Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

Evy: (Holds glass up) “Alright, I’m through,  I’m through. (Raises glass to lips and finishes it) There! Alright?

Here is the theatre pictured the morning after the last night of The Gingerbread Lady – we were well and truly ‘through’, with the props and furniture cleared, the set ready to take down and cast and crew ready to move back to their real lives.

In fact, the character of Evy, in Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady, wasn’t ‘through’ with her drinking at all; this was merely the first glass of alcohol to pass her lips since coming out of rehab and the one that marked her return to the booze.

It was certainly a challenge and a privilege to play the part of Evy, and it was wonderful to work again with such an intuitive director. The last time we worked together was for the play The Memory of Water, which I found so creatively stimulating that it led me to start this blog as an outlet for my own memories and experiences.

The Gingerbread Lady has been different in many ways (including taking up so much time with line learning and rehearsing that I had little left over to do any blogging!), but ultimately still an amazing experience to work with another fabulous team of people, both on stage and backstage.

As Evy would say, “Glasses up, everyone!”


On My Own, but not Misérables

Home alone tonight. Well, nearly…

Daughter of Mine is on a charity sleepover at school to raise money for the local hospice; such a worthy cause – but I pity the poor teachers – ‘Lovely Ladies’ – who are supervising 21 over-excited ‘Little People’ at what is very nearly the end of their time in primary school.

The ‘Master of the House’ – Husband of Mine – is out gigging with The Renegade Dogs – who incidentally now have a brand new kennel at http://www.therenegadedogs.com

So that left me tonight with a rare evening with Son of Mine who was delighted to have me all to himself, mainly so that I could put some more songs on his iPod. Now, his music tastes are quite eclectic, ranging from folk inspired by The Renegade Dogs, through classic rock (Queen), pop (The Saturdays), country (Taylor Swift), instrumental film themes (John Williams), and of course all manner of musical theatre forced upon introduced to him by Yours Truly.

Added to his playlist tonight were the complete recordings of Anything Goes, Grease, The Pirates of Penzance and Into the Woods, plus selected songs by Kander & Ebb (‘Coffee in a Cardboard Cup’ and ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’). He also wanted the entire soundtrack of Les Misérables, presumably because he’s just seen a production Daughter of Mine and I were in that included some of the songs.

Before long, we were searching YouTube for clips to answer his questions about the show and came across lots of Lego animation versions – not quite what I had in mind, but of course these went down a treat with Son of Mine! The one we watched actually provided a great potted version of the story –

A friend of Mine, ‘Streets’, saw the first performance given by Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas last month – part of the most significant cast change in many years. She loved it so much this time round that she’s already booked to see their last night in November. I’m not in the least bit jealous, not at all, not one bit – even though it is 20 years since I last saw the show on stage – well, ok, I am, just a teeny tiny (huge) bit.

‘At The End of the Day’, if watching Lego animations and syncing the music to iPods manages to stir up a bit of pressure from Children of Mine to book tickets then maybe I’ll be there sooner, rather than later, to ‘…Hear the People Sing’.


Honister Pass is one of my favourite Lakeland passes, linking Keswick to Buttermere, via the beautiful Borrowdale valley, then on to the village of Lorton where the road winds back to Keswick by way of the Whinlatter Pass, or continues to the market town of Cockermouth.

Last night saw me catching up on my reading pile – the March issue of Cumbria Life, which was waiting for me when I returned from Keswick two weeks ago and the newspapers and magazines that I habitually buy on a Thursday – The Times, the local paper and the Radio Times.

‘Owner of last slate mine dies in air crash.’

My attention was drawn to this small piece in The Times on Thursday 10 March, sadly reporting the death of Mark Weir, the owner of Honister Slate Mine on 9 March, whose helicopter had crashed on his way home from the mine.

It is clear from the tributes that are being posted on the Facebook page set up in his memory, as well as those on the websites of the various local newspapers, that he was an inspirational man with a passion and vision that breathed new life into the last working mine of its kind in England.

I last visited Honister in August 2009, stopping at the café at the mine for a much-needed cuppa, after climbing Haystacks from Buttermere with the Family and in-laws.

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No time to take a mine tour or climb Fleetwith Pike along the Via Ferrata on this occasion, but it was definitely on our wish list to do on a future visit to the Lakes.  We also needed to wait until Son of Mine was older and taller.

And with two under 10s in tow, there was no way Husband of Mine and I could plan that luxury break to Paradigm – the luxury self-catering properties run by Mark’s partner, Jan – with the chance to maybe experience a flight in the helicopter with Mark on his way to or from work at Honister.

As with much in life, the timing was all wrong.

I seem to remember from an interview I read, probably in one of the Cumbrian magazines I subscribe to or the local papers that I tend to buy when I’m up there, that Mark had ideas to create an underground theatre in the mine.  Now that would really have been right up my mountain, if you get my drift.

I didn’t know Mark Weir personally, but with an idea like that, then who knows, maybe an opportunity would have come my way to meet him.

The sad thing is that now I will never get the chance.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and colleagues.

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!

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…

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.