Monday, 17 December 2007

National Student Drama Festival

As highlighted by Chris Wilkinson on the Guardian Unlimted Arts Blog entry, Why Student Theatre Matters, the Arts Council have proposed to cut the funding for the National Student Drama Festival. Click here to sign the petition.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Advice on Acting

As regular readers will know, I like to see what's going on in the Vancouver Film School (and sometimes dream of enrolling there). In very much the same vane of our Backstage feature they have a blog entry today that may be of interest to you.

Acting grad Holly Dignard plays Nicole Miller on the hit drama series Whistler. We caught up with Holly to ask for her words of wisdom to aspiring actors everywhere.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Dona Rosita... Ten Years Ago!

Because it's nearly Christmas, I thought I'd post this to make some of you laugh. It's a photo from the last time Mr Calder directed Dona Rosita... ten years ago now! You may recognise one of the Aola's....

Bradon's Got Talent

Mr Widdop as Elvis!

On Monday night the theatre was host to Bradon's Got Talent... a talent show organised by the Student Council. The show was a great success with a completely full house. We even had to turn away 40 plus students due to fire restrictions! Buy your tickets in advance!

Bradon certainly has Got Talent though with performances as varied as group dance routines, singing soloists, duos and trios, solo dance improvisation, beatboxing, a guitar and piano singing group and also a solo pianist who played her own composition! Elvis was even in the building! Click the photo for pictures from the night and video clips will follow shortly.

The student council raised a total of £186 for the Children's Hospice South West. Well done to all involved!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Last Night of Dona Rosita

It's Friday night and it's almost 10pm. I've just got in from seeing the last performance of Dona Rosita. Now, I'm not really allowed to give a review of the show as it would most likely be biased, or you'd all think it was biased because I work here! However, I will say that I have never been more impressed with a group of 14 - 16 year olds. I had to tell the cast that the scene where the lover leaves Rosita gave me goose pimples this evening, and I nearly welled up telling them that! There were actually members of the audience that left with tears in their eyes!

I overheard two of the cast members talking at the end of the show:
Alice: "I'm so sad it's all over! This is my last show at Bradon as well!"
Kat: "I'm not sad it's over, I'm proud we've done it."
Congratulations cast of Dona Rosita. You should be proud!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

All The World's A Stage

Preview was in the Swindon Advertiser last night!

Swindon Advertiser Preview of Dona Rosita

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

"Once a year there should be a trip to the theatre, ballet or opera for every child."

Andrew Haydon comments on the above quote from Tony Hall, CEO of the Royal Opera House, and discusses 'Helping pupils learn to love plays' over at the Guardian Unlimited Theatre Blog. I've left a comment, let me know what you think about it. Would you be satisfied if you only got to see one piece of theatre a year?

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Opening Night Tonight, Dona Rosita!

Tonight, 7.30pm, the Bradon Forest Theatre presents... Dona Rosita the Spinster, by Federico Garcia Lorca.

There are still a few tickets left for all performances, running from Tuesday 4th to Friday 7th December. Email me to reserve yours now! For a sneak peak at the show, take a look at some photos from last night's dress rehearsal which, by the way, was outstanding. The set and lighting design look amazing, and the cast have really excelled themselves. You will be treated to some truly stellar performances.


Any member of the audience are invited to review this piece of performance and I will be posting a selection on this site. Email me if you have one to submit. Right, I'm off to get the auditorium set up. See you this one evening this week!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Backstage with Lisa Clarke

Lisa is the violinist in McGoozer. Having graduated from London Studio Centre in 2006, she now works front of house at The Old Vic in London, in between dancing with her Swing Company on Strictly Come Dancing, and supporting Pink in Germany!

What made you want to get into your profession?

From a very early age I always knew I didn’t want, what I considered, a ‘regular job’. My parents enrolled me in to a ballet school at the age of 6, which I attended twice a week and dancing soon became something I craved. I also joined an orchestra, playing the violin, at the age of 10 and this became a secondary passion of mine. The more extra curricular activities I did involved with the arts, the more I came to realise that there was no other industry that I wanted to dedicate my life to.

Where did you go after school? Where did you train/study?
I went to the London Studio Centre to do a degree in Theatre Dance.

What age did you start training/study?
I started full time dance training at the age of 18 at the London Studio Centre. Growing up in Belgium meant I had to stay in full time education till the age of 18. This was one of the main reasons I didn’t start full time dance training earlier but I did train part time with a ballet school in Brussels and the Brussels Light Opera Company.

Did you specialise in your current area of work, or are your skills more broad?

I specialised in dance, which is one of the areas I work.

Do you recommend to specialise?
Yes, but always keep options open. Focus primarily on the area you want to work in but don’t cut out other things you‘re interested in. You never know what skills might come in handy. For example I specialised in dance but now I am currently getting more work playing the violin.

How did you find an agent?
One of my agents I found by attending their class at pineapple studios and my other agents I got through auditions, which I learnt about through teachers, the stage and other people attempting to make it in the same profession as me.

What makes you come across well in an audition?
Confidence and having something different to those you are auditioning with, whether that’s a different look, a unique skill or just an ‘easy to work with’ personality.

Are you ever out of work?
I would have to yes when it comes to paid work, which is why it is always useful to have a flexible part time job. But if you work hard enough and love what you do enough, you will always be busy with something to do with the industry your trying to make it in.

Are you selective about the jobs you choose?
I am. Because at the end of the day I don’t see the point in taking a job that I’m not going to enjoy doing. I got into the profession because I love to dance and I don’t want to loose that!

Do you have any words of encouragement for us, or top tips for being successful?
Just that if you love it enough you’ll find a reason and a way to keep doing it no matter how hard it is. Get out of this industry what you want and just remember your doing it for yourself not for others.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

1st December

With NaBloPoMo now over and completed (!) I'm going to celebrate the 1st of December and watch a Christmas Movie. (Sigh)

Friday, 30 November 2007

Listening to....

George Lamb on Radio 6

Last Day of Nation Blog Posting Month!

Well, today is the last day of NaBloPoMo and so I wanted to share my thoughts on the experience.

It's actually been pretty easy to write an entry everyday during November (even at weekends!) as we've always got something going on here. I think it would have been much harder to think of interesting entries had I taken part on my personal blog, but I'm really pleased that NaBloPoMo encouraged me to start this project for the theatre.

Stacked Actors is a behind the scenes look at the Bradon Forest Theatre. It already has a lot of interesting content after only 30 days. As I state in the 'personal profile' on the left hand side; the purpose of this blog is 3 fold:

  • 1. To promote the theatre and what we get up to here by way of instilling enthusiasm about our projects into my posts.
  • 2. To offer an insight into the job of an arts and theatre manager, and also include 'backstage' glances into other artistic careers.
  • 3. To promote other arts events in and around Swindon to better expand local cultural knowledge and participation of them.
I am already achieving my objectives and I hope that features such as Backstage will continue to develop and expand. Who knows what feature will be next? I am also pleased with the way I can discuss learning processes of new projects and hope that this will encourage you to get in touch and share your work!

My next project is to target local organisations and to encourage participation in the world of blogging. I want to hear about what's going on in my county! That's something that's still in the pipeline, but no doubt, I will be blogging about it soon!

Get in touch and let me know what you think. Have you any suggestions for the site, me, or Swindon and Wiltshire? Post your comments!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Spreading the Word

Just a post to verify that I own this site! I'm going through and adding the blog to different listings to boost the profile....
Technorati Profile

I've also created a page here on the school website to explain all about Stacked Actors and encourage visitors.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Mask Making Workshop

Aside from in-house performances, visiting theatre company productions, gigs, concerts, fashion shows etc, we also organise the odd workshop. This weekend saw the return of Mike Chase from The Mask Academy to run a 2 day workshop in Mask Making.

For those of you new to the Bradon Forest Theatre, you can click here to read about the Commedia Dell Arte workshop he ran last year, and here for the accompanying worksheets.

The workshop was offered to select members of staff from other local schools, but primarily to some of our Art & Drama students, who will be using their masks to create a piece of devised mask theatre for the Summer Arts Festival. As you can see from the masks they created, this should be a colourful performance!

Bradon Forest are also in preliminary discussions over our participation in the 2009 International Mask Festival, both as a host venue and contributing centre. More details to follow as soon as we have them!

Mike trained in mask in Bali and Italy. He has taught, acted in and directed physical theatre, mime and mask internationally for 25 years. He acted with, amongst others, The Unfortunati, Trestle Theatre Company and The Rose Theatre Company. He established The Mask Studio in the mid-90’s and developed masks for training, education, performance and therapy. He is currently the Artistic Director of the Glasshouse Art Centre and Glasshouse Mask Centre.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Dona Rosita Press Release

I've been sat in on a rehearsal for Dona Rosita for the last 2 hours, and it's looking pretty slick. It opens next Tuesday and the cast have been trying to organise last minute costumes and tidy up entrances. I've just seen the Aola's flamenco on stage to live guitar by Stephen and it all looks pretty exciting. This is going to be a visual feast for the audience and I can't wait until opening night! Here's the press release that went off today.


The Bradon Forest Theatre presents Lorca’s classic play of love, age and sadness, Dona Rosita is a young woman who’s lover is sent away She promises to wait for him, and wait she does. It is only years later when the lover still does not return, that Rosita starts to doubt her promise, and worries that she’s wasted her life, now being too old to find another love.

Subtitled The Language of Flowers, Lorca uses the metaphor of a rose blooming to symbolise Rosita in her prime. As the colour fades and the petals fall, Rosita is no longer beautiful and young, so must spend the rest of her life alone; a spinster.

Lorca portrays what he calls “the grotesque mistreatment of women” in this play, and although it is set in Spain, the ‘garden banter’, chivalry and outdated social graces could quite easily be in an Austen ‘drawing room’.

This Bradon Forest production sees a vibrant use of colour and music. The set comprises of floor to ceiling silk banners with bright red roses, hand painted by some of our talented GCSE Art students. The acting is equally as colourful and is being performed by our GCSE Drama students as part of their examination.

Featuring live classical guitar from Stephen Lewis Gilmore, flamboyant flamenco dancing from the Aola’s, beautiful singing from the ladies of the play and even some of the original Spanish; Dona Rosita is a delectable spoonful of Lorca’s cultural paella.

To book tickets call 01793 773981.


Monday, 26 November 2007

Busy Day

I've had a manic day sorting out the publicity for the next show, Dona Rosita, but I just wanted to point you to an interesting post on the Guardian Unlimited Theatre Blog. Mark Ravenhill discusses the possibilities of the development of media trends such as YouTube and wonders if it will take over TV and Cinema as a medium of entertainment. 

"It can't be long before the narrative and visual artists of today find similar possibilities for the online clip, the download and all those other cross-platform, new-media things I don't really understand."
I had to leave a comment and point people here to see the way we're putting it to use.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Reservoir Romeo

There's been a lot more Guitar Hero today, so it's just going to be a short post to say I hope Dominic's cast for Capulets & Montagues have done their homework. We showed them a work-in-progress example of the poster for their show and they didn't get that it was a rip off of Reservoir Dogs. One of them commented that I should have removed the bins in the background! I don't know... I'm not expecting any of them to have seen it, it is rated 18, but it's a classic movie image... like the poster from Scarface or Star Wars! Well, their homework was to google it. Here's the original:               

and below is the work in progress. I've got some work to do on it as I've just been playing with the layout for the poster. I also suspect that we'll re-shoot as Dominic likes the use of the mask (he's using them in the performance) but I didn't get the right shot with both of them wearing them, as you can see this one is from a higher angle and I don't like it as much.

As a bit of an inside joke we had one of the cast members (not one of the principals) standing over Dominic, as he'd been constantly hounding the director for his copy of the script.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Animate this

There are a few things I wanted to post about for your viewing pleasure on this frosty Saturday morning. Firstly I have to mention, if you can, you should go and buy Guitar Hero III. Ours arrived yesterday and it ROCKS! I'm taking a quick break from being 'on stage' to write this. I've also just got 94% on my first attempt at Tenacious D's 'The Metal'... will I ever post the video of that?!

Secondly, I've been thinking about this, and I'd quite like to do an animation course at the Vancouver Film School. It would be great... and I'd be able to bike and ski as much as I wanted! Perhaps it's an idea to keep in reserve, but in the mean time, as I mentioned yesterday, I've been getting a lot of inspiration from their examples on youtube, especially this animation:

I'm going to have a look into this, as I really enjoyed working on the stop motion animation, perhaps there's an animation course I can do a little closer to home! This also links quite nicely to the news that I have just bought Nizlopi's Extraordinary and it is AWESOME!  Go and buy that too... or put it on your Christmas wish list! Nizlopi create some truly beautiful music and I could just eat a bowl full of Luke's amazing voice. I was going to post a video from their new mini-album, but I thought that the classic JCB song works better seeing as I'm talking about animation. Perhaps I'll try something like this for the Summer Arts Festival trailer.... 

Friday, 23 November 2007

Dona Rosita... the trailer

So, here it is! The finished trailer. It's been a good learning experience for me and there are a few points that I can improve on for next time.

  • Better planning - I just had a rough idea of what elements I wanted to include. I need to plan out each screen shot so that I can better direct the actors. (There's an amusing out take clip of my shoddy directing attempt which I may post at a later date :o) )
  • Communication - I need to be clearer on my directions. There's a close-up of Dona Rosita's feet dancing, but the dress is too long and so you can't see her feet properly.
  • Colours - if I was to re-shoot I'd use a red rose to match the skirt... or choose a lighter, floatier skirt to match the feeling of the flower sections. Although, the contrast of the two elements could illustrate the harshness of Rosita's situation; with the softness of the flower representing her youth and beauty, and then the stark black background with bold red skirt representing the cruel position she is left in when her cousin deserts her, I think that the imagery of the flower blooming and then dying better expresses the emotion of the play.
I've found some great short films on youtube posted by the Vancouver Film School which I'm currently having a fish through for inspiration. If you have any criticisms or tips for me then please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, 22 November 2007


I've made up with youtube again. I've just found this lovely dance video and just had to post it for your viewing pleasure. If you're reading this and are responsible for the routine... get in touch and leave a comment! It would be great to interview you for Backstage

Last summer as part of the Summer Arts Festival we had an amazing piece of dance choreographed by Rachel Ankers which I've posted as a response to 'Headlock' and also posted below. She worked with the girls for an hour and a half a week for just about 2 months. One of the girls didn't even have previous dance experience! It would be great to have some feedback. Rachel is currently working with our dance students again and we will be showcasing the work in progress on Friday 14th December in the theatre. More details to follow soon!

Stop Motion - example now uploaded!

After battling with youtube last night and losing the fight I decided to have a go at using Vimeo and it worked a treat. So, for your viewing pleasure, here's my attempt and stop motion animation:

Stop Motion Rose from Jennifer Cady on Vimeo.

What do you think? There are a few things I would change if I did it again:

  • Take a lot more photos. I only took one in the morning and one in the evening, but I think I needed a lot more images to make the animation smoother. To do this I'd need to shoot throughout the day.
  • Try a different arrangement for the flower. I like the position of it on screen when it's in bloom, but I don't like the fact you can see the glass in the other shots.
  • Start the shooting earlier. I think I perhaps had a little too much water which is why the rose took so long to die. Here's a picture of the rest of the bunch after a fortnight. I was hoping to shoot the dead petals falling away from the bud like the inspiration video here. However, it took just too long (3.5 weeks!) and I really needed to get the trailer finished!
  • Be a bit more careful to not move the camera! It didn't help when the battery ran out and I have to charge it up... the entrance to the battery being on the bottom of the camera I had no choice but to move it though! There were a few shots that I had to bin because of positioning.
  • Possibly choose a brighter flower.
I'm pleased with the clip though, even if it is short and sweet! The music is a piece by Stephen Lewis Gilmore, who will be playing live throughout the performance of Dona Rosita. I've kept the same track on this clip as it's also being used on the full trailer.

Oh, and by the way, Heroes was ace :o)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Stop motion Rose

I've spent the majority of today working on the mac. First of all I updated the banner for this site. The old one was a bit 'comic-ey', which isn't surprising seeing as I created it in Comic Life! I hope you like the new one, it's a bit more professional. The picture I used is actually taken from our tech desk... which is actually the best seat in the house!

I then spent the rest of the day filming and editing together the trailer for Dona Rosita. It is finished, but I'm not going to post it until tomorrow. Instead, see what you think about my stop motion rose clip which I have obviously used in the trailer, but which I am proud of in it's own right.


I'm sorry... I can't actually post it! I've been trying to upload the video all evening but youtube is having none of it. I can't keep trying as Heroes is about to start... I'll try again tomorrow.


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Backstage with Cris Penfold

After graduating at London Studio Centre Cris Penfold went straight into a short stint in Panto, and then appeared in the West End musical 'On The Town' at the Coliseum, London. Still only a year out of LSC, Cris is currently performing in 'We Will Rock You' in Zurich, Switzerland.

Can you tell by the costume?

The following ten questions have been put together by some of our GCSE Dance and Drama students for our Backstage feature.

1. What made you want to get into your profession?
I was a very energetic youngster so my Mum put me into theatre workshops and then the local pantomime auditions. I then went to a stage school on Saturday's called Stagecoach. At age 12 they got me an audition for Oliver! at the London Palladium. I got it and loved every minute of it and from then on I was hooked and that was all I wanted to do.

2. Where did you go after school? Where did you train/study?
Whilst at school I started lessons in singing/dancing/acting in Cheltenham. After leaving school I went to train at London Studio Centre.

3. What age did you start training/study?
I started singing/dancing/acting at age 11. Went off to London to train at age 18.

4. Did you specialise in your current area of work, or are your skills more broad?
It works well to be versatile in the business, so I focused more on musical theatre and jazz dance, but still trained in other areas.

5. Do you recommend to specialise?
I recommend that you should make sure you're proficient enough in the main area you wish to pursue, however it is not so good to just be a one trick horse if you want to keep working. Also in auditions you never know what they might ask from you, so work on as gaining skills in quite a few areas.

6. How did you find an agent?
I was lucky and had offers from agents who watched my 3rd year showcase at London Studio Centre. I then met with them all and chose which one I wanted. It is good if you invite some agents to see you showcase yourself if someone hasn't invited them already.

7. What makes you come across well in an audition?
To be honest that's a hard question as mainly the panel would be able to answer this sufficiently. However I know that I think to myself I'm being the best one there, of having something slightly different about me. The main thing is to perform and convey your enjoyment even if you go wrong, it's best to give it all you've got than to get the steps right. Also listen really well to what the choreographer/director/musical director wants.

8. Are you ever out of work?
Generally no because when I'm not performing I'm teaching so I keep myself going. However I've only been out a year and I'm in my 3rd contract which is lasting a year itself.

9. Are you selective about the jobs you choose?
Not really. I can be selective about which auditions I go to now but not very often and at the beginning it is best to go to everything. It's not good to turn your nose up at a job until you've been in the business for a while and know something else will be there. Some people turn their noses up at pantos and cruise ships - DON'T! These can be the best paid jobs and provide great experience. Panto is so much fun and is a short contract which is useful, allowing you to audition for other things. You never know who the director or choreographer is as a lot of good ones do pantos. Ships allow you to save money and see the world, as well as perform, and they can look after you. Six months isn't much in the whole career so it's good to do one.

10. Do you have any words of encouragement for us, or top tips for being successful?
Work on yourself to be the best you can be while you are training. Whichever path you choose to follow get what you need out of it and don't think too much about others. Don't be afraid to talk to people in the business and see everyone as a contact who can provide advice. Above all, try and enjoy it - it's a hard business that can be like a rollercoaster and can get stressful. If you enjoy it you know that it's worth it and if it's your passion never give up. However many auditions you go for some jobs just aren't right for you, but something will be. It is true when they say the right job's out there somewhere: you've just got to find it!

Thank you Cris! Some good words of advice there!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Scatter Yourself

Today I've been doing some more research into using the web to promote your theatre... or venue.... or band.... or business! This is because one of the aims of this blog is to try and encourage cross-promotion of local arts organisations in Swindon and Wiltshire. An invaluable source for this research is Andrew Dubber's New Music Strategies where he has listed 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online. Now, I'm aiming to reach out to venues, promoters, distributors, bands, theatre companies etc and persuade them to take advantage of the benefits extended to us by the web. Obviously, Andrews list primarily talks about music online, but many of the points can apply to other areas of the arts.

The main point that jumped out at me was:

12. Distributed Identity: From a PR perspective, you are better off scattering yourself right across the internet, rather than staying put in one place. Memberships, profiles, comments, and networks are incredibly helpful.

I'm hoping that, with a little gentle persuasion from me, we can generate a habit of self-whoring, (thanks to Electrolicious for the term, and the link!) and cross-promotion to really create a buzz and a sense of community within the arts in Swindon. You can see I'm trying to start it off by highlighting Swindon and Wiltshire companies I have on my links to the left. Please email me with your company so I can add even more!

I shall end this on a similar note. Come and see Brittle Secrets by Lost Luggage Theatre Company, tomorrow night 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 adults and £5 students. If something has been recommended by Pickled Image, then you know it's going to be good!

20th November 2007
Tickets £6 adults, £5 students
This Bold and quirky take on the legend of Doctor Faustus looks at choices , lies, consequences and the lengths people go to conceal the truth. Brittle Secrets is a modern day tragedy.
Using live music,original text, visual storytelling and physical theatre, this unique all - female show is a gripping medley of fantasy, magic,and gritty reality. Brittle Secrets is a sensual, bewitching, dark and funny fairytale for the 21st century.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Keep The Car Running: A Comparison

The original by Arcade Fire....

Or this cover version by the Foo Fighters...

Foo's win hands down for me. It makes me wish it was their song and then they'd play it live more! Great one to dance though, it really is.

Mr P: Is this just turning into a Foo Fighters blog?
Me: Well, it is called Stacked Actors! But no... it's not :o)

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Office Space

I've had so much going on in my head today that the only Top 5 All Time Favourite list I can come up with today is, the Top 5 All Time Favourite toppings for toast. I know. It's not very inspiring, is it? So I'll miss out on that one on this fine Saturday.

Instead I shall recommend something for your viewing pleasure. My movie of choice tonight is Office Space"A surprisingly good-natured comedy about the suppressed rage and paranoia of unappreciated employees."  A film that really makes me appreciate my work in a theatre.

Now, where did my red stapler go?

Friday, 16 November 2007

Curtains and cut aways

I've spent the day working from home sat at my sewing machine. Over the past few weeks I've had a lot of curtains to make for the theatre and today saw the last of them (for now at least!). Seeing as our theatre has to double up as a teaching space, we have a great auditorium system that allows us to set it all up really easily every time we have a show. We are also able to arrange it in many different combinations so David's fixed some new rails at the back end of the theatre to emphasise the seating and performance space. It should look pretty good, and seeing as our next show is on Tuesday (Shameless plug: Lost Luggage Theatre Co. presents Brittle Secrets, 7.30pm, Tuesday 20th November) I'll take a picture of it looking new and spangly. I know curtains aren't that interesting, but this site is all about running a theatre!

I've also had a quick go at editing together the footage from the rose and it's looking OK. It needs a lot of work though, as if I just run in the images I have at .3 seconds each, it's about 5 seconds long! I found this cool stop motion animation site which could help, if not this time then at least next time! I'll post some more details as they happen. 

Lastly, for this evening's entry (it's Friday and my sewing fingers are tired) Dominic has been on a casting in London today. I hope he did well! I've asked him to write a few words on the experience so we'll have a guest entry from him some time next week. I'll also be interviewing him for Backstage too!  See you tomorrow for some mundane weekend fun!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Backstage - Simon Armitage

Welcome to Backstage, a brand spanking new Stacked Actors feature! Today we had Simon Armitage in the theatre reading a selection of his poems and talking about his work. This was for the benefit of our GCSE English students who are reading Anthology for their exams, but was enjoyed by staff and students alike.

As I've mentioned before, the ten questions below were devised by our Drama students to gain an insight in to a variety of arts careers. At first we thought we'd just concentrate on techies, actors, dancers etc, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk to a professional poet. I've adjusted the questions slightly to fit with the interviewee.

What made you get in to the profession?
I had a teacher at junior school who asked us to write a poem about Christmas. I wasn't even sure what a poem was, but I knew it was short and that appealed to me! He later told me that it was a really good poem and I wondered why he hadn't put it up on the wall. I've often wondered if my career as a poet was a career of revenge. You can't actually decide to be a poet though. You just have to be someone who writes poems.

Where do you train?
I actually studied to be a geographer at university. I'm not sure what a geographer does, but I had visions of exploring new places... not that there are many places left to explore. I then read psychology MA and that helped develop my poetry, but I never trained as a writer. I also attended writing workshops which was a positive way to develop and learn writing techniques.

What age did you start to write poems?
In my early 20's.

Do you specialise in poetry or do you have broader writing skills?
I see myself as a poet so most of the work I do, such as TV, radio, song writing etc relates to that. However, I do write essays and fiction too. People tend to see me as a poet rather than a writer.

Would you recommend a young writer to specialise in one area, or to try a wide range of writing styles?
I don't think you can decide that you want to be a writer. It has to come naturally and from a passion of it. If you write from passion then you will naturally develop your area of expertise. The passion has to come first.

How did you find a publisher or editor?
When I first started I sent a lot of work into magazines and newspapers. My first collection was put into print when a publisher contacted me after seeing one of these poems. My agent organised for my first work of fiction, Little Green Man, to be published. Again, my agent contacted me and offered representation after reading previous work. I wouldn't recommend a poet to have an agent though, as there wouldn't be much point for the agent!

Are you ever out of work?
There's never a time when there's nothing to do, or when I'm not busy. I work hard, but I also know I'm very fortunate. I'm free and independent in my work and that allows me time to spend on my writing.

Are you selective about the jobs you choose, i.e. doing workshops and readings in schools?
I very rarely go into schools, but mainly because I'm always so busy. I am lucky to be able to choose work that interests me. I am also in a band called The Scaremongers which I really enjoy. I write the lyrics and sing.

Do you have any words of encouragement or top tips for young poets?
Well, I don't want to encourage competition! The best thing you can do is read. Read other poets that you want to get inspiration from, and get writing yourself.

Extra question from Stacked Actors: Is being a professional poet anything like being a mechanic or hairdresser... I mean, do you ever get friends and family asking you to write them poems in the evenings and at weekends?
Ha ha! There's not much skill trading going on with my neighbours! I do occasionally get letters from people asking, for example, me to write a poem for their daughter who is getting married...
Do you ever oblige?
No, I don't, although I have written commissioned pieces before now, but only for projects or companies that I believe in. I get to be selective in the work I do. I have written poems for friends and family members, but again that's my choice. I think a poet is a very cool thing to be!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Guest Review - Dominic Waldron watches Pinter and a Pair of Chekhov's Shorts

This review is brought to you by Dominic Waldron. A professional actor and director at Bradon Forest Theatre. After directing a very successful version of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party last February, we treated him to tickets for last nights performance for his birthday!

Last night I attended Pinter and a Pair of Chekhov’s Shorts at the Swindon Arts Centre.

Compass Theatre Company opened the first half of the evening with The Evil of Tobacco. A humorous, yet sad play about a gentleman who decides to discuss his life and personal history with his audience, instead of the health concerns related to tobacco.

The Proposal, the second play of the evening was a breath of fast paced, farcical air. Ivan Lomov, a nervous wreck asking permission to marry his neighbour’s daughter, goes to pieces when he inadvertently sparks an argument amongst himself, his neighbour and his daughter about land ownership. This version by Neil Sissons was fast, humorous and slick, but I feel a little further fine tuning needed to be done and the direction wasn’t quite finished.

After a short interval we piled back into the auditorium for the climax of the evening, The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter. Being a Pinter fan, I have seen many versions of this play and all the various companies have had one thing in common; a complete lack of understanding for what it is they are doing. I’m sorry to say that Michael Onslow and David Smith where no exception.
I’ve always firmly believed that the actor should perform a Harold Pinter character as honest and as naturalistic as possible, thus allowing the play to entertain the audience. This dark piece of text implies so much yet you see and hear nothing. Pinter's unique style of writing forces the audience to conclude their own story, character relationships and purpose, yet all this was lost. Michael and David forced shallow ideas, caricatures and themes into the eye of the audience and desperately looked for meaning in their one act play. They were fish out of water in this Pinter ocean and they clung to any sense of “entertainment” they could, whether deploying elongated pauses with no artistic merit, or shouting and physically beating each other. Neither of which worked. Once again, a brave theatre company have grabbed the horns of the Harold Pinter Bull and been tossed aside as on-lookers cringe.

All in all, Compass Theatre Company provided a nice night out. At £12 a ticket it was defiantly worth seeing. The three plays chosen were a good combination, with a wide range of styles, characters and themes. I just wish direction was stronger and had a bigger sense of purpose.

Thanks Dominic! I guess it's always hard to review anything without feeling a little bad about honest (if less than positive,) opinions. Of course we welcome anyone to watch our work at Bradon Forest, and will gratefully receive any feedback!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Backstage... coming soon!

Apologies in advance for the short posting today, but I'm off to see the Foo Fighters in Cardiff.

I just thought I'd update you with a new 'Stacked Actors' feature coming soon, Backstage. I've been working with some of our Year 11 GCSE Dance and Drama students to come up with some interview questions for professional artists. Hopefully we'll be talking to dancers, actors, musicians and technicians, to give you an insight into how they got to where they are and tips on how to 'get a break' in the industries.

If you're a professional artist and would liked to be interviewed by Stacked Actors, please get in touch!

Right... catch you tomorrow... Dave's waiting!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Bradon's Got Talent!

Today saw the auditions for 'Bradon's Got Talent', a talent show run by the Student Council. Students were lining up outside the dance studio pretty much all morning and rehearsing just outside my office. I could hear singing, laughing, guitars, dancing, joking and much more. Details for the show will follow shortly, but if it is anything like the last event organised by the Student Council, then it will be a treat!

Year 10 Council

July 2007: The Year 10 Council organised a Fashion Show exhibiting clothes made out of recyclable materials to raise money for Lights For Learning, a charity that puts lights in the schools of third world countries.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Top 5 All Time Favourite Movie Dance Routines

After watching Napoleon Dynamite yesterday I got to thinking about movie dance routines. I love them. I mean, what's not to like? They make a good movie a classic movie... so here are my Top 5 All Time Favourite Movie Dance Routines (this time in reverse order)...

#5 Starsky and Hutch
Well, it should be the Starsky and Hutch routine, and it would have been higher placed, but I couldn't find a good enough copy on youtube, so I'm replacing it with the Monica and Ross routine from Friends and it's staying in at #5. (This one's a favourite in our house!)

#4 American Pie 3
There are some quality moves in here that are worth noting, and a good dance off is always worthwhile!

#3 Napoleon Dynamite
Third place goes to Napoleon for going it solo.

#2 Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
It's one of the best, and to be honest, could well have been choreographed by myself.

#1 Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Because this is just about the best 80's movie ever. It really is. Go buy it. (This one's for you Michelle.)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Rose Progress

Well, it's the weekend once again! Being Saturday, I'm taking advantage of the lazy morning and watching Napoleon Dynamite. It's funny, but I wasn't going to mention the problems I've been having with my macbook, but I was searching google images for a picture of Napoleon to illustrate this entry and I found this one:

I've been pretty happy with my macbook for the last year, actually really happy, but it went in 5 weeks ago to have the headphone socket repaired and after 3 weeks (3 weeks!) it came back and just kept crashing. It then went in for another 2 weeks and they replaced the logic board. I picked it up yesterday and all was working well... for about 10 minutes. It now just keeps randomly shutting down Safari and so I've had to resort back to my PC to do today's entry. Grrr!
Anyway, back to the Rose update. As you may know I've been taking a few photos of a rose everyday until it dies (will it die?) so that I can animate it together for a trailer for our next Bradon Forest show, Dona Rosita. The rest of the bunch has been in a vase on my fireplace and they're pretty much finished now. However, the one flower that I picked out is just still going! I think I know what the problem is, but it's too late now! I'll give a full report on my project once the film is made and then you will see any mistakes I made! For now, I'm just trying to speed things up, so I have a fan heater situated near the rose in question in the hope that it will help the petals to bloom a little.
We shall see.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Web Geekery and a bit of Tweeking

As you know, this blog is all a bit new, so today I've been researching a few other blogspot and theatre blogs to compare mine to and see if there's any tweeking to be done. I came across this lovely looking label cloud at Theatre Notes and you can see I now too have a lovely label cloud all of my own to the left. Isn't it pretty?

I've also added a Tune In To section for music, and therefore modified the Bums On Seats section to include only theatre related sites. There's a Theatre Blogs blogroll and a Theatre Resources list, but I'd really appreciate your input here. If you can recommend any good, relevant sites that I can take a look at, then it would be appreciated!

Please do also take a look at our YouTube site, via the link down the left at the bottom. Unfortunately we can't add clips of anything scripted due to copyright, but we have a lot of contemporary dance and a great fight scene from Colin Teevan's 'Monkey'.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Various Bits & Pieces Today

So, the first thing that's been going on today is that we have Kaya Drums in with the music department. Alex in in for 2 days, so I shall pop across tomorrow and take some photos. Unfortunately I'll have to use my little point and shoot as the SLR is still incapacitated at home. Why won't this rose die? It's from a £3 Asda bunch and it just seems to keep on growing! In the mean time, here's a video clip of the Kaya boys doing their thing last year:

Also today, I've been modifying our mailing list and have added the recently found contacts of Frequency and The Ocelot... two free art & culture magazines distributed in the Wiltshire area. Hopefully they'll be able to add our events to their listings and help spread the word!

I've been trying to fix the RSS button on the top left of this page as well today. As I only started this blog on the first day of National Blog Posting Month I'm still tweaking it's function and appearance. I can now add the RSS feed via IE but not My Yahoo. If you have any suggestions, or are having a problem adding me to your RSS list (or not) please let me know! RSS is a little problem that has also arisen on the school site and so I'm still trying to sort that too. Sometimes all this technology can give me a bit of a headache... especially when I mostly have to teach myself. I am a firm believer in the Help button!

So, today has been a bit bitty. To add to the list I've been booked into film a local primary school's nativity play, which is always good fun, and have been requested to design and sales poster and CD cover for a French accents program. You've gotta love the variety!

For your evening enjoyment, watch this awesome groovy dancing girl, (I'm going to have to have a word with Rachel, our professional dance teacher, to see if she coach me.) (video first seen thanks to Electrolicious) and also make sure you check out the sounds of Mutlu, gratefully bought to my attention by Pete.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

As the circus master said....

...that was one rollercoaster of a show!
Wow! We had a sell out audience with additional people having to sit on the floor, and we even had to turn people away. If only you all bought tickets when they first went on sale and we could have booked another night!
To the left is a photo I took during the set-up. Can you guess
which suitcase is Houdini's?
Houdini's Suitcase was a roaring success. It starts with an old man who waits... surrounded by suitcases filled with memories. As he flicks through old photos you can hear the haunting sounds of his past echoing round the theatre. Then the old circus master appears out of one case and introduces some of the big acts of the day... notably The Master of Pain, who appears to be very squeamish at the act of sword swallowing, and who can be heard to murmer 'Ow, it hurts' through the large blade in his throat! We also meet the dancing bear adorned with clown accessories and chains, who performs a slow and sad dance with the old man before the bear's even sadder end.
I don't want to give too much away as you really need to see this show, (if you missed it last night) but I will say that Pickled Image beautifully and sensitively mixed laughter and sorrow to illustrate the highlights and low points of the old mans life. The two puppeteers, (with Dik also playing the part of the old man, with a puppet style full-head mask), excelled themselves as they performed a highly emotive, extremely clever, and quite frankly superb piece of theatre.

If you've watched these guys before, or you were at the theatre last night, I'd love to hear your views on the piece so feel free to leave a comment.
Lastly, well done Pickled Image. Just amazing.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


We have actually sold out of Houdini's Suitcase tickets now! I've been plastering the posters around school with lovely 'sold out' banners and it feels nice. Dik and Vicky were pleased to hear the good news and are in the theatre as we speak setting up. The performance area is filled with suitcases, but I still haven't seen any puppets... ooh, the anticipation!

I was just wondering if my recent attempt to get more GCSE Drama students in to watch productions has had any effect on the audience size?


What do you think? I know the typography needs work, but if you were a student would it get you to come and watch, or am I a little out of date with the Trainspotting reference? I hope not... I'm working on a 'tribute' to Resevoir Dogs for our next poster!

(Actually, I don't really think my poster has brought in the crowds. It's all down to Pickled Image being totally brilliant!)

Monday, 5 November 2007

Full House!

Well... nearly. We have four, just four tickets left for tomorrow nights performance of Houdini's Suitcase by Pickled Image. David's been getting the lighting rigged and Dominic's been hanging (yet more) curtains. I've ordered catering for the visiting company and have been organising the publicity for the next show, (Brittle Secrets,) to lay out for tomorrow's audience. We've sold last minute tickets and have been discussing layout possibilities for the auditorium to enable the best view for everyone. Staff have been calling to see if more tickets are available for their friends, and students have been excitedly talking about what sweets they are bringing.

Dominic and I have laughed about the idea of us both getting 1950's cinema attendants outfits and showing people to their seats with a torch. Of getting eau do popcorn to spray in the lobby and selling ice cream from a box hung round our neck. We've wondered how we can get hold of an old organ (and organ player) to entertain the audience before the curtain goes up, and indeed if there's anyway we can get David to fashion a gadget that would allow the organ to sink back into the floor before the show. All this to try and recreate the great atmosphere of the theatre, the excitement of the experience and to encourage our audience to come back! I don't think that we need to. It turns out that a bit of positive word of mouth and the promise of a great night of entertainment is all people need to part with £6 for a ticket.

Man, what a bargain. Tomorrow is going to be wicked.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Top 5 All Time Favourite Swindon Live Bands

I'm sorry, but this is going to be short and sweet. Just had a long drive back down from up north in dense fog...

Ok, this will need updating at a later date I think. I also request the help from any of you Swindoners out there... do you remember any of these? (I think Buswell is the only band still running) Were you in any of them? Do you have any old recordings?

So, Top 5 All Time Favourite Swindon Live Bands (again, I can only include ones I've seen!)

#1 Buswell
#2 Beaver
#3 Sweater
#4 Choice Blend
#5 King Prawn (can I count this band if only the drummer was from Swindon?)

Anyway... will find out links and give you some background information tomorrow :o)

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Top 5 All Time Favourite Live Bands

I don't know if you've spotted it, but the NaBloPoMo box on the left hand side indicates that I'm taking part in National Blog Posting Month. As I don't work weekends (unless there's a set to build) then I will have to find something else to post about. Inspired by my last mention of Nizlopi (and the fact that I've just rewatched High Fidelity)I thought I'd list my Top 5 All Time Favourite Live Bands (that I've seen live, or it just wouldn't count!)

#1 Foo Fighters
As I said before, you just can't beat Dave. I've been a fan since Monkey Wrench (and they just keep getting better... have you heard the new album?) but didn't get to see them live until the Isle of Wight Festival 2006. As expected they rocked out, but that show was topped 2 weeks later with their Hyde Park show. Oh My Word. I went with my pal Julie and we danced like we have never danced before. I keep expecting a video of us to pop up on youtube as more than one chap found us highly amusing and decided to video us. They played all my favourites... Stacked Actors (of which this blog is named after), The One, Cold Day IN The Sun, Times Like These... etc etc. Mr P and I then managed to catch them on our summer cycling holiday to Scotland when they played as part of the Fringe Festival. The highlight of the night was The Pretender and now I am just so excited (again) to be seieng them (again) in under 2 weeks! Dave and the chaps just know how to rock. They will charm you and then rock you like you've never been charmed and rocked before.

#2 Nizlopi
As you can see from the previous post, these guys are a must seen duo. My cheeks hurt from smiling all night at the wonderful, goose bump inducing music.

#3 Tenacious D
Vancouver, February 2007, a gig straight after which Mr P proposed :o) JB and KG know how to put on a show! I would probably liken it to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, had I ever seen it. Amazing live vocals and guitar work, and you can't get much better than the devil rocking out on stage... unless he's played by Dave Grohl (which he wasn't this time). If you grew up watching musicals around your grandparents house (which I did) then this is the live band for you. Pure entertainment :o)

#4 Take That
Don't judge me. You just can't knock a band that manage to create an amazing show with amazing dances when they are hitting 40. You've also got to give them credit for managing to make the entire Millenium Stadium scream like 14 year olds girls (when the audience was mostly women in their 20's & 30's.) I did warn you this list is comprised of bands I've seen!

#5 Rage Against The Machine (followed by The Prodigy, Reading '96)
This was a top show as it was my first taste of a music festival. I remember my mum taking me to school to pick up my GCSE results and then dropping me at the train station for a weekend of fun and frolics. RATM were on the Friday night, right before The Prodigy) and me and my boyfriend at the time were super excited. We'd gone with a load of his friends from college and they'd gone along to see Ian Brown (of Stone Roses) on the Sunday, where as for us, Friday was the night. I remember feeling incrediby sick with excitement waiting for them to come on. I was sixteen and in the biggest metal crowd I could imagine, as close to the front as I dared. They did not disapoint and I recall my neck aching for days afterwards. Rock and roll baby! To add to the sweetness, the college friends who had spent the rest of the weekend mocking Zach De La Rocha's political ranting, came back early from Ian Brown on the Sunday as he was so badly out of tune. What a shame.

Friday, 2 November 2007


I've just been adding links to my new (well, this is all new at the moment!) Bum's On Seats list on the left and have just added Nizlopi. You may remember these guys from their hit 'JCB Song', and if you thought they were just a one hit wonder then think again! They rightly decided to promote their own music rather than sell out and compromise anything.

I finally managed to get to see these wonderful chaps a few weeks ago at 12 Bar in Swindon and I'm sad to say that the venue wasn't even half full. These guys have completely sold out on the rest of their tour! Anyhoo, it was a top, top night. I first heard about them from a friend who said to me, 'Jen, have you ever heard a song that is so good you could cry?' Nizlopi are so good live I could cry. Proper goosebumps. They may even be the best band in the world (aside from the Foo's. Sorry Luke and John, but it IS Dave.)

So, check them out. They have plenty of clips of their tracks... Glastonbury is a current favourite of mine with *great* lyrics :o)They wander in to the crowd to play and it makes you feel like a part of it all. Very intimate and very very lovely.

Just lovely.

Pickled Image

Just before the weekend starts we're gearing up for our next visiting theatre company, Pickled Image. I am SO excited about this performance! They came last year with The Chatterbox which was about a boy who had lost his grandfather. When looking in his shed for clues, he got sucked into this machine that transported him inside various story books. The characters were all different puppets, from a life sized Mr Wolf to a finger puppet Moby Dick! My personal favourite was Blofeld who first came on sat on a wheelchair stroking his cat, and then we could see him flying above stage in a remote control helicopter! Just brilliant!

Tuesday's show (6th November) is

On top of a towering pile of luggage an old man waits and remembers.
Mixing live performance, mask and puppetry Houdini's Suitcase is a visually rich and poetic treat for audiences over the age of 12.
This show has been specially commissioned by the Norland Visual Theatre, Stamsund, Norway.

Tickets are selling fast and we have a few left. Call me on 01793 773981 or email to reserve yours!

(I love puppets!)

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Video Trailers for Plays

Dominic (our in-house professional actor) pointed me to the National Theatre website where they've started creating video trailers for their productions. I loved the idea and so have been working on some ideas for our shows. Next up is Lorca's Dona Rosita The Spinster performed by our GCSE students and directed by David Calder. It has a lot of poetry about the language of flowers and so I found this lovely video on youtube:

and so have set up a pink rose in a glass of water at home. I've been taking daily shots of it since Saturday, so watch this space to see how it turns out! I'm thinking it would be nice to splice in clips of the flower blooming and then dying, into a scene of Dona Rosita dancing and singing with her cousin, who then leaves her never to return. The flower then dies.

I've never attempted time lapse animation before so this could all go wrong...