June is bustin’ out all over..

To be fair, the title of this post is misleading.  I’m not doing, and never have done, a production of ‘Carousel’, despite it being my favourite Rogers & Hammerstein musical.   No, the pertinent words from the title of this post are ‘all over’. 

June has quite literally passed me by in a haze of barn dances, backstage duties for ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, two luxurious weekends at home on my own without The Family, a summer ball, two summer fairs and an intensive six-week rehearsal period for a production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ that opened last night.

The door of my fridge says it all…

I wish I could say that Children of Mine did this. I can’t.  I did it. A lot of it was up there already, but I got bored today, so just ‘tidied’ it up, okay? And I ran out of letters for Husband of Mine’s next gig with The Renegade Dogs – hence just “dad in doG Gig”.  Can’t be helped… I needed the letters for the musicals.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, dear Reader:

Jesus Christ Superstar plays until Saturday 2nd July at the Alexandra Theatre, Bognor Regis. Tickets are still available for this fantastic production, with all proceeds going directly to the theatre.

The Little Sisters of Poughkeepsie are returning to Guilfest 2010 to entertain you in The Man in the Moon Theatre Tent with their brand new show, ‘Nuns Get One Over the Rainbow’. 

Look out for them around the festival too – last year they were seen disco dancing in the ’70s tent, running a tombola, on the top deck of the Pimms bus, and getting tattooed…

Finally, you’d do well to forget to feed the plants this year when you go on holiday – check out what could happen if you indulge them by coming along to the Arundel Players Festival production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’.

Little Shop of Horrors

At this rate my next post will be in September…

Oh and by the way, The Renegade Dogs will be at The Elmer pub on 23rd July!

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.

A Fisherman’s Friend or a Drunken Sailor?

Husband of Mine bought me some mints the other day from Café Nero. He said he’d been on the look-out for small, flat mints for me for some time now, to refill a beautiful, but very thin, art deco tin that was given to me as an after-show present for a production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. It’s the kind of thoughtful thing he does well; seeking out things that I’ve mentioned in passing. Take The Monolith Monsters DVD, for example.

Anyway, the mints are thin enough to fit inside, so there I was last night shaking one out of the tin during the interval at the dress rehearsal for The Memory of Water. Now, mints might come in handy for this play, for obvious reasons in Act I; but are definitely a necessity during the interval to get rid of the nasty taste of the herbal tobacco that is in the roll-ups that are passing as our spliffs.

Charming On-Stage Lover asked me if they were Fisherman’s Friends, probably, I thought, fearing that I was germ-infested, but actually because he’d seen earlier on in the day that I’d become a fan of a Facebook group for Fisherman’s Friends.

Ah, but those little menthol lozenges are singular – Fisherman’s Friend – which probably refers to the fact that one can’t stomach more than one at a time. You can probably guess from that comment that I would never become a fan of original extra strong Fisherman’s Friend, singular.

No, the Fisherman’s Friends, of whom I have become just one of their 850 fans (and counting), are most definitely plural – a 10-strong group of male singers from Port Isaac in Cornwall who I saw on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning. They have been catapulted into the spotlight because of a £1m recording contract for their harmonic sea shanties and folk songs, with which they have been entertaining Cornish pub goers for the last fifteen years. 

Good for them, I thought, when I saw the interview. I hope their story will be inspiration for The Renegade Dogs, who last week returned, flushed with success, from their first proper gig at the village local.

I will be buying their music.  The Fisherman’s Friends, I mean.  Not The Renegade Dogs – I get that played to me live, for free, and pretty much on request. But I do want to get the music of Julian, John, Jeremy, Trevor, John, Billy, Nigel, Peter, John and Jon from Cornwall, as I am a sucker for male voices singing in harmony. I’ll also probably be buying it on CD, even though I have just read an article online that suggests that the only people who buy CDs in preference to downloading their music are the over-50s (and I’m not there yet).

There’s something satisfying about a CD collection particularly in the genre that most of mine fall into, namely musicals. Satisfying I suppose in the same way that folk of a different certain age reminisce about their collection of LPs and 78s. Where’s the satisfaction in owning just the digital music files to a musical without the associated blurb so often found bundled with the CD: lyrics, synopsis, director’s notes, cast list? Okay, so one could argue that it’s all available online, to look up at a moment’s notice. But it’s just not the same, is it?

Yet I’m not denying it is useful. Now that everything is online I was able to check instantly that thankfully the forthcoming CD doesn’t feature a Fisherman’s Friends rendition of ‘What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?’, although there is a YouTube clip of them performing this very sea shanty.  Husband of Mine has an as yet unresolved aversion to that particular song – he doesn’t know why he can’t bear it, but it sends a shiver down his spine if he hears so much as one bar of the refrain.

As a song, I’m rather indifferent to it really, I can take it or leave it.

But if forced to choose? I know I’d rather have my very own minty version of a Fisherman’s Friend than a Drunken Sailor.

Snogging, blogging and online trainspotting

The last week of rehearsals for The Memory of Water is in full swing now and the cast is working hard to perfect the finer details for the already sold out houses.   I think I’m right in saying that Charming On-Stage Lover and I even got a ‘highly commended’ from the Director for the finer details of the new, unrehearsed action on page 30 last night.

I just feel there’s something missing from my off-stage relationship with Charming On-Stage Lover.  It’s been reduced, not in a detumescence kind of way, but in the ‘how-was-your-day-have-you-seen-any-good-films-lately-how-are-the-Small-People-and-Her-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed’ kind of way.  There’s just not the time for normal conversation; no time to chat or exchange pleasantries before 25 pages have gone by and he’s knocking at the window like Heathcliffe (or was it Cathy?). 

Hence why snogging and blogging seems to be our only contact at the moment.  We haven’t even had time to discuss the blogging face to face – the conversations have all been keyboard to keyboard like online trainspotters who sit at their computer wearing grey shoes, drinking something alcoholic with a deranged look on their faces.  (Yes, there is actually a site for online trainspotting – why not try it out?  There’s no alcohol though, just a nice cup of tea on offer.  Accept at your own risk.)

Ah well, maybe we’ll have time to talk after The Memory of Water.  And before this year’s 24 Hour Musical, when we’ll both be awake from Friday morning to late on Saturday night in the name of raising money for a very worthy charity.

My hope for this year’s musical is that it’s about what I’m used to.  A bed.  That way I won’t even have to get up.

So how about Bedknobs and Broomsticks?  No? 

What about Hair, with its song that pays tribute to an old mattress?  No – even more clothes to take off than in The Memory of Water

Other songs sung on a bed are… oh no, I’ve got that sinking feeling…

… ‘My Favorite Things’.  That’s it.  The Sound of Music.  Charming On-Stage Lover and I will be transported back to 1983 and our first production together.   

Suddenly there is meaning where there was none before.

My creative journey: The ‘other’ phallic phase…

My theory worked.  Sunday’s blog post got the highest traffic on this site so far.  And I’m guessing that it was to do with a certain word in the title …

Actually, on my way home from rehearsal, I did wonder if I’ve got people a tad confused with my description of the phallic phase in my creative journey. You see, I have a more pressing phallic phase going on at the moment; the painting was a mere distraction during my hours at work that begs more exploration when I have time.  The other phase is with the afore-mentioned Charming On-Stage Lover in the production of The Memory of Water (and for those who want to be specific, check out the stage directions on page 32) .

I am playing the central character, Mary.  Although I’m probably competing with a bed for that honour.  The central focus of the set; the bed seems to play a silent, yet symbolic role of its own, with our characters sitting on it, lying on it, kissing on it, standing on it, smoking dope and drinking whisky whilst on it, crying on it, laughing on it, finding things in it, and revealing their innermost thoughts while slumped against it.

I spend the first 20 or so pages trying to sleep, before giving up and getting out of bed for a while.  But by page 27 I’m back there, and trying to avoid being intimate with my married boyfriend in what is, after all, my dead mother’s bed.

The company I am performing with are lucky enough to have their own 77-seater theatre and so we have the luxury of being able to not only rehearse in our performance space but also to see the set coming to life around us.

When I got to rehearsal on Monday night the bed had evolved yet again.  Made to measure to fit the stage by our talented set designer, the bed had started off as a basic slatted bed frame, uncomfortable to sit on, let alone lie on.  The only soft furnishings we had to hand in the early weeks of rehearsals were a scratchy old blanket, the kind that left tiny fibres on anything that touched it; and the seat cushions from the theatre bar.  Gradually the bed was transformed by our fantastic team; its first layer – a mattress – making a welcome appearance, followed fairly quickly by a layer of duvet and pillows.  Then on Monday, a flowery sheet, duvet cover and textured scatter cushions were added as a final decorative layer.  This has completed the bed’s distinct look and allowed the final transparent layer to settle on the room –  the ghost of my character’s mother who lingers until Mary’s traumatic secret is revealed.

So it seems I need to do my damnedest to upstage the bed.  Although, as Charming On-Stage Lover’s character would say, “It’s all complete bollocks, of course. Except…”

“Except what?”

All those layers on the bed make pages 27-32 a lot more comfortable.