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!

 

 

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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.

Set design , the caravan and chocolate fingers way

Set design , the caravan and chocolate fingers way

So determined was I to get the details of the set, in terms of entrances, exits, sinks etc sorted before I go into rehearsal (only 3 weeks away, Yikes!) that I took my 1/2 complete model of the set on holiday with me in a plastic bag.  Made entirely out of one Cadbury’s chocolate fingers box, (plus a little bit of crunchy nut cornflakes) when complete there were 3 walls, oven’s (one with an opening door), two sink units, 1 fridge, 1 washing machine,  1xFrench windows, 5 doors, 1 walk in cupboard, 4 windows and a bin.

Not very professional, I hear you cry and I admit I was feeling anxious. Set design  is the area that I really am scared of. I have seen some amazing sets, particularly in some of the new Nuffield shows, Tonight at 8.30pm was brilliant and Last Christmas’s revolving stage for the Nutcracker would have been perfect, however back to reality with a bump. We are a small amateur theatre with a corresponding budget and unfortunately that means something not so grand.

I digress, I had a cunning plan to my madness. For the second half of our holiday we were joining a groups of thespians camping or caravanning in Dorest. It was the annual Masker’s Camp, Loved it by the way, Thank you to any Masker who may be reading this and was involved in the organisation.  A number of SUP members are also member’s of Maskers Theatre Group and one such person is Adam. Now if you check back you will see from my second blog entry that Adam is a person who does a huge amount for the society and amongst other things he is the person with the stage plan of the Nuffield and the set designer.

So there we were, hiding in a caravan, in the pouring rain, in the middle f a field, moving around bits of Cadbury’s chocolate finger box and checking that it all fitted on the plan. Eventually it did.

If you see the show, keep an eye out for a box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers they will be on there somewhere in homage to our soggy afternoon, who said theatre was glamorous!

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Bridget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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….)

Rotating #Theatre set

The thing I am mulling over at the moment is how to get three kitchens on stage for the production.

I watched an excellent production of the Nutcracker at the Nuffield theatre last Christmas where they have built a huge rotating set, A bit like a pie chart, you turned the circle round to reveal the next scene. Check out the review http://herlittlejournal.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/review-the-nutcracker/

I would love to do that as it was stunning however cost is restrictive and also in The Nutcracker they went back and forwards between scenes quite a lot whereas in Absurd you have a different kitchen for each act but never return to it.

My thoughts then wandered momentarily to having one kitchen on either side of the stage, but that would be no good as the audience on the other side of the auditorium would quite rightly be fed up and also this doesn’t solve the issue of the third kitchen.

When Alan Ayckbourn originally did the play, it was in the round and each kitchen was dismantled and the new one set in full view of the audience in the intervals. There is a brilliant video of this on youtube

. and I am completely taken with how they change the floors.

Could do this in the Nuffield, but with the best will in the world we wouldn’t make it look slick and it would probably take ages, which was a bit of a problem with a recent production, so delays must be avoided at all costs.

Thinking caps remain on…