Auditions – 5 bits of advice

It’s September and the leaves on the cherry tree at the bottom of the garden have started to brown and drop lazily. Kids are back at school for the new term and the beginning of a new school year and castings and auditions are, at long last, starting to pick up.

I still get nervous auditioning even if it’s just for an advert where all I have to do is stand, say my name and show my hands and profile to the camera (not dissimilar to prison mugshots)!

Some auditions are much more enjoyable than others but even if it has gone well, I still walk away from auditions thinking that I could have done sooo much better.

If I was to offer any advice about auditions, the following would be my top 5 tips:

1) Don’t turn up late. It doesn’t matter if all the trains/buses/tubes/traffic conspired against you that day because it will still reflect badly on you. Be prepared to take 2-3 trains earlier or set off with plenty of time to spare in order for you to get there early. That way, you’re not going to arrive stressed and out-of-breath. And if they want you to read a scene, you’ve got time to sit and prepare.

2) Preparation is key. Nerves inevitably play a part so to keep you confident and showing the best of yourself, prepare well what they ask you to do; whether that’s a song, speech or a reading. At the same time, be prepared to let go of all your prep work if a director wants to play around with a scene or direct you away from any acting choices you’ve made. They want to know whether you’re open to their suggestions so listen carefully to what they’re asking you to do and go with it.

3) If you do have to read a scene, try and be as familiar with the text as possible. It’s great if an actor can look up from the page when saying a line. The director/casting director can see your eyes and your emotional range much more if your face isn’t buried behind a page. Read the play in its entirety if you can get a copy of it. That way, if a director asks you what you thought of the play, you can give them an opinion and it looks as if you’re interested in the work. Think about what you’d say if they ask you what you thought of the play or part you’re up for. It’s amazing how that simple question can sometimes catch you out and you start blathering on like an idiot. (Or maybe that’s just me?!) A friend of mine attends auditions with a bound copy of the play complete with highlighted text and notes pencilled in the margin. Immediately a director gets a sense that this person really wants the job and has done some preparation and has thought about the role.

4) Go in with the view that, for however long the audition lasts, you are going to be working with a director on a role. In that brief bit of time, the part is yours, so look on it as a chance to do some acting work with a director. It will help keep your mind on the work and hopefully make you less nervous. Even if you don’t go on to play the part in the full production, for those 10 mins or so, that part is yours, so hold that thought in your mind and enjoy the chance to act.

5) Always have, from memory, a monologue you know well and can perform if they suddenly ask you to. Even if you were just there to read, it could be that, after reading well, the director is undecided as to whether you’d be more suitable or another actor. He/She might want to see what more you can do to help them decide and they’re more likely to give it to the person who can show them a good monologue than the actor who goes blank and can’t recall any speeches to mind.

RECOMMENDED READING – There are professional directors, casting directors and other industry bods who audition actors all the time and have come up with some useful books which will give you an insight into the casting process and any do’s and don’t’s. I’ve found the following to be incredibly useful:

Audition – Michael Shurtleff (particularly worth a read for anecdotes about Barbara Streisand who probably broke every rule to do with auditions but got away with it because she was so freakin’ talented!)

Secrets From the Casting Couch – Nancy Bishop

The Director’s Craft – Katie Mitchell

Does anyone else have some good recommendations?

 

A River Runs Through It

Every September there’s a Thames Festival in London, usually over the course of a weekend or two which hosts various events in celebration of this river which winds and snakes through the capital.

This year, they’re going bigger and better with a month-long celebration called Totally Thames which starts today until the end of the month. The programme of events this year is spectacular and far too numerous to go into detail – there are riverside walks and historical documentaries, lots of family festivities and things for kids to do (art and storytelling about ships and rivers of the world); there’s live music and free cinema, sports challenges, boat-rides and quizzes, not to mention a 5-day festival down at Greenwich where you’ll see an array of tall sailing ships passing through. Most events are free but some, like the fire garden tribute to Battersea power station (before it closes for refurbishment) are free but tickets are required. Intrigued by the notion of a fire garden? Me too! Check it out here.

Of particular note to you thesps out there is the free film festival down at The Scoop at More London (click here for films showing), various historical walks if you’re doing some character research and want to get a sense of London dockyards during the blitz or the areas that Dickens wrote about and a historical walk/talk with Brian Cookson called Bishops, Brothels and the Bard which will take you on a walk around The Globe area and talk about Shakespeare’s links with Southwark Cathedral (tickets for that one are £7 – click here for further details).

There’s also live art at Endersby Wharf which will include animation and performance under the umbrella title of Over Time (click here) and screenings, talks and workshops at the Floating Cinema (which got a mention in a previous post and will be in residency at St Katharine Docks). Click here for details.

Totally-Thames

Why this big fuss over a river? That’s what I was thinking, so here are some facts about the Thames you may/may not know:

  • The Thames is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest (after the River Severn) in the UK.
  • The Thames is made up of both freshwater and seawater. It’s said to start at Thames Head in Gloucestershire and flows through the Thames Estuary, out to the North Sea.
  • The Romans established a settlement on the river around 50AD and called it Londinium. Later it became a major ship building and trade area for the Saxons, Normans and Tudors so London was a port long before it became the capital of England. By 1576, London was the world’s foremost trading port.
  • Trade flourished on London’s docks. The river, its by-ways and canals were an important method of transporting goods. The growth of road transport, and the decline of the Empire in the years following 1914, reduced the economic prominence of the river.
  • During World War II, the protection of certain Thames-side facilities, particularly docks and water treatment plants, was crucial to the munitions and water supply of the country. For that reason, it was heavily targeted by German bombs from 1939-1941 and the destruction changed the landscape and architectural profile of London entirely.
  • Alongside the entire river runs the Thames Path – a national route for walkers and cyclists.
  • In the early 1980’s, the Thames Barrier was built to protect London’s low-lying areas from flooding.
  • The Thames itself provides two-thirds of London’s drinking water.

So. It’s pretty important then. Seems worthy of a celebration in my opinion.

Hoorah for the Thames….hip hip!!

river thames birds eye view

 

The KT Fellowship

Kate Bush

Last night Kate Bush began her run of 22 performances of Before The Dawn at the Eventim Apollo venue in Hammersmith.

The high ceilings of this old cinema (which has been recently refurbished in an Art Deco style) leant itself perfectly to a show that had spectacular visuals in the form of set, lighting and projection to match the epic, lyrical quality of her songs but it also created more of an intimate ambience than some of the bigger venues (like the O2) would have allowed for a performer that wanted to connect with her audience.

Friends of mine have been superfans since their teens. I came to love her songs in my late 20’s but one of the things that I’ve always loved about her as an artist is her ability to draw on so many influences – from literature, poetry and the art world to historical figures like Joan of Arc through to everyday items like a washing machine – and to use those influences (plus different genres of music) in her song-writing to great effect.

Without wanting to detract from the hard work involved in the song-writing process, she appears to be an artist so connected with her creative muse that creativity seems to pour out of her. She’s followed her own path, produced her own unique work and doesn’t feel the need to self-publicise in any way. In fact, shunning the limelight or any form of celebrity has only added to her appeal in many people’s eyes. The mystery surrounding her private life has allowed her body of work to speak for itself and lent it even more potency.

There was something she wrote in the programme notes which caught my eye and reminded me yet again of the power of synchronicity.

“One thing I hadn’t accounted for was that “it”, the project itself, had a very strong opinion about how “it” wanted to be…I was soon to discover this”.

She then goes on to describe just a few of the coincidences which led to the show being what it is; from the dates they wanted to perform matching exactly the availability of the venue after its refurbishment, to attracting, one by one, through bizarre coincidences and chance meetings, the various members who would make up the the collaborative team.

“These coincidences have continued long and hard throughout the preparations for this show and I soon began to just take them as a sign that it was the right decision every time they appeared”.

She began by taking a risk, a risk she didn’t need to make since she’s already a successful, wealthy songwriter with a legion of loyal fans. But she took a risk and made a commitment to a project that would undertake a lot of work and see her back on stage, in the limelight, after an absence of 35 years. She admits to being daunted by the prospect, terrified at times, but she continued the journey and began to trust that the project, which felt like it was taking on a life of its own, was going in the “right” direction.

We all have doubts about our abilities, about whether an artistic project will be any good or whether we’ll be humiliated in public. But if we begin, take a first step and then trust that things will happen as they’re supposed to then the creative universe seems to find ways of helping our endeavours. The outcome may be nothing from what we’d first imagined. We may have visualised a very different outcome from the one that has materialised through the journey but that’s the the story, the picture, the song, that wanted to emerge.

Sometimes I feel that to start an artistic project is to begin a collaboration with a greater creative force than us and that we must do what we can to allow this force to speak through us. Authors describe their characters speaking “through” them; Peter Brook used the term “empty vessel” to describe the actor, waiting to be filled by a character.

Yet again, the wonderful Kate Bush has inspired me – to go on my own journey, to be surprised with where a project takes me. To take an artistic risk. To just begin.

 

 

The Yes/No Dilemma

I made a decision a number of years ago, to try and always say “Yes” when an opportunity or invitation comes along. After all, you never know what it might lead to. That opportunity, however small, could lead to other, bigger and better opportunities in the future. That lucky break. I wanted to have a “Yes, can do” mentality in my dealings with the world and on the whole, I feel like this is a positive approach to life.

But there is a slight downside. That downside is finding that your time is taken up with projects that aren’t in alignment with your true creative self; projects that can end up being really disappointing and use up not only your time but your energy. These can distract you from doing what you really want to do.

In the pursuit of my acting dreams I find myself saying “Yes” to most things – yes I’ll do that fringe show for no money because I might get seen by the right agent/casting director/director. My oft-repeated phrase is “Something might come of it”. Sometimes something does, but just as often, it doesn’t.

There are so many actors in this industry who are desperate to work that I have this fear that if I say “No” to an opportunity, to any opportunity, there are countless actors who will immediately say “Yes”. And I will regret it. This feeling of not wanting to regret passing up a potential opportunity drives me and a lot of actors to accept situations they wouldn’t otherwise – working for no money or bad working conditions or just doing projects that ultimately, aren’t what they want to do. Actors can very easily get taken advantage of because it’s such a competitive profession.

Without the benefit of being able to see into the future, it is impossible to know with any certainty whether an opportunity is worthwhile or not. And if you go around saying “Yes” to everything that comes along, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin or committing to projects that aren’t what you hoped they would be. Worse still, they might prevent you from being available when an opportunity more in line with your career goals comes along.

When should you say “Yes” to an opportunity and when should you say “No”?

This was the dilemma I found myself in over the weekend. A student film maker contacted me to see if I’d be interested in playing the wife role in his final year film for his dissertation. The outline for the script was interesting enough, although English wasn’t the student director’s first language so the dialogue didn’t make a lot of sense. But he’d already said in his email that the dialogue would be changed by the actors accordingly so they would have some input into the script.

So, on the plus side, there was;

1) the opportunity to work with a young director (who might just be the next Christopher Nolan).

2) to have input on a script and gain some more experience in front of a camera.

3) to end up with some footage which might be suitable for use in my showreel.

On the downside it would mean;

1) 3 full days involving long hours travelling out to zone 6 to film in their college studio.

2) having to find someone to cover my reception shifts at short notice.

3) having no guarantee that the film (or any footage) would be good enough for a showreel. There’s also no guarantee that I will receive any footage once the project is finished (I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been promised a copy of a film/advert only for it never to materialise, even after several reminders).

In the end, I said “no” to the offer. I might be passing up an opportunity but there wasn’t a firm script in place and the fact that it was so last minute with no audition process and only a few days’ notice before shooting began made me suspect that there would be a lack of organisation throughout the actual shoot.

I still believe there’s a lot of wisdom contained in the saying -

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take…

I also think that having a “Yes” outlook is a good way to approach life and all it has to offer. But sometimes “No” can be positive too. Saying “No” to an invitation which isn’t in line with your creative dreams can help reaffirm to yourself and to the universe what it is you do want and it also allows you the space for that to come in to your life. “No” can be a protecting force – a powerful little word that can prevent you from being taken advantage of and from giving your time and energy away to projects which aren’t going to add anything more to your life or your creative endeavours.

There’s no easy way to determine if something that seems to be a golden opportunity genuinely is or not but ask yourself some key questions: Does this excite you? Does your heart lift at the prospect of this invitation/opportunity? Is this something you really want to do or do you feel like you should do it because it might lead to something. That “might” is the hook that keeps us coming back for more, even when we suspect it’s a bad idea. It might lead to something, he/she might change, it might work out this time. Are there more “might’s” than “will’s” in your list?

All you can do is weigh up the pros and cons and then trust your instinct. Plenty of well-known actors and film stars have passed on scripts and roles that have lead to huge success and acclaim. Try not to regret your decision. You made that decision with all the resources and knowledge available to you at the time. Perhaps you can take some small comfort from the thought that another actor was meant to play that role; that it was time for their lucky break.

 

Regret quote

 

Screening from the Rooftops

From tonight and for this week only, the National Theatre is showing two of its recent successful shows (London Assurance and One man Two Guvnors) at its pop-up cinema on The Deck. This rooftop venue has been transformed to include 50 deckchairs and with the ticket price you get a hotdog, popcorn and a complementary drink. You can find out more details here but the NT are not the only ones to be hitting the roof when it comes to showing films or screening events this summer.

John Lewis continues its 150 year anniversary celebrations by teaming up with the Picturehouse chain to show a variety of classic films on the rooftop of its building on Oxford Street. Set against the skyline of London you can see Singing in the Rain, ET, The Big Lebowski and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off amongst others. For more info click here.

The Rooftop Film Club has locations in Stratford, Ealing, Shoreditch and Peckham Rye (at the fabulous Bussey Building – an old warehouse which also houses a great new theatre within the CLF Art Space). The Rooftop Film Club has a varied, eclectic program of films being shown throughout summer (see here) including a NT Live performance of Skylight, starring Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy which is currently performing at the Wyndhams Theatre. Screenings tend to sell out quickly so if it’s a film/theatre performance you’re interested in seeing on the big screen, get in quick!

Dalston Roof Park is a project by Bootstrap Company who have created a park on top of a beautiful former print house factory near Dalston Kingsland. A mere £5 donation will give you membership for the whole of the summer entitling you to free screenings of films and music gigs with pop-up food stands galore. They welcome gardeners, photographers, sound engineers, painters and other artists to use their park and get involved in their projects. Interested? Check them out here or go to their facebook page to check out forthcoming events.

Rooftop Cinema

Not keen on heights or on the idea of seeing a film on top of a building but still interested in the outdoor cinema experience? Well, fine and dandy. There are plenty of open-air screenings in parks and other outdoor spaces across London. Here’s an edited selection:

  • Luna Cinema has locations throughout the UK but in London the locations on its long list include Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Holland Park, Greenwich Park, Kew Gardens and Battersea. It’s already sold out, but this summer, they’re transforming Brockwell Lido for a screening of Jaws. If you’re one of the lucky few to have bought premium tickets you’ll get exclusive seats in a dinghy-for-two on the pool itself, a drink at the bar and a goody bag of Benefit products. Watching Jaws. In an inflatable dinghy! How cool is that?! JEAL-OUS!
  • Hot Tub Cinema. What could possibly be cooler than watching Jaws floating on a pool in a dinghy? Being in an actual hot tub with a cocktail in hand, watching a movie! This summer, Hot Tub Cinema return to Shoreditch’s former railway station and also returns to the 90’s with a season of films from that decade. There will be 90’s music playing after the film and various competitions including fancy dress. Possible downsides (apart from the fancy dress) is having to share your tub with strangers and being semi-naked in front of them!Hot Tub Cinema
  • Continuing the theme of combining film-watching and water is The Floating Cinema which sets up screenings on barges along some of London’s canals and waterways. Check out their current summer season here.
  • Steering away from water (and East London, where a lot of these events seem to take place) and more towards solid land is Pop Up Screens. They pop up (literally) in various places over the summer, usually parks. This year you’ll find them in parks in Holborn, Fulham, Lewisham, Hammersmith and Greenwich. Check out their summer programme here.
  • Somerset House – every summer this beautiful courtyard plays host to a season of films under the stars and its now in its 10th year. The UK premier of Two Days, One Night starring Marion Cotillard has already been and gone but there are still many more classic films to see in their programme. Details here.

Somerset House outdoor cinema

So if you fancy a new, more creative way to see a film or two this summer, you’ve got a lot of choice at your fingertips – parks, canals, pools, rooftops. Who knew a trip to the “cinema” could be so exciting?!

TOP TIP: Book quickly before the film of your choice sells out. And take a raincoat. Just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

Synchronicity

Have you ever noticed those moments when you’re thinking about doing something – taking up tap dancing for example, only to suddenly come across an ad for local tap dancing classes the next day? Or you’re thinking about getting back in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to for a while and they suddenly call you out of the blue.

Coincidences take place all the time but Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, prefers the Jungian term to describe these occurrences  – Synchronicity. She believes that synchronicity is a powerful creative force; a kind of “helping hand” from the Universe which recognises your creative endeavours and tries to guide you towards achieving them.

Once you accept that it is natural to create, you can begin to accept a second idea: that the Creator will hand you whatever you need for the project. The minute you are willing to accept the help of this collaborator, you will see useful bits of help everywhere in your life. Be alert: there is a second voice, a higher harmonic, adding to and augmenting your inner creative voice. This voice frequently shows itself in synchronicity. Julia Cameron

When I reached that chapter on synchronicity in The Artist’s Way, one of the tasks was to then note down when it happened in that week. When I became aware of it, “help” seemed to be there in a myriad of ways. And it didn’t seem to be only creative goals that I got help with. I remember needing some new pans and cooking utensils but I didn’t have any money at the time. A day later, I came across some barely used ones that were just what I needed in a charity shop. Lots of coincidences like that would occur when I started becoming aware of them.

It may be that by recognising what you need in life to either further any creative pursuits or just to live life a little easier, you start attracting what you need to you more because you’re more heightened in your awareness of trying to achieve it. Whatever the laws of attraction (mentioned in so many self-help books), I like the idea of a higher creative energy giving a helping hand.

It’s certainly what I felt at the start of this week when I experienced a strong piece of synchronicity. Without going into too much detail, at the end of last week and over the weekend a succession of things seemed to go wrong, with one disappointment after the other. In the grand scheme of things it was nothing particularly major but after months of work and some financial investment it seemed like I was back to square one. So I went to work on Monday in a real funk. That same day, I was contacted by a company completely at random and a solution presented itself that won’t cost me too much money (which was the initial, main obstacle to solving the problem).

Their email seemed to provide the answer I was looking for. In fact, it was so weirdly coincidental that I thought it must be some sort of scam. It’s not (thankfully!) but it was interesting that my first reaction to this “helping hand” was suspicion. However, it was a powerful reminder to me to have faith that the help is there if only I would stop struggling long enough to notice it.

As we struggle and begin to feel defeated, our whole outlook is down. But if we look up and see the world around us (which is what Artist Dates and time to ourselves allows us to do), we stand more chance of noticing the metaphorical signposts directing us which way to go. And if we’re still unsure, then perhaps the best decision is not to make any decision at all and see what transpires. There’s a popular saying – Nature Abhors a Vacuum – so when you stop and do nothing, something will always come in. Trust that it’s what is supposed to happen and that there is a creative energy guiding you. Even if the outcome is negative, a valuable life-lesson may be learnt along the way.

Try it for yourself as an experiment. Write down any synchronicity or coincidences that happen this week, large or small. You might be amazed at how much help there is out there. Be attune to it when it occurs in your life. It will help you feel guided and supported. And couldn’t we all do with a bit more of that in our lives?!

Dalai Lama - synchronicity

Brave New World?

I’m due to get my new smartphone tomorrow. The first one I’ve ever owned (yes, I know, I’m a dinosaur when it comes to this technological age). I’ve been putting off getting a new phone because I’m comfortable with my basic little nokia. It’s reliable, doesn’t require much charging and I know its buttons so well that I can predictive text and walk without looking at the screen. But it’s currently in its final “death rattle” stage and there’s no getting away from it. It’s time to embrace change and get a smartphone.

It got me thinking about why I’ve been so reluctant before now. I’m quite good at making the big decisions in life to do with relationships, career, travel, even buying a project-of-a house with a laissez fair, “it’ll all be fine” attitude. But the small everyday stuff leads to months of me flip-flopping about like a fish on the deck of a ship called “Procrastination”.

I think at the core of my slight resentment towards technology is fear. Fear of not really knowing what I’m doing; of feeling pressured by society to embrace social media or run the risk of being left behind. Then there’s the fear of a lack of privacy, of feeling like we have to be “on call” all the time and that people expect you to respond straight away. It feels to me that the lines between work time and leisure time are blurring, so that we’re very rarely “logging off”, in every sense of the word.

I read an article the other week about a guy who was writing about the fact that he was one of the last generation who grew up without the internet and I realised I’m also part of that era. Perhaps it’s part of the ageing process to look back on one’s youth and remember it as if through a soft-focus lens, imagining that those simpler days were generally happier days when you could play out in the woods without anyone knowing where you were and they didn’t mind as long as you turned up when dinner was on the table. Our sexual awakening as young teens seemed to be sniggering over rude words in Judy Blume’s coming-of-age books whereas the internet is a place which can “access all areas”. Even without having my own kids, I worry about what the younger generation is exposed to.

I know that the internet and all these technological advancements can be a force for good and I don’t think halting progression of any kind is the answer but sometimes I wonder if, for all the gains to be had from our gadgets and devices and from this online world (which can be so fascinatingly addictive), we run the risk of losing something more intrinsic to living an authentic human life. By “authentic” I mean really connecting –  to each other face-to-face (if possible) instead of just through facebook or facetime and to nature and the living world around us. Having the time to listen and talk to each other without being limited to a certain number of characters or present what we feel to be a more successful version of ourselves.

As artists, heck, as people, I think it’s important to sometimes have space and silence – the privacy to withdraw from the wider world and enter into an inner world to sift through our own thoughts and ideas and communicate with our own muse in whatever guise he/she appears. I believe we all need to protect some time for ourselves where we can tap into whatever it is that allows us to express ourselves creatively – a communion if you like with inspiration, creative flow, divine spirit, God (feel free to substitute the term of your choice). Only we can do that for ourselves. We must be the protector and guardians of this sacred time.

So perhaps my fear is actually about having something in my life which will be yet another distraction. I’ll probably take one look at my shiny new smartphone tomorrow with all its apps and features and fall in love just a little bit. I will have to work extra hard not to get sucked in by its sleek design and all the games I could fill my time with and become dependent on. I shall have to guard my quiet, “me-time” even more ferociously, no doubt repeating to myself on a frequent basis “I own my phone. My phone does not own me!” I shall endeavour not to become my phone’s b***h!

(“Yeah, right!” I hear you all saying.)

 

 

 

 

Hot Town (Summer in the City)

Anyone who travels by public transport during rush hour knows that on a normal day it can be pretty hellish. But when the humidity is high and you’re crammed in under someone’s armpit on a hot day, it can be be unbearable.

The Tube at Rush Hour

I know we really shouldn’t complain about the summer we’re having so far. After all, we’ve had almost continuous warm weather and sunshine for weeks now. Even someone like me, who feels the slightest temperature fluctuations and is always carrying around various clothing layers just in case, has ditched the trusty cardy.

Isn’t that what we’re always hoping for? A proper, uninterrupted summer? But that’s fine when you’re on holiday or by the sea with a lovely breeze, or even just sat out in the garden or enjoying one of London’s many green spaces. But travelling and working in the city in the heat isn’t quite the same.

Last Friday, as the train crawled towards my stop and never managed to get up enough speed to get any sort of breeze going and we all sweated together on the carriage, I started thinking about places to go in London to cool off. With reports that temperatures will again reach 30 degrees C this week, I’m going to make sure that I have an artist date that involves at least one of the following:

1) Outdoor swimming – keep cool in one of London’s lidos. There are a number spread out across the capital. South of the river you’ll find one in Charlton, Tooting Bec, and my own personal favourite – Brockwell Park. North London has Park Road Leisure Centre in Crouch End, Parliament Hill Lido, and Finchley Lido Leisure Centre. There’s also London Fields Lido in East London and West London has Pools on the Park in Richmond.

Personally, I’ve always wanted to try out the natural pools at Hampstead Heath but can’t seem to get past the idea of swimming in murky water where you can feel leafy things and all manner of wildlife brushing against your skin! There are 3 ponds on the heath – one for ladies, one for men (both of which are open all year round) and one mixed. Even in summer, the water can be chilly (apparently) but at least it will cool you down in this sticky heat and you’ll get to swim in thoroughly natural surroundings. One day I might be brave enough….one day…..

Hampstead Heath Ponds

And if swimming as nature intended (no chlorine or chemicals) is definitely more your thing, then there’s also the Serpentine Lido – a dedicated area of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park which is open to all between May and Sept. There you can get even closer to the ducks and swans. Should you want to.

2) Theatres with Air Con – even if it’s for the hottest ticket in town, sitting in one of the hottest (literally) theatres in town will put off even the keenest of theatre-goers. Last year, WhatsOnStage compiled a list of 21 West End and Off-West End theatres that have cooling systems or air con in place.  Click here for a link to that list. It should still apply for this this year but bear in mind that the shows will probably have changed, so check the theatre website to see what’s currently playing.

3) Indoor Ice Rinks – sadly, there doesn’t appear to be too many of these in London, unlike at Christmas when outdoor ice rinks spring up all over the place. Alexandra Palace holds the most well-known one. So head up there on a hot summer’s day and be at one with the ice. You probably won’t mind falling down quite so much if it means keeping cool.

4) Visit one of London’s Gelateria’s – unleash your inner Italian and partake in a Gelato or two (Gelati?). Here are my top 5 in no particular order: Gelupo, Scoop, Oddono’s, La Gelatiera and Lick.

Gelato

5) Fountains – pick a fountain, any fountain (Somerset House courtyard, Royal Festival Hall, Trafalgar Square etc); try to stand close by and downwind of it and if you’re lucky and there’s a slight breeze, you’ll get a refreshing body/face spritz without getting soaked. It might be worth keeping your mouth closed though. I’m not sure you’d want to actually ingest any of that fountain water!

Foutain - Trafalgar Square

TOP TIP: If you do have to travel in London, try and plan your route via the East London line – that’s the only tube line I know of that has air conditioning. Aahh.. Bliss.

Political Theatre

There are a few productions on in London at the moment that are bang-up-to-date with what’s happening in the current political sphere.

One could argue that most plays are “political” in the sense that they reflect, in some way, the society of the time they were written. Some playwrights, like Shakespeare, set their plays in other countries in order to cast a critical eye on the behaviour of court and those in power without causing offence to the reigning British monarch – a treasonable offence back then, often punishable by death!

Others, like Arthur Miller, have used events from a different time period to comment on a particular government or administration. His play, The Crucible, uses its central story of the Salem Witch trials of the late 17th century, to draw parallels to the interrogations of “communists” during the McCarthy era of 1950’s America and the fear and hysteria that ensued.

Listening to the radio this morning, these were the items that dominated the news:

  • There’s a parliamentary scandal, currently being investigated, that children from care homes were abused by members of parliament and politicians connected to a paedophile ring.
  • There’s been an escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine which is getting worse by the day as the cycle of killing and retaliation continues.
  • Combatting the threat of terrorism vs privacy issues are at the forefront of debate at the moment, with the culmination of the Leveson enquiry and subsequent court case into the hacking of mobile phones by journalists of certain newspapers. Privacy is also at the heart of revelations by Edward Snowden as to the mass-collection of data that takes place by government agencies.

With these issues high on the political agenda, I’ve cast my eye across various theatre productions that are tackling these subjects. If you know of any more to add to this list, please let me know.

Great Britain – Richard Bean‘s new play, currently running at the NT until 23rd August, is a satire that looks at the modern-day press, the police and the political establishment. The actors rehearsed for months in secret while the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and 6 others was taking place, with the ending of the play not written until the outcome of the trial was made public. The play, whilst not a direct depiction of those events or characters involved, nevertheless provides a sharp satirical comment on the tangled relationship of these three “Great British” institutions. It will transfer to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket from the 10th Sept.

Whistleblower – a new play by another Richard (Richard Roques this time) about Edward Snowden’s life and the events leading up to his decision to reveal to the public the full extent of the government agencies in the US and Britain “spying” on and collecting the personal data of millions of people. You’ll never look at smartphones and social media in the same light again. There are 3 more weeks to catch this very topical play at the Waterloo East Theatre. For more details about the play, cast and crew click here or for tickets, dates and venue info click here.

Edward Snowden

Calder Bookshop Theatre – this little venue gets a mention because it specialises in political plays and books. It still bears the name of its founder – John Calder (Samuel Beckett’s publisher) – although he no longer runs this independent bookshop which has a theatre space attached and runs a weekly cinema club showing films by directors such as Ken Loach. There’s also lots of second-hand books to browse through. It’s a lovely space – warm, welcoming and close to my heart as I’ve performed there twice now. Their latest production (which I was in) deals with the cycle of violence between Israel and Palestine and there’s a possibility of extra performance dates happening in August (so I’ll keep you updated). Even without my non-too subtle plug for a production I was involved in, this independent bookshop/theatre venue continues to programme events, performances and films in keeping with its political and social ideals, often producing work which is relevant to the political issues of the moment. Click here for their website.

Calder Bookshop Theatre

 

 “A theatre, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time has no relevance”. Dario Fo.

…”the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure”. Hamlet’s advice to The Players.

 

 

 

 

Post-Show Blues

Our 4-week run at the Bookshop Theatre  finished last night and as always when a production comes to an end, I’ve got a bit of the “post-show blues”.

It’s usual for most actors to experience this at the end of a production run. You’ve spent weeks together in the rehearsal room, exploring relationships and fleshing out the lives of the characters in the play. You’ve shared in-jokes and worked through doubts together and hopefully, the rehearsal room has been a place within which the director has encouraged feelings of trust and camaraderie.

Then comes the first night nerves which continue until the play settles down and finds its own performance rhythm. Every evening you enter the theatre in order to tell your character’s story in the most believable way you can. Each actor undertakes an emotional journey most evenings (not forgetting the double show on matinee days), coming together to make a play come to life. It isn’t surprising therefore that cast members bond over the experience and I would say that these bonds can become even more close-knit when you’re touring or away from home and the “normality” of day-to-day life is temporarily forgotten.

So when it abruptly stops, there is a sense of loss afterwards, of missing those people who have become like a second family. And even if, deep down, you know that once the job finishes you’re never really going to keep in touch (as you promised at the last night party). Or perhaps your feelings for most of the cast are mainly negative and you can’t wait to see the back of them! Whatever you feel, the chances are you’ll still miss the routine of it all and the joy of performing.

So what to do to combat those post-show blues? These are my top tips, all very neatly beginning with R.

1) Rest. Never underestimate how tiring a production run can be. Before you tackle a new project or start back at work, try to carve out a day to yourself to just lie-in, take a leisurely bath and do as little as possible.

2) Reconnect. After a production has finished, spend some time with friends and loved ones again. This is especially important if you’ve been touring or were based away from home. Schedule in a few coffee mornings, lunch or dinner dates with partners, family members or dear friends. When you’re focussed on a production, you can forget about birthdays or events happening in the lives of those close to you. Turn your attention outwards and spend some time catching up with the people who are important to you.

3)Rehabilitate. I’m not necessarily talking about the copious amounts of boozing and partying done after the show. However, in my experience, especially with touring, it can be difficult to cook healthy meals for yourself and there certainly is a culture of popping to the nearest bar/pub to wind down after a performance. To rehabilitate means to restore to a condition of good health so take a look at those areas of your life to do with sleep, exercise and what you’re consuming. Make some positive changes if they need to be made. If you’re still missing your fellow cast-members then arrange to meet up. You don’t have to go cold turkey. It can take time to adjust to “normal” life so wean yourself off any post-show highs or any bad habits you may have formed during the run.

4) Re-focus. Once you feel your energy returning, start to make plans for your next creative project. Having something to look forward to can help keep the blues at bay. If there’s nothing in the pipeline, concentrate on ticking off some of those things you’ve been meaning to do for a while. For example, I’m planning to sort through all my sheet-music. I’ve got boxes and boxes of song-sheets and many need attaching together with cellotape. I need to sort through them all, recycle any I don’t like or need and put them into folders within an organised system for locating a particular song. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted looking for a song to prepare for an audition. So that’s something I intend on tackling this week. Finishing projects, even menial ones, opens up more space in your life for other, new projects to come in.

5) Retail Therapy. You don’t have to spend a lot – even a new lipstick can give you a little boost. This isn’t a necessity but just one small way of celebrating finishing a job. If you decide to organise your wardrobe first, discarding any tired, old clothing items, then even better. That new item could be something you wear to your next audition or next project. It doesn’t have to be clothing. Just buying a little something for ourselves – a new book, some new toiletries etc can help lift our spirits and remind ourselves that we deserve a little treat after all our hard work.

So in true Muddy Waters style and with your best blues voice,  sing it with me now-

I got the post-show blues (na nano ne na)

I’m gonna get me some new shoes (na nano ne na)

Oh yeah…