july 29th 2018

Absolutely nothing to write about work, as there is absolutely nothing at the moment, and though there has been dazzling sunshine all these weeks, the shadows that being out of work causes are immense.
But we are four rehearsals into Playhouse Creatures and we are nearly at the end of act One. happily the ladies are nearly off the book and are giving it everything. It won’t be a calm evening, that’s for sure. among all the bluster I have to make sure there’s tenderness and beauty. My rather odd approach to the play seems to be working – well if we were on the big stage we could throw all manner of resources at this piece and an endless parade of costumes, but we are in the studio and can’t, so I am showing the mechanics of the pieces loud and proud. And it’s rather good so far. All of us are wishing that this was our real job, and that there was a fee. After Friday’s rehearsal we had a night on the turret. I had promised the blood moon and an appearance by the space station – the weather denied both, but it was a good bonding evening.

July 20th catch up

Well no real work means no culture or any such activities. Ironic, that I acknowledged by 40th years as animator and haven’t worked since. I’ve done a new showreel, and then cut together an animatic for an hour long project, a pet project, that I did the boards for twenty five years ago, and it is still rather splendid, though, not unnaturally, a few things could do with changing reflecting my own changes, and society, and technology. I did go to a gallery opening of wonderfully imposing landscapes by my chum Robert Watson – an evening tempered by getting a traffic fine for going in the bus lane. ha! And I start rehearsing Playhouse Creatures on sunday and we are all so excited about this. Busy, busy times, but now I have paid the tax from the good year of twirlies, that sound of emptiness is the sound of my bank balance.

NEW SHOWREEL

www.vimeo.com/279878529

Here’s a new showreel I have just done with Tim Owen – I will shortly do a long list of what clip is what, and any stories behind them. It was very hard to condense 40 years of animation into two minutes, but I like the images. Choosing the music was a bit of a nightmare….various other pieces had singing on, but that proved to be a little distracting.

The Chester Mystery Plays

July 7th Chester cathedral
These mystery Plays have a very special place in my heart, mainly because of Noye’s fludde, which has been with me since I was thirteen and to which I basically owe my love of the arts. Britten took the short play and expanded it into an hour of joy and emotion and so much more. I was in it at school in a production overseen by Britten as I remember. I was a gossip and got drowned too early. Before school, Amanda and I were in a nativity version at kindergarten, and it was always a source of resentment that, as the dove, she got two moments, and me as the raven, just one. How I remember the paper wings Ma made. Anyway, the Mystery plays in this production were epic but still very raw, with a cast of seemingly hundreds, all wearing beautifully hand dyed costumes. It was full of gorgeous theatrically convincing me once again that to be literal is the death of theatre. so many magnificent imagery here…..the massacre of the innocents took my breath away with the sheer powerful simplicity of its metaphor. Some wonderful passing on of the story moments, and yes the ark was tremendous, and the crucifixion brutal. I nearly committed an act of brutality on the woman who checked the football scores in front of me, during the crucifixion. Gorgeous music and great rousing songs. an overwhelming production with extra lighting provided by the sunshine streaming in through the stained glass windows. Wonderful – well, full of wonders. But heck I want to film Noye’s Fludde.

Everyone’s talking About Jamie

And with good reason,  I was aware of the cult following this show has but was a little wary of seeing another downtrodden individual or group rising to the top thanks to kinky boots, or doing the full monty, or a little voice turning out to have a big voice – there is a formula and it does work, but really I should not have been cautious about this production telling the story of the 16 year old lad from Sheffield who wanted to wear a dress to his Prom. What I liked was that in the story there were some obvious moments to have gone overboard – his first attempt at drag, or the arrival of Jamie in said Prom dress, but these were brilliantly side stepped and treated much more humanely. It was a hugely camp evening, with drag queens strutting round trying not to remind you of Gypsy, but essentially it was about relationships and prejudice, and yes there were tears, and oh my what exhaustingly superb performances. A fresh powerhouse that had you cheering and crying, and much more. Brilliant. Not all the down characters had their redemption. A witty moving evening.  sensational. still playing at the Novello (?) in London.

June 30th 2018

On a gloriously sunny evening it’s hard to be down, but heck, i’m worried that this is it. Have I made my last tv series or short film? My birthday is looming and I’ve been reflecting on the last year, which was pretty disastrous professionally and certainly financially and the only real satisfaction came from the unpaid stage production of Ladies in Lavender. That did bring a lot of satisfaction so I will cling on to that. I’ve not done as many talks or teaching as usual, and when a high profile festival on the other side of the world asks you to give a talk, well that’s great but now we are not having flights or hotels or even a fee paid. Thanks but no thanks.
With the back of the sofa now being rifled, I’ve not seen any shows or films this week, but I was itching to go an see the last performance, that is on now, of War Horse. I was in the building on Wednesday and was tempted to sneak in for the second half. Also in town has been the glorious Play that Goes Wrong, and Legally Blonde – oh hang on, I did see a show, and a special one, thanks to the kindness of a good friend. Another new theatre to me, the Chester storyhouse. their opening show was The Beggar’s Opera which I adore but I got nervous when i’d read that they had supplanted most of the music with a modern score. I missed that one and was nervous about A Little nIght Music. Here, it wasn’t the score that they had modernised but the costumes, but actually I didn’t mind at all. The costumes were much of the period in which the brilliant musical was written, about 1973, and rather drab, but it made the relationships very convincing and intimate, rather than about the distant rich and famous behaving badly. The piece is a masterpiece however you play it, and I love this new theatre. a real buzz and many different creative activities going on. I did write to the director but haven’t heard anything. Chester is also doing the Mystery Plays – hmm, I’m tempted but if there’s a twangy rock guitar, I’m out of there.

and yes the sunset is a magnificent colour tonight, but this is due to the devastating fires up on the moors just a few miles away.

War Horse and Crooners

June 23rd 2018

As the lack of prospects and the lack of funds throw me towards an abyss very soon, I need the escape that theatre provides. I have had to cancel a fair few tickets that I had booked in advance, and indeed, I had booked for War horse probably a year ago, and secured front row seats, but, heck, could I get anyone interested, and that was the whole point, to introduce someone new to Joey and Topthorne, but I was not to be, and I was ready to waste the tickets but gave them to a colleague and his daughter – a job well done, as they were both enraptured by the whole show. I got so excited at them seeing it that I couldn’t resist sneaking to a matinee…..not the seat I could have had but ok, and the schools parties nearly had me ready to be all sniffy, but full marks to the boy a few along from me who was in floods of tears in front of all his mates. I think this time, being by myself, I concentrated on every aspect of it, and boy does it deliver. we’ve lost some of the spectacle since the early days but it is simply a masterpiece of artifice, and demonstrates that element so few things can do,; something transcends the physical aspect of the actors and the bamboo puppets to move and to linger. Some real connection that you take away – you feel you have been inside the psyche of the characters and the horses and in the war. You have contributed to the story, surrendered to it, and it affects you. And it certainly did.

My next escape from reality was over to New brighton, that was suitably rather pleasant on a hot sunny day, with a theatre right on the sea. I was there to see a chum, Roman, in his piece, Crooners. I had tea with him and then saw the show, front row, and of course I became the butt of many a running joke, and most happy for that. But what a show, so many classic crooner songs, such as Beyond the sea, Mack the knife, Mister Bojangles, all done beautifully, but all laced with outrageous sassy humour. A very sexy show, and beautifully inventive with some inspired cheesy gags. I loved it and loved meeting the gents afterwards. Again, some joy lingered and I was lifted from the impending doom. I might just see them again to get my fix..

Greyhounds

This was a new play written by one of our Garrick members, Laura Crow, and put on as an independent production in our studio, and it is rather splendid. a group of disparate characters trying to put on the patriotic Henry V during World War II and finding that patriotism waning somewhat, with a second act detailing the fall out, a few years later, of a dreadful event. Funny, sad and very moving, with some killer lines. This is going up to Edinburgh, well just the Henry V act, so you can catch it there. I’m full of admiration for the group for forming a company and putting it on. I feel I have so many ideas at the moment, but if there was only the hint of the merest of fees, I know I would be able to focus, but so many people are dangling projects in front of me, but without a fee. A plain fact of life that a fee guarantees commitment and hard work, and respect. Please don’t give me the ‘when we make it you’ll get paid’, or’ it will look good on your CV’ nonsense, Most of the established jobs pages are tempting you with exciting projects, but no fee. This is simply disgraceful. And I have witnessed several times at first hand, examples of where lack of planning have led to huge wastes of money. Heck, it winds you up. But well done for this small company on writing, producing and earning a fee from this play. A great programme too and superb publicity.

Lost in the pacific

Well, I’m not making this one up, and I don’t know where to begin with it.  I’m not sure why I bothered to watch it, but here goes with the plot. A maiden flight of a supersonic passenger jet for select people. Lots of stares among the guests in the rather beautifully designed aircraft. A storm, they have to land on a tiny island (how?), which is over run with giant CG cats, and some of the crew are killed and two mercenaries hop on board as the plane is taking off. The plane is then hijacked to an aircraft carrier that is also overrun with bad CG cats, and then – oh for fecks sake, I gave up.