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

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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