The Verse Of Sergeant Cadwallader

The Unexpected GuestSo tonight we open in Chesham with “The Unexpected Guest” by Agatha Christie.

I am playing a dreamy poetical Welsh police sergeant who is, naturally, investigating a mysterious murder. Aside from reading poetry (not the first time I’ve done that in a play recently) I am also caught writing it, but the audience is delivered no more than a couplet of this (fine?) poem.
I was given a challenge (by James of course) to finish the poem and I have done so in a way I think my character would have created it.

Of course, if you want to know who the murderer actually is…well you’ll have to see the show because I am certainly not going to tell you.

November Mists

Tis misty in November
But seldom in December,
The fogs that fill the valleys soon disperse.
After the mists of midnight
They fade away in sunlight
Only to be replaced with something worse.

The deeds of men inspected
Too dark to be reflected
Are revealed to us when the fog has gone.
We seek the true solution
To give people resolution
And let the injured parties lives move on.

© Sergeant Cadwallader (CMB)

Hay Fever – Show Roundup

It’s such a fearful play.
– It’s a marvellous part.

While I have mentioned this show already, it certainly deserves a post to itself.

It was suggested* to me that I go to the audition for this, which was being put on by a group I knew nothing of but was reasonably nearby.

To my amazement I walked away with a part, playing ‘Sorel’ the daughter of the retired actress (Deja vu anyone)?

What a lovely opportunity to work with the most friendly and welcoming people, to improve my Parisian geography (the Rue Saint-Honoré does not lead into the Place de la Concorde) and to have the fun of being a stroppy and rather sarcastic teenager every night.

The set was wobbly but functional (and importantly the staircase was rock solid) and looked great. The costumes were lovely (I had two beautiful dresses and got to wear my silky pyjamas in act three) and thankfully there was a lovely makeup lady to make sure we all looked great.

Thanks too, to the Stage Manager, particularly for their liberal use of white gaffer tape and ever entertaining dressing room calls. It was all much appreciated.

What fun then to act in such a wonderful play.
Of course, while the cast were wonderful and the audience clearly appreciative they reserved the biggest laugh every night for the comedy moment with the barometer, a feat of comedic timing performed by the youngest member of the crew (who may just happen to be my daughter).

So what a wonderful time, putting on a great play, and how lovely to make new friends, who were so welcoming to the very shy newcomer to the group.

©Michael Pitt-Payne

©Michael Pitt-Payne

*Insisted is far more accurate. But James dragged me to the auditions and got made Stage Manager for his trouble, so that seems fair. 😉


A Tale of Two Sets

See How They Run

See How They Run

Have you seen the one about the retired actress, with the French doors and the staircase?

I was recently asked to do props for a delightful farce featuring a retired actress, several members of the clergy and an escaped German soldier. The play (See How They Run) features a charming set comprising of a living room with French doors, a staircase and doors on each side.
The show was fantastic, funny and great fun to work on. I’d never done props before but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the cast were all great to work with.

While all this was going on I was simultaneously rehearsing for another play. This one featuring a retired actress, her family and their several houseguests. The play (Hay Fever) features a startlingly similar set.

Hay Fever

Hay Fever

The deja vu was heightened by the appearance of a barometer on each set, and the astonishingly similar sounding door bell (blame the sound engineer/stage manager respectively).

Further parallels within each play include the rehearsal of part of another play within it, the mention of “If” and…well I could go on.

Double the fun for a busy but satisfying month.

The Taming of the Shrew – Show Roundup

Taming of the Shrew was always going to be a challenging show to put on but we were fortunate to have a great team to do it with. Our leading protagonists were fantastic, our technical team likewise. The cast were all enthusiastic and involved, and the costumes were amazing.

We were fortunate too, to have a professional actor come and run some acting workshops with us including working on specific scenes.

As a servant (Curtis) I had little to do other than one gloriously slapstick scene however any thoughts of putting my feet up in the dressing room for the rest of the night were scuppered when (to my delight) I was asked to help with scene changes along with another of the servants (Biondello).

The set was minimal, although one set of those of shutters actually opens. My job was largely to move chairs, tables and the occasional signpost (which way is Pisa)?

Thus my evenings were full from walking on in the opening number to the final bows.

Yes, I did say “opening number”. To replace the original framing which sets the piece as a play within a play we opened with “Another Op’nin’ Another Show” from Kiss Me Kate. Thus as a troupe of travelling players we put on a show.

Singing, dancing, acting, crewing; I had a little bit of everything to do and what fun it was.

©James McCann (@MovingScenes)

©James McCann (@MovingScenes)

When Does It Become Typecasting?

I’ve just got a part in my next show. It’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.

Now before I go on, I should point out that the last Shakespeare play I was in, I played the part of a servant. Then of course there was my role in the pantomime where apart from the joys of being a dragon I was also, yes, yet another servant; this time a boy. Well it was pantomime after all.

So here I am, fresh from audition, cast as…yes, a servant and (this being Shakespeare) a male one at that.

Now, I’m actually quite happy about this. It’s going to be a lot of fun to do and I intend to enjoy every second; but it does tend to make one wonder.

At what point do I start to question why directors look at me and think ‘servant’ and even more interestingly ‘boy’. I did, admittedly, want to be a boy when I was eleven but nature made it quite clear that I didn’t have the genes for that; or, it turns out, the singing voice, although I guess an alto isn’t the ‘girliest’ of voices either.

Indeed what with my geeky tendencies, short hair, lack of makeup and general failure to wear dresses (unless they are ball gowns) maybe I fit the ‘boy’ mould better than I thought.

Hmmm, maybe I should worry more about ‘servant‘!

Much Ado About Nothing – Show Roundup

While as a theatre company we are temporarily homeless (while the theatre is refurbished) we have made the most of it by putting on an outdoor production of Much Ado About Nothing.

© David Bright

© David Bright

We’ve certainly had fun with it. The director chose to play up the physical humour of it, leading to my best moment as the servant (a minor part cobbled together from odd lines from the boy, messenger and Ursula) having been sent in search of a book which Shakespeare seems to have forgotten to mention again. In our version I returned with it and attempted to give the book to Benedick while he was hiding and he mouthed something quite rude at me in response. Proving that a reasonable number of people in the audience can lip read swear words! In case you’re wondering, the book in question is a ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’, what else?

Mine was not the only character playing up the humour though and the resultant effect was to get laughs throughout, as well as boos for Don John (the villain) and some lovely ‘ahs’ for the main protagonists’ kisses.

Surprisingly the rain held off the performances (more important to the actors who would have got wet than to the audience under cover) and the weather was kind. Although it is still, I point out, possible to get very cold while standing around outside in the dark waiting to go on.

The audiences were kind, appreciative and plentiful. The crew were amazing, given the extra effort required to build seating and cable up a huge area from generators to lights and sound plus the extra demands on front of house when it is suddenly several hundred yards from the entrance to the auditorium. The director was wonderful and much appreciated.

It was an amazing thing to be part of. I’d got involved because I’d never ‘done’ Shakespeare and I wanted to give it a go. Having had an amazing time I’d definitely do it again, even outdoors, or possibly especially outdoors.

Curtain call photo ©

It Runs In The Family – Show Roundup

Which one of you lot is going to tell me the end of this fairytale?

It Runs In The Family - Notice BoardIt Runs In The Family is a fantastic play. Incredibly well written, the script had us chuckling from the first read though. Add in the exuberant physical comedy of a farce and you have something truly wonderful.

The set was awesome. Solid enough for several cast members to climb on, over and through, and with the constant battering of a wheelchair and a hospital trolley we did more harm to the theatre (ssh!) than the set. It looked fantastic and gave us a real sense of place; plus the attention to detail was delightful. For instance, it was hard while on the phone not to be distracted by the fascinating contents of the noticeboard. Especially as some of those Christmas cards are actually addressed to me.

Although words had been a constant challenge to some of the cast throughout rehearsals, for the performances we all pulled together to keep the show flowing smoothly. The audience laughed and laughed and in some cases joined in with the joke (‘hello, hello…’).

Really, I cannot adequately express how much fun it was. With a friendly cast, a great crew and a fantastic director, it’s been an absolute joy from beginning to end.