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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Adventures in Amateur Dramatics

I often don't give a full account of my working week in these blogs - I might mention in passing that I'm directing something somewhere and then don't say much more.  Well, this week I will only talk about the world of amateur dramatics (forever known on my CV as 'community' productions) rather than about progress on Storyteller 2012.  This is partly because I haven't got very far yet (I've mostly been re-reading things) and because other than arty stuff I've been mostly doing admin work and getting the accounts ready for the end of the financial year.  So, amateur dramatics.
In my mostly year round exile in Suffolk, amateur dramatics is the only extra outlet for drama available to me.  Storytelling is a mostly solitary pursuit, so getting the chance to act in or direct a play with a cast of people in it is fairly novel for me these days.  There are two local groups I promiscuously flit between, the Lavenham Players and Sudbury Dramatic Society.  They are two good examples of the amateur sphere as they demonstrate the two poles between which societies exist.  Lavenham Players is a proper community group, run for the village and by a committee with strong ties within the area.  It performs in the Village Hall when it seems appropriate and puts on plays that will appeal to the local community.  Sudbury Dramatic Society (SDS) is a based in a theatre (a theatre it founded) and produces six plays a year, operating more like a repertory company than an amateur society for a far larger constituency.  With a regular number of plays each year SDS makes an effort to programme a balanced season, including a Pantomime, comedies and serious drama which it risks losing money on; so a season can fluctuate wildly between a Francis Durbridge and a Howard Barker.
I am currently in a production of A Woman of No Importance for SDS, am about to audition a cast for The Admirable Crichton (no relation) for Lavenham Players and in March audition a cast for The Passion for SDS (again).  So, a percentage of my time at the moment is engaged in rehearsing with a company (woo-hoo!) and preparing for two sets of auditions and the productions that will follow.  That's what I do when I'm not writing, re-writing or editing etc, which is my current occupation.
That said, this year will be my last in the amateur sphere - I knew that this year, until the Olympics finished, I wasn't going to get a major production up and running in London or further out, so I'm indulging in a last orgy of community entertainment.  The Passion will be my last directorial bout for SDS, with whom I have performed and directed a lot over the last decade plus, but next year I'm planning to do a few more shows of my own and won't be around to produce anything locally.  In fact, if 2012 goes well I will leave my economic exile and return to London early 2013, so I won't have much choice but to move on.
Until then, lines to learn, scenes to block, crucifixions to organise... and you should see the risk assessment on that last one.

A Woman of No Importance performances from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 10th March at 7.45pm at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury.  Box Office: 01787 374 745

The Admirable Crichton: Auditions will be held on Thursday 2nd February at 7.30pm at the Angel Gallery in Lavenham. Scripts available on request via email.  Performances 27, 28, 29 April 2012


THE PASSION:  Auditions are on Wednesday 14th March at 7.30pm in the GKR at the Quay Theatre in Sudbury.  Audition scripts are available from the Quay Box Office, or on request via email.  (This is the audition script, there is a slight possibility I will re-jig the text following the auditions to adjust to larger/smaller cast size.)  Performances 10 - 14 July 2012
Any enquiries email: contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Feeling Round The Edges

I've got a lot of fragmentary writing to do at the moment and it's doing my head in.  There's edits and re-writes for Ghost Storyteller (note it's no longer GhoStoryteller - it confused people and no one ever got it right, so it's Ghost - take a breath - Storyteller) as well as blurb and policy documents, re-writes on The Examiner of Beauty, planning the texts for the two new stories this year and I really want to write a play that's bubbling away...
Ideally you want to work on one project at a time, really get into it, finish it and move on.  Sadly, life gets in the way and my business model (did I just use those words in earnest?) demands a high turn around of material.  But... and this is what gets in the way, I have no solid deadlines yet.  So, all I'm doing is flicking on the computer / opening my notebook and doing little things.  The job doesn't get fully done and so I'm just feeling round the edges.  In a week or so there will be deadlines, a schedule, and I will have fewer outside distractions.
So, other than little gobbets of writing I'm researching equipment online.  I've already ordered a lectern for my readings (something I've always improvised into being before) and looked at sound and lighting things - mics, loop stations, projectors and the like.  The reason why I ordered the lectern and just looked at sfx/lx stuff is I could afford the lectern as it was very reasonable.  The sfx/lx gizmo's were a tad bit pricier and so need a. justification other than "but they're so cool!" and b. because I have yet to set a budget.
That's another element of writing for this week, writing the funding proposal.  Haven't started yet, that's this weekend, but I will soon be looking to go cap in hand for some hard currency.  I want to do some quite ambitious things with The Examiner of Beauty, or the 2012 loss leader as I affectionately think of it, and that will require more than a great script and a fantastic cast, it needs stuff.
I did also spend a fair amount of time looking at DVD's of The Clangers, so my time online wasn't wasted.
I've also done some light design work - including a rejigged poster for Ghost Storyteller.  It's a bit like the old one, just with a more inviting font.  Even though it's not coming back till October I do need to finish the rewrites on the show now as well as rewrite of the opening for the audio CD so that it's scarier for the listener at home.  Especially as that'll go into 'studio' hopefully quite soon.
Incidentally, if you know of or are any small venues that might be interested in some ghost story action in autumn I'm a gun for hire.  You don't have to be a theatre, pubs or other random places work well for the show.  I was thinking of libraries, but I doubt there'll be any left open by October.
I'll have another pass at The Pickwick Papers poster (see last blog) later, it's the right idea but it hasn't come out right yet.  Might change the font, which I don't want to do as it took ages to space it all out.  Again, that's not doing anything till May, but I'm already running through the text for an hour each day to hunt out good excerpts for the future. 
As I've been doing that I have had some discussion with myself over whether I want to do a reading of the Complete Pickwick Papers for my run at Barons Court Nov/Dec.  I like the idea of picking out sections for one off performances but the more I play with it the less inclined I am to go the whole hog and once again Nicholas Nickleby leaps ahead as a favourite for the job.  Luckily I am under no pressure to decide one way or the other until March. 
But then again, to return where this blog started, the lack of a deadline is perhaps the reason for the uncertainty.  If I had to decide tomorrow, I would have decided.
Next Blog - Adventures in Amateur Dramatics...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Milk Bottle January Newsletter








The run at Barons Court is over and we're taking a little break now to regroup, plan and prepare for the year ahead.  We'd like to thank everyone for their help, it was a really great run this year and much fun had by all.  The Natural History of Trolls really grew across the run and was beautifully performed by all the casts throughout the year - and we sold out our second print run of the script well before the end of the run!
As always your help is vital.  Please, spread the love.  If you're a facebook person then do join our group Milk Bottle Productions or follow Robert Crighton: Storyteller.  If you already do, then share it with your friends.  Or if you’re a twitter person @RobertCrighton:Storyteller.  Or check out Robert's blog  
http://robertcrightonstoryteller.blogspot.com
Help spread the word about the work we do.  It really does help.

There are few plans for many performances before the autumn, just a few one offs, as Robert has decided the duck and cover method is the best way to get through the run up to the Olympics.  However, we do plan to tour a revised version of GhoStoryteller for the autumn and another six week run at Barons Court at the end of the year - performing a number of stories, new and old, over the run. 
Rough Artwork for Pickwick
One of the projects planned will be a reading of the Complete Pickwick Papers over Christmas - in a similar fashion to The Complete Holmes from 2010/11 - with a shorter 'selected papers' performances for single nights across the year - the first planned for May.  We will also hope to produce our second CD (and umpteenth book) of the GhoStoryteller show available in autumn.

Beyond the writing work that Robert's doing (adding finishing touches to GhoStoryteller and other editing work) we're just about to start work on the first of the productions for Storyteller 2012 - The Examiner of Beauty - a full length version of an earlier story The Examiner of Small Ailments.  The new script is mostly complete and will be added to during rehearsals across the year.  This, like Trolls before, will be the show that will get a higher profile than other pieces, with higher production values and a larger team.  We're looking for collaborators, actors, designers, sound and lighting people to help create this work - more details will be released next month about that. 
For those who haven't been following the shows so far, details can be seen on Robert's vlogs (video logs), his first vlog this year, covering much of this newsletter, can be reached by clicking here.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

New Year, New Storyteller

So, it's been over a week since Storyteller 2011 ended.  I normally finish a run very tired and irritable, unable to quite get into any structured activity, stumbling from one futile task to another.  I tend to focus on tidying, doing the accounts, things that require no use of my higher functions.  I can't say I have got a lot done since the run finished as I have had something of a day job this week, but I have tidied, I have gone to meetings and I have planned what I'd like to do for the rest of 2012.  Some of this is sorted - green lit and agreed - some of this is purely speculative.  But, broadly, I know what I'm doing for the next 12 months with Storyteller 2012.
This isn't far off how I spent this week last January - planning the year, making lists - but unlike last year I am infinitely less tired, depressed and generally low.  Last Christmas was terrible for me, this Christmas has left me with options.  I know I'm going to tour the GhoStoryteller show - or try to (have to get the bookings) - and I will be doing another six weeks at Barons Court at the end of the year.  I know what I plan to schedule into those six weeks - but plans from this distance have a tendency to change. 
I've just been watching the vlogs I made charting the progress of 2011.  I can see where various plans came to nothing - there were going to be a whole selection of stories for Storyteller that just went out the window - and where many little projects were left alone after a few months.
One of the stories I was going to stage for 2011 was the new version of The Examiner of Small Ailments - currently retitled as The Examiner of Beauty.  This is definitely something I'll be working on 2012 for Barons Court.  I have really exciting ideas about how I want it both to look and, more importantly, sound.  It's going to be crazy - I think.  That's the Trolls type show for 2012 - the show with more production values, less just someone telling a story, more theatre.
I have ideas for two more stories to have ready for Barons Court - the oft mentioned Attack of the Christmas Squirrels (abandoned because I couldn't think of a complete plot) which is shaping up nicely in my mind as a complete piece, and a spoof lecture on the life of William Shakespeare, which I've got some great material on.  The difficulty with Shakespeare is making up something that is stupider than some people actually believe in.  And I'm also planning to do some readings of The Pickwick Papers - edited and a complete version - like I did with the Sherlock Holmes readings of 2010/11.
So, including GhoStoryteller, that's five different shows to have ready for autumn.  Nothing much.  One thing I do intend to do this year is share more of the process of creation.  I didn't share much of the last years material because a lot of it worked because you didn't know where it was going.  The Examiner of Beauty is based on already published material, so there's little to hide.  I will share.
All this and more burbling can be found on this week's vlog - the first proper vlog I've done for a while.



And there's also my compilation blog of 2011 - all the silly bits edited together. 



Till next time... Robx

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Obligatory New Year Message

Happy New Year - 2012.  I would love to say I did a lot of celebrating on New Years, that I spent the evening doing incredibly exciting things... nah.  Really couldn't be bothered, got far too much to do and this is one of the few decent breaks I get during the run at Barons Court so... a lot of sleep and watching the Vienna New Years concert on television next day is about as exciting as the last 24/48 hours have got.
There's only one week to go, six performances of GhoStoryteller left.  Last weeks four performances were a very mixed bag.  There was a heckler on the first night - he wandered into the show after five minutes and then started saying, very loudly, that ghosts were real and that I wasn't showing them enough respect.  As the opening of the show is all about why we like ghost stories he was missing the point - but then the slurring in his voice suggested his alcohol levels had taken him beyond the limits of nuance.  I asked him to leave and he did so, very slowly, until the audience asked him to go away.  He then started to swear at them, repeatedly, until he finally disappeared.  Oddly enough, this acted as a bonding exercise between the audience and I, we were on the same side for the rest of the show.  Might introduce guest drunks into every show from now on.
The second night was interesting as one of the audience was registered blind.  I often have partially sighted audiences for my storytelling - it is a logical entertainment form in these increasingly visually based theatre work days.  Unfortunately, I realised that my opening, about fear and ghost stories, probably sounded absurd to a blind person.  It was all about the way fear works in the dark and when we cannot see everything.  I realised that I had made some big assumptions and hadn't taken into account how fear works for those who live with darkness or poor vision all the time.  I cannot change this now, but it's a fascinating area to look into in the future.  Perhaps the visually impaired are more disturbed by sounds - or by objects being in unaccustomed places in their homes - or being aware of another person in the room who makes no noise at all.
These are important ideas to play with because I intend to tour with GhoStoryteller later this year.  I'll need to write a new story and expand the opening to fit other ideas and visions of the world.  At present the show is very British in focus, British settings, British type ghosts.  I would also like to visit other ideas of ghosts from around the world, as I'm sure they vary quite a lot.
The third night was uneventful, but the fourth night was great.  It was such a warm audience from the start; listening to them talk as they came in, I knew it was going to be fun.  My ghost stories are quite funny and when I think the audience is up for it I also add audience participation and on Friday they lapped (literally - you'll have to see the show to understand why) it up.  It was only towards the end of the show that I turn the temperature down a bit for something a bit... darker.
That was the first week, cut off by New Year, but the second week might be even more exciting.  It will if you're there.

This week I'm going to be thanking people for all their help in this year long project, but for now HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE.

P.S. This is a blog by Adam Curtis, a documentary maker who always makes you think, even if you don't agree with the argument he puts forward.  The blog tends to be fragmentary, using archive footage from the BBC to put together a piece relating to modern life, events or just for the hell of it.  His latest blog is all about ghosts on television and that seems appropriate - some lovely snippets.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/12/the_ghosts_in_the_living_room.html