Tag Archives: Theatreblog

beat Blue Monday with a better January

If you don’t mind Pantomime, then Christmas for Technicians is great. You’d be pretty much spoilt for choice on the shows to work on (albeit they’re pretty much the same!) and more than often, you can work near your home making it fairly easy getting home for Christmas. That’s what I did for the Panto season and it worked great for me. But as it drew nearer to the end of the run, I found finding work to line up was difficult, either for me, or my colleagues. And so, I find myself in yet another January lull.

This lull has an overall effect on Freelancers, such as myself. If you’re in-house then great, because you have a month of PAT Testing just about every object in the whole of the building! (Because we all know how fun a big, long PAT Test is…) But as the Theatre scene dies down considerably in the months after the traditional Christmas boom-time, you get pretty much stuck twiddling your thumbs! As I run my own company, we’ve had plenty to do for planning the new year. But we’ve now got a pile up of events from the end of March rather than now. I mean, no complaints, but spreading things out would be a bonus!

So I find myself asking and mulling over why January is so quiet. Generally, there isn’t one reason that over arcs them all. Okay, industries all over are quiet, but as ever, Arts has to push continually and this includes creating and producing shows right?

Perhaps the money thing plays too much of a major factor. But it’s so true that the Arts never has any money, so again, pushing to create as so happens the rest of the year. Money then, playing the major part, I feel is an opportunity experimentation and reflection. For example, there should be more Scratch type events, like those at the BAC, charging little money for audiences to find some new stuff. It’s the same with technicians. There should be more opportunity to facilitate these ‘experiments’ within the theatre environment thus requiring technical support. Perhaps bands can try out new material in small low ticket price gigs, or bits and pieces of plays can be staged with some tricky technical content? Or perhaps very little technical content, but at the least for operators to push faders up and down, at the very least?!

This isn’t so much a plea or a cry out for jobs to be created and filled, but a flag-up of how January can be made far more productive. A busy, testing, experimenting, freer first month can help set the foundations and preparations for the rest of the calendar year. New contacts can be made, new artists can be found by audiences and, who knows, even new Genres found by artists?!

Bar all that, hopefully January can be a bit better so I don’t have to spend next year’s Blue Monday struggling so bad in bashing out posts like this!


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go on, take a risk once in a while

take risks, unlike these folk

After reading one of Lyn Gardner’s recent blogs, I was pleased to see how she got incredibly enthused and impassioned by what theatre should be doing and whole heartedly I couldn’t agree more. I am most drawn to her point about risk – “When I’m in the theatre, I want to feel as if some kind of risk is taking place” she says. This takes me back to my days at university when I often discovered the value of this tool and device when creating theatre across a number of forms.

Whenever I went to see a piece I was often asking myself, ‘what did they risk there?’ If it was nothing, then I found that it was pretty pointless – Gardner finishes her blog with a Tim Etchells quote: “I ask of each performance: will I carry this event with me tomorrow? Will it haunt me? Will it change you, will it change me, will it change things? If not, it was a waste of time.” How true.

Speaking more specifically about some of the in-house productions at St. Mary’s University College, some of which I was involved in; these are the ones that still stick in my memory. In the second year, a dance piece called Belonging, a 12-month project culminating in a movement/performance art piece entitled The Healing Room and also my final piece Inside Cover. I can remember how they pushed limits and boundaries both technically and in content and how this thrilled me, moved me and stayed with me.

Sadly, what many practitioners often don’t come to realise is that theatre is the place to take a risk. It’s where the opportunity is created and where the potential and real world can be ‘played’ with finding limits and boundaries. So I find myself asking, why aren’t more theatre makers doing this? Directly, I feel it is somewhat because of the ‘why’, as in they aren’t discovering why to take a risk and I’m not saying take a risk for risk sake. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Atonin Artaud’s book, quite literally, in the Theatre and its Double and injecting some ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ – and why so? Well, summed up brilliantly here –

The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigour and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid.

– Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty, in The Theory of the Modern Stage (ed. Eric Bentley), Penguin, 1968, p.66

What I love about theatre especially, is that you can use it to play in the face of adversity. I believe that only in theatre, you can toy with an idea so much, to tempt it and push it to see just how far it goes. So, as we face such adverse weather, it doesn’t put a stop to the performance, yet we must, as always, take a risk and push against it.

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get a sweet tooth for Suttie

Ah, so sweet – like being in a children’s sweet shop. You could pick and choose your favourite jokes and gags and get through the whole show that way. But it was much better than that I assure you.

Isy Suttie, famed for her appearances as Dobbie in Channel 4’s Peep Show, has a steam roller of a delivery which suits the material very well. It draws upon childhood memories and following your dreams – the latter being a very catchy song because the sing-a-long takes place.

It’s an open and “honest” account with a real mountain of thought which is plied with a feeling of irony, leaving you feeling both nostalgic and warm and gooey like the inside of a bubbaloo – isn’t that nice!

Yes, Suttie is incredibly like-able with smiles, giggles and snorts throughout, if that’s your sort of thing. The show takes a sketch form rather than a journey but the theme is strong and pulls it all together.

At times, the characters felt forced but the playfulness makes it more justified and the genius songs accompany very well. Melody’s’ song about following your heart is a particular highlight; it’s over the top and dry, much like the rest of the show.

Suttie screams incredible presence and her audience connection makes her the adorable child she tells the stories of. Although, in places, it was bordering on the cliché, I feel her experience will shine through and certainly make her one to watch for the future.

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pappy’s is primetime genius

For today’s blog, I’m not going to beat around the bush but get straight into it. I saw a sketch comedy called ‘Pappy’s Fun Club’ and the show is a prime example for my blog – what theatre should be about.

The show tells the story of four fun-loving friends and their adventures in the club that is overlooked by a guy called Pappy. Brendon, Matthew, Ben and Tom (in no particular order) play a multitude of parts, each with a few props and costume changes to tell the story of how Pappy will pull the plug on their club unless they can find a more environmentally friendly way of powering it.

Through several mediums, ‘Funergy’ is the idea that they come up with, but just how they do it is where the journey really takes its course and also the reason why you’ll have to go and see it.

It’s an all round enriching and beautiful tale at the heart of it and it’s the smattering of pure genius comedy which keeps it flowing and inevitably holds the piece together.

As a piece technically, it has to be placed under a microscope to find any faults. The pace of the four performers is undeniably expert and you find yourself envying their talents at many times. They know the show so well that it becomes playful and engaging yet they manage to somehow place the audience at the centre of it through their over-the-top but honest and personal delivery.

If the technical aspects aren’t enough, then the writing undoubtedly adds to the strength of this piece. Even though it’s sketch, each sketch has a strong correlation and each part lends itself to one another completing a nicely rounded piece which leaves you feeling incredibly satisfied. The cyclical storytelling ensures that no prop, song, gesture, word or thought is unnecessary and that’s exactly what we want to see in a piece of theatre.

As I said before, if not for the comedy, see this show on the simple basis that it is a great piece of theatre and something that we should all aim for.

Pappy’s Fun Club – ‘Funergy’ is on at 6.40pm at the Cabaret Bar, Pleasance Courtyard – Venue No. 33.

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the almost edinburgh festival

Those of you who have been to Edinburgh not during the festival (quite rare, I know) will have undoubtedly noticed the difference between an Edinburgh rush hour and a London rush hour. In London, Bendy Busses are squishing cyclists and pedestrians like tropical bugs and Black Cab drivers are taking road rage to a whole new level.

Edinburgh is a breeze of a metropolis. Queues at traffic lights are an average of three cars. Cyclists and buses treat each other with utmost of British respect creating a striking harmony and pedestrians obey the crossings like children watching Finding Nemo.

However, all has change. The ‘Festival Rush Hour’ is ongoing daily. Cars have loaded into the city in large convoys, bus stops are becoming a haven for petty crime between tourists and blue-rinsed old ladies and cyclists are obeying the traffic laws as it’s becoming more like ‘Tour de Ed.’

They say during the festival the town population doubles, and although it hasn’t quite reached that level yet, it’s certainly well on its way.

Technical rehearsals have been in full swing and running like clockwork. I have small theory that the sun and risen population haven working in tandem to lift and burn off the dense fog that’s been plaguing for the past couple of days (although, I very much doubt bikini sales are going to jump up – one can only dream of such things).

So, bring on the punters! Things are nicely slotting into place – metaphorically and literally as every sizeable building in Edinburgh completely transforms. Every other shop front has been bombarded with posters so it’s mini challenge in itself trying to work out what the shop actually sells. The restaurants, cafes, and other such eateries are doubling their stock as queues file out of the doorways – soon to expand even further.

Today being the first day of previews, it’s almost all in place. Almost being the keyword because as long as the tickets keep on selling with streams of paper to be printed on, then the almost will gradually fade away just as the fog has upon Arthur’s Seat.

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what makes the festival so special?

I think it would be an appropriate time to fill in on the journey so far. When I say journey I mean that literally as I write this from my somewhat comfortable train chair. The landmark wheel in York seems like a justified halfway point with a fairly eventful journey – actually hardly at all, apart from the hen-do rabble of chirping chicks boarding at Doncaster making it a livelier affair (there’s goes the bubbly!). Last year’s journey didn’t have the luxury of Wi-Fi, thus showing the importance of this route from the hub of London to arguably centre point of Scotland’s urban landscape.

At this point, I haven’t spotted any fellow potential Edfest –ites, –onians or –evians. I’m trying to work out what most other people have as the purpose for their journey. Not to be patronising that Edinburgh only functions for the festival – anything but. Although, naturally, the festival is the most popular time with the Scottish capital’s population doubling during August.

During the time so far, apart from compiling my networking for the festival’s coverage, I’ve had a flick through the Fringe brochure to see what I could spot for the potential must-sees (bit of an oxy-moron but oh well). I’m halfway through and have so far noted The Terrible Infants with their “new, extended version”, Mark Watson trying to fill a massive auditorium and Obong – Akwa-Cross-River Dance Company which I’m billing as the replacement for last year’s Tom Tom Club.

Don’t worry; I’ll compile the results of a more thorough examination some time later on, for you UFN readers to see.

For now, the journey is to be enjoyed and a question mulled over – what is it exactly about the Edinburgh festival that has made it grown into the world’s largest arts festival? Is it perhaps the size, layout and geographical location of the city? Or the number of suitable and potential venues to facilitate rapid growth? Or even the mix of tourist attractions to help bums on seats? Whatever it is, the specialty of it all has got me coming back for another year and I know there’s nothing else to beat it.

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u.f.n. goes to edinburgh

As we head towards the end of the month where it is meant to be the peak of the summer, I can only hope it’s an Indian summer where it peaks next month instead, and a bit further north because that’s where I’ll be. As London gets too hot and sticky to be spending hours in black boxes with programmes for temporary fans, theatre land recesses to the far north in a place called Edinburgh. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it?

For those of you who have, but can’t make the journey due to other rubbish commitments, then rest assured that UFN will be providing some very insightful coverage. The best way to see the festival (any festival) is to work there and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. I actually head off tomorrow morning to get on with practically making the theatres from empty shells.

Because of my early involvement with the festival, I’ve decided that I’ll be covering the following:-

· the feel of the place before the festival

· the buzz when the performers start arriving and the dreaded technical rehearsals begin

· the all important previews to pick out the potential hits and misses

· the best rated shows to see

· good nights out and things to do other than the theatre

· where and how to spend some quiet time

At the moment that’s enough to be getting on with and more ideas will inevitably pop up as the festival commences. I hope that it can be insightful for anybody thinking of heading up and not sure what it’s going to be like and also for those who are missing out altogether.

If there’s anything you’d like me to blog that you haven’t seen or heard about, then drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.

Please digg me, del.icio.us me, reddit me, stumble me, add me to your roll and RSS feeds et al.

To put it plainly, Until Further Notice will be casting its thoughts on what the Edinburgh Festival should be about.

In the mean time, take a look at these views on the fringe box office ticket fiasco:-




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