Posts Tagged ‘ Lights Up Productions ’

Midnight Strikes again


WMS 2013 flyer

Lightning may or may not strike twice, but midnight most certainly can. During the last two weeks of August, I revisited a show I first performed in during 2010, When Midnight Strikes. Although this production of the show was with the same company as the first (Lights Up Productions), there were many differences – only a few cast members were the same, it was performed in a different venue, and we put it together over an intensive nine days of rehearsals. For me, though, a key difference was that I was playing a different character. Quite a challenge, and quite a fascinating experience seeing the show from a different perspective.

Last time I did the show, I was worried about letting others and myself down because the role was so different to the sorts of things I usually do. This time, I was worried because the role was quite similar to my usual casting – a character who exists almost entirely for comic purposes, a function much needed in what is quite an emotional show. What worried me was knowing that the comedy needed to be funny, but my character, Edward, needed to remain real. It would be detrimental to the style of the show if he came across as a broad caricature, and given that I have played several parts recently where hamming it up was strongly encouraged, I didn’t want to give in to that temptation.

Edward is one of the outsiders at the party which the show follows. Although he was invited (unlike some of the eventual ‘guests’), he does not fit in, to the extent that even the host and hostess don’t really want to talk to him. He falls in love at first sight with another character, but is far too nervous to actually talk to her, and makes a number of social mistakes throughout the course of the evening. For me, to make him real, I had to live inside his world for the whole show and think whatever he was thinking, even if I was sitting on a chair at the back of the set. Whether he was trying to join a conversation, working out how to talk to his intended love, or wondering whether a shocking announcement was true, he was always thinking something. And although he sometimes put on a cheerful front (particularly once the alcohol had been flowing for a while), there was a profound sadness to him. He desperately wanted to fit in, but knew that he didn’t. Even when things began to go his way, in his/my mind, he couldn’t quite believe it was really happening. Most of these thoughts and feelings would have gone completely unnoticed by the audience, but they helped me a great deal.

Nine days of rehearsal was a tight schedule, but still allowed for plenty of character work alongside the technical necessities of working out who goes where and when everyone’s head should move in the ensemble numbers. We would often stop to work out what each character’s reaction to a particular moment was, and we were strongly encouraged to develop our own storylines when we weren’t directly involved with the action. As the show is set at a party, we were all on stage for much of it – what were we doing, thinking, feeling during those times when we weren’t talking or even when we weren’t aware of what was being said by other characters? The ensemble nature of the show meant that the 12 different personalities interacted in numerous (sometimes quite complex) ways, and exploring these was fascinating.

Our director and musical director were both very keen on details. There were times when we all had to breathe in a song, regardless of whether we needed to take in air. There were head movements that had to happen at exactly the same time. Certain props needed to move from one place to another at exactly the right moment. Good enough was not good enough – we were aiming higher than that. All of this (in addition to the individual details) helped bring the ensemble together as a true ensemble. By the time we arrived in the theatre, the whole team (actors, musicians, stage management etc) was a team. We were all doing this together and it was worth doing.

We know it was worth doing from the reaction we’ve had since. People really enjoyed the show, and fed back positively about everyone involved. There really wasn’t a weak link in the cast (if we’re honest, we all know that there usually is, and we always know who it was) and it is a privilege to have been involved with the production. We coped with some major challenges, both emotional and technical and put on a great piece of theatre. Personally, I know I made a far better Edward than Christopher (the role I played last time). There are still things I’d like to have done better, but this was definitely a productive use of two weeks of my annual leave. There aren’t many shows I feel the need to revisit, but I would happily have midnight strike a third time in my life.

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Related posts (about When Midnight Strikes, the first time around):

A show in a week?


Sometimes, it’s fun to scare yourself a little.  Roller-coasters.  New culinary sensations.  Whatever gets the adrenaline pumping.  So why not put on a show with one week of rehearsals?  That’s pretty much what Lights Up Productions have been up to.  It’s extraordinarily scary, but very exciting as well.

The show is I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, a comic exploration of dating, romance, marriage and every aspect of love.  The cast of eight portray dozens of characters as we move from first dates to meeting the parents, marriage, kids and beyond.  The main ingredient in the rehearsal room has been laughter, as we have dissolved into fits of giggles (and the occasional snort) on many occasions.  There are some serious bits as well, with some of the songs and sketches showing extraordinary honesty, particularly those which look at long-term relationships and at people coping with the loss of their loved ones.

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A week in the Tower – Day 6


So after two months of living and breathing All Shook Up, it finally had to end.  One last journey to the Tower Theatre, and two last shows.  One last day with Lights Up Productions and the several dozen people whose work made the show happen in so many ways.  It had been a hard couple of months, in terms of the number of hours of rehearsing and in terms of emotional stresses both connected to the show and otherwise.  I had tried hard to keep my personal life outside of my show life, and hopefully succeeded (on Day 2, though, being in the theatre made me miss Stuart immensely and I needed a good cry, but I saved it until the lunch break).  Dance routines had driven me literally to the point of tears when trying to get them right at home.  The tight jeans had almost given me nightmares.  One of the scenes did literally give me some very disturbing dreams.  But I had met, and re-met, some amazing, talented, dedicated people and we’d put together a show we enjoyed and which we were proud of.  Now it had to end.

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A week in the Tower – Day 5


Day 5 could have gone better for me.  An awful lot better.  During the afternoon, I read over my notes from the various run-throughs and performances over the last 10 days, and sang through ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ numerous times, as I know that’s the number I find most challenging vocally.  It stays very low and my character is supposed to be nervous while singing it, a combination which can mean that I descend into incomprehensibility if I don’t concentrate.

Notes were at five o’clock, preceded for unknown reasons by a game of catch that soon became violent.  Much laughter was shared by the company, and I proved that I have no sense of aim whatsoever.  I know people who hate notes during a run, but the whole point of them is to make sure that the show gets better and better, as there’s always room for improvement.  They can also be encouraging – if someone does something particularly good, that will be picked up on and praised.  As long as everyone involved knows that the purpose is notes is for good and not for ill, then all is well – I certainly have had many notes over the years which improved my performance, generally suggesting things I’d never have thought of myself or catching errors or problems I hadn’t noticed.

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A week in the Tower – Day 4


Day 4 in Folkestone’s Tower Theatre began a little late, as traffic was seriously snarled up around Canterbury.  But once we were all gathered, we began with notes – what went wrong and what went right on All Shook Up‘s opening night.  There were many positives, and also several scenes that needed attention, largely the complicated scenes at the end of each act.  So we sorted out our props and costumes in leisurely fashion while each of these scenes was worked on the stage, sometimes with the intention of increasing the pace, sometimes to make the story clearer and once, for me, because I wasn’t milking a joke enough.  We spent some time rehearsing some gasps of astonishment and also ran the curtain call several more times as we’d experienced some traffic problems with this on the opening night.

Unlike the previous day, backstage talk was varied and unpredictable.  The bat had figured prominently in conversations leading up to the opening night, but since it hadn’t made an appearance, we mostly assumed it had moved on elsewhere.  A second bat-free night seems to have confirmed this theory.  This takes away a level of unpredictability and excitement from the experience, but it does make it more likely that the audience will pay attention to us rather than to the wildlife.

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A week in the Tower – Day 3


So, opening night.  The moment of truth.  That was the end point of Day 3.  First, though, we had a day in the Tower to get through.  Starting once again at the top of the show, we ran through in costume, stopping to deal with technical issues (mostly scene changes, tightening up the choreography of the arrival and departure of the tables, chairs, statues and so on) and to fix some scenes that hadn’t been working as well as they should.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to work on my insanely quick costume change, but we did stop to work on a moment which had been causing significant anxiety for a while – a kiss between myself and another character.  It had been stressing both of us out, but the moment was reblocked to make more sense in context.  A weight off everyone’s mind, I think.

After our lunch break, which happened a few scenes into our work, the cast sorted out the curtain call in the theatre foyer while the crew finished off some more tasks on stage – getting some scenery items up into the flies, fixing flats and so on.  Throughout the day, they were busy with finishing touches on paint jobs and securing the last few props we needed.  Hard-working doesn’t even begin to describe the crew and technical team for this show!

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A week in the Tower – Day 2


Day 2 in the Tower was both encouraging and dispiriting.  We have a great show on our hands.  But I have a *lot* of work still to do, with less than 24 hours before the opening (sold out!) performance begins.

Most of the day was spent staggering through the show, working largely on set changes and on spacing in some of the dance routines that hadn’t been covered the previous day.  During act one, the set changes come thick and fast, requiring each and every member of both cast and crew to have their heads well and truly screwed on.  Careful choreography was required for getting our various props and set pieces on and off in time and each change was rehearsed over and over again.  My main responsibilities in terms of set changes have turned out to be some oil drums and a round table, but I also get to spend some quality time with a bar stool, a bus stop sign and a statue of the goddess Venus.

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