And so, over the course of 25 years, I have been involved in three versions of Rigoletto; the animated half oper version, the play Quartet, and finally the full scale opera live on stage. Unless a ballet version comes along (or the musical, as Elton John certainly tackled another Verdi opera, Aida), I might leave it at that. I wonder if anyone else can claim such a diverse friendship with the masterpiece. This last incarnation has certainly been the hardest, and doing, in effect, four performances over four nights, drained us all, and is unheard of. But eighteen months ago we suggested Rigoletto, and here we all are much richer, and much drained by it, but we succeeded in our aim of introducing opera to new people, with an accessible and theatrically dynamic production. Yes, we succeeded there. We could have had more in the audience, but I think I solved all the staging problems and made something that was dark, and disturbing and entertaining, and unique to us and our venue. Moving inot the theatre at 9.00 and putting everything up and lit, ready for a tech run at.00 and the a full dress run at 7.30 was a day that took it’s toll on me for the rest of the week, but the theatre, under myg uidance, managed to produce some gorgeous Renaissance lighting, and it really was a beautiful looking piece, with all my colour schemes and compositions working. and heck it was moving. But perhaps time now to say goodbye and thank you to Rigoletto and his debauched friends. There will be photos.
Well I suspect I might blow my own trumpet a bit here, as I think I got this production right, and it was a rather special event. And it was an event, even if it was not well supported – that’s not a reflection on the spectacular cast nor production team.
The first thing about reading the play was how complex it was and how many different locations were required – a more literal director and designer than me would have made The Parsonage and elsewhere and the production would have been several hours longer. but I knew this production could not be literal, and had to have pace and drama. I needed a space that was both claustrophobic, but could also suggest the wide open moors, and also the world of the books. Finding that, and I will post photos in due course, was the first step, then I made a decision not to have any furniture otherwise it would be in danger of turning into a busy day at Pickfords. No furniture led me to concentrate every prop every action around the books and the papers, and that became the theme. after the tsunami of paper falling at the start, the cast were free to grab any paper to hand and have it become what we wanted – and gosh the cast ran with that. Books were kicked, eaten, torn, caressed, and more besides – anything to help express their thought process. we were lucky to have a new projector, and with some epic stills of clouds from Peter, my brother in law, we went from dark candlelit parsonage to the open moors instantly. I can’t abide laborious scene changes – I loved transformations, but they need to be seamless and choreographed. A simple illusion of Emily’s second book being burnt caused gasps every night – I guess the audience did not expect the paper to soar upwards, thanks to a couple of hidden wind machines. I think too we got the passion right about this, and managed to balance some joyous moments with deep, deep tragedy. The lighting was gorgeous and yes we had Nero the hawk, circling the auditorium. we just needed a bigger audience. All of us has reason to be very proud of this professional, theatrical and heartbreaking performance. Comments saying this was the best production at this theatre or better than anything at the exchange are lovely, but I wish they would give me, or all of us, some brownie points, and some credibility. They did help me in my application for assistant director at the storyhouse in chester on a production of Little Shop of Horrors. hang on – a local director who can cope with both puppets and actors. Well not even an interview, which is a bit tough. But we are still smiling after Bronte, and best of all, not the five star reviews, but more that we all loved learning about the family and all are so enriched after this experience.
I will write about this whole experience as it has been pretty amazing, but for now look at our three rather excellent reviews
Heck, that’s a good few weeks since I logged in an I’d like to pretend it’s because I have been working hard – well, I have but all on unpaid projects, ad on these I am spending more time than a daily job. The amount of effort I have put in to our production of Bronte has been extraordinary. Tonight the cast are let loos onto my set, which I hope they will find to be liberating. And what a good cast they are, and they are exactly as I imagined the Brontes to be. We did go over to Haworth, for a splendid da, and I not only came away more informed and moved but I came away with a splendid tweed jacket. I think the show is going to be rather exciting, but we could do with selling more tickets. I’m also working on the stage production but the traditional working methods of amateur opera is almost defeating me. I’d rather a strong intense short bursts, where the production becomes an event. here rehearsals are a week apart and it is hard to maintain and remember everything. But oh my they can sing.
So there’s not much work around up here at all. I’ve done a couple of days teaching in Preston and Cardiff, and did a voice over for a student film, but long term it’s rather bleak for us all.
Our last series, Moon and me, is now on air and is soothing children everywhere.
And culture wise, well I saw People at the Garrick, with its controversial porn in a stately home scene, and I saw an adult circus where the hideously behaved audience drove me away at the interval, and I saw the stage version of twirlywoos which managed t get all the signature moments in with some invention.
And hat was February.
Well all very quiet on the animation front, but the series that I was involved with last year, Moon and Me, is now airing on Cbeebies, and looks absolutely beautiful, and the technology behind it all is astonishing. Without giving away too much, moon Baby and the other characters were physically separated by the atlantic ocean, and a lot of green screen was involved. That that isn’t noticed is testament to a lot of hard work. For a series about bedtime stories I think the gentle, very gentle pacing will rock youngsters to sleep quite easily.
I had a week at BAU in Barcelona, with sixteen would be animation students, and I enjoyed this group. everyone a different nationality but all more or less speaking English, and all there for very different reasons. i’d like more time with them, and I’d like them not to have to share a work station, as really, you can’t work in cramped spaces together. We all went out for something to eat, and suddenly the games I used to play all the time came back and much hilarity ensued.
I had an anxious journey home, not just for the weather but for a meeting I had to be at. fortunately I made it and hopefully seeds were planted.
Rehearsals for Bronte have started and i’m happy to be back in the theatre with all the resources we have, and a great cast, with a substantial complex and very moving play. I’m enjoying this, and struggling a bit with the rehearsals of Rigoletto as we’ve not had a full company yet – that does make blocking a scene hugely difficult.
I saw the magnificent and clever The Producers at the royal exchange, and the Garrick did a great production of A murder has been arranged, which is probably the clumsiest and silliest play ever written.
And a happy new year to you all…..an odd year so far, but things are quietly bubbling away. I’m not not busy, with my stage productions of Rigoletto and Bronte keeping my mind busy, if not keeping the bank manager happy. Both projects are stripped back and at their most basics, and both have challenges – Rigoletto is about the logistics of bring the cast together. I have no shortage of ideas about the production. and the Bronte challenge is make a complex, often harrowing play satisfying and ‘entertaining’. and imaginative. I’ve certainly seen two amazing productions this year, that define the word imaginative. I took a friend to the Royal exchange, to see The Producers. Traditionally that is a spectacular piece with set upon set and a cast of thousands. The space of the Royal exchange does not allow that but it does allow a leggy showgirl or boy’s foot to be kicked inches from your face, and to see every sequin and every feather. The necessary physical limits imposed by that space often force them to be more creative, and boy did they rise to that challenge. Yes we got a clever stage filling revolving swastika, but not as expected. many surprise after surprise. My friend was giddy, which of course made me giddy. he is at the top of his performing career, and this new space thrilled him. and yesterday I went with just the right friend to Company in London, and boy did we appreciate the new approach to an old favourite, and it is an old favourite. The much discussed gender changes didn’t really occur to me when watching as it all seemed so right, but it was the big budget, big imagination production that thrilled me…moving from a gorgeously lit empty space and Bobbie standing there in a dazzling red dress, to the most beautifully watery lit stage filling series of neon lit rooms, with choreographic staging that echoed my favourite animated film, Tango – all changing seamlessly in an instant.Witty direction, and so sophisticated. this was classy, intelligent theatre, and an approach I know I am capable of, but first you need people to turn up to rehearsal. Enough said. You also need people to pay you for work done – that’s been the other big battle of the year, and it has taken so much effort, and I’m still owed so much. Red tape – for feck’s sake!
Our Christmas was rather glorious, especially for being slightly ahead of Christmas, due to choreographing the movements of our truly gorgeous new addition to the family, my great niece, Esme. We all agreed being calm and sated whilst everyone else was running round crazily was the way to do it.
I have spent most of my energies chasing up monies owing, and getting nowhere, and universities and councils are now shut for a lengthy period. Gee thanks. Some have even lost track of my fees. So annoying and so crippling.
As a family we watched Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born, which pleased us all. The third film, Black Panther, left us cold. Oh yes, it’s an important film, but I’m afraid CG is killing too many films, and too many magic clothes and magic elements do not make satisfying plot elements. I was bored witless by seeing another CG figure flung about. I’m afraid I yearn for the good old practical stunts and sets. if you take away the natural physics of a performance, it’s simply not involving or as impressive, despite the technological wizardry
Here’s a short film by Christopher Hoare, for which I did the voice. I ather like it, and irony is not lost on me. I like the economy of the film
Had a very lazy sunday after Cuba and the Swans, and fought off the usual depression after the swans. But I was, and wait for it, straight into a short film for the sale waterside. A two minute one take with a few rough and ready in camera effects, and shooting all that footage in three and a half days was pressured, but I loved being in a studio again, with a small team. I shall look forward to the results, but that was a fun few days.
Otherwise it has been endlessly chasing up fees from Universities that all seem to have an unspoken game of how long can we leave it before we pay anyone – if they have not submerged in a sea of paperwork before that. Something is wrong when it takes so long to pay.
Yep I saw the Swans, and I also had a freebie for Nutcracker with Birmingham royal ballet. In the course of the afternoon I sat with ballet legends past, present and future, and all of them lovely. It is a great production, the best I think, certainly very lavish, though some of drosselmeyer’s close up magic is wasted, and I’m not sure the Prince’s plot makes much sense, and poor Clara gets a raw deal in the second Act, and what happens to fritz who was so in love with Clara…he gets dumped pretty quickly.
I also caught The Female of the species at the Garrick which was very entertaining, and I’ve been enjoying many of the awards screeners. Bohemian Rhapsody was good if slightly sanitised and missing Flash Gordon and Barcelona. I caught mary Poppins and it was everything it should be, and a thrilling if confusing cameo at 1.05. The film takes the same elements and give them a twist but much the same ideas, and great for that too. Widows was so tense but I feared for the welfare of the dog. Looking forward to Stan and Ollie tonight. So pleased about these screeners, as they may be my last as I can’t afford the membership fees of the Academy at the moment. Not until some universities decide to pay my fees. ah the pitfalls of being freelance.
A crazy couple of weeks. Auditions for the next two shows I am doing, Bronte and Rigoletto, left us with incredibly hard decisions to make. ghastly decisions really, But we will be on our way soon.
teaching in Nottingham for one day, and if I did no other good, I made the staff suddenly appreciate the lovely Victorian building they worked in – all decorated with sculpts of famous artists. None of them had ever looked up.
And so to Cuba, and a long journey but we arrived in the dark, so I saw very little of the city, and I was scared for the lean horses pulling traps and carts….I hope drivers are cautious. But five days at the film school in the middle of nowhere, though a very pretty nowhere. A lovely dining area under a thatched roof and with a great view. The students, well no they weren’t students, let’s call them animators, were all lovely and thirsty for anything we could give them. Some of their work was amazing – very visual if a little dry in the animation area. But what enthusiasm they had for all our sessions, and there were a lot of sessions. Many animals following us around all day, and exotic birds. exotic foods too – too healthy food and my body struggled to keep up with the rice and gorgeous fresh food. The five days raced by, and whilst we saw little of Cuba, what memories of lovely people and lively discussions. I’d peaked by the time the journey home came. I was barely awake when I reached home, but I had tickets for Matthew bourne’s swan Lake. This could not be missed, however tired I was. And there I was front row – hours earlier i’d been in Cuba. And the swans were even more dazzling in a tighter, slightly redesigned production. It is still a chuffing, erotic, imaginative, dark masterpiece.