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 #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.

 

Directors Blog: A Monstrous Production – The five things I learnt about filming

Evening all! 

So, Saturday morning (early, way too early) we congregated at the Uni to make the trailer for Monstrous. I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve been involved with filming anything. So I’m going to share with you the bits I leant.

Be generous with your time scale.

When Yoni sent me a 3-4 hour time scale for filming I gulped. I mean I’ve never filmed anything before – I have no idea how much time everything is going take. But I guess in my head I was like 90 seconds of filming – how long could it take? Turns out he’s an evil genius. When we had access issues and people having transport issues, I’m worrying and stressing and Yoni is just strangely calm. There’s me thinking 3-4 hours is going to turn into 5 and I’m going to have an angry mob of cast members about to turn on me. Actually Yoni had factored in things going wrong and we managed to wrap filming in 2 and half hours! See. Evil genius. 


Film acting & theatre acting are way different. 

When you’re on stage you have to think about the furthest audience member from the stage – which in the Nuffield is faaaaaaaaar. So tiny movements and quiet voices just arent going to be heard. But with filming it’s the total opposite, everything gets picked up by the camera. Which means you have to totally change what you’re asking people to do. But the nice thing is – if something isn’t quite right you can do it over and over again till you get the perfect shot. Then when people watch it, it’s perfect every time.


There is a lot of waiting around.

Ok… maybe not for me, I was checking shots and getting things ready and stuff. But for everyone else there was lots of waiting around. Thing is you don’t quite know how long everything is going to take and if you want to make use of all the time you can, actors have to be there when you need them. Which when you’re filming 5-10 seconds at a time with different people I can imagine can be very frustrating. But the guys handled it well. 

Relationship with your filmographer is key. 

I was really lucky – Yoni and I get on anyway, but we’ve never done anything professional together. My feeling on it was to defer to him, although I’m directing as mentioned above – film & theatre are totally different and Yoni was my resident film expert. But it worked out much more of a collaboration. No friction, no arguments, no clashes of creativeity. Working with Yoni on the trailer actually made something that was stressing me out a really enjoyable experience – I learnt a lot too which was cool. 


Work doesn’t stop when you finish filming

Unlike theatre, when you finish the performance it doesn’t mean your jobs done. Yes the actors get to go home, and you somehow still end up with a bag full of odds and ends and bits of someone else’s costume (which reminds me – Paul I have your shirt). But now is the part where all of those sections of film get put together with sound and animated text and stuff (I’m not very technical…). So now all I can do is sit back with my cup of coffee and wait. It is not the immediate gratification of theatre performance which is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn. It’ll be worth it though. 

Don’t forget to check out Yesh! Video.

I’ll check back next week and hopefully I’ll get to show you all the trailer!!

Imogen signing off for this week. 

Directors Blog: A Monstrous Production

Good Evening Folks!

So, last weeks blog was a little bit of a monster (pun totally intended), which is good because this week I am full of cold and there is a lemsip and a duvet waiting for me when I finish this short and sweet post.

The M Word…

As a local community theatre company… Ok, Amateur… I hate that word because actually as a group we aim to put high standard shows on and although we are not professionals we strive to achieve the same standard (rant over…).  We do this because we enjoy putting on great shows which we hope the public will enjoy. This is something we can only do if the public know we’re performing. Which is why marketing is so important. It’s a big job, which is why we have 3 marketing positions on our committee – A Coordinator, a Print Media and an Online Media, plus additional support as we need it (we always need it…). Our flyers and posters were collected this week which means that print media is in full swing, and any day now PM and I will be all over Hampshire leaving flyers in our wake. Online is becoming an ever increasing publicity tool, whats on guides, social media, websites the list goes on and on and it’s time consuming. Really time consuming. But it’s worth it in the end if people come and see and enjoy the show. It also gives us the means to be able to put on our next show. Which to be honest, as Chair of the Society I need to be thinking about, but as Director of this show I just can’t at the moment.

Lines, Lines Lines,

So, scripts down is coming up on us. Which for me is brilliant news because it’s really hard at this stage to see how people are standing, where their hands are or where/how their looking if they have a book in their hands. Also it hinders energy and characterisation. For the cast, not so much, because the script is a safety blanket. I do have a couple of cast members trying without their scripts – and I love this. I think I confused one member last week with my attempt at a sly thumbs up when I saw he was without book! I guess this whole paragraph is a sly hint to cast reading this… 😉

Characterisation

I’ve been trying to meet up with members of cast before rehearsals to have a chat about their character. It’s so important to me that they understand their motivations, who they are and why. Even down to how they behave on stage – when you have 7 in the regiment plus a corporal, sergeant and lieutenant on stage not everyone can be talking all the time. So each person will need to constantly be thinking about what their character is doing. Are they fidgeting nervously, listening intently or playing with the person next to them. All this has to be consistent. Also, although there is a lot of humour in this play, I personally want to pay respect to the author. Pratchett had this way of picking some quite serious subject matter and exploring it in a way that makes you think but didn’t beat you over the head and I want to do that with the play. I hope that makes sense…

Right, I’m going to have to leave it there this evening – Rehearsals might not stop if a cast member can’t turn up, but I have to be more human less cold infested sleep monster by Tuesday… Over and out.