Sunday, 30 November 2008

Looks like Christmas came early

That's right, a post from me.

I'm glad to see the German contingent in this blog is strengthening by the day.

So Advent is upon us already. How, by the way? How is it basically December already?
It also signals the beginning of the end for my stay here, as I now only have two and a half weeks left. Still, that means holiday soon, for you too. I love it here and I think I will be sad to leave, though not sad to go home. It will feel very strange I think. I have a very real life here now and it feels like it, I feel very comfortable in the city and with the German way of life. They have that famous continental relaxed nature and commmunicate a lot with each other...they just have that extra streak of German efficience.

I can also relate to everything Dominic's said about stuff here, especially public transport. I've been catch 10 or more trams a week for nearly three months now and I've seen a conductor on the tram....twice. The funny thing about the pedestrian crossing thing is that they think that in England we're really disciplined about it - i.e. staying on the pavement until it goes green - and are actually trying to emulate us. As for the audiences, crazy? Very. Standiing ovations appear to be a national pastime. The funniest moment, albeit with mostly children in the audience, was after one of the morning performances of 'Emil und die Detektive', where the actor playing Herr Grundeis, the baddy, got roundly booed, very very loudly. This was of course a positive thing because he'd played his character so well, not because he was awful, of that I can assure you.

Incidentally I had a very interesting encounter when I went to have my hair cut. The families ever more suprisingly influential links, mean that the kids get free haircuts at one of the classiest coiffeurs (if only I could double italic that word) in Düsseldorf. I'd actually got my hair cut one day before I left England, planning to not have to go again until I got back. However, for the sake of the family photos at next week's family Christmas gathering, the mother of my guest family asked me if I'd mind. I wasn't really bothered so they made an appointment. Unfortunately, work meant that we couldn't make it and as the next one, despite wandering around and shopping a fair bit, still wasn't for ages, one of them agreed to just trim off my fringe quickly. I then spent five minutes in the hands of a very flamboyant Italian man, who apparently has lived in Germany for over thirty years and still speaks it nearly as badly as me. It appeared that as long as he could still do the hand gesture (you know the Italian one), language for him wasn't an issue. The aforementioned family links have also allowed me to meet a world-renowned mime artist - his stage name is Nemo - which is pretty safe. We are planning to have him round one afternoon before I go, so he can give me a crash course in mime and 'find some hidden treasures'. I'm in suspense already.

Anyway, yes, theatre, let's go. We had an international dance festival a couple of weeks ago. This included performers coming from all over the place - Spain, France, Israel, China and even Wuppertal which is a monster twenty minutes away. What was excellent for me was that alllllllllll these people and of course the large contingent of German technicians etc. spoke English to communicate with each other. Very safe. I got a peek at a couple of rehearsals which was cool. The chinese company had some rather mental video effects and some wonderful singing, the Germans had some very interesting modern ensemble dance, and the Spanish had some pretty incredible acrobatic-y dance moves.

I've also managed to watch a couple of other rehearsals. 'Treulose' by Ingmar Bergmann, which is a tragic love story really. The staging was very minimalistic and all white with just three chairs and a few props. It worked very well I thought, and the actors successfully brought out the emotion of the piece, though of course I couldn't understand all of it. The other was a play called 'Fulle des Wohllauts' by Thomas Mann, a one-man play, which here incidentally is played by an actor also with the surname Mann - Dieter Mann. It's a very intellectual piece, I suppose it has to be to be an hour and a half long monologue. It's in a sort of palatial living room and the staging is centred around an old record player in the middle of the stage, as the story is about the life of a composer. To be honest, I couldn't understand most of it, though the acting was clear, it was more of a sort of lecture than a real play.

I also managed to have a brief look at a rehearsal for 'Der gute Mensch von Sezuan' (The Good Person Of Sezuan) by Bertolt Brecht, which premieres next Saturday. Having studied Brecht at school last year and having seen a company actually perform a version of this play, it is actually something like familiar territory for me, which is here, naturally, a seldom occurrence. It was a bit strange, as normally you can just quietly slip into rehearsals unnoticed. However, this time the lights in the auditorium stayed on so everyone could see me. This confused me to start with before I remembered it was a Brecht piece - lights staying on in the auditorium was one of his theatrical techniques. Luckily, when asked who I was by multiple actors/stage technicians, the words work experiencer with the lighting team seemed to hold the magic key and I could stay. They've got some way out staging, literally. there are white lanes designating streets, and there's one long one that goes from downstage centre right to the back of the auditorium. They also use the different moveable podiums that stretch across the stage to create different levels, like stairs. It is performed in a typically Brechtian style, that is, quite strangely, with from what I saw, hats being important symbols of status, depending on what sort you had. The play centres around Shen Te, who is good but very poor, and because she is good all the time, can not run her business efficiently. She thus creates an alter ego, Shui Ta, posing as her cousin. He is a ruthless businessman, and although she doesn't like using him, she has to to survive. With some incompetent gods, water-sellers, hairdressers and unrequited love thrown in, it really asks the question, can a person really be good, and in fact what does being good actually mean?

I've also put up Christmas tree lights. It's fun. It's also quite cool to be able to say that I've done it for a professional theatre.

Wow this is long. The Christmas Markets are now open, so Düsseldorf in the evening is now a riot of light, colour and people. Seriously, it's like a musical festival how packed the city centre is, it's mental. Saw the Emil crew do a few songs on the Christmas Market stage outside the theatre yesterday evening, as I'd gone into town to have a look round. As Christmas Markets are something we don't really do in England, just wandering round is delightful. Though I do wish that for all their organisational skills, they could sort out how to queue. The old adage that no one queues better than the English (the old joke is that the English can form a queue of one) appears to stand up. They just can't do it.

The plan is to go and see the Brecht play the day before I come back, in which case I will report then. However, it might be that I actually go back to England that day, as my school has its presentation evening and I've won a Drama prize :). In any case I will try and get a look at a full run and report, along with whatever else is going on. My experience with lighting is of course now much developed and it is only really the language barrier that holds me back. However, that is also improving as was the plan and I can successfully navigate myself through most situations.

We've also had SNOW!
Keep Smiling

P.S. As come the photos.
You can see the photos from the Sezuan rehearsal here.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd you can see the photos from my city wanderings here. This includes videos of the Emil cast singing a few songs and some MENTAL if a little sideways Christmas tree lights.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Guest Blogger - Premiere's and German Pies

"Wow - What a week! It's been preview week this week. We opened the show to our first audience who was a group of invited teachers and partners. They loved it. I know it's a good play and a very well written comedy but I had no idea that it would be received as well as it is. We've sold out every night this week and there are talks of them putting more shows into the run due to tickets being sold so quickly in advance!
The one thing that I cannot get over is that German audiences are CRAZY! I've never experienced anything like it. They shout, they scream, call things out, clap loud and hard mid sentence, and generally have a really good time. The only thing I can describe it as being like is a adult panto audience. Also, we're currently doing 11 curtain calls! And they clap hard and cheer right until the house lights come up!
Our director isn't a man of many words but I think he's proud of us and his show. He comes backstage every night and congratulates us, and gives us any feedback he has overheard in the foyer or the English Theatre Bar, yesterday he came back with a massive smile and just said a group of people kept saying how funny and brilliant it was - can't argue with that I guess!
It's our official premiere tonight, and I believe the press are in as well. After the show we have a bit of a swaray, It's an open bar and we have to "mingle" with the friends and sponsors of the theatre. I've also been told to dress "tizzy." Not sure what that means but I'm hoping my cowboy boots, top hat and sequin shirt will cover it. ( thought I should cover all bases )
As it's our Premiere tonight so I ventured into the local hair dressers this morning. my, my. What an experience. Armed with my little phrase book ( care of the Bradon Forest Theatre staff ) and my head shot downloaded onto my phone I kindly explained to the man I would like a trim, just a little taken off and I wanted to look like this (Showing him my photo). I knew he wasn't listening to me, or looking at my photo as I think his wife was waiting for him, but he sat me down infront of the mirror and wandered off. So I waited for one of the nice, young German ladies to come over, and started preparing for a second bash at my "At the Hair Dresses" section in my book. Suddenly, A BIG German man came over, didn't even make eye contact, grabbed a cut-throat razor from the shelf and headed straight towards me. As I closed my eyes I knew my time had come and soon I would in next doors basement being made into some kind of dodgy German pie.
But...alas! He didn't kill me, he just wanted to trim my sideburns. I did try to explain that I wanted it messy on top but he could see I was English, didn't speak a second language and had a professional photo of myself on a BlackBerry. All the things that would imply I was a muppet. So the fact I wanted a number 2 around the back and sides and choppy on top was the very least of his concerns.
So, 10 euros lighter I left looking like I was about to join the SS, but thank full I was still alive!
I hope this Premiere is worth it! Free bar eh? Don perignon all round!
I shall let you know..."

(emailed from Dominic Waldron)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Guest Review - The Fire Starter

We've had a lovely review from Thursday's performance of The Fire Starter. Mike Kaloski-Naylor, the Projects Co-ordinator from Theatreworks was a Bradon Forest Theatre first timer and emailed in these kind words after the show:

"The pre-show energy of the young audience was clear, but they were definitely a theatre audience, feeling ownership of their performance space and excitement at the show they were about to see. However, this did not stop the venue from feeling open and welcoming to visitors, such as myself, entering for the first time. Instead it made the space feel alive and energised, something often lacking in theatre spaces.

During the show there were whispered comments and giggles, but these were because of the show, not despite it, and there was hush when the action required it. This is a venue and an audience who know and demand quality theatre and in Big State, they had a company which could more than deliver.

In fact I can’t imagine a better audience to join for this show. Big State’s confidence, talent and theatrical expertise fed perfectly into, and off, their reactions and energy while the jokes hit and rippled through us with wonderful regularity and effect. The show was excellent, and my enjoyment of it enhanced by the audience’s enthusiasm and engagement.

I am absolutely looking forward to my next visit and will be encouraging others to do the same."

Thanks Mike! Glad you enjoyed the show... you, and everyone else is welcome back any time! In fact... we have our week of C18th Farce next week!

School for Scandal by Richard Sheridan

Directed by Alison McCallum
Monday 1st & Tuesday 2nd December


Venetian Twins by Carlo Goldoni
Directed by David Calder
Wednesday 3rd - Friday 5th December


Both shows are being performed by our GCSE drama students. Tickets are £4 for adults and £3 students.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Guest Blogger: Hamburg Tech Runs three weeks of rehearsal are up. I've found this last week of tech runs and dress rehearsals really different to what I'm used to. With all the other stage productions I have been involved with as the first performance gets nearer and nearer I've always found myself at the theatre more and more, but with this I'm here less and less.

For the past week our call time at the theatre has been 18:30. We put our costumes on, the Crew fix the set and props, we run it once, then we all go home. I feel like I should be doing more, but the director is saying he is happy so I can't argue with that!

Last dress rehearsal tonight, and to be honest I'm a little nervous. I guess tonight I get to find out if this process does work or not, everyone else is just exited about it and looking forward to performing to audiences so I'm sure it must do! Another thing I've never had before is a day off before the opening night. Not sure what I'm going to do with mine. Go to the park down the road with the script I think. Make sure I know my scenes almost backwards!

I have a very busy week next week.
Sunday is a Preview Night. This is for a small, invited audience of English Teachers for Colleges and Universities. They watch the play and decide if it's suitable for them to bring their English class to. Monday is for last minute rehearsals and costume fittings, etc, ( if needed ). Then from Monday to Wednesday we have the other preview nights. For Guests and friends of the theatre, press, etc. Then Thursday night we have our Premiere! After Thursday we then go into eight shows a week and the run begins!

(Emailed from Dominic)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Two Nights Running!

Tonight's show: The Fire Starter

We still have a few tickets left for tonight's show, The Fire Starter by Big State Theatre company.

Throw off your corsets here - comes the Arch Druid!

Defying injustice and law, challenging orthodox religion, questioning the morality of the puritans and dancing naked through fields trilling on his flute, nothing will ever be the same again in this tiny Welsh village.

Based on the life of Dr. William Price, Big State Theatre take their comic imagination and multi-character style back to the repression of Victorian times and unleash a unique and amazing individual.

The Fire Starter was devised in 4 weeks by the cast and the director, with assistance from Andy Burden, and is based on the life of Dr William Price (1800-1893). The Fire Starter was created with the support of Southern and South East Arts, West Wiltshire District Council and Heaven Scent Incense.

Doors open at 7.15 and tickets are £6 for adults and £5 students.


I just thought I'd post a picture I took of the sunset over school last night. I used Poladroid to make it look like a polaroid, but haven't changed the colours at all. Aren't we lucky to have our school in such a location?

Monday, 17 November 2008

'Caught In The Net'

Ok, I met Charlotte ( Vicki Smith in the play ) at Heathrow departure lounge, we recognized each other from the recall and as it was our first time with the English Theatre of Hamburg we decided to stick together! We then met up with all the other cast members just before we boarded the plane ( Actors are usually easy to spot in a crowd, especially when James shouted at us from across the room "Are you for The English Theatre of Hamburg?" We knew we were going to be with a friendly, out going bunch!)
We had a short, and pleasant flight and was met at Hamburg Arrivals by almost everyone! It was a really nice touch to be met at the airport by the two Artistic Directors of the theatre, the stage manager, the theatre office staff, even the costume mistress was there! Everyone in the cast had been here before so their was immediate hugs and kisses all round. Charlotte and I felt very much out of the loop as we stood at the back like lemons and witnessed the very open European greetings all around. I couldn't stop thinking of the Heinken advert ( the one where he has to hug his boss and is looking for his motivation? ) Anyway, we were soon spotted and before we knew it we were all being hugged and kissed and was immediately welcomed into the company.
We were then taken to our flats and accommodation. I'm staying in a very warm, very spacious flat in Barmbek. It's a 10 minute walk from Barmbek tube station and from my flat to the theatre is about a 25 minute journey. For the last two weeks I have been living with Matt and Andrew who are the two leads in the current show Treats. We've had a great time living together but unfortunately, today they left for England after a very successful and praised run. I now have two more flat mates, who are from the cast of my show and things seem to be going well.
I'm playing the character of Gavin in a play by Ray Cooney called Caught In The Net. It's a comedy and I think a great play. It's about a guy called John who is married with a son, but on the other side of London he is married to someone else with a daughter. One day the son and daughter meet in a internet chatroom and decide to meet up. The play consists of John and his friend Stanly desperately trying to keep his children apart.
First rehearsal consisted of a simple read through, then Jeff giving us all a talk about Hamburg. We were given 100s of leaflets and handouts all about the transport system, events, museums, etc. Then we were all sent home to get some shopping and settle in.
Living in Hamburg is great, but to be fair I've not seen much of it yet. But some little differences are interesting. For example, you're only allowed to cross the road at the traffic lights when the man is green. If you get caught doing it any other way its a 100 euro on the spot fine. Also, the transport system is done by trust. No barriers, you just hop on and hop off as you please and people assume you've bought the correst ticket. Every now and again they do spot checks and if you have an incorrect ticket its a 150 Euro on the spot fine.
Rehearsals are going well, but I've never worked in this style of direction before. So I'm finding the whole thing a great learning curve and experience. Unfortunately a week into rehearsals the Grandfather character was sent home due to illness. A little concerning with only two weeks left until opening night but Philip flew in the next day and thankfully is an excellent actor.
So, we're now two weeks into rehearsals, we rehearse six days a week with Sundays off. We've got the show down I think, so spending this week running it in with opening night on Friday. It's going to be strange leaving the rehearsal room tomorrow and heading to the stage to tread the boards. But I will let you know how it goes....

(Posted from email by Dominic)

Friday, 14 November 2008

Chasing Gavin

Well, Dominic has now been in Hamburg for almost two weeks, so I think it's time to chase him down for the first Eight Days a Week entry. Gavin, we have some questions for you...

  • What's the play about?
  • What's the theatre like?
  • How are the other cast members?
  • Where are you living?
  • How's Hamburg? Are you speaking much German? How does it differ from the UK?
  • What are the highlights so far?
I think that will keep us satisfied for now! Everyone sends their love Dominic!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Music from the Stage and Screen

Last night saw the first Bradon Forest music concert of the year... and the first ever concert from our brand spanking new Music Department! The theme was Music from the Stage and Screen, with highlights from Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Jungle Book. We also had many solo and ensemble performances, including Chopin, Des'ree and even pieces written by the students themselves!

The night was full of variety and skill and the students performed to a sellout audience with standing-room-only! The evening culminated in another well received performance by Plastic Fiction with two new tracks. Click the link to see the photos from the night, and hopefully there will be video clips added later.

There is an extensive program being put together for Christmas. Email Miss Clements for more information, or keep an eye on the Music pages of the school site for regular updates. There is also talk of an Accoustic Non-Christmas Christmas gig during a lunch time at school. Details need to be ironed out, but watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Die Parole heißt Emil


Apologies that it's been so long since the last one, however, the world exclusive pictures you can have a peek at may hopefully go some way in the form of compensation.

I'm now really appreciating living here, well outside of the ungodly early starts, I love it. The theatre fluctuates quite a lot in how busy it is and how much there is to do. For instance, today was the start of the region's dance festival, but with no performances until thursday on the main stage, activity was very limited. I still really enjoy being able to walk across the stage and gaze dreamily out into the auditorium, it's really quite a buzz.

the main thing recently was last week. On the Saturday just gone it was the premiere of 'Emil und die Detektive'. I don't know if anyone's read the book, I know I did as a child and loved it (the English version of course). It was writeen by Erich Kästner in 1929 and is one of the best 20th century works of children's fiction. It follows the story of the young Emil who is on his way to visit his grandmother and cousin in Berlin, when he is robbed on the train by the shady Herr Grundeis. He meets Gustav and having gathered a band of children detectives they set about catching the thief. It's a story really about friendship and it's wonderful. The stage version this time round is a musical for children. However, this does not mean it's silly and overly simple. It's wonderfully crafted, with subtle physical comedy and a real emotional undercurrent that makes it very real. They had rehearsals pretty much all of last week, most of which I ended up watching. One performance in particular enthralled me, which was that of the Professorin played by an actress called Viola Pobitschka. She plays the shortsighted, very clever child, who assumes the head of operations, and she used wonderful nervous hand movements and constant adjusting of glasses with a slightly shy angled-downwards stance. I approached her at the start of one rehearsal and got to meet her briefly afterwards. That was really cool to talk to someone for whom acting is a day job and get her take on the play. She, as her character did seemed to show a real happiness in being in the play, and it certainly is a happy, surprisingly fulfilling watch.
Luckily for you lot, you get some rather exclusive photos that no one else has seen.

The next play to be premiered at the start of December is that of 'The Good Woman of Szechwan', which having studied Brecht last year and already seen this particular play, very much interests me. Hopefully I'll be able to bring you more soon.

I am now entering my last month here in Germany, so I'm trying to enjoy every moment I can. Luckily I'm really beginning to get a feel for the city and enjoy the European atmosphere. If anyone is thinking about spending a decent period of time abroad at some point, I would definitely recommend it as a wonderful experience and one that gives you a new perspective on things.

As ever feel free to ask any questions about anything you like.
I have also been to a German cinema, the main difference being that the seats are more comfortable, followed closely by the fact that everything is in German.
It was the new James Bond, which I suppose has the sort of one liners that you can't really translate from English. I had mixed feelings about it myself. Still.
Hope all is well over the seas.

Here's the link to the photos of Emil and you can also have a look at what else I've been up to.

Until the next time.
Keep smiling

Tonight's show

Tonight's show is Houdini's Suitcase by the brilliant Pickled Image. The company have been here before with The Chatterbox, and we have also seen this show. Both sold out. We actually have just a few tickets left for tonight and I urge you to come and see it. In my opinion it is one of the best pieces of theatre I've ever seen!

Curtain goes up at 7.30 pm and tickets are £6 for adults and just £5 for students. Call me on 01793 773981 to reserve yours now!

Monday, 10 November 2008

New Show Just Booked!

We've just confirmed a booking for the new Swindon Young Actors show, Hotel Portobello Verde. A piece that has been devised by their older group of students.

The brand new piece of theatre has already been shown to sell out audiences at the dance studio at Commonweal School.

Bring your friends, your parents, your work colleagues, your kids, your gran, your pets! Well, maybe not your pets, and bear in mind that this show contains material of an adult nature!

Call the box office on 07825 983 748 to get hold of your ticket for this weekend!

Showing at the Bradon Forest Theatre this Friday and Saturday, 14th and 15th November. Curtain up at 7.30 pm. Tickets are £5.

Guest Blogger - Dominic Waldron

Dominic Waldron, our trusted theatre technician, has left us for a few months for a Germanic adventure. His valued directorial skills, and assistance with the GCSE students will be greatly missed as he treads the boards of the English Theatre of Hamburg, playing the part of Gavin in ‘Caught in the Net’. If you fancy a weekend away in the stylish European city, then make sure you stop by and catch him ‘in the act’. I’m sure it’s a show worth seeing!

Gavin, I mean Dominic, has kindly agreed to blog about his experiences at the English Theatre. Hopefully we’ll be hearing about what it’s like to live in another country, as well as his rehearsal and performance experiences! He will be performing 8 shows a week and it will be pretty intensive. So, if you want to be an actor and are interested in the learning experience... stay tuned for Eight Days A Week! (Just click on his photo on the left for all his entries.)

Monday, 3 November 2008

Swindon Culture Club

For those of you who are over 18, you may be interested in a local Swindon group that has come to my attention. Swindon Culture Club are a group of like minded individuals who meet once a month to discuss all things cultural and who organise trips to the theatre, poetry readings, exhibitions, walks etc. If you are interested in joining them, check out the website.