Wow! Is it really November? Already? I must have lost track of time wandering in the enchanted wood! It seems to have been non-stop over the past few months so I’m sorry that the blog has taken a bit of a hit! It’s been exciting and frustrating and full-on at the same time and I seriously need a holiday. But hey! There’s always Christmas right? Oh no! I mentioned the ‘C’ word! Mind you, you can’t escape it now that we’re into November and I really must start doing something about it. Another thing to add to the ‘to do’ list!
We seem to be reasonably organised on the ‘Dear Brutus’ front but we had our share of setbacks and speedbumps early on with a bit of cast reshuffling and rehearsal venue changing. However, we’ve been rehearsing regularly for a couple of months now and all is going well. Everybody seems to be having fun and there are some fantastic characters developing. We’re well on the way to being off books by Christmas! The set has been designed based on re-use of the flats we built for ‘Elephants’ and Dad is preparing to start work on it. We’ve also discussed the extra bits and pieces we need to bring in with John Urquart. We’ve organised costumes and taken measurements. We have a props list and already have most of the props and furniture. Our flyers are printed and our posters are on the way and we’ve spoken to the theatre about lighting and cloth bars and set and get-ins and get-outs. We’ve got Mike Pendlowski organising our lighting, Neil French on sound and Rene Hogg as Stage Manager along with her wonderful crew. Liz Landsman is helping us organise costumes and Gillian Robertson is our props organiser during the show. Tickets are on sale and what we really have to worry about now is getting an audience to make all the hard work worthwhile! Whilst our move to a bigger venue is a blessing in some ways, and we’re delighted that it’s now easier for our disabled friends to come and watch us, we do now have a massive number of seats to fill! Plays are generally a harder sell than musicals but I’m hoping that the magic of J.M. Barrie will be a New Year treat for Edinburgh audiences.
I’m constantly trying to think of new ways to market the show and it always feels like an uphill struggle. With such a small cast compared to some of the other amateur companies, even if they all liked and shared on Facebook or Twitter (which some of them don’t – cast take note), then our reach on social media is still pretty poor. Constantly ‘boosting’ our posts to reach a wider audience costs money that we really don’t have in the budget. Paper advertising just doesn’t give you the return these days and advertising in other programmes is also costly unless you have a reciprocal arrangement with the other company.
I tried to contact the Lyceum this year to enquire about advertising in their Christmas show programme which would have been the perfect audience for us given that their show is J.M. Barrie's classic ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’. Unfortunately the reply was short and to the point stating that they don’t have advertising in their programme. This will not stop me from standing outside their door handing out flyers however!
We’ll try to organise postering sessions with the cast (combined with Christmas pub visits), which is standard amateur theatre marketing strategy – so if anybody wants to join us then please let us know!!
We’re also trying to get together material for the programme, which shouldn’t be too difficult a task as there is such a huge wealth of information out there on J.M. Barrie. When you start doing a bit of research you really can get sucked down a rabbit hole and just delve deeper and deeper. He was a hugely interesting man and there are so many questions that are still unanswered about his life and the lives of those around him. We’ve recently been looking at Gerald du Maurier who played many of the leading roles in Barrie’s plays (Including Mr Dearth in ‘Dear Brutus’) and his famous daughter Daphne who we believe may have been the inspiration for Margaret in the play. There’s also a really interesting connection between Barrie and George Bernard Shaw who wrote ‘Pygmalion’. With our lovely Rebekah taking on the role of Eliza in the King’s in March, it was great to discover that Barrie and Shaw were great friends and Shaw appeared in more than one of Barrie’s crude early movie experiments, now sadly lost.
Hello from beneath a pile of scripts! I know you haven’t heard from me in a while but I’ve been slogging my way through a growing library of scripts trying to find ‘the one’ that will follow on from our wonderful ‘Elephants’! It’s been a long process and I’m finding it really difficult to settle on a genre. I loved the ingenious mix of comedy and drama in ‘Elephants’ but every other black comedy I’ve read so far just hasn’t quite measured up. There are many, many pure comedies and farces out there and I do love a good belly laugh, but then I feel we’re missing out on depth in the piece. Conversely, with pure drama, I miss the laughs!! I feel that I also want to try to have a slightly larger cast – build things up a bit with the second one – so some plays have been discounted purely on the basis of very small casts. We also have to take cost and space into account. We are hoping to go back to the Assembly Roxy for round 2 but it requires a static set as there are no wings. I know that very imaginative things can be done with minimal sets but we had such a wonderful response to our ‘Elephants’ set that I really don’t want to disappoint with our next effort. Period pieces can be costly on the costume front, so that’s another issue to consider. Complicated sets and costumes therefore also get assigned to the ‘maybe later’ pile. A few weeks ago I compiled a ‘short list’ of possibilities that I thought had promise. I organised a read-through evening with some of my lovely, patient and accommodating friends and by the end of the night we had all agreed that none of them was ‘the one’! Short list 2 has now been prepared and script reading evening number 2 is coming up soon. I’m hoping that this one may be more fruitful.
Meanwhile, the kittens Frank and Myrrh are still little bundles of mischief and have recently been introduced to the outside world after their….ahem….*whispering* ’operations’! They’ve been having daily walks with their little harnesses on attached to leads. Strangely there’s been a bit of role reversal. Myrrh, always the indoor adventurer and the first to try any bit of mischief, has taken a while to get used to the wide open spaces and is a bit timid about venturing too far. Frank, on the other hand can’t get enough of it and seems desperate to be set “free from his fetters grim”. They’ll get a few more forays with anxious parents attached and then they’ll be let loose to discover the delights through the cat flap and hopefully return safely home!
Despite my script difficulties, what I can say is that I have been overwhelmed and hugely encouraged by the number of people still talking about ‘Elephants’ and how much they enjoyed it and asking to be informed about auditions for our future productions. I’m hoping that I can post details very soon and am very excited about growing our little company over the coming years.
Hello again!...at last! Apologies for the delay but, as you can imagine, I've been a wee bit busy over the last couple of months! I'm sitting here still pinching myself wondering if I actually just dreamt last week and how well it all went.
So how did we get here?...Well...The final run-up to the show was reasonably smooth and we scheduled an extra rehearsal in a different venue so that we could get another full run in just to be sure. The last few rehearsals saw the pace of the dialogue pick up and get more natural and everybody found little additions to round out their characters. We introduced kittens at the last 2 non-theatre based rehearsals and they stepped up like true little professionals. They loved their mobile home - a pop-up enclosure that we could move between rehearsal venues and which would eventually live in the dressing room in 'kitten corner'.
I was nervous but looking forward to getting into the theatre and couldn't wait to see our fabulous set built on the stage and get a chance to start dressing it to make it look like a real 'home'. Rene and her crew arrived at about 12.30 on the Wednesday and we started to unload the set from the van. Despite a couple of measurement problems which were quickly overcome by the experienced crew, the set was up really quickly and then we had a bit of blacks adjustment and some furniture for our living room to borrow from the 'snug bar' of the Roxy - 3 flights down! Once we got everything in place I could get down to dressing, using much of the contents of our house and garage and some of our Christmas decorations which we had deliberately left out of the loft for set-dressing purposes (and are incidentally still not in the loft). I was delighted with how good it all looked and can't thank my Dad enough for all his hard work in building it, Ross for his diligent measuring based on my original 3-D design and Mum for her impressive painting of all the woodwork. I think you'll agree that they fulfilled my design ambitions and more!
Our dress rehearsal went incredibly smoothly, which every theatre person in the world will tell you is usually a bad omen. But we weren't having any of that! We had a few wee props issues to sort out, unsurprisingly after one theatre run, but Gillian was well on top of it with helper Gianluca and they made it all look easy. I can assure you that it wasn't. This was such a props-heavy show! They provided real, hot food for the Christmas Eve dinner, had everybody's personal props to hand when required and did a brilliant job of making the house look messier and messier as the situation on stage deteriorated. They were a dab hand at creating the half-eaten mince pies that were left strewn around the set, although I'm sure they must have been sick of them by the end of the week!
Mike worked hard on the lighting states on Thursday morning and we had a quick check over them in the afternoon. Neil had set up his sound cues well in advance and had been bringing them to rehearsals but we did a few final tweaks before opening. I have to tell you that I am one of the most nervous people at an opening when I'm going on stage and this time I had double - possibly even triple nerves, as Director and Producer too. However, I knew I had a great team and I just had to get on with the business of going on stage and performing. One of the best feelings I have ever had was hearing the audience laugh for the first time in the first scene. When you've been rehearsing for a long period of time you get used to the jokes and you wonder why you ever found it funny. I was terrified that an audience either wouldn't find it funny or would be scared to laugh because, as a black comedy, the humour was based on sensitive subjects like mental health and death! I needn't have worried - our Thursday night audience were amazing and lifted the show to a whole new level. The audience reaction made me fall in love with the play all over again and I was standing behind the set when I came off stage for the first time with the biggest grin on my face!
When we got to the bows it was quite overwhelming how enthusiastic the audience were and then when I walked downstairs to the FOH area afterwards and felt a buzz of excitement from the people milling about and heard words like "brilliant!", "fantastic!", "wonderful" and "amazing" it made all the months of hard work worthwhile.
When we took the final bows on Saturday night it was quite a wrench to think that we'd be leaving the Llewellyn family behind. And watching our wonderful set being removed piece by piece was very, very sad.
But here we are on the other side! The journey was long and bumpy but thankfully the wheels never actually came off the bus. We might have lost a nut or two along the way but we held it together helped by a bus load of laughing, singing, talented, crazy, funny, supportive cast and crew....and kittens of course. Their aunty Liz took brilliant care of them throughout the show in 'kitten corner' and they were spoiled with new toys and playthings virtually every night - and lots of cuddles. I think we just may have tired them out!
So what's next you ask? CATS? No, I jest! But believe me I'm working on it already and I hope you'll join me on the next adventure!!