Friday, 30 May 2008

Hedy Lamarr Dies

"No! That's HEDLEY Lamarr." Sorry!

The comic genius that was Harvey Korman died today. The man who turned Blazing Saddles from a funny film to a VERY funny film. A sad loss.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

First Night Nerves

I'm sitting here, just back from the pub, very pleased that the first night was exceedingly well received by a small, but select, audience (luckily many more are booked in for the last 3 nights...)

I hate this aspect of directing. I sit there watching all the tiny mistakes/missed cues/late sound cues, etc, etc, that the audience don't notice. Cringeing at the errors and wondering how that fantastic cast will get themselves out of the impossible position that they've put themselves in....

Our 'butler' has a scene where he asks the Dean of Paddington for his umbrella at a crucial stage of the action. Tonight he got confused and took the chap's brolly a page earlier than he should have done... What a to-do! Will he recover...? He did - and with a stroke of improvisational genius!

Watching them do it for an audience is both gut-wrenching and exhilarating. But overall, the fact that we held the audience, gripped, for 2.5 hours and made them laugh is everything that we could have wished for.

The audience's reaction is the reward for 3 months of hard work for the actors (plus another 2 months, or more, for the director and designers). This is the night that it all becomes "worth it".

Friday, 23 May 2008

Media Whore

In the pursuit of big box office (i.e. trying to get more than 300 people to come and see our play), I've turned into a media whore.

Yesterday I went along to Brooklands FM, with Mark who plays Lord Arthur. The DJ, Graham Laycock, threw questions at us, between records, which we tried to bat back as intelligently and cogently as possible. Then we read a short extract from the play. Matthew was at work, so I read the part of Baines. I think I sounded too much like Parker from Thunderbirds. Mum & Dad were listening in at home. They said we did alright, though apparently I said "um" too much!

Today I'm doing another interview. This time at Radio Wey, a local hospital and community radio station. If you see this before 3pm, you can listen live - I should be on around 4pm. I'm appearing on Nicci Brighten's show. She's an erstwhile member of Ottershaw Players, so it will be good to see her again.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

'Ello! It's The Fishmongers!

When I arrived at work this morning, I noticed that the red flashing light on my PC monitor was flashing. This could mean only one thing. Yes, another of my old chums has dipped a toe into the murky waters currently known as the "blogosphere".

[Please, please, please, will someone come up with a better name for the loose community that is the world's collection of blogs?]

Welcome to Jon of Ranch Lines. Not only is he more fecund than I am, he also has a better blog title, a more crisp and cogent writing style, and his enormous Spanish-Villa-style bungalow-cum-technology-bunker also contains more hi-tech gadgetery than GCHQ.

Jon and I go waaaay back together. We met in the DramSoc of Queen Mary College, Univerity of London, in the sunny and salubrious surroundings of Mile End.

[Back in the old days, this was, when it was dark, slummy and horrible round there. Nowadays the area's been given a lick of paint and all the old, rotten houses are worth a million quid each. There is even a Starbucks on the Mile End Road now, where once there stood smack dealers. Am I wrong for feeling somehow that it's changed for the worse? Yes, probably!]

Anyway, Jon and I quickly found a shared interest in dressing up in daft costumes, drinking until we fell over and trying to form world-conquering bands. Unfortunately, the East End wasn't interested in a half-arsed Genesis covers band in 1985. Besides, Phil Collins had already cornered that market (ha, ha!).

Over the years Jon's batchelor pads were the focal point for watching lots of footy matches (back when Sky's Monday Night Football Special) was a weekly event, eating curries and McDonalds, composing fantastic rock operas (or ripping-off Alan Parsons, take your pick), writing DramSoc pantomimes and collectively commisserating over our lack of girlfriends. At one time or another, one or two of our gang could be found lodging at Jon's while the rest of us (i.e. me) dropped in on an almost daily basis.

The title of this post comes from a code phrase that we once had. A mutual friend, Woj, was living in a squat. At one point in time she became paranoid that the local council would try and evict her, so we had to shout an agreed code through the letter box before she would come to the door. That was the phrase. For some reason, after being used only once or twice for its original purpose, it became something of a totemic sentence, shouted in greeting, in a bizarre, throaty, cod-Spanish accent. Our longest-lasting "band" was known as "The Fishmongers" in tribute.

No wonder we didn't have girlfriends. Who would have put up with that?

Now, as is the way of the world, Jon is living in darkest Kent. Well, someone has to. Our gang has spread far and wide, and we don't meet up anywhere near as often as we should. But that shared bond of friendship still binds and there are a handful of people who you know you need tell first whenever important news breaks. And, you know, this new blog technology is a great tool for keeping in touch.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Shows To Show Again Because Shows Now Aren't As Good As Shows Then

In other words, here are a bunch of TV shows that were brilliant. But they never seem to have been repeated, or been made available on DVD. Which is a shame.

It's Garry Shandling's Show - fantastically off-beat, self-aware, post-modern take on the family sitcom. Complete with self-referential theme tune ("This is the theme to Garry's show, the opening theme to Garry's show. This is the music that you hear as you watch the credits") and a machine that Garry would use whenever he needed to do a flashback. A work of genius that has disappeared into the ether. A damn shame.

Sean's Show - Comedian Sean Hughes, living in a bedsit. I can't remember much about it, apart from the fact that it was funny, a bit surreal and self-referential and, now I come to think of it, probably hugely influenced by Garry Shandling's show.

On The Air - David Lynch's post-Twin Peaks attempt to make a sitcom, set in a local TV station and populated by bizarre characters. Cancelled after 3 shows in the States, over here in the UK we actually got to see all 7 that were made, but it's never been seen since.

Friends - a little known, short-run sitcom which was shown on Channel 4 in the mid-90s and never seen again. A cult hit.

What show(s) do you wish were repeated or available on DVD?

Update: Here's a YouTube clip of Kelly Monteith for Jo.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Daniel Kitson

Just a short post to let you know that MLYW and I went to see marvellous stand-up comic, and beardy genius, Daniel Kitson at the West End Centre in Aldershot last night. I'd never seen him before, but I'd heard he was well-respected in the stand-up world, so we went along to see why.

Wow! Nearly 2 hours of solid, inspired, storytelling and meandering opinions about why the world is in its current state, what we can do to help, why we don't do enough and other deep philosophical musings, wrapped up in a hilarious package of hairy, grinning, stuttering word-smithery.

I'm no expert, but if he's not the funniest and most profound comedian working in Britain (or the world) today, then the world's even more broken than Daniel thinks it is.

See him as soon as you can.

Beware though - his website's broken, so it's difficult to find his tour dates!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Several Things

Good morning to you. Here are some news items:

1. Amazingly, I am still alive after my 34-mile bike ride yesterday. I didn't melt in the heat.

2. With the judicious use of a time machine and several trombone lessons from George Chisholm's ghost, my 12-year old self has finally achieved my/his ambition of winning Young Musician of the Year.

3. It's now only two weeks until our play is on in Woking. Please come and see it. Please! It's very funny!