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.

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