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Monday, 28 October 2013

Out and About With Death

The other day I, and a few friends, did a bit of a photoshoot.  It's for a Storyteller Saturday show called An Audience with Mors De'ath.  So, I sent a lot of time wandering around Sudbury, Suffolk, dressed a bit like Death.
This elicited a number of responses - from laughter, confusion, wry smiles, open hostility ("what a weirdo") and a near fatal heart attack.  (Okay, it wasn't as bad as all that, but the nice old lady who saw me didn't half jump.)  Interestingly a number of people wanted to take pictures with me.  Quite a lot of people.  So, I'm incorporating a 'have your picture taken with Death' booth to the show.
But that's not for another couple of weeks - still got Problem Tree and The Summoning of Everyman to go before then and another exploration of the Chester mystery plays.  So I'll leave you with the first batch of pictures of poor Mors De'ath - taken by Mark Pavelin, who was documenting the taking of pictures by John Bethall, whose pictures will go up next week.















Friday, 25 October 2013

Enquiring after Juliet

To enquire or inquire - that is the question.  I think the difference between the two words is that to enquire is
a more day to day activity, I enquire after your health - whereas to inquire is more formal.  I'm not saying that this is a dictionary definition - I'm fairly certain they are just alternate spellings of the same word and have the same meaning, that's just a personal touch of spin.
The reason I waffle on about this word is to introduce you to the difficulties I had titling Project Four of next years Project 10/52.  I say next year, technically it will start in December, but let's no quibble over a couple of weeks.  It's a 2014 thing.  Anyway, Project Four is call The Juliet Inquiry only after I faffed around looking at the different spellings of the word e/inquire.  In the end inquire won because it was the spelling used in various high profile public inquiries over the last decade or so, and a public inquiry is what it is all about.
Basically, and not very originally I will add, The Juliet Inquiry is my version of Romeo and Juliet presented as a public inquiry.  I say not very originally as I'm sure someone has done it before.  However, I have a few spins going on which should make it different.  Firstly, though it will include bits of Shakespeare, it is a modern play and won't follow the original very much at all.  Secondly, I've turned the story upside down a bit, by having the families being the best of friends until the couple get together, rather than bitter enemies.  The love of Romeo and Juliet is destructive, not healing.  It will also question their relationship by having Romeo older than the teenage Juliet, echoing various scandals that have hit the headlines in the last few years.
So, beyond hints to the original, it is quite different.
It is, also, one of two works this year that will touch on Shakespeare - beyond my recordings of his poetry which will go out online - as the June project will also feature the bard - though more literally.  Well, it is his birthday.  Though he might not like the presents he'll get from me!
The Juliet Inquiry will also be the first project to not appear at the Quay Theatre - being part of my Out and About programme.  It's performing at the Guildhall in Lavenham on Shakespeare's birth/death day - Wednesday 23rd April - as it's the kind of public space that an inquiry might turn up at.  Tickets aren't available yet, but you can email me to be put on the reservation list - first come, first serve. Email: contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Storyteller Saturdays

I've been testing out a regular Saturday slot for storytelling down the Quay  (where I am Artist in Residence don't-ya-know) and have been very pleased with the results so far.  So, I'm going to keep it up.  It's now called Storyteller Saturdays and, excepting the the odd week when it won't happen (like this week), I'll be down the Quay Theatre every Saturday lunchtime performing stories, many of them one-to-one, some not.  It'll be mostly for those who pre-book, just send me a message via email, twitter, text or even by phone, though if I have gaps I will take anyone who's in the building - and it's all Pay-What-You-Want, so no pressure to break the bank. 
Each story will be around 15/20 minutes long and will utilise different techniques - both the stories I'm telling for the rest of the year will use a lot of technology to work, but next year I'll be going commando... technology wise.
So, two stories for the rest of the year - the very well received (see audience feedback below) Problem Tree returns for another two Saturdays in November, then a world premiere of a new piece, An Audience with Mors De'ath, which features one very sad figure who is not unlike the grim reaper - who is not only Death, but also deaf.  It's the bane of his odd existence.
Next year I'm planning to tell a number of stories - a new version of Sleep Inc. which I've only performed a couple of times and never got round to tidying up.  It's a doctor's appointment with a difference, where the patient finds that his sleep has been stolen from him and he'll have to pay to get it back.  I performed it earlier this year and I want to make it a bit further, darker - though it is largely a comedy.  Then there will be a piece currently titled Ambassador for the Future, which it literally what it is about - an embassy building over a hole in time and space, where the future holds court with the present.  
There are other stories and I'll probably ring the changes every month or two - depending on the audiences over the year.
The bar is open, there is often food, it's a lovely way to waste a bit of your afternoon.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Storyteller Saturdays
Lunchtime Storytelling at the Quay Theatre
Problem Tree
Performing Saturday 2nd & 9th November from 12.20pm
“My father was a lovely, kind, reserved...
Nut job.  I say this in the nicest possible way.
When he died he believed that he was both fifty
and a hundred at the same time...”
Problem Tree is the impossible story of one man’s father and a tree that can’t exist.  A story of the First World War, of running away from your past and hiding in the future. 
The World Premiere of...
An Audience with Mors De'ath
Saturdays 16th, 23rd & 30th November from 12.20pm
Mors De'ath has an odd life – being Death and all.  But really he just wants to be understood.  This is his story.
All stories written and performed by award-winning storyteller Robert Crighton, Artist in Residence at the Quay Theatre.  Let Robert guide you through his alternative vision of the world in the genial environs of the Quay Theatre. 
All stories performing at 20 minute intervals from 12.20pm
Book your story by calling 07704 704 469
or email contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk
The Quay Theatre, Quay Theatre, Quay Lane, Sudbury, CO10 2AN
Praise for Storyteller shows – Problem Tree (2013)
“How fabulous!  Thank you Robert.  I will keep thinking about aspects of that story or two stories!  Truly wonderful!”  - Jacqueline Cooper Clarke
“Absolutely brilliant!!  Light and airy, dark, happy, sad, perfectly crafted and enjoyed every minute.  Bravo!” – Peter Day
“Funny, weird, intriguing, enthralling.  That’s the story.  The storyteller, knockout.  Beautifully delivered.  A thoroughly enjoyable experience.” – Kevin Roychowdhury
“Totally brilliant!  Mesmerising, intriguing, I could have sat for another 20 minutes!  Thank you!” - Marion Tuke
“Strange – atmospheric – absorbing...” Peter Walker
“Keep on inventing, please.” Maria Walker
“Transported to another world – interesting and totally relaxing!”  Liz Cole
“Superb piece.  Interesting concept and staging.” Alan Scott
“Really enjoyed this story, a truly original and bizarre tale told very well.”  Jo Brooker
“Mesmerising experience, the story and the telling.  A worthy experiment of form, pleasing, disturbing, absorbing.  High recommendations.” Cecil Qadir
“A lovely experience, both soothing and stimulating.  Highly original – well performed – transported to another world.”  Anthea Halstead
“The Shanachie lives!  A weird and wonderful experience!” Denis Brogan

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Problem Tree - First Performances

Before I begin, I'd just like to say YAY! this blog has now been read over 10,000 times.
And, back in the room...
Last week I performed the first of my one-to-one performance encounters, Problem Tree, and I was amazed how will it worked.  I knew it was a story that worked, having included it in a Teaching Gods & Other Stories... show a few years ago, but I'd never tried it myself in an one-to-one environment.  The one-to-one storytelling idea has hit some... shall we call it... consumer resistance.  When I announced it at the launch of my residency, I was surprised how many people really didn't warm to the idea.  "What, one-to-one?  Don't like the sound of that."  It got considerably fewer sign ups than The Summoning of Everyman which is a morality play featuring Death.  So, we can assume that people prefer confronting Death to sitting opposite another human being... which gives me an idea for a show, which I'll post about later.
Anyway, some people went for it and I performed the first shows on Saturday and it went rather well.  Each performance was different - more so than in any other performance situation I've worked in before.  Some sat and decided not to look at me.  Most looked into my eyes throughout.  Many found the normal cues of conversation kept coming up, making the usual noises you make when you're talking to someone.  Little smiles, ur-hums, nods.  But then, after a few minutes, they stopped... just listening... focused in a way that you don't always get in theatre, if nothing else because drifting off would seem rude.
I'm looking forward to seeing how the next set of audients react this Saturday - there are still some slots left, email me contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk or call me 07704 704 469 to book your place.  And if you're not convinced - well, here's some of the feedback from last week...

“How fabulous!  Thank you Robert.  I will keep thinking about aspects of that story or two stories!  Truly wonderful!”  - Jacqueline Cooper Clarke
“Absolutely brilliant!!  Light and airy, dark, happy, sad, perfectly crafted and enjoyed every minute.  Bravo!” – Peter Day
“Funny, weird, intriguing, enthralling.  That’s the story.  The storyteller, knockout.  Beautifully delivered.  A thoroughly enjoyable experience.” – Kevin Roychowdhury

“Totally brilliant!  Mesmerising, intriguing, I could have sat for another 20 minutes!  Thank you! J” - Marion Tuke

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Storyteller Will See You Now
One-to-One Storytelling in the Quay Theatre Bar

PROBLEM TREE
Written and Performed by Award-Winning Storyteller Robert Crighton
Artist in Residence at the Quay Theatre

“My father was a lovely, kind, reserved...
Nut job.  I say this in the nicest possible way.
When he died he believed that he was both fifty
and a hundred at the same time...”

Problem Tree is the impossible story of one man’s father and a tree that can’t exist.  A story of the First World War, of running away from your past and hiding in the future.  Let storyteller Robert Crighton guide you through his alternative vision of the world in the genial environs of the Quay Theatre – one-to-one storytelling, just for you.  Get yourself a drink and perhaps a bite to eat, sit back and relax for twenty minutes of you time.

All Performances Pay-What-You-Want

Performing Saturday 19th October 2013
at twenty minute intervals between 12.20 and 2.40pm

The Quay Theatre Bar, Quay Theatre, Quay Lane, Sudbury, CO10 2AN

Book your one-to-one encounter by calling 07704 704 469
or email contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk
www.milkbottleproductions.co.uk

Sunday, 13 October 2013

New Knowledge

Now that I have a blog dedicated to plays before Shakespeare, I'm a bit torn on where to post about The Summoning of Everyman.  I started here, with the one man version I performed over Easter which I am currently reviving.  I've decided to keep any active rehearsal of play posts on this blog, to continue the narrative, and write a compilation meta post for the other place.
So, I'm now into full rehearsal for Everyman again and it's good to be back.  Less than two weeks now before performing in London and I'm overhauling the whole text, going back to originals, looking at line readings and looking to see if there's any material I want to put back into the show.
I've cut, for the most part, very little.  As it's for one person, I've tried to rationalise some of the dialogue, making some of it into longer speeches, rather than back and forth.  There are only a couple of bits that I'm thinking of putting back in, but maybe only for a later performance, as I don't want to throw myself this close to the first show.
However, I did make one huge cut.  It's towards the end of the play, where Everyman is encouraged to see a priest and receive last rites and forgiveness before heading to his grave.  As he does this, two other characters discuss the goodness of this act and of priests in general.  There were three reasons why this had to go.
1. I spend most of the play as Everyman, stepping into other parts.  The idea that I could feasibly work a scene where he isn't technical present was too much to ask the audience to swallow.  Clarity was important.
2. One of the characters speaking was Knowledge - who I cut as a speaking role.  Knowledge became a visual symbol, a book that Everyman is given - and much of his dialogue was reassigned.
3. It's one thing to have a play that discusses the morality of doing good through a Christian lens, it is quite another to present what reads as direct propaganda.  It was just too obvious an exhortation, telling not showing, and had to go as it stood in the play.
So cut it was, and, also being very worthy and so the dullest part of the play - there is nothing at stake in the dialogue - it wasn't missed.  But I hated taking out such a large chunk of the play, even for good reasons, and I kept thinking about it.  And then I had an idea.
Irritatingly it came as I was watching an encore cinema broadcast of Eugene Onegin, which I was enjoying very much, until my brain defocused from the drama and played the idea around in different variations.

Play the text as a pre-show performance, play it as a street preacher, play it as speakers corner.

This adds two benefits - one, if gives the audience something to watch whilst some of the fiddly pre-show business is sorted (they have to write down their good and bad deeds) and two, it gives the speech bite - because then the character has a reason to be giving the speech, beyond discussing theology with someone else.  He is exhorting people to save their souls.  He cares.  We, the audience, however, are distanced.  The speech stops being worthy, it becomes something else.  It'll say something about a character, albeit one who is not in the play - unless I make him the same character as the Doctor who opens and closes the play, which I will look at when I rehearse it.
I haven't finished cutting the two speeches into one yet and I won't be using it in London on the 26th October (probably) and I may give up on the idea - but I think it has legs and it will restore to the play the full (ish) text.
Of course, I'll have changed the nature of the text, but the live shows are not about rigid conformity to the original source.  That is, to some degree, what the online Before Shakespeare project is about.  And that's why this post is on this blog, not in the other place.


Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Summoning of Everyman
An Immersive Theatre Production
Adapted and performed by Robert Crighton

The Summoning of Everyman is a powerful morality tale, written by an unknown author in the late medieval period, telling of the struggles for one man, for every man, to let go of his life.  This interactive performance brings this struggle directly to the audience, asking them to become part of the story, asking them to stand in the footsteps of Fellowship, Good Deeds and even Death himself.  It’s a question that each generation has to answer: can you really take anything with you after death?  Moving, beautiful and thought provoking – ultimately the Summoning comes to Everyone.

This is an immersive performance, everyone will be asked to help create the show in various simple ways.  Don’t worry this isn’t Pantomime, there are no songs or catchphrases.  The audience is moved around the space by Robert as characters in the story – the performance is personally addressed to you.  No acting skills required, just to stand, sit and be yourself, guided by Robert through the story.

Tickets are Pay-What-You-Want, so you choose at the end of the show how much you want to give for the show at the end.  For general booking enquiries us at contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk – or call 07704 704 469.

Performing Saturday 26th October at 7.00pm
Doors open 6.30pm, show starts 7.00pm – NO ADMITTANCE FOR LATECOMERS
The London Theatre - New Cross, The Lower Space, 443 New Cross Road, London, SE14 6TA
Tickets Available from wegottickets.com - http://www.wegottickets.com/event/236696
Website:  www.milkbottleproductions.co.uk

WHAT THE AUDIENCE SAID: Guildhall Lavenham, Easter 2013

“We were so impressed... Robert Crighton is a one man tour de force he has you gripped from start to finish.”  DC Starpop

“A rewarding experience both as an audience member and a participant!  A fascinating interpretation of this medieval morality tale and I recommend it highly... a compelling one man show.”  Nick Elliott

“Touching and inspirational.”  Phil Hope

“With absolute ease he made the text accessible to a contemporary audience...” David Owen-Bell

“I would certainly recommend Robert and this 5 star performance to Everyman and Woman!!   A truly sensational performance by Robert!”  Dan

“... a compelling and engaging piece of storytelling...”  Annie Eddington

"A veritable tour de force..."  Rev. Stephen Earl

“Great acting, and what a memory!”  Arthur

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Hanging Around

The third project of Project 10/52 will be the curiously titled Hang.  I say curiously, because I have no intention of explaining why it is called Hang.  You'll have to come and see it.  Or listen to it.  Yes, we plan to stream this play live as a radio play and this will live online for free for the rest of the year - after that it's all pay-per-listen.  There will also be a published script of the play, probably not available on the show night itself, but shortly afterwards.

So, what's it all about?  It's going to be series of short scenes, lot's of variations on a theme, one of which is the story of Brian, who wants to be a zebra.  He is, at this time, the only recurring character - though this may change.  You'll meet him at the beginning of the play as he is interviewed about his lifestyle choice and follow him through the great changes that hit the world around him - namely, a bio-genetic plague which starts turning people into animals.  Brian's big chance you'd think - no, it doesn't turn out well for him.  Or for much of civilisation largely.

It is a play, a straightforward, people talking to each other play and it is roughly scripted at present.  There are whole scenes written, some sketched out and the general shape and tenor of the play exists in my mind - as well as outsourced on some memory storage devices known as scraps of paper.
Much of it is a comedy, but it is a play dealing with serious ideas and themes - specifically, how we define 'normal'.  Brian is considered a freak at the beginning of the play because it isn't normal to want to be another species.  By the end of the play he is part of the norm, because the world of the play has changed.  It doesn't take a genius to see the moral point of the play, so I'm going to not try and ram it home too obviously.
Tickets for the show will be available for reservation later in the year and payment is Pay-What-You-What on the night.  The number of tickets available is currently only twenty - part of the reason we'll stream online is so that more people will get to experience it - though the number of tickets available will increase on demand.

Hang by Robert Crighton will be performing at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury on Monday 31st March at 7.30pm.  All tickets Pay-What-You-Want - strictly limited seating - call the Quay Box Office on 01787 374 745 or book online here.

Please, I just want to be a zebra!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Watching Over You

Continuing my (almost) weekly expansion of the work I'm doing next year, we're onto Project Two of Project 10/52 - You Have Been Watching.

Now, unlike Project One, (see below - as opposed to in a book, above) which is developed to a reasonable degree, Project Two (YHBW) is positively unprepared.  If Project One is six months pregnant, Project Two is barely picking up it's clothing, wondering how much it drank last night and trying to remember if it used protection.

Okay, I exaggerate for effect - YHBW is not completely unprepared.  I haven't just plucked a title out of the air and hoped for the best (though I do have form in this regard - it is not uncommon for people to ask me if I've written the show yet just before curtain up).  I want to explore surveillance culture, the modern world of electronic everything and I have some material to start from.  I started a monologue many years ago about someone trying to live off grid.  Unobserved, undatabased.  Or undatadebased.  As it were.  This material will be the starting point, but it may get jettisoned.  I want to spend the four/five/six weeks rehearsal time developing material, working with people to collect data and ideas.  I want to identify every single camera in the local area and will ask people to help me do that.  I want to find other stories, other angles to the way technology effects us.  How a new generation is changing/is changed by the new ways of communicating.
It may not end up as a play.  Hence the probability that I will jettison past material.  I see it as an installation, a series of images, actions, discussions... half formed ideas are battling for control of the project as I type.
I know also what I don't want it to be.  There are many cliches and obvious routes that do not need to be trod.  I don't want it to be a straightforward technology bad, technology good debate.  That would be tedious.
I will need help from the audience to make this happen as well.  I want every audience member to document the show, to use their camera phones to film it, take images of it etc and post them online.  These files will then be available to anyone who wants to use them - I intend to create a video version of the show out of the recordings.  That way there isn't one version of the project, there are, if not an infinite then, a very large finite number of versions, depending on how you wish to view the material.
I'm hoping that most people will have their own cameras, but I will be supplying a number of small cameras for use in the show.  You are the camera, you are the director, you are the show.
That's sort of the idea, at this distant stage.