portal into a perfect dimension...We arrived at the village hall basking in the sunshine of a wonderous spring afternoon...Birds chirping, trees dancing, and despite drought warnings a tyre stuck in 6 inches of wasn't going anywhere after back ng the EA Megabus up to the village hall door there seemed no way out... Phil even hesistantly exclaimed - ‘I think it needs a tow' ‘No! NEVVVEERRR!' we all enthusiastically screamed... Fred running around trying to find something for leverage - luckily for us the village hall had been refurbed recently and there were random pieces of wood and table tops laying around the side - so we did the get in and after all was in the theatre and the bus of joy was significantly lighter we all got to the back - Penny put pedal to the metal and we pushed with all our might - you'll be pleased to know we are all substantially stronger with all the lifting and could easily lift a truck...haha There is a video of the whole ordeal on facebook and few pictures of the mud - Drought my foot!! Go to Australia then you'll know what a drought is haha
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PRIVATE RESISTANCE: Top Ten Moments (so far)

Right, we are in week three and my blogging skills have been lacking..I did attempt to create a vlog (voiceblog) but sadly it wasn't compatible with the eastern angles website - not to mention the fact that I create in a moving vehicle in the front seat amidst a sea of noise and car fumes...Intrigued now aren't you!

Well we have been to a myriad of venues ranging from audiences of 40 in a village hall the size of an Australian living room to a town hall with raked seating whe e the audience are so far away we can even see dots for eyes...Not to mention the smell of burning plastic from a recycling plant that had been on fire for 3 days! Poor townspeople...Bit ironic that it was a recycling plant and was now creating more pollution than the city of London...Perhaps an exaggeration but you should have smelt it...vile!
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1024x768 Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE So opening night from the perspective of the work placement woman.  It's busy! What people may not consider is that things are being finished/finalised/ tweaked up until the last minute. Making sure everything is ready in time and the best it can be.

So the day goes like this:

I arrive at Sir John Mills Theatre (on time I'm pleased to say) and iron some costum s. Would they have had time to iron shirts in 1940, whilst Briton was under the occupation of Germany? Probably not but Eastern Angles actors are well looked after.
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It's not as easy as you might think to get a train from Cambridge to Ipswich and arrive by 10am. I am a 3rd year drama student at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge and I'm doing work experience at Eastern Angles for a module called Enterprise in the Creative Arts. And so far I've not managed to get here before half ten, silly railside fires and delayed trains meaning missing my connections.

When I arrive I disturb Sarah (the queen of the printer/photocopier I have since found out) in the office and we go on a hunt for Penny, the Stage Manager, who gives me the script to read, I don't manage to get very far as the actors are having a break and we introduce ourselves (there's another Frances, an actor in the cast, exciting stuff!) and then listening to what professional actors talk about gets far too interesting...
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I have a request for one of you he says...'I'll do it!' I shout without a moments' hesitation.

Blog he says? Ah blog...Yeah...I'll give you a bloody blog mate...

Shall we set the scene... DAY ONE!

Monday morning the 16th of January 2012.

Cold noses, rosy cheeks, hearts beating, smiles out, hands shaking, laughs flying, 5 actors, 1 director, a production team and a writer sit hesitantly waiting for the first words to come off the page...Ques ions, thoughts and feelings scratching around inside everybody in the room as it begins...The first read through... A stumble through might I say...Funny that feeling of always wanting to get it right, perfect and brilliant - the first time...Who are all these people looking at me whilst I attempt a Suffolk accent and try to make them laugh at the right moments...Laugh's? In a WWII play about the German's invading England I hear you gasp? Just you wait...Hitler won't know what's hit him...
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Until further notice all blog communications have been censored under the Official Secrets Act. Please check back for further information.


God Save The King.
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ROUND THE TWIST: A Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! And a week of change and adjustment for the cast, as Sally had to drop out, temporarily, after sustaining an injury during a show, resulting in Bryony taking over, a script in hand and the bull grabbed firmly by the horns.

The theme of adjustment has played as one of the main melodies in my life for the last week, not just professionally. For the first time in my life I will spend Christmas Day with my partner's family this year (we will spend New Year with mine). We have also made plans on where to live next: possible locations include South London and Walthamstow Central. Any suggestions gratefully received! My partner Holly has just learned she has TV work beginning next year, which requires travelling to Scotland for two months. My Grandpa has just left hospital after a brief visit there.
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ROUND THE TWIST: The future is...

I write this on the smooth touchscreen of my tricorder, er, my Samsung Galaxy S2. In the couple of weeks since the show opened, I have joined the future. I don't know what took me so long. I got the Asus Eee as soon as it came out, I run Linux, and read mainly science fiction on my Sony Reader. But I hesitated over a smartphone for a couple of years. As soon as I succumbed, though, I knew I had made the right choice.

A similar thing happened for me with acting. I had enjoyed youth the tre for most of my life, and developed a great passion for making a spectacle of myself, but although I fantasized about becoming an actor, I never quite let myself view it as a real possibility.
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ROUND THE TWIST: A nice slice of ham...

What a week! We began with two sessions of tech on Monday, finishing Wednesday morning. We don't have a hugely technical show: the greatest amount of faff came from the prop-wrangling, and the need to adjust a couple of set changes. Nevertheless, I felt quite nervous throughout the tech, which in hindsight I believe came from my anxiety over my performance. I don't really "lead" this show - all five of us have a pretty equal burden in that respect - but I function as the centre round which t e rest spin, and I hadn't had that responsibility before.
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To Arts Admin to observe the first day of a ten day exploration of Joel Horwood's  new play ‘I heart Peterborough' commissioned by Eastern Angles.  You can catch two rehearsed readings of the piece at Peterborough's Key Theatre on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 November.

It's always difficult to say what the birthing point of a new play is.  In the case of  ‘I he rt Peterborough' was it early observations whilst growing up in a small East Anglian town?  Was it walking around Peterborough with Eastern Angles artistic director Ivan Cutting discussing this commission?.  Was it the point Joel started to put pen to paper or today when those words get first breath?.  Or is it Thursday week when it first goes in front of an audience?
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ROUND THE TWIST: On the right track.

I need to plan my weekend quite tactically. I guessed wrongly about some of the information I'd have by now about the state of the play, which means I now need to try to come up with a set of guesses that will maximize the usefulness of whatever work I do today and tomorrow. I thought I'd share them with you, since this sort of minimax stuff quite often forms part of an actor's experience on a "new writing" show.

We finished Week 2 with a staggerthrough of the first half's second pa t, which ran 37 minutes. Next time we try that we will probably take about 10 minutes off, since we had to repeat several parts. I guess that brings the entire first half, in its current incarnation, to 67-ish minutes - which probably means several pages of cuts on Monday morning.
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ROUND THE TWIST: Basic Instinct

You know that stretchy rubber sheet your physics teacher used to demonstrate the bending of spacetime? My mind feels a bit like that at the moment. I've spent the last few years playing supporting roles, and my brain hasn't had to do seat-of-the-pants rehearsing for a while, where you have so much material to learn and practise that you can't get far enough out of its gravity well to enjoy a clear view. At the moment, my view of my part resembles those scratchy little pictures of the dark side o the Moon the Soviets took using radiation-resistant film they nicked off a downed American spy satellite. Ah, I see my simile has run away with me. Let's move on.
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I have a confession to make. I...I have... I have never... worked at Christmas before. I've always missed the casting, which often takes place very early in the year. I've wanted to work on a Christmas show ever since I left Guildhall, but the opportunity hasn't arisen. Until now! And what a wonderful Christmas show to start with!
We have just finished the first of 3 rehearsal weeks. Rehearsals seem pretty similar no matter where you work: you read through the play, then work t through slowly, scene-by-scene, then work scenes in more detail without scripts, and then you start running scenes together.
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WATCH THIS SPACE: A raft of new shows and projects

It seems like a long time since we packed the Up Out O' The Sea touring set away for the last time. In the meantime, Eastern Angles has been busy preparing, writing, designing, and honing our shows for the Autumn / Winter of 2011. Ivan is busy working on the latest draft of our Spring Show, Private Resistance, and this week we had our first meeting with the designer of our Christmas extravaganza, Round the Twist. Meanwhile, we've found the actors for Crossed Keys, our first Platform Peterborough show, and start rehearsals shortly.
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: The Show Must Go On!

We arrived in Margaretting with the sun STILL shining bright (are we ever going to get rain? Not that I'm complaining but it seems too good to be true!)  The set is up so we indulged in our daily ritual of a communal picnic in the sunshine, amongst nature and with bright blue skies above our heads. This is something I'm really going to miss, the moments we share as a team, sat down talking about our food (we are all such foodies!). I usually have some sort of spinach-orientated salad, Lisa is hooked on mayonnaise at the moment so we get a surprising display every day of the wonders of mayonnaise; Sausages and mayonnaise, seabass and mayonnaise and sometimes she has things like polenta! (I'd never experienced polenta before this tour so I've learnt loads) Francis's delights are always a surprise too; sometimes he'll have a nasty little garage sarnie but at other times he has brought in the most delicious homemade spag bol, he's a very talented cook is Monsieur Woolf! Mike has moved on to salads now, gone are the pasties and Gregg's sarnies and in are the Suffolk deli specialities and exciting salads! And Laura, well Laura is the fiend of M&S super foods! And so to the show.....
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: The Only Way is...Eastern Angles.

SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!

No Get In or Get Out for a week????


Yes that's exactly what we said when the penny dropped (not Penny Griffin of course!) but the realisation that performing on our home turf aka the Sir John Mills Theatre meant no early starts, no heavy lifting and the certainty that WE WILL MAKE THE PUB!!!!

Opening night was a treat, the audience spoiled us with their generous laughs and being back in the SJM brought back memories of rehearsals for all of us. We've come a long way baby.  After ‘Show One' in Ipswich we had wine, pork pies, cocktail sausages, posh crisps....oh they do know how to spoil you at Eastern Angles .Then we scurried over to The Greyhound (our favourite haunt! Sorry St Jude's- you come a very close second!) and had a few pints with the Guys and Dolls cast who were on the last leg of their Ipswich performances.
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: A Day in the Life...

I can't hope to be as entertaining as Laura and Francis have been in previous blogs so I'll attempt some fish based humour and then, if you'll forgive me, write a serious (but hopefully enlightening) piece. First the fish jokes.

Did you know that Noah actually built more than one ark? For example he built a split level one for all the fish. It was a multi-storey carp ark.

What did the fish say when he swam into a wall? "Dam!".

Anyway, let's move on to the b og proper. Actors have been a subject of fascination amongst ordinary people for centuries and I thought it would be good to reveal some of our secrets. So, you may ask, "How do you do it?"
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: Springwatch.

24 shows down, 34 to go.

Life on the road is just like it is in the films; a dirty, party-filled, stinking rock ‘n' roll mess. I am contractually forbidden to divulge too much of what goes on in that infamous Eastern Angles van, but I can reveal that we get through a lot of Mint Imperials and our capacity for loud, word-based travel games knows no bounds.

While we speed along in the back of that van, ankle deep in raffle prizes, empty packets of Jaffa Cakes and ha f-finished crosswords, the countryside outside our windows is blossoming. Seeing the flora and fauna of East Anglia springing to life has been one of the unexpected pleasures of this job. Speaking as someone whose fill of nature over the past year has been the urban foxes of Hackney it has felt like quite the Suffolk safari these past few weeks!
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UP OUT O' THE SEA : Down to business...

Pakefield is beautiful. Memories of my childhood came flooding back - staying with my aunt and playing with my cousins on the beach, swimming between the groynes and later, drinking at the Trowel and Hammer. After rigging the set on friday we had some time to find a chippie and eat our fish and chips on the beach with seagulls swooping down trying to get a look in...

Doing the show for the first time was amazing. A few line drops and a little bit of prop juggling and we did it. Our nergy and enthusiasm wasn't lost on the Seagull audience. We had some lovely feedback after the show and Jon provided us with some well deserved vino.
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: "I don't do requests..."

Apologies blog addicts. You have been missing your fix I am sure, but better late than never...

The last 2 weeks have been pretty full on. Week 3 was when it all came together, we began running full halves of the play and it really started to take shape. Each time we went through it we discovered more and more detail. To reward ourselves we went back to St. Judes Pub on the Friday.

The night started off fairly low key, but as soon the Westons 8% and potent beer had kick d in, we were in a musical mood. A lovely Glaswegian chap was playing "his own material" and "wouldn't take requests" but with some gentle encouragement from Lisa-Marie he came to our table and we developed our very own brand of folk/rock/Suffolk-woodland/garage/pop - a cacophony of table drumming and foot stamping; confused Glaswegian warbling; bluesy guitar and harmonica; accompanied by freestyle singing in a Suffolk stlyee. Our songs included the infamous "How many toimes you bin' to Thorpeness?", and the UK Garage favourite "Who got tha weasel?". Apparently we went dancing at the Swan afterwards but my memory is hazy to say the least... I have to say this was the highlight of the week. The full run of the play the next morning was decidedly difficult for a few of us, but Alka-Seltzer, OJ, bacon and Ribena helped a lot. It was quite an encouraging run-through though...
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: Turbot Time

The second week of rehearsal is over and it has gone swimmingly(!). We have gone through the whole play and we are beginning to work off-book. We have been able to work on our lovely set this week, which has provided it's fair share of inspirations and challenges.

As we begin to block the play and introduce the many props you can really see it all taking shape. The moment you put the book down is the moment you really get a chance to play and I think we have all had an opportunity t do that this week.
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: Do well bo'

The first week of rehearsals has been fantastic. Each day brought something new. We have been working this week with the writer Andrew Holland which is such a gift for an actor as you are able to iron out any kinks in the sense of what you are saying.

On Tuesday we went to Dunwich Beach and talked to a REAL LIFE fisherman, who turned out to be my old neighbour from Leiston, Chris. He told us about what was biting and the lack of it. His ideas about the fish stocks spurred me to watc Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's fish face on 4OD, which did a pretty good job of highlighting the reasons for the decline in beach trawling, which is the type of fishing Tweedy (played by me!) and Dolphie (Mike Aherne) do. The EU quotas on fishing are nodded to in the play and I think it helps to inform our characters to understand the difficulties faced by modern fishermen.
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UP OUT O' THE SEA: Launching the Boat

A blustery Monday morning, and the new cast have arrived! As each one comes through the door, the wind comes whistling into the building, which seems very apt for a show all about the stormy sea.  We welcome Mike, Laura, Lisa-Marie, Francis and Lisa, along with Andrew the writer, Ian the Designer, and Claire on costumes. This will be one of the longest Spring Tours we have produced, and this new team will be with us for 5 months! With a shorter than normal rehearsal period, we have lots of ork ahead of us before we open the play in Lowestoft in March.
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Gills Around The Green has sailed over the horizon. The set, costumes, props, and seating have all come out of the Seckford Theatre until next year, and life in the Eastern Angles Office returns to some normality.

Just time for a quick intake of breath before we start rehearsals for our Spring show, Up Out O' The Sea. We say a sad farewell to Will, our Technical Theatre Apprentice, who has been with us since Mansfield Park & Ride. The building won't feel the same without him, bu we're sure he has a great future ahead of him. Good luck Will!
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GILLS AROUND THE GREEN: Jack Frost Nipping...

Brrrr! 3 days into the run, and even though the snow and ice surround us, the show must - and is - going on! Most of our audience are a hardy bunch and many of them are making it into Ipswich for Gills Around The Green. In the meantime, we're stocking up with mince pies and punch, in case we get snowed in! It will take a lot more than this weather to stop this show!
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GILLS AROUND THE GREEN: The Night Before Christmas?

Twas the Night Before Christmas....

Or, more specifically, the night before the First Night of Gills Around The Green. Which means our first Dress Rehearsal. Which means the photographer is in taking shots of the show. Which means the actresses are worrying about make-up.

In the meantime, we're sorting out the tree, putting the finishing touches to the decorations, getting the bar ready, and looking out at the snowfall and wondering if it's going to get any worse.
This year, although the set is quite simple, there are a vast number of things on wheels, wires, and widgets that will have to come in and out of the foyer during the show. Throw in a couple of manic costume changes, and add the seasonal mix of mince pies, mulled fruit punch and wine, and it looks like Front of House is going to be a bit busy this year. Luckily I am not alone. Our merry band of volunteer Angels are straining at the leash to make sure your visit is a happy one. Even luckier - this year I don't have to dress up as a devil dog or spear-carrier so I can concentrate on all things hospitality.
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Something fishy is going on. Bits of the script are disappearing, to be replaced with new dialogue without me knowing. Apparently, I'm wearing 'cut mufflers'.

On top of this, Julian is refusing to include my brilliant 'Plaice Mat' gag.

Not happy.
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GILLS AROUND THE GREEN: Sprat's Entertainment!

It's incredible how quickly the Christmas Show comes together. At 2pm this afternoon Pat, our Musical Director came in with a new song. By 4.30pm, the company had learnt the song, put it into the scene and was busy running it. Next door in the workshop, a large car has appeared. Quite how they're going to get it on and off the stage is beyond me, but it looks great. Oh, and now the top of a phone box has appeared beside it. I'm not sure I can keep up.

In the meantime, we're gearing p for Front of House - this year with added alcohol! I've been on a Personal License Course (more difficult than I thought), and will soon be choosing some wine to go with the mince pies. Fear not - the Fruit Punch (with its closely-guarded secret recipe) will still be on the menu.
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Rehearsals have begun on what looks to be the best Christmas Show Eastern Angles have ever produced (mind you, I'm a bit biased). We've got our work cut out though! At 78 pages, the script is feeling decidedly meaty, almost buckling under the weight of top-notch comedy.

After 3 days, we've worked nearly half the play for the first time. Today, I spent the afternoon falling off a table, leaving Holly rolling around on the floor in hysterics and Julian and Kai and Rose were seen doing some pretty fishy chanting!
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PALM WINE & STOUT: I hear drums...

It's a drizzly day ouside, but inside the building vibrates with the sound of drums and African song. It can only mean one thing - the cast of Palm Wine & Stout have arrived, and are already making sweet music.

After yesterday's readthrough and buffet lunch (including the titular stout!), and with Bentwater Roads a distant memory, the theatre feels populated for the first time in ages. The cast - Joe, Helen, Zack and Antoinette - have been joined by Segun, the writer, and Clemen , the music and movement director, and along with Ivan and Kate (directors) and Cherilyn busy working on costumes, the Sir John Mills Theatre is positively buzzing.
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BENTWATER ROADS: The End of the Road

Monday morning. Hazel in Box office is taking down the Bentwater Roads posters, the technical crew are up at the Hush House striking the set, and I'm sitting at my desk wondering how 22 performances can slip by so quickly.

Bentwater Roads was a huge undertaking for us, but we've been thrilled at how well received it was. We've still got a lot of clearing up to do, but I wanted to just take this moment to say a huge thank you to our Eastern 'Angels' - our fantastic band of Fron of House volunteers, without whom we would be lost. SO proud of all of them. Also, our amazing new friends - the Ancient Briton Community Chorus - who have done a magnificent job. Another Thank You to the cast, crew and office staff who have done sterling work. Grateful Thanks to Prestige Bars, and all our suppliers and sponsors. And a big shout-out to Alex, who has surpassed all expectations with a blog of masterful proportions.
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The very last day of Bentwater Roads and I raised myself from my earthy grave that I had dug out for myself in the confederate tent (a make shift changing room for the girls constructed by Roger with an enormous confederate flag waving in the wind attached to the back flap). I cleared the picnic area of broken glass, half empty bottles and rubbish and then went to work cleaning the kitchen as the perculator began to brew it's dark, life giving, potion.

Max and Silki appeared soon af erwards, Silki finding the only thing I hadn't cleared from the picnic area - a beautiful green cashmere john lewis jumper - I felt irrationally under-appreciated by the gods for my efforts at cleaning.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Cider with Alex

The countdown has commenced. Four more performances and then oblivion. I wake up with my ankle still giving me a bit of a twinge so there is no way I'm risking aggravating it with a run, sadly that means no final jog round the park with my landlord Ivan.

Jon has organized a party for after the show tonight. There is going to be an enormous feast from the group that have been doing the grill and then a lot of drinking, music, dancing and some speeches. So I slink into Tesco on my way down to the theatre and buy myself a lot of cider or more aptly put, too much cider.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Gone with the Wind

When your telephone rings at half 4 in the morning, the usual thoughts go through your head - the death of a loved-one, a major catastrophe, or an invasion from Outer Space at the very least. When my telephone went off, I staggered out of bed to be told that 50 mile-an-hour winds were, at that very moment, ripping our marquees apart up at the Rendlesham Airbase. We'd known it was going to be a windy night, and had spent most of the Wednesday evening preparing the marquees as best we could - even dragging large heavy pieces of metal over from the junk pile next to the Hush House and lashing them to the marquees. We were not however expecting what actually occured.
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BENTWATER ROADS: How was my 'Actings'?

Up to the view of the sea and the sound of seagulls, we lay in bed for a long while then tidied up the hut and delivered the key back to the owners. Back to the beach we had cinnamon swirls and sangria for breakfast and built an enormous sand castle with a buttress, a keep and three outer walls encircling the main tower of an empty bottle of Sangria.

The rest of the day was a collection of train rides and I was very sad to leave Trina in London and carry on back to Ipswich. I arrive at 4pm and gathered some dinner/lunch from Tesco and headed to the Theatre. Penny told us that there had been a violent storm out at Bentwaters the night before and that the awning for the girls campervan had been torn to bits, the bar and grill tents had been buckled beyond repair, and that everything had been shaken up.
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BENTWATER ROADS: All hail the Dungeon Master!

I arrived at our boat in London at 6:30am - it was very disorientating as Trina had turned the boat around to face the other way while I'd been away.

I sneaked very quietly around the boat setting up a little obstacle course for her to overcome for her presents. Then two hours later I slid into bed to give her a hug, sing happy birthday and wake her up.

I had set up an adventure (dungeons and dragons style: Trina recently found out that I had played it as a child and wa giving me a lot of playful grief about it, she even finally said she'd be keen to try it) where she was an elven princess on her quest to kill a dragon, she started in the forest of Bed'oom, killed 6 mud monsters crossing the swamps of Ki'Chin (popping brown ballons as she did), unwrapping her gifts as she exited the swamp she had new bath towels and a promised hip bath for the boat (I still haven't found one the right size) all this was to clean the mud of and restore her health, she also had two down three shots of magic potion (orange and gin shots).
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BENTWATER ROADS: Race against time.

Up and out of bed for a jog around the park with Ivan. I think I'll try and keep the exercise up after the show ends but it will be sad not having Ivan's company. I showered and packed my bags for heading to London after the evening show. I have a train ticket for 10:42pm from Ipswich, the show tends to finish around 10pm so I should be lucky, Penny called and told me she found friends, Alan and David, who will be watching the show tonight who are happy to taxi me to the station. Flitting around town I got lunch and organized the last few items I would need for Trina's surprise on her birthday.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Pagan Birthdays

Lucky for some. I walked Trina to the train station early in the morning so she could get to her job in London on time. After what I thought was a postcard perfect farewell, bar the yob walking pass and yelling ‘get a room', I walked somewhat maudlin back to my digs and fell to bed, a little sad.

Only at midday did I finally raise myself from a deep, deep slumber; with odd dreams about being hung from the cross beams of an old cabin. I blogged, ate, showered, emailed my friend Matt about the details for us going to stay with him and Denise in their rented apartment in Barcelona (such a hard life) and emailed Dee Evans to thank her for coming to see our show and apologizing for not recognizing her in the audience afterwards and saying hello.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Pagan Recipe Book

Sweltering, that's the only word for it, sweltering. The tent was like a sauna with the thermometer turned up high. Parched and drunk on the heat I stumbled out of the tent where I'd had a rough night on the hard ground, feeling a mixture of achy tiredness and Ray Miers cockiness from doing such ‘manly' things.

Water, Tea and Coffee was drunk in abundance and then Silki suggested a swim at a nearby reservoir. With trunks on and still a little heat dazed we piled in Max's car h aded to this idealic spot, where a german bomb during world war one had created the ideal swimming hole. 
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BENTWATER ROADS: Carry on Camping

And I'm very excited at the thought Trina is getting ready to jump on a train and come see the show.

Ivan is sitting in the kitchen when I wake up and he wisely says it's too hot for a jog today. I naively go ahead and run twice around the park, almost loosing my entire body weight in sweat. A quick tidy of the bedroom where I'm staying and packing my ruck sack for an over night stay on location - I head into town and buy some rations for later on and get out some money just in case of an emergency.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Down on the Farm.

Dragged myself around the park one time as the heat was intense and my legs were still feeling tired from the day before.

We congregated at the Theatre around midday and headed out to the farm where Pam is staying. I was in the back of Max's car and in next to no time I was completely lost. We made our way up a dirt road, with a herd of young bulls eyeing us over as we sped by and they continued lazily chewing cud around the pond.

Pam had been very busy and there was a assive spread, we had a lovely dip of smoked mackerel, crème fresh and garlic to begin with and then for a main there was a big leafy green salad, two different cold seafood pastas and a bowl of hot linguini with green beans, broad beans and peas in a cream, cracked black pepper and blue cheese sauce, delicious. Pam had also made two large trays of her fail safe lunch dish, a chicken curry bake, with mayonnaise of all things, condensed cream, curry powder, mushrooms and a dash of lemon. For pudding there were decadently sweet strawberries with cream, followed by home made lemon ice cream, made the night before by Pam.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Game of Arrows, anyone?

A little late on the rise this morning meant Ivan (my landlord) had been already waiting for an hour to go for a jog together. We did our exercises in the secluded safety of the hedged front car park, worried that passers-by would find our stretches comical. We chatted as we ran and since we were mid conversation after the first lap of Christchurch Ivan kept running. When we parted company before my third lap Ivan had already run 6.6km (very impressive for a man of 77) I pushed on through to fin sh my 3rd lap and I estimate I had done 10km by the time I got back to my digs.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Let there be light.

Begun my day feeling somewhat at odds with life. When I woke up it was raining and Ivan and I had planned to go for a jog together. He advised it wasn't the best weather for running and I thought it might be a little rude to insist.

So I had a very quiet morning sitting in my room writing my blog, after Ivan had told me stories about his deep sea diving days in the Navy and his encounter with an enormous eel 90 feet below the surface. Rosie and I tried to arrange what day was best f r her and Ivan and Bunty (Richard and Nadia's Landlady who lives next door) to come and see the show. Sunday the 18th in the afternoon was the verdict.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Is there a Doctor in the house?

Did you know that today, July the 6th 2010 is the day that Marty McFly (read the lead character played by Michael J Fox in the 80's smash hit film Back to the Future) arrived in the future after hitting 88mph in his Delorean back in 1985 and sadly we don't even have flying cars or hoverboards to be pleased about!

That was an email I got from Trina today and my god did it make me feel old.

Anyways... can you guess how I started my day - yip, out of bed, into trainers and running gear and a round the park. Back to digs to write up the blog and search for something for my girlfriend's looming birthday on the internet.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Beside the Seaside.

I woke late and called Trina after jogging about the park for half an hour. Then Pam called and invited me to join her a Zoran for a trip round Southwold. I threw my accumulated dirty washing into the machine, showered, blogged and hung the washing up, just finishing in time to jump in Pam's car and head away.

The weather was a lot cooler and the wind was somewhat stronger than the last few days but we had a pleasant walk and chat as we strolled up and down the pier and then along t e beach-front. We headed towards town asking for a place Peter had recommended called The Arches, when after asking the umpteenth local for directions to The Arches we got the umpteenth blank faced response, I thought it time to call Peter in case I had misheard or remembered incorrectly. Peter had not mentioned the name of the old coach Inn because he couldn't remember it himself and my memory had made up the name Arches because he had mentioned there was an Arch.
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It has been a very long week, we've run the show 10 times in the space of 7 days, the heat and mugginess has been intense all week and opening night celebrations etc have lengthened the week that little bit more.

I was up nice and early, 8am, for a run around the park. Then I sat down to write the blog - I headed into town to do a little shopping, including a sports top to stop getting my own clothes and the costumes so sweaty between the runs as we ran about, some headphones to lis en to music on our way into Bentwaters on the bus.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Getting our Groove on.

This is when things get a little more like work for us - not too much like work but a little. During the weekend when most people will be having a bbq, enjoying the park etc etc we'll be doing four performances of the show. The weather gods have decided to make this a challenge task as well by adding the extra factor of it being the hottest, muggiest weekend I can remember to date for this year and I'd venture to say the last four years (though then I fear treading into an ancient mariner style arrative ‘it were the day the sun sizzled your skin to leather and the air swam round your knees' - or something like that).
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First nights for a Front of House Manager are always tricky affairs. There is always so much to think about: Is the bar stocked, do we have enough programmes, is the ice cream freezer still working, will the volunteer Angels (and the audience!) find the venue, is the BBQ up and ready, is the auditorium clear of Tech Run debris, are the actors happy, is the car park filling up in the right way? Above all, are the audience happy, safe and entertained? On a show of this size, nothing can rea ly prepare you for that moment when cars begin to appear on the horizon, and you realise that after all the months of planning and preparation, this is it. The show has OPENED. By the end of a very long day, and an even longer week, I can say that everything worked as it should, and as the audience drove back over the base, headlights twinkling in the twilight, I could unfurrow my brow and breathe a sigh of post-First Night relief.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Warming up, in more ways than one...

I (not surprisingly) woke too late to share in a morning jog with my 77 year old landlord Ivan Hamilton. He kindly left me asleep to recover from the night's celebrations. When I did finally rise it was already near midday and a swelteringly hot day at that. Rather foolishly I braved the midday sun (I must be a mad dog, since I'm sadly not English) with a long jog through the park to sweat ‘it' all out.

Then some quick finger taping for yesterdays blog and a trip into town for supplies and to recover my bike. Dementia seems to be creeping up on me, as I (very unusually for me) am forgetting my bag in all sorts of strange places. I found it the Sir John Mills Theatre then headed into town to buy a rugby ball - well there are about thirty of us between cast, crew and chorus.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Another Opening, A Brand New Show.

The big day has arrived and in typical theatrical fashion we were all scribbling away madly in the morning writing good luck cards (actors are very superstitious as well as supportive - the cards never actually say good luck but say 'break a leg').

I headed into town and order a full English breakfast and sat down with my freshly purchased cards to start writing well wishes. With this cast and crew it was an easy task to find lovely things to say about working with them, highlights f their performance and utter belief that they will 'wow the audience'.
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BENTWATER ROADS: 'Twas the Night Before Bentwaters...

The penultimate day of rehearsals and I head off for another run in the morning around Christchurch Park with my landlord Ivan, as always he's in high spirits and is telling stories of his youth (he's now 77) and random interesting facts and advice spill from him like a fountain and just like a fountain its all very refreshing.

I headed into town to play fooseball again with Mark and Caitlin - Mark wondering what the staff at ShakeAway must be saying ‘what do they do all day? hey're here playing fooseball everyday'...
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Opening night looms ever closer. Today we had an afternoon start so the morning was a mixture of going over the script, jogging through Christchurch Park, playing fooseball at ShakeAway in the middle of Ipswich and going for a nice swim at Crown Pools.

At 2:30 in the afternoon we arrived back at the Hush House and the technical crew and Alan, Silki and Ivan were already there busy working away at getting the technical details (sound and lighting cues/changes) for Act One in place.
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BENTWATER ROADS: The Tower of Pizza

The first of our tech days, at 10am we were all gathered at the Theatre helping to fill the Eastern Angles van with costumes and the large Ice Cream freezer. Volunteers rewarded in a free Ice Cream (breakfast of kings!).

Up into the van and off to Bentwaters Airbase.

Tech days are notoriously slow and gruelling, as all the specific of making the technical side of the show faultless are slowly set in place and marked down for future runs. Our technical crew have been doi g an amazing job. They set up the live video feedback and integrated the starry night background on to the projected image.
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Morning papers and a full English Breakfast with extra OJ at the Grey Hound to start the day off. Then a quiet bit of work on my script in the park, looking to see if I've missed any tricks or have been saying lines incorrectly, looking for extra changes and anything to add to the different layers of the character.

Then the England-Germany game, less said the better.

Followed by more park in the beautiful sunshine, reading and finally watching Mexico vs Argentina and re iring to watch Spartacus as part of research for upcoming audition. Before falling off to sleep I read the Bentwater Roads script through again.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Let's have a look at your best bits.

It's early on Sunday morning, and I have a long day sprawling ahead of me. Today is the day I have to finish all the video sequences for the show, which means sitting down in front of a computer for the next 14 hours, editing together all the footage I've taken for the show. There's a wide range - from cine-film that has to look 30 years old, via screen captures of the characters computers, to moving star scapes and playground swings. By far the longest job is piecing together all of the hots of our Community Chorus walking around the base into a 20 minute preshow movie.
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Ivan, my 77 year old landlord, not our director, knocked on my door at 9am and we headed off to Christchurch Park for a jog. Ivan kept me chuckling constantly on my way round the park. I did an extra circuit as he headed back to the house.

Back in the rehearsal room at the Social Club Nadia and Peter were working hard to fit Peter into the several Mal and Charlie scenes. I got a call for an audition for a TV Series in America called Spartacus and tried to arrange an audition around ur very busy rehearsal schedule for the upcoming week. Friday morning looks like a potential goer, if not it will have to be sent in by tape.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Anyone for Cricket?

Petite Penny with her seat pushed as far forward as it can go - and some more - arrived at our doorstep in the enormous Eastern Angles van at 9:30am. Caitlin had stopped off and got Bacon Sandwiches for all aboard. We pulled back up to the Hush House and unloaded ourselves from the van. I had cheekily brought my cricket bat and ball, hoping for a quick game between the two acts.

We crept into the dark from the light and started to run the show as Fiona (lighting designer) adjusted l ghts and chose settings for each of our scenes. The run speed along through the first act thanks to the work we had done the night before and the only thing that I found strange was trying to adjust to the acoustic of this very unique space. Normally when you enter a performance space after rehearsing somewhere else, you become very aware of the different way your voice is rebounding of the surfaces of the space and feeding back to you how loud you need to be to be heard throughout the space. At the Hush House there is no feedback, you hear your voice as it leaves but miraculously you never get any sound bouncing back, a little spooky and eerie compared to the familiar sound of your voice rebounding back at you.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Eyes Front! It's the Costume Parade!

Today Peter (our replacement Tony) and Nadia went through the Mal and Charlie scenes until it was time for a costume parade in front of the designer Keith and our director Ivan. We came out in reverse chronological order of the timelines. The contemporary costumes fitted the characters perfectly, Nadia was excited by her dual length combat trousers and Mark will be wearing a brilliantly Jez-esque T- Shirt with the words ‘Sorry Girls, I only date Models" written on the front. I squeezed int my flight kit as the pilot and as Trina (my girlfriend) had requested I sent her a photo via my mobile.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Come on England!

The thought on everyone's mind was ‘who will get to see England's last group game?'. After a successful run of the entire play, the first run of the show in its entirety, Ivan read out the list for the afternoon rehearsals. Dan and I were elated to find we weren't on the list and could watch the match while Mark was visibly distraught. I think we all threw ourselves into the morning run of the play with gusto hoping we'd be so impressive we'd all get the afternoon off. 

P acticality always needs to kept in mind and we are quickly creeping up on our technical week (where all the lights, sound, set, costumes and props are worked into the play and the current blocking is rejigged to fit the larger space) this means its our last chance for final touch ups on the acting itself.
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BENTWATER ROADS: A sad goodbye.

A very sad start to today's rehearsals. We had all shifted back to the Theatre for rehearsals and Ivan gathered us around to give Tony the floor for a moment. Tony took a step forward and in a very dignified manner told us that he was having to leave the company through ill-health. Everyone was sad to see Tony go and we felt his absence dearly from the moment he left the rehearsal room.  Ivan has called on another actor, Peter Sowerbutts, to come and replace Tony for the roles of Mal and Th Commander. Peter will be joining us on Thursday. With a subdued atmosphere we ventured on with rehearsals in the smaller Theatre space.
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There's a well used saying in the theatre and probably unbeknownst to me, in many other professions. Monday is when people have dropped the momentum of a project over the weekend and seem to be four steps behind where they left off last Friday. I'm glad to say that it was nowhere to be seen this Monday and we threw ourselves into another run of the final quarter, polished up some scenes that weren't hitting the mark and of then all took a deep breath - some larger than others, as I struggled to ome to terms with blowing the newly acquired Ram's Horn for the massive pagan ceremonies - then dived into running the entire final HALF of the play. Besides a lot of red faced flatulent sounding horn blowing on my behalf, we glided through it. Ivan seemed very pleased and notes were given out in a small dose with lots of positive feedback. The overall shape and rhythm and pace of the piece is starting to become evident and once again I finish the days rehearsals with a warm glow in my artistic belly.
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BENTWATER ROADS: A busy weekend.

The Weekend - Trina and I crammed in as much of Ipswich as we could, Clay Pigeon Shooting at the Lodge, a planned siege of Orford Castle, a wander through Snape Maltings with a concert soundtracking our meanderings. Lunch at The May Bush, Rally Karting at Beacon Rally Karts (my personal highlight). Canoeing at Alton Waters, lunch at Isaac's near the Ipswich Marina following the football and finally a quiet night at the cinema. Great 30th birthday weekend enjoyed in the Suffolk surroundings.
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We have now rehearsed for two weeks and today we will be running the final quarter of the play. And today just happens to be the 30th year I've been on the planet. My girlfriend Trina had travelled up the night before to surprise me. I'd rented a hire car and we headed off at 3.30am to catch the sunrise at Aldebrugh, have a picnic breakfast on the beach and send wishes out into the ocean on paper boats.

Trina had organised an obstacle course around my room with strange fruits to dev ur in set amounts of time and aptly aged tasks such as filling out a crossword puzzle and donning a moustache, glasses, formal tie and talc powered grey hair before arriving at my presents. Yes, we're both still very childish and enjoy silly games as much as we did when we were 5. "Who wants to grow up?"
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Bleary-eyed I stumbled into rehearsals for another day of extreme focus and pulling the scenes together to rehearse an entire quarter of the play. This morning was the third quarter and we rehearsed the transitions until we were certain how everything fitted together.

Then with the heartbeat pacing we leapt into the third quarter of the play, each on of the four storylines thickening and unravelling and Charlie (the main character) beginning to unravel with them. Tony Ramsay (writer has made a wonderful job of keeping the audience guessing and the play has a plethora of twists and turn and dramatic unveilings... I really better bite my tongue or tape my digits before I spill the lot... in short I think the audience will be on the edge of their seats.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Sticking my neck out

A bit of an on and off day of rehearsals for me today. In mid-morning for a run of the medieval scene, slotting in Jules as Sally's son and then I dashed off to the osteopath to try and correct my dodgy neck (broke it in an accident 7 years a go and it still gives me a lot of grief, though I try to hide it normally as best I can but after a weekend of rolling about in a park it was in desperate need of attention). In the afternoon I gave a go to the grilling scene. Basically my Pilot gets his he d bitten off by his Commander after I've requested to be let out of the airforce. Whoops... should be careful not to give too much of the plot away... a little anxious I stayed awake the entire evening glued to my copy of The Pillars of the Earth, devouring the medieval background and Tom the stonemason's characteristics and journey.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Living in America

We started the day with a good chuckle, running around the stage in panicked faux American accents pretending to be USAF airmen in search of signs of the UFO that landed in Randlesham Forest. We were all having a great giggle and Dan was doing his brilliant bit of acting. 

Then we got focused and ran the second quarter of the show.  It went really well for our first time through it and everything feels like it's coming together nicely. After the run we touched up a few sce es before having an afternoon breather we all met together at the social club with the community chorus at about 8pm and worked our way through the transitions of the second quarter of the show before giving it a run with everyone involved, a great result and once again it was an added level having the entire cast there with the chorus feeding into the show.
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Not so certain what others got up to this weekend. Silki (our stage manager) went to an air show at the Bentwaters Air Base which I was livered to find I had missed out on, especially since I'm playing a pilot and had resigned myself to watching Top Gun as my weekend research. The Community Chorus of Britons had a successful picnic at Randelsham Forest and a few hardy souls wandered into the forest to spot UFOs.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Run for Your Life

In the morning we were all in and getting ready to run the first quarter of the play. We smoothed out transition moments between each of the separate scenes we had been rehearsing. These transitions pieces are going to lift the piece to a whole new level and weave the separate timelines together. They are also going to be the trickiest part to choreograph but I think we all have great faith in Ivan's ability and his vision.

There's always a bit of a buzz before the first books-dow run of any section of a play and this was added to by the fact we hadn't all been in the rehearsal room together for over a week. I thought it all crackled as we went through it, we are only at the end of week two of rehearsals but it really set up the story in an inviting way. 
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Not called in for rehearsals at all, so launched myself straight into line learning. After that I delved deep into my book The Pillars of the Earth - the main character Tom was working on restoring a burnt Cathedral. In the evening we had a group outing to see Mercury Colchester's production of King David, a modernized drama of the downfall of David (as in David and Goliath). It was great fun heading out as a large group and we all had a lot to say about the show on our way back home. Silki, Ton and I crept into the Greyhound at 11:01 and the landlord graciously let us order a round. Tony started to entertain us with stories of veteran actors who had froze (forgotten their lines) on stage and one in particular actor who had run off stage after freezing only to make a quick exit through the bathroom window, never to return. Hmm... retired to bed, taking a quick and reassuring look at lines before nodding off.
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Another quiet day for me. I wasn't due in for rehearsals until the afternoon so I headed back into town after swimming a mile and I bought myself a copy of The Pillars of the Earth - a highly recommended novel whose main character is a Stonemason travelling through Medieval England trying to scrape a living. It's been wonderful reading and a cheeky way of researching for my character. As well as that I snuck into Ipswich Museum and spent an hour or two in the early Anglo-Saxon section getting feel for Post Roman - Pre Renaissance England.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Britons Got Talent

Tuesday 8th June - During the morning more of the main storyline of the play was rehearsed and then in the evening there was a change to the structure of rehearsals as we got to rehearse with the community chorus of Britons. After a jovial getting to know you game. 

Alan Caig Wilson (Assistant Director) prepped us for the epic sacrifice scene by mapping out the drum beats, chants that would create the atmosphere for this pivotal scene. We also rehearsed a canon effect Latin Hym but there was much confusion as we all tried to master the complex tune. We retired for tea and I cornered Noel from the community chorus to teach me the drumming technique for a Bodhran (Irish Drum) but somehow sadly I think I lack the dexterity in my wrist. Post-tea to the crash and beating of drums and Noel's rhythmic lead on the Bodhran and tribal chanting of the chorus we went through the epic pagan ceremony scene. I needn't have asked about the Bodhran as I'll be testing my lung capacity blowing on a ram's horn, wicked! It's fantastic to have the added energy and presence of the chorus and to be in the rehearsal room all together after the isolation of rehearsing the separate storylines, so as I finish typing this - the first and probably lengthiest of my blogs - I'm filled with a quiet confidence and bubbling excitement that this show is going to be both something spectacular and epic as well as intimate and engaging.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Everywhere You Look

Everywhere around me is evidence that Bentwater Roads has taken over all our lives! In the theatre, the auditorium has become the costume store, the Box Office has become a Video Editing Suite, and the General Office is a humming, throbbing Publicity Machine. Elsewhere, our Workshop is seeing signs of activity as we start to build the huge set, and just down the road, at the Westgate Ward Social Club, the director and actors are working their way through the show, scene by scene. Managed to tear myself away from my computer to catch a tiny part of rehearsals - a small scene from late in the play, between Cunavinda and Mother. Already there are some beautiful performances coming through.
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BENTWATER ROADS: That Monday feeling

Monday 7th of June- Rehearsals continued with all the Pagan scenes being put on their feet for the first time. Mark was somewhat exhausted from his enormous effort in the triathlon and when I met Silki on my way to rehearsals Tuesday she told me Sally and Caitlin had done some great work on the Pagan mother and daughter scenes.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Bang A Drum. Get It On!

Having got the final Pulse show over and done with at the theatre, it was time to pop over to the Friends Meeting House for a session with our intrepid troupe of Ancient Britons - members of the public who have joined up to take part in the show.

Alan, the Assistant Director, had already been working with the group for a couple of hours before I arrived, so I felt rather like the 'new boy at school'.

Today was all about rhythm - inspired by one of Roger Eno's compositio s, we were taught clapping rhythms, drum heartbeats, and chanting. The rhythms weren't easy to start with - is that a clap-clap-sniff, or clap-sniff-sniff? - but by the end of the day it was all sounding rather impressive.
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Friday 4th June - More contemporary scenes rehearsed in the morning and the medieval scenes in the afternoon. At the end of the day most of the cast jumped on trains back to their respective homes. 

Mark Knightly heading off to run a triathlon, Nadia off for a weekend in Paris and myself heading back to Surrey Quays in London to help my girlfriend work on repairs to our/her boat/home.
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BENTWATER ROADS: Does anyone have the time?

Thursday 3rd June - For the first week and a half we've split the play into it's four different timelines to help structure the rehearsals. This meant that I was only in during the coldwar and medieval scenes. Also it means that as of yet I haven't seen any of the contemporary scenes or the pagan ones. So in the morning while Mark, Dan, Nadia and Pam busily got the opening scenes of the play and the beginning of the main/contemporary storyline up on it's feet I went and shaved my bohemian scr ggliness into something more resembling a USAF officer's regulation hair cut. Then in the afternoon Tony, Richard and I stumbled through the cold war scenes with Ivan tightening up the scene, pointing us in the right direction (both metaphorically and literally) and giving the scenes some shape and dynamic.
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BENTWATER ROADS: A filming day.

A blazing hot day, and I'm out on the road. To Wantisden Church to film some scenes that will form part of the show. Ellie, the daughter of a friend of one of the office staff, is playing Young Charlie in these scenes, and had been given a 70s style dress to wear.

Ellie was an absolute star - never complaining, and very excited about the whole thing. The scenes we shot today will be edited and fomatted to look like an old cinefilm, and involved Ellie exploring the church and graveya d. Avoiding nettles was the biggest issue of the day, as Ellie brought Young Charlie to life. She does look very much like a younger version of Nadia, who is playing Adult Charlie in the play.
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BENTWATER ROADS: A trip to the Hush House

Wednesday 2nd June - The detailed dissection of this wonderfully complex piece of script kept us going until midday. 

During lunch we wedged in measurements with the costume designer Cherilyn Leeson. Then we all piled into the Eastern Angles van and headed out to the Hush House at Bentwaters Airbase. We were all amazed by the sound studio acoustics - the Hush House is a large steel hanger designed for testing Jet Engines - bizzarely this large metal shell has no echo at all a d the long tunnel at the back of the building constructed as an exhaust pipe for the jet engines sends your voice back into the hanger making it sound like your standing behind the audience. Jon was capturing our bemused looks as we were all blown away by the immensity of the space. Ivan and the team have really come up with more than just a play, this is going to be Event, capital E intended. With promenade parts to the perfomance, food stands and a bar and a chorus of ancient Britons (comprised of community members) mysteriously echoing the main action and linking the four separate stories together. It's all very exciting really.
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The company has arrived - and my, isn't there a lot of them! The day begins with plenty of coffee and introductions, before settling down for a readthrough of the play. With a cast of 9, and a creative team of almost twice that number, we had to struggle to find enough chairs for everyone. The readthrough on day one of rehearsals is always an exciting time. We hear the characters' words spoken for the first time by the people who will be playing them.

The readthrough r minded us how good the play is - with lots of spinetingling moments. We open in exactly one month from today, so the pressure is on everybody almost immediately, not to mention the fact that the creative team has been working on this since the beginning of the year, and the Director and Writer began their work a number of years ago!
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BENTWATER ROADS: All in a circle

Tuesday 1st June at 10am we amassed in an aptly ritualistic circle of chairs on the stage of Eastern Angles Theatre where we met the remainder of the cast including the sparkly eyed and ever ready with a joke Tony Scannell (Playing Mal, Carter and The Commander), who I still remember with adoration from watching The Bill with my grandparents every week night of my youth, and the numerous company members that make up Eastern Angles, including the writer, designers, director and associate direct r, stage managers, marketing officers and many more... Ivan Cutting the Artistic director of Eastern Angles and director of Bentwater Roads gave a quick introductory speech outlining the company's long held desire to use the Hush House at the old Airbase at Bentwater Roads for a site-specific piece of Theatre.
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Monday 31st May and Caitlin and I found our way to The Greyhound Pub on Henley Road for a pre-rehearsal meet and greet where Jon Tavener (Eastern Angles' Theatre Outreach Officer and self proclaimed man of many more hats and unmentioned job titles) quickly spotted us stray actors wandering aimlessly around the pub and convivially herded us together and got us talking, laughing and feeling at home.
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The Long Blog Home

Like Old Mother and Dog Boy on their journey to Emblisi, on our travels around East Anglia we have also met many diverse and interesting people.  We have experienced the kindness of strangers - locals often provide us with home-made cake and tea and help us sweep up at the end of the show (hint!), we have won gifts in raffles, (well, everybody but me), restaurants have stayed open for us (it took a lot of persuasion and we ate it in the Travelodge recep ion), local publicans have offered us drinks on-the-house, generating lively debates on the demise of the British Pub and Tiger Woods (OK, just one publican and it was more of an impassioned argument.) 
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We have now performed the The Long Way Home in churches, village halls, theatres, studios, town halls, arts centres, and schools.  This means we not only have to be highly skilled in adapting to new spaces as actors but also as stage technicians as part of our job is to build the set.  The benefit of this detailed preparation in each new location, is that it prevents us from high-risk accidents.  Of course we haven't had any accidents, no not once! (I did not hang that light upside down and Theo did not walk into that pole, Ivan.) In fact, since I'm now a trained techy professional myself, I will generously offer you some free, no-purchase-necessary advice as to how to be able to achieve such high standards.
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We have all had our own journey in these rehearsal weeks and every day has been different.   Some days you leave exhausted but uplifted, others you leave reflecting on how much work there is still left to do. During phone conversations with friends I find myself talking in a loud voice using strange words that only my characters would use and I dream about flying houses, high-lighted lines, diagrams and scribbles on scripts.  Nothing to worry about at all!

But, what t is does mean, is, that it is that time - the start of the run is approaching and I am proud of what we have achieved and how we have brought to life such a lovely story.  I only hope now that we will leave the audiences a little bit changed by our show, it's up to them now.
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From dog to Dog Boy

Theo seems to have got some tips for his Dog-Boy character from my excellent, detailed description of Badge.  In fact I am quite astonished by his increasing ability to dribble, wag his tail, bark, bite, present puppy-dog eyes and pee in inappropriate places.  Some of these pedigree skills he didn't even need to work on.  What talent!

Susan as Old Mother is becoming remarkably good at falling asleep in uncomfortable places and having t at wise sparkle in her eyes.  She always seems to know what's going to happen next and she's got a knack for comedy too - sometimes her skirt slowly drops to the floor, mid-speech.  How does she do that?
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Man’s Best Friend

They say a dog is man’s best friend, so, being a stranger in a new place, I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Badger the dog in my new residence. Although, Badger doesn’t see very well, at all, and doesn’t move very much, at all, so my first cooking venture in his company may have caused some offence to the poor creature.

In search of cooking tools in cupboards, Badge was sort of, well – in the way. Every cupboard I pened, he stood in front of and it became a gentle obstacle course of a bump, prod, push, shovel and budge routine around the kitchen. When at last the show was over, bows taken and curtains closed and I, exhausted, finally settled down to take a bite of my food, Badger came back with a barking encore and wouldn’t quieten. I feared our friendship was over and I would be spending the next 5 months sleeping on Eastern Angles’ stage floor. BUT, just as my fear became farewell and I, tearfully turned to pack my bags, Badge all of a sudden; galloped up behind me, (surely to mend my broken heart), but due to his poor vision, as I stopped, he crashed in to my ankles and collapsed, knocked-out-in-to-a-heap-on-my -feet and wouldn’t wake up, and wouldn’t move and wouldn’t budge SIGH and, well…the evening performance began… 
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THE LONG WAY HOME - First Day of Rehearsals

The Christmas Show is still running in Woodbridge, and in Ipswich we're already starting on rehearsals for our Spring 2010 Tour - The Long Way Home, written by Charles Way, who also wrote IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER which we toured back in the Spring of 2000.

So, we welcome Theo, Susan, Jumaan and James to Ipswich, along with Naomi the director, Mika the designer and Polly the Puppeteer! After a readthrough of the play this morning, the cast and crew are already busy - but not busy enoug to stop me stealing into rehearsals and grab a couple of photos!
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MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE Brrr! The Big Freeze


The coldest snap in British theatre since ‘Romans In Britain On Ice' and we're all gallantly struggling through frost and snow into the Sir John Mills, adopting the very same ‘Dunkirk spirit' the Germans did as they advanced on the French coast in 1940; we must get there at all costs, take no prisoners, strafe, stab, kill.  Similarly we actors must also be strong in the face of impending unemployment as 2010 is upon us with a vengeance and the literal and met phorical winds carry blizzards of drifting unhappiness and economic dearth (only if you‘re a cynical type - see below). 
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MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE The Pot Noodle and the Daily Telegraph.

Breaktimes and lunchtimes are fraught with diplomatic niceties in the first few days of any rehearsal period.  And of course one wishes to present oneself with professionalism and courtesy!  One tiptoes along pleasant conversational by-ways, making sure one does not say anything rude about any director, actor, production, or indeed place because like as not, just as you are saying something rude about Kings Lynn, someone, in the case of these rehearsals, poor Sophie, will pip up to say, 'I come from Kings Lynn, it is a place of ravishing beauty'.  I then have to splutter a bit and say, 'I meant Kings Lynn in New Mexico'. 'I didn't think there was a King's Lynn in New Mexico'.  'There isn't.  Sorry.  I think bits of Kings Lynn are okay. I'm sorry. Some of my nicest chums hail from there'.  All very tricky.  
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MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE What we owe to Joy...

"Don't worry! You'll be fine:  you're blind, and you've got a job to do..."

I'm writing this entry whilst being berated into participate in an ‘audience participation' sing-a-long... not to spoil it too much for you...

Richard's return (as composer) is imminent and a palpable feeling of relief that someone who is adequately qualified to direct the music fills the rehearsal. I'm off the hook (for one day, at least!) Hopefully he will like what we've rehearsed, (with the added dancing)... The only debate that's we've had is whether you, beloved audience member, know Beethoven's Symphony No.9? Come on, you know it! And if you don't, I'd get a listen on if I were you.
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MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE Week 3: The Lily of Lacuna or An Actor Pops One In.

The Lily of Lacuna or An Actor Pops One In.

The days may grow shorter and colder but new jokes are busting out all over, as if Spring had sprung betimes down Funnington Avenue.  But how can this be?  The play is writ: it is untouchable, the hallowed text shall not be interfered with, and each night the High Priest, Ivan, locks it away in the Holy of Holies, the Eastern Angles office safe.But this dear reader is not so, for by both night and day the Tinker Monkeys and Gagsm ths will whip it out, dance upon it, kick it around in the dirt and ADD STUFF. ‘The Lily of Lacuna' is at it again.
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"Yes, that's all very well, but where are you going to stick your gun?"

After a weekend of relaxation, skipping town and return for the morning's rehearsal, your here blogger has been greeted to the third week of rehearsals, which have an energy all of their own. The performance is in sight, all have worked hard over the weekend to get on top of their lines, and even the technical crew are starting to pin us down on set pieces and props.

We were welcomed this morning to walls of blue! It seems Ian and crew were busy over the weekend, putting on the base coat of blue for the beautiful walls which flank either side of the stage.
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Flu jabs!

Today was a strange day... it seems Eastern Angles are providing flu jabs for all its company! Well, you wouldn't want to watch a snotty Lady Fitztightly or Mrs Bonnet all night would you? It's not that we don't trust you, our beautiful audience, its just we know how hot it gets in here.
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MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE Pitta & Port....

Rehearsal Week 2.

When it comes to doing Austen you're decidedly in Received Pronunciation Land, and that you might think would be right up my proverbial cul-de-sac, but apparently you've then got to differentiate between them.  Peppering the Christmas shows with dubious characters like authentic Arab street traders with Julian is always a lot more pleasant in that you egg each other on to more and more ridiculous excesses; I'm sure there is probably still a fatwa out on at lea t one of us, but with Austen you have to be a bit more held, using muscles to hold up your spine.  Posture, Timothy!  Also with the Austen, you get the inevitable cry of 'Look at the BBC Boxed Set' hand crafted by Andrew Davies out of lace and Anna Maxwell-House-Martin, and filmed somewhere in Dorset through a catering tub of Vaseline.  'Couldn't you be a bit more like him?'; the subtext to this question is 'Copy him' and is always accompanied by the statement, 'But I don't want you to copy him'.  I am similar to Beryl Reid only in this respect; she said start with the shoes and work up.  I start with the shoes and although I try to work upwards, I've never been exactly sure what she means, but am confident I will at least have shoes in this performance and they will shine...
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Week 2

People aren't really sure exactly what an assistant director is meant to do. Are they the personal assistant of the director? Are they just there to help the actors with their lines? Do they just make the tea for everyone? The philosophy I was taught, and have always experience as the best, is being an assistant to the production - or basically everyone's assistant. So, you could do all of the above, or none, if that's what the production needs.

The other fun bit about being an assistant is that from time to time you get to have some creative influence over something in the show, and my duties for this show included devising the little "dance" numbers for the songs, and rehearsing the music when our composer, Richard, had taught them to the company. This usually means having a vocal warm-up after lunch, and then singing the songs back to back - with some room for working on particular bits during that. Some days we'll focus on one song, and devise the dance-y bit for it, and others will just a recap, doing the songs quickly so we can get back to rehearsing the play itself. The company have done a great job at taking responsibility for their songs though, which has helped rehearsing them no end.
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MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE Day 3: What do you mean I have to sing??

The third day of rehearsals and the Musical Director has arrived, so the building is full of singing - musical ditties that we know will be stuck in our brains for the next 2 and a half months! The Designer is measuring people up for costumes, and the set has started to be built. We have just 3 weeks before our opening night, and we've hardly started!
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MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE A new cast, and a new script!

Welcome to Christmas!

Yes, for us, Christmas starts on Day 1 of rehearsals, and we've just welcomed Greg, Sally, Sophie, William, Vera and Penny to the Sir John Mills Theatre. The Readthrough is when everyone involved in the production sits down and reads through the script. Penny, our Stage Manager, reads in the stage directions, and everyone struggles to work out which characters they are playing. This is often a surprise to them, as such things are in flux from the very beginning Two hours later and the cast is tucking into a buffet lunch, and wondering what the next 3 and a half weeks might bring....
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EGUSI SOUP A new show....

The night before the Readthrough. Tomorrow we'll meet our new cast, and begin rehearsals for Egusi Soup. And it will be over in a flash. With so little time, it will have to be full speed from the off. Better keep the coffee flowing. They're going to need it.
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Week 1 of rehearsals.

I arrive at the first day of rehearsals with that typical feeling, a mix of excitement, nerves and that all too familiar sinking feeling created by a vivid imagination and professional paranoia; I walk in the room the director takes one look at me before his face drops and he makes a quick aside "We sent the letter to the wrong actress, I meant to cast the other girl!" Luckily for me this was not the case.

I was the only one out of the four of us w o had been in a different callback group so I really was the newbie. This meant that the first read through that we did together was really interesting for me as I had no idea of their takes on their characters and vice versa. Initial amusement at ourselves was ever present as we embraced the fact that for the next eight weeks we would live most of our time being 14, 12, 10 and 8 years old collectively.
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WE DIDN'T MEAN TO GO TO SEA Rosie Alabaster - Designer

(1) What were the specific challenges in designing the set for SEA? Was a real boat considered?

I think Ivan did consider a real boat at first. This would not have been something I would have thought of because then I would have had nothing to design! Real boats are quite cramped anyway so not very conducive to theatre. I suppose a cross section had occurred to us but we quickly realised that this staging would not be very dynamic and always limit us to facing the same directio . In the end we went for a circular shape to emphasise the fact that the characters are lost, and at times spinning around in the fog. The idea in part came from the beautiful bronze compass onboard the Nancy Blackett. I think the problems really came in later when the actors had to get to grips with finding a logic of a boat that faces different directions. Very tough on them I'm afraid!
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Week 1

Choosing digs is a daunting task. You're presented with a list of 30 or so names and addresses and minimal descriptions - double room, ensuite, own TV does not really give you much indication of what you're in for. There is no way of telling if your landlady is going to be a psycho or a nudist or a lesbian. So when I turned up at my Ipswich dwelling I was prepared for anything.

Turns out, my abode for the next 2 months, is an actor's dream! A beautiful and large n-suite room in a beautiful and large house, and a landlady who's hardly there. Perfect.
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As soon as I read the script I knew that we were going to have to get to grips with a lot of nautical terminology. In my group recall we had come unstuck on the pronunciation of the word ‘halyard' - without even contemplating what it might mean. I'd read a bit of nautical fiction when I was younger - Joseph Conrad, C.S. Forrester, Patrick O'Brien - and had done some basic sailing at school, so in a way I think I had something of a head start. But was still pretty apprehensive at the prospect of delivering lines such as ‘It's only the anchor chain rubbing against the bobstay as she swings round with the ebb'.
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Week 1

And so, on Monday 2nd June 2008, it began. A journey that would change the lives of all involved. A rollercoaster ride of emotion, line-learning, actioning and jib sheet hauling... The 'We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea' rehearsals.

We started the week with company introductions, which is always slightly overwhelming (so many names to remember!), followed by a read-through of the play. After auditioning months before and having the script resting in my flat for weeks, t was great to finally hear the play aloud. The writer, Nick, was also there on the first day and we spent the afternoon asking him questions about the script, mainly questions about the technical, sailing references in the piece. He patiently gave us a crash course on wind, tide and various sailing terms which, to someone who has never even been on a boat before, was quite headache inducing!
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FIELDS On the Road Again.

There are five of us in the Mediterranean Mercedes van. Also sandwiches, Real McCoy crisps and the touring set from hell. There's not much you can't tell us now about Allen keys or Ref 22s, scaff clamps or gobos, Green King or backache. Nick Murray Brown. He's the tall one, looks like Oscar Wilde, playing conservationist Matt. Wields a Manfrotto lighting tower with the expertise of a caber-tosser at the Galashiels Games. Quiet. Makes his own bread.

Kate Romney. Strong, red-headed, e -Rose Bruford. She played the harridan Nurse Ratchett there in a student production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Used to be an SRN herself, once upon a life. Plays single mum Christine. Since Paul left all those years ago there's been no-one else in Chris's bedroom.
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