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!

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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.

 

Meet The Family – Vic

Meet The Family – Vic

We’ve heard from Mum, now lets see what Dad has to say…

Now someone has told me I need to write this here blog post to let people know about me and me life. I can’t say I’m that sure about this, I’m not really one for writing. Or, for that matter, thinking.

Any road, I’m just a normal bloke really. I live a simple life. I worked down pit for 30 years before it was closed. Since then I’ve spent a lot more time with me family. A very different challenge to being underground. And one I’m not sure I’ve really adjusted to be honest.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being at home, there’s nothing more enjoyable for me then taking the weight off me feet and watching a bit of Calendar. Not everyone sees it like that though, and it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge relaxing while the wife cleans up constantly all around me. And that is to say nothing of that son of mine, who has really caused all sorts of problems though I guess it’s nothing more than the usual teenage troubles. To be honest I don’t really understand him. He’s into all this writing and drama and stuff where I never really used me brain. Apart from when thinking of ways to grab an extra bit of snack without the wife finding out.
Speaking of which I think me tea’s on so I’d best go. I think it’s tinned ham. I bloody love tinned ham.
Meet the Family…

Meet the Family…

Meet the Happy Family – John!

We had to start with John, without John, well, it would be a very different play. We see John grow up, so it’s only right to meet John at the different stages of his life.

The First Age…

I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life, my family always expected better things from me! I am just a kid trying to do the best I can, I don’t really know what I am going to do after I leave school. Do I want to go to university? Do I go the same way my Grandad did and work down the pit? All I really know is whatever I do, my family will still find something to have a go at me for!

The Second Age…

I think I made the right decision to go to uni and not end up down the pit? I mean it was about time one of us in the family spread our wings (other than Rebecca). I suppose Dad had some potential but lacked self-belief and had no support in his day to study away from home and I guess it was the same old pattern for Grandad and so on, but who knows? All I know is I couldn’t have suffered a mundane routine life of coal and “early grey.” Like my Aunty Doris would say “I like a bit of life” and I did. I don’t know what’s worse, feeling the suffocation down the pit with my Dad’s poor jokes or at home with my Mother’s poor cooking? In fact, yes, I definitely made the right decision, take Grandad’s money and run! Did I really need the money Grandad left behind? Perhaps my parents needed it more and they wouldn’t have lived a life of tinned ham….

The Third Age…

So, as from yesterday, they are all gone now. All except Rebecca, and she’s been living somewhere in Australia for nearly thirty years. It felt like I should mark the occasion by trying as hard as I could to remember them all. Which was bitter-sweet if I’m honest – and I had forgotten (or blocked out) what an arrogant sod I was sometimes. But it was good to see and hear them all again, even if it was just in my head. I hope I remembered it right.

Director’s Blog: Auditions with #doodle

Over the past two weeks I have auditioned 36 brilliant people for 6 roles and now I need a lie down.

I find auditioning hard, I know some directors run auditions by letting people use any audition piece they like but I  am not that skilled or brave. In order to know how someone would be in the part, I have to hear them reading the actual part and usually 2 or 3 different snippets from different scenes particularly if they are portraying different emotions. This makes for a long session, actually it ended up being four evenings which is the most I have ever had to do.

I know from auditioning myself that it gets boring hanging around waiting and that when you do audition you want your fair shot at everything you may have read through at home. Quite right to, so I need to organise an evening where people don’t get bored but also everyone gets the time they need.

This year I came up with a secret weapon, a doodle poll. In past years, auditionees have all completed an audition form on arrival stating which roles they want to audition for. Usually most people want to audition for more than one. This means that at the start of the evening you are presented with a big pile of papers that you have to immediately sought into order and work through in as much order as possible. This is where things go wrong, a big pile of papers in my world tends to spread all over the table, drop on the floor, and get completely mixed up and cause stress and delay. No more. this year by the wonder of the internet and a doodle poll, everyone signed up in advance to say which evening they were coming and who they were reading for. One piece of paper replaces 36.

I did get it dreadfully wrong in one case. I was working from left to right on my doodle poll taking one character at a time and trying I thought to be efficient. It was only at 10.15pm that realised that one person had only chosen to audition for the part furthest right on my page. If I had done that part first she could have gone home, rather than spending 2 and a half hours sitting waiting. I did feel bad.

Seeing people on different nights is not easy, memory problems get in the way, so my learning for next time is to video on an ipad and watch at home one after the other for comparison purposes.

At the end of the day what I can report is I saw some really great auditions and met some really lovely people. I am so happy with my wonderful cast and at the same time quite sad that I couldn’t offer roles to a number of people who were also excellent but perhaps slightly too young or old for the roles.

I hope everyone who auditioned will keep involved in some way. Backstage, Front of house, sourcing props etc, There is so much to do.

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….)