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Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Post Shakespeare Post

It is frustrating that the time when I should really be blogging the most is at the time when it sooooo isn't going to happen.  Production week - when people might actually be interested in the work, when interesting things are actually happening - is dead to this blog for the most part.  I'm just too tired.  And it doesn't get any better at the end of the week (i.e. now) because I've forgotten all the interesting stuff.  It just leaked out of my brain, probably at the same time I drank all that alcohol.  Hell, there aren't even any photographs, so I can't even show you them!
So, The Shakespeare Delusion went up this week.  Version 2, that is.  Version 1 went up two years ago and then went into hiatus with my colon.  It's a leaner, meaner, shorter, punchier version - though fundamentally the same in overall shape and structure.  On Monday I performed it at the Quay Theatre as part of my residency and then on Wednesday I took it to the LOST One-Act Festival in good old London.
Both shows went well, comments were positive, money was taken, scripts sold.  I now await my fate as to whether it will win anything at LOST.  Fingers crossed.
Now, hopefully, Delusion will go on the road next year.  I'm seriously thinking of doing so kind of tour, look at doing some festivals, generally get my arse in gear.  But, then I remember the downside.  It's the same problem stand ups have.  Touring a solo show is incredibly lonely.  You finish the gig and go to the bar and then there is no one to talk to.  This isn't quite fair - there will be audience members who will want to have a natter and it can be jolly nice.  But, this isn't guaranteed.  Often, especially with a dramatic piece, rather than straight up comedy, people don't.  And you can't throw yourself at people, because then you sound a bit desperate.  Which, after going to a hotel room (if you're lucky) alone for a few days, you might very well be.  What else to do?  Sit and drink a post show pint by yourself?  Read a book?
It wasn't too bad this week, because at the Quay I knew people.  At LOST I knew the organisers, I've performed there a number of times, but I didn't know anyone in the audience.  But out on tour, gulp, that doesn't bode well for my sanity.
Which is why I prefer my home touring model.  Storytelling for parties, telling stories to real people, not audiences, and then kipping on their sofa before moving on.  It's so much more human.  Just need to get that one together as well then.
**
But that's next year, next year is next year - I've still got this year to get through.  I've now reached the halfway mark.  Delusion was the fifth of ten projects.  Well, technically I've already done one of the later ones, so I'm six down.  Except I'm only halfway through the first project, so five and a half then.  So, now I need to de-clutter and plan the rest of the year.  I've got two looming projects that need writing.  Metal Harvest which is about the First World War, and which is changing daily in my mind, and Historic Crimes which is about Shakespeare as a sex offender.  These need to be shaped, written, planned.  And now that the fog of war has faded on Delusion I can now start on them.  The next project is already written, so I can just plan the production for Complicated Pleasures.  And try to sell it as well.  Now, so far, all my shows have had reasonably full houses and three have sold out.  But Complicated Pleasures needs to fill a far larger space.  So, it's going to be a bit more of a challenge.  So, I might not stop going on about it for the next month or two.  Until the week it's happening, then I'll stop completely.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Shaking the Delusion

I rehearsed The Shakespeare Delusion yesterday.  Well, that's hardly news, is it?  I've been rehearsing daily for weeks.  But yesterday I rehearsed it in London.  With Colin.  Which was a very nice change.
Now Colin runs a thing called the Face to Face festival - aimed at showcasing solo performance - which I've performed at a couple of times and have been invited to do again this year.  Not only that but Colin agreed to give the show a once over.  Which was very helpful.
As well as, a little bit, painful.  But pain is good, pain is growth, pain is just ego having a tantrum - because what Colin said was true - page x needed a trim.  It wasn't flowing.  It stuck out like a sore thumb and lost him.  So we cut it.  Almost the whole page.  Which was painful, as it does feature some of my favourite jokes.  But the show isn't just about cheap laughs, so sometimes you have to get rid of them.
Not only that, but when we ran it again, sans page x, not only did it run smoother (WHOO-HOO!) but we also discovered a lovely bit of physical action that makes the ending far sadder.
Only now, I've got tonight and tomorrow to learn the reworked pages around page x.  So, pain.  But also joy.
Thank you Colin.

The Shakespeare Delusion
Written and Performed by Robert Crighton
Professor Ashborn invites you to share in his latest discoveries and lead you through the terrible secrets behind the man people call Shakespeare.  Did he really write the plays?  Was he really bald?  Did he like cheese?  Using recently uncovered documentation Professor Ashborn can finally tell the true and completely true, truly true, utterly true, true story of the Shakespeare delusion!
Performing at the Quay Theatre on Monday 26th May at 7.30pm
To listen to the Live Stream on the night go to www.ustream.tv/channel/robert-crighton-storyteller
Also performing at the LOST One-Act Festival in London on Wednesday 28th May at 7.30pm


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Other Irons in the Fire

I suppose I should, with less than a week to go, go on about The Shakespeare Delusion but I've gone over that so many times, it's not news.  It's on next week, book tickets, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da.  So, I thought I'd post about some of the non-Milk Bottle productions I'm involved in.  At present I'm reacquainting myself with a play I've loved ever since I first appeared in it in 2001 - the delightful The Importance of Being Earnest - which I happen to be in.  It isn't perhaps something I should admit publicly, but think I was possibly born to play Algernon Moncrieff.  He's a self obsessed glutton with few moral scruples and I would hate to think I were that bad.  However, the part does slip on me like a well worn and insanely comfortable pair of shoes.
I first essayed Algernon when I was but a youth, back for the summer from University.  It was September and term was about to begin again.  And on Tuesday 11th September we had our dress rehearsal.  I remember discussing the terrible events of the day before getting into the dressing room and on stage to eat a lot of muffin.  The run was, a recall, well attended.  I have wondered whether we picked up audience because people wanted to escape to a safer world.  But then again, Earnest is rarely poorly attended.
I'm acting in this production for my local amateur company, the Lavenham Players, partly because it keeps the juices flowing, partly because it's good for business, but largely because I'd happily play in Earnest at least once a year anywhere that it came up.
I was chatting with a friend who has directed a number of Wilde's plays and we got onto the subject of the content of the plays.  That of the four plays that deal with society Earnest is the one with the least content - that unlike the other three, which are dramas with some wit, Earnest is only interested in laughs.  I couldn't agree with that.  The play is a satire and it's razor sharp.  It is also very fun, light and frothy.  It is an example of a play that can be both a deeply subversive work - full of class satire and gay subtext - and a play that middle England will sit down and happily enjoy.  I forget the name of the fictional aunt that Terence Rattigan claimed he wrote plays for, but it's something very much for her.
Perhaps there is an argument that we shouldn't be reviving such staples of the repertoire so often - unless we have something new to say about it.  I've been involved in four productions in thirteen years and that's without really hunting the play out.  But it still delights, it still sells and, frankly, if I can't be involved in a revival of the odd classic amongst the dozens of other new works I'm creating, then life would be very dull indeed.
Earnest aside I'm also in two other community productions this year.  I'm doing a bit of Shakespeare in June, a compilation show called Shakespeare Undressed which has been great fun to rehearse so far.  A bit of Benedick, some Fool, some Robin Goodfellow and home in time for tea.  And in November I'm performing in Waiting For Godot - but that's a whole other blog post.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

"Get a handle on the dialogue...

... it's a one man show, it's a monologue..." as a wise woman once said.
I do a lot of monologing, as anyone who's ever attempted to have a conversation with me will tell you.  It's a frustrating process, because you're largely dependent on yourself.  You may have a team around you, people to help with lines, directors, crew etc. but basically you need a brain to hold all those words and actions together.  And so you sit and you fuss and rehearse and go over lines and tweak, and rewrite the lines, because you suddenly hate them, and that bit never flowed, why didn't you change that weeks ago, shit there's only two weeks to go, you should be running it by now, agggghhhhh! 
Because, unlike a play, it seems to take ten times more work to get the damn text to flow right.  You're faffing with tenses and clauses and stuff that my education has wholly failed to prepare me for.  And the closer the deadline gets the more you suddenly want to change, but then there isn't time to learn those changes.
Of course, it's different if it's someone else who's performing the text, or if you're performing another persons play, but when you're doing all the creating it drives you a bit loopy.  And I know, I just have to lock myself away for a few weeks and it'll be fine.  And it all will be fine.  All will be well, all manner of things will be well.  Or something similar.
Basically, what I'm writing here, isn't an attempt to tell you want it's like rehearsing The Shakespeare Delusion or other of my monologues.  It's an attempt not to rehearse yet, because I'm writing a blog post.  Don't make me do it AGAIN!  
Oh, all right, if you insist.
Or I could prepare my Radio show for tomorrow.  Yes, I need to do that now.
No I don't, that's for after rehearsal tonight.  
And so this displacement activity ends.
I believe you're supposed to write lol or something similar at this point.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Shakespeare Delusion - Press Release

The Shakespeare Delusion – Press Release
 
New comedy drama by the Quay Theatre’s Artist in Residence Competing in London
Live Streaming Across the World
 
As part of Milk Bottle’s Shakespeare Trilogy – three plays on a theme of Shakespeare to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday – Robert Crighton presents his mock lecture, The Shakespeare Delusion.  Not only is it premiering at the Quay Theatre on Monday 26th May, it is also competing for the prestigious LOST One-Act Festival in London, as part of their 30th anniversary season.  Robert is the only competitor for the festival in its history to have won three awards in three successive years – he only stopped entering when he was no longer eligible to pass the age restrictions.  The age limit has been dropped this year, so Robert is eager to win a fourth award if he can.

The play is about the so called 'Shakespeare authorship question' which is ruthlessly satirised throughout.  "It's the worst of all conspiracy theories because there is literally no evidence at all to suggest Shakespeare didn't write the plays and vast amounts of evidence to say that he did.  Some of the theories are so absurd it's almost impossible to satirise because anything you try to make up has to be crazier than that which has already been suggested."  Robert Crighton
 
Robert is also appealing for help in writing the play – looking for the worst line from all of Shakespeare.
“I need the worst line I can find – either incomprehensible, weird or just awful.  It isn’t an easy thing to find - he was generally speaking, a brilliant writer.  The winner of my favourite quote will see it featured in the play, and will also get a free copy of the published script with a thank you inside!”
Entries can be sent via tweet @RobertCrighton or email contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk
 
The play is being live streamed as well – the last play Robert streamed, Hang, was listened to around the world.
“With the advent of the world wide web, theatre need not be tied down to one location.  Now, even a small arts centre can produce, not only world class drama, but show it to anyone around the world.  We are no longer bound but the traditional ideas of what is rural theatre or cosmopolitan theatre – there is only theatre, drama, comedy – the excitement of the new.  We are just as important as any other broadcaster and can be judged, not on our location, but on our content.  That is an exciting change in the world.”  Robert Crighton
 
Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Shakespeare Delusion
Written and Performed by Robert Crighton
Professor Ashborn invites you to share in his latest discoveries and lead you through the terrible secrets behind the man people call Shakespeare.  Did he really write the plays?  Was he really bald?  Did he like cheese?  Using recently uncovered documentation Professor Ashborn can finally tell the true and completely true, truly true, utterly true, true story of the Shakespeare delusion!
 
To listen to the Live Stream on the night go to
Performing Live and Online on Monday 26th May at 7.30pm at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury
Tickets: Pay-What-You-Want
Box Office: 01787 374 745
 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Writing Head

I've been trying to get my writing head back on.  It's difficult at the moment because I'm doing a lot of line learning or performing and they are very different mindsets.  Last night I was sat, listening to music, notebook on lap, trying to get something flowing.  Nothing specific, just general words.  And it's not that I haven't written anything for a while.  I only finished The Juliet Inquiry a few weeks ago, and Hang a few weeks before that.  But most of the writing I was doing was really editing.  Rewriting.  The ideas, shapes, notes, plans for those plays were done earlier.  And I've also been writing The Trolls Trilogy each week.  But still, it's not the same.  Letting the imagination flow, letting new ideas in - so that the next 'generation' of plays can be written - is really important.  I know that once The Shakespeare Delusion is done (I'm learning it now, and with monologues like that there is always some rewriting to do as you learn) I have to be ready to write the next two shows on my project list - Metal Harvest and Historic Crimes.  I need to get my head together for that.  Hence the sitting with the notebook.
Not a lot came.  Nothing useful, anyway.  It was mostly self pity, which was interesting.  Meditations on memory, which is something I'm preoccupied with at the moment.  I have noticed that my brain is not as good at things as it used to be.  This is probably temporary, following on from last year and my spell of not-well-ness and I'm learning lines alright.  It's more trivial things.  I've noticed a certain lack of sharpness to my thinking, where I do like to be precise.  Added to that, the discovery that after drinking alcohol, I no longer have total recall of events.  I used to be brilliant at remembering things the morning after.  It was so useful when others were hazy.  But now - a disturbing blur, with occasional flashes of lighting.  It's rather like watching Abigail's Party with the sound off.  Underwater.
That's new.  Interesting.  And like all experiences gets filed in the box of things to put in plays - both as writer and actor.  Because that's how artists think.  We use our lives as material.  Sometimes I suspect I don't actually live my life, I merely use it.  And then I remember that's just bollocks and make a cup of tea.
Now, time to do some line learning and later to sit and pretend to write again.

Friday, 9 May 2014

First Broadcast

This afternoon was the first performance of The Milk Bottle Radio Show - a little under one hour of words from me, mostly by Shakespeare.  It was oddly stressful, preparing and rehearsing it - though it is supposed to be a relatively light touch show.  I had some technical issues before going live, but luckily they resolved themselves and I didn't massively cock it up.  There were a few minor slip ups in the text, but it was live, what are you going to do?  I thought the reading of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis went well, though I waffled on too much before the Before Shakespeare contribution, a speech of 'Delight' - which I think is a fascinating bit of a lost medieval play.  And I read the wrong bit at the end.  But no one has complained.  Yet.  If you want to have a listen - here is the first show, available until the end of the month.  www.ustream.tv/recorded/47335452
So, more next week.  I'll finish off Venus and Adonis and then after that put together more of a mixed bag - including my shorter monologues and a reading of the original version of Hamlet.  And also maybe bringing a few guests in to help with the Before Shakespeare section.  What would you like to hear?  Let me know.  @RobertCrighton or email contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk
The next show is on Friday 16th May at 3.30pm - which you can listen live to here
www.ustream.tv/channel/robert-crighton-storyteller
Or you can listen again afterwards and I'll post that online after the show on my Twitter feed.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Milk Bottle Newsletter - Spring 2014

Please, forward this email onto any friends who might be interested in listening these shows - they're either free and streamed online so anyone in the world can listen or Pay-What-You-Want.  Pass on the love, help make these shows something special...  


Only a few weeks to go before the next project of Project 10/52 is complete - the second of our trilogy of plays to celebrate 450 years of Shakespeare - The Shakespeare Delusion.  It's performing at the Quay Theatre in Suffolk, as well as at the LOST One-Act Festival in London - not only that, it's streaming live online - with a bit of luck video as well as audio, but don't hold your breath on that one!  And if that wasn't enough Shakespeare for you, Robert is starting a regular Friday radio show The Milk Bottle Radio Show with a reading of Venus and Adonis, the classic narrative poem by the bard.  That'll be available for a month after the live broadcast - so don't worry if you can't catch it live.

The Milk Bottle Radio Show
Broadcasting Friday 9th May at 3.30pm. 
The Milk Bottle Radio Show features the storytelling talents of Robert Crighton as he performs his own stories and classic works. Starting on Friday 9th May with a live performance of Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare.
To listen on the day - or anytime for one month after go to www.ustream.tv/channel/robert-crighton-storyteller

The Shakespeare Delusion
Written and Performed by Robert Crighton
Professor Ashborn invites you to share in his latest discoveries and lead you through the terrible secrets behind the man people call Shakespeare.  Did he really write the plays?  Was he really bald?  Did he like cheese?  Using recently uncovered documentation Professor Ashborn can finally tell the true and completely true, truly true, utterly true, true story of the Shakespeare delusion!
Performing at the Quay Theatre on Monday 26th May at 7.30pm
Box Office: 01787 374 745
Or book online by clicking here.
To listen to the Live Stream on the night go to www.ustream.tv/channel/robert-crighton-storyteller
Also performing at the LOST One-Act Festival on Wednesday 28th May at 7.30pm - tickets available here.


In other news - the audio download for Hang isn't quite ready yet, but the script is available to buy now at the Milk Bottle lulu shop.  

Coming up later in the year...
Complicated Pleasures
An All New Comedy by Robert Crighton
Matthew has won the lottery, so he dumps his girlfriend because “he can do better”.  She rebounds on a single parent whose child is blackmailing him for lollipops.  Set in a not too distant future, this is a hilarious sex comedy about messy relationships, the balance of power between the sexes and the consequences of not giving a child a lollipop.
Performing at the Quay Theatre on Monday 21st July at 7.30pm
Box Office: 01787 374 745

And finally, early news on the final project - or is that the first project of 10/52?  On the 31st December 2014 we're planning a big New Years Eve bash.  It's probably going to be based on The Trolls Trilogy (which can be heard online here) but it isn't going to be a straight performance of the stories.  It's going to be a mad, silly, funny (occasionally moving) evening of entertainment and so has a working title of GETTING TROLLIED.  Though Milk Bottle will encourage guests to drink responsibly.  
Tickets are not on sale yet (like all shows it will be Pay-What-You-What) so if you want to be put on the pre-sale guest list then email us now with a name and numbers.  It's not too early to plan where you'll be this New Years Eve.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

After the Inquiry

It occurs to me I haven't told you about The Juliet Inquiry last month.  People really liked it - so much so, we may do it again later in the year.  It's been recorded and if I like said recording will be released online for download anon.
It was a very holistic process, working with the cast individually, none of them getting to see the script or performance of the other witnesses.  I'd added a final character to the show on the last day, bringing in the talented Pamela Flanagan with a few days notice.  So on the day of performance I rehearsed and to some degree wrote the opening of the show.  That said, we were hardly busy with it at first, having lunch on Friars Meadow in Sudbury before the read through of her script.  Then it was all hands to the pumps and I didn't really stop until the show was all over.
The Inquiry was held at the beautiful Lavenham Guildhall, where we set up all the equipment and Peter Morris miked us up for the recording.  Then, after a few photos, we were open for business.  Doors opened and the witnesses (most of them) and the audience mingled - the audience were all given visitor passes on lanyards (which I wish I'd had more time to do some design work on) and then, with an 'All rise' from the usher and a minutes silence for the victims of the play, we were off.
Now, what I hadn't told the cast was that some witnesses would interrupt their testimony - so when Benvolio libelled Rosaline she shouted out at the back of the court.  This was nothing to the scream of 'murderer' from Lady Montague to Capulet at the end of the show.
And, apart from some of the slides with evidence going a little bit wrong, it was an electrifying evening.  Not bad for Shakespeare's birthday, I thought.
In fact, The Juliet Inquiry is just the first of a trilogy of Shakespeare themed works - the next being The Shakespeare Delusion which performs later in the month and will be live streamed, and which is about all the bollocks people say about the non-existent Shakespeare Authorship Question (there isn't any question at all) and ending with Historic Crimes which partly follows on from Delusion as it in part addresses Bardolotry and what do you do about someone whose work is part of public consciousness, if they turn out to be a wrong un.
And on top of that, with my Radio show (starting Friday) I'll be performing regular bursts of Shakespearean poetry - so he's got a bit under my skin this year.

Anyway - I'll leave you with some of the comments the audience left us after the inquiry...

Malcolm (via Facebook):  An excellent event, true drama, I was so mesmerised... Congratulations on some really moving performances and fine writing.
Julie (via Facebook):  "Hear hear! So glad I was able to see it. 450 years and we have our very own 21st century Shakespeare amongst us!"
Anon:  “It was brilliant, well done to all and thank you.”
Anon:  “Lovely – super cast – super venue – more please!”
Sara:  “Well done, an illuminating perspective, I’ll look forward to the report.”
Gemma:  “What a fantastic adaptation of a story we all know so well.  Congratulations to you all.  A very fitting tribute to the Bard on his birthday!”

Penny:  “Totally fab!  Really powerful stuff and totally transfixing.  So relevant and very well done.  I loved it!”

Friday, 2 May 2014

Radio Ham

I've been playing around with live audio streaming for a while now - and I've just got a computer that should mean I can live stream more than I have been.  So, ladies and gentlemen, let me announce the start of the Milk Bottle Radio Show - it'll go live on Fridays at 3.30pm (GMT) and be available to listen again for a month after.  I'm not going to promise a show every week, but that is the plan.  It'll be a mix of storytelling and readings, taking in my own storytelling work, readings of classic stories as well as picking up the sadly neglected work for the Before Shakespeare Project.  But I'm going to start with a bit of Shakespeare.
One of the tasks set aside for my Artist Residency at the Quay Theatre was to perform all the poetry of Shakespeare.  I had planned to release a bit of poetry every day in little chunks - either the sonnets or broken down other work.  The year has got a little bit more busy than planned, so now I need to make good.  So, the plan is to start the live broadcasting with performances of the sonnets and narrative poems.
So, to start with I'm going to perform Venus and Adonis on Friday 9th May at 3.30pm on my ustream channel - after that, we shall see.
And the first Milk Bottle Radio Show is now available to listen online www.ustream.tv/recorded/47335452
Future shows will be available to listen every Friday at 3.30pm at www.ustream.tv/channel/robert-crighton-storyteller