BENTWATER ROADS: Blogging Out
Sunday 18 July 2010
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 afterwards, 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.
Feeling not too great we waited for the other stayer-ons to join us for the convoy down to the reservoir. Diving into the water beside the small red brick bridge I could have killed Silki. ‘It's lovely' she had said ‘It's warmer than last time' she had reassured, ‘Bollocks' I had screamed as I resurfaced from water so cold my skin felt on fire.
Refreshing it was - so, still tired but no longer sleepy we headed into Woodbridge for Breakfast. The town was teaming with people for the Regatta and we had a 45 minute wait for our full English Breakfasts of varying sizes.
Back to base and Penny's excited voice talking about the tour of the base made me realised I had forgotten about the organized special cast and crew tour of the base that Jon and Bob Hale had organized for us, I was disappointed, annoyed and jealous all at once until Penny recommended I joined the audiences tour that was leaving at 2pm.
Jon gave me a free ticket - I guess in exchange for the bar duties last night and I was on the bus, seeing the secured areas for the nuclear weapon storage, the barracks, nuclear bomb shelters, former runways, a glimpse of a spitfire in one of the hangars and a graveyard of JAGs/jet planes that looked like fish skeletons with their large engines torn out and their wings clipped.
The afternoon show is a blur - which makes no sense at all since the lighting went astray and we were left in a permanent state of darkness at the back of the stage and bright light concentrated on the carpeted area representing the lounge in Rose Cottage (Charlie's childhood home).
Max had solved the problem by the interval, always the life saver and ever ready and professional, well done once again buddy for saving the day. Jon apologised to the audience in the interval and most feedback was that they hadn't realized.
I had never really completely understood what an amazing difference Fiona's lighting design made to the production. Her plots set an immediate and different atmosphere for each of the time periods and even suggested the mood and underlying tensions in the scene. A horrible panic for Max but an amazing lesson learnt by an unwittingly under-appreciative actor.
In the break I took the chance to devour one last burger from the great grill bar.
The final show was full of energy, vibrant and bouncy and people taking their final opportunity to try out every nuance of their character and every point of laughter or gravitas the play had to offer.
Sad goodbyes were said, sorry Jon and Steve that I missed saying goodbye to you, was amazing working with you both and with everyone at Eastern Angles. As I sit at the station waiting for my train back to London, surrounded by Latitude-goers in their collage of purchased icons of mass produced individualism, I can only think that I have had an amazingly fortunate experience and summer in 2010, scorching weather, a part in a massively acclaimed show (top 5 must see shows of 2010 in The Independent), engulfed in a theatre company which is more of large, happy, loving family than a commercialized entertainment machine and the honour of working in such an eccentric space with so many talented individuals, technicians, designers, directors and actors.
Thank you, Ivan, for choosing me all that time back in London to be the Pilot and the Mason - it has been amazing.
Thank you to all of you, who have read or will read this blog - hopefully this is not goodbye for good but goodbye for now, as I would love to come back to Suffolk and back to Eastern Angles - fingers crossed, eh?
Much Love - Alex
BENTWATER ROADS: Cider with Alex
Saturday 17 July 2010
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.
The afternoon show goes well and in the evening Ivan (the director not the landlord) is in and watching and we all up our game a little more, freshen our performances and try a few new things. It's great seeing him sitting backstage looking down the vomitorium (Aisle between the two banks of seating) at us bringing the show to life. A woman passes out on the top row of seating and the Bohran for the pagan entrance has somehow mysteriously gone missing. I jokingly whisper to Ivan ‘You've cursed the play'. The second half runs more smoothly, though Sally did let me know that I absentmindedly almost fell from the top of the tower, I really had no idea at all.
We all eagerly exited the hush house at the end of the show and gathered round the village of picnic tables. The food was amazing, spiced tuna steaks, salmon, juicy beef steaks or thai green curry chicken, so, so delicious and all organized by Jon, thank you so much. I crept away to the bar, after having eaten my dinner and the left overs from four or five other plates, I had seen that Jon still hadn't had a chance to get away from the bar and enjoy the food and atmosphere he had created. So I offered to take over the bar and was back to being a barman even before the show had officially ended its season, that was quick.
Rejoining the party an hour or so later the crowd had thinned. Alan and Ivan had said their goodbyes and a lot of sensible people who were driving had left before the temptation to drink in excess had over powered them.
Highlights of the evening as I remember from this point onwards were:
Jon's ever present behind the scenes video camera catches us dancing on the picnic tables while juggling empty wine bottles
Playing the role of DJ and having everyone up and dancing in the hush house as Max set the lights to make it a great dance floor - Latitude eat your heart out.
Lastly was seeing the sunrise after having already seen the sun set.
Not such a highlight was the terrible heartburn from too much acidic cider - I must admit my not so manly stomach doesn't have the East Anglian Cast Iron constitution I thought it may have developed.
BENTWATER ROADS: How was my 'Actings'?
Friday 16 July 2010
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 arrived 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.
Arriving at the site we saw the skeletons of the old bar and grill tents and they looked like the battered and destroyed remains of giant prehistoric insects. Jon, Steve and Roger had done a fantastic job at getting it all back together. Especially Roger who sounded the alarm on Thursday night when parked on the site in his campervan he saw the tents and awnings start to buckle and fly about.
Back to the regular warm up of Basketball and cigarettes. I rolled my ankle slightly and it kept reminding me for the rest of the evening.
Hopefully it will be nothing and I'll be top notch in the morning again. Nadia had her Mum in the audience and Dan had a good friend from his co-op, they both seemed a little nervous but both pulled off fantastic performances without any sign of having had a day off between runs, I sadly felt I was a little flat, I tried to boost a little more energy into it but sometimes that can make things worse creating a shell of a performance (lots of energy but no heart) technically it was a great show and Dan watched and listened to many scenes backstage that he hadn't observed before and in the changing room he was very positive about all our actings (not a typo it's a mannerism Dan has - very cute and endearing).
After the show we headed to The Moorish Lounge but it was a very quiet one drink as Cherilyn, Silki, Max and I sat round a little candlelit table drinking our one drink and me scoffing down the olives, flat bread and taramasalata. I think it was a little tiredness from the day off mixed with sadness that it is all coming to an end soon.
On a positive note we still have tomorrow's party to look forward to.
We are having a cast and crew party to celebrate the show tomorrow night after we close. Jon had been around to everyone finding out what they wanted to eat as the grill will be on and so will the music and the booze. Fun.
BENTWATER ROADS: All hail the Dungeon Master!
Thursday 15 July 2010
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 was 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).
Next was crossing the plains of Wheel Haus where two brothers on horse back attacked her - she had to fashion her own arrows from sticks and feathers I'd collected from Christchurch park and whittle a point on them with my hunting knife.
She vanquished the two brothers and popped their balloons with her arrow. To recover health she had to pick, roast and eat wild pink toadstools (marshmallows). Then she had to see if she could tame the brother's horse by whispering 10 pick up lines in it's ear in 30 seconds, the horse scampered away... lol
A test of strength was needed to see if she was strong enough to weild one of the brother's swords so Trina aptly did 28 press ups and picked up the imaginary sword, my hunting knife to take on her way to kill the dragon.
Next was the grasslands of Rugg, where Trina snored loudly as she unwrapped her presents (part of the game not boredom). It was the DVD of Baz Luhrman's La Boheme and a bottle of Prosecco. As she slept elves were singing to her to enchant her and heighten her chances of success against the Dragon.
The grasslands were vast so she needed a way to get to Mt Stove to destroy the dragon. Green balloons represented bullfrogs which she had to inflate from with the magic flying air from the geysers of the grasslands ( a big bottle of helium) breathing in and floating up in the air - then to come back down to earth she had to sing ‘happy birthday day to me' (which of course because of the helium sounded like the chipmunks).
Now at the foot of Mt Stove - she had to whistle three bird calls, then from the nearby forest of Book Sh'Elf her next present arrived - a day worth of falconry lessons with falcons, buzzards, owls and eagles (Trina loves birds and was visibly ecstatic about this present). In the adventure her whistling brought two falcons to her aid and when she lit the fire inside Mt Stove it brought out the Dragon for the battle to commence.
In excellent style she slayed the dragon and found it's nest. It had one egg which she had to break, cook and eat off the stove. Then with the kingdom safe again she travelled to the wizards on top of the snow capped Mountains of Sofah where she unwrapped sky lanterns - to send the message back to the evles that the Kingdom was safe (really just to have fun lighting and sending off at Whitstable beach later that day).
I quickly hid myself back in the bedroom and well - I serenaded her as a cuddly animal - enough said and gave her, her last present... - a trip to Barcelona to stay with our friends for three days.
We were late for meeting Trina's friends at Victoria station so in a mad rush we headed out the door, I broke the door and the glass inside it, whoops, so, so, sorry.
Then we all headed to Whitstable - Trina opening her gifts from her friends as we trained our way to the beach and all of us drinks lots of fruit punch. Once at the beach we rented a beach hut, had fish ‘n' chips, enjoyed the sun, flew a kite, played bulrush till we were all sweaty and then inflated the blow up dinghy and jumped in for a swim.
We had birthday cake, headed to a pub for a pint, had some Thai on the beach outside the hut once everyone else had headed back to London. Lit the sky lanterns and retired to the beach hut where the rest of the evening's details I will keep to myself.
BENTWATER ROADS: Race against time.
Wednesday 14 July 2010
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.
At Bentwaters we got 6 people up and playing basketball, James, Mark, Jess, Rachel, Cherilyn and Me so we had a game of three on three which was a great change from trying to play two on one. The first show in the afternoon flew by and I was trying really hard to concentrate on the show rather than the birthday celebrations to follow tomorrow. Between shows I finally had one of the Chicken Burgers from the grill set up outside the Hush House, it was absolutely delicious.
We played some more basketball and I made sure everything was in order for a quick escape after the show. Dread upon dread, the show went up(started) almost 10 minutes late. My first scene as the pilot my sunglasses flew out from my helmet and skidded along the concrete floor and when I picked them up, in the middle of my scene, I noticed one of the Polaroid lenses had popped out, so, the scene ended with me with my arse in the air bending over to pick up my lost lens.
It wasn't to be the best of evenings for me. We went up another five minutes late after the interval, Penny introduced me to David and Alan, the men who had kindly agreed to taking me to the station after the show, the likelihood of getting to Ipswich on time after what would now be a 10:15 curtain call (end of the show) seemed a little less likely.
In the second half, the latch to hold the tower together wouldn't lock, I hit my head three times on the cage and in my quickest of changes (from the American pilot to a pagan blowing the ceremonial horn, all happening inside the tower as it is moved off stage) I found myself wondering why the second leg of my trousers wouldn't go on, only finally realising in the darkness trying to keep my balance in the moving tower that one leg was inside out. The ceremony started without me and I just managed to get on to stage before the priest arrived to do the sacrifice. At this rate I thought, I'm going to choke to death on my chewing gum in the pilot/commander scene but luckily it went smoothly.
Curtain down and I dashed for the changing rooms. By 10:17pm I was getting into Alan and David's car, both avid theatre goers and lovely men, one a former florist and the other a retired dentist. They spared no speed limits to try and get me to the train station on time and I thought right till the very last moment that we'd make it. Sadly it wasn't so but I'm very grateful for the attempt and for Penny organizing it.
After a little rethink I decided a morning train would be the best option. I called Trina to let her know I wouldn't be home tonight.
Walked back up the hill, past town and on to Henley Road. I was balancing my bags etc when I stupidly put my iphone in my mouth and it slipped and fell to the ground shattering the display. Finally a little tense, with a new train ticket booked for the earliest departure I hit the hay and tried to sleep for the excitement of seeing Trina and hopefully making her happy with my presents and presence.
BENTWATER ROADS: Pagan Birthdays
Tuesday 13 July 2010
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.
I had heard through the grapevine that a big show at The National that I had been dreaming about getting was finally casting. My agent called after I pushed her a little and the resulting phone call back to me was disappointing to say the least ‘they've cast it all'. Somehow I had stupidly allowed myself to believe I had the job before an audition or anything. Very silly.
An actor's life is not a particularly difficult one apart from battling the irrational feelings of rejection. When working, we don't work long hours, we are paid at phenomenal rates for the hours we work, there's no great risk of personal injury or liability: in short it's a very, very cushy job.
It's the searching for the work and applying but not being selected for auditions (job interviews basically), missing auditions for enormous jobs because of other commitments and worse of all not being picked for jobs time and time again (some actors who I would still call talented go for up to 40 different auditions before they get one job) that really wears down on the spirit. As much as you are told not to take it personally the ‘sorry we haven't picked you this time but we wish you all the best for your career' is still painful.
Every actor has highs and lows and one very prestigious actress I talked to last year (an oscar winner none the less) admitted that even now at the height of her fame she still stresses over where the next job will come from and she doesn't want to go on a long holiday for fear there will be no auditions for her when she returns. Absolutely crazy when you think she has the trophy to prove she's considered the best in her profession.
The best acting most actors do is their chipper smiles between jobs and upbeat attitude after failed auditions.
I don't ask you to pity us, I'm well aware we chose the profession and therefore we can choose to leave it, that we have the amazing highlights of audience applause, the thrill of performing to a live audience and being paid weekly wages for only doing 2 hours work a day, great vivacious company, the feel of a surrogate family and great parties but I guess what I wanted to share is that like all freelancers or contract workers we have a ball of a time when we are in work but we are constantly worried about where the next one is coming from and when.
Anyway I did a little shopping for Trina's birthday this Thursday and bought two large punnets of strawberries and two containers of vanilla yogurt and sat down to a feast at the Theatre waiting for the bus to Bentwaters. A little ego fluffing call from Trina and I was feeling happy again.
We arrived early at the base as Nadia and Mark needed sometime to adjust their skirmish to make sure it was perfectly safe and to try and stop them getting the terrible carpet burns that appear on their elbows (the two of them have matching plasters on the same elbows, it's very sweet).
Mark, James and I had a long shot competition with the basketball and the make shift hoop and then a very sweaty game of two on one in rotation. I think I was the one who fared best on his own but of course I would think that.
I had a very wobbly show, slipping up on lines, stumbling on deliveries and being a butterfingers in the second tower scene where I need to be doing three things at once at speed. So not a brilliant one for me but overall I think the show was another great success, everyone else sounded brilliant. At the interval Jess produced a massive collection of cup cakes with bright pink, blue or yellow icing and two candles. We all sung happy birthday to Tabitha and James and devoured the cup cakes and ravaged the large chocolate cake sitting in the chorus' dressing room. The feedback after the show was as great as usual and Mark's two flatmates who had come all the way from London to see it seemed impressed, always a nice thing to see.
I grabbed the early ride home with Penny and sat down at the desk in my room to start creating little surprises for Trina's birthday.
Fingers crossed she'll like them. For tomorrow the focus will be diction and clarity, no more faffed lines.
BENTWATER ROADS: Pagan Recipe Book
Sunday 11 July 2010
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 headed to this idealic spot, where a german bomb during world war one had created the ideal swimming hole.
There was a man sat fishing illegally but we all decided to ignore each other. The water was sublime in its refreshing iciness. We had races from one turn in the creek to the bridge. Silki tried to goad me into testing the depths of the swimming hole, playing on my over developed sense of competition ‘no one has ever managed to touch the bottom' I was tempted but I also didn't want to get caught down there - you know, it would ruin the show being one actor down and all.
We found treasure at different depths and then headed back to camp/ Bentwaters for a wonderful breakfast of freshly brewed coffee and a special salad I made with Apples, Cucumber, Pistachio Nuts, Halved Grapes and a dressing of garlic, onion and crème fresh. It was nice, trust me. Muffins with butter, vegemite and avocado ala Silki, also very nice though a hard to believe combination of foods. Then we scrambled up some eggs and feeling very well fed, bloated like baby walrus', we headed off adventuring and found the abandon jet planes, went for a drive through the woods and were stopped by a very intimidating warden.
Back to camp again and resting in the shade as the day got even hotter. Then a bit of madman's basketball, as in mad to be playing in this weather. Another lively and exciting performance of the show. Trina sneaking in to see it a second time.
Noel from the community chorus who is our ‘master drummer' I guess you'd say, had brought in a joint of lamb, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes and wrapped them in leaves and foil, buried them at the bottom of the pagan's camp fire (each night one of the groups of pagan's sits round their campfire at the edge of the hush house, waiting for the arrival of the sacrificial sword). All in a jitter to get away for the day off and to see the world cup final, both Nadia and Silki are part Dutch - we had a very quick bite of Noel's wonderful spread - so, generous Noel, thank you very much and it tasted magnificent. Noel's has already been making pagan pancakes on the fire as well, maybe he should get a blog site for campfire recipes???
Back to Ipswich and the lovely Penny dropped us quickly at digs and then down to Isaac's to catch the game. The game was so slow in the first half we decided to walk up to the Greyhound for the second half and join the rest of the cast. It was an exciting game from then on in for anyone who didn't see it. Spain dominating the second half, with several close attempts on goal and then in the second half of extra time Spain scored a sublime goal. Two minutes later it was over and for the first time in History Spain held the world cup trophy high above their heads. Silki and Nadia looked saddened but there was good sportsmanship in the bar with the Spainish clapping the Dutch and vice versa. Sadly some of the Dutch players seemed to have forgotten their sportsmanship but it can't be easy seeing another team holding up your dashed hopes and dreams.
It's been another week of performances and tomorrow is our day off. Let's hope for more sunshine or maybe a bit of rain for a duvet day and a dvd. Sweet dreams.
BENTWATER ROADS: Carry on Camping
Saturday 10 July 2010
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.
Fast and Furious, one on one, two on one or two on two basketball has somehow become the king of warm up games. Though for this one show I found myself on the phone until the half (Silki telling us we have 30 minutes til beginners and will we put on our costumes, please).
Trina's train had run ridiculously late and stranded her in Ipswich til the evening performance so I went and bought an evening ticket for her from Jon at the makeshift box office.
I felt a little nervous again for the first time in a while but the show went really well. Ivan Cutting (the Director) was in the audience and he said that he had only planned to watch the first half but had been enjoying it so much he stayed for the whole show, ultimate praise from the man who has seen it more than anyone else.
Between shows there was a lot of sweatiness and warming up on the basketball courts. As well as a quickly gobbled down ready meal from Tesco.
Time for the evening performance and I was really excited, I love performing when there is someone I know in the audience, it gives you that extra drive and confidence. I felt like I had hit a home run for every scene and the whole play seemed to be doing even better than the great afternoon run we had just had which Mark Knightly had joked ‘it's good to get a warm up run in the afternoon before the real thing'.
Trina was full of praise and really enjoyed the show. Dee Evans from the Mercury Colchester was in as well and Dan talked to her for a while and she was full of praise for the show as well. We are the must see event of 2010 according to the East Anglian Daily Times and we are in the top 5 must see shows in the country according to The Independent. All this high praise is wonderful.
A lot of us were staying behind to camp and we pulled the picnic tables together making one long table to huddle round. Beer, Cider and Wine were poured and much laughter had under the amazing night sky at Bentwaters. We had a little music and dancing. And my stomach rumbled so I grilled a few lamb chops, chipolatas and pieces of sweet corn. Finally at about one in the morning, Trina and I retired to our little one man tent that she had brought all the way from London - it was a squeeze to both fit in there but a nice one.
BENTWATER ROADS: Down on the Farm.
Friday 09 July 2010
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 massive 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.
The sun was blazing down and the surroundings were idyllic, Jeremy the owner of the farm has replica WWI trenches on his farm and they've been used for many a TV drama or film. Just on the verges of his beautiful farm house and rustic old barn he has a dark green pond full of carp. I sat on the edge watching the other rowing the small boat over the surface as sky blue dragon flies buzzed just above the water and groups of two or three carp pushed up to the top of the water to eat insects on the surface. A school of three carp were feeding from exactly the same spot and it looked like the three were entwined in an intricate kiss.
We were all very grateful for the massive feast and being allowed to enjoy the wonderful farm. I headed back into the hush house with Max and Silki so I could have a little siesta. In the rising heat I couldn't keep my eyes open.
Soon I was back up on my feet and playing another game of fast and furious two on two basketball. We slotted in three games before needing to cool down and stop sweating before the show. I added another few cuts, scrapes and scratches to my itinerary of injuries.
The show went really well, it was enjoyable, quick and the audience was really responsive. My agent had driven all the way up from London with her brother and they came and saw the show. They loved it, her brother finding the themes touching as he has just recently had a baby himself. A cute four month old, that doesn't even cry and sleeps all the night through, lucky, lucky man.
We piled into cars and the van and headed to the Moorish Lounge again. On the way from the carpark (down by the Woodbridge Docks) to the bar I bumped into a friend of Silki's I had met at her birthday party and she told us she'd already met people who had seen the show tonight and were saying it was ‘absolutely brilliant'.
BENTWATER ROADS: Game of Arrows, anyone?
Thursday 08 July 2010
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 finish my 3rd lap and I estimate I had done 10km by the time I got back to my digs.
It took me awhile to write my blog yesterday but I got there (I'm always writing the blogs for the previous day the next morning). A call home to Trina and a walk into town to have a second breakfast at the Summer House in the centre of Ipswich and I sat munching on my food in the sunlight that fills this open plan, window covered pub.
Dan and I arrived extra early at the Theatre which was nice as I had a talk with Karen and booked tickets for my agent for Friday night's show. Steve (production manager) was filling the back of his peugeot station wagon with refuse for the Eastern Angles skip. Steve and I had a nice chat about his duties as a production manager and the various roles he has taken on for Eastern Angles over the years and how he's found himself in a management position. He very cleverly said ‘I haven't appeared in your blogs yet but with my job I only seem to be noticed when things go wrong'. He is the production manager and has kept the whole production flowing like clockwork, unless things are going awry he aptly he manages the job with such fluidity that we forget he's doing it, which is the ultimate confirmation that he's good at his job, he's also been a lighting designer, operator, you name it. Steve's also a fellow boat dweller and he is currently moored at Martlesham.
When Alice, James and Cherilyn headed out early for the Hush House I took the chance to join them. It turned out to be a clever decision because when we arrived Max (lighting operator) had attached an old black tube to the side of the tunnel that shoots out the back of the Hush House - this was a cleverly designed basketball hoop. James, Cherilyn, Max and I threw ourselves into a fast and furious game of Basketball until we all felt we were about to collapse. After a short breather we were back at it - only being finally pulled away from the funky basketball hoop by Roger and his archery set.
After being embarrassed at clay pigeon shooting on my 30th birthday when Trina got all 50 targets and I hit about 22 of them I was a little nervous about trying another aim based task - to add to it, as soon as the bow was in my hand and I was struggling to come to terms with how it worked more people were gathering around to have a gander.
The first bolt just hit the edge of the target (a picture of Bambi in the forest stuck to a board made of straw matting) by the third bolt I was in the forest and one of my first six shots finally hit it in the ass. Picking up the bolts I petulantly asked for another go at it - for some crazy reason I stepped a whole lot further back - bolt one in the rump, bolt two in the tree behind, bolt four in the guts, bolt five in the front haunches, bolt six in the straw matting.
The very sporty James stepped up to have a go and I felt my ego begin to sink as I was sure he'd hit the target each and every time. No such thing - in culmination the boys between them hit the deer twice, precious ego saved. We boys/men really are silly with a competitive spirit.
‘It's the half, Can I have you all in Costume' the don't mess with me voice of Silki usually peels this out before each show - the half is oddly 35 minutes before the show begins, this is because the last 5 minutes are classed as a standby for the start. Today it wasn't Silki but Max who asked us all to get ready, with a slightly different tact he asked so politely that we would have really felt like pillocks not to oblidge.
The show sizzled all the way through. Everything seemed to be flying, cues hit perfectly, nice ebbs and flow of pace and people settling even further into their characters. I even had a heroic moment or two - heroic moment number one was Dan coming off stage for a quick change and me launching in to help him when the others were busy dealing with a very important issue and number two was flying out of the wooden cage with my Ram's Horn in tow (this is for the massive Pagan ritual) the mouthpiece went flying off the horn and slid across the stage, a slipped to my knees and slipped the mouthpiece straight back on as I raised it up to my mouth and blew for dear life, almost fainting from the colossal use of Oxygen.
Not such a proud moment was when I got speed wobbles on my big speech as the pilot, I recovered but it was a little upsetting to slip about for awhile on what is such an amazing bit of writing. Overall a great success which was good as it was the Gala night and among the dignitaries was the Mayor of Woodbridge, spying from a distant after the show it looked like they had all had a great time and I heard many of them congratulating Ivan (Director and Artistic Director of Eastern Angles - not my landlord) on a spectacular show.
We all had a few quiet beers and a few nibbles, thanks to Jon (front of house manager) who is doing an amazing job at getting the audience in and seated on time and creating an exciting atmosphere outside the hush house with a bar and a big outdoor grill. Then we headed back to Ipswich. Penny and I chatting about how we had both ended up in the theatre, what our parents had done and our boats - Penny lives at Martlesham as well.
Pam (playing Josephine, Charlie's mother) put out an invite for a cast and crew lunch tomorrow at the farm where she is staying, very exciting, naughtily she isn't let us know what to bring along either.
Thank you Pam, such a lovely gesture.
Getting in I picked up my phone and called Trina and then with International phone card in hand I called home, talking to my Pa in Italian for a good hour before talking to my mum, who has also found my blogs. Hey there Mum. x
BENTWATER ROADS: Let there be light.
Wednesday 07 July 2010
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 for 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.
I stocked up on a big bowl of porridge before lumbering my way to the Theatre. I was told the day before that there had been some favourable comments about me in the East Anglia Daily Times review and I knew my agent would want me to get her a copy (so she can send them to potential employees and hopefully secure me a job for after this show finishes). I couldn't find the said article or online or a copy of July 6th issue of the newspaper. So that was a bit of a dead end but one I didn't mind as I always find my responses to good or bad comments in a review far too irrational and I try to keep my faith in the show steadfast by not reading them, that said we have been getting some really smashing reviews and Peter has been deemed excellent in a few of them too. Tickets sales have been reflecting this as well, so, if you haven't booked your tickets yet I strongly recommend you get in quick.
A long phone call home had a very happy conclusion - I'll be seeing Trina on the weekend and we'll be camping out at Bentwaters on the Saturday night, really exciting, planning a little portable BBQ with sausages and marshmallows and of course ghost stories.
I kept my bag firmly strapped to my back for the whole voyage from digs to the hush house and am pleased to say I didn't lose it - though I'm certain I wont be trusted with anything valuable ever again.
Tickets for Ivan, Rosie and Bunty were arranged for the Saturday afternoon instead as that was the performance I could get them comps (complimentary/free tickets).
At the hush house James was already kicking the football about. We had a rather limp game of cricket before getting ready for the one show of the day - a mid afternoon matinee, the hush house was quite full. The first act sounded great and I finally got all my lines out in the right order, delivery and clear enough to be understood - simple things, eh?
Though the quiet of back stage was broken when the medieval tool bag split it's handle and the tools came clattering out onto the concrete, two seconds later a gentleman in the top row of the audience decided to join in and his very fine walking cane came flying down from the sky and clattering onto the ground. All comical in hindsight but very upsetting for those on stage trying to be heard and those in the audience trying to hear them.
In the second act I felt everything was going fine and I must say that Richard was giving a stella performance, not that he normally doesn't but I think maybe like me he is a little spurred on by having his partner in the audience as was the case yesterday and there was a real glint in his eye to his performance.
As Peter, Richard and I came off from the final Pilot/Clerk/Commander scene the lights dipped into darkness.
And they stayed...
Until Max our lighting operator realised something had gone terribly wrong and he flew (no great exaggeration there) down the makeshift stairs that lead to the operating tower behind the audience's seating block and into the switchboard room and then quick as a flash he was back up in his seat and had the lights up and operating. Superhuman Max, really well done, everyone else was just a little dumbfounded and shocked - you saved the day buddy.
In very professional style Nadia and Peter went on with the play as if nothing untoward had happened and it was all wrapped up beautifully. I think we are really hitting our stride as a company; everyone is working so well together and taking individual ownership of the play as well. This isn't always the case with cast and crew even in the biggest scale shows in the West End. Its great to be a part of and it helps to make you feel happy and proud of your work.
I can't sing the praises of the community chorus enough, they lift the show to another level all together and they are giving their free time to the project and have been so friendly and quick at getting to grips with the story and carving their own place in the overall story. Bloody brilliant work guys and great working with you all.
In the evening Mark, Dan, Nadia and I headed to Isaac's near the marina in Ipswich to watch the second semi-final of the world cup.
Nadia and Mark as the blonde haired blue eyed participants were forced to support Germany in thick German accents while Dan and I were the Spanish contingency, though I think we were all very happy that Spain won the game. Caitlin and her friend Katie joined us just in time for the end of the match.
We demolished burgers from the open grill top and washed back quite a few beers, by the time the game was finished we'd made good friends with a couple of RAF boys ‘Mark and Kev from up North, Fleetwood'
sitting on the picnic bench next to ours. A few shots of tequila to celebrate Spain's victory and motown tracks playing over the speakers and we were up and singing - I think maybe a little to the embarrassment of poor Amy (from the community chorus) and her family who were having a quiet night out behind us.
Cheerfully singing and stumbling our way back uphill towards Henley Road. I was still beaming from the thought that come Saturday I'll be seeing my beautiful Trina. x
BENTWATER ROADS: Is there a Doctor in the house?
Tuesday 06 July 2010
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.
Today was a day of forgetfulness of comical proportions but with potentially disastrous consequences. Dan and I headed into the Theatre early after a pit stop at Tesco and the local bun shop but before we left our landlady Rosie hollered for help with her computer, I suddenly realised I still hadn't paid my weeks rent and it was already Tuesday (I normally pay Monday morning) Rosie was fine with it but I was very embarrassed by my faulty memory.
At the Theatre I asked Jill for subsistence money (an extra non- taxable amount of money on top of our wages that goes towards rent for digs while we are away from our homes and a little bit of food.
Jill opened up the safe and very trustingly gave me a large bundle of small envelopes with all the main casts names on them, everyone else's subsistence money and asked if I could hand them to the rest of the cast. I joked ‘there's a lot of money here, I might just take it and run'. I handed Dan his envelope, slipped mine in my back pocket and put the rest in my back pocket, thinking this was a little careless I transferred them to the front pocket of my bag.
Ivan let us know it was time for us to head of in his car for Bentwaters - Dan, Sally and I were recording a small excerpt from the argument in the tower scene (when father Tawney, Dan, tries to stop the Masons from having a topping off ceremony for the tower they've built) for BBC Radio Four on the PM show. So, we were heading out to the Hush House earlier than the others.
Just as we arrived at the Hush House I had the most awful feeling and when I looked down it was confirmed. I had left my bag behind at the Theatre somewhere, with everyone's subsistence inside it - arggghhh!!! This was now the fourth time I'd forgotten my bag behind, which amazes me as I normally am very organized and not forgetful. I quickly called Mark but they were already in the van and on their way to the site. I gave a call to Jill back at the Theatre as well, she said she'd have a look for it (I felt sheepish that I had let down her trust, especially after having been so flippant about the responsibility, with my little joke) before we could find out more...
...The lady from BBC Radio Four had already arrived so we went into the theatre and recorded the scene. I floundered (tripped up and rearranged) my lines on the second take - another feat of useless memory - spoiling what was sounding like a brilliant take for the microphone, on the third attempt I held it together, apologies Dan and Sally.
With that done Ivan had a phone call from the production manager Steve who had been scouring the entire Theatre and hadn't found anything. Panic! Massive Panic!
I went and asked Peter for cigarette - why though I don't understand - it's always seemed like the strangest hypocrisy that we smoke a stimulant (nicotiene) to relax and that we drink a depressant (alcohol) to celebrate. But somehow those cigarettes always look so tempting even after swearing I wouldn't touch another having seen a smokers lungs up close at the Gunther von Hagen's exhibition ‘Body Works' and the plaque beside it explaining that it takes three years of abstinence from smoking to clear your lungs but that any deterioration from the smoke will never repair. (a very scary thought).
I had officially lost everyone's subsistence money - I felt like the scum of the earth, as I'm sure I would soon be thought of by the others when on their arrival I would have to confess that my absent mindedness had lost them their rent money...
...at that moment the van arrived with everyone aboard. They piled out and I got ready for the well deserved abuse that I would have railed upon the poor soul that had lost my subsistence - instead Penny jumped out of the drivers seat laughing at me as she went to the back of the van and took out my bag - oh the relief as she said ‘how many times is that now?'. She didn't even know that the front pocket held everyone's subsistence. Phew!
It didn't stop there though - I don't know whether it's the same for all actors but after a certain number of runs of the show I find it hard to gauge how the show is going but what I do notice is any little or not so little hiccoughs I have. This afternoon we had a School in and we were all curious how they, as a younger audience, would like the show. I'm not sure if they would have understood what I was saying at all, as I floundered one line after another and to make things worse when I had to blow my ram's horn off stage it had regained it's shrill (strangled ewe) quality.
Note to self to have a good practice on the horn before the show if we've had a day's rest between shows.
The show was early to accommodate the students. So we started at 1:30pm and finished at 4pm, unlike the usual matinee time of 3:30pm til 6pm.
I grabbed a copy of the script that was lying nearby and read over and over the words that had tripped me and the phrases I seem to have suddenly forgotten, also the ritual chant that I was now beginning to doubt was the only thing I seem to have got right. Tut, tut...
Though, maybe not even that, as during the ritual, when Caitlin, Sally and I drink from the leather wine flask to cement the blessing I had raised the wine flask to Caitlin's mouth and thinking she was going to take the flask in her hands I let it go, only to notice she wasn't holding it, when I got my hands back on the flask, it was a little too vigorous and Caitlin's face was drenched in fake wine.
Feeling nervous and still very sheepish James and I herded some cast members together for what ended up being a very exciting and long game of touch Rugby. At times I thought my heart would make its way out of my chest as it seemed so desperate to do each time a made a dash with the ball and tried to get my breath back.
Drenched in sweat, sun-kissed, puffed and with my heart beating in my ears I had to ask for the game to come to a halt and my team definitely hadn't won, which was very embarrassing for a boy from New Zealand. We had a quick lunch then started to play a little quiet cricket. Dan and Silki had taken the VW Campervan out for lunch (it needs to be taken for a spin every now and then to keep the battery from going flat) on their way for a pub lunch the Campervan ran out of Petrol, a somewhat cursed day one might say but once again Penny came to the rescue and brought them some fuel.
The look over the script really helped and I didn't falter or paraphrase at all. But lets not speak to soon, as I did miss one of my Ram's Horn cues and only got the second one because of Richard's vigilance and his snapping figures and nodding head letting me know I had almost missed another. Apart from that small mishap the show felt like it was a brilliant one, to me. Peter and I nailed our Pilot/ Commander scene for the first time; which was really rewarding as we've been trying little things here and there to get it to the right intensity.
Near the end of the show a lady collapsed in the corridor between the seating. Sally and Flick caught her before she hit the concrete and Silki's quick thinking meant Jon (first aid warden and front of house manager) was there in a flash to make sure the lady was not seriously ill, he helped her to her feet and got her outside into the fresh air, feeding her some sweets and water. Jon, Silki and Cherilyn did amazing job of looking after her and keeping the show running at the same time, well done guys, and amazing spotting by Sally and Flick to save her from collapsing straight on to the concrete.
Then everything returned to normality at the end of the night, I heated my post show supper and we headed to the Greyhound for one drink before it was time to hit the hay. I fell asleep, resolved to not make the same mistakes as today again, preferably no more mistakes at all.
BENTWATER ROADS: Beside the Seaside.
Monday 05 July 2010
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 the 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.
We finally lunched in the quiet garden of an old Coach Inn called the Swan Hotel - I think it was the place Peter had suggested, because the hot smoke salmon sandwich was just as delicious as he had described and washed down well with a glass of white wine. Zoran was fantastic company with one interesting story after another and very playful quibbling between him and Pam had me in fits for most of the afternoon. I offered to pay for the meal but Zoran insisted which means I'll have to find a chance to take him out one time. In a lot of his demeanour and attitudes he reminded me of my father, a very enigmatic, bombastic man who doesn't care much for people with overly ripe sensibilities and who enjoys making people laugh or gasp.
Pam and I treated our feet to a banquet of golden sand and a little frolic in the sea water while Zoran read his papers. It was a relaxed day but when I got back to my digs I hit the pillow again after a failed attempt at calling home, only waking up again as I heard Dan tip-toeing back to his room after their excursion to Aldeburgh to see Stalag Happy, I drifted back to Dreamland Happy...
BENTWATER ROADS: Zoran with a Z
Sunday 04 July 2010
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 listen to music on our way into Bentwaters on the bus.
It was another brilliantly sunny day and we had a change of driver, Silki, was driving us into Bentwaters and Penny was already on site getting things ready. Pam (playing Josephine, Charlie's dead mother in the play) had brought her very enigmatic friend Zoran along and we all quickly warmed to him and his mysterious ways. He was gifting out cigarettes like Santa Claus and had thick, deep Yugoslavian accent, which we all found hard to place, his white hair and linen shirt and trousers and cheeky sparkle in his eye and riddling phrases made us all think of the character Mal from the play. The girls couldn't remember what his name was and he simply said 'just call me sexy' so that's exactly what we called him for the rest of the day.
When we arrived on the base we had a quick game of football, I almost rolled my ankle but it was worth it to score the 6th of our goals, Mark having potted away 4 already. A quick wipe down with a towel and into costume - I tried something new with the chewing gum in the pilot scene and it really didn't work. Then as the Mason my words were coming out all a little slurred as my mouth wasn't keeping up with my brain, all a little embarrassing really but by the second half everything was trucking along nicely, the pilot/commander scene hit a little speed bump but Peter pulled it all back under control and the play went on. Coming off stage I felt it had been a little tired but Zoran came straight over to us with glowing praise, followed by insistent praises as 'if I hadn't liked it I would be too embarrassed to be standing with you now' - it always amazes me how your understanding of how a run is going while you are in it, can be so terribly inaccurate - thank goodness.
Zoran even invited us all to join him for a feast from the grill they've set up outside the hush house, but we all had our heavily reduced ready meals from Tesco to plough through. After which we scrapped together a few of us for a quick game of touch Rugby. Mark's friends Eddie and Dan came to say hello before the evening show, they are doing a play in Aldebrugh called Stalag Happy which I saw a longwhile back in London and must say its well worth seeing, they're both brilliant - I had oddly worked with Eddie before in a project similar to Bentwaters in Lichfield, the acting profession is a very small world indeed and you always find you have ties with people in your cast and their friends.
The evening show dare I say it, seemed to run really well, everyone throwing their energy into it, knowing that tomorrow would be a well deserved and much anticipated day of rest.
I couldn't keep my eyes open in the van on the way home. So all my hopes of being up for any celebrations or after show antics were dashed as the cast headed off for a late night curry at Maharani's but I slumped into my digs, room and then crashed onto my pillow...
BENTWATER ROADS: Getting our Groove on.
Saturday 03 July 2010
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 narrative ‘it were the day the sun sizzled your skin to leather and the air swam round your knees' - or something like that).
I started my day in what is becoming quite a good little habit; going for a jog twice around Christchurch Park. Then I wrote yesterday's blog as the sweat was still dripping from my wrist onto my laptop, very messy.
Ivan Hamilton (my 77 year old landlord) was up and he told me some great stories about his time in the merchant Navy and sailing through the ice at the South Pole. They would use the bow of the boat as a slow battering ram to hopefully split the large sheets of ice to give them passage through the frozen waters but sometimes they had to disembark and split the ice themselves or back the ship up and hit the ice with a bit more momentum on the reinforced steel hull. It sounded so exciting I was very jealous then he really made me green with envy by telling me about his voyages around Greenland, Iceland and the North Pole/Finland. Oh how I'd love to see the Aurora Borealis (the Northern lights - where the whole night sky is lit up in magnificent every moving colours, the effect is spectacular, google some images if you've never seen them before, Northern Norway, Sweden or Finland are the places to see this wonderful side effect of Solar Winds colliding and emitting photons in the upper atmosphere of the night sky).
Retiring to the lovely and spacious back garden I read through the entire script again. I wanted to look over it for accuracy, in case I was unaware of recurring paraphrasing I'd been getting away with and also to comb through it again for phrases and words that link my scenes to the rest of the story and vice versa.
Dan came down to get me and we met Mark on the way in, the other habit that is being created is the tesco stop on the way into the Theatre before driving to Bentwaters, we all loaded up with ready meals, I got three, Lunch, Dinner and Post Show Energy Booster ('who eat all the pies!' I hear you sing!) some how I still fit in my costumes but at this rate of consuming I'm not sure that will still be the case by final night.
The first show of the day was the 3:30pm Matinee. It was a rather relaxed show that glided along. It didn't feel fast but when we looked at our watches somehow the first half had been cut down by five minutes, that's a lot of time to knock off - just like knocking 5 minutes of your time when you're jogging 8 miles. The audience was a lot smaller than the last two sell out shows - just 75 people but they laughed and followed us all the way through the twists and turns, there were a few teary faces at the end as well. So a good show.
Between the shows we started a game of Cricket (officially the best warm up for a show - lol) it was really nice to have members of the cast, crew and chorus all joining in, that is until Mark Knightly hit me for such a big 6 (over the designated boundry on the full) that we lost the ball in the shoulder high grass and stinging nettles.
The chorus were rustled together in our hour long break between shows to figure out how they were going to do the show with two less chorus members. The show went so smoothly and no one would have dreamed we were short of company members, really, really impressive and well done. The show sparkled in the evening, in my opinion it's the best we've done so far and I hope it keeps growing - it was so, so much fun being part of the show when it was on fire (not literally). I think I got a little extra kick because I thought I was being slightly naughty by chewing gum in my pilot scenes - but he is an American Pilot and it really worked.
After the show we necked a few beers and Tony Ramsay and his beautiful wife and daughter had come to see the show. Tony is such a lovely, lovely man and it always makes me really happy to see him, I feel very indebted to him as well, as the most touching moment I have in the play is the most phenomenally written speech I've ever had to act and I swear he's written it so well that it is bad acting proof - I'm probably good proof of that. Big, big thank you Tony and really lovely to see you and your family at the show.
I also met Rachel's mum who complemented my blogs and said she'd been reading them all, crazy that they've garnered that much interest but really nice, James and Elizabeth in the chorus had said similar things as well, so thank you, I'm really glad someone is reading these and enjoying them.
Cherilyn our costume supervisor who along with Kelly constructed all the costumes came back from her graduation today and still hadn't celebrated so we headed back to the Moorish Longue (highly highly recommended) at Woodbridge. Penny who is normally driving us everywhere even got to join us and Dan, Mark and Caitlin did the cast proud by coming along. I happened to have sparklers in my pocket (god knows why? they were left over from my amazing 30th birthday weekend that my girlfriend Trina made unforgettable for me, I even still have a helium gas canister in my room as well??? Odd I know.) We lit the sparklers and sang 'happy graduation to you, happy graduation to you'. Someone, I can't remember who suggested going dancing in Ipswich and the idea caught on, we all headed for The Groove Bar, a really funny, dodgy, eighties themed night club, somewhere along the road we lost Dan, Penny, Mark and Caitlin. It's a shame because it was a great laugh and good to dance, the last time I really danced was at Trina's friend Rachel's wedding, we tore up the dance floor to a Ceilidh and then to the Latin and swing. I really missed her and am feeling homesick for her smiling face xxx
BENTWATER ROADS: Warming up, in more ways than one...
Friday 02 July 2010
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.
Sitting near the round about on the high street I called Trina and had a little chat then called my Nonna (Italian Grandmother) to chat about missing Trina.
We arrive at the air base at 5pm for the 730pm show and Mark and I start a little battle over which activity we should do as a warm up - Mark is opting for a nice relaxed game of football since he's a little worn out from a long day in the sun at the beach, while ding ding, I in the blue corner was fighting for a game of touch Rugby as I was still loaded with energy from a rather slow-paced. Somehow I won out and Max from the crew came and joined as along with the two Jameses from the cast and Alice (with her crazily apt ball skills).
It was a fierce and fast game and we were all well warmed up by the end. Maybe tomorrow with the two shows in one day we should stick to something calmer like cricket. But I'm very grateful people let me have my way and I got to play rugby for the first time in ages.
We sat down to notes just a little bit past 530pm and were taken through safety hazards with Steve and fire drill with Jon. Then we went over all the scenes involving the tower just to make sure that it was being done safely and that everyone knew what they were meant to be doing.
With time for a little food and a change into costume we were at 7pm with half an hour left till show time. Peter is a great storyteller and he had me in fits of laughter telling me tales of one very famous actress he had worked with who had kept of the boredom of doing the same show day in and day out for 9 months by putting a theme to each curtain call, actors having to step forward to take their bow after a very serious and touching play pretending to suffer from a terrible disease, with tails attached and many more funny variations. This actress even played a prank on Peter by telling him a funny joke in the wings followed by ‘I'll tell you an even funnier one.' ‘What?' replied Peter after a very silent pause ‘you've missed your entrance' and sure enough two of his fellow actors were on stage adlibbing dialogue in great reams to fill the gap she had sneakily made him leave behind.
Then the show started and it really had some pace to it. Pace is usually measured by the gaps between one character finishing talking and the next starting. All scenes have variety of pace in them, when a scene gets more poignant or delicate pace tends to slow down, but when something is exciting it speeds up and the gap between people speaking is almost indiscernible. I try to think of it like the audience's heart beat, so, if you want their hearts racing pick up the pace. (so in short pace as in fast pace is good).
The show flew along, building and building then having little calmer moments before building again and the audience's applause seemed to mark it as another success. Ivan was smiling again at the end of the run. Always a good sign and we were all drenched in sweat from what had been a very hot hush house for that evening's performance.
Fiona Simpson (our lighting designer) came to the show with her husband Matthew. They have a young baby girl named Isobel and by some odd coincidence I have named my daughter in the play Isobel as well.
Fiona is as of yet an unsung hero in my blogs but I must say she's done a phenomenal job. In what is a very grey, metallic, unforgiving space, with a limited amount of lights due the temporary lighting rig, she stepped in to fill in someone elses shoes only a little over a week ago (more or less like Peter) and her work has been Herculean, atmospheric and uplifting for the entire play, helping delineate the different ages, giving them each a different feel and heat, as well as building the UFO scenes and rituals with bolts of lightening and the flickering lights of unidentified flying objects flickering across our faces.
Post show - Silki invited us out to Woodbridge (her hometown) for after show drinks and those of us that weren't too exhausted were happy to head to the pub with her.
I'd never been to Woodbridge and it was one of the cutest and loveliest towns I've been to in England. We headed to pub in the main square of the town but it was overflowing with people waiting to order at the bar. There was a little flurry of panic as we noted it was 11pm and a lot of places would now not be letting new customers in. Silki in organized stage manager fashion called up her friend who owns the Anchor and ask/pleaded for us to be let in if we arrived in the next five minutes. On our walk down towards the station and the marina, we passed by The Moorish Lounge a beautiful restaurant with Moroccan lamps and out door tented picnic tables on a pebble garden, all candle lit under the clear night sky. So we slipped in there for a drink and surprise surprise Silki knew the bar manager there as well.
Steve, Max, Fiona, Peter, Silki, Mathew and I sat round the table with our drinks having a good laugh and the chef brought as out some delicious potato wedges free of charge, since we were at a restaurant and should have been eating as well as drinking.
Peter and I sat there with our Campari and Orange juice - and I thought we're bloody lucky to have such a wonderful group of people working on this project. Ivan and the Eastern Angles team has really made the company feel like a family. Max (technician and operator) turned to me and echoed my thoughts in his own words.
A wonderful night and a good performance, Cheers to that!
BENTWATER ROADS: Another Opening, A Brand New Show.
Thursday 01 July 2010
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 of their performance and utter belief that they will 'wow the audience'.
'Break a leg' is an odd expression to say to someone to wish them luck and there are several stories about how the expression came about. I like the one I heard that in the time Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth the first in the Theatre it wasn't always a given that the audience would let you have a curtain call (the moment at the end of the play when all the actors come out and take a bow, and the crowd usually claps) at the end of the show. If a company hadn't impressed the crowd enough, then no one would applaud (fair enough really) or worse they would boo and howl at the actors, throwing things at the stage etc. Bowing in Elizabethan England was done by placing on foot a step forward and bending your back leg while lowering your head.
This action was referred to by thespians as ‘breaking a leg' hence when you are wishing someone good luck in the theatre, you are really wishing them a fine enough performance to earn them a chance to bow and be applauded. Nice - even if my explanation is a little convoluted.
We arrive at the Airbase around 2pm ready for a dress run at 2:30pm.
Another superstition is that final dress runs should always go badly to have a successful opening night 'bad dress rehearsal good opening night'. Dan jokingly said from the dressing room (changing rooms) 'you know what they say 'bad dress rehearsal'... ... angry director'.
Well our final dress rehearsal wasn't a nightmare but enough went awry to calm any superstitious fears, a large amount of water was spilt on the middle of the stage a few changes, cues, lines and such like were fluffed and a happy medium was tread between too many mistakes to feel prepared and not enough to dispel any feeling of being cursed.
The nerves before the show were quite quiet and peaceful, we all exchanged our opening night cards after a little dinner, whispering 'break a leg' to one another in the wings and thanking each other for the lovely sentiments in the cards we received, I find all of mine very touching, I even received one in the morning from my landlady Rosie and landlord Ivan and a beautifully hand made one from home with an image of me as a pilot and a touching message from my girlfriend Trina who also called to wish me luck before heading into the Theatre.
Actors all warm up in different ways - I personally love to enter the space an hour or so before the performance and do a voice warm up - usually a series of very silly sounding noises that help to increase the resonance/vibrations in your voice, as well as tongue twisters and little exercises to through your voice from one side of the room to another. For this show I concentrated on twang, that sharp nasal quality of voice that we associate so much with the American accent, making noises like the witch from The Wizard of Oz and bleating like a sheep as well testing how much twang I could add to my lines.
We're not just talking heads so next was a little stretch and a shake out, walking on the grass verges of the air hanger as the crowds arrived at the beer and bbq tents set out in front of the hangers. It was a very odd feeling being able to see your audience before the show and them being able to see you.
With much excitement we started the show and it was a good one. The first half seemed bless and we were very calm going into the second wish flew along nicely as well, with a few hopefully unnoticed hiccoughs along the way. The audience clapped appreciatively and from what I overheard at the beer tent after the show, it sounded like it was enjoyed by everyone (victory!). I asked Ivan whether he was happy and he said with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye 'relieved!' which I took very much as a yes. We sat drinking beer and wine under the stars, with music and good company, chatting about the show and everything under the sun.
As we were driven back to Ipswich by the lovely Penny I felt very proud of what we've managed to achieve, the script is excellent and the direction superb and I think as actors and community chorus we've collectively stepped up to the plate together, the technical crew have worked like mad and its paid off.
Well done everyone, bloody well done!
'Here's to the rest of the run!'
BENTWATER ROADS: 'Twas the Night Before Bentwaters...
Wednesday 30 June 2010
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? They're here playing fooseball everyday'...
A lunch left a bit too late and a mad dash from the centre of Ipswich to the Sir John Mills Theatre (Eastern Angles base) sees Mark and I arrive at the Eastern Angles van in a mess of sweat and lack of breath.
Today we'll be running the show twice. These runs are dress rehearsals (dressed in costume rehearsals) - they are predominately to check costume, practice the show now everything technical has been sorted out and build up the pace and confidence of the play in time for the opening night, mini performances without an audience to facilitate an easy transfer into performing to a crowd. It's a very clever way of helping curb nerves as well; like the warm up laps in a formula one race. We are planning to do three in total - 2 today and 1 tomorrow before the first performance in front of a full audience.
The first dress run started off well, we hit a few snares on the way through. A quick note session to smooth out the bumps and we're back up on the stage after a diner-break in the sun. The second run is a lot smoother and when Ivan gathers us all around the freshly constructed bar outside the hush house he is looking enthusiastic.
Free beers are handed out to all the members of the cast and crew and Ivan does a nice pep-talk with a good note of optimism in it; a big salute to the work of the chorus and how their work is and will elevate the show to another level.
Another hero of the hour for me is Peter (now playing Mal and The Commander) who a week ago had no idea he would be in this play, he was just celebrating a friends birthday in a completely different part of the country.
Excitement builds as tomorrow night is our first performance to a live audience and the word is out that the space will be full. All 200 seats with expectant spectators in them.
BENTWATER ROADS: Groundhog Day
Tuesday 29 June 2010
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.
It was very muggy and even the short downfall of rain didn't really clear the air. Everyone was feeling a little strange due to the weather. Entrances and exits and logistics and lighting and sound cues were carefully put in place throughout the evening. As actors we waited quietly in the theatre for when we were needed on stage, playing out our scenes as we came to them and go back over them to add in the sound and lighting cues until the timing was exactly as Ivan would like. It's very detailed and slow work (it always is and this crew has been very good, on what is a reasonably tech heavy show). At one point I saw Silki (Stage Manager) walk off to discuss something with Cherilyn (Costume Supervisor) only to come back 25 minutes later finding everyone on stage back to the same positions they were in when she'd left, she light heartedly quipped 'It's like groundhog day'.
Silki, Ivan, Alan and the crew have all been in really good humour throughout the stressful process of the tech, telling jokes and jesting with each other and throwing smiles to everyone involved. The atmosphere they create is wonderful to work in and by 10pm after a lot of concentration, corrections and additions of effects, they/we had got the tech done for the first act. Meaning we'll be ready for a dress run (a practice run of the play in costume) tomorrow afternoon.
Two more days left before opening night and as we got back to Ipswich we headed for a glass of wine at the Grey Hound and a quick follow up drink of the bottle of red the company bought for my thirtieth in the back garden of Mark's digs - all of us passionately discussing the play, the space and how well the show is coming together.
BENTWATER ROADS: The Tower of Pizza
Monday 28 June 2010
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 doing an amazing job. They set up the live video feedback and integrated the starry night background on to the projected image.
Sounds cues were quickly picked up and noted (music and sound effects making an enormous difference to the feel of the piece, creating atmosphere and mood).
After a long day of deciding on lighting and sound, Penny had ordered in Pizza so we all gathered around the out buildings and had ourselves a mini feast of Dominos.
By the time the community chorus arrived at 6pm we were ready for a tech run of the second half. This is a run predominately aimed at giving the technical crew a chance at doing the show at full speed with their new notes. This seems to be a show with a lot of cues for sound and lighting so it's important they have a chance to practice.
The run seemed to go very smoothly on the technical side and I was practicing my quick costume changes between scenes, working up a full body sweat - sorry costume department.
At the end of the day everyone looked very tired, especially Ivan who had been working constantly throughout the day (actors were only called in for the scenes they were in and in the interim we caught a bit of sun, played with the football, cricket set, went over lines and basically tried to keep our energy up for the scheduled evening run.)
A really productive day and now we just have Act One to Tech with sound and lighting and then we can keep running and refining the show. Adding on costumes for everyone and the costume changes, seeing whether there is enough time for everyone to change and finding ways to make the changes faster. Caitlin is going to have some phenomenally fast changes, as well as Dan. They both literally finish a scene as one character and reappear seconds later as a completely different one. Making these changes happen is part of the glory and spectacle of live theatre and I'm sure we'll find a way.
BENTWATER ROADS: Park Life
Sunday 27 June 2010
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 retiring to watch Spartacus as part of research for upcoming audition. Before falling off to sleep I read the Bentwater Roads script through again.
BENTWATER ROADS: Jogging Along.
Saturday 26 June 2010
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 our 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.
At one I headed in to do the Commander/Pilot scene with Peter. Peter had obviously been working hard the night before as the scene had an extra burst of energy in it and he was starting to look bold and confident in his performance. I just have to reiterate how much of an outstanding job he's doing, he's almost off book already and seems to be baring the stress with composure and calm.
In the afternoon we ran the second half of the play, then sat down for notes from that run and yesterday afternoons run of act one.
Everything seems to be coming into line, now all that's left is to slot the show into the hush hanger and streamline the transitions and crank up the pace, find the best rhythm for the play overall and we'll be cooking with the proverbial gas. Basically it's time for the technical week and that's exactly what we'll start doing.
We piled the rehearsal gear, props and carpet and chairs into the back of the enormous van ready for a relocation for the evening rehearsals. A swift farewell to what has been our rehearsal space for the past four weeks. Much thanks to Fred and the Social Club.
In the evening we shifted out to Bentwaters Airbase with the community chorus. The hush house had transformed completely, it looked rock star ready, with a large sexy set of lighting trusses rigged and ready, the 200 raked seating platforms pointing towards the set, metallic trees made from scaff-poles and wire netting, the symbolic river bed, the vw parked ready for its dramatic entrance and the technical crew still busy putting the final touches on the space.
Slowly and with much care we did the hard work of going back over the transitions and set movements for act one. You would be mistaken to believe it's a quick an easy job, we started at 6:30pm and by 10pm we had just finished the first act.
Sleepy we headed back to our digs to drop into a deep sleep, ready for the Saturday day rehearsal. The ever so kind and thoughtful Penny dropped us all off at our digs, cars and nearest supermarkets - much obliged Penny, thank you.
BENTWATER ROADS: Anyone for Cricket?
Saturday 26 June 2010
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 lights 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.
We took a break in the afternoon between the acts, emerging into the bright sunlight. I ran straight for cricket bat and ball and successfully coaxed Mark into joining me for a few balls. Mark started immediately hitting me for fours left right and centre, while I caught him out off a sitter only to miss every attempt at slogging his accurate bowls for six, one even bounced back of our improvised wicket to hit me square in the mouth. Angered by the pang in my mouth I hurled the ball even faster... only to be hit even further a field.
Running to what felt like the other side of the airbase to retrieve the cricket ball, dripping in sweat my ears pricked to hear we were being called back into the darkness for rehearsals. The second act was a bit harder to keep the momentum flowing through as we still have refined the transitions for the new and much larger space. Still the object of the exercise was to get accustomed to the space and to give Fiona a chance to try different settings with the lights and familiarize herself to the newly filled stage. Roger Eno (our composer) was softly crying at some of the more touching moments and laughing away at the comedy scenes, so I think we've got a great show on our hands both with touching moments, laughter, a bit of action and a lot of heart.
Early afternoon and we shuttled back to Ipswich, Mark, Richard and Caitlin jumping on the train back to London for the 18 hours before rehearsals recommence on Monday. Monday will be a long day, 10am til 10pm so I hope they all get a lot of rest as well as enjoying England thrashing Germany - fingers crossed.
BENTWATER ROADS: Eyes Front! It's the Costume Parade!
Thursday 24 June 2010
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 into my flight kit as the pilot and as Trina (my girlfriend) had requested I sent her a photo via my mobile.
The costume department have been so busy making all the pagan costumes and footwear, sourcing the different bits of contemporary costume, hiring the commander's and pilot's uniform and all the wonderful medieval garb as well as sewing the most amazing medieval gown for Sally as the widow Middleton. Not only have they been slaving away until their arms are stuck to the sides of their chest like penguins wings from sitting in front of the sewing machines, they have done a brilliant job. Very few changes were asked for and Cherilyn and Kelly happily pinned and made note of the needed adjustments. We are really lucky to have such a fabulous crew and they even spoiled us by bringing in doughnuts, mmm... doughnuts...
Afternoon rehearsals were the pilot/commander scene with Peter and me. Peter quickly got to grips with the scene and slipped into a ‘I love the smell of Napalm in the morning' style Texan accent. It's a great relief to see how able Peter is and he has a great attitude and earthed quality that has made us all confident that he'll manage to pull of this quite mammoth task of joining us so late in rehearsals.
As we rehearsed I was trying madly to keep the football out of my head. I was brought up in New Zealand and my father is Italian. I was hoping above hope for a miracle New Zealand win against Paraguay who were top of their group and a draw with Slovakia to Italy to get New Zealand through. Unfortunately I missed the games but not a miracle as the outcomes were more or less what I'd expected, though I do think New Zealand did well to draw with Paraguay, Enough football, as this is a rehearsal blog after all.
We did a run of the first act of the play in the late afternoon and everything fitted together really well. The Ram's Horn now is consistently sounding throughout the Pagan scenes. I think I managed to touch a bit more on the high energy needed for my American Pilot and Ivan jumped up and read in for Sally which was great fun to watch especially when Richard (the Pagan Priest) reached out and grabbed Ivan's manly arms and proclaimed "WOMAN, you have given much..."
I think we are all feeling confident, if a little tired and I'm sure we all want to congratulate Peter on a great first day of rehearsals and say to Tony that we miss him.
BENTWATER ROADS: Come on England!
Wednesday 23 June 2010
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.
Practicality 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.
With our replacement Mal and Commander arriving tomorrow with just Thursday and Friday for rehearsing Ivan had no real choice but to work on the non-Mal scenes. Though I did happily hear Mark and the others were finished with the pagan scenes early enough to catch the last 10 minutes of the game.
I stopped in at ‘West End Music' on my way into rehearsals in the morning and they kindly let me borrow a mouth piece for the ram's horn. Now I'm bellowing away on it and hitting my sound cues as long as I remember when they are.
Karen has recorded an interview with a former Bentwater's US Airforce Pilot called Wylie and I'm soaking up the accent, attitude and information as I type out my blog for the day, on what has been the most beautifully sunny day of 2010 (so far, fingers crossed.)
BENTWATER ROADS: A sad goodbye.
Tuesday 22 June 2010
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 The Commander. Peter will be joining us on Thursday. With a subdued atmosphere we ventured on with rehearsals in the smaller Theatre space.
We made our way through the first half of the play and then stopped for notes. Mark Knightley and Caitlin Thorburn headed to the Hush House to film one of the Pagan scenes for local television. It will be screened as part of a programme on the arts council cuts in East Anglia on Thursday night. In the evening we all gathered together under Alan's (Assistant Director - and subject of a two page spread in the weekend papers) to rehearse the chorus moments and transitions for the second act of the play... the ram's horn is still sounding somewhere between a stressed ewe and a farting lamb but the singing and chanting from the community chorus is sounding superb.
BENTWATER ROADS: Another Monday
Monday 21 June 2010
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 come 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.
BENTWATER ROADS: A busy weekend.
Sunday 20 June 2010
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.
BENTWATER ROADS: Birthday Boy
Friday 18 June 2010
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 devour 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?"
First thing in the morning we went over the last few scenes of the play then, you guessed it, we worked on the transitions for the last quarter before in the afternoon hitting the end of the show running.It was really touching to watch the outcome of Charlie's story (no,I'm not going to let you know what that is - you'll have to come to Bentwaters and see for yourself ) and I think Nadia Morgan is doing an amazing job of what is a Mt Everest of an emotional and psychological journey.
That evening - we watched the football (least said the better) then headed to Silki's (Stage Manager) 30th birthday party in Woodbridge where we partied hard around a bonfire and inflatable festival tent as we sent Chinese sky lanterns up into the hemisphere, magical.
BENTWATER ROADS: Bleary-eyed.
Thursday 17 June 2010
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.
BENTWATER ROADS: Sticking my neck out
Wednesday 16 June 2010
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 head 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.
BENTWATER ROADS: Living in America
Tuesday 15 June 2010
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 scenes 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.
BENTWATER ROADS: The Weekend
Sunday 13 June 2010
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.
BENTWATER ROADS: Run for Your Life
Friday 11 June 2010
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-down 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.
Surprisingly we all manage to remember in what order our scenes arrived as well. After some encouraging notes and a few fine tuning pointers I darted off to the station and home to London for the weekend.
BENTWATER ROADS: Line Learning
Thursday 10 June 2010
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, Tony 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.
BENTWATER ROADS: ACCENT ON THE POSITIVE
Wednesday 09 June 2010
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 a feel for Post Roman - Pre Renaissance England.
In the afternoon I headed down to the social club where the contemporary scene actors had been hard at work all morning. Richard and I stepped up to the plate and went over the first of the cold war scenes again; this time with quite a fine -toothed comb. I struggled to get into the flow of the scene as my attempt at an American accent kept ringing in my head like an alarm bell warning of ham acting. It's a great little scene and sets up for later in the play and there is a great play against in the tensions of the piece with my character telling a laid back story about his youth (heavily laden with metaphors and a poignant analogy of the guilt felt for bringing nukes to Suffolk) as well as the highly sprung anticipation of being put through the wringer by his commanding officer. Went to sleep a little frustrated with myself.
BENTWATER ROADS: Britons Got Talent
Tuesday 08 June 2010
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 Hymn 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.
BENTWATER ROADS: That Monday feeling
Monday 07 June 2010
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.
BENTWATER ROADS: TFIF
Friday 04 June 2010
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.
BENTWATER ROADS: Does anyone have the time?
Thursday 03 June 2010
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 scraggliness 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.
BENTWATER ROADS: A trip to the Hush House
Wednesday 02 June 2010
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 and 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.
We read the final scenes of the play in the space and then headed to the nearby Wantisden Church which features heavily in the play.
Within seconds of being in the Church Mark Knightly (the actor playing Jez and Crotus) was flying up the unlit steps of the cobwebbed tower, clambering up the internal ladders pass the abandoned twigs, feathers and droppings left by the avian inhabitants pushing back the heavy copper trap door leading to the roof of the tower. Soon half the cast were a top the tower and admiring the view of the Suffolk countryside. We all clambered back into the Eastern Angles Van and headed back to the Greyhound.
BENTWATER ROADS: All in a circle
Tuesday 01 June 2010
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 director, 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.
Crisp copies of the play were handed out and we had our first bash at reading the script out loud as a cast with Penny Griffin enthusiastically reading in the stage directions and everyone in the casting really bringing it to life. As always hearing it aloud added another dimension to the play that you never get reading at home on your own.
Keith Baker got up after the read through and talked us through his scaled version of the set which has managed to give the impression of the airfield, Randlesham Forest, Wantisden Church and the front room of Rose Cottage as well as containing a VW Campervan and possibly a pivoting raised platform to simulate a jet plane. Next were the sketches of our characters costumes. I was very pleased to see I'm going to be done up like Tom Cruise in Top Gun and the grey sack cloth garments of the Britons looked pretty flattering as well.
After this Eastern Angles put on a big welcoming Lunch and we all got to know each other even better over the quiche, cheese, sausage rolls and tea and coffee.
In the afternoon we headed to the nearby social club that would be our base for rehearsals over the next few weeks as the Eastern Angles Theatre is considerably smaller than the aircraft hanger we'll be performing in and it's also busy with different plays shifting in and out as part of Ipswich's vibrant Pulse Fringe Festival.
We gathered together round the script and read through the play a scene at a time and then fedback as a group on what we thought each scene was about and how it added to the play overall. It was immensely helpful that Tony Ramsey stayed with us through this process and offered us wonderful gems of information behind the different stories, characters and the transformation of the script.
The story spans from Pagan Britain to modern day England, stopping off in the medieval ages and cold war era in between, not only does it encompass a wide chronology but the action is as far varying as the main character Charlie's delicate internal dealings of her suicidal mind coming to grips with the loss of her mother to the explosive spectacle of a pagan sacrifice. Something for everyone indeed...
BENTWATER ROADS: The Greyhound
Monday 31 May 2010
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.