Sunday, 30 June 2013

The End

After seven months of productions, having to dissect the work of four very different playwrights and having learnt a tremendous amount my time on the Graduate Scheme at the Citizens Theatre has come to an end. Auditions have been held, new soon-to-be graduates have been recalled and places for the next season have been offered.  

Whoever these graduates may be one thing is absolutely certain: they will be embarking upon one of the most unique and invaluable experiences available to someone who wishes to pursue a career in the theatre. They will be given a year’s worth of productions in order to learn, develop and flourish under the tutelage of some of the best theatre practitioners in Britain, and, most importantly, in total financial security. All of this past year has was made possible by the generosity of the Robertson Trust. It is their organisation that funds the Graduate Scheme and should a graduate actor wish to achieve a similar level of professional activity in their first year outside of drama school it would prove to be very difficult indeed - in the entirety of the UK only the Dundee REP provides a similar scheme.
Due to the opportunity the Robertson Trust has provided I have spent the past seven months steeped in the Scottish theatre industry and, naturally, have learnt a great deal as a result. I have been given the chance to take things I learnt at drama school and put them into practice whilst learning an entirely new set of skills from a plethora of different actors, technicians, assistant directors and audiences; I’ve been on tour to Leeds at the West Yorkshire Playhouse learning the intricacies of ‘digs’ and how fantastic it is to spend every moment of your day with the company your working with, your offstage relationships bolstering the ones onstage. I have made incredible friends.
There are several more tangible successes I can cite as to the importance of the Graduate Scheme. As a direct consequence of my time at the Citz I have had two further offers of employment and Lucy is doing equally well and straight after Far Away finished began rehearsals for a production of Lee Hall’s Spoonface Steinberg that will be opening at the Jermyn Street Theatre in early July.
The Robertson Trust’s continued support for the Graduate Scheme at the Citizens Theatre can only ever be an immensely valuable thing. It will ensure that a wealth of opportunity continues to be available for graduates when they need it most within an industry that is overpopulated, financially precarious and, at times, incredibly frustrating, however, one that is incredibly special. For me, it is something I have longed for since I was young, have worked incredibly hard to succeed in and will continue to do so buoyed by the prospects the Robertson Trust and Citizens Theatre have made possible. I am immensely grateful for the opportunities both organisations have given me this past year and would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all concerned.
Thank you also to all of you who have been reading this blog. It started off as something we thought would be rather cool to do and although some bits didn’t come to fruition quite as we intended (including Lucy’s coverage of Takin’ Over the Asylum – she apologises) we hope it has been interesting and gave a small insight into all the various goings on that this incredible building allows.
For Lucy and I now begins the tricky bit. A rather astute man once said of the acting profession that “it’s a marathon not a sprint”. By this he was referring to the fact that in this profession longevity is the true prize to aim for, to make your career last from a fledgling graduate just having left drama school to a seasoned RSC actor, still throwing yourself about the boards in your old age. To put things in perspective: out of the 19 other students that I graduated with on the BA Acting course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland last July five have already changed careers.
But it all keeps coming back to love. It is why Lucy and I auditioned for the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in the first place and why we will continue to keep throwing ourselves back into this most ridiculous of professions until it kills us. Love is also what you will find permeating through every splinter of the Citizens Theatre’s ancient Victorian architecture, it is present in every piece of work that it produces and is itself produced by some of the most dedicated staff I've ever seen.
Will Lucy or I see this sight again? We really don’t know. But whatever the future holds one thing’s for sure: It’s been quite a year.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Apologies! Faustus! Far Away!

A.H: First, an immense apology! It has been an age since my last blog and within that age a great deal has happened that has passed undocumented. Dr Faustus came to its natural end and so after nearly three months together the cast have returned to their respective corners of the country to continue their respective actorly journeys. Rehearsals for the Caryl Churchill double bill of Far Away & Seagulls have started, matured and reached their twilight hours as tech week lurks its head next week. In short: tons of things that should have been dealt with in detail in this here blog haven’t been. But I’ve an excuse!
The first week of rehearsals for Far Away was greeted with an offer to work on a project for Stewart Laing who directed The Maids at the Citz in February. The show is a new version of James Hogg’s classic Scottish novel Confessions of a Dangerous Sinner and taking part would require a great deal of filming over the space of two weeks which we would work around rehearsals for the Caryl Churchill’s. If you take both rehearsing and learning lines for Far Away AND Seagulls and then learning lines and sword fights whilst also shooting night shoots up Arthur’s Seat for Confessions before returning to the Citz with two hours sleep to continue rehearsing Far Away you may begin to get an idea why all at A Season at the Citz has been a tad quiet. If you’d like to see the culmination of all that extra work then the finished project will be on at the Tramway theatre next month and, although it may seem a bit biased, I highly recommend it.
Walking down Arthur's Seat at 5.50am for Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Meanwhile, back at the Citz the Caryl Churchill’s have been going from strength to strength to complicated. After the world of Christmas shows and the devilish antics of Faustus (where I did a lot but said little) it has been a pleasure to work with such a complex text. Caryl Churchill is considered to be one of the great living English playwrights and trying to do these short plays justice has proven incredibly hard. Not because she’s bad but because she’s so good!
Lucy and I in a publicity image for Far Away. Image by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
You have so little lines to convey so very much. The text requires its actors to be absolutely precise with every sentence; then, and only then, does the play work, however, if the specificity slips so does the clarity of the play. I can tell you very little without giving things away but what I will say is that the moniker ‘short plays’ may imply something small in stature, but in terms of its subject matter and execution they are absolutely epic. Far Away has required the Citz to assemble a community cast of nearly 80 people! It would be too spoilerific to divulge ‘the why’ here so I won’t. Needless to say it’s going to look brilliant. View all the info and the trailer here: http://citz.co.uk/whatson/info/far_away_and_seagulls/
Finally, before I go, it would be remiss of me not to give over a quick paragraph to the end of Faustus. In short, it went brilliantly. It began very serenely with the birthday of yours truly on the Sunday before a cycling trip from Loch Lomond to the village of Luss with Chris, Leah and Gary on the Monday day off: 1 Loch, 1 pub lunch, 14 miles and lovely company.
From L to R: Chris Keegan, Gary Lilburn, Leah Kelly surveying the
 Loch with one of our trusty bikes
Friday night was a cast and crew last meal/ Dominic’s surprise birthday meal...which he then failed to show up to. All these events led up to the final performance on Saturday night. The final night of a show is always a very strange experience. There’s a natural want to go out with a bang and somehow give the definitive performance of the show in honour of all the hard work you’ve collectively accomplished, however, due to the live nature of theatre this want is rarely accomplished. The final Saturday was a lovely show but topped off with a plethora of odd moments where you would find yourself doing something entirely wrong despite having done it perfectly every time before. Luckily, it concluded in a merry manner with drinks and dancing on the Saturday night and a wee bit of food on the Sunday before trains and planes were caught and the cast of Faustus safely whisked away. I absolutely miss them and long for a catch up in the near future, however, such is the nature of Theatre. A sentiment nicely summed up by Todd half way through Far Away: “It’s ephemeral...you make beauty and it disappears, I love that”.
The Dr Faustus costumes all wrapped up and ready to be sent back to West Yorkshire Playhouse
‘Far Away’ and ‘Seagulls’ are on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from the 23rd May - 8th June. For all tickets please contact the box office on 0141 429 0022 or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A Statement of Intent

A.H: The actor Chris Keegan who, among many other roles, plays Cornelius in the show began our first rehearsal in Glasgow last week by telling us of his Nan’s worries for the cast’s souls. Apparently, upon learning we were doing a production of Dr Faustus she was so worried about the potential damnation of the cast that she told Chris she would be praying for both his soul and the souls of the entire cast. Well, it must be working as this first week has been an absolute success. Press Night on Tuesday went down a storm (as did the party after) and the changes we’ve added to the show are now second nature. The latter half of the week saw a birthday in the cast and a fantastic meal in the West End to celebrate before a well-earned rest on Sunday and Monday.
To be performing this show in the Citz is a joy. The production is such a clear statement of intent for the artistic vision Dominic plans to imbue all of his future seasons with. Naturally, the show isn’t perfect, there are flaws and problems but the audacity of the production combined with Colin Teevan’s rewritten middle provides so much to like.
The end of the week brought about another very clear statement of intent. Sunday saw the one night extravaganza that was Tell Me the Truth About Love. Organised by the actress Maureen Beattie the night was a massive charity evening designed to help the theatre reach the finish line for its Seat Restoration campaign. It was a fantastic evening of poetry, prose and charitable auctions where many important people gave a lot of their important time for to support an important local cause. Despite having 10am rehearsals in London the next day the infamous Shakespearean actor Simon Russell Beale had come up for the day, Siobhan Redmond (who is currently very busy playing Mephistopheles in Dr Faustus) gave up one of her only two days off to rehearse and perform in the show and Billy Boyd, who had taken a day off from a busy rehearsal schedule with his band, completed the roster.
FromLeft to Right:
Billy Boyd, Siobhan Redmond, Dominic Hill, Maureen Beattie and Simon Russell Beale.
 Photo by Tim Morozzo
The evening was made by actors and patrons of the theatre alike, both coming together to help bring the 1878 built building into the 21st Century. The evening was topped off with Dominic Hill laying out his vision for the Theatre’s renovation in 2016 which will see the building of a new foyer, and backstage facilities as well as ensuring the Old Lady of the Gorbals will be here for another 100 years. Hopefully that also includes Simon Russell Beale next treading the Citizens Theatre boards in a Dominic Hill production.
On a more personal level this week saw the delivery of the final script I will be working on during my tenure as one of the two Graduate Actor Interns at the Citz: the Caryl Churchill shorts Far Away and Seagull’s. The two roles I’ll be playing couldn’t be more different and both are rather text heavy, which, hitherto, has not been the case with my roles in either Sleeping Beauty or Dr Faustus (not that I’m complaining, mind). Naturally for a playwright who has been dubbed one of the finest living English Playwright’s the plays are fantastic! One is an apocalyptic fairy tale; the other a very sweet meeting of minds; both a lovely challenge. It will also mean that Lucy and I will be reunited once more after months apart the signing in board has looked like this for too long...
Dr Faustus’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until the 27th April. For all tickets please contact the box office on 0141 429 0022 or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

We're Back!!

The view from the Gods at the Citz
It has been three weeks since last I settled down to write about the company of actors bringing the trials and tribulations of Dr John Faustus to the stage and now, having returned to where we first started rehearsals nearly two months ago, tonight will be the official opening of Dr Faustus at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow!
The two weeks of rest was predominantly spent cleaning my dusty room and washing every piece of clothing I’d taken with me to Leeds. There was also a wee sojourn to London to see my friend Eve Ponsonby who is currently being amazing alongside Iain Glen and Tamsin Greig in William Boyd’s play Longing before finally returning to Scotland to catch fellow intern Lucy in Takin’ Over the Asylum in Edinburgh.
The company reunited again
We were brought back together again last Wednesday and to see everyone again was fantastic. By the end of the two weeks it felt like an eternity had passed since we last saw each other, Leah, who plays Wagner, had even managed to go to Budapest! We immediately began retrofitting the show for the Citz. We initially began to re-tech the show before our first preview Friday evening. We’ve since polished up certain bits, restored Marlowe’s epilogue which serves as a warning to those who choose to overreach their station. One of the interesting things that came out of previews is just how well the show suits the Citz stage. Due to just how vast the Quarry Theatre was and how far back the seats stretched to the set often seemed to exclude those members of the audience on the periphery and also meant that Kevin (Faustus) had to work very hard indeed to include everyone. In contrast, the stage at the Citz is so much more intimate. Dominic, our director, described it as a crucible space which will help to condense and retain the plays energy.
Needless to say, I’m rather excited about tonight. Press night must be incredibly scary if you’re playing Hamlet or some other famous titular character but for me I’m dead chuffed to be a) back at the Citz, and b) back on home turf. Above the stage at the Citz, looking down from the Proscenium arch are the four muses of the Theatre (you can see three of them in the picture at the top of this blog). In the epic poems and ancient plays of old you would invoke the Muses to provide inspiration and luck for the artistic endeavour about to be embarked upon.
And so in the tradition of times past, and ahead of the Press Night tonight I thought it would be rather apt to plagiarise that other great poet of old with that most famous of invocations of the Muses:
“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!”

            William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act I, scene i

 Dr Faustus’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 Apr. For all tickets please contact the box office on 0141 429 0022 or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Parting is such Sweet Sorrow

A.H: And so the first half of the journey that is Dr Faustus has come to a close. After three weeks of rehearsals and three weeks of performance Dr Faustus’ tenure at the West Yorkshire Playhouse has come to an end.
But what a time we’ve had. Over the past month and a half through curries, pints, Wardrobe meal deals and an excessive amount of the aptly named ‘Deliciously Moreish Yorkshire Crisps’ this fantastic company of actors has become an even more fantastic bunch of friends.
The last week went brilliantly. Our director Dominic returned from Glasgow on Thursday to see what was, by all accounts, a very good show before a notes session on Friday, a rehearsal of the Marlowe epilogue for Glasgow and some re-rehearsals to tighten up and refocus some of the existing scenes. Having a director come back to a show that’s been up and running for some time is incredibly important.
Dominic (far right) directing Annie (left), Siobhan (centre) and Ollie (floor)
As actors we aim to be consistent in our performances every night so that if an audience member were to come and see the show on opening night and then again on closing night that person would see the exact same level of performance, energy and drive. Having your director back to see the show with fresh eyes helps to ensure this aim and keep the show vital and alive. Dominic left again after the Saturday matinee as we broke for dinner in expectation of the evening show.
But not before a rather important celebration for some very important people took place. At 5 o’clock the cast were invited by the West Yorkshire Playhouse to a small reception of tea and cake to say thank you and to give us a wee send off before the final show. However, thanks to a rather lovely speech by our assistant director Andy the tea and cakes turned into a celebration of a group of people who hitherto have yet to get a mention in this here blog: the community company.
The community company first arrived just before tech week and were predominantly made up of members of the Playhouse’s newly formed youth theatre and two members from the Heydays Company, the Playhouse’s equivalent for older members. On stage they have added to the world of the play immensely while, off stage, they have joined us on several nights out culminating in last night’s mega, mega night out where it was an absolute joy to have such brilliant company to send us off proper. Collectively they have been invaluable and at all times the maintained the most professional of attitudes. And so to Liam, Will, Jacob, Pete, Anne, Amy, Thea, Nicci, Rudi and brilliant Beth a huge, HUGE thank you, you’ll be missed a great deal.
As for those of us who will be continuing to Glasgow? Well, imminently we have two weeks off which means everyone’s off home for a very well earned rest. I will be taking a quick detour to London before heading back to Glasgow to rest well and recuperate. To be home will be lovely but I will miss Leeds a great deal, both the beautiful city and the home away from home that has been the Playhouse, but above all the people. Thank you to you all and I so hope to see you again soon.
And there it is again, another ending. 
Dr Faustus’ is on at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 Apr. For all tickets please contact the box office on 0141 429 0022 or book online at www.citz.co.uk.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


A.H: So, week. 2 of the Leeds run of Dr. Faustus came and went without a hitch and now this evening (Tuesday) will signify the beginning of the end for the company’s tenure at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Since our director Dominic has returned to Glasgow the company has one very important job to do: keep the show alive. This may sound odd but if the company begins to get lazy or an actor decides to simply repeat the same performance every night the show is doomed to endure a barrage of coughing fits and yawns from the audience in front of them. Thankfully, due to the fantastically talented individuals who make up the cast, said laziness has yet to materialise. In fact, Dominic’s decision to have all of the actors onstage almost all of the time has been one of the great joys of the show allowing you to watch your fellow actor’s performances evolve and become increasingly nuanced.
Dominic too, despite being back in Glasgow, is not yet finished with the evolution of the play, we may be finishing in Leeds but we still have a three week run in Glasgow to go. The whole company is called on Friday so that we can put the final chorus back into the show and rehearse it so that it’s ready to be implemented for the Glasgow run. The decision to remove Marlowe’s epilogue was taken fairly early into rehearsals, however, now that Dominic has seen the finished show several times he thinks it’s important it should go back. One problem this will certainly solve is one with which we’ve had continued difficulty and which is very important we solve: the audience never seems to know when the show is finished. Let me explain...
Night after night, the play has consistently ended in the following fashion:
Faustus in despair is left alone in his study just as we find him at the beginning of the play, the clock begins to strike, being a tragedy and all the language begins to get a bit dramatic with talk of stars and mountains etc, the speech builds to a crescendo, things get a bit devilish, aaaaannnnnnndddd blackout!...but then for a good ten seconds nothing happens. After the ten seconds have passed the house lights come up and we actors, bashfully awkward, swivel on the spot to face the audience looking expectant. Five more seconds pass of just-said-“howsyourdad?”-to-someone-whose-Dad’s-just-passed-away-awkwardness...and then...applause.
Embellishments aside this can get a bit frustrating, so, hopefully, the return of the final chorus will give our ending a very clear full stop, as opposed to our current state of affairs which is more of an ellipsis.
Endings of a different sort are a surprisingly unexpected requirement of an actor’s life. It’s a fairly obvious thing to say but each time a production is put on it must eventually end and make way for a new story to be told by a new company of actors with a new creative vision. This is crucial to the evolution of theatre and allows it to remain pertinent and to comment upon the world it holds its black mirror up to. However, the end of a production also means the end to a wonderful company of friends who after three months of rehearsals, performances, cast meals, and nights out have become a second family. Whilst in Leeds the cast of Dr Faustus have become precisely this, as have the staff of the West Yorkshire Playhouse who have treated us fantastically and made the Playhouse a home away from home. As we prepare to say goodbye to the Playhouse we thank them immensely and know we will miss them greatly.
Dr Faustus’ is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until Saturday16th March, and at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 Apr. For all tickets please contact the respective box office or book online at www.wyp.org.uk or www.citz.co.uk.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Previews and Press Nights

The Cast having a breather
As of two days ago the show has officially been open for a week! And what a week it has been: previews, first audience reactions, cutting out bits of the show then re-rehearsing the show, all culminating on Wednesday with the first of two press nights (the second being in Glasgow).
The period from the first Preview through to press night of any show is always fraught with activity and is an extremely valuable period in a shows life. Last Saturday, with the tech and dress rehearsals out of the way, the first batch of audience members arrived for preview number one and us actors waiting to hear how they would respond. It went well but when we arrived at 10am the next day Dominic had a list of things he wished to cut, change and tighten up based on that previous evening’s performance. It is often the case after four weeks of rehearsing the same jokes, tricks and moments over and over again that you can become a bit immune to the punch lines or the weight of certain moments. So, having a four hundred strong fresh eyed audience view it in its entirety can allow everyone involved to see the show afresh and, for a director, can be very telling.
A famous theatre director was once asked about the key to directing. His reply was simple: “Kill your darlings!” He was referring to the little gems found in rehearsal, or written into the script which may seem either hilarious, beautiful or a moment of genius, but in terms of telling the actual story that moment simply gets in the way. When this is the case, no matter how genius said moment appears to be, get rid of it and get on with the story! Such a moment of darling killing example was part of Dominic’s list of cuts and things to tighten up before the Monday evening Preview. If you view the production photo’s on flickr you’ll notice the following picture:
Photo by Keith Pattison
However, if you come and see the show tonight you’ll notice this moment in the play is nowhere to be seen. That’s because it has been cut. Essentially, Colin Teevan had written a montage in the second half of the show showing Faustus falling from celebrity and it was written that we would hear over the tannoy a new star on the rise who had made the same deal Faustus did: Colin wrote that this new celebrity would be Derren Brown. And he said yes! He recorded lines for the show! We had a Derren Brown cameo in a show about magic! THE Derren Brown! The guy who can do this: . But, alas, after preview one Dominic decided that that montage was muddy storytelling and, in actuality, we just needed to get on with Faustus’ story. So we murdered our darling, but rightly so! If it doesn’t serve the story there’s no point. It is one of many deleted scenes that you’ll find in the script but not on the stage.
Although this week has been extremely busy on stage, back stage is a different story altogether. As the show gets into full swing our dressing rooms have become our new home. The walls are covered with cards and well wishes from press night; the girls’ dressing room has so many bouquets of flowers it could be mistaken for a florists and Ollie, Chris and I have decided to fill our free time with a wee tournament of Cards (above) which has become very serious indeed! It has a rude name so I shall not utter it here.
The week ended with two very well deserved days off. Sunday had a very clear remit: sleep and box sets, but on Monday I decided to be the audience for a change and watch someone else do all the work while at Northern Ballet’s The Great Gatsby. A lovely show in a stunning theatre with some incredible dancers, however, for a story that, in its own way, also deals with a type of damnation I would have liked it a great deal more if it just had a bit more of a punch to it. But then again everyone’s a critic!
‘Dr Faustus’ is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, from 23 Feb to16 March, and at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, from 5 Apr to 27 Apr. For all tickets please contact the respective box office or book online at www.wyp.org.uk or www.citz.co.uk.