Monday, 31 December 2012

Cheap as chips

A reminder that £8.80 (booking fee included) gets you a two-hour play, violence and surrealism included, in sunny Crouch End. Seth Jones' new play Clouds of Grey opening 27 January. Details here. How can you resist?

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Older Actress Wanted

The official announcement will be sometime in January, but provisional details for my next production, Californian Lives, are already online at arberyproductions.co.uk. It's an evening of one-actor plays in April - May at the well-known King's Head theatre in London. Two of the plays are already cast, but we're still looking for an older woman with a generic US accent for the last part. Auditions in mid-January. Small payment guaranteed. If you know anyone that might be interested, there are more details here.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Going Swimmingly

The Lido on a rare sunny day 
I live about 20 minutes walk from London Fields Lido where, two or three times a week, I swim 1,500 - 2,000 metres. (Yes, non-stop, in 30 - 40 minutes, which is reasonable for one my age.) The advantage of the walk is that I can learn my lines for Clouds of Grey. Which means that I have been walking along the road mumbling such memorable lines as "What the **** are you doing here?" and "Put Channel Four Racing On".

All is going well - even (groan) swimmingly. I  have most of the lines committed to memory (with a thank you to writer-director Seth Jones for allowing us leeway on the script, which gives us actohs the opportunity to develop the characters to suit our individual talents). The problem now is that to fully embed the lines, I need to say them in character at normal to loud volume. Uttering threats of violence at the top of my voice, even in a deserted street, will not win me many friends. Which means that as I stroll along the suburban streets, my voce is more sotto than forte. Well, never mind, rehearsals start in ten days time and then I will be able to shout and swear to my heart's content.

[For new readers: Clouds of Grey, a strange, testosterone-driven drama, is on at the Moors Theatre, London N8, from 27 Jan to 5 Feb. Advance tickets are on sale at £8.80 each, including booking fee, which, for a full-length two act play, is a deal that is unlikely to be heard of again. Book here.]

Meanwhile, looking further into the future, a contract has been signed for Californian Lives - a production of three of my one-person plays opening at a well-known venue in April. Details to come very soon.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Yule enjoy Christmas

Yule Log from trendytree.com
As an atheist, I don't do Christmas. Which means I don't go to church and sing carols. But that doesn't mean I'm not celebrating. The winter solstice is an excellent excuse to get together with friends* and indulge in food and wine - both sparkling and mulled. Throw in a few presents and some games and we're celebrating Yule, the traditional winter festival of northern Europeans. So, while the Other Half and I enjoy ourselves, I hope all my regular and occasional readers enjoy this holiday season.

* No, I haven't forgotten family - I'll be joining them at the beginning of the year.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Ensuring insurance

In addition to learning my lines for Clouds of Grey, mostly on my walk to and from the Lido, I've been negotiating with a well-known London venue to put on a production of three one-person plays next spring. All seemed well until last night, when I received the contract to sign. Problem. I need liability insurance in case any part of the production causes injury to anyone else. So, the contract goes unsigned while I get insurance. It turns out to be not that expensive, but it means having to sell another ten tickets to break even.

Meanwhile, back at Clouds of Grey, me an' Sergeant Banford are 'avin' a chat, which, coincidentally, involves another kind of insurance . . .

photo by Lauren Wright; with Barry Brosnan 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Not Hobbit-Forming

The Other Half and I live together comfortably, enjoying some cultural activities together and having very different tastes on others. (Do I want to spend half an hour a day checking up on celeb gossip in his homeland? No, thank you very much.) So when we sat through the two-and-a-half-hours of The Hobbit in 3D in Islington Vue on Monday evening, I spent half the time thinking "this is a load of manure" and wondering how I could express my opinion of the film without denting his appreciation of the tale.

But when the lights went up and I turned to him, I could see the disappointment writ as deeply in his face as it probably was in mine. After the grandeur of all three episodes of The Lord of the Rings, what we had just seen was a run-of-the-mill Hollywood movie where the computer-generated images, the restless camera and the repetitive violence could not disguise the hollowness and the cynicism that lay at the heart of this prequel.

The OH's first comment was the pointlessness of the 3D. I agreed. Unlike Avatar, where 3D was obviously integral to the conception of the film from the start, the third dimension in The Hobbit appeared to have been grafted on at the last minute. It seldom gave the film depth, either literally or figuratively, in the end detracting more from the story than it gave.

The main problem, however, lies much deeper - or rather, does not lie deeper, because this film has no depth. It has taken a simple children's story (The Hobbit, unlike The Lord of the Rings, was written for children, not adults) and, in order to make as much money as possible, has added on all the superficial trappings that make a Hollywood blockbuster - weak, clich├ęd characterisation, lots and lots of computer graphics, camera techniques that never allow the attention to focus on one individual or action for more than a second, fighting and running and fighting again - and which destroy the integrity and fail to pierce the depth of what could and should be a moving and epic story.

Peter Jackson had a choice. He could, in one 150 - 180 minute film with thoughtful characterisation, no unnecessary introductions (such as Galadriel, not in the original book) and fight sequences reduced to their original length, with CGI kept to a minimum instead of dominating the film, have made a movie that recreated and rivaled the splendour of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Instead of which he has produced a turkey for Christmas. But what does he care? His bank balance is healthy and that's much more important than the integrity of the story he has butchered.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

What's My Line?

I'm just about old enough to remember the last days of What's My Line, a television programme in the 1950s where someone came on and mimed their job and a panel of celebrities (yes, best beloved, they had celebrities back then) had twenty questions to work out what they did. (I'm probably confusing this game with Twenty Questions, another staple of the period, but that's not the point.)

If I were on What's My Line? today, my mime would be sitting in front of a computer and typing, occasionally getting up to make tea or coffee or filing or binning some papers about building repairs, Virginmedia pricing, special offers from Sainsbury and the like. Of course the panel would not guess my profession, unless they were unusually insightful or devious. Because the answer would be "I'm an actor" and when they asked me what typing or filing had to do with being an actor, the answer would be "I'm not typing or filing or making tea. What I'm actually doing is not learning lines."

And that is exactly what I have been doing for the last few days. Not learning lines. (Which means that the true answer to the question "What's My Line?" is "I haven't a clue", but, clever people as you are, you've already worked that out for yourselves.) I'm finally beginning to feel guilty about it. Not because I'm under any immediate pressure to know my lines - the first rehearsal isn't until 7th January - but because I'm aware that the sooner I know the words the sooner I will be able to get into the character. And that's the most important part of the job...

Ah well, perhaps tomorrow. Now, however, it's time to stop typing and go and make that tea...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Wright Crazy

photograph by Lauren Wright
Me as Steve Marks in the upcoming Clouds of Grey. Now I know what gives the Other Half nightmares . . .

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mug Shot

To the Moors Theatre last night for the publicity photos for Clouds of Grey. I had given writer / co-director / co-producer Seth my next, chest and waist size for the white shirt my character wears and he produced a garment that would have been ample for Arnold Schwarzenegger at his most pumped and which had room for both me and any passing homeless waif. Luckily the leather jacket disguised the size and allowed me to strike a variety of poses for photographer Lauren.

There were five of us on set: villains Andrew St Clair James and myself, police Warren Brooking and Barry Somebody (full name still not up on the website) and mysterious individual Phillip Piggott all striking appropriate poses. In my case that meant, among other things, toying with a (real) knife and telling photographer Lauren in graphic detail exactly how I would wield the weapon in her flesh. Which quickly brought that part of the photoshoot to a quick end.

In the meantime I had blotted my copybook by spilling a container of "Creme Puff Gay Whisper" make-up (I kid you not) all over the floor of the gents' toilet. I was using it to take the shine off my pate, and not, as bar-owner Andy possibly suspected, laying a trail to lure the drag queens in Crouch End into his establishment. Mind you, having never visited the bar in drinking hours, I might have been taking coals to Newcastle. And after resurrecting that old simile (if you're old enough to know how it arose, I'd keep quiet about it), I'll get back to learning my lines. Luckily for this aged brain, Steve has a limited vocabulary...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Murder Mystery

I've just read through the script for Clouds of Grey for the third time - and I still don't fully understand it. It's complicated and intriguing and not all the characters are who they seem to be. At least I now (think I) have answers to some of my early questions, such as exactly who dies? when? how?, but other uncertainties remain.

With luck I'll fully understand what is happening by the time the play opens. As for the audience, I can tell from the script that even if they are confused by the plot they'll be absorbed and intrigued by the production - and anyway, it's a reasonable bet that the average bum-on-seat will be brighter than me. Maybe one of them afterwards can explain things to me if I buy them a drink...

I'm not complaining. I like a bit of confusion and mystery in my plots, which makes me a sucker for David Lynch's work. I can watch Twin Peaks, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive repeatedly and not complain - even if I find myself wondering whether we have moved forward and backward in time, whether such a character has become someone else or is simply being portrayed by another player and whether I'm watching reality, a dream or something in between. (The only exception is Inland Empire, which disappeared so far up its own plot that I gave up on it about hour into the three-hour marathon.) So I'm looking forward to seeing how Clouds of Grey develops and how the various stories and characters come together - and that offer of an after-show drink remains.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Me and Vinnie Jones

Seth Jones, writer, director and, I begin to think, stage manager and all-round gofer for Clouds of Grey, has been in touch with the cast regarding our costumes for the photo shoot on Wednesday. My attire - and, I suspect, my character - are based on that scrotum-squeezing pride or pariah of the football field, Vinnie Jones. The same VJ, of course, who later appeared in several films, most notably in the Cockney caper Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

When up for the part of Steve Marks, your neighbourhood thug, I had imagined myself as Bob Hoskins, wearing a semi-stylish trench coat, perhaps topped by a trilby. Jonesy, however, has decided to dress Mr Marks in the leather jacket and white shirt as modelled by his namesake in the picture here - neither of which I own. And so our director is either going to rifle through his own wardrobe, or that of his flatmate / landlord / neighbour, or actually buy the items of clothing under discussion. I look forward to donning them on Wednesday.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Back - Not Yet On Track

A week ago I was in Edinburgh at the start of a weekend celebrating my 60th birthday. It seems that a fantastic time was had by all. I appreciate the effort that so many people made to travel to the Scottish capital at a time when most holidaymakers are heading south.

Now I'm back in London, but still catching up with thank you letters, emails, post and all the clutter that accumulates when you're away for even a few days. Which means that my posting on this blog and - more importantly - my learning lines for Clouds of Grey are behind schedule. By Monday, however, I should be back on track. Have a great weekend.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Party on

In Edinburgh with family and friends celebrating sixty years of life and (more or less) one year since I started acting (in The Players, a short film that has yet to see the light of cinema screen or youtube). Normal service will be resumed in about five days time...