Cleo and Dick

well we had the Manchester Animation Festival last week, and being involved, and how, with the play I couldn’t really attend other than the awards. And truth to tell I felt a little uncomfortable as my contribution to the world of animation and Manchester animation has this year been insignificant. But the awards were slick, unlike the little hiccup we had last year. But great enthusiastic crowds, and it si comforting to know that, somehow, films are still being made. I’ve no idea how, but there they are. That’s a particularly pertinent thought this week as the Aardman lIp synch series was first broadcast thirty years ago. Whilst it was not exactly easy to make films then, there was certainly a possibility, and the commissioners listened to you, and helped you develop stuff. I’m still fond of Next, and I would so love to restore it. It still works as it did and certainly has not aged. Sadly, many of the crew have gone.
It’s all been full on at the Garrick with the production of Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick. We open on Monday and I think we are in good shape. it’s a good looking show – we just need a good audience. What I have done with the set is pretty bold. The stage is stripped right back with all the wing space on view. And what a huge space we have. Tonight we have the screening of 42nd street which I’m introducing. a packed house tonight, and we did pretty well for Romeo and Juliet ten days ago.
Am learning two speeches for the wedding in two weeks, where I am the best man.
Busy times – oh I did go up to UCLAN and had a rather quiet group of students, but hopefully they got something from the session.

November 9th

All over the place. I had a very brief trip back down to Falmouth which was great fun, but the travelling was less so. everything that could go wrong with the travelling did, and whilst I was rewarded with a lovely hotel, I was only in it for a few hours. but I do love Cornwall and this school – just getting there is a real pain. And a talk for a local grammar school, with a wonderful set of pupils who were there out of choice, and were very intelligent. Perhaps potty mouth purves should not have described Lady Macbeth as a bitch. A more in depth psychological description would have inevitably come to the same conclusion though.
I’ve done a couple of evenings filming as a corrupt judge for a music video. Well I went for it, encouraged by the director, and many lines were crossed. I wonder if a more controlled performance might have been more effective. We’ll see. So a corrupt judge and a baby eating grandfather earlier this year…….what image do I give off?
Nearly every day down at the Garrick, painting the set for the play about the carry On films, and other activities with my other hats on. So many hats, so much time.
I saw Mame at hope mIll. A lively precise production of not a great musical. Not too fond of the jerry Herman shows. But I did take a friend to see the Royal ballet, in the cinema at least, to see Enigma Variations and it was devastating. The Nimrod variation with its’ almost stillness whilst the orchestra was surging away is heartbreaking. I must remember that for my next class.
The Manchester Animation festival is lurking and I’ll only be there for the Awards do. i’m a bit apprehensive about this as I am so on the fringes of the animation world at the moment – though we did submit our short film script to the BFI this week. A long wait for the inevitable rejection for not being woke enough……I hate that word.

October 25th

I’ve been battling technology somewhat these last two weeks. My producer and I are writing a script, but between Celtx, Final draft, Word and PDF we’ve still not really managed to swap our ideas easily. Things are so overly complicated and don’t match formats.
After getting back from Poland I raced, well not raced as the journey took me five hours, down to the NFTS. Lovely to be back there and there are some exciting films in production, though they all seem to be shooting in airless cupboards. And I was at edge Hill the next day for a good informal session. Whether I burst in so full of energy and ideas, but students these days seem rather shy and quiet.
We’ve started rehearsing for the play about the Carry On’s and I’m designing, no surprises there, a none too conventional set, but it should be striking. I’m still waging a losing battle about set design. On our stage at the moment is a monumental but traditional set for a play, and it stands there resolutely making no comments about the play, nor being anything other than literal.
I was at a lovely wedding reception on Saturday and rather threw myself wholeheartedly into the country dancing – so much so that the caller asked me if I’d like to join their Jane Austen dance group. I’d love to but little time at the moment.
We had a good screening in the theatre of Lady Windermere’s fan – much pith and with and rather moving. we showed my G&S film which I guess is the most unloved of my films, but actually I will stand up for it. it certainly has a clever script.
And I did go and see The exorcist on stage. Again very literal and fragmented as a result, and woefully underpowered, but they managed the 360degree head spin which was hugely impressive.

Phew – that was a hectic few days

13th October
So I’ve been to Poland and back, to the Animarkt festival in Lodz (Wooodge), for three long days of workshops in an old restored power station, which was a truly bizarre and lovely setting. A great bunch of people, and my students had varied abilities, but some produced some startlingly good work. On the last day Mars attacks! was shown in my honour, and a cake to celebrate my 40th years as an animator, though I was not going to send the cake back and admit it’s near the end of my 41st now. Delicious cake. Mars attack – a movie marking the start of a new technology is certainly looking a little awkward now, and I’d not seen it for ages, but was surprised at just how many of my gags and ideas were still in the film. Such a shame, in one way, that stop motion was not involved in the end.
A bit of an epic and stressful journey home, and then straight in to presenting my Tchaikovsky film and Matthew bourne’s swan Lake at the Garrick – heck that’s a good double bill, though I say it myself. Swan Lake is simply a masterpiece and always will be. so rich, so sensual, such an achievement. I never tire of it, though the ‘opera house’ scene does go on for ages and the Prince gets sidelined there. He needs a rest. But what a piece. So many of my friends were very sniffy about this, and didn’t take the chance to see it.
I had another trip to the RSC to see measure for measure, which is not my favourite play, but heck this production was thrilling. The scenes between Aneglo and Isabella as the deal was plotted were simply breathtaking, with the audience gasping at the audacity and relevance. A great production – and very ‘woke’ (heck I hate that word. But every box was ticked.
I’d like to say this week will be quiet and I can concentrate on the script i’m writing for the BFI submission but heck no.

Shrews, Penguins and more

September finished in a bit of a mad rush. I’m writing away on a project to submit to the BFI – along with every other animator around. I’m getting frustrated as I could approach this subject in many different ways, and probably if truth be told it may be too big a subject for a short film, but then I managed to reduce The Iliad to an interesting chunk. Watch this space.
I’ve done quite a few talks to various senior based groups, and this week I meet a group of Ukelele players who might be able to join us for Jeeves and Wooster. Live music would make all the difference, and talking of live music I did go and see the Penguin café. I’ve lost count how many times I have seen the band live and after a hectic day at the Bolton film festival, I did nervously wonder if I was too familiar with them, but no, they thrilled, startled, surprised and moved me even more that usual. they had brilliant lighting here, taking us seemingly underwater. I will never tire of the penguins.
I am getting a little tired, no I’m not, but it’s so much the thing at the moment that plays have to reverse genders – we have a female King john, Macbeth and many more, and it really does not matter to me at all, but it is already a cliché – however in the RSC’s Taming of the shrew it made sense to play Petruchia as a women in search of a husband, and Katharine that doltish husband who was tamed. A gorgeous rich production.
I wish perhaps they’d swapped the genders for the Agatha Christie play I saw that was simply dull, but then can she ever work as a thriller. Nail biting it was billed, and nail biting it was not. Meet the characters, kill one, then spend hours pointing fingers at people, when there is no chance of working things out as we are not given enough information. well sit back and look at the frocks – sadly there’s not much drama in that.
and then finally we launched our atlrincham Garrick Picturehouse with everyone was Talking about Jamie, and they certainly were for day after. A great success. It is a magnificent show, and yes there were tears there.
Let’s have a bit of Penguin Café

21 st september

Yikes, two weeks to write and a rather epic two weeks.
I have to confess that the two weeks of constant performances of corrie slightly took it out of me. I loved being part of the show, and being reliable for the cast. I was backstage, pushing and shoving the endless trucks about. I loved finding emotion even in the opening of a door – a quick or slow door makes all the difference. I didn’t love the play and that wore me down each night. It was not so much a play but more a collection of famous scenes. Some of those scenes were brilliant and iconic, but each night I kept thinking of ways to have linked them as a satisfying whole. The audience enjoyed the show, but the audience was slim most nights. still I enjoyed being surrounded by a cast who really inhabit some of the roles. Heck, who am I kidding, I just love being backstage. The most natural place for me to be.
I did squeeze in a few talks during all this. One was to a group of ladies, fierce and fiery and friendly, called Tangent. I was only allowed 35 minutes which is tough for me. But I had fun watching the politics and dynamics of the group. Each lovely mature lady having a role to play and making sure they used that power. The other group was for the university of the Third age and this was a tour round the Garrick. As I had suspected they loved seeing all the wigs from corrie.
But then, unexpectedly, there was a very quick trip down to Cornwall and the Falmouth College. Such a gorgeous location and the weather was kind, sunny but bumpy on the plane. And I felt fired up, and I think I gave a darn fine talk, finding a good shape, throwing out pearls of sort of wisdom, and bits of emotional insight. We got to almost three hours and everyone was up for more. The only film of ours I showed was Tchaikovsky and again that had a great effect. the audience response to the whole talk was thrilling. And that night I sat on the harbour wall with, of course, a Cornish pasty.
A bit of culture with the film of Downton Abbey which was absurd and raced through big plots at the rate of knots, but insanely enjoyable. The next night was Rigoletto from Lake Constance at bregenz. A stage in a lake is an absurd concept on top of the absurd concept of an opera anyway, but add to this outrageously extravagant visuals, and slightly absurd visuals, and it makes for a very odd experience. Gilda singing Caron nome thirty foot up in the air in a hot air balloon, watching by a huge gurning puppet was certainly unique.
Quite a couple of weeks, and all this made for a lively conversation at the unemployment office.

7th september

this time last week I was a few rows from watching Stephen Fry in action – and what action. Every word, of millions of word, chosen so carefully, each progressing the thrilling narrative. And this week I am back stage at the Garrick’s production of Corrie, a very random, actually totally random, celebration of Coronation street – a list of famous scenes barely linked together. An enjoyable piece of fluff but a piece of fluff that takes about 35-40 of us to fluff it each performance. Sadly the audiences are thin, to say the least.
I also did a talk for the sale Waterside, and I rather enjoyed this one, on a roll about the device and storytelling and making every frame and every element count. With that I’ve been writing a short film to submit to the BFI in a month or so. I’ve probably chosen a subject that could support a feature, but hopefully this will work as 15 minutes, and there will be nothing like it. I hope the animation gods, would that be Prometheus, are looking down on us.
And I’m missing one performance of corrie as I am doing a talk for a group of senior ladies, and with supper to boot. The trick of this one is that I have only thirty minutes. Heck, that’s much more difficult.
It’s odd, sitting here, getting ready to do shows today – the whole day revolves around that, and though I am merely stage crew, I’m still going through my mental list, and tidying up anything that could be honed after last night. I know why we do all this – for a brief moment, we matter and have a purpose.
I have tried to keep up with the politics this week, but really, I have no idea what is happening. What a farce.


yikes – how could I forget that I actually had two days work, and two days rather fun if not a little extraordinary work. Along with Gripper, and two other in Birmingham, we were demonstrating a new stop motion app on the Note 10 phone in the O2 shop. The idea was to let customers customize a puppet with various accessories and we would animate a scene – animating blind as it happens, with no monitor or counter (all those modern luxuries) and a full speed with a shop full of giddy people – it being Pride as well. All the circumstances that are not perfect for animating but as it happens it was great fun. There were plenty of colourful characters using the shop as a respite, but I have a feeling that it was not just pride that got the various staff members loosened up over the two days. Having two animators around brought a bit of eccentric colour. I’d love to do more of this and was very grateful for the chance to do something so different.


The Lowry 30th -32st August 2019
So there is the marvelling at the nearly eight hours of spirited and herculean performance from Stephen Fry; and there are the greek myths themselves, and then there is the beloved company of those characters I have known all my life, but then there was something else. No one came out of these three epic events without having been transfigured in some respect; all of us came away having recognised, among the rogues and heroes and villains and victims and romances and challenges, aspects of ourselves, and we have been enriched, and transformed and nourished by this shared collective event. Humbling and inspirational. One man and a chair and good stories are more powerful than any literal representation.

Do not miss this staggering event over the next few weeks.

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