Theatre days

December 29th
I had a truly bizarre night, last night, experiencing being being back in my early 20s when i worked in theatre. I felt as if i was reliving it again, living out of a suitcase, and going from theatre to theatre, working in stage management, working out how to create such things as edible dinosaur meat, or how to make falling leaves drop on a tapestry a nun was working on. For cyrano I got that right most nights. The clarity of my memory at 4.00 in the morning was extraordinary- all the adventures, and sights and sounds, and textures are still there, all the various adventures and boarding houses. it was an intense couple of years, and i was never not working, and i loved it all. animation gave me other thrills but nothing compares to working with a good team of actors, getting the show ready, and calling the cues, timing them right with the actors. i wonder what brought this highly detailed memory back….especially when i can’t always remember what i did yesterday.I was remembering doodles I casually made in the prompt copy, and all the music from various shows – actually the delibes Sylvia is playing in the background now, and we used that in the pitlochry Relatively speaking. I don’t think my memory is going but the sharpness of 43 years ago is rather amazing..

december 23rd

Where’s it gone, well I know exactly where it’s gone. The last few weeks were a whirlwind of activity with some pressure thrown in. we did the live action element of our short, and all went well really, but once again I realise that while things are not exactly a compromise, things do evolve. One little delay or alteration has a knock on effect. My films tend to be made of tight fitting jigsaw pieces, and if one is suddenly too big it sends the other pieces off kilter, so there was a lot of thinking on my feet, and looking as if I had all the answers. Well, I did, mostly. Along with the normal intense pressure of filming, throw in covid and things led me to being thoroughly exhausted. Christmas and Covid has put the brakes on the project at the moment, which is an odd feeling. I can’t lose momentum nor think that the filming was the climax of months of work. But it’s all going to look gorgeous, and moody, and raw – a very raw performance of ‘joe’. The crew were sensational and worked hard. the arrival of a dozen gorgeous extras on the last day opened up the intimate film a bit. I want to get playing with the edit now, but will have to wait.

Add to this the weekly radio show, and the possibility of a truly bizarre but exciting potential project in Russia next autumn and things are full on. rather enjoying the radio show. I’m hoping I don’t run out of suitably mellow tunes!

with a change of pace, I’ve been active in changing bulbs, getting a new phone, a new washing machine, and upgrading my very limp broadband. The technician didn’t know one could have such a low figure. My router belonged in a history museum.

Christmas though has defeated me, and usually at this time i should be in irerland. Not this year, which is very sad.

Hoping all of you have a comfortable time, and happy days ahead.

November 8th

Well, it’s out and official. Old chum and partner Glenn h and I finally making another film together, thanks to the generosity and belief of the british film institute. It has been a hard year working on this, being interrupted or at least slowed down by Covid, and still the shadow of that threatens us every day. But to be able to be making a film under these circumstances, especially a short 15 minute film is amazing. There are nine projects who have received funding and another six have received development funding. it’s an interesting film, a mix of live action and animation, so all my planning, well my timing to the frame, will be slightly redundant when i let the performers loose, but that’s exciting having to adapt. It’s a big short film, and i have crammed a lot in without making it too dense. You still won’t be able to blink without missing something though, and I make no apology for that. Watch this space. we start filming on the 7th december, pandemic willing. We have recorded the voices – not quite so straightforward though.
I seem to have come to an end of introducing and planning the films at the garrick, thanks to Covid and management changes. shame.
But i do now have a weekly radio show, playing very mellow classical music, opera, ragtime, ballet and plenty of surprises – the highlight of last week’s show was the last few minutes of Honnegger’s King David. Gorgeous. this is local radio alty, and a complete contrast to the shows either side of mine. Sunday nights at 9.00 Radio Alty. we had listeners from very far afield. Come and join us.


I had great fun on the local radio this morning……good to have two hours and hosts who have done their homework.

catching up

Well it has been extraordinary times and i lost the impetus to keep this going, but herer we are. I’ve been busy running screenings at the garrick Picturehouse. These are the films we’ve screened since July – Pennies from Heaven, Mary Poppins Returns,Far from the madding crowd, Six Degrees of separation, 42nd street, Aladdin, Kinky Boots, Missing Link, The king and I, Time bandits, Riverdance, The beauty and the beast, car Man, Cinema Paradiso, Dirty dancing, David copperfield, Jason and the argonauts, Theatre of blood, Love Never Dies and stan and Ollie, And this afternoon Babe, but no one has booked yet. The family matinees have been the least attended but the friday night sessions doing very well. The Riverdance screening was as good as sold out. People are still reluctant to come out but seem to have a great time, and enjoy the slide shows and introductions i give. It all takes a while to organise. This actually good be a full time job with all the booking and invoices, but I’ve enjoyed seeing some great classics on the big screen, in the dark with great sound and no interruptions. More in the audience would be appreciated but in the scheme of current things……
The family came back from new zealand six months after they headed for the wedding that wasn’t. Worse places to be stranded of course, but i imagine the last few weeks of ‘the flight’s on, get packed’ flight’s off’ was pretty stressful.
and our short film is certainly ready to go. Contracts are being processed slowly, and I am like a greyhound waiting in the slips, poised, ready to spring into action as soon as we get the official go ahead. Suddenly that will be a big gear change, and i will be a whirlwind of actvity. I am of course beyond grateful that in all this we are even talking about doing a short animated film.
No social stuff though i did manage a quick segway through delamere forest, a failed attempt to get out of an escape room, and a spectacular helicopter trip.
Lots of catching up with films and series, and i am unashamedly addicted to the Repair shop and now schitt’s creek.
Right off to the sunny land of Babe.

May 3rd I think

Well it continues to be the most extraordinary life changing period. How will it all end, and will things ever get back to what they were. I think the arts will be very different. People have been so creative with zoom, and all that works very well on the lap to, but watching regular tv shows and every one is in isolation on small screens is most peculiar. I’ve been busy writing, and watching high art and low art, and old classics, and things I never got round to watch. Everyone is doing lists of favourite things, which seems to cause much anxiety. Anxiety is certainly a familiar word at the moment. I’m trying to see if there is a service where I can read for the visually impaired, but haven’t found anything locally yet.
and nature carries on, greener and with bluer skies than ever, and animals running riot.

Four weeks in

Yep, four weeks into the lockdown, and everyone’s minds are all over the place. The glorious sunshine and the blue skies free of any vapour trails belie the disaster that is going on, rampaging with such devastating effect on everyone’s lives. I am lucky to have a garden, a cat, a lot of DVDs and packs of biscuits, but every day the motivation gets worn down a little bit. We all started out with such plans, but the novelty has worn off and the practicalities take over. Of course I should have been in new Zealand during this month, and that’s been hard with some of the family stranded there.
people are trying to be creative and the technology of Zoom has made people’s lives’ a little easier, but how will the creative industries ever recover from this. In general eyes, the arts are not important. Oh yes they are.

march 23rd 2020

So as it will have for you, wherever you are, it’s all gone horribly wrong, and at such a ferocious speed. It’s only a few weeks ago that we heard of the Coronavirus, and now here we are in lockdown, with empty shops, people fighting oddly for toilet paper, and now pubs, theatres, gyms open. It’s unbelievably frightening, and we really don’t know what’s going to happen next. we’ve all lost work, or had work stalled, and I guess we can use this time to be creative, but the difficulty is keeping the momentum going when the reality of things getting back to normal for months rather takes the wind out of one’s sails. The alternative, and this is all too easy, is just to give up and let the darkness take over. suddenly, the metaphor of my film Plume is pertinent. I don’t know how we are going to recover from all this. Every day we’ll be lying in bed that bit longer, fretting that much more. We must keep going, but how are all these small businesses and the arts going to recover. We have to recover.
I did use a spare afternoon yesterday to upload some jeeves and Wooster photos and some from Bronte. If we had lost jeeves and Wooster, I would have been heartbroken.

Much stuff

Had a meeting in London last week, a panel for funding for a short film. For all the experience and history, sat in front of a panel trying to pitch a short film is still a terrifying thing. and, to answer your question, I have no idea.
I also went into a university yesterday to discuss running a one morning a week animation course. I got on very well with the tutor and came away with a jar of the honey that she cultivates, but I suspect red tape and budgets might be an obstacle. I couldn’t recognise the university – the changes are enormous.
A few shows. The Garrick have done When the Rain Stops Falling this weeks – a marvellous, complex play that begins, or perhaps ends, with a fish falling out of an Australian sky and links four generations of family drama. An effectively spartan production with great performances and staging, and of course with it not being an Agatha Christie, or a TV sitcom, or an Ayckbourn, our audience have been very tentative. Go on, give it a chance. Then I went to Wuthering heights at the exchange, and perhaps the novel is just so twisted and bizarre and epic that it can’t be put on stage. This certainly did not work for me. I’m all for theatrical staging, but this show couldn’t make up its’ mind as to whether it was literal or abstract. It had Playschool typ blocks of green but sprouting grass, and then a realistic tree but with a neon sky. A mess I’m afraid, and sorry, but Cathy and Heathcliff just came across as noisily irritating. Everyone has their vision of Heathcliff and any actor is thus doomed, but tall, skinny and cockney is certainly a novel approach. And too much ‘movement’ going on. I’ve resisted mentioning our production of Bronte but we were consistent with our conventions and managed to be both the epic moors and the intimate Parsonage – and heck we were moving, so moving, and no heavy rock music. Music does not have to be period music of course, but screaming rock music and a gyrating but earnest lady guitar player was pretty awful.
And then there was The Invisible Man – I saw no mention of HGWells, but at least the central character was called Griffin. It was certainly an exciting film with lots of twists and turns, may one twist too many. I always liked the idea that to be invisible meant being naked and vulnerable, but here a suit was involved so that in one of the twists, someone else could wear it. Not quite the same as wells had in mind.
And tonight, a chum dancing Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake.
And soon New Zealand. My sister and her husband arrived safely today. I can breathe again.

Jeeves and Wooster

So jeeves and wooster have left the building, after being around for six months in my head. I must post photos but we are already yesterday’s news. It has been deemed a great success, with the audience, the critics, and the box office. There was much laughter and moments of giddiness. Once again I’m reminded that gag have to have a mathematic precision about them to work, and I’m happy that many of the gags that had the biggest laughs were the bits of business we had put in. it looked great and again I am pleased that the directorial decisions that I made, such as all staying in one costume, were successful. To have had the characters adding wigs and dresses as they changed characters in front of us would not have been as funny, and would have slowed down the necessary pace. My actors put so much energy into it, running a marathon essentially and then a big dance number at the end. The show was a joy for me, especially with the addition of the ukulele band, but I confess that soon after signing on, I saw a truly ghastly production that was so irritating, and I almost returned the script, fearing I simply could not make it work. but realising that yes it was about Jeeves and Wooster, but it was about theatre. I was worried that the Play that Goes wrong had gazumped us, but not actually. I think we had a sophisticated frantically paced comedy, and everyone was happy. Next – well, next up is something very different.