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!

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Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #13

Here we go: Dirk is about to take to the stage

Cast rehearsals have ended and the theatre and audiences await… production manager and cast member Kevin Bowers reports from the final Dirk Gently rehearsal

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The get-in and technical rehearsal are almost upon us, and we’re gathered at the Annexe – very close to NST Campus – for our last run-through before we enter the Nuffield theatre proper. We are live, onstage, and ready to rock from next Tuesday 30th January! And you only have until Saturday 3rd to catch all the fun, craziness, colour and comedy of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. You can book here.

The Annexe is a great space to work in, with a wonderful lecture theatre giving the cast a real sense of the space they will need to fill once they get onto the NST Campus stage. Voices will be raised, gestures slightly exaggerated and sight lines worked out.

So, as exam time at the University of Southampton draws to a close (and the students head to the bar) the cast and crew of Dirk Gently still face their greatest test: we are about to see just how well the months of preparation have been used.

Do we know all the lines and our moves?
Are we ready for our cues?
Is the stage crew ready to set the scenes?

Our audiences are in for a treat, that’s for sure. Yes of course, it’s a nerve-wracking time for our director Lorraine – but one in which she also sees the fruits of her labours. Everybody involved in the production has put so much into it – and the excitement is really building.

Transporting scenery and props has been planned like a military operation; everyone knows where and when to be. It’s going to be a mammoth logistical task, for sure, but one we’re ready for. We’ve also got a couple of days of promotional walkabouts at the University, with cast and other SUP members – some in full Alien costume – accosting students and staff near the Students’ Union building, handing out leaflets, promoting the Save The Rhino International charity, and trying to tempt students one last time with a special ticket offer.

It’s been great fun getting Douglas Adams’ weird and wonderful characters from the page to the stage, and the whole team now is missing only one element, but it’s the most important one: the audience. When all the elements are mixed together, we can’t wait to experience the reaction…  we’ll see you next week!

 

 

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #12

Lead on, MacDuff: Paul Jones has this week’s SUP blog

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Paul Jones (centre) in rehearsals, flanked by Dirk and Professor Chronotis

Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the idea of acting on a stage but never plucked up the courage to act myself, due to being dyslexic. I would, however, always overdress for costumed parties – my personal favourite is my Adam Ant costume – or be up singing Karaoke.

It wasn’t until 2014 when the acting bug finally sank its teeth into me.

After a drunken night at Rockaoke (live band but you’re the singer – I sang “Tribute” by Tenacious D), I finally decided that the feeling of being up onstage is as exciting as it is terrifying. So naturally, I rushed out – once the hangover cleared – and found the nearest theatre group to me.

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“Not Paul Jones” – but his favourite dressing up character

I started at the sound desk at the Chameleon Theatre Company of Chandler’s Ford, pressing the all-important buttons during a pantomime version of “The Wizard of Oz”.

Shortly after that show, I was swiftly dragged away, thrown onto the stage, put under lights, given a script and took my place in the cast for “Fawlty Towers”.

Next, I was given the part of Johnathan Harker, in a chilling retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which was a huge challenge for me, being onstage for the first 15 pages!

My approach to acting is very much a head on approach… But, even after preforming in a few plays and being nominated for a few awards in festival plays, I still get nervous about the first step onto the stage.

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Paul (far right) joins the SUP murder mystery team in 2017

I’ve recently found  joy in the chaotic world of unscripted shows: Murder Mysteries. I was never thrilled with the idea of murder mysteries (it’s normally the butler, after all) but I was given the opportunity to perform in one by SUP and I grasped it firmly – and it surprised me how much fun they actually are!

As a bit of a nerd, I was super excited to hear that SUP was auditioning for Dirk Gently by Douglas Adams.

I originally wanted to go for the title role of Dirk  himself but after the read through and auditions I’m glad that Paul Cresser was given the role – especially after I had seen the amount Dirk that has to say!

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Paul wrestles with his part – and Phil de Grouchy’s – during a tense rehearsal

In this telling of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency I am playing the role of Richard MacDuff.

The character has been a bit of a challenge for me, mainly talking about Schrodinger’s Cat and computer jargon – but I hope I can play the part well and keep everyone entertained!

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: Paul has recently been cast in a leading role in SUP’s new one-act play BULLY BEEF AND WHIZZBANGS, to be performed at this year’s Totton Drama Festival and beyond…
P.S. We know “Lead on, MacDuff” is a misquote of Shakespeare

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #11

Tempus Fugit: meet Reg

Our guest blogger and SUP veteran Philip de Grouchy plays the enigmatic Professor Chronotis in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

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Mad Professor? Phil as ‘Reg’ Chronotis

Despite knowing little about Galaxy Guiding and Star Trekking – I am more of the ‘Dick Barton’ generation (not that I listened to him much either, I preferred reading ‘Biggles’), I am greatly enjoying my role in ‘Dirk Gently’ as Professor ‘Reg’ Chronotis.

Apart from indulging in his hobbies – which include somewhat ham-fisted conjuring tricks, smoking, leeches (?), and time travelling by abacus, Reg has managed to live for at least 200 years undetected in his Cambridge college rooms, since being appointed to his Chair by mad King George III.

img_4525.jpg Much fun has been had at rehearsals trying to video the above-mentioned conjuring tricks, involving clay pots and disappearing silver salt cellars, so that when projected on screen, the projections will show marvellous close-ups and, hopefully, distract the audience’s attention from the actually execution of the tricks on stage… IMG_4533

Reg is a delightfully shambling, forgetful character, who is nevertheless able, by intense concentration on his abacus and mathematical calculations, to transport himself and others four billion years into the past: prehistoric Earth. And, thanks to Dirk Gently’s extraordinary feats of deduction, ultimately saves… spoilers!

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Taken with a pinch of salt?

I am personally pleased to be appearing on the Nuffield (NST Campus) stage this year, it being the 50th anniversary of my first treading those venerable boards.

Quite apart from my contribution to this show, we have a highly talented company portraying many dramatic activities in the various scenes in which I don’t take part, including hypnotism, ghostly possession and murder – to mention only a few!

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #9

A New Year’s message from our director – and a show preview by The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Appreciation Society


Director Lorraine Biddecombe writes…

It’s less than a month away from my second show at the Nuffield theatre in Southampton with SUP Theatre Company, and things are getting exciting… Everyone has worked really hard finding their characters and learning their lines, and we now move into full-run rehearsals, which are good for everyone – and especially poor Dirk himself, who until now has had to cope with rehearsing scenes (and running all of those complicated lines) out of order! Paul Cresser has stepped up to the challenge magnificently – and we’re all expecting great things of the entire cast and crew!

There is so much going on in this production – much like Douglas Adams’ writing! We are using a large screen for animation and film, we have magic tricks, time travel – and even a full-scale dance number! What more could audiences want?  So… have you bought your tickets yet?

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Members of the SUP Dirk Gently cast rehearse a complicated dance routine…


From ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the club for fans of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… http://www.zz9.org

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: live onstage in 2018

NST Campus theatre, Southampton – Tue 30th Jan to Sat 3 Feb 2018

Adapted for the stage by James Goss and Arvind Ethan David

ZZ9ers may be interested to know that a new stage version of the original Dirk Gently novel is being performed by Southampton’s SUP Theatre Company in the New Year.

“We’re thrilled our production follows so closely on the heels of the reconstruction and release of Adams’ unfinished Doctor Who story, Shada – parts of which, of course, he re-used along with elements of City of Death to create Dirk Gently,” says Paul Cresser, who plays Dirk in the new show.

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Paul Cresser (above) in character as Dirk Gentl

Paul describes himself as “a huge Douglas Adams fan – and we want to make sure that we do justice to him. Everyone involved is giving 100 percent. For me, that means making sure I capture the essence of the character and that I get his rather long and complicated speeches and explanations spot-on.”  

SUP is an award-winning community theatre group affiliated to the University of Southampton. It performs at the Nuffield Theatre on the University main campus, raises money for charity and appears at other venues and local events including the Totton Drama Festival.

In January 2017, the SUP stage version of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment – which featured a seven-foot Troll – was extremely well-received by theatregoers including the many Pratchett fans who came along, with Discworld Monthly giving the show the thumbs up. SUP hopes to achieve the same success with Dirk Gently.

“Some changes have obviously been made in this adaptation for the stage,” says Lorraine Biddecombe, director, “however, it remains faithful to the story and the spirit of the novel. We want audiences to revel in the imagination and wit of Douglas Adams.”

The brand new production mixes live action with specially commissioned computer graphics, film and effects – plus some dazzling alien costumes.

▪ You can book tickets and learn more at the NST Campus website

▪ Call the NST Campus Box Office on 02380 671 771

 

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #5

‘Doctor Who, Dirk, Douglas and me’

Our guest blogger this week is SUP’s very own Dirk, Paul Cresser

I was very excited when I heard that SUP was putting on a production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. You see, when I was nine years old, I became a fan of Doctor Who and have remained a fan ever since. What my nine-year-old self didn’t know at the time was that the script editor of that series of Doctor Who was one Douglas Adams – just on the verge of achieving huge success and recognition from his most famous creation, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

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Above: The Pirate Planet, from Doctor Who’s 16th season, was also written by Douglas Adams

That year’s series of Who  – the 17th season – included two stories written or co-written by Adams himself: the show’s most viewed (and arguably one of its best) stories City of Death and its least viewed story Shada – least viewed because BBC industrial action at the time meant the story was never finished and it wasn’t broadcast!

There have been many attempts over the years to bring Shada to life in a variety of formats – indeed, a complete version of the story using the existing footage complemented by animation voiced by the original actors is being released on DVD and Blu Ray by the BBC this December!

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Above: Looks familiar? Professor Chronotis in Episode 2 of the aborted Fourth Doctor story, Shada

The first attempt to salvage material from the ill-fated Shada was by Adams himself when he used several elements in his novel… Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The story also incorporated elements from City of Death, so the play we are producing is not only in my opinion a distillation of good Douglas Adams, it’s also a distillation of what I consider to be good Doctor Who – and it really excites me to be part of that!

So with all that in mind, I was very keen to get involved – and was obviously delighted to be cast as Dirk.

The role has presented many challenges, not least the sheer volume of of lines to learn and the sometimes tongue-twisting dialogue. Being very familiar with some of the content (as I said, these stories have been with me for most of my life), there is a strong temptation to play things like Doctor Who. But Dirk, although he takes the Doctor-like role, is very much not the Doctor. He is his own character, even when speaking almost identical lines, so I have to avoid that temptation (well, mostly!). However, the character, along with the script and other elements of the production, contains many respectful nods not only to Doctor Who but other popular programmes and films of this genre – as well they should!

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Above: Lalla Ward as Romana and Tom Baker in the marvellous City of Death, set mainly in Paris – classic Doctor Who’s highest rated story, not least because ITV was subject to industrial action during its original run in September and October 1979

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #2

Everything you didn’t know about Douglas Adams but were afraid to ask…

Douglas Adams was a very tall man: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m). A remarkably creative man, he also stands tall in the annals of books, radio and television. Most famously, he created The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, first pitched as a BBC radio series in 1977. The Hitchhikers’ Universe later spun off from radio into books, TV, comic books, computer games, and a posthumous Hollywood movie. Featuring the adventures of Arthur Dent across space and time, it became embedded in our culture.

But did you also know he formed a writing partnership, in the early 1970s, with Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame? And that he actually made two brief appearances in the fourth series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus broadcast in 1974?

For six months, Adams was also the script editor of Doctor Who during its 17th season, in the Tom Baker era. The three stories he was involved in writing were The Pirate Planet, City of Death – which famously achieved the show’s highest ratings ever, with 16 million viewers, after strikes took ITV off air – and Shada. Production on the latter story was abandoned in 1979, again due to industrial action. However, it was recently announced that previously unmade sections of Shada had been recreated as colour animations with new voice performances. The brand new reconstructed version will be shown at the British Film Institute’s NFT1 in December 2017.

Interestingly, Adams also co-wrote scripts for the animated TV series Doctor Snuggles with producer John Lloyd, the man who created Not The Nine O’Clock News and who produced all four series of Blackadder.

With elements drawn from two of his Doctor Who stories, notably the Cambridge-set Shada, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was published in 1987. Adams described it as a “a kind of ghost-horror-detective-time-travel-romantic-comedy-epic, mainly concerned with mud, music and quantum mechanics.” A sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, followed in 1988.

Adams was a noted environmental activist who campaigned on behalf of endangered species. This included, in 1994, taking part in a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro whilst wearing a rhino suit. SUP Theatre Company’s production of Dirk Gently is proud to support the Save The Rhino charity.

Fascinated by religion and “a radical atheist” – his own words – Adams died of a heart attack in California in 2001, aged just 49. You can visit his gravestone, where his ashes were laid to rest, at Highgate Cemetery in north London. His memorial service was reportedly the first church service to be broadcast live on the web by the BBC. A few days before Adams died, the Minor Planet Center announced the naming of asteroid 18610 Arthurdent. In 2005, another asteroid – 25924 Douglasadams – was named in his memory.