Saturday, 19 December 2009

A Workhouse Christmas in Peterborough.

Seven weeks ago Kate Hall came to Nottingham to see a play of mine. We've worked together on a number of occasions, earlier this year she directed My Name is Stephen Luckwell at Nottingham Playhouse and we have both been involved with RSC community and education projects. She had this idea of putting on a short piece for Christmas at The Old Still in Peterborough where she lives. The pub has been empty for some time and at the moment is home to a group of artists. It's Dickensian in the extreme with panelled walls and a courtyard out the back. Her suggestion was an adaptation of the poem It was Christmas Day in the Workhouse by George Sims. Was I up for it? Absolutely. Any project with Kate is going to be fun. And this week it opened. A promenade performance with three actors, a choir, and mulled wine. What more could you ask for Christmas?

Sometimes I enjoy working at speed - especially if someone as efficient as Kate is taking care of all the difficult bits.

There's a bit in The Producers where Bloom and Bialystok are sitting on the roof with their Nazi playwright trying to convince him to let them put on his masterpiece, two Jews having to listen to his rambling homage to Hitler. He wants to emphasise how much better a painter Hitler was than Churchill and says -

Hitler. There was a painter. One apartment, two coats, one afternoon.

One apartment, two coats, one afternoon. What a brilliant line. And it's become something of a mantra for me and a few colleagues -removed I hasten to add from all Hitlerian context - to be used when any task is getting bogged down in too much detail.

Next Easter we're putting on Finnegan's Wake in a fortnight. Watch this space.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Oh, yes I did!

Yesterday I went to a pantomime at the Palace Theatre in Newark. I don't have a long history with pantos. When I was five I ran out of Dick Whittington at the Dome in Brighton, never to return, when a gun was fired in a market square and I can't recall another one until I took my daughter to a Nottingham Playhouse panto and sat there wondering how anything could last so long.
So I'm not a panto fan, which disappoints me as I love variety and treasure memories of Elsie and Doris Waters, Sandy Powell, Peter Brough, Al Read, Max Wall et al. Cinderella at Newark didn't mark a Pauline conversion, but I did enjoy it.
It had a story. It had real actors who worked hard and were obviously enjoying themselves. It wasn't patronising. It wasn't full of jokes about the X Factor and Eastenders. And when a seven year old, asked by Buttons if he didn't feel he'd left it a bit late to send a letter to Santa, said it was okay because he was going to send an e mail he was generously acknowledged as having come out with the best line in the show.
There was a reason why I was there. My colleague on the Buckland project - that has just got the go ahead for 2011!!! - was the MD so I got to sit in the pit with Matt and Steve the drummer rather than amongst the hordes of screaming kids. I was able to watch the stage and the audience and I was taken by how much the kids were involved in the story, they were visibly angry at the way that the sisters treated Cinders, affronted by the injustice of it all, which gave me hope for the future generation.
Actually the best bit about the whole thing was Matt giving me a horn and allowing me to blow it during the car chase. Enormous fun. And something else for the cv, I think.

Monday, 14 December 2009

A positive approach.

I don't normally greet the end of the year with any particular show of jollity. Default setting: creeping depression re: what have I achieved, Oh God another year gone. However this year is different. This is the year of the positive attitude.

So in particular order some of the things that have been dead good in the last twelve months.

Waiting for Godot in New York.
Steve Earle in Derby.
John Tamms, Chuck Prophet and Alexandro Escavado at the Maze.
Seeing a bear on the Skyline Drive.
Joe Lavano at Ronnie Scotts.
Northern Broadsides Othello.
Sitting in on the dress rehearsal of The Tempest at Stratford and then working on it with kids in Rotherham and seeing again how without the baggage of exams and poor teaching they don't have a problem with Shakespeare - they get it.
Leonard Cohen in Cardiff. Not quite within the last 12 months but so good it's kept me smiling all year.
Seeing Guernica in Madrid and Les Demoiselles in New York.
The new gallery Nottingham Contemporary and the opening Hockney exhibition.
Taking my daughter to see John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett.

So not a bad year at all. Okay, the Hanover job went down the tubes. And I didn't get to the gym as much as I wanted to. But I'm still here and I know what I want for Christmas. Another Christmas.