Sunday, 23 January 2011

National Press

Yep, I'm included in a national publication -

Albeit a small mention, but still - how exciting! This is a really interesting project that I was able to get involved with having previously worked on the festival last year. Do come along if you can.

I've been spending my 2011 so far on trying to broaden my horizons, get my name known further afield and learning more about the 'business' side of this industry. With moderate success. The thing is, there is a fine line between information and intimidation, and it's very easy to feel far behind the pack. BUT! You can now find me on the Young Vic Directors' Genesis Network, working at the Bath Literature Festival and potentially working on the Liverpool 'Write Now' Festival later in April.

Small steps. Long game.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

It All Starts Somewhere

My childhood theatre experience was pretty varied, thanks to my mum's own interest and passion in all things performance. But there are two shows that, I think, had a massive impact on me - both as a person and as a director.

Les Miserables and Blood Brothers.

I have seen both these shows more times than is possibly healthy - especially with the availability of DVDs like the 10th and, now, 25th anniversary concerts of Les Mis in particular. If you know them - both with aspects of comedy but ultimately driven by stories of hope, retribution, anger, despair and powerful music - then you will pretty much know everything you need to know about me as a person and a director. I love comedy but have an affinity for melacholic, nostalgic or thoughtful drama. There is something magical about musical theatre that theatre without music (is there such a thing?) could not match. It is often touted that 'whatever cannot be spoken is sung', and I do believe that in many ways.

When I was little I was desperate to be in the shows. In Les Mis I would be Fantine, in BB I would be Linda. As I was growing up there was a lot of flack associated with liking them. 'Oh that's a miserable show', 'What, the Liverpool thing?'...and the massive popularity that they attract meant that some people could be quite snobby about them. But the fact is that, for me at least, they were transformative experiences. Iconic productions.


Sunday, 2 January 2011

The First Rule in Theatre

Hello. Welcome to 2011. Are you sitting comfortably? Marvellous. You must not be sitting in the Gods.

Today I saw what was actually a rather good production, but which was let down by the section of the theatre I was sitting in - the only one I can realistically afford when I see so many shows. Why is the Gallery (Gods, Upper Circle; whatever name a theatre gives to its highest tier of seats) such an uncomfortable place to be? At it's worst you risk vertigo for a very distant glimpse of what may or may not be an actor standing/dancing/acting on the stage far below, and at it's best you probably miss seeing most of the action with an uncluttered view due to 'safety bars' in the way. And you don't usually get a seat. You have a bench. Now, I am not the smallest person, and with a dad who is 6'5 tall I have quite long legs, but being able to pay less than a cinema ticket to see a show doesn't really make up for having to sit with my knees up to my chin, craning to see any part of the show that dares to venture any further down stage than midstage, gradually stripping off layers of extra clothing while the heat from the stage, audience and lights below rises to cloud among those stuck at the top.

But, comfort aside, having been in my fair share of 'highest tier seating', it seems to me that the majority of actors and directors forget about it. It is very rare for performers to 'play' to the audience - indeed I have seen shows where their eyes never lifted above the stalls! I know that it's impossible to please everyone, and tickets are cheaper for a reason, and it would be horrible to have to dramatically alter an artistic vision because of sight-lines. But when you stage a good 40-50% of scenes below the realistic vision of people in the top it sort of takes the piss. Theatre is about collectivity - a shared experience between performance and audience. And it seems our inherited theatres have not been designed to fully facilitate that. Of course, it's easy for me to rant about it - I don't have to do anything about it, apart from make as sure as possible that when I stage a production the majority of action can be seen EVERYWHERE in the theatre.

I think this is why I love theatres like The Courtyard in Stratford, The Tobacco Factory in Bristol, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre and the Young Vic in London. Perhaps it's notable that all these places generally use thrust staging.

Put me in the thick of it every time.