Agatha Christie’s Verdict

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.

More Playhouse Creatures

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…….

August 25th 2018

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.

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.