Posts Tagged ‘ performing ’

Flashforward


In just a few days time I sally forth on to stage once more, for the heady mix of Cole Porter, Shakespeare and general silliness which is Kiss Me, Kate.  This has been a rehearsal period which I will look back on with distinctly mixed feelings, as I have been involved with a number of major headaches both as part of the general run of things and as a member of the Society’s committee.  On the positive side, though, I have got to know some great new people, and got to know other people better, often greatly increasing my opinion of them as people and performers.  As I now pause before launching in to a hectic week in the theatre, I thought I’d take a step back and think about the things I’m looking forward to, in both a positive and a negative sense, over the next seven days.

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What’s my motivation?


Generally, it’ll be the most pretentious person in the company who ends up uttering the immortal query ‘But what’s my motivation?’ when asked to move to the side of the stage, sit down or stand in a particular place in a grouping.  Generally the answer should be ‘because I said so’, or ‘because if you stay there, you’ll be in Fred’s way when he comes in’, but many directors will give in and supply a motivation, generally very spurious.  Personally, if I have to do something that doesn’t make all that much sense, I’ll just go with it unless I really, really think that my character wouldn’t do it.  Come up with any old reason, or at least make it look as though you (both actor and character) know why you’re now standing behind the chair, and everything will generally be fine.  There are more important things to worry about, and I have found that if the reason for your character’s actions is at all significant, you’ll already know what it is.

But that’s not the focus of this particular bit of rambling, which is about a different sort of motivation.  Recently I have been wondering what my motivation is for performing in the first place.  Continue reading

Singing Librarian flashback: Tosca tantrums


Readers beware.  This is not a happy tale of backstage life, but rather a cautionary tale that I remember every time I am tempted to have a prima donna moment or act like a divo.

Summer 2001.  The Gulbenkian TheatreTosca.  This was one of the summer operas for the University of Kent with a combined professional and amateur cast, where I sang in the chorus.  In this one, I also had a significant ‘silent role’ as a soldier, but perhaps more on that another time.  As part of the project’s mission was to take a fresh look at each opera (always performed in English), the action was moved from occupied Italy during the Napoleonic era to occupied France during the early 1940s, which mostly made very good sense.  One notable change that is significant to this flashback is that the shepherd boy who sings a little ditty to open act three became instead a lost young woman in a holding camp, one of many about to take the train journeys we know so well from that period.

As act three opened, it was snowing on stage.  Continue reading

Singing Librarian flashback: Preparation Fugue


My second flashback is cheating in some ways, as it’s to an aspect of my most recent show, and I have already discussed it, as it was happening, on an h2g2 discussion thread.  But I think it might be an interesting insight into the joys and woes that go into making the near-impossible seem effortless.

Spring 2006.  The Marlowe Theatre.  Me and My Girl. I played the Hon. Gerald Bolingbroke, an upper-class twit and one of the principal roles.  This involved a number of marvellous costumes and a couple of essential props – a monocle, and an engagement ring.  The poor fool spends most of the show trying to persuade a perfectly awful woman to marry him, so the ring made several appearances, and the monocle had to be worn with all of the costumes, being secreted away in a range of waistcoat or shirt pockets.  Learning how to use a monocle was an entertaining struggle in itself, but I mention it as an aside because it’s vaguely relevant to the scene in question.

The scene is the last one in the first act, the preparation for a grand party (which will soon be interrupted by the famous Lambeth Walk), and the beginning of the scene made us all break out in a cold sweat every time it approached.  The Preparation Fugue.  Continue reading

Messing around


In my post a few days ago about my experiences as a cast member of Die Fledermaus (goodness me, that sounds pretentious!), I mentioned the silliness which we got up to behind the scenes during Act One.  Silliness is often an important, or at least prominent, part of the rehearsal and performance process, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression on this.  There are definitely limits, and when it comes to these limits, I am a bit of an ogre.

Under no circumstances should you do anything to jeopardise any aspect of the show.

Never ever.  Not even a little bit.  Backstage pranks are good.  Enjoying yourself on stage is good.  You do need to do something to pass the time when you’re not on stage.  But this should never affect your performance or the performance of anyone else.  The audience has paid good money to see the show, and (unless it’s a pantomime), they don’t want to see people trying to make each other laugh, or inappropriate comedy props appearing on the stage.  ‘In jokes’ mean nothing to the paying punters and often aren’t even funny to those in the know.

Let me give you an example.  A real one.  Continue reading

Born to play the role?


I’m very lucky.  In my theatrical ‘career’ so far, I have played four principal roles and two of them were so brilliantly suited to my abilities that it was almost unbelievable.  Herr Schultz in Cabaret was admittedly some fifty years older than me when I played him, but it was in a school production, so questions of age were irrelevant.  However, his mixture of quiet joy and pathos, combined with his characterful songs, made him a perfect match for me.  Gerald in Me and My Girl was just ridiculously right, as well.  Everything from the ridiculous accent and the old-fashioned singing style through to his complete ignorance of his own ludicrosity was so ‘me’.  I slipped into the role like a glove.  Not that it wasn’t hard work, it most certainly was, but it was all so right.

The trouble is, there aren’t many perfect roles for each performer, and I’ve already used two up before the age of 30.  And if I really was born to play Gerald Bolingbroke, as some people said, does that mean I’ve peaked, and it’s all downhill from here?  I certainly hope not.  But the idea does make me think – what roles would I like to play, and what roles am I ideally suited for?  Continue reading

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