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.
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..
MARGARET CATCHPOLE 2012: THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC
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!
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.
I ♥ PETERBOROUGH: HELLO AUDIENCE...
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.
I ♥ PETERBOROUGH: LET'S GET PHYSICAL
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.
I ♥ PETERBOROUGH: IT'S A TWISTER!
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.
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
I ♥ PETERBOROUGH: DO THE SHUFFLE
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 />
I ♥ PETERBOROUGH: UNITED WE STAND
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.
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.
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.
PRIVATE RESISTANCE: Opening Night
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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.
PRIVATE RESISTANCE: Inky Fingers
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...
I HEART PETERBOROUGH: Day 1
To Arts Admin http://www.artsadmin.co.uk/ to observe the first day of a ten day exploration of Joel Horwood's http://www.ideastap.com/IdeasMag/all-articles/in-only-joel-horwood 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?
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.
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.
GILLS AROUND THE GREEN: Sprat's your Lot!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BENTWATER ROADS: Road Trip
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BENTWATER ROADS: REHEARSALS BEGIN
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!
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!
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.
MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE Blue Walls
"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.
MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE 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.
MANSFIELD PARK & RIDE 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.
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!
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....
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.
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!