Tag Archives: English

German Spy Dom

6 Aug


One of the joys of working on this show, is the constant ping-pong of character work. Where last night we molested the Scottish moores…tonight, I was a German noir spy in an English music hall, for the bulk of the evening.

…Almost zero facial expression, with a whole lot of stiffly negotiated sexual positions…pulling lugars from my garters, and spitting all over the leading man, with thick accent articulation.

We are only in day three of rehearsals, and every one of them has brought an entirely new world of “what if” and “holy god, I can’t wait to get off book and fuck with this” feeling.

…Only three, in.

Imagine what two weeks from now will be like? Insanity. Theatrical anarchy.

…This is the kinda show that grows “bits” and “bits on bits” at almost out-of-control levels. If we were a virus, we’d have already infected a two county radius by now. Sure, they can try to contain us, but Mr. Director is gonna have his hands full on this one.

…If for no other reason than, that at SOME point, he’s gonna have to pick what stays in and what goes out…else the show will run four hours long.

…And four hours in a theatre seat, is anything but funny.

Unfortunately, I am in a position to know this by experiance.


It’s Like English, Only More So

4 Jun

There is a certain part of my brain that houses “lines.” 

I’m pretty confident, that is all that is in there. It runs mostly like a dry-erase board in that (almost) the second a show closes, the bulk of the lines are wiped out, so new ones can begin to take their place. This makes sense to me if for no other reason than I’ve done over 60 main-stage runs, and no human being can retain that much text-information…other than Stephen Fry. 

And everyone knows this.

…Only very rarely do pockets of them from shows past, live on in my memory. At that, they are prob’ly part of a monologue, and particularly dramatic.  Which means I spent twice as long working on them as others, and prob’ly have a fairly healthy sentimental tie to them.

For instance, I cannot remember a single word from “Twelfth Night”…which closed all of six months ago.  If I picked up the script, and read through it a couple times, it might excavate a few of the monologues here and there, but that’s about it.  Certainly, not without prompting.  And none of the conversation.

…While I was running that, I began rehearsals on “Children’s Hour.”  Which (if you were with us at that time) was a fucking mental trip of intensity.  For that one, off-hand, I remember my final scene…prob’ly still at approximate performance level. But only because it was such a mind fuck…with just me n’ Marty ripping it wide open and letting it all hang out. It will be a collection of phrases and thoughts that will live with me for…oh…a long, long time, I should think. But only that one scene, very little (if any) of the former.

…”Anne Frank” directly followed that, which bring us to February through April. I’ve always had a special place for the theme and book, so not surprising that the text stuck hard. I think Mrs. Van Daan will always be someone I can easily slip into, and wouldn’t mind in the least re-visiting again. Maybe that’s why I could remount the show right now in my living room, and get damn-near word perfect.

…And now: “Earnest.”

The line-load of the year…not in size, but in content, formation, structure and specificity.  (And that includes a Shakespeare in the season, friends.) 

Yes. In this case, with this role, Oscar kicked Bill’s butt with intricacy, musicality and sheer ridiculousness.

We are now a week out from Preview, tech hasn’t even been tackled yet, costumes are still being built and the theatre looks like a bomb went off in it (as all theatre’s do, directly moving into and out of Hell Week)…with half built styrofoam topiaries, wet-paint-warning-signed benches, half-erected walls, clumps of stand-in props, swishing rehearsal skirts paired with converse sneakers and the occasional fuck up so grand, that everyone just bursts into tears of laughter.

…So you’d think that getting the solid on lines, with no calls for a week, would command some massive sense of achievement right now.

…Which it sort of does.

…But only “sort of.”

…Because making the audience understand the outlandishly overtly-soup’d-up version of the accent we are using…(reminding one very much of Noel Coward: squared)…will be an ever constant push for articulation, and enough breath support to carry one through a tied-in, one-worded-sounding, run on sentence for two pages.  Don’t believe me? 

…Of course you don’t.

…You’ve seen the movie.

…I have too.

…Many times.

…And I adore it.

…But we are emphatically NOT “the movie.”

The movie is: “English.”

We are: “English, only more so.”

What does that mean?

It means that, much like Oscar, we are paying homage while simultaneously making fun of them.  Or rather, while making fun of ourselves. 

We are frequently just ridiculous with “R’s” and chewy, rolling, affectation…spewing barbed darts of insult, intoxicating with breathless sexual innuendo, pouting with precision and exclaiming with the power to bomb a brick house.

…Which totally works.

…But which also, totally means we will never be quite “done” with these lines.  We will be at war to own them until the bitter end.

…Which makes my current conundrum, not a little distressing.

…For, you see, I fully realize my brain’s capacity to “white-board” lines from all existence. 

…I feel I have more than the usual in there, as it is.

…And now that “Earnest” is nearing it’s opening, I’ve got a dandy little script sitting in the corner by my bed, staring at me nightly with not a little insistence to pick it up. 

My next show.

To begin rehearsals almost immediately following the “Earnest” opening.

…In a little over one week.

An entire new book of lines, in three accents, lying there right now. Just. Waiting.

And at some point, (‘tween now and first read), sister here, needs to bone back up on her German, Scottish and 40’s era posh Brit.

…Which (did you know) is absolutely nothing like what we are currently doing?  Or will be doing? Through a vast part of the next show’s rehearsal process while this one is in production.

Anyone who says what we do ain’t hard work, should try living five lives simultaneously sometime.  That’s what I’ll be doing in roughly two week’s time.

…So it’s good that I love it.

…Cuz baby, you couldn’t pay me enough to psych myself out on total purpose, otherwise.


Some Quality Stalking Time

22 Oct


Went on another stalking bender this weekend, during my down time on the couch with a heating pad plopped on my guts.

…It’s one of my all-time favorite things to do, and is usually accomplished in short blips as needed, unless I’m laid out for a significant amount of time and happen to be watching something that reminds me that Actors are fucking amazing human talent-Gods of mad skillz.  (Least, the ones I follow are.)  So while their super, amazing, talents played in serial episodes of yay on my TV, I got out the tablet and followed some of my current craze-crushes to see what they’ve been up to of late.  And because I feel you should be aware of these people (who are not necessarily really well-known “A-listers — though they SHOULD be), I will be including them in today’s blog as a special appreciation day to “That One Dude.”

…”That One Dude” is the known face, but often nameless actor (and by “Actor” I mean “Actress” too…I just prefer it as a general term.)

…So here are my peeps, (in no particular order), currently being stalked. (All English, of course, cuz they’re who I haunt the most.)  Some names better known than others:

Julia Sawalha – You’d know her best from Ab-Fab. I love her best from her period works. After a ten year acting hiatus she popped back onto the screen in literary-plums Cranford, and Lark Rise to Candleford, and after the the 20th Anniversary Ab-Fab specials is now sitting on two new series’ from which she has yet to pick. Being kinda the shit at the moment, she is well-open to be choosy, and cuz she’s got killer taste and obviously a good sense of self-humor, am totally chomping at the bit right now to see what she does next.

Imelda Staunton – RADA Grad, and one the best Harry Potter villains, ever. She’s of the original company much used in Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson works like Peter’s Friends, Much Ado, and Sense and Sensibility. Her acting chops are enormous (Vera Drake) no matter how diminutive the package it comes in (she’s only 5′ tall.) And she’s a major fav for her overt Character Actor-ness, sucking your eyes into her direction absolutely every time she pops onto the screen. Next up on her docket: a dark retelling of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s POV.

Brendan Coyle – Right now, you know him as “Mr. Bates,” hailing from Downton Abbey fame, but I know him first from Gaskell’s North and South (also sporting Richard Armitage, in his break-through role.) A solid Actor who often shoulders characters in the working man’s fight, with political morals, (which is a thing I could always take a little more of, coming from a TV screen, thank you very much.) Next up, more Mr. Bates-ness, and cop drama Sunshine.

Lisa Dillon – RADA alum, and primarily a Theatre baby. She was part of the “who the fuck wasn’t in this series,” Cranford, but spends the bulk of her time on The Boards, with a whole slew of Acting Awards already pocketed. (She also wow’d the tabloids with her 43-year-difference romance with Patrick Stewart — hello, Captain!) She’s an acting heavy of her own accord though, with huge range and some awesome reviews for Ibsen’s “Master Builder” (with Stewart), Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” and “Private Lives,” Fedeau’s “Flea in Her Ear,” Eldridge’s “Knot of the Heart,” Tennessee Williams’ “Period of Adjustment,” and Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”…to name a few. The woman is only a year older than me, and has such freak credits, that if she stopped acting tomorrow, she would STILL have had a better career than anyone outside of maybe Meryl Streep. True story. With the works she tackles, she’s definitely on my list of people to see on stage, next time I travel London way.

Derek Jacobi – On my trip to London, I missed seeing his Malvolio in “Twelfth Night,” by one week, and it totally tore me up to realize it. He’s a fav from back when I first started following the Branagh ensemble works like Dead Again, Henry V, and Hamlet et al. You’ll prob’ly remember him from Altman’s Gosford Park, or I, Claudius. As one of the co-founders of The National Theatre (with Laurence Olivier), and one of the RSC’s most elite, he’s shared stages with everyone from Ian McKellen, Peter O’Tool, and Richard Burton, to John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller. A major contributor to Branagh’s education when he first began, he works on with the equal force of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, as war horses of eternal awesomeness. It is always good class time, well spent, to watch him at work…so I’m always on board whenever his name hits a cast list. Just closed in Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House,” at the Chinchester Fest Theatre. Next up, some screen time with Emma Thompson, David Suchet, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters in bio pic, Effie…followed by period piece Of Corset’s Mine, and a Shakespeare Uncovered PBS special, as he performs and coaches a session at the Globe on “Richard II.”

Emma Fielding – Another Theatre mainstay, you’d prob’ly only recognize from the Cranford series. She does audio book work on the classics, and had also taken a turn winning Theatre awards for Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” (on Broadway), as well as Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia”, Moliere’s “School for Wives,” and John Ford’s “Broken Heart.” Among her other works: Viola in “Twelfth Night,” Lady Mackers in “Macbeth,” and title role in “Jane Eyre.” She just finished the UK Theatre tour of “The King’s Speech,” (as Queen Elizabeth), and Hesione in “Heartbreak House” with Derek Jacobi…so it’s too bad she has no range or anything…which is good to be mindful of and learn from when archetype boxes start hemming you in. For the life of me, I can’t find what’s next on her docket, but I’m sure as hell gonna see that woman on stage at some point, so need to figure it out within the next year…when hopefully I’ll be back overseas again.

Hugh Bonneville – Lord Grantham to most, this Downton Abbey alum goes back to Notting Hill, and Mansfield Park, for me. Read theology at Cambridge, and a graduate of Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, he is primarily a character actor on screen, always a comfortable, solid edition to any scene he’s in, without needing to trapes out a bunch of bells and whistles to achieve it. On stage, he gets to strut more in the spotlight…his first gig as Ralph Fiennes’ understudy in “Midsummer,” got him picked up immediatly with seasons spent at The National, and RSC, and has a huge reel of credits including “June and the Paycock,” “School for Scandal,” “The Alchemist,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and played Laertes to Branagh’s “Hamlet” at the RSC. Also a Patron of children’s charities, he’s just an all-round awesome fella, which comes through in every print interview he gives. Totally on my list of favs, and people to watch at work live, oneday. Next up: More Downton, and Sci-Fi/History mix Return of Captain Nemo, with Captain America’s Haley Atwell.

Claudie Blakley – First fell hard for Claudie in Gosford Park, with her tiny details of awkwardness and heartbreak making a totally stand-out performance to me as an (at the time) totally unknown, on a screen full of giants. She won me over further with her ensemble work in Cranford and Lark Rise as well, never hogging a scene, always eager to play with her partners and match them and challenge them with continual, solid choices. She’s the kinda person I’d wanna share a stage with every day. A grad of Judi Dench’s Alma Mater, London Central School of Speech and Drama, I will follow her anywhere, on any future project she chooses, because one can never learn enough ways to share a scene, own a character, and exude consistent excellence as a specialist in ensemble working. Most recently in National Theatre Live productions of “Cherry Orchard” and “Comedy of Errors,” and “Macbeth,” at the Sheffield Crucible.

Victoria Hamilton – I did a whole freakin’ blog on her once, cuz the woman is fierce, and we fill the same esthetic theatre shoes including height and general look and build, so she’s an ideal role model to watch and learn from in dynamics, role choice and general chutzpah. A LAMDA grad, she’s swept awards for nearly every theatre role she’s done, from “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg” (which you can watch it here, in total. And yes, that’s Eddie Izzard as her co-star.), to “As You Like It,” and “The Master Builder.” She was Viola in the Derek Jacobi “Twelfth Night,” and closed in June with glowing reviews for Mike Bartlett’s “Love, Love, Love.” You might know her on film from the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, or Lark Rise, or Mansfield Park. I know her as my more awesome Doppelganger. Either way, she’s always on my list of look-ups, and will always play a part in ticket purchasing, whenever I’m abroad.

…The list went on from there, going on until the wee smalls of the morning. Because I could.

…It’s a fetish that always makes me eager to get to work and learn things, and do them better than the last time. They’re my teachers, these people…as much as the ones I currently (and in the past) have shared the stage with. And at some point, I’m gonna see ’em all live, from a theatre seat, like I did with Dench.

One of my many goals.

…You should cue up and watch some of their work, if you haven’t already, and see what all the fuss is about.


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