Christie on Campus #1

Welcome to suspicion, fear, paranoia and ‘get to know you’ games

Kicking off our latest series of production blogs, Paul Green is our first victim: a director and actor with a long and impressive theatrical CV, he also has some distinctly sinister plans to bump off cast members

This being my first show for SUP, I wanted to get to know the cast, and to help cast who were members new to the company to get to know the more established SUP players. The cast for AND THEN THERE WERE NONE includes performers who joined SUP in the last few months working alongside more longstanding members – it’s a 50/50 split, really, between “old” and “new”. And of course, I’m a relatively new member of the team myself. 

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Paul Green is directing Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE for SUP Theatre Company

To me, simply starting rehearsals “cold” can throw everybody slightly, so we started the entire process with a four-hour session of exercises, on a Sunday, to get to know each other. This was, in part, about developing trust and team-working among the company members.

The first exercise, the “Name Game” – which we still play at the start of every rehearsal session – has a number of purposes. It’s for everyone to learn everybody else’s real name as well as their character name, to get them used to establishing eye contact, and getting them used to doing and thinking three things at once (which is, as I keep telling them, the basis of acting). If you can imagine mentally patting your head and rubbing your stomach and reciting the alphabet all at the same time, you get the idea. The cast has embraced this after persevering and the determination shown has been impressive. Much hilarity is also derived from identifying who is establishing eye contact and where you should walk and to whom (it takes too long to explain, but you should play it some time).

I also introduced the cast to “Flying”, which is pretty much as it sounds. Only one intrepid cast member did it to begin with, but after seeing what it entails, everyone took part, with one or two people still having to be convinced. You’ll see some pictures here.

We then played a game known as “Killer” or “Wink Murder” to introduce the cast to the feelings of paranoia and suspicion that I’ll be foregrounding in our production. In this game, one person is secretly chosen as the murderer and winks at their victims when no-one is looking. The victim then “dies” as spectacularly as possible in a way that also misdirects. So, as you can imagine if you know any members of this cast, the “spectacular death” aspect was really underplayed (the longest death scene was timed at more than two minutes). The more you play it, the more extreme the deaths are, and the more paranoid everyone becomes… precisely what I was aiming for.

Of course, we got through far more than just these games on the day, with everyone throwing themselves into the activities wholeheartedly – and we had a lot of fun while working hard to build a strong basis for teamwork and the underlying themes of the production.

Please follow our continued progress in future blogs from various people and different directions and of course, please remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book early yourself.


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10. Concessions and group bookings available.

You can book your tickets here

ATTWN

It’s Murder – Take Two!

It’s Murder – Take Two!

Hounds of Love

This week’s blog is by David Green, director of SUP’s upcoming The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard

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19-20 October at 7.30pm, Rose Theatre, Eastleigh – book at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

This is my first time working with SUP so let me start by telling you a little about myself.

A director, actor and general theatre practitioner, I love to get stuck in with anything theatre-related. In fact, I’ve had a love for drama and theatre since the age of seven when I first got involved with Junior Minstead’s annual pantomime. After 10 years of panto, I started getting involved with the Youth Theatre in Minstead, and actually performed in a production of… you guessed it, The Real Inspector Hound!

Since then I studied drama from GCSE through to BA (Hons) at the University of Winchester. I now have my own theatre company, Out Of Bounds Theatre, and I freelance wherever possible. I even teach Performing Arts at Southampton City College.

But after all that, I still had a deep urge to direct Stoppard’s work again… just one more time, to really squeeze everything out of it, and demonstrate to people not only how great his work is, but also show the quality of our local acting talent. When I saw that SUP was looking for directors earlier this year and was open to suggestions, I knew that I HAD to get involved…

AND SO IT BEGINS…

We’ve had our first few rehearsals and I am VERY excited. The cast are enthusiastic, talented and hold a lot of potential, so I’m sure they will bring the final performances to life with ease.

So far, we’ve covered characterisation, looking into posture and physicality, in-depth back-stories for the characters and even voice and projection… and we have so much more still to cover. Stoppard’s work has so many layers to it, you could read it over and over again and find something new every time. So we have our work cut out for us.

Thankfully, the entire SUP team is brilliant, and I have absolutely no doubt that we’ll get through it, have fun, and produce a play that everyone will enjoy. Because, ultimately, that’s what all this is about: having fun, and ensuring that our audiences have a brilliant theatrical experience.

So please do come along to the Rose Theatre in Eastleigh this October, and enjoy the fruits of all the hard work these guys and the backstage crew are putting into the show. I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time as we explore the weird goings-on at Muldoon Manor, the madman wandering around Essex, theatre critic Moon’s obsession with Higgs, and indeed, THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND!


THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND appears on a double bill with A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2019. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable

You can book tickets here

Dirk Gently blog archive

It’s the end – but the moment has been prepared for

Kevin puts pen to paper for the last time: it’s the Dirk finale…

Well we’re here, the journey that started in July with auditions and the scripts being doled out is about to come to an end. We’ve done four shows and are in the dressing room getting mentally ready for the big finale.

This has been a great show to be a part of, both in the cast and as the production manager, blogger, delivery man and numerous other tasks that have fallen on my shoulders. I’ve learned a lot and know I’m nowhere near ready to direct on such a large scale, at least not without someone to hold my hand.

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The cast have uniformly been superb: from Paul Cresser as Dirk, wonderfully enigmatic and fully understanding the interconnectedness of everything, Paul Jones as Richard caught up in the whirlwind of the story, and Phillip DG as the forgetful professor Chronotis, in his 50th anniversary on the Nuffield stage – to Lou, Darcy and Beth as the impish Sarah complete with a yo-yo and of course the myriad of supporting players, everyone on the stage has given their all to make this the success it has been.

We were also lucky to have some amazingly talented people back stage and working on props and effects. Without the likes of Ollie, Clayton, Mike, Adam (both), Steve, Dave, and Tom we would look like fools running around in dress up. Their craft makes the unreal real and creates the illusion that we are in the world of Dirk.

All of this of course needs someone to be the puppet master, someone to pull the strings and we had someone colourful and larger than life to corral us and keep us in line. It’s not always been plain sailing, rehearsals with lots of sickness, line learning not where it should be, SFX taking a little, ahem, longer than hoped – but in the end almost 1,000 people will have left the theatre with a smile on their faces and mild feeling of confusion as they work out what they’ve just seen…

Lorraine, it’s time to get the sofa off the stairs and sit down and have a cuppa. Phew!

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #10

SUP: The Next Generation – and meet the show’s strange policeman, Perkins


Dirk Gently’s Production Manager Kevin Bowers writes…

2018 had barely started and five intrepid explorers made their way to deepest darkest Botley. Their mission: to see if excellence could be improved.

The three youngest performers appearing in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Lou, Darcy and Beth – joined director Lorraine Biddlecombe and myself, a heavily over-burdened production manager and cast member, to rehearse the Don’s dinner scene: away from  distractions and with the luxury of a couple of concentrated hours to focus on their performances.

Chairs stood in for other cast members, and our youthful cast took turns to read-in as Reg and Richard – without the accents – with myself reading for everybody else. By the end of the session, each of the young actresses had run the scene three times. Great stuff. They listened to direction, the bruises on my leg showed clear improvements in their kicking skills, and their abilities with a yo-yo came on in leaps and bounds. It’s going to be a great scene. Three actresses giving three unique interpretations of the same role, all telling the same story. SUP Theatre Company clearly has a talented future.


The very handsome Chris Aland is playing Dirk Gently’s ‘ugly’ copper

The last time I was involved with a police uniform was during the pleasurable experience of directing It’s A Bobby’s Job for SUP at the Totton Drama Festival two years ago, with a cast that included SUP’s current co-chairs Stephen and Alison. 

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Ready to inspect: Chris Aland as Perkins

Two years on, and I find myself donning the very same costume (Stephen’s not Ali’s) to play Perkins: an ugly (as described in the text), daft and slightly disturbing copper who spends his time being clipped around the ear and getting very excited at the prospect of taking a chainsaw to a sofa jammed in a stairwell, but largely fiddling with a dead body.

I have enjoyed taking part in a smaller role for this production especially as the part has few words to learn but still gives me the opportunity for comedic interactions with fellow cast member Sophia (she is the body under the blanket), while I am also doubling up as a Groom at a wedding, a university Don, and taking part in a ‘delightful’ song and dance routine – which for pleasure I can say is only seconded by intrusive dental surgery.

The rehearsal process has been interesting with a variety of new faces joining SUP, which always makes it more fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together – and I’m sure it’s going to be a fun final month.

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #8

Countdown to showtime

Dirk Gently Production Manager and cast member Kevin Bowers provides a quick end-of-year update…

We’ve had the SUP Christmas party, we’re now in the Christmas break, and this is the final Dirk production blog of the year. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and I’d like to wish you all the best for 2018. mww-e1514465663747.jpg

So, where are we up to, with the show? And what can we expect in the New Year?

Well, December saw the director and myself have a highly productive technical meeting with NST Campus to discuss the productions needs of the show in detail. This is quite a complex production with lots of moving parts: the cast, obviously, as well as many props,  costumes – including the aliens – along with pre-filmed inserts, magic tricks and some brand-new computer animations, and that’s without mentioning the technical aspects of the lighting and projection, and a pretty detailed list of sound effects. Another SUP team, meanwhile, had a meeting with the NST Box Office around marketing; helping to spread the word about the show to previous SUP and Nuffield audiences.

It’s good to report that, for instance, the animations are now almost complete, we’ve got 99% of the props that we need, including some of the trickier ones, the cast know virtually all of their lines – as you’d expect of this experienced team, five weeks to curtain up – and the director still has a full head of hair! So I guess that means we’re on the right track.

As I say, we only have five weeks left, meaning we’re going into the most intense period of rehearsals, requiring concentration and commitment in the final push, as well as the key period in our efforts to market the show, reaching out audiences and selling as many tickets as possible for what promises to be a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

One thought is front of mind, across cast and crew, and despite the busy weeks that undoubtedly lie ahead: and that is, remembering to have fun – so we can dazzle our audiences, sharing this wonderful tale and delivering a great night out.

 

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #7

“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”

Lights! Camera! Hot water bottle! Featured cast member Jane Beasley shares her experiences of a rather chilly night shoot, filming special inserts for SUP Theatre Company’s new production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

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No Way! She died with her boots on… guest blogger Jane Beasley rehearsing for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Have you ever wondered what a ‘best boy’ and a ‘grip’ do, in the credits for a film? I have – and following my recent experiences in front of the camera for SUP’s new show, I now know the answers.

Friday was the first of two filming sessions for my character in Dirk Gently... This excited me much (as does the fact that for this production, I have a body double, which felt really grand, but that’s a story for another blog).

I turned up in costume at the appointed hour and was warmly welcomed by Chris, who was doing technical things with lights on his driveway around a beautiful old car. What followed was a few hours of my sitting in the car saying my lines, whilst around me the car shook with the vibrations of “the road” – and brooms, twigs and a tennis racket all used to create effects ranging from shadows and rain to passing cars. A little bit of movie magic explained.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that it was the coldest night of the year to date. Within a short while, the cold started to get to me, which meant the perfectionists I was with (our cameraman and the show’s director, Lorraine) both want to reshoot in the New Year to get the best possible footage for what’s going to be a very exciting production.

What struck me most was the warm welcome from Chris and his family into their warm and welcoming kitchen for mugs of hot tea and mince pies. And, when I got home, I was greeted by Mr B. clutching a cuppa and a hot water bottle for me, which he instructed me to take straight to the already lit fire. Hollywood A-listers can keep their champagne and ‘blue only’ smarties – I’ll take the warmth of those cuppas, thanks!

Jane is appearing in Dirk Gently’s… as Jordan Way – onstage at NST Campus (Southampton University) from Tue 30th Jan to Sat 3rd Feb 2018. You can book tickets here

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #4

This week: the view from rehearsals

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Up close and personal: Phil de Grouchy and Paul Jones hit the deck during a rehearsal for SUP’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Kerrie Brady plays Sergeant Gilks…

“I’m new to SUP. I’m really enjoying the play and the atmosphere during rehearsals. I haven’t carried out anything acting-related in over a year, the last time being my Drama A-Level, so I was looking for a theatre company to get back out there! SUP interested me because the information online described how often they performed and how experience wasn’t required. That made me feel really comfortable because it had been a while for me – and I do get quite nervous!

“The character I play is Sergeant Gilks, the police detective looking into a murder. Gilks has met Gently before so she’s well aware of his antics and gets frustrated with him. She becomes aware that Gently is looking into the murder as well, for his own strange reasons, but carries on regardless as she is professional – unlike how she perceives Gently to be. Dirk Gently feeds on the rigidity of Sergeant Gilks, which will provide some entertainment for the audience.”

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A recent SUP social at Ocean Village: Sophia is in the centre of the picture

Sophia Cameron is also appearing in her first SUP production…

“I joined SUP recently, and I’m also a member of the Committee. I’m very happy to have joined such a friendly and dedicated group which are serious about their craft, without forgetting that ultimately what the members want is to participate, learn, challenge themselves and have lots of fun in the process. I am a good example of this… having never acted before!

“The production of Dirk Gently is challenging and our director Lorraine is cracking on with a play with a four-billion-year time span and a cast that includes ghosts, aliens, Cambridge dons and, of course, murder – all without flinching one bit! Brave lady! As for me? Basically, I’m a dead body that gets interfered with, I dance the night away without a care in the world, and get invited to a posh do in all of my finery – though not necessarily in that order!”

Play Reading v AGM

It is a tradition of SUP that after the AGM which always takes place at the start of September as a society we read the January production, which if you have been following this blog is Absurd person singular directed by me.

I am  Vice Chair of the society as well as the incoming director which is giving me an interesting confusion of thoughts. The director in me wants to go as fast as physically possible through the AGM so we can get onto the play. As Vice-Chair I want to have a really productive and participative AGM, elect some new blood on to the committee to inject new ideas and also celebrate  the achievements of the membership over the past year. 

I will do both but I know I will have one eye on the clock. (Ssh! don’t let the committee know)

 

 

Forestage or no forestage  (#amdram director’s blog day 4: The Making of #Absurd)

Forestage or no forestage (#amdram director’s blog day 4: The Making of #Absurd)

I have found that when one part of  putting on the play gets to difficult my mind flitters across to another topic to see if I can’t make progress in that area while hoping that deep in my subconscious I will be sorting out the original problem.

The most pressing and difficult thing at the moment is the set (Casting isn’t until September so I have happily put that out of my mind for now). It is pressing as the box office are already selling tickets based on the fact that I am not having any forestages as that is what I have told them. For those who may not know if you have forestages they have to remove some of the seating at the front of the theatre, thus cutting down the money you can make from Ticket sales.

When I was asked whether I wanted a forestage I said no. I have to admit I was in marketing mode at the time so was thinking maximising ticket sales but now I have director hat on I am not sure. (I am also the society’s vice chair and head of  marketing – we are a small society – committee of 5 but that is another story).

This is causing a little concern because the seats which would be taken away should I change my mind about the forestage are currently on sale. So if people book them now does that mean they get taken away as well. Luckily being a small local society the likelihood of selling tickets 6 months in advance of the show is more or less nil, but you can always hope. Actually as an aside for a moment, I believe we have actually sold 19 tickets, (o.k. I admit it some of them are mine for my family on the last night, best seats in the house and all that). If you want to keep track check out http://www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/absurd-person-singular#.U9ql9bFwbIU (Do you see how sneakily I took you to the ticket booking page, that the marketer in me again – sorry old habits!) Actually let me do a check I haven’t checked for at least 24 hours…..

Ladies and gentlemen, I stand corrected it is 24 not 19, how exciting. Luckily none of them are in the danger forestage area of rows B to E so we are ok.

Actually I probably should sort this out, so soon as I have done this I will be facebooking my mentor Meri (see earlier blog) to see what she says.

I really have wandered off my original topic haven’t I . I had called this blog Suicide Music as I was going to tell you that as I was struggling with the set I my mind wander to the subject of music. (Interval and during the show)… Why suicide music you ask….  (Eastenders music starts to play and I have learnt the art of leaving a cliff hanger….)