October 15th 2018
Just back from a great few days in sunny, clean Lodz, in Poland. a long journey there and back, but a lovely city and a great festival. I missed the first part which was a few days of pitching. It’s ages since I have actually pitched a film…not sure how I would get on these days, but I did three talks. One a retrospective, one a chat and screening about Twirlywoos (with polish voices), and the final one about what is animation, art, and other such larger questions. I chatted away for two hours, and still had much more to say. The audience of professionals seemed to enjoy it, and I think I made sense. But there was more to say. I had a great time chatting to lots of fellow animators, and it’s satisfying but frustrating to have the work so appreciated when the prospect of getting work is so bleak. even more frustrating for people to say ‘why don’t I do a feature film!’. I finally got to watch Isle of Dogs, and it is epic and remarkable and astonishing – cold and precise but astonishing. so beautiful. I did see some other good films – an equally epic labour of love, Laika. But this whole festival lark is odd, as it is hard work in terms of preparation, and being on show, and talking so much, and it does feel like a job, but sadly this is not our real life or our paying job. That is much bleaker. A quick unpack, and the pack again as it is venice tomorrow.
I just watched this brilliant movie from the 60’s last night. Burt Lancaster swimming through a series of pools in America, beign a catalyst for the people he meets to expose cracks in their relationships, whilst we piece together fragments of his own tragic life. He is a device through which we learn what the film maker wants to talk about – this is the theme of most of my talks at the moment. A glorious film, that is heartbreaking and surreal and unapologetically allegorical. A very brave film and a raw performance from Lancaster in nothing more than a pair of shorts. Watching it I thought it would actually make a rather good stage piece, enjoying the artifice of the story but being very moving.
I’m in the slightly odd position of not being able to rub two pennies together but I am off on my travels giving talks at various festivals and universities…if you are around at any of these places, please say hallo
Lodz, Poland – 11th – 14th October
Venice university C’ara Fosca (?) 16th – 18th October
A marionette theatre in Paris – 21st October
Edge hill University 23rd October
then I think I am doing something in China at the end of October and then Cuba last week of November. details to follow.
In this very challenging year my cultural trips have had to depend on the kindness of others (Karma, I hope that’s you), and thus earlier this week I found myself at the stage production of the TV sitcom Early doors. I only discovered the TV series by accident and loved it, but it never really screamed that it needed a stage version, but still the idea of seeing most of the original cast was enough to peak my interest. Ha, it was chuffing brilliant. A gloriously clever and detailed set – a complete pub and living quarters on stage. but gag after gag hit home, with so much laughter that the cast struggled at times. We were competing with some significant football matches and the cast cleverly found ways to keep themselves and the audience up to date – so much so that one actor totally forgot where we was in the scene- of course the audience roared its’ approval. It is a game, a play after all – all my talks this year have been about the awareness of the artifice. and this is all part of that. So all in all, this was an unexpectedly enjoyable, and moving evening, finishing with a very clever song that gave everyone a moment. This production is moving on to an arena tour which must be odd, as presumably they will have big screens, and hey we are back to watching it on TV.
Back to reality now – how ghastly, It really is.
The most frustrating day ever. I was expecting to be heading off on a big trip to the other side of the world, and was apprehensive and excited at the same time, but sudden silence seems to have squashed that one. I do like to know what’s happening, and with this I don’t. still I went to the bank to see if I could extend my overdraft, and after pleas to try to talk to a manager of sorts, all I got was an assistant tapping away on a computer asking such impossible questions as ‘what are you earning next year?’. The computer still said no. basically no human interaction or consideration was actually involved. Likewise I was filling in the form for Universal credit, and again there were boxes that I could not fill in or were not relevant. I was screaming at the computer that ‘my life is not like that’ no-one’s life is black and white, and there’s no chance to explain things. So frustrating. I looked at a job application at the local council and again was defeated by the jargon. I’ve wasted so much time on these forms today, all being a feat in themselves, but really it would be so much easier to actually talk to someone who could help in real terms. I felt sorry for the cluster of ladies in the bank who really all they do is point you to the computer. Heavens, the computer oes let us achieve many things, when we want to, but it’s made life colder. Sometimes a face and a voice that is able to reason would be so useful. All a bit humiliating, this out of work and no prospects and no money thing
Mischief Theatre company have certainly won me round, especially with their live shows that are now heading all round the world. It’s taken me a while to see this production, and I could only do it thanks to the generosity of my Playhouse Creatures cast. in a way it was almost too funny and too clever, as I didn’t find myself laughing out loud, mainly as I didn’t want to miss anything. such clever routines (ah, the magic number three in full force here), and stunning physical gags. An extended sequence with a folding out bed was joyous, as was the sudden change of perspective of the office. Split second timing and sheer bonkers gags. the play in the middle of this mayhem is surprisingly complex and thought through. All in all, an utter joy. I suspect it will be a long time before amateurs will get their hands on these shows. So much could go wrong. Full marks to an igneous set and great singing too. Gorgeous to look at. Just go.
The first play on the main stage at the Garrick, this season, and it certainly looked great, with dark and autumnal colours and a lot of books; very atmospheric and if the lighting was a bit too theatrical, changing dramatically for, well, dramatic moments, given the literal setting, and the music as a bit of a sledge hammer. it did deliver in the end. Act One was a bit of a slog with everyone talking in motive speeches, but act two had a twist to the usual formula. A few characters were unnecessary. I’m in two minds about Christie. I love the mechanics of the plots and the twisted motivations, but I always feel let down as the films and plays and books should not really be labelled as thrillers, as they don’t thrill, as in an exciting breathless way, but they do get you thinking – though, does she ever actually tell you or show you enough to work out whodunnit.
September 11th. I’d wanted to direct this play for many years – the sound of the first actresses on stage, performing some of their greatest hits, and talking about their struggles was right up my street. It took a couple of years to get it programmed, and then it was earlier in the year than usual, and this meant, I’m afraid, that I turned down a trip to Hiroshima and to Mexico. as you know the career as such is pretty rock bottom at the moment, and it’s not easy to travel half way round the world to be cheerful about one’s career. The chance of creativity, even if it was unpaid creativity won out. I really can’t exist without being creative. The further twist in the narrative was that we were to do the play in the studio, with just an audience of 49 each performance, and supposedly no resources. I set to work back in april, working out what the different locations were, and essentially there was backstage, onstage, and limbo – and they had to be very different, quite an achievement in an acting space barely 16 foot square, but I came up with the idea of curtains – not only economical but swift to change scenes. Onstage simply had to be a red curtain, and limbo the colour of the theatre curtains, blue. The backstage area would have a permanent neutral coloured curtain casually and artfully draped and covered with theatre bric a brac. This would use the whole stage when revealed, the blue would be two thirds, and the red just a third of an acting space. I was very happy to show the mechanics of all this, as the play is as much about the mechanics of theatre as it is about the women. But there needed something to pull this space together, and like in Tchaikovsky, I added a battered old gold frame – a proscenium I guess. And candle, and theatre detritus. and voila, a very versatile space, and even on the last performance, I was still thrilled to watch the cast get ready ‘backstage’ and charge forward with the curtains shutting behind them, and there we were transformed to onstage.Never underestimate the power of a good transformation scene.
But with about ten extracts from plays of the period performed as if on stage, that meant, if we were being literal, a lot of costumes. Heck to literal – we could not afford it, and it would slow down the pace to have the ladies change – so underwear and corsets and nice shoes were the basics, with a simple single element of fabric added to denote an onstage character. And this was mightily effective. Fabric, as with the curtains, became the theme. Cleopatra’s asp was simply a length of green fabric; the muses draped themselves in a fabric shawl, Lady Macbeth had red ribbons ( oh yes, the Purves favourite) for the blood. Five bentwood chairs, doubling as thrones and chaise longues, and the visual language was complete.
to be continued…….
Do have a look at this montage by Derek Stuart-Cole of the stills from our play….we had a great time, and I will go into detail about all this shortly.
well yes, guess what, no work to really talk about, and I lost a few days by simply just having had enough. Like a grande dame I retired to my bed and switched off – sometimes the struggle to keep motivated is too much.
No work, but I have been rehearsing Playhouse Creatures and we are shortly about to open with it. My world is upside down as for this production I have done so much homework, months of it, to get this right, and even if we are sold out for all six performances, we will only play to just less than 300. Hopefully that 300 will enjoy it, as it’s a mighty fine production, full of metaphor and tingly moments. The theatre is a bit in two minds as this studio space is meant to have no resources used. I’ve just here and given a big, but economic production in a small space. It looks gorgeous – my worry now is pulling at the technical stuff together in the short time we have left. it’s certainly a very different approach than those i’ve seen on the net. I can’t tell you how much satisfaction and frustration this set up gives me, but we are nearly there.
No culture at all, other than taking a few friends to see Crooners again. Getting to know these gents over the summer has given me much joy.