Saturday, 9 April 2011

Tech Week and Opening Night

I drop in on a technical rehearsal but things are running late so I have a nosey in the auditorium and take a look at the set. It’s amazing – even better than the model box promised.

The slow, tedious process of all the technical components coming together begins. As I watch the film footage, listen to the music, see the lights I begin to feel dizzy and have to pack up and go home. Even though I’ve made a rapid recovery from the shingles, I now discover that I’ve got a 24hour virus!
Something is telling me to stay away – so I do so until the opening night.

My family and I have a Fred-inspired hotpot and spotted dick in the Octagon restaurant prior to the show. I need a couple of glasses of wine to see me into the auditorium. I tell my kids it feels like the day I got married. A sense of disbelief that this day, so long anticipated, has finally arrived. On the way to our seats, I bump into David Thacker who tells me he’s changed a some things over the last few days. Should he tell me what? No!

And suddenly, after over two years since the conception and a whole year since the original workshop, it’s all happening - the show is up and running in front of a packed auditorium. People are laughing and there’s a sense of inevitability as the performance moves along at a rapid pace. By the time the interval arrives I am ready for another glass of wine. In the second half I managed to stop myself from shouting out when a couple of lines are missed. Before I know it people around me are crying and the show ends with the audience applauding enthusiastically. Some are on their feet and whistling.

I text David when I get home that night to say that I believe it all now!
He replies saying how much he’s enjoyed the journey. So have I - but I don’t want it to end!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Third Week of Rehearsals

A frustrating time for me because I am not able to go along daily to see how the production is progressing.

I am in touch by email, text and phone and all seems to be going fine. In any case, I have to accept that my job is pretty much done and it is time to let go.

By Thursday evening I am well enough to meet with Andy Smith, the sound designer at the Octagon, and we spend an enjoyable hour or so sorting out the music that will accompany the film footage between the scenes.

On Saturday morning I drop-in on a run-through, described by David as ‘an adventure’. It is strange to see the play up and running after a week and a half away from rehearsals. There is a greater depth to a number of the performances and I find myself laughing out loud several times as well as having a lump in my throat in the final scene. Although there is still some work to be done, the play itself seems to be standing up pretty well.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Second Week of Rehearsals

The week starts off badly because, unfortunately, Michelle has had to go back to London due to a family crisis and is therefore unable to be at rehearsal on the Monday.

The rest of the company have a discussion about acting, which John McArdle describes as ‘refreshing’. The emphasis is on acting ‘in the moment’ which is all about being so secure with the lines and the character that the actor responds to each line fed to him as though he’d just heard it for the first time.

Some of the actors are feeling anxious at the sight of a new script I’ve produced over the weekend, because they've already started learning the lines. About eight pages have been shaved off the previous draft in the pursuit of ‘leanness’.

I’m asked to read in for Michelle on the first day as the script is intensely scutinised once more, with the actors invited to comment on the changes. David talks about the collaborative process and his role as inspirational leader.

The fight-director, Terry King, (King of Combat according to the actors) comes to advise on a slap and a minor scuffle that feature in the play.

In the 'Circle of Trust’ on Tuesday there’s a rapid learning of lines, where the rule is if you make a mistake, you go back to the beginning!

A chunk of Wednesday morning is spent planning the filming at the Heritage Centre, which we need to produce footage that can be cut in with achive footage for the show. We gain an insight into David the TV/film director.

In the absence of the students who will play the camera crew in the play itself, David assumes the role of extremely irritating PA and succeeds in upstaging everybody.

I go off at lunchtime to have a rash checked out at the medical centre and am diagnosed with shingles. I pack up in a panic and head off home, upset and angry. It feels like I’ve been dealt a cruel blow and that my involvement with the show has been abruptly curtailed.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Week One of Rehearsals

Memorable moments include . . .

David Thackers’ pep talk on the first morning about everyone aiming to achieve his/her PB (Personal Best)

A Meet and Greet session where we are all introduced around the circle and I discover later that I have my cardigan on inside out.

Michelle Collins handing round the jelly babies.

Thrills up my spine as the actors read the first scene – it works!

Lots of laughter in the rehearsal room at the first read-through.

A few weary tears shed at the end of day two when it becomes obvious that the play is too long.

Chatting with Kenneth Alan Taylor (who is in The Price) in the foyer about his time as a panto dame in Oldham.

Football banter around the table first thing in the mornings.

Colin Connor’s almost perfect Fred Dibnah voice.

The ASM’s dad showing Huw Higginson how to do magic tricks.

Working long days and having production and script meetings at lunch-times and after the actors have gone home.

The three actors playing ‘Dad’s Army (Fred’s mates) christening themselves, ‘The Three MustGetBeers’ and other members of the cast at various times calling them ‘the three witches’, ‘the three stooges’, ‘the tin man, the lion and the scarecrow’ .

Health bars I’d made for the cast (Rabbit Bars according to Huw) somehow ending up on the set!

David prepares me for mixed reaction to the play and quotes William Blake -
‘The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way’.

Having loads of rewrites to do over the weekend - pruning an already pruned play.

Friday, 11 March 2011

A new Fred, film-footage and fear

After a great deal of searching, we find a new Fred. Thank goodness!
Colin Connor is eager to research his role thoroughly so I spend some of this week helping him to get up to speed.

I also spend a morning with film-maker, Nick Wilding, going through his thousands of hours of Fred footage to find additional clips of film for the show.

The fifth draft of the script (fifth draft since the workshop that is - can it be a whole year ago?), is printed, bound and sent out to the actors.

This morning I meet with David Thacker and Joe Stathers-Tracey, who is in charge of projection. The meeting about film-footage is a difficult one but ends well in that David proposes an 'arty' take on the film content. The prospect of the footage fusing with the play, rather than being rolled out as documentary gluing the scenes together, becomes an exciting prospect.

Tonight I attend the Press/Guest Night of The Price at the Octagon and, as well as enjoying the superb production, am left wondering how the hell my play can follow the genius that is Arthur Miller.

Reality kicks in and I know that over the weekend I have to prepare properly for rehearsals which begin on Monday. Healthy food has to be bought, clothes have to be got ready, fear has to be allayed.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The White Card Meeting and Bleak News

The designer for the show, James Cotterill, has come up from London with the white card model of the set. We meet at the Octagon with David Thacker and Production Manager, Olly Seviour, to discuss the design before the whole production team files into the room. There's about a dozen people ranging from carpenter to sound engineer and it's quite daunting to explain the concept of the play to them. At the same time, it's exciting to think that between them all they will realise the technical and visual side of the show.

David T has a quiet word with me to explain that the actor playing Fred has had to withdraw from the production due to ill-health. It's bleak news indeed, especially at this stage in the proceedings. The search is on for another Fred . . .

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Fred Footage

I go over to Leeds to meet up with film-maker David Hall and his editor, Pascale. We spend a happy afternoon in the editing suite, sifting through many miles of footage that David has shot of Fred over the years. We are searching for specific moments of film and iconic images that will form part of the production, anchoring the story in the real-world and gluing the scenes of the play together.