I’m not saying a word…

“Last night I dreamt I was in a theatre. On the table there was a box. It seemed to be full of presents.  Wrapped.  I couldn’t be sure.  Are they presents? I said.  We pulled off the Christmas wrapping and they weren’t presents but clues…”

Mary.  Linda.  Linda.  Mary.  MaryLinda.  MaryLin.  MariLyn.  Marilyn Munroe.   A 24 hour character crisis.

Then, “Suddenly everything makes sense; in fact it’s triplets…”.  No.  This time it was twins.  And not Mary’s, someone else’s.

Mickey and Tony were in the dream.  And Simon and Eddie.  Caroline, Donna Marie, MaryAbi, ‘B’, ‘Streets’, ‘PinkUkelele’ – were all there too, together with unfamiliar faces, who by the end of the dream, were like old friends because we had been bound together by a shared experience.  Sammy was there, but not Sam – how could she be with her head down the toilet?  Charming On Stage Lover was there too, but only fleetingly as the doctor I remember him to be; then he would appear with a crate of milk in his hands; but most of the time he had to be uncharacteristically cold, distant and unfeeling.

Artist Masquerading as a Manager enters centre stage with Liverpool-inspired paintings.  A funfair.  Beads and bleachers and colored lights. As if she already knew.

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 Artwork © Joanne Webb

They were young, free and innocent – three good friends. Mickey, Eddie and Linda – “she’s a girl, but she’s all right.”  But is the couple in the picture Mickey and Linda? Or Linda and Eddie?

It could have been either. And yet they both died – the two clowns, who could and did get their lines right. Leaving Linda alone.

Bring the curtain down. Until September.  Because other people’s words said it all…

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Learn a musical and perform it 24 hours later? But which one?

4.10am – I am kept awake by Husband of Mine tossing and turning.  He is awake, knowing that he needs to get up at 5.30am to catch a flight to Guernsey for a meeting.

5.30am – I hear the alarm go off, but fall asleep again without too much trouble.

7.58am – I wake, hear the faint sound of the television from downstairs, and realise happily that Son of Mine has, for once, obeyed my instructions to the letter:

“Do not under any circumstances, unless there is a crisis which you cannot resolve yourself, wake me up any earlier than 8.00am.  Especially if it is just to ask if you can go downstairs and watch TV before breakfast. I am giving you permission in advance to do exactly that.”

“But can I come in and whisper to you?”

“No, because whispering still wakes me up, and I need as much sleep as possible because I will be awake from the second I wake on Friday morning, until I am able to go to bed on Saturday night, because of the 24 hour musical.” 

So today is the beginning of that sleep-deprived period of my life.   Tonight at 7.30pm I will embark (no clues there, we’ve done sailors with white trousers) on the sixth 24 hour musical that I have been involved in.

For anyone out there who hasn’t the foggiest what I’m on about, let me explain:

Quite a few years ago, Husband of Mine was contemplating a job move. To Guernsey. As with the other of his potential job moves that have been contemplated over the years, my immediate thoughts turn to theatre – is there one in the vicinity of the said job location; will I find like-minded theatrical individuals who are prepared to throw everything into their hobby; are the groups that already exist in the area competent and unafraid to take a risk on shows that aren’t run of the mill G&S or Rodgers & Hammerstein (not that there’s anything wrong with either partnership, just not all the time).

So in my detailed research of Guernsey (and in case you were worried about my lack of interest, I did also research education and housing), I came across Guernsey Youth Theatre and the production that they were working on during that very weekend of my research in 2004 – Bugsy Malone – learnt and rehearsed in 24 hours without sleep for cast and crew alike.  Read more about GYT’s 24 musicals here – you can also find them on Facebook.

Brilliant! I thought.  I know who would be interested in a similar venture.   I have been in many productions over the last 20 or so years with a talented local director who loves, to the point of bordering on obsession, musicals. Director Who Thinks Life is a Musical is also a fan of short rehearsal periods and quirky ideas so who better to pit the idea of staging our own version of the 24 hour challenge to?  In the summer of 2004, I was in her production of By Jeeves, so mentioned the Guernsey set up to her one day in the pub.

The following Spring, the first 24 hour musical, to my knowledge, to be attempted in Sussex, emerged, blinking in wonderment like a newborn, into Sussex theatreland’s consciousness.  The chosen show was a closely guarded secret until 7.30pm on the night of Friday 1 April (April Fool’s Day – how fitting!), when Director Who Thinks Life is a Musical played the opening bars of – The Sound of Music!  Quickly, this in itself was revealed to be the April Fool – and after 24 hours of rehearsal, set making and painting, and a lot of laughter, tears and the inevitable ups and downs, we staged Hot MikadoFollow the link for a few photos – alas, not of me as I’m always the one with the camera – but believe me when I say I was definitely in it.

The rest, as they say,  is history.  Probably no one involved with this year’s musical knows where the idea came from; Director Who Thinks Life is a Musical has almost certainly forgotten that conversation with me back in 2004.  All credit to her though for making the idea into a reality, I’m just pleased (in a masochistic way) to have been a part of the first, and all subsequent 24 hour productions to date: Grease, Snoopy! The Musical; Dames at Sea; West Side Story and the as yet unknown musical for April 2010.

And so back to tonight’s reveal… which musical will it be this year?  A few clues or potential red herrings have surfaced in the past couple of weeks:

My costume list gives nothing away – jeans, trainers, a plain coloured top, black heels, white shirt and leggings.

But I have been asked for a dark coloured coat – specifically the one I borrowed from a friend for the final scene of The Memory of Water – a black swing style coat with a fur collar.

Someone else has been asked for a blazer.

Eight chairs.

It apparently contains some swearing.  I found this out some weeks ago, when asking if it would be suitable for Children of Mine to see.

And my hair in bunches – hmmm.

Only tonight will tell whether these were indeed real clues – albeit unhelpful ones.

Should I learn to love the cold?

I couldn’t resist a final post about The Memory of Water seeing as the memories came back to haunt me last night. Quite literally, in the shape of seven of the cast and crew, including my ‘dead mother’, although she wasn’t wearing ‘that turquoise flowery dress’ or making the room smell of ‘Phul Nana’.

In the days since our final performance, the play has refused to leave me completely, by continuing the series of coincidences that accompanied the rehearsal process.

Firstly, another couple of post-show messages from Trilby Jeeves, including one with a link to a trailer for a Polish version of the play – check it out!

Then last week I attended with Husband of Mine, the funeral of his aunt, who had suffered with Alzheimer’s during the past year of her life, and had died on our opening night, leaving behind three grown-up daughters.  In the words of Catherine: “I went to a brilliant funeral.”  Well, no, it wasn’t actually: can a funeral ever be brilliant? But it was made especially poignant, given the similarities of the situation.

We also received a great review in the local press, emphasising ‘extremely strong performances’. No mention of the director though, which I feel is a great disservice given that it was her vision that allowed us all to give performances that were ‘stunningly portrayed’.  Grrr.  It’s always ‘Sir Peter Hall’s revival-this’ or ”Sir Trevor Nunn’s production of-that’  – why not afford the same respect to all? 

And then so last night, most of the cast and crew came round to mine for something to eat and to watch the DVD of the film version of the play. There were some key people missing; Charming On-Stage Lover for one, still suffering with a trapped nerve aggravated by too much lawn mowing. Probably just as well he was missing; I would have been embarrassed all over again during the film version of pages 27-33, given that a lot of the action took place up against a tree, albeit without a neatly trimmed lawn. Thankfully the stage play is written to be performed on one set, although I’m sure our set designer would have been able to come up with suitable greenery.

The film version came out in 2002. Entitled ‘Before You Go’, it stars Julie Walters, Joanne Whalley and Victoria Hamilton as the three newly bereaved sisters. The consensus from all at the end of the evening was that it worked better as a play than as a film; we felt that the characters lacked depth and the emotion of the piece was barely visible. No mention was made of the mother’s death from Alzheimer’s; something that had been an integral part of the play. But the interesting and most major change was in a scene between Mary and her mother, Vi (now right at the end of the film; although it is Scene 1 in Act II in the play).  The emphasis had been shifted from the mother forgiving Mary for her coldness and indifference in the years since she was forced to give her baby away – ‘I forgave your father; now I’ll forgive you’ – to the mother asking for Mary’s forgiveness, presumably for making the decision to give the child up for adoption and for it never to be mentioned again – ‘I forgave your father; now can you forgive me?’ (or words to that effect). Shelagh Stephenson wrote the screenplay for the film, but it is hard to understand her reasons behind this change that alters the fundamental relationship between Mary and her mother.

‘Learn to love the cold.’

This is the final line of the play – showing Mary’s acceptance of being ‘second best’ to her lover’s wife and resigning herself to staying childless for the sake of the relationship. 

I’ve been thinking about the literal resonance with me of those words and in particular, some of her other last words to Mike, “I’ve hated winter all my life.  Ice on the windows, dark at three in the afternoon…. I’ve hated the stasis, the waiting for Spring.”  

So true.  As Mother of Mine will tell you, I’ve always dreaded that gloomy January to March period, when the anticipation of Autumn gives way to the excitement of Christmas and the prospect of a new year, one that often falls desperately short of all it first promises to be.  But this year?  For the first time, I have felt truly invigorated and ready to take on those first three months – thanks to ‘The Memory of Water’.

And next year?  Do I ‘learn to love the cold’ as Mary did, or do I seek out something to fill those dark winter months? 

Well today, Spring has well and truly sprung –  we had our first ice cream cone of the season on the seafront this morning, and this afternoon, Children of Mine have had water fights in the garden.

The answer is clear – the cold’s not here any more.

The Works. Of Art. By The Family

After the excitement of the Easter weekend – church (twice); cycling; kite flying; visiting In-Laws of Mine for roast lamb and making wooden boats with Grandpa to race in the River Lavant; going to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre at Arundel; and consuming vast quantities of chocolate – The Family was ready yesterday to take on the challenge of creating some abstract art as threatened in my previous posts, A creative ‘first’ in art and My creative journey: the phallic phase.

So off we went in the morning to the local branch of a discount book and art supplies store to pick up some bargains – acrylic paints, brushes and bumper packs of pre-stretched canvases – ready to create our masterpieces.  Artist Masquerading as a Manager will be horrified at the poor quality of our art materials:  “What if you do a really fabulous painting? It won’t last five minutes let alone 80 years using that shite.”  I think it’s unlikely we’ll want to keep them that long.

Home again, we set to work. I haven’t seen Children of Mine so engrossed in something for quite some time. Apart from one teeny strop from Daughter of Mine, when what she pictured in her head didn’t come out as she expected on canvas, the whole project was so successful that I think we will be painting again as a Family very soon.

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So thanks to Artist Masquerading as a Manager for the inspiration and advice – maybe one day we’ll buy some really posh materials to work with.  It’ll be interesting though to see what her critical eye will make of the themes depicted in the individual paintings, because there are themes, you know. Every brush stroke was carefully thought out and purposefully made. Really. Especially by Son of Mine, who relished the texture of the acrylics and loved exploring the way the paint could be moved about the canvas with brush or rag. 

Even my own painting took on the theme of my subconscious.  Geronimo!  It’s Doctor-Who-meets-Lake-District-mountain-surrealism, inspired by The Eleventh Hour and the Atraxi spacecraft.

And the best moment? It has to be when six-year old Son of Mine commented, “This is the best time I’ve ever had painting – now that’s what I call art.”

Who is the love of my life?

So last night was the night I had been waiting for, excitedly, along with the rest of the country.  For this year’s Easter Sunday brought a modern-day resurruction of its own – the return of the intrepid time traveller, the Doctor, newly regenerated in the body of Matt Smith.

I think it is true to say that Doctor Who is a big part of my life. Not in an ‘I’ve-got-a-huge-crush-on-David-Tennant’ or, following last night’s opening episode, an ‘on-first-impressions-oops-I-actually-fancy-Matt-Smith’ kind of way. (He’s just too new – not to mention too young – to float my boat on that score).

Although I admit David Tennant was rather ravishing as the Doctor when he brought out that teary-eyed, far-away look. Then again, so was Bernard Cribbins. Age is no barrier to provoking an emotional response. Whether the eleventh Doctor can tug at my heartstrings is yet to be seen; but he certainly made me laugh during the opening scenes of  last night’s episode.  Fishfingers and custard, anyone?

Of course, the Doctor has never left my screen really, since between the last series and the special episodes that aired last year, I have been watching the boxed sets of the Christopher Eccelston/David Tennant era again from the beginning. Son of Mine is now old enough to watch them, so in true DW fan club style, The Family have sat down together on most Saturday nights to absorb the phenomenon of the Tardis and all who travel in her.

My earliest memories of Doctor Who go back to when I was 5. It would have been Series 11, with Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen making her first appearance as Sarah Jane Smith. I don’t remember detailed storylines, just the scariness of the ultimate of Doctor’s Who’s enemies – the Daleks. My memories are of my grandfather, ‘Pops’, and I playing our own version of Doctor Who, with me of course as Sarah Jane. This role playing took place in the kitchen, where I used to ‘help’ with the washing up. Sound effects were provided by a door stop, one that was attached to the wall and consisted of a coiled metal spring with a rubber bung on the end. I suppose up close it looked rather like a Dalek’s plunger, but it made a satisfying ‘boinggg’ that sufficed as the noise of the Tardis taking off on another journey through time and space.

Daughter of Mine asked me last night whether, given the chance, I would marry David Tennant.  Or, seeing my facial expression change ever so slightly, maybe Matt Smith.  “Of course not,” I replied, “I’m married to Daddy.” 

But if I was given the chance to go travelling amongst the stars, in a blue box, then yes, I would be off like a shot.  I just know Who my Doctor would be.