Monday, 25 June 2012

A Wee Break

Almost two weeks, to be precise. I'm in Scotland, visiting the family and celebrating the Other Half's birthday. Back in London on 7th July. Enjoy my absence and this old picture of Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens...

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Deja Vu

You're standing on stage, listening to a fellow actor, you hear the prompt, you say your line and suddenly you're thinking. I've been here before. A few minutes ago. In front of the same woman (or man), who said the same thing and I responded the same way. At the back of your mind (all this going on while you're watching and listening to the scene and waiting for the next moment that you're going to open your mouth), you tell yourself that you did indeed say the very same words 24 hours ago, and 48 hours and 72, but the more conscious part of your brain (which is buzzing away while your mouth is articulating your next line, a line which you are convinced you also said only a few minutes ago) is telling you that although it was 24 hours ago, it feels like that time off-stage never happened, it was a dream that compresses a day into a minute and in fact your life is now nothing more than standing on a stage repeating the same words again and again and again.

It doesn't happen every night, but there have been occasions during this run, which did not occur the two other times I have been in a production, when I have felt that I was on some kind of time-loop and that reality was no more than the doss-house room in which our characters circulated endlessly, the dark waiting area off stage and the dressing-room where we play musical chairs as thirteen of us try to sit on ten seats. It's not an unpleasant feeling, but it's weird and it is a reminder that our brains can sometimes trick us into believing that reality has somehow warped.

Anyway, whatever time-loop I'm in, I know it's coming to an end very soon. We have only tonight's and tomorrow's performance, after which I will be heading to Scotland for 12 days, where I will try both to have a holiday and to prepare for Loss (which as you all know by now, is the overall title for the four one-man plays I have written, including the one in which I am performing, next month). Throughout the run of The Lower Depths, audiences have been getting bigger, our performances have improved and I'm beginnning to suspect that I might have some kind of talent that it would be a shame to deprive the rest of the world of...

Enough convoluted prose for today. It's stopped raining and the Other Half and I may have enough time to go shopping before the downpours begin again....

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Not Fantastical

With friend Chris to the Blue Elephant Theatre last night - a location that seems to have slipped in quietly among the housing estates of Camberwell like an overweight TARDIS when no-one was looking - to see Justen Bennett's The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You. I was drawn there primarily by the participation of Ryan Wichert, whom I first met when he tolerated my many fluffs in the one scene we had together in As You Like It in January, and who impressed me then and since as a good actor with a strong stage presence. I was also intrigued by the idea of a play that was about a relationship yet was gender-neutral and which just happened to be performed by two men.

The good news was that Ryan's performance was excellent, as was fellow player Max Wilson's under the able direction of Justen Bennett. The bad news was that the play, written by the same Justen Bennett, was less than wonderful and ten minutes into the eighty minute run I was already losing interest.

What Bennett offers us is much less a portrait of a relationship - either in its current form or as it has developed - than a series of episodes in which the two cast members cavort around on the stage. All these episodes, with perhaps the exception of engaging the audience in a simulated orchestra, are well-written, well-played and often funny - such as Wilson's rapid drawings of underwater creatures to Wichert's manic commentary, or the slapstick the pair occasionally indulge in - but they seem to have been inserted for their own sake and not as illustrations of how and why these two individuals came together.

For most of the play, in fact, the fun takes over, until the author suddenly remembers that he is supposed to be writing a play about a relationship and he throws in a few minutes illustrating that fact. But these moments are shallow and unconnected and while we get a vague sense of the attraction and even love between the two, there is no exploration of their personalities, what brought them together, what keeps them together and what might tear them apart. In short, we were presented not with the three-dimensional picture of a couple in love, but a two-dimensional picture of affable clowns - Morecambe and Wise, or Vladimir and Estragon without the pathos.

Wichert and Wilson will definitely go far. Bennett obviously has the skills of a writer, but this play only hovers over the surface of people's lives; it's time for him to look underneath.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Things Never Run Smooth

There's a line in The Lower Depths, where Yegor the labourer says something along the lines of "no matter how well you think your life is going, at any moment it can fall apart..." My life hasn't fallen apart, but theatrically-speaking the last 48 hours have been bumpy. Firstly, the morning after all the publicity for Loss was completed and put online, one of the actors (Who Shall Remain Nameless) realised that he hadn't told the rest of us that he was no longer available on one of the dates. Which meant several hours rejigging the timetable, checking with the rest of the cast, redrafting the publicity and putting it back online. The silver lining to the situation was that we were behind schedule and had not yet sent out press publicity.

The other problem was yesterday's performance of Depths. For some reason, my mind was not on the play and I began badly, crashing Mark Forester-Evans's lines. I recovered and think I did well for the rest of the first act, but new blocking of a key scene in the second act threw me and I forgot prompts or lines in three places. Twice, after a brief pause, I recovered and Mark covered for me the third time, but I was annoyed with myself for my unprofessionalism. Luckily, friends who were in to watch the play (the ever suave Todd and the ever lovely Narinder) hardly noticed and said it didn't matter, and Mark and other actors accepted my apologies afterwards, but it was a mistake that shouldn't have happened in the first place.

This morning life is back to normal. The new Loss timetable is now online and I will start contacting the press this afternoon. Last night's cast get-together, fuelled by several cocktails each, went very well and left me with almost no hangover. Things seem to be on track, but Yegor's remark is still resonating at the back of my mind. Just when you think all is going well....

Friday, 15 June 2012

Loss: four new one-act plays

We have finally started to promote "Loss - four new one-act plays by Martin Foreman". They will be performed on 14th, 21st and 28th July at the Lord Stanley Theatre in Camden, London, as part of the 2012 Solo Festival of one-man / one-woman shows.

My four pieces all derive from short stories that were published in my collections A Sense of Loss and First and Fiftieth. Angel, which I perform, is about a priest forced to confront his faith and his sexuality. A Sense of Loss, with Chris Annus, tells the story of Death in Venice from Tadzio's point of view. Ben and Joe's, with Barry Clarke, tells of a group of men in a bar whose lives are changed when a young stranger comes in. Finally, Los Feliz, with Robin Holden, is about a man separated from his wife and child, who meets the woman who comes to mean everything to him.

We're all excited by this mini-season and believe that the plays will have a significant impact on audiences and - we hope - our careers. Two of the plays will be performed on Saturday 14th, all four on Saturday 21st, and three on Saturday 28th. Tickets range from £7 for one play to £20 for all four. Details of times, plus more information on the plays and the biographies of the actors, can be seen at and I will regularly update and promote the event on this blog.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Scots Wha Hae...*

Last night, the first of the second week, I imbued Luka with a much stronger Scottish accent than is my wont. The accent wavered a couple of times, but on the whole it gave the character more depth and most of the other actors seemed to appreciate it. It also resolved the contradiction I had always felt when Luka says "I'm no philosopher, just an educated peasant" - a phrase that sounds false in the tones of Morningside and Fettes.

Meanwhile, the pain of seeing myself on film has gone away, soothed by those who tell me all the best actohs dislike seeing themselves on the screen. Balm was also applied by the two friends and Other Half who came to the performance last night, none of whom are known for their tact but who appeared to enjoy themselves. The OH was of course critical, but underlying his negative comments was the genuine belief that I am improving and should continue. My thespian friend reminded me that my voice sometimes falls quieter than it should.

(That problem has marred this production from the start - the voice levels are all over the place, with some of us shouting as if we were in the West End and others whispering as if we were on intimate camera; it is a pity that neither actors nor directors have paid attention to the overall sound of the piece. I try to boost my own volume, which is naturally low, but do not always remember or succeed.)

So, another night tonight and another opportunity to show myself and the world what I can do. But before then I have to start learning the script of Angel, the one-man show that I am putting on in July. No rest for the wicked or stupid...

* "Members of the Caledonian tribe who have ..." the country's unofficial national anthem, which is, predictably, about fighting the English.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Film Two Depressing

Yesterday I spent 14 hours in the Clapham Grand - a faded music hall now used as night club and film set - as a supporting artist in a Paloma Faith music video. Interesting and boring in equal measure, not helped by concerns of a cough and sore throat.

Today I have the displeasure of seeing myself act in a video with extracts of the first night of The Lower Depths. I think my performance has improved since then, but it's distressing to see how amateurishly I play the part and it's seriously making me reconsider my decision to continue acting after my one-man play in July.

Judge for yourselves: I appear between 3.04 and 4.20 minutes:

Monday, 11 June 2012

Colour me what?

Regular readers - both of you - will see that I have changed the heading to this blog. My other half hates the colour. I'm not convinced it's the best but I didn't like any of the other shades I tried. If you can be bothered and have nothing more important to occupy your time, tell me what you think...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Gift Horse

I wasn't at my best last night. The energy was there, but a couple of times I fluffed lines and at one point I almost missed a cue. Not sure why, and not sure if the audience noticed. But I was cheered up, at least partly, by the first review that came in, which included the comment "I particularly liked Jacob Taee’s Vassily, played as a noble, romantic and emotionally needy thief (who looks much like the youthful Gorky) and Martin Foreman’s Luka, the old man/tramp, a monk-like spiritual figure whose questions prompt much of the action." [That's Jacob Taee (no, not a misprint) on the left, with Nicholas Kempsey as Satin the con-man.]

I know, I should leave it there. Never look a gift horse in the mouth in case you discover its teeth are rotting or you see a Greek soldier staring up at you... But before I accept praise, I like to know who it's coming from and how good their critical facilities are. I'm suspicious of any reviewer whose comments are either wholly positive or whose insights are not very deep. And this is the case here. The production is wonderful and so is the cast and that's about it.

Well, of course I'm going to quote this review to all and sundry in the hope it gets me more work. And maybe Steve Barfield, the reviewer, is right to spotlight me. So on the surface I am little more confident of my acting ability, but inside I still have the nagging doubt that my performance is no more than average to good. Come see for yourself to make your own decision - and meanwhile, you can judge the review for yourself at

Friday, 8 June 2012

Edinburgh Rules Apply

One theatrical story I have come across is that if the audience is smaller than the cast, then the performance can be canceled - except at the Edinburgh Fringe, where an audience of two, one or none is common but The Show Must Go On.

Whatever the custom or individual production decision, the thirteen of us performed for an audience of two last night. Overall the play went well, although my own performance was uneven. It's our own fault, I suppose; we've all been telling friends to come in the second week when the show will have bedded in, and there are plenty of bookings for next week. Well, let's see what happens tonight.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

As the saying goes...

... a poor dress rehearsal means a good first night.

Well, that was my experience yesterday. With original director Victor returned from the wilds of China, running around taking pictures as we went through the dress yesterday afternoon, I fluffed my lines and felt lost on stage. In the ninety minute break before the opening performance I ate dinner in semi-silence and as we got into positions before the (theoretical) curtain rose, I stared at the floor and withdrew into myself. I could feel my heart thumping, not as strongly as when I was younger and had to give a presentation at work but still more than was comfortable.

And then the cue came and I was on stage, suddenly relaxed and fully in my part. I spoke the few lines of my first appearance with confidence and clarity and came off to wait for my next entrance. Again I was tense, but my heart seemed to have quietened and all I needed to do was stand motionless with my eyes closed listening to the play. Back on again, and again the tension dissipated and again I was relaxed and in character. Off again, slight tension. On again, relaxed. By the time it came to my big scene I was fully at ease and for the rest of the play I enjoyed myself.

This was quite unlike my first appearance, in As You Like It, where I was always ill-at-ease on stage. On the other hand, it was similar to my roles in The Duchess of Malfi, but that play was easier because I had so few words. This, I hope, will continue to be the norm, both for this run and as I continue my career - that once I am on stage I am fully relaxed and in character.

To be fully in character, however, does not necessarily mean that the character is fully developed, and a note Victor gave me yesterday - that I should experiment with humming tunes from the hippie era, to go with my personality as an old hippie type - reminded me that there are always depths (forgive the allusion)  in a character that can and should be explored. I'm not convinced by the humming, but I'll give it a go - and let's see whether it works. (Nor does being fully in character automatically mean that the portrayal I'm giving is believable, but that's a question for another day.)

In the meantime, forgive me for reminding you that the show is open until 24th June and I'd appreciate any and all to come and to give serious comments on whether I should continue acting after the end of July, when my year's experiment theoretically comes to an end . . .

* picture by Victor Sobchak

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Third First Night

My third appearance on stage since taking up this career starts tonight at 7.30 in the Lord Stanley, Camden, with the first performance of The Lower Depths. The run (Wednesday to Sunday) is until 24th June.

Box office: 0796 659 7190
how to get there

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


The Lower Depths opens on Wednesday. Are we ready? Am I ready? The director seems happy with all but one scene of the production - a scene in which I'm only peripherally involved - but my honest answer to both questions would be no. When watching other actors, I keep spotting small issues that could be improved - a reaction here, a contrast in tone there and so on. As far as my acting is concerned... Well, almost every time we rehearse my performance improves but I am still only half way between the stage of putting on a mask (this is the action I do now, these are the words I speak) and inhabiting the character (I am Luka; the actor does not exist). In this inbetween state, I have no clue how I appear to others - is it Luka they see or is it an actor with limited talent? The truth, I hope, will come to me next week, when I am encouraging my friends to see the production - and equally encouraging them to be honest about my performance; I would far rather hear the truth that I am a terrible actor than be told the lie that my acting is wonderful.

Meanwhile, there was a reunion last night of many of us involved in the Greenwich Playhouse production of The Duchess of Malfi, at the Old Vic for the same play. Of course some of us were there to bitch - and did so with relish - but I tried, within the scope of my limited intellect, to be impartial. And so I came to the conclusion that set (by Soutra Gilmour) was magnificent and the first half absorbing, but there were as many faults as strengths to the production.

As Ferdinand, Harry Lloyd lacked edge; Eve Best was magnificent as the Duchess in the first half but almost indifferent to death in the second. Mark Bonnar as Bosola had personality, but his accent was so out-of-kilter with the rest of the cast, that I am beginning to wonder if some theatre and television actors are chosen primarily for their Scots pronunciation in the same way Hollywood casts villains with English accents. (There was a similar clash of cultures in Emperor and Galilean at the National Theatre last year.) Eleanor David as Julia was seriously  miscast or misdirected - this was not a sexy, sultry temptress twisting men around her slinky finger, but a shrieking shrew that would have sent any red-blooded heterosexual male running to avoid her by drowning himself in beer in the nearest bar.

There were other wasted opportunities - several times emotionally key lines were thrown away by the actors or uttered in the same monotones as the rest of their speech. And the death scene - well, let's blame Webster for that - was a mess in which the various bodies give dying speeches that drag on and on....

And so, back to The Lower Depths. Come all and sundry to critique our production in the same spirit of generosity as I have done here. Comments may be painful, but, equally important, but what does that matter if there are bums on seats?