Go, go, go Joseph

31 08 2014


I am from a very musical family. So perhaps it was inevitable that naming my son after a musical would result in some spontaneous outbursts of song when my whole family came to visit shortly after Joseph’s birth.

However my sister went one step further. A week after my family had returned to Northern Ireland I received a parcel in the post. It contained the baby-grow pictured above and a card with the following rewrite of the famous Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaboration.


Go, go, go Joseph, you know what they say.

Come on wee Joseph, stop eating ALL day,

Sha-la-la Joseph, Mummy is tired,

And Daddy is knackered, more night sleep is required:


Go, go, go Joseph you know what we say.

Our baby Joseph grows bigger each day.

Sha-la-la Joseph you’re doing fine.

And with your new dream-grow you’ll be ahead of your time.


Go, go, go Joe!

My family are nuts – my poor boy hasn’t a chance 😉

Prancing round like fairies wearing white unitards

15 11 2013

A Midsummer Nights Dream Propeller

It has been a very cultured week for me. Following my attendance at an opera on Tuesday tonight was Shakespearean comedy at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford.

The tickets were a birthday present from my husband who escorted me on my second theatre outing of the week and I think it is safe to say that I was more excited about the experience than he was. I have wanted to see Propeller Theatre Company in action for some time and having recently directed my own version of The Dream it was a welcome opportunity to see how the professionals approached one of the Bard’s most enduring comedies.

Hubby is not a theatre fan.

He is most definitely not a Shakespeare fan.

Had I any reservations about his response to the production or lingering hope that he would find it an enjoyable experience – any hope was crushed within moments of entering the auditorium. The pre-set featured a box draped with white cloth and netting adoring the backdrop. There were also a number of the actors scattered round the performance space wearing plain white unitards. A sideways glance confirmed that he was not impressed however this was nothing compared to the look of horror in the opening ensemble section which featured the coming together of the all male cast in a glorious display of graceful Elizabethan dancing accompanied by the sweet sound of close harmony as they performed a fairy song.

For what it is worth, I throughly enjoyed the experience and thought it was a fantastic production.

However ,I think I may owe my other half a cinema trip to see Thor in the very immediate future!


13 11 2013

Wozzeck 16

As of yesterday I can tick off – “Watch a German Opera” from my bucket list.

I should mention that no deliberate attempt was made on my part to a/ add “Watch a German Opera” to my bucket list or b/ make any effort whatsoever to attend a German Opera but such is life.

It comes as something of a shock when one arrives at the theatre to see and play and discover it is in actual fact an opera in German that lasted for a total of two hours WITHOUT an interval.

Last night marked my first visit to the Royal Opera House and the stunning building is in itself a reason to visit. My trip was to see German Opera Wozzeck to support students, who will be studying the psychological tale of poverty, betrayal and scientific experimentation; all of which ultimately lead to a violent and bloody finale.

I was familiar with the story and found this beneficial while both watching the drama unfold and reading the subtitles at the same time. I do not have an ear for Opera being unfamiliar with the genre so although the vocal prowess of the performers was a source of fascination for me and the piercing highs and throbbing lows of the score gave a clear insight into the emotional turmoil experienced by the characters I would not claim to have left humming the tune on the journey home.

It was far from an uplifting experience as the story is extremely dark and it was a draining experience.

The set and directors concept to use twisted perspective and hidden panels in the set to communicate Wozzeck’s life being turned upside down as his relationship deteriorates and his mental illness takes hold was visually stunning and although the set was comprised mainly of white tiled walls and flooring the revelation of a hidden section behind the backdrop with strong primary colours illustrating the moon and mirrored panelling to duplicate the action onstage but as though characters were suspended in mid air and often hanging upside down provided significant visual interest. I was a also a fan of the addition of extra staging placed DSR to create a room in Wozzeck’s house which did not quite fit within the dimensions of the stage proper highlighting Marie’s dialogue about poor people enjoying only a small corner of the world and a single mirror.

So although this experience may not have been what I expected from my evening out and the genre is not entirely to my personal taste it was enriching and thought provoking and definitely worth the trek up to London on a freezing cold November night.

ATWAS Review

2 11 2013


The latest production by Guildford based Theatre Company All the World’s a Stage – Once Upon a Midnight Dreary – was conceptually brilliant but poorly executed.

The production was based on the writing of Edgar Allen Poe and provided an adult alternative to the Halloween celebrations. It lasted for an hour and the performance took place in Guildford’s Racks Close.

The meeting point was the stunning Boatman Public House on the river Wey where the audience enjoyed pre (and post) show drinks. At 7:45pm they were met by one of the actors and led to the steeply banked land of Racks Close, an old chalk quarry site. At the entrance an actor recited The Raven, surrounded by fiery torches which were to provide the only source of light during the performance. The vocal delivery was superb and set the tone for the evening. This atmospheric opening was only hampered by the noise and headlights of passing cars.

The audience followed the cast of 5 to the first of three “stations”. At each station a different tale from the Poe repertoire was performed. The three tales enacted by the troop were ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar‘, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum‘ and ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether‘.

The scenes were largely narrative in nature with clunky dialogue, little action or visual interest. Efforts to utilise the original text were evident but significant editing would have been needed to transform the text into a theatrical presentation. Luckily the vocal performances were strong and engaging for the most part. An exception to this would be the American accent of the only female performer. As the rest of the company delivered the heavily stylised dialogue in English accents there appeared little justification for her Southern American drawl which was distracting at best and grating at worst.

Although the promenade staging was an inspired choice a major drawback was the expectation that audience members stood for the duration. An hour in the cold made this too long and reduced interest in the quality of the performance and audience members became increasingly restless. A suggestion on the ATWAS website that people provide their own stools or fold out chairs or the provision of benches for the small audiences at each station would have eliminated this problem. Two audience members complained of feeling faint during the second tale and one had to be removed for the remainder of the performance. The setting did not make this easy as an audience member could not simply walk away due to the poor lighting and uneven ground but had to be escorted by an actor bearing a torch.

Of the three tales the System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether was the most engaging with a much stronger focus on character development however as with the other two, it was too long and most audience members had identified the twist long before it was revealed to them. It was however a gratifying change of pace from the narrative and plodding Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar or the awkward and underdeveloped physical theatre of The PIt and the Pendulum.

The concept was promising and ATWAS has the potential to create memorable theatrical experiences that engage the senses and involve audiences in the action, however on this occasion, Once Upon a Midnight Dreary felt under rehearsed and a little slap dash



Halloween Celebrations

31 10 2013


I last saw ATWAS perform their pub crawl version of A Christmas Carol in December 2012.

I really enjoyed their unique storytelling style and use of site specific staging to enhance the experience.

Despite the cold today I am looking forward to my second visit to watch the fledgling theatre company perform in honour of Halloween. This time they have taken inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe and it would appear that the performance is entirely outdoor. I am attempting to reserve my judgement for now, about the wisdom of an open air production in October – my ongoing struggle with cold temperatures is only furthur exaggerated in the early months of pregnancy.

TG2 Surrey had the following to say about ATWAS latest venture:

Visionary Guildford theatre company, All the World’s a Stage, have brought the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, the Master of Macabre, to Guildford this Halloween. Tales of mesmerism, murder, torture, and insanity are brought  to life in Guildford’s Racks Close, lit only by blazing torches and whatever scant moonlight remains at the end of the lunar cycle. This promenade production meets at The Boatman Pub, where audiences will be met and led to Racks Close. Here, they will find one who has been hypnotised at the point of death, another who is forced by the Inquisition to choose between two terrifying methods of death, and an asylum with a secret.

It is always great to try something new and at 34 I am unlikely to go trick-or-treating so here’s to a spooky night with good friends and a warm jacket.


Final public performance of the academic year pending

18 07 2013


I have two and a half working days left this academic year. Unbelievably, unlike so many of my colleagues, I am still not winding down.

I have my final public performance on Monday – the night before we break up for summer. This is the performance I am perhaps most concerned about as I will not just be on the sidelines directing, I am also performing.

The assumption of many colleagues that I am immune to performance anxiety and nerves is misguided, especially at such a public event and to be honest it is a little on the knuckle and could go either way for me. However as I always say to my students, the best drama is that which starts with the phrase, “this might not work but…”

So for one final time this year I am back in rehearsals, dripping with sweat and almost ill with exhaustion, ready to tackle the last challenge of a demanding but rewarding academic year.


Opening Night

15 07 2013

Opening Night

Tonight is the opening night of my small scale studio production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“.

It has only been 6 weeks in the making but it feels like we have been working on it for an eternity!

But tonight my Yr9 students will finally receive a public audience.

The last 6 weeks have been very intense and I cannot help but wonder: why did we do it in such a short time period? I could bore you with the details, but sufficient to say that it has been a busy time for my colleague and I.

As always – I have not a clue of whether or not my cast are actually ready to perform for “other people” but come what may, they will do so tonight.

Throughout the day today I will be welcoming KS3 audiences, and their teachers, to view my work & that of my students. This evening FFOMC and my father-in-law will (reluctantly) make the annual trip to my school to see the finished product that I have been talking about and working towards for months. My mother-in-law will also be attending on night two.

As always – our kids are fantastic and highly motivated. I am confident that we have selected the right students to take leading roles and we have worked collaboratively on the design concept and included other departments in this project who have made our costumes & props.

I only hope that the old saying: “it will be all right on the night” holds true for us.

Last week, the student’s who will be performing tonight, took their external exam. I can only hope that this was a positive experience that will motivate them when it comes to their final end of year public performance.

As we say in the performance arts industry “break a leg”.

But I will go furthur to say: “Yr9, you make me more proud than you will ever realise”

It’s been a great year little bunnies, so for the next two nights make sure that you:


Living “The Dream”

12 07 2013

A Midsummer Nights Dream image

Rehearsals for “The Dream” are going well and the kids have really risen to the challenge.

At the end of an incredibly stressful week for my little bunnies, we did a full run through today.

The circumstances were far from ideal. It was painfully hot. We were in the canteen. Our improvised set involved tables strategically placed to represent our stage blocks. Some members of the cast including principal roles would occasionally disappear for about 20 minutes or so to take their external exam. Stress levels were extremely high and tempers were frayed.

But there was plenty of good news.

The kids have finally realised that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is actually a comedy. Hermia’s stern rebuke of Lysander’s advances when she warns him to “Lie further off” is hilarious. We all giggled as Helena begged unashamedly for Demetrius love and Egeus facial expressions when it dawns on him that his beloved daughter has been discovered asleep next to Lysander having spent the night with him a forest are absolutely priceless.

The kids also did their own make-up designs today with some amazing and creative choices. The back stage crew happily painted thrones and stage blocks and despite the high stress levels it was an extremely productive day.

We will know whether it has all been worth it on Monday – opening night.

However I have realised that in a production set in a forest that I have failed to cast any children in the coveted role of “a tree”.

I feel I am a disgrace to the drama teaching profession.

I have let the myself down, let the kids down, in fact I have let everyone down!

Keep “dreaming”!


Technical Run

21 06 2013

Backstage Crew

In my past life in the Theatre industry I have always been a performer.

I understood the importance of those who worked behind the scenes and respected the work that they did, but as a director I am growing increasingly dependent on my backstage crew. This is becoming a bit of an issue. Over the past few years there have been fewer and fewer upcoming stage management candidates emerging and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stage a production in college without the assistance of strong people working behind the scenes.

Today, during a run of “The Dream” my colleague and I tasked three inexperienced but extremely keen students with winging it on the sound desk. I have been given a mini-disc of soundtracks used in a past production of “The Dream” and am in the process of working out which tracks work with my own reimagining of this classic text.

I was extremely impressed with the initiative taken by these students and grateful that I have a small team who can make up for my own incompetence in the technical side of performance arts. They will be a massive asset to the department in the years to come.

I have also managed to secure the involvement of a few other staff willing to support with making props and costumes and I am finally starting to build an infrastructure. This is helping me to relax about the prospect of future projects as I will not feel so rudderless.

God bless you backstage crew- you make the rest of us look good!

The Gun Shop

14 06 2013



For the first time in my life I had occasion to walk into a gun shop.

This was definitely out of my comfort zone and given the reaction from the manager, somewhat against the odds; it would appear that I do not fit – who would have thought it – their usual customer profile.

I have often walked past this little inconspicuous shop on the street where I live and given it little thought other than – gosh I live in an area with an odd selection of stores.

When I walked into the store after a tiring day in full bohemian attire, twiddling my hair betwixt thumb and forefinger and looking entirely out of my depth surrounded by weapons and fishing attire as far as the eye could see; the manager looked a little confused by my presence.

He glared at me with suspicion over his half moon spectacles when I “ummed” and “ahhed” my way through a hesitant request peppered with vocal stabilisers for help in sourcing camouflage netting to create a fairy bowyer.

I am fairly confident that he believed I was taking the proverbial.

However it was clearly a quiet day and I was not being a particular bother or conflicting with any “real” customers so he gave me great advice and actually helped me to secure a donation for my production. This meant I was able to spend more in his store buying a mesh material normally used by fishermen, I think, that I have transformed into a curtain to dress the set for my upcoming production.

I have of course added flowers and adornments that have totally deminished the manly purpose these items were originally intended for and they look blinking terrific.