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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Historic Crimes - Full Radio Play

It's been over a year since Historic Crimes premiered as part of my Artist Residency at the Quay Theatre in 2014 and finally I have the remixed, edited and complete recording for you.
This production is dedicate to Philippa Tatham who died earlier this year.

Milk Bottle Audio Presents...
Historic Crimes
By Robert Crighton

What would you want to see if you could look back in time and watch famous events in history?  And what would you do if they greatly disappointed you?  Or you discovered a hidden crime?  Would you tell the world if you discovered that Shakespeare no less was guilty of the worst of crimes?  Could you ever read his plays again?  Or allow them to be staged?  A modern morality tale about Bardolatry, sex and lies – staged as a live radio broadcast and streamed live online on Monday 13th October 2014 from the Quay Theatre, Sudbury.

Cast:
Julia - Pamela Flanagan
Sylvia - Philippa Tatham
Val - Robert Crighton

Technical presentation by Peter Morris
Final edit by Robert Crighton

This audio production is free to listen or download from audioboom.com - but, remember, the people who made it won't receive anything when you do. If you enjoy this play or you'd like to support the work we do, please consider using the PayPal button below and send us a contribution.

Historic Crimes - payment options
The full script of the play can also be purchased online now.

Left to Right: Philippa Tatham, Robert Crighton and Pamela Flanagan

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Ghost in the Machine

I'm supposed to be good at words.  That's my job, don't wear it out.  Finding words for difficult things should be second nature to me, but for the last year or so I have been failing.  That isn't to say that I'm not writing, I've written a reasonable amount this year, but, basically, quite a few friends or friends of friends have died and I haven't really had much to say.  Over a twelve month period I went to five funerals.  And on the news of each death I wanted to write something.  I got out the notebook or pad, booted up Word or hunted out this blog and... nothing.  Apart from the first sentence above.  Finding myself at a loss.
I think this is partly because anything I wrote looked trite - fake.  So this is an attempt to make up for some lost time, by not writing something too obvious about a friend, who has come back to me of late.  And this is because technology doesn't let go of the dead.

Earlier this year my friend Philippa Tatham died.  Not six months before she had come to my rescue by agreeing, at short notice (and on her day off from a run of a play in London) to appear in an audio play, Historic Crimes, that I was live streaming online.  I hadn't seen her in yonks, probably not since the last show I'd press ganged her into - but suddenly she was in my neighbourhood, saying my words, helping me out.  After eight or so hours of rehearsal, general natteration and then performance, she went back home.  Same old, same old.
I sat on the audio play into the New Year, as the edit for download release would take a while and other projects got in the way.  Then the news hit facebook that Philippa had died and no one could really believe it.  She was young, not much older than I, and so it didn't really make sense.  But there is was - in pixels on a smart phone, everyone said so, so it must be true.
And I still had this recording, sitting on a data stick by the computer, waiting.  Not that I could really face editing it.  That would make it true, some how.  So not yet.  This data stick (which I must return to my sound engineer at some point) sat by the computer till a month or so ago, when I thought it was time...  So, I had a listen.  Not a full listen, just a check.  It was very odd experience.  It still is.
You can forget things about people in their absence.  A photograph, especially professional ones, are misleading captures of the past.  Audio is strangely closer.  Even though the recording doesn't feature her own words, her natural phrasing, it does capture those little details you forget.  Ways of speaking, ways of thinking... but what the recording doesn't do is change.  No matter how many times I listen.

It was clear from the off that there was a lot of work to do with the recording - it was well recorded, but the room wasn't fully soundproof.  The play was supposed to have been recorded twice, once prior to the arrival of the audience, the second with audience for the live streaming.  We ran out of time to complete the first recording - so I don't have a clean record of the second half of the play.  This means I have had to do a lot of work to remove audience and other noise from the live version.  I've just finished editing a clean version, with a few edits and changes of timing.  Next, I will do a final clean up, mix in some effects and give it the final once over.  And then, on Thursday, I'll release it online for you all to hear.
 
Of course, what I've really wanted to do is re-record the play.  Not because it necessarily needs it - but because I can't.  Because I can't just phone up Philippa and ask her to do another take.  To ask her to read a new draft.  To have that option.

So, I return again to the problem of words.  What words do I really have to say about this, about Philippa and other lost friends?  Not many.  Just three.
I miss you.

Historic Crimes will be released on Thursday via audioboom.com.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Fantasy Terrorist Variation #5: A Little Learning

It's not even a week since the terrorist attack in Paris and barely hours since the last attack around the world.  This is not a response to these latest incidents.  That will happen.  I've been writing about terrorism for over ten years and the one thing I have learnt is that, whilst the specifics change, the issues, the responses to and attacks by terrorists, remain fairly constant.  This piece is about a different kind of terror committed far away from Paris.
And this audio piece is late. Very late.  I wrote this short play before Christmas 2014 and rushed it into recording as a response to the attacks on school children in Pakistan and Nigeria.  It then got delayed because of recording problems.  But the delay it didn't stop being relevant.  In many ways it is more relevant now.  The use of terrorism against education, targeting children, women and those who want to improve their lives has become increasingly common.  Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as a call for the end to western education, are still at large in Nigeria, having killed thousands of people over the years, whilst the school children they kidnapped last year are still lost.  As I type, the dust hasn't settled on their latest attack - where children were used to deliver bombs.
Though the following piece is fiction and potentially set anywhere, it is based on a number of accounts from around the world in the present day.

Be warned: the following piece reflects the horror of what is happening to children around the world and is disturbing and may upset listeners.

Fantasy Terrorist Variation #5: A Little Learning

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Metal Harvest Programme

Last week was quite a week - I picked a terrible week to take on additional work, as I only had the world premiere of Metal Harvest going on.  Eek!  With so much going on I failed to create a programme - not even an info sheet.  So... here we go - have an online version - with photos from the tech at the bottom!

FIRST HALF:
Metal Harvest
By Robert Crighton and Richard Fawcett

Principle dialogue by Robert Crighton
Music and German translation by Richard Fawcett

Metal Harvest was originally commissioned as part of Project 10/52 - ten shows in fifty-two weeks - in 2014.  It only took two years to finally get it to the stage.

With Thanks to:
Sonia & Jonathan Lindsey-Scripps for lending the shell casing; Gary Plumb for creating the shrapnel; Alan Scott and Sue Clark for archive material (even though we didn't use it in the end!)
John Bethell for rehearsal photography.
And Everyone at the Quay - Joe, Simon and Sharon.
I've probably missed someone out - sorry!

SECOND HALF:
The Fantasy Terrorist Variations

In 2005 I wrote a monologue about reactions to the war on terror - Fantasy Terrorist League - which sank like a stone at the Edinburgh Fringe.  In 2006 it won the award for Best New Writing at the LOST One-Act Festival and since then expanded into a number of related variations on a theme.  Whilst I had planned to do a second half based on stories uncovered during the research for Metal Harvest on other themes of WW1, these didn't quite get to the level I wanted; so instead I decided to move forward the new variations for FTV I've been writing.  Variation 6, still a work in progress, fitted the previously staged Variation 3 so well I had to show them together.  Further variations will premiere online shortly.

Variation Six: (Untitled) A Work in Progress
Written and Performed by Robert Crighton

Variation Three: The Project After by Robert Crighton
Robert Crighton as Mark
Simon Nader as Art
Technical Photos:
These photographs were taken for Metal Harvest, during a very speedy tech, by the marvellous John Bethell.  The stage isn't fully set, my hair isn't slicked back and we're not properly in costume.  But we got something recorded, which is nice.  The photos haven't been fully adjusted yet - there's some cropping and colour adjustments I would normally do, but I wanted to get this post out today and so... hey.

Richard Fawcett, getting the fiddle warmed up...

In the lighting box, going over the cues.

The desk, which I didn't appreciate was so wonky...

Is the back light on... oh yes, there it is.

Still on... good.

Sitting down. In performance I am sans glasses, waistcoat and the hair...

The one real(ish) statistic used in the show.

No idea where the cat impression comes in. That's another show.

On my Fisher Price telephone.

"WHERE'S MY COFFEE!"
And now the German section - which Richard and I did in unison. A surprise hit during the show. 












"Richard, what's my next line?"






Monday, 28 September 2015

Complexity v Simplicity

Metal Harvest could be the most complex show I've ever done.  It could be one of the simplest*.  It's undecided.  It could go either way at this stage.
The script - or my spoken script anyway - barring some shifting here and there, is set and I'm running the text (verbal and physical) each day looking for detail.  Looking for new ways in.  But then there's the other elements.  Sound, projection, light.  And they're all completely up for grabs.  I've started sketching out a rough storyboard for the projection - most of it would be very simple - textures, a few pictures, text.  But it might be too much.  I might cut it all on the tech run.  Sound should decide itself very soon.
I've just finished recording a section of text with Richard Fawcett, who's performing the music and doing some acting in the piece.  This, Richard and Google translate assure me, is a section in German, which I simultaneously translate into English. Except we might also have the text projected and the words spoken recorded and played separately at the same time.  Getting the balance between the different sources is going to be tricky to get right.
Or I could strip it back and do much less.  It's a difficult call at the moment.
The other problem I face is technical - getting the imagery to do what I want it to do, when time starts getting tight.  It's a little over a month to go and I'm very unsure which delivery system is the best to use.
And don't get me started on the set...
These open source paranoid musings are, I should add, a fairly traditional part of creating a show.  With a month to go, it's going well.  I just want the show to be amazing.  And we will get only ONE chance to get it right.

*To be fair, I doubt I'm going to get any simpler than Fantasy Terrorist League (2005) where I stood still for 40 minutes before doing two actions.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Metal Harvest
Written and performed by Robert Crighton and Richard Fawcett

“This is the story of a shell...” Throughout the First World War the armaments created passed through many hands – from those in the mines and factories who made them, to those who transported the boxes and those who fired the guns.  This is the story of one shell, the story of those who touched it and whose lives were changed by it.  Told in words, music, image and song, Metal Harvest is the latest work from award-winning theatre producer Robert Crighton, made in collaboration with musician Richard Fawcett. 

Performing on Thursday 29th October at 7.30pm
Tickets: £9 (Friends £8)
The Quay Theatre, Sudbury
Box Office: 01787 374 745
Book Online: www.quaytheatre.org.uk

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Shall I Be Mother?

I was asked in the bar the other month: "Would Metal Harvest be suitable for my mother?"
I couldn't answer the question.  I said the reason was, I won't know until I do a run on Sunday.  That wasn't untrue, but it was a bit disingenuous.  We had a good run of the show on Sunday afternoon, the first proper run of the first half with something like the final script and music cues, it answered questions about the show I hadn't had a chance to when running it by myself.  It didn't answer the question: "Would Metal Harvest be suitable for my mother?"
There are some clear indicators about suitability of shows for mothers.  Language is one - and at this point in terms of explicit language of the rude four or so letter variety the frequency is low and probably getting lower.  So, borderline.  But I don't like / am formally opposed to putting up warnings on things saying: "BE WARNED: this show contains three uses of the word BELGIUM!" - "This show Contains Mild Peril and three references to incontinent border collies - partly because people tend to sit there with a mental scorecard waiting for the chance to shout HOUSE! but mostly because there is something dangerously reductive in protecting people from things.  If the show is good it will be because the use of a swear word or similarly provocative language/image will have an effect - if the audience is waiting for that effect, having been pre-warned precisely what to expect, then frankly, fuck this for a game of soldiers.  I don't believe in mollycoddling children, so adults really have no excuse.
I think my problem is what we're talking about here isn't about suitability, or whether it's right for someone, etc. - it's that we treat culture as a product.  We buy into it.  We look at the labels, see if we think it fits us and we spend our money accordingly.  The question isn't - is this suitable for someone's mother - the question is, is this marketed for someone's mother.  Because, perhaps the best people to see a show like this are the people who wouldn't think they should.  Because that is far more interesting and far more valuable.  If we only consume entertainment based on what we like then we will never see things that might challenge us.
This raises the question - should we lie to audiences about the content of our shows?  I have form, or sort of.  I didn't set out consciously to lie about a play, but I suspect my subconscious did.  It is a painful process, but can be remarkably effective.  I've never seen a post show bar so humming with discourse after a show as when the audience thought they were coming to a harmless comedy.  The fatal flaw there was that I mislead the cast as well, and that didn't end well.
Not that Metal Harvest works on this principle.  It's a pre-paid ticketed event and so I feel some obligation to the consumer not to break the pact.  But, whether it's suitable for your mother?  Who can say?  Even if you aren't someone's mother and wish to book, ticket information is below.

In other news, I've just finished recording a second series of our audio comedy The Museum of Tat with my good friend Michael Fouldes - there'll be five episodes released daily from 5th to the 9th October from midday.  Here's the very silly, completely unhelpful teaser trailer.



Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Metal Harvest
Written and performed by Robert Crighton and Richard Fawcett

“This is the story of a shell...” Throughout the First World War the armaments created passed through many hands – from those in the mines and factories who made them, to those who transported the boxes and those who fired the guns.  This is the story of one shell, the story of those who touched it and whose lives were changed by it.  Told in words, music, image and song, Metal Harvest is the latest work from award-winning theatre producer Robert Crighton, made in collaboration with musician Richard Fawcett. 

Performing on Thursday 29th October at 7.30pm
Tickets: £9 (Friends £8)
The Quay Theatre, Sudbury
Box Office: 01787 374 745
Book Online: www.quaytheatre.org.uk

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Metal Harvest

My next project is a show called Metal Harvest.  I've been working on it for over eighteen months on and off and it's starting to get there.  It was supposed to have premiered exactly a year ago, (as part of my artist residency at the Quay) on the anniversary of the entry of Britain into the First World War - but a series of complications got in the way of that.  However, the delay has not been without its advantages, it's a more developed piece than it would have been and, I suspect, a better one.
It's the story of a shell - one shell - and the effect it has on the lives it touches.  It's also about cliché and the dangers of stereotypes and the tropes that amass around something as big as the Great War.  It's very easy for a show to fall into familiar patterns, to reaffirm easy assumptions about what four years of history is.  So far I've created the first half, which is all storytelling, music and images.  The second half is going to be something quite different, but will be a secret for the time being.  To myself chiefly.
I'm working once again with Richard Fawcett who's creating and performing the music, as he has for a couple of my shows in the past.  He's being terribly patient with me, as I've delayed any kind of a detailed script for many, many months as other projects have got very much in the way.
I'm hoping that the performance at the Quay Theatre will be filmed, so that I can post it online - so even those who can't make the show (isn't solid state geography a bugger) will be able to catch something of it. Those who can catch it - booking is now open, details below.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Metal Harvest
Written and performed by Robert Crighton and Richard Fawcett

“This is the story of a shell...” Throughout the First World War the armaments created passed through many hands – from those in the mines and factories who made them, to those who transported the boxes and those who fired the guns.  This is the story of one shell, the story of those who touched it and whose lives were changed by it.  Told in words, music, image and song, Metal Harvest is the latest work from award-winning theatre producer Robert Crighton, made in collaboration with musician Richard Fawcett. 

Performing on Thursday 29th October at 7.30pm
Tickets: £9 (Friends £8)
The Quay Theatre, Sudbury
Box Office: 01787 374 745
Book Online: www.quaytheatre.org.uk

Friday, 29 May 2015

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

In any long run you start hearing a lot of the same questions from the audience. There have been three frequent flyers for Everyman and they are as follows.
Question 1. How much is it?
See previous blog post.

Question 2. How do you learn all those lines?
This is a commonplace for actors, but it's particularly true of storytellers where the word count is in thousands and, in my personal repertoire, tens of thousands. Always one must bite ones tongue and not say, "it's my job".  I have considered printing business cards with a stock answer, but that might be a bit passive aggressive.

Question 3. Have you ever thought of performing in a church?
"Well, yes.  Yes I have.  In fact, I'm performing at one on Sunday.  See, it's on the tour schedule."
Again, I don't say this, it's a passive aggressive response to a reasonable question and the answer is interesting.

I haven't had much luck getting into churches or persuading church goers to see Everyman.  There is a history to such things of course - churches historically don't like drama.  It's a long bias, set up by the early Roman church, and it runs deep, even in a modern ministry.  There is a reason that even the early mystery plays and moralities were banished from the church; they were a distraction from the central purpose of the ministry, tainted by association with the pre-Christian pagan theatre.  This is compounded by the fact that modern Christianity has changed since medieval times and so even a Christian text can be considered suspect because it teaches things that have since fallen by the wayside.  Some people are openly suspicious and occasionally actively hostile to a dramatic performance in a church - the suspicion being that a heathen such as myself would present a mocking form of the play in their sacred space.  (This isn't actually an unreasonable suspicion - I have form.)  Were I a congregant this might not be a barrier, the audience for the shows being reassured that I followed at least one branch of Christian thinking and would play with a straight bat.

But, ask my questioners, there are shows in churches all the time.  Yes, I reply, but even though churches are often used for performance, it is almost always music.  Music is safer and there is a long tradition of music in churches; even if it isn't liturgical, it is in sympathy with the space.

Acoustically churches are not great for drama - a solo voice can carry, but the cut and thrust of dialogue gets lost in the echo.  Also, more importantly, the line of sight is terrible, so you're compromised on what people can actually see.  When I performed at St Mary's Church, Chilton, I was okay because it's fairly small.  (I also got to deliver God's speech from the pulpit, which felt delightfully naughty - I suspect I might have made a good vicar.)
Ideally Everyman shouldn't be seen in a church at all - a small chapel perhaps, but not a church.  I am always looking for a 'sacred' space, i.e. a space with atmosphere - which most village halls sadly do not have.  I first performed my version of Everyman in the Guildhall in Lavenham, which has the weight of history behind it.  When I performed the show at the Quay Theatre I spent hours trying to make the room I was using different, unfamiliar, in some sense atmospheric.  I have attempted similar with all the other spaces I've performed at, with greater or lesser success.

Despite the difficulties of performing in church spaces I have offered the show to them, sometimes just as part of a round robin, sometimes via direct intersession.  The result has been a blank.  No interest.  The only spaces where these plays are welcome are, ironically, secular, or in the case of St Mary's Church, infrequently used (though still consecrated) and that came about by a round about kind of route.  De-consecrated or seldom used churches and chapels are always more accommodating because, though they used to function as such, they are not longer as sacred a space as they used to be.  Only by the action of actor, text and audience (priest, liturgy, congregation) will a 'sacred' atmosphere appear - the similarity between the ritual of the liturgy and the ritual of theatre is a commonplace.

A sense of the sacred is abstract; a space isn't inherently sacred, it can have greater potential to act as a sacred space, but sacredness, as it were, is an active thing.  Like the tree falling in the forest, if no one is there to hear it, it doesn't make a sound - there's only a vibration in the air.  Without people inhabiting it, a space is just a place.  We make it something special.  And that's what I try to do with my show, if only for an hour or so.
It looks like Everyman will pop up again every so often, here and there.  Maybe more churches will get in touch, maybe I'll find more spaces with an air of the sacred - we shall see.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

After Everyman - Thank You

Twenty shows, a little over a month, and a lot of Good and Bad Deeds - thus ends the tale of The Summoning of Everyman.  I'm not saying I won't perform it again, but I won't take it on tour again in this way and not for a while.  I've learnt a lot of good lessons about how to do a tour like this and that means the next touring show - Metal Harvest - will be a leaner, meaner, performance machine.  Well, sort of.

Special Thanks to Jacqueline Cooper Clark - who acted as FOH and has been tirelessly posting about the show online - Belinda Hasler, Phil & Rachel Hope, Bryan Thurlow, Jennifer Davis; Mark Saberton for the gift of shirts as well as other kindnesses; Fiona Dinning for continued support to project Milk Bottle and all the fabulous people who run village halls across Suffolk and Essex, many of whom have gone out of their way to promote the show and make me feel welcome.  Apologies if I've missed anyone out!


I'll finish archiving the shirt of Bad Deeds and the last of the Good Deeds next week.

Stisted Village Hall - the final venue.

The interior - lit by the demonic glow of overhead wall heaters

Me and my shadow at Boxted and Hartest

St Mary's Church Chilton... twas a little chilly.

Steeple Bumpstead - pity I didn't need the stage for this show...



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Price Elasticity of Pay-What-You-Want

"The drama's laws, the drama's patrons give,
For we that live to please, must please to live."  Samuel Johnson.

I've still to sit down and crunch the numbers properly, but Pay-What-You-Want is an odd beast.  We all know about price elasticity based on demand - the more people want something the more they are willing to pay, working in ratio with the supply of goods on offer.
Pay-What-You-Want doesn't work that way - partly because the supply/demand side is a done deal.  If you've got into the show, you've got into the show - there's no pre-bargaining over price.  So you pay what you want to pay afterwards.  And that's where things get interesting.
We live in a consumer society.  We know the price of everything - we value things in part because of the price.  If it costs a lot of money it must be worth that money, rather than the other way round.  So Pay-What-You-Want confuses people.  Here's a not untypical conversation.

AUDIENT:  So, how much is it?
ME:  It's Pay-What-You-Want.
AUDIENT:  So, how much is that?
ME:  Whatever you want.
AUDIENT:  So, five pounds... ten pounds?
ME:  It's whatever you want to give.
AUDIENT:  Yes, but how much is that?  I mean, how much do people usually pay?

And so on.  I don't give an advised price, because that seems to defeat the purpose - I might as well just say give me x and sell tickets.
Often people try to pay upfront.

AUDIENT:  Right, so you'll want money now?
ME:  No, after the show, when you can judge how much you think the show deserves.
AUDIENT:  Right.  Are you sure?

Yes, yes I am.  Partly because I'm confident that this show is a good 'un and that people are generally nice.  This has backfired only once, not because people stopped being nice but when a show went down... shall we say the reaction was mixed.  On that occasion I took half what I would normally take.  The part of me that has grown up in this consumer world was more hurt by this than the rather less black and white feedback after the show.
So, having done this one show for x number of performances, what is the average return?  To get down to brass tacks.  Well, it varies and it doesn't.  Individually the audience gives wildly different amounts of money - from a couple of quid, up to thirty/forty pounds in one instance.  However, the total take at the end of most shows is fairly consistent - regardless of the size of the house.
Everyman is a show designed for small audiences, it functions better when the house is small - but I always worry that this means I won't hit my budgeted return.  In this, I am proved relatively safe thanks to what I will call Price Elasticity of Audience Size.  I.e. The smaller the audience, the more they give.  Whether it's because they feel that I might be out of pocket because they are fewer, or because the show is more effective (both at times are true) the smaller audience almost always gives more.  If for the former reason then I feel bad, because they're giving money in the false understanding that I haven't budgeted for a low turn out (I have - all my shows are budgeted on the assumption that next to no one will turn up) or that they feel embarrassed in some way (again, a false position because the show functions best when there are fewer in the audience).
But they give, and I am thankful, because it does make a difference.
What is sadder is not that the smaller audience gives more for the wrong reasons, it's that the bigger audience gives demonstrably less for possibly even worse ones.  The show isn't necessarily much better or worse from their end (my preferences are my own) but they give less.  I maybe doing my audiences down but I suspect this is because the audience makes a calculation.  "There are more people, so he's getting enough money from them, so I don't need to give so much."
Both calculations are understandable, but they're also quite depressing - because the point of Pay-What-You-Want it's not about group-think haggling over price, it's about giving what you can afford, what you think the show is worth and what you want.  But I fear audiences are not giving what they want, they're reacting to the group, thinking about what everyone else is giving, treating the art on offer not as one person giving to another, but as a reaction to a marketplace - as if they were assessing share price in the stock market.  Are we all so infected with the consumer mindset that we can't disengage from it after an hour with a morality play?
Not all my shows are Pay-What-You-Want.  After 18 plus months playing with the format I've decided to use it for my solo work only.  Partly this is pragmatic - when hiring/working with others we do need a better baseline to work with and Pay-What-You-Want (though stable enough return wise from the audience) can be hit by bad weather conditions and failure to turn up even when seats are reserved.  The payment of a ticket in advance means a budget can be properly assessed and payments balanced as we go along, based on reliable data.
But my solo work will remain largely Pay-What-You-Want because I can - because I only need to pay myself and my expenses - and I'll continue trying to forge connections with my audience, one-to-one, so that they are free to give WHAT THEY WANT, rather than WHAT THEY THINK EVERYONE ELSE IS.

Then again, I could just be being really patronising and the bigger audiences just thought I was shit.

The final performance of The Summoning of Everyman is tonight in Stisted Village Hall - www.milkbottleproductions.co.uk for details.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Assington and other Adventures

I have to be frank and admit that the shows are all starting to blur into one.  That's why I haven't posted about the last few shows - I CAN'T STAND THE CONFUSION IN MY MIND!  The old gag about a rock group calling out the wrong name of the town they're in is very true.  Especially as there are only three village halls in the world.
Allow me to elaborate.
Type 1. Is an historic (i.e. usually pre-war) building which is idiosyncratic in it's design as well as in it's acoustic and thermal efficiency (i.e. it's a bloody weird shape, it echos like fuck and the heat goes straight out of the ceiling barely touching the audience.)
Type 2. Is post war, it's got a nice acoustic, a raised stage one end and has probably been updated at some point with mode cons, but still will have the odd party quirk.  Usually warm and inviting.
Type 3. Is a badminton bunker.  The ceiling is so high it has its own micro-climate, which means you can time the echo by clapping, going out for a pee, coming back in and finding the reverb is still enfolding you.
I, of course, exaggerate for comic effect.
The reverb is usually much longer than that.

Boxford - or is it Assington?
Assington - or is it Boxford?
The last show was in Assington, which confused my tiny little brain because the hall is almost exactly the same inside as Boxford.  Here are a couple of compare and contrast photos which don't quite do the similarities justice.
Regardless as to whether the hall at Assington was memorable, the audience certainly were - it was a great show and I enjoyed myself enormously (I can assume by comments the audience did too).

"Riveting - thank you"
"Excellent - Many Thanks."
"Thought provoking - well done!"

A vlog will follow sometime this weekend - featuring the winner of the best village hall toilet competition (so far).

Still not posting more Bad Deeds till the end of the run I'm afraid - but here's a selection of Good Deeds:
I gave Everyman some shirts. (as potential shirt of Bad Deeds replacements...)
Gave my work shift to a girl who was sulking at 'not being picked'
Night shift for Samaritans
Took a neighbour shopping.
Cut my ----- Grass (unclear whose grass)
Talking to a stranger
Help hover our car (very unclear - help holler our cat?)
Cooking someone a favourite treat
I write to my mum every week
Helping Stella
Supported the Arts
Told the truth to a friend who needed to hear it
Looking after friends child while they dealt with emergency
Walking the dog on Monday (corresponding Bad Deed - Not walking the dog on Tuesday!)
Opened up and cleared up round Village Hall
Help with R.D.A.
Pushing a car
Made a pie for friend.
Long term looking after Mother
Stopped singing to the the neighbours
Keeping Asbo the aggressive cockerel alive!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Eyes Have It

Somewhere within the bubble that is the world of touring the odd bit of news reaches me - for example, there's apparently an election going on, who'd have known?  One of these little tit bits was an article about looking up from your phones.  In this piece someone old who has a book/tv series etc to flog, posits that no one really looks at each other/things anymore because they're too busy looking at their phones or taking selfies to see anything.
I've recently got a relatively up-to-date smart phone and I do use it a lot, largely as an extension of my work.  I can post tweets and stuff to my followers, on the go - patchy Suffolk signal allowing.  Whilst I can attest that I do look down more often, I don't know that this necessarily affects the way I see the world.
For starters, I'm often reading an article about something whilst online.  An article about not looking at things because I'm looking at my phone, for example.  This is an activity I do anyway, though usually in analogue form - when I have a paper or a book on me - but then I'm probably too old to be using my phone for the activities this article probably decried anyway - selfies or sexting on the go whilst watching (rather than listening) to music on YouTube.
If the phone is doing anything that makes me less of a human being, it is probably connected to stress - as my work is already my life, it now follows me further and further into my day.  I check emails and social media far too often and, as I'm in the tail end of a tour, worry if I don't get x number of bookings by mid afternoon of a show day.  When the tour is over the off button will be an option again.
But all of the above is a preamble to an actual point, the point of this post.
People are funny about eye contact.  And I suspect they always were.
Let me explain.  As a storyteller I trade in eye contact.  It's how I tell my stories.  If I can't look at the audience it doesn't work.  Playing vaguely over the heads of the audience is really weird.  It's... well, it's just rude.  You can't pretend they're not there.  Actors, those who trade in talking to onstage people or cameras, do not always get this - they are often terrified of looking at the audience.
Everyman is not quite your standing actingy show - it's somewhere between acting in a play and storytelling.  The show functions because when I'm playing a character, I'm looking at the audience as if they were Everyman, as one end of a conversation.  When I talk to a volunteer who's with me on stage, I talk to them as though I were Everyman, and again, it's a conversation.  If you don't look at me, then it's weird.
And some people just won't.  They look down.  And it breaks my heart a bit.
I first noticed it as a problem when I started doing one-to-one storytelling, when I realised how many people HATED the idea of someone telling them a story direct.  I assumed that it would be a nice novelty, that people would jump at the chance to be told a story, like a child at bedtime, perhaps.  I was being interviewed on the radio about a show called Problem Tree and the presenter (live on air, to my immense anger) said how horrible to must be for the audient and that she'd hate to go to the show.
And so the reaction remained - whenever I spoke about the show, everyone said it sounded really uncomfortable and somehow indecent.  And even when I had dozens of people coming out afterwards, raving about the piece - it remains one of my favourites - no amount of ecstatic reporting could get people to come who hadn't already dismissed the show.  Because I looked at them.
With the Everyman show, the people who don't look are those sitting as audience members - when people want to be distant and presented with a spectacle.  They look at the floor or close their eyes and listen.  When storytelling you learn quickly that some people like to close their eyes and listen - and for a biggish audience, that's mostly fine.  (You learn the difference between those who are listening and those who are asleep.)  Again, it's a bit sad, but it's not the end of the world.
But with Everyman it's different.  The play as I perform it is closer to ritual.  It's about connection and it's about looking and sharing, and when people don't play - then I have no where to go.  It is easy in a play where you are play a part and reacting to others on stage to find the emotion and the story and to feel and emote appropriately.  When you're jumping from one person to another in seconds, as I am in Everyman, it's far harder to keep that going.  It becomes harder to react genuinely and not over or under act, to force something for effect.
The eyes have it, the eyes make the show.
So, what has this to do with phones and selfies and the lack of communication between human and human?  Bugger all, so far as I can tell.  It's almost always the older audience members who won't look, not the teenager locked to their phones.  Perhaps, because they spend so much time looking down into blank screens, when they're offered eye contact they gorge on it like a gatecrasher at a wake.

***
I'm about to set off for Assington for tonight's show.  Proper updates about the last couple of shows will follow this weekend...

The Summoning of Everyman: Touring April 2015
All shows will be Pay-What-You-Want and tickets can be reserved by phone or online.

Assington Village Hall                                -              Thursday 9th April at 7.30pm
Brettenham Village Hall                             -              Tuesday 14th April at 7.30pm
Steeple Bumpstead Village Hall                 -              Wednesday 15th April at 7.30pm
St Mary’s Church, Chilton                         -              Sunday 19th April at 3pm
Boxted & Hartest Institute                         -              Monday 20th April at 7.30pm
Stisted Village Hall                                    -              Wednesday 22nd April at 7.30pm

All details correct at time of press – updates, corrections and directions to shows can be found online – or contact us direct.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Leaving Leavenheath

I'm halfway there!  Last evenings performance was the eighth in the official tour, with eight to go.
A lovely audience in Leavenheath for the Easter Sunday show.  It was a bit of a gamble, whether we would get an audience at all, but as it happened it was a good solid house - much better than Good Friday, which was a little quiet.  Now it's a question of how many people we will get for tonight's Easter Monday showing in Hundon - another gamble.  Will it pay off?  We shall see.

"Made us all think over Easter - most wonderful timing! Thank you."
"An amazing play - it makes you think about the rest of your life."
"A wonderful revelation - particularly on Easter Sunday."


I have just edited a video for you today (above) - and I thought I'd embed the full playlist of the vlogs so far in order of height... (below)


More excitement from the world of wall mounted heaters...

Funny story, this heater didn't work at first... oh, sorry,
I meant to write 'dull story'. My bad.
The Summoning of Everyman: Touring April 2015
All shows will be Pay-What-You-Want and tickets can be reserved by phone or online.
Telephone: 07946 652 196
Email: contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk
For emails or any phone messages please state your name, contact number, number of tickets and, most importantly, which date/venue you're booking for.

Hundon Village Hall                                   -              Monday 6th April at 7.30pm
Creeting St Mary Jubilee Hall                     -              Tuesday 7th April at 7.30pm
Assington Village Hall                                -              Thursday 9th April at 7.30pm
Brettenham Village Hall                             -              Tuesday 14th April at 7.30pm
Steeple Bumpstead Village Hall                 -              Wednesday 15th April at 7.30pm
St Mary’s Church, Chilton                         -              Sunday 19th April at 3pm
Boxted & Hartest Institute                         -              Monday 20th April at 7.30pm
Stisted Village Hall                                    -              Wednesday 22nd April at 7.30pm

All details correct at time of press – updates, corrections and directions to shows can be found online – or contact us direct.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Initial Analysis of Good and Bad Deeds

Word Cloud of the Good Deeds of Everyman
Time for some initial analysis of the Good and Bad Deeds presented by Everyman audiences.  The data set is incomplete at the moment, as there are more Bad Deeds as yet not inputted - and there's more sifting of categories and placement.  Some answers cross over a number of Good and Bad Deeds and some are just unclassifiable - and this isn't a full survey - we're only asking people to name one Good and Bad Deed and not a number of them, ranked in order of severity - and people forget or deny their deeds - but I think we can identify some trends.

Good Deeds
Saving a Life, Helping Animals and Patience with Idiots all came in at 3% each.
Smiling as a Good Deed comes in at 5% (Which is a very interesting quirk - because is smiling a good deed, or even necessarily a good thing?)
Lots of people stated inner aims as Good Deeds - almost aspirations, rather than active Good Deeds (thinking well of others, trying not to be selfish etc) - these came in at a joint 6% along with classifiable abstract or joke responses, as well as Caring for the Sick.
Volunteering or Charity Work - 9%
Donating Money or Goods - 14% 
But, by far the most common were Little Kindnesses at 45% - many of which involve Wheelie bins.

Word Cloud of the Bad Deeds of Everyman -
a few slightly random words, isolated from context,
raise more questions than answers...
Bad Deeds are easier to classify - fitting into the classic seven deadly sins, or into a 'Thou Shalt Not' Commandment.  By and large we admit to violent thoughts or deeds, accompanied with a fair amount of lying and cheating.  On the plus side, Pride, classically the worse sin, isn't in much evidence. (Though you could argue that by writing a Good Deed you are giving into Pride - the list of Good Deeds can feel uncomfortably like bragging at times, but that can't be helped because of the nature of the exercise.  It would be different if I only asked for a Bad Deed and people insisted on telling me their virtues.  By and large the audiences have struggled to think of a Good Deed and struggled to choose a Bad Deed, which either suggests we're all hopeless sinners, or that we're simply more aware of doing harm and dismiss our basic niceness.  I prefer the latter assumption, it's less judgemental.)

Pride                            3%
Lechery                        9%
Sloth                            10%
Gluttony                       13%
Theft                            14%
Lying & Cheating          23%

Wrath                           28%

The Summoning of Everyman: Touring April 2015
All shows will be Pay-What-You-Want and tickets can be reserved by phone or online.

Leavenheath Village Hall                            -              Sunday 5th April at 6pm
Hundon Village Hall                                   -              Monday 6th April at 7.30pm
Creeting St Mary Jubilee Hall                     -              Tuesday 7th April at 7.30pm
Assington Village Hall                                -              Thursday 9th April at 7.30pm
Brettenham Village Hall                             -              Tuesday 14th April at 7.30pm
Steeple Bumpstead Village Hall                 -              Wednesday 15th April at 7.30pm
St Mary’s Church, Chilton                         -              Sunday 19th April at 3pm
Boxted & Hartest Institute                         -              Monday 20th April at 7.30pm
Stisted Village Hall                                    -              Wednesday 22nd April at 7.30pm

All details correct at time of press – updates, corrections and directions to shows can be found online – or contact us direct.