Monthly Archives: April 2008

Second Performance Feat. Tumbleweeds

Wednesday 30th April 

A morale-boosting rumour that the Ambassador’s-owned Studio is making a right mess of selling tickets. Here’s a selection:

  • £30 a ticket! (wrong)
  • The show started tonight (wrong)
  • The show is called The Bans (wrong)

The programme is in place now, at least. I made a typo in my biog, so I apparently played the part of Lucifer in The Marquis De Sade, when in fact I played the part of Lucifer and the part of The Marquis De Sade. These things matter.

It would be funny to leave the cast in the programme as it was in the very beginning, and then do an announcement each night, along with the “turn your phones off, bitches” speech, that said, “Due to circumstances, the part of Creon will tonight be played by Matthew Petty. The part of Oedipus will be played by Gareth…” and on it would go for about half an hour. Hi-bleedin-larious.

While waiting up on the mezzanine above the box office before my entrance early in the first scene, I was privileged to witness the single ticket buyer enter and take his seat. That’s right – one (1 (one)) person in the audience. So we had a quick discussion, and asked the audience, and decided that it would better to do the show, and get another run in.

I’m writing this backstage, after my first two scenes. Spirits, it would seem, are high. The audience is a cast members Dad, so we’re doing our best. He said he would clap extra loud.

The Case Of The Invisible Corpse

Tuesday 29 April 

As first nights go, it wasn’t so bad. Audience was around the 10 mark, but appreciative. The problem with serious stuff is that you get very little feedback during the performance. In comedies, they hopefully laugh. Sometimes they even laugh at the bits you expect them to.

But give them credit, because they didn’t laugh at what appeared to be quite a farcical final scene. I was waiting to go on, listening through the door for my cue. Just as it was supposed to be coming, a taxi driver came marching up the back steps telling the theatre staff that he had a lady in a wheelchair to drop off for the one-night-only Joe Longthorne concert in the main theatre, which had been pounding through the dressing room walls all night (she was late). This meant I couldn’t hear my cue. So an adlib was made up which meant someone came off stage to fetch me. But I was listening at the door. WHAM.

Once on stage, all went well. But I have a tip – if there is a dead body lying in state on the black-painted stage, don’t cover it with a black cloth. This will render it invisible, and increase exponentially the chances of an unwitting cast member tripping over it and thus undermining the solemnity of the occasion.

Onwards and upwards! 1 show down, five hundred million to go. Actually 12.

A Bit Of Theatre Background

For those looking at this site for the first time (Welcome Thebans!), I have a database of the plays and stuff I’ve done over the years. I made it myself, so it’s a bit clunky, but it has entries for each play, each company and each venue. Take a look!

Stuff I’ve done with Kristen in the past

Big stuff I’ve done at the Wimbledon Studio Theatre

I’d like to do an entry for all plays I’ve done at the Wimbledon Studio Theatre, but I haven’t written the database query yet. Plus the results pages are a bit bland, but they do the job (whatever that job might be). Anyway – now you have some background.

Getting In And Getting On

Ah, the get-in. I have talked about these before. This one was slightly different, in that I didn’t know my lines yet (haha yes I heard that). At least this time I had an excuse. However, by the end of the (very long) day, with the help of Julian, Georgina and Suzie, I was off-book and rearing (sp?) to to go.

The day was all about the lights, the costumes, the props, the instruments, and then Oedipus. We ran it twice, once with a couple of hiccups, then again with a couple fewer hiccups. Gareth has done an incredible job of taking on the lead role with two weeks to go, no matter what he says. He has put some of us to shame.

My costume accentuates my waistline, so thanks for that. I need to fix that soon, when I have more time. Crunches in the morning at least.

So, it was a long hard day, but very productive and friendly, and we all went for a much needed drink at the crap-but-not-as-bad-as-the-‘spoons Prince of Wales afterwards. It was good to get to know the cast – we haven’t had much of a chance over the last fortnight. Something tells me that by May 10 we’ll all know each other pretty well.

Sterile Platforms and Cheese Straws

Last night I joined M at the RSA for a fascinating and entertaining lecture by Jonathan Zittrain to launch his new book The Future Of The Internet: And How To Stop It. Sadly this purpose was rather undermined by the fact that they gave away free hardback copies of the book, which Jay-Z was then happy to sign at the free-bad-wine session afterwards, where I also saw Becky Hogge from ORG, and also ORG’s Michael H as well, though only in the crowd.

The talk was based on the idea that the old computing paradigm of a mediator coming between you and the technology was creeping back more and more. The locked-down Apple iPhone, the mobile phone with web access on the manufacturer’s terms, the DVR with the forced ads and remotely-deleted content, the list goes on. It started with the punch-card-based census machines created by precursor-to-IBM founder Herman Hollerith, and the sales model he used, i.e. it wasn’t a sales model. The machines were rented to the Government, and all training, maintenance etc was left to Hollerith. The user was dependent on the supplier to use the machine. They didn’t own the machine, they were in a relationship with the service provider, who, based on the contract, could conceivably alter the machine or it’s function at any time.

JZ gave a nasty possible outcome of this with the judgement in favour of Tivo against Echostar, which resulted in all the Echostar boxes being remotely erased and disabled. Suddenly the machine people had bought was just a brick. A similar extension of this is the recent screwing by MSN of their music store customers. You bought the music, or you thought you had. MSN has announced that they will be shutting down their license server, which means that after that, if you buy a new computer or hard drive, which would mean re-licensing your music to that new device, then you won’t be able to. The key here is that you need a license to listen to stuff you thought you own. You don’t own it, you are in a relationship with a provider who lets you listen in limited ways – and now, it appears, for a limited time. This is what is called Digital Rights Management. DRM BAD. Don’t buy from iTunes, MSN Music, or any other online music store that doesn’t sell simple MP3 (or OGG or whatever) files with no DRM. You will regret it.

The irony of the talk was that is was sponsored by AOL, who were one of the classic ‘portal’ companies who provided net connectivity, software and a crippled browser designed to allow you access to AOL content (and by extension, content from Time Warner) and pretty much nothing else. They were a service and content provider. Sadly their avalanche-style marketing methods were unpopular, and if you wanted to cancel the service you were paying for, you were yelled at and treated like an idiot, and their software was traditionally a bitch to uninstall.

It was heartwarming to see all the old machines JZ displayed on the screen during his initial concise history of computing, from the Jacquard Loom, to the IBM System/360, to a PC clone with a DX2-66 chip complete with speed display and turbo button (like my old Gateway – long since dumped, although I think I have the floppy drive from it somewhere). I recognised most of them, to my eternal pride/shame. I said to M as we exited the hall, “You don’t see many 360’s around these days”, and guy next to me said, “First machine with virtual memory you know”. We shared a moment.

I didn’t recognise the fascinating Friden Flexowriter, which was a typewriter which recorded your typed words on a paper tape, then could replay the tape to produce copies of the document. By cutting, pasting and looping the tapes, you could do mail merges, spamming, tedious art installations, everything.

A big angle JZ spoke about was the hacker/nerd asthetic – the re-purposing of technology, and the discovery of wonderful new uses of a technology by “mischievous asocial poorly dressed nerds” and so on. The university mainframes running the early game Spacewar! spring to mind. The machine it was written on (the DEC PDP-1) had one of the first CRT displays, and it came with a simple kaleidoscope routine to show the graphics off. Pretty, but uninspiring. So the nerds, having just read Smith’s Lensman series, created a space battle game which put the capabities of the machine to good use. It was so successful that DEC, the manufacturers of the mainframe, included the game with the machine as a demonstration.

The talk ended on a kind of “we have to be careful” note, which is fine. A lot of the problems people fnid themselves in with sterile technology is market-driven. I think JZ’s final point was, “Nerds! Come out of the corner!”

Great talk. I’ll be reading the book very soon (bit of a queue to get through first). Great to see M as well, and by the way, if you’re reading, here are a couple of links about what I was trying to tell you about.

See, Creon Approaches

Well, the metaphorical curtain goes up next Tuesday, and there’s a lot of work to be done in the meantime. Luckily, I’m only in one half of the show (Oedipus Rex and not Antigone) while everyone else is doubling up across the two halves. So when they were rehearsing Part 2 last night, I was able to creep off to the William Morris House kitchen and do some line runs. I’ve tried this method of learning lines before, and it seems to work. I explained to my co-actor Gareth why I believed municipal formica to be an aid to memory.

The play also makes use of various percussive and ambient sounds and voices, provided by the chorus. It’s a good way of punctuating the scenes, and add atmospheric backing to prophecy and so on. I offered my drum machine for use, but it was rejected.

I’ve been working on the character, based on my predecessor’s suggestions, and those of the director. The resulting creation basically sounds like Mark Heap in The Green Wing. That should get them rolling in the aisles. Oedipus Rex is a comedy, isn’t it?

First Glimpse Of Theban Gang

I went to my first rehearsal for Oedipus Rex yesterday. It was in the familiar William Morris rooms, and the director is well known to me. My friend D is also in the play, and it so happened I’d seen her the night before for a surprise birthday dinner in her honour. I’d got a bit carried away and drunk too much, so I really didn’t want to be up and rehearsing, citing curling into a ball and whimpering as the ideal alternative.

But I trotted along, and I was glad I did. I met the guy that was playing my part before he was promoted to the lead*. He was able to give me his thoughts on the character, which I am going to purloin wholesale, having no time to come up with any original ideas. Obviously the part will be mine (all mine) by the time we go up, but I do need a leg-up.

The rest of the gang seem like a good bunch. Some pro actors, some fresh-faced drama grads. I’m technically pro, having earned a third share of the £10 profit that Grey made back in 2002. And I certainly wasn’t fresh-faced yesterday. I fit in nicely.

It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.

* I don’t know the full story, so don’t expect any goss here.

Stop! Motion!

Cassie’s neighbour Matt made this stop-motion Lego (plus other toys) video with his son. It’s pretty cool, and the music is great. It’s called Physical Evidence, but I can’t make out the artist name. Any ideas?

Everyone Goes “Bye-Bye” from Connor T. on Vimeo.

Edit: I did have the video embedded in this post, but for some reason it broke the page layout. It may have been Vimeo’s embed code, or Adblock Plus adding bits to it, or whatever. The video is still definitely worth watching, though.

Once More Unto The Breach…

Thebans Poster…oh no wait that was the other one.

So it would appear that I’m in another play, which I didn’t expect. K called me and asked me if I wanted a part in her adaptation of Oedipus Rex because Oedipus had dropped out. It goes up in two weeks time, and with a rejig of the cast, two parts were open: The Messenger, who has a speech but not much; and Creon, Oedipus’ brother-in-law, who has more lines.

In the spirit of helping my friend, I took the part with the most lines, because then she has less to worry about, see?

Just got the script. I need to get moving on this if I’m going to pull it off. Shouldn’t be too bad, as Creon appears twice, has a chat and then naffs off. First rehearsal (for me) tomorrow. Should be interesting to meet the cast, who are basically all ready. I know a couple of them, the rest are pros.

Click here for all posts about this production.

Illuminated Productions presents The Thebans Part 1: Oedipus and Part 2: Antigone, Wimbledon Studio Theatre, Tuesday 29 April – Saturday 10 May 2008

Earache Gig: A Silver Mount Zion, Scala

In an effort to try and get out more and see more gigs, I crawled out of my jetlag to go and see A Silver Mount Zion And Tralala Orchestra at the Scala on Monday with Jimson and his neighbour, all three of us ex-members of The Lurking Fear some-conquering pub quiz team. We met in Big Chill, a bad name for a not-so-bad bar next to the old Kings Cross Thameslink Station, which was clearly full of people about to go to the gig, many sporting the mismatched hairy beard and parted pair beloved by certain segments of the current hipster tangerine.

I’d not heard of this lot before, but their connections with Godspeed You Black Emperor got me interested, as I like GYBE’s f# a# oo a lot, with it’s shifting scenes and tape-recorded street nutters. So it wasn’t a surprise to see the stage setup include a cello and a double bass. The support, Owl Service, were just finishing up when we got in, and they sounded very drifty. But the main event got underway as the headliners built their stepladder up into A Million Died To Make This Sound, which had a repeating vocal and a fantastic cyclic bass with sternum-poking belts from the amp’d double bass. I like bass.

Each song lasting 10 minutes or more makes for a short playlist, but the slow build-up and breakdown of each ensured plenty of variation. As well as the bass and cello, two violins, two guitars and drums gave a rich minestrone sound. The gig soon warmed up, despite the small venue size and high ceilings, but no sooner had I taken my jacket off than they switched on the industrial wind machines at the side, which then blew cold air right down my earhole. I couldn’t avoid it, and eventually had to retreat to the side to avoid the frigid blast. The double bass couldn’t do it, but the breeze did – give me an earache.

I liked the sound, the complexity, the background vocals, and the melodies and evolution. I can’t say I much cared for the main guy’s voice, too caprine for my tastes, but there you go. After the gig, we spent a pleasant Tube-ride home examining the handed-out gig flyers, discussing the shortcomings of the bands if we knew them, or the shortcomings of the name of we didn’t. More gigs please.

Click on for a review by James, who is much better qualified to talk of these things: Punks got the loveliest dreams: A Silver Mount Zion, Scala « Both bars on