Words: 0 (but as I said, Friday is NaNoWrimo day so I was expecting to have anything written today)
Today I went to see the matinee of ‘Urinetown’ at the Apollo Theatre. I originally had tickets when it was at the St James Theatre but because of various circumstances, I ended up having to pass the ticket off to a friend. ‘Urinetown’ has been one of those odd little shows which has been on my radar ever since I was back home studying technical theatre at college (and back when I still liked musicals). I remember reading about it on the old Phantom of the Opera forums at she.net, then somehow I got hold of the cast recording (possibly through the early P2P sites…where someone would have a list and you’d trade them through the post…lots of bootlegs ;)).
I was fascinated by the idea of a meta-musical, and at the time it was my first exposure to such a thing. I would browse the Dress Circle website for hours, occasionally looking fondly on Tower Records (I think it was) who seemed to have all these obscure musicals I was just desperate to hear. One of my first trips on arrival in London (2002) was to the Dress Circle shop where I bought a copy of ‘Avenue Q’ and my musical theatre wishlist promptly became all about ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘Urinetown’.
I got my wish with ‘Avenue Q’.
Never thought I’d see ‘Urinetown’.
It’s a very, very good show and it’s been staged brilliantly. The cast were all fabulous (although I have my doubts over Officer Lockstock’s accent), the set was beautiful and I rather liked the lighting – they could have benefited from followspots though, there were scenes I were I was just aching to put a nice tight head shot on people (that sounds wrong if you’re not a followspot…sorry). Anyway, the theatre had about 80 people in it. Very disappointing for the cast and it’s a show which deserves a bigger audience but one of the biggest problems the show has is it’s not a West End show.
‘Urinetown’ was born on the fringe. It’s very much a fringe musical and I think by putting it in a commercial West End theatre it’s killed the show. It was a hit at the St James Theatre and they clearly thought that the audiences would be the same, they’re not. People going to the West End fringe are going because they want something not offered in the West End, those shows are not the ones the tourists are looking to see.
Words written… zero
Saturday is not a good day to start as I have two shows today. It’s tiring and as I share a room with the front of house staff it’s not easy to grab a between shows nap. I also have a really bad cold.
Basically I have good reasons.
Tomorrow I need to start my 1000 word essay on ‘Northanger Abbey’. You might be thinking “pffft, that’s nothing!” but you’ve clearly never read ‘Northanger Abbey’ – it’s the literary equivalent of watching paint dry. It’s due on Thursday so I intended to get 500 words by 6pm tomorrow with the aim of making it to the minimum count by Tuesday. I have a rehearsal Tuesday and I’m learning a new spot.
Really this isn’t the best week to start writing a novel, even if I already have the first chapter done.
I did however play a bit of a mean trick on the ushers. On Friday (Halloween), I was in work for maintenance – at one point in the day there was just me and one other person on stage. I randomly took a photograph of the auditorium. As I took the photo, the maintenance guy moved making it appear that there’s a ghostly shadow in the photo. I haven’t told the ushers there really was a person in the photo yet…
Sat 31st May 2014 saw the final performances of ‘We Will Rock You’ in the West End.
It was slightly unreal as on stage for both performances we had Brian May and Roger Taylor performing with the cast. It’s not the first time I’ve followspotted Brian May performing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (Oct 2013 for the cast change) but this felt very different.
Someone in the audience recorded the final performance of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Show Must Go On’ – look out for a particularly awesome snap at the end of Bo’ Rap. I’m the side spot on the left (of the video, so Brian May’s right).
I’m going to be doing some cover work at the Aldwych over the next couple of weeks so I’m not as unemployed as I feared I would be (it’s quiet out there for spots at the moment, what with various shows closing).
When I was young, I wanted to be a hedgehog.
I didn’t understand that the mantra “you can be whatever you want to be” had limits.
I don’t remember going through a phase where I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a fireman. I don’t ever remember wanting to be something. Once, I wrote down that I wanted to be a cricket umpire as I was fed up of the teachers asking me! I wanted to shout “I’m only fourteen! I don’t know what I want to be!” and I think a lot of people have felt the same.
I’d been involved with youth theatre for many years but I definitely didn’t want to be a performer. I hadn’t really given much thought to how productions are put on and my experience with theatre was simply the annual pantomime at the Liverpool Everyman (it was a rock n’roll Liverpool themed panto – Rockin’ Robin and the Babes of Hale Wood will forever be cemented into my brain). I’d seen Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat but it hadn’t made a huge impression on me.
When I was fourteen, my school announced it was doing a trip to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. I decided to go along and the moment the chandelier rose from the stage I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to do that – not the performing, I wanted to make the ‘magic’ happen. I briefly became a Phantom ‘Phan’ and scoured message boards for information about how it all happened and how you could do that for a living.
Eventually I found out about stage managers, lighting technicians and all sorts of wonderful technical positions.
At sixteen, I went to Preston College to study technical theatre. I’d been stage managing at the youth theatre for a good two years by then and hadn’t really explored the other aspects of theatre. I thought I wanted to be a stage manager and focused my first year on those roles. That first year was also the year I saw my first West End productions – We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre and Bombay Dreams at Apollo Victoria. The following year I was picked to light the big outside directed production, after a brief moment of panic and frustration because I’d never lit anything before I soon realised that I not only really enjoyed it but I was quite good. Going to see two more iconic West End productions (Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre and the Lion King at Lyceum Theatre) cemented my feelings about lighting.
I made the wrong choice in choosing to study stage management at drama school, I probably should have chosen lighting design or lighting production but if I had, I wouldn’t have met the person who got me my first West End job so I think I’ve been very lucky to have spent the last ten years working on several large scale West End productions.
I am still disappointed about the hedgehog thing though.
Well. It’s that time again. Time to dust off the ol’ CV and walk around the West End handing CVs to stage door keepers, hoping that you’ve got the timing just right so your CV is the first one the Chief sees.
The first show I worked on to get its notice was Dirty Dancing and I decided not to stay until the end. I took a job on a new musical called Lend Me a Tenor which unfortunately got its notice four months into the run – so far the only show I’ve opened and closed. The next show was The Wizard of Oz. We found out it was closing via the posters – no one ever actually came and told us that we were closing!
It’s a strange feeling when you do finally get confirmation that you’re going to be out of work. During the lead up to the actual meeting there are rumours flying around the theatre, the West End and annoyingly on message boards like Broadwayworld and WhatsonStage. When the announcement is made or the poster is put up at stage door letting you know there is a full company meeting you know what’s coming – now it’s really just a question of when.
Dirty Dancing got five months notice. Lend Me a Tenor got two weeks. I’m not sure what The Wizard of Oz was, I think the date went up on the posters maybe six months before. We Will Rock You has three months, which has been the biggest surprise. I always thought that WWRY would be the type of show to go out with a huge advertising campaign but things have changed a lot in the West End.
WWRY has been a fixture in the West End my entire professional working life and was the first West End production I ever saw (in 2002, not long after it opened). I never really thought that I’d end up not only working it but seeing it out at the end.
It’s going to be very strange going past the Dominion Theatre and not seeing Freddie.
(Please note, I left at the interval and this was technically a preview.)
‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ adapted by Tim Kelly, presented by Sell-A-Door Theatre Company at the Greenwich Theatre, Monday 2nd July, 2012.
Following from their somewhat lacklustre but “staggeringly competent” production of The History Boys I was apprehensive but optimistic about their presentation of Tim Kelly’s adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles.
Kelly’s adaptation is by far the most popular with amateur companies but it’s hard to see why. Kelly removes us from Baker Street and introduces Holmes and Watson at Baskerville Hall as guests of Watson’s old hospital associate, Lady Agatha Mortimer (Camilla Simson). The mystery of the legend is gone, Holmes is wholly familiar with the story and enlightens Watson (and the audience) of poor Sir Hugo’s fate and the legendary curse of the Baskerville’s. The genderswitch and promotion of Dr James Mortimer makes little sense, and makes for a large plot hole – why would Lady Agatha be performing Sir Charles’s autopsy and why would a court accept her findings? Presumably this is to introduce her as a viable suspect in Act 2 as Sir Charles was going to meet a woman (thought to be Laura Lyons but there always needs to be red herring, and alas – I’ll never know).
Last time I saw Sherlock Holmes on stage, it was the Peepolykus production of ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ at the Duchess Theatre. I’ve just booked to see ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ (and ‘The History Boys’) at the Greenwich Theatre.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Mon 2 – Sun 8 July 2012
“Sell A Door Theatre Company returns to Greenwich Theatre following sell out productions of Spring Awakening and Lord of the Flies to present Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
After the death of his father under inexplicable circumstances, Sir Henry Baskerville returns to his family’s manor house on the lonely moors where he is confronted with the mystery of a supernatural hound hungry for revenge upon the Baskerville family. Fearing for the safety of himself and his family, he calls upon the world famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his ever dependable assistant, Doctor Watson, to help get to the bottom of the mystery.
Holmes agrees to take the case as it becomes apparent that Sir Henry’s life is in immediate danger. It is up to Holmes to uncover the truth behind the curse of the Baskervilles before it claims its next victim.
David Hutchinson directs this London revival of Tim Kelly’s faithful adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s terrifying thriller.”
Tickets start at £17.50 (concessions £15 – all tickets on Mon 2nd July are £10)