Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Last Post

I'm not really sure if this will be the last ever post on Shrew Stories...but we have certainly done our last ever show and gone our separate shrew ways...

There are shows, as an actor, that you never want to do again...you've flogged them to death...and a few of your fellow actors have a glazed look in their eyes; there are others where you feel cheated, you were just getting into your stride, just beginning to discover things, when it is taken away.

At the moment Shrew feels somewhere in the middle (although without any glazed eyes I might add) - with nearly 100 shows we probably had done it enough, but I was never bored, and every show was different.  It won't sink in for a while that we're not just having a break, that I've really hung up the nylon suit and packed away the Wicker glasses for one last time (and, please God, the violin).

I'm sure we will all meet up, probably paths will also cross in work - but if there's one thing I now know after about ten years of shows - however hard you try, you will never get the whole cast and crew in one room (tent) again - the nature of our work means we don't stay put.

Here we are on the night of the storm singing 'Health to the Company' from the show -

The Full Shrew Crew - Here's a health to the company

Thanks for reading in your thousands, and for coming to see the show in your tens of thousands...and as for Hortensio...to misunderstand the words of Rosalind in As you like it:

Farewell, Monsieur Traveller; look you lisp and wear strange suits

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Singapore

Here we are in Singapore, guests of the amazingly glamorous pan pacific hotel, and despite several shrews being struck down with severe lurgy, the shows have gone down a storm...(more of which later).



We are performing outdoors in temperatures that even at night can reach 35 degrees...it's been up to 40 in the day times.    It is not easy, and many of the multi layered costumes are leaving us hideously sweaty...poor Sally and her world of wardrobe.  We have also been covering ourselves in deet...and performing to a chorus of bullfrogs.





We are in Fort Canning Park, and as well as our bullfrog friends we have some exciting sounding birds and beautiful trees keeping us company...





and the team here have built a wonderful 'mini globe' to enclose the back of the playing space...

Some of the Shrews also managed to catch 'The Reduced Shakespeare Company' who are out here with ABA productions as well and it was good to meet the boys for an actorly beverage.


We also managed the night safari on a rare night off - in celebration of Becci Shrew's birthday.


I last did a show in Singapore about eight years ago and am glad to be back.  Since I was last here the University of Singapore have acquired a house which they have restored to its 1920's glory, and it is an excellent way to make sense of the Peranakan culture that is unique to Singapore.  If you ever get the chance, book a (free!) tour - it's well worth it.

find out more here:
http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/museum/about.php

and here I am with our wonderful guide Ailee.




p.s. about that storm...I am able to catch up on our blog tonight because for the first time EVER the shrews were beaten by the weather - it took a tropical storm, thunder and lightening - and rivers of water running down the paths - but the show was called off!  This leaves us with only 3 shows and much as tonight was crazy and fun, and ended with the Shrews hiding from the rain drinking prosecco - we don't want to lose another.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

HONG KONG!!!!!




And so we have finally begun the Far East leg of our tour, arriving in Hong Kong 'just clipping the edge of the tornado' to quote our pilot....so for many many reasons we were very glad to arrive! 



Globe Cupcakes

We are hosted here, and in Singapore by aba productions http://www.aba-productions.com/about_us.asp
the theatre - see our poster?


and Matthew and Emma, along with their team, made sure that we were very well looked after.  Their amazing hospitality extended to trips to the beach, several meals out and hiring a junk boat to take us on a tour of the harbour...complete with Pimms.  


It's amazing we managed to fit in any shows...although with a 4 show weekend we did begin to feel we might have been burning the candle at both ends, perhaps.


Josh tries chicken feet...








Tuesday, 1 October 2013

bury st edmunds and the minack


And so to the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, a theatre I have loved working in before and so was glad to return with Shrew...


The theatre was built in 1819, is Grade 1 listed and is the only surviving Regency Theatre. Our time there coincided with three Shrew birthdays, Sally, Josh and Joy - so it was cakes all round...




We shrews then descended on Cornwall in what seemed like promising weather, for a week like no other, involving more hill, cliff and stone step climbing than some of our knees could take!

The theatre was built by Rowena Cade, an extraordinary woman, and posthumous honorary shrew. Having already built herself a house at Minack Point, in 1929, having seen a local village version of the  Dream, she offered the use of her garden for their next production (The Tempest) and literally began lugging great chunks of rock to make a basic seating area, with the sea as a stunning (some might say upstaging) backdrop. She and her gardener continued to built up the theatre in the winters for the rest of her long life!

It is a very bizarre space to perform in, and we had to rework a lot of the show with Josh, to allow for the very different entrances and exits, and the permanent stone features.

It seats 700, and for the first time ever we shrews were amplified, to help us contend with the sea.  This was just as well, as on our second matinee it blew up a gale, with rain and mist and the tent nearly took off. 

The minack have a wonderful website with live webcam which I urge you to have a gander at.



Tuesday, 3 September 2013

St Donats and Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond


First a couple of photos from St Donats, where we had only one show - our only show in Wales, in the shadow of the castle (some of which dates to the 13th century) and with the sea to stage right...






Have I not heard the sea, puff'd up with winds, Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat?

...luckily both weather and water were calm.



Then it was onto The Georgian Theatre Royal, Britain's oldest working theatre in its original form.


To quote the georgian theatre royal website

'The Georgian Theatre Royal is Britain's most complete Georgian playhouse. Built by the actor-manager Samuel Butler in 1788, the theatre was in regular use until 1830 when performances became less frequent.

I'm sure it made sense at the time...
Built by actor-manager Samuel Butler in 1788, the Georgian Theatre Royal was managed by Butler along with his circuit of theatres at Beverley, Harrogate, Kendal, Northallerton, Ripon, Ulverston and Whitby.'


I've worked at Harrogate Theatre before and it was lovely to work in another Butler Theatre. The theatre itself is tiny - and the stage was twice the depth we are used to but half the width - which took some adjustment. The audiences were wonderful - funny, enthusiastic and insistent on repeat curtain calls...

and...

depending on your point of view...

I may or may not have seen a theatre ghost.

Although the only staff member I asked insisted he had never heard of one...and I don't think I believe in them myself...


During the Saturday evening show I saw (in a moment where, in a still tableau, I had chosen to look at the front of a stage right box) the shadow of a graceful woman in a dress, slowly putting on elbow length gloves, and carefully putting on each finger. I watched it for a good minute before having to turn into the scene. It was so clear in shadow the only explanation I could think of was that (as the only shadows were cast from the stage) it was Olivia, as Bianca, for some reason putting on long gloves. But...of course...when I turned to her she wasn't wearing any. It was incredibly clear - and for the two Sunday shows I watched the same area again for any sign of a shadow or flickering that could have tricked my eye. There were no shadows at all.

Forgive me if you think the blog has descended into nonsense...I know I've never believed anything 'supernatural' anyone else has ever told me...

Still seeking the rational explanation I leave you with Antigonus from The Winter's Tale:



I have heard, but not believed, 

the spirits o' the dead 

May walk again...

ne'er was dream 

So like waking.

Richmond Castle



Sunday, 25 August 2013

Leaving Kilkenny...onto Cambridge





Before leaving Kilkenny, the lovely Roisin McQuillan invited me for a tour of Rothe House https://twitter.com/rothehouse

Rothe was a 17th century merchant and the house was built between 1594-1610 - and as Shrew is thought to have been written between 1590 and 1594, it seemed a timely visit.  Roisin also showed me the gardens and orchard which they are re-establishing with plants of the period.





 We also visited the luminarium for a little Shrew downtime... architects-of-air







And Leah and I were visited by our good friend and 'Earthquakes in London' stage manager Catherine Buffrey who is currently working in Dublin...











From Ireland to Cambridge, and six shows in four days in the beautiful gardens of the Master's House of Corpus Christi...where we just about avoided the worst of the rain...




Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Kilkenny Arts Festival

We've landed at The Kilkenny Arts Festival, http://www.kilkennyarts.ie/ and the Shrews have enjoyed a very warm welcome - infact I think all this being stopped in the streets by all and sundry to say how much they love the show could go to our heads...

The courtyard of the Design Centre - beshrewed!


I remember now the warm, and vocal responses last time I worked in Ireland - and the Kilkenny crowd have topped my previous expectations.  It's great for us as we hit half way through the shows (last night was show 45 out of 90) to be reminded that everything is landing - even when (with quieter audiences) people don't vocalise their feelings.  And, conversely, if it doesn't work in Ireland...it just doesn't work!  We were so pleased that Josh, our assistant director, got to see our first show here and be overwhelmed, alongside us, at the fantastic response.

The festival have made a beauteous promo video of us - which I urge you to watch here:
The Shrews at Kilkenny We are so delighted with the way it captures the feel of the show.

The festival is a gathering of all types of Art and Artists and we've managed to see some of it so far...although a lot of the performances clash with our show so we have to get a bit creative....

Luckily Junk Ensemble, a dance theatre company whose new work Dusk Ahead http://junkensemble.com/the-work has been specially created for the festival, allowed us to watch their dress rehearsal.  It was a magical piece touching on themes of dusk, twilight, where light meets dark, and stories shift into the realms of fairy tales - and as well as being astounded as I always am when I see dance, at just what the performers can make their bodies do (and ashamed at my own lack of fitness!) I thought the duets were particularly strong - if you get a chance to see it and see the chair and the kiss duets you'll see what I mean!

We also went to see James Shapiro and Finton O'Toole discuss Shakespeare's relationship with Ireland, which was a great chance to have a bit of a Bard-think.

Looking through the programme I had noticed another 'talk' called 'meet the actors', and circled it as something interesting to go and see.  It was only later that I realised we were the actors...luckily  the Shrew word was spread in plenty of time, and along with Carrie turned up ready to answer as many questions as we could on the play, performing in Kilkenny, performing at the Globe, stage managing such an unusual tour etc.  As ever, dear reader, you are very welcome to tweet or message me on here any questions for any of the cast, and I'll do my best to catch them in a reflective moment... tweet!

We also had our first Shrew Darts Championship - won by the valiant Leah Whitaker...I did not participate as I know my lack of aim...and that Darts in the head of my fellow actors do not a happy company make.