Final dress rehearsal tonight. Am excited and optimistic.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
Everything, I hope!
No, not a commentary about the weather – a trifle less inclement as it is of late ; nor a direct reference to that cult classic of British cinema ‘The Wicker Man’- as much as I could happily wax lyrical about that seminal masterpiece.
‘Summer is a’coming in, loudly sing cuckoo.’
I just can’t seem to get the words out of my head. And if it isn’t those it is the tune to ‘Constant Billy’ or the melody to ‘Idbury Hill’. I have become something of an aficionado on English (and Scottish) folk music of late as the finishing touches are put to our forthcoming double bill, ‘The Farndale Farces’.
Yes, it’s production week and, having spent a cheery few days selecting and sourcing the soundtrack to such endeavours, yesterday afternoon/evening saw oyr technical rehearsal. Here is the bringing together of music, light and sound and special effects- the delicate and subtle fusion of audio visual glue that welds together the disparate elements of performance, imagined apparitions and poorly hummed soundtrack- that have essentially been the heart of the play over the last nine weeks. With nearly 100 sound cues and twice that many lighting changes that is no small feat. Unquestionably this promises to be a son et lumiere spectacle, although not always for the right reasons- this is a comedy after all.
So, two more dress rehearsals and it is show time. I hope you will take a walk down to the Farndale Avenue church hall, albeit temporarily relocated to Ravenswood Avenue, West Wickham. Our brace of shows may be put on by amateurs but, if enthusiasm and dedication are anything to go by, you would not think it, and while everything collapses and falls down around them they each stand steadfast and determined with the heart of a pro.
Sword fights, the supernatural, explosions, blood, thunder and Morris dancing are but a selection if the dramatic treats in store. In fact a grandiose spectacle on a scale unprecedented, though it falls slightly short of setting fire to a giant pagan statue on stage.
Which is where I came in.
Another quiet period from your humble blogger here, very much linking to current busyness of the world beyond theatre, but it would be remiss to let another month go by without an update on matters Matchbox. Low key as things have been here, things have certainly not been quiet on the performance front and the last weeks have been filled with activity for a quite unique double bill.
Following the weighty and serious subject matter of our previous two plays we return to something considerably more light-hearted and quirky. In the spirit of The Matchbox Sizes Shakespeare Company our March Show this year comprises The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth by David McGillivray and Umlaut: Prince of Dusseldorf As Performed Sundry Times by the Gentlemen’s Folk Society and Guests, A coarse acting play by Michael Green or as we have shortened it, The Farndale Farces. These are favourites on the community theatre circuit and, though this is the first time I think they have been put together, provide a frantic and hilarious take on the whole putting on a play experience in the style of ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’, as the men and women of Farndale Avenue- now moved to West Wickham -endeavour to put on two of Shakespeare’s most esteemed plays. Let us say that they have a lot of…er… enthusiasm, though maybe not quite the finesse and attention to detail and quality finish that one finds with the Matchbox. As a result a fair few things go somewhat awry, but in the stoic tradition of those who have laboured through a performance where everything is collapsing around them, the show must go on! To quote Michael Green whose ‘Art of Coarse Acting’ has been such an inspiration to me, “a coarse actor is one who can remember his lines, but not the order in which they come. An amateur. One who performs in Church Halls. Often the scenery will fall down. Sometimes the Church Hall may fall down. Invariably his tights will fall down. He will usually be playing three parts – Messenger, 2nd Clown, an Attendant Lord. His aim is to upstage the rest of the cast. His hope is to be dead by Act II so that he can spend the rest of his time in the bar. His problems? Everyone else connected with the production.”
The is Shakespeare, then, although even with ‘The Compleat Wrks’ way back in 2012 we have never quite done the Bard like this before. And, believe me, you don’t have to have a passion for the iambic pentameter to enjoy this evening. When it boils down to it, this brace of beauties is quick fire, fast and furious farce, pure and simple – two plays in less than two hours*, that can’t be bad.
Of course the key challenge is that, in order to act badly one has to be rather good, as Green again says – “perhaps not surprisingly, genuine Coarse actors are rarely funny. The best actors are the best actors.” And this, therefore brings to mind the legendary piano playing of Les Dawson:
To be that bad takes ages.
A large number of Matchbox faces old and more recent are working on making this as disaster prone, prop problematic, tongue twisted and set smashing an occasion as possible. It promises to be an evening of fun and fourth wall breaking humour in the mould of ‘All the Great Books’, ‘The Compleat Wrks’ and ‘The Canterbury Tales’, the kind of theatre I so much enjoy. One could start exploring post post modern theory, self reflexivity and all things meta, and believe you me I could do that for an age, but when it bolis down to it I love plays that shed light on the theatre experience, particularly on putting on a play and what happens – good and bad- when the lights go down, the music begins and performers are propelled onto the stage where anything can happen in the next two hours! So, yes, if you want to discuss breaking down the fourth wall in art then pull up a chair and let’s fill the glasses with a provocative little red, but if you just want a great night of theatre at a hugely competitive price then tickets will be available and so will an update, soon.
Great to catch up with you again, hoping you are all well and I will catch up with you good people mighty soon.
*timings are approximate at time of writing and exclude intervals
And so 2016 comes to an end. Whatever folk have to say about the year at large, and there’s a lot to reflect on, it’s been a pretty good one theatrically. More of that in the forthcoming but, from the quiet of Savill Towers in Gravesend, hope you have/had a fantastic end of year and look forward to seeing you on these pages in the year to come- 2017 is going to get another great one!
The reverie of the weekend has passed and the warm glow of post play pleasure slowly fades into the background as the hurly burly of everyday life and the Christmas countdown begins to assert itself. Nonetheless, there are still many fine memories from the show and, thankfully, lots of them were committed to memory (card) courtesy of the keen eye of Karen Warner. Here, then, are just a few of the hundreds taken from our brush with crime and ‘Witness for the Prosecution’.
We have said our goodbye to it but it is quite clear that this is the ‘Christie du jour’ with the BBC capitalising on last year’s success of ‘And Then There Were None’ , offering it as their festive murder mystery for 2016 – a tradition in the making methinks. With Sex And The City actress Kim Cattrall, Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough at the forefront, it promises a compelling reworking of the source material and allegedly a new take on the story, possibly in the same vein as Vicky’s reworking of the ending though we will wait to see. I am certainly looking at it with a reinvigorated interest following the last few weeks and I certainly know a number of members of our audience will be drawing some interesting comparisons as well. More details can be found online:
(Kim Cattrall, clearly in need of a cat brush here!)
Of course, Aiden Turner, who made such an impact with his smouldering performance last year, will not be returning but I would like to think we offered our own tribute amongst the sizzling, testosterone charged menfolk in the Matchbox as you can no doubt see from the pics above.
But there is even more. I have recently read that Hollywood legend Ben Affleck is scheduled to give the play a 21st century spin in in the very near future.
Clearly interest in this play is not going away any time soon but it is worth saying, the Matchbox got there first, and I know for a fact that Vicky had chosen to do it before any of the above were announced. And thus the theatrical year ends with trails firmly blazed.
It isn’t over yet though, and news of our 2017 season will find its way on these pages very soon. For now, though, take care, keep well and once again feast your eyes on the Poldark lookalike competition at the top of the page. 🙂
Until next time.
And so, the trial of Leonard Vole is over. Three successful nights, three packed houses and many satisfied audience members later, the curtain has come down on our December 2016 production. I have written before about that feeling of bereftness that comes to many the day after a show and I am certainly experiencing that now; I imagine many of my fellow cast members will be going through just the same. So, what better tonic than a little reflective bloggage to soothe the melancholy. It is nice to get time back after such a commitment, don’t get me wrong- I have managed to do some washing after all, but the feeling of togetherness that comes from certain plays can be special. ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ under Vicky’s direction was one such special play.
Photos will follow in the very near future but I will leave with an image rarely seen, after the set has been taken down, the chairs put away, the hall cleaned and swept- the post show celebration. Ok, it might not have started until gone 12:30 and the days of carousing until 6 a.m are long gone but it was a fitting way to end an exceptional run.
So another toast to a splendid play and the final word to follow very soon.