Thursday, 25 July 2013

And the nominations for Best Actor are . . .

. . . Anna Cooper, Aidan Crowley, Penelope Day, Juliette Dean, Vickie Holden, Marianna Nikologianni, Christopher Peacock, Stephanie Seadatan, Paula Valluerca, Martin Wimbush.

I hope you noticed Christopher Peacock in that list. We're talking nominations for Best Actor at the Solo Festival, not the Oscars (not this year, at least), but I'm still immensely proud of Chris's achievement and pleased to see that others have recognised his skill. He's up against some strong contenders and he may not win, but this is certainly a feather in his metaphorical hat, and another reason for other venues to take on Tadzio Speaks . . . 

Meantime, I am off to the OSO Arts Centre in Barnes this afternoon to discuss publicity for the September production of Californian Lives. And other projects are backing up on my mental in-tray, including a commission to write a monologue for a friend who wants to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe next year, and the likelihood that I will be taking other works there as well. Not content with losing money in 2013, it seems that I want to repeat the experience in 2014 . . .

Monday, 22 July 2013

The rest is silence . . .

. . . but not eternal silence, we hope. Tadzio Speaks . . . had its last performance last night and once-young voice will not be heard for some time. We are, however, already thinking of at least one revival over the next twelve months and three venues have come to mind. Give me a week or two's break and I will see whom I can persuade to host this simple, yet deeply moving piece. In the meantime, there is cake to enjoy...

There is no denying that the run has been a success. After the predictably shaky start, Christopher Peacock got into his stride by the third performance and was rewarded with a good (and our only) review. Audiences grew each performance, and the applause grew in proportion. On the last night, I blushed for the first time in several decades while Chris sang my praises from the stage at the end of the play. Alice de Sousa and Bruce Jamieson, of the now defunct Greenwich Playhouse (who gave me my first big break as an actor eighteen months ago) were also there and similarly complimentary - and in the course of the run other actors and producers have been far more positive about the play than politeness or friendship would demand.

So, I'm feeling pleased with myself. In the last six months I have put on two critically - although not financially - successful productions. I have proved myself as a writer - at least of monologues - and as a director. Ok, that last claim is over the top, but I've learned enough from the experience to be fully confident of taking on the task again. There are several possibilities milling around in my mind - another male monologue that a friend would like to commission, some female monologues and a full-length play. Give me a couple of weeks break and I will turn my attention to them.  In the meantime, it's back to the rare book business, which is beginning to pay some rewards. All I need now is for the plumbers to finish renovating the bathroom, so I can shower in solitude and comfort instead of at the kitchen sink or nearest swimming-pool, and life will be almost perfect . . .  

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Californian Lives Again!

Yup, those of you unfamiliar with this blog will probably take a second or two to decide whether "Lives" should be pronounced ai - as in one life or two - or ih - as in living la vida loca. No matter. The point I am making is that my second theatrical venture, Californian Lives is returning to the stage in September after its critically successful run at the King's Head in April and May this year.

The new venue is the OSO Arts Centre in Barnes, south-west London. We have a five-night run there starting on Tuesday 17th September and I am, of course, pleased. (I might even say excited, but I don't really do excitement, or if I catch myself doing it I stop immediately and hope that nobody noticed.) Pleased partly as the playwright - more people are going to see my work, brought to life by a fantastic cast. And pleased as the producer - the run won't recoup the large loss I incurred at the King's Head, but even a small audience will make money for all five of us (the fifth being director Emma King-Farlow) involved in the production.

In the meantime, Tadzio Speaks . . . at the Lord Stanley goes from strength to strength. Not in terms of audience numbers, but in Christopher Peacock's performance. I had only seen him on stage twice before - as the Ghost and the Player King in Hamlet and as Canon Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest. His style was eminently suitable to these roles, with his aristocratic air and portentous manner of speaking - a style that I suspect is partly inherent, partly a result of training and partly the heritage of years as a reporter speaking directly to camera.

But that style isn't Tadzio. So much of the rehearsal was spent breaking down that shell and making him speak as naturally as he does when off stage. If I were not a rationalist, I might say that the transformation has been miraculous; the reality is
that he has risen to the challenge and he brings to the part the full range of emotions that the play demands.

Audiences have been appreciative. Family and friends have of course said how wonderful he is, but probing beneath these comments and listening to others who have less of an emotional investment in the play, it is nevertheless clear that Christopher Peacock is bringing to life an individual whose voice deserves to be heard. And with every performance I watch (I have to; I'm also the lighting technician) I see his portrayal strengthen.

Meanwhile, as a nearly novice director (let's draw a veil over my juvenile effort many years ago) I have also been learning. There are still weaknesses in the direction - weaknesses which one fellow-director pointed out with near-glee; these are being gradually ironed out and by the time we reach our second run (wood crossed, fingers touched) should be completely eliminated. My initial lighting was too ambitious and distracting; it's now much simpler and therefore more effective. After a year or so onstage and in front of the camera, I know that my strength lies far more behind the scenes.

We're not sure where Tadzio will appear next. We have some leads that we are following up thanks to theatrical types who have seen the play and loved it. But if you haven't seen the production and are intrigued by the idea, watch this space or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @TadzioSpeaks.