Monday, 18 February 2013

Dr Faustus: A week in pictures

A.H: It’s been a busy week at the old West Yorkshire Playhouse and everyone’s hard work culminated today when we ran the show for the first time in front of the representatives from Wardrobe, Sound, Lighting, our Designer Colin Richmond, our writer Colin Teevan and some of WYP’s young company who will be joining the production to help out in the party and group scene’s. It was exhausting but, by all accounts, a resounding success. There’s definitely still a lot of work to do when we begin the tech on Wednesday but, if it’s not too immodest to say, it feels like we’re in a very good place. Here’s how the past week went down in pictures:

Monday: In the foreground Dominic Hill directs, from left to right: John Kielty (Valdes), Kevin Trainor (Faustus), Ollie Williams (Evil Angel) and Chris Keegan (Cornelius). Far right is our assistant director Andy.

Tuesday: The cast assembles to run the second half of the play. 

Wednesday: When I woke up lovely Leeds was covered in Snow and after a long day of rehearsals we left the playhouse to discover that the cast's John Kielty had snuck out to build a Dr Faustus devil snowman which soon became the talk of the Playhouse. Since John's a Scot he built this snowman entirely with his bare hands....no, seriously!

Thursday: Chris Keegan and I were made aware Wednesday evening that the local bar 'The Wardrobe' was testing its new menu this week and so the first 10 customers who arrived at 12pm each day would receive a free meal. We instantly resolved to put our morning off to good use with a free Lamb Hotpot: AND IT WAS AMAZING!

Friday/ Saturday: Towards the end of the week more and more of the costumes started to arrive. The dressing room table photo with all the female paraphernalia on it actually belongs to a male member of the company whilst directly above we have a headdress that belongs to the Las Vegas section of the play.
Sunday: After an exhausting week of rehearsals I mostly spent my day off here doing absolutely nothing. Which is just as well because...
Today (Monday 18th): First full run through of the show. In the background you can see the audience we assembled: The youth group on the left, the directing team in the middle and the production team on the right. Meanwhile, in the foreground, the actors remain undaunted.
So, what now? Well, tomorrow morning (Tuesday) we'll run the show again incorporating all the notes from today's run in the hope that it will be slicker and more detailed. Then on Wednesday we move into the Quarry Theatre to begin the technical rehearsal where Dominic will begin to marry the work we've been doing in the rehearsal room with that of the technical world of lights, soundscapes and smoke. Then on Saturday we have our first preview and it'll be time to show this wee project we've all been working on to the public and see what they make of our very modern version of this age old story.
‘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.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

What a Week!

The set begins to take shape: my personalised on stage dressing room
After a long 6 days of rehearsals today marks a well earned rest from the week’s exertions, of which there have been many.  If there is any truth to the age old axiom of “no pain, no gain” then judging by the amount of aches and pains that ran through my back as I woke up this morning I think we’re in line for a West End transfer.

Well, maybe that’s a bit much but we have been working incredibly hard: the entirety of Friday and half of Saturday was devoted to movement sequences and dance work (hence the pain); by the end of the week we’d successfully pieced together the play for a second time and, as of tomorrow, we will have begun to go through it again in even greater detail. The week ended on Saturday where, when not dripping in sweat, we were learning all the magic we will have to perform from our resident magicians: James and Ben. This, of course, was immense fun and a particular highlight of the week as the magician’s plethora of physic bending impossibilities reduced the male cast member’s expressions to those of a 10 year old boys.
Learning magic with James Freedman (2nd from left)
However, this doesn’t mean that we haven’t been having a thoroughly good time. Our arrival in Leeds has marked a renewed social vigour in the cast and, aside from when pesky late night rehearsals got in the way on Thursday, we’ve been happily taking advantage of the local pub ‘The Wardrobe’ every night of the week. The week’s social antics reached their nadir in the form of a cast visit to the astoundingly tasty curry restaurant ‘Aagrar’ just round the corner from the theatre where the food was exquisite and left the company in merry cheer. Friday was more of a cultured social affair as the company were kindly given complimentary tickets to see Phoenix Dance Company's new dance show which was good, however, for me, it was slightly overshadowed by the fact that I saw this on the wall and realised that we will be following in some very big footsteps:
Christopher Eccleston in 'Hamlet' at the West Yorkshire Playhouse
However, this week has also been busy off the pitch due to the fact that as opening night gets closer the business side of things begin to creep in. As actor’s we are classed as freelance artists which means that we are our own business. Therefore, along with their agent it is an actor’s responsibility in the run up to a show to unashamedly promote ourselves via e-mail and post to local casting directors, theatre directors and radio producers our headshots, C.V’s et al with an invite to the production in the hope of future employment. This means printing out headshots in an industry standard 10 by 8 format, finessing letters so that they are to the point yet neither too cold nor too sycophantic and sent with a knowledge that this won’t actually make any difference whatsoever in a vast majority of cases but hopefully will on the one, and that is worth all the work. I began by citing the old adage of “no pain, no gain”; the maxim that most aptly sums up the naive hopefulness of letter writing? “Shy bairns get nowt”.
‘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.

Monday, 4 February 2013

From Glasgow To Leeds


(Above: From the Citizens Theatre to West Yorkshire Playhouse)
A.H: DO NOT PANIC! Cancel the national emergency, call off the sniffer dogs and tell the Coast Guard they can stand down: after fears of some sort of Life of Pi-esque travelling catastrophe I can officially announce that the Dr. Faustus Company has safely arrived in Leeds!
After what seems like two extremely brief weeks of rehearsal in Glasgow the final two weeks before we open will be spent at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. It’s a beautiful theatre and the staff are fantastic. The day began with the second meet and greet of our rehearsals as Team WYP came out in force to welcome us and the cast of Refugee Boy (who will be performing in the Theatre's second space) to the theatre. We were then taken on a tour of the building and I now see what Dominic meant about the Playhouse stage being rather different to that of the Citizens. Simply put: it is HUGE! The adjective that most readily came to mind wasn't so much theatre but arena.  
From the Citz Auditorium to the Playhouse's Auditorium

Not that I’m worried, quite the contrary, there’s something I find inherently exciting about arriving at a theatre you’ve never performed in before, besides, as Dominic pointed out, we saw it from its most daunting angle. This feeling of excitement was amplified further by the fact that the majority of the set and props for the show are being built for us by the Playhouse and so, upon arriving into the main rehearsal room, we were greeted by quite a lot of the actual set. It's always a brilliant moment when all the little bits of furniture and set on display in the model box (think a dolls house version of the finished set) begin to appear in real size, ready to be played with/ on/ accidentally broke. Then I take advantage of the theatre's very charitable staff discount before being whisked upstairs to the Wardrobe department to try on the most grotesque of masks and be fitted into the most iconic of dresses...that last bit may make a bit more sense once you’ve seen the show.
But apart from that and a quick dance call to make sure the choreography we learnt last week hadn’t fled from our minds, I wasn’t needed much today. Thus I decided to take advantage of this rare break from rehearsals, do a Michael Palin and explore the fantastic the city of Leeds. Here are some of my discoveries:
My walk to work is beautiful!

Leeds has enough Ducks to nessecitate the creation of a sign

This local statue is actually a prop from Prometheus
Rehearsals, Mark 2 had begun in earnest
The local Topman is HUGE!
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 either www.wyp.org.uk or www.citz.co.uk. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

Interview #2: Jamie Hayes, Head of Stage

(A huge apology for the lateness of this interview. Combined with the hectic run of Sleeping Beauty and the fact that Lucy and I are now in different cities it means that this has taken quite a while longer than anticipated to post. But, finally, here it is: our 2nd interview of A Season at the Citz. Enjoy!)

It is often the case that a set which seemlessly supports and compliments the tone of the action playing out on it can be invaluable to a production. Bearing this in mind the Workshop is one of the most important departments in any theatre. It is their responsibility to build the set and bring the designer's vision to life. All of the Citz productions are built on site by a dedicated team of carpenters, welders and builders. Jamie Hayes is Head of Stage and has worked at the Citz for 5years having previously worked at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket and the Prince Edward Theatre.  

What are you working on at the moment?We're working on Stuart Laing’s The Maids. It’s coming along very well but it’s quite a tough engineering challenge. Essentially, Stuart wants a cloth to come in at the start of the show at a certain speed and then truck all the way upstage and then go back out again. And this cloth moves in orientations up and down at certain points. Its very unusual that you’ll get a cloth that comes in and then has to move when it’s in position. It sounds relatively easy to do but it’s not. When you consider that you’ve got lots of lighting bars. We usually have about six or eight or even ten lighting bars so how do you float something through that? It’s a tougher engineering challenge than it sounds. It’s a bit of a head scratcher. The Citz being the way it is, a Victorian theatre, it doesn’t allow you to do the things that you could normally do in other theatres. In a modern theatre you could do that pretty simply. You just have to think your way around it. So that’s what we are doing at the moment.

Could you describe an average day in the Workshop?It’s kind of tied heavily in with the process. Usually with a production you get the plans and a model. Our usual build period is three weeks. As we are coming out of production on one show we will get the drawings for the next, which means you can order all the timber, look at it and cost the show...so when you come in on a Monday morning all the timbers in. Dennis, whose the master carpenter, will usually have done drawings for the lads so he just passes out the drawings to them and the chippies go away and build it. You get your drawings...and you go off and take what you need. You will have a pile of pre cut timber of all different sizes and then you construct it. Average day goes from drawing, to cutting to producing.

How do you find working at the Citz?I like it very much simply because you have a workshop so close to the stage. Once we get on to stage, there’s constantly bits you have to fabricate. The designer might say, "actually I’d like another piece of flat there, I’d like something here, I’d like something there". In other theatre’s they have workshops pretty much a mile away from the stage, so you have to go all the way back to the workshop which causes all sorts of problems. Here, from a designer saying they want something, we can have it on the stage in two hours. But there’s a downside to that because a designer will factor that into it. So they will always have something cookie or zanie to throw at you because they know the workshops right there.

How did you get started?It was always around...when I was young and I did amateur dramatics as a child so I knew a bit about theatre. My wife and I moved to London about 20 years ago, because we were sick and tired of Edinburgh, and I thought what am I going to do in London? Someone said to me the best theatre in London is the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, without a doubt if you ever go to a theatre you want to go there, so I just bit the bullet and in the morning I went to speak to the master carpernter and said ‘listen, Im interested. I like theatre and I only really know Theatre’ and he said ‘right start tomorrow morning. I’ll teach you everything I need to know". So I pretty much walked through the door not knowing a thing about it, not knowing how to pick up a hammer. Amazingly this guy let me in and that was it, boom! Started. Worked there for 8 years.

How many theatre's have you worked in?A lot of theatre in london. The nature of London is, as soon as you get to know people down there and work with all the visiting companies and producers, you get phone calls all the time asking if you want to come and work in such and such theatre. So, all though I was based in one theatre I did a lot of freelance work in all the others. Pretty much every theatre in London, bar a few, I worked in at one time or another.

What advice would you give to someone looking to go down this career path?My advice would be: prepare to work long hours for average money, if that’s your passion in life, don’t even think about, just go for it. If you want to be involved in theatre, just go for it. If that’s what you’re interested in then it’s a very fulfilling job. You've got to be prepared to think on your feet constantly and to work, and work, and work, and work, and work. Don’t expect to be at home too much and get on with it.