Sophia is Backstage! at Hayfever

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by Sophia Moseley

 

I carried out a quick exit poll after being entertained by the Wessex Actors Company with their performance of Noel Coward’s 1925 play ‘Hay Fever’. Without fail every person I spoke to exclaimed how much they had enjoyed the play and one audience member asked in heightened anticipation,

“How many more nights are they here?”

But not only was this their one and only night at the Marine, it was also one of their very last shows as Joe Puttick has taken the sad decision to vacate the director’s chair and call it a day for this brilliant theatre company that started back in 2010.

And of course the Marine lends itself so perfectly to this play that is set during the inter-war years which is also when the theatre was converted into a place of entertainment.

Whilst Noel Coward would perhaps be disappointed the company is to be disbanded, I have no doubt he would have given them a standing ovation as the actors and actresses portrayed perfectly the mad and maddening Bliss family who subjected their four guests to a relentless barrage of bizarre and eccentric behaviour!

The stage set also helped with its simplicity and black and white colour scheme, accentuating the far from simple and definitely not black & white characters of the Bliss family.

Everything happened in the one room except when they went out into the garden when they cleverly used the gangway cutting through the audience as a garden path which is where much of the confusion started for the bewildered guests.

“June has always been an unlucky month for me” says the mother, Judith Bliss as the pending chaos starts to take shape.

Hilarious and quick witted, unlucky for us we won’t be seeing the Wessex Actors Company tread our boards again.

 

Sophia is Backstage! at Emma

emma

blog and photo by Sophia Moseley

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I wonder if Jane Austen’s opinion of the Prince Regent influenced her world renowned story Emma, particularly as his Royal Highness ‘gave her’ the honour of dedicating the story to him! Perhaps some of the prince’s pomposity filtered through into the main character as Emma spent her time presuming to know what was best for everyone and this shameless matchmaker is brilliantly portrayed by Bobbi O’Callaghan in Hotbuckle Productions’ stage performance,

“They express themselves very properly”

Bobbi’s performance is superbly complemented by the other three actors, Adrian Preater (who is also the Artistic Director), Clare Harlow and Jack Farrar; each of them adopting up to four different characters and it was their skilfully rapid and immediate metamorphosis that not only kept the audience fired up but the changes were so brilliantly executed there was no doubt as to who was who.

The inspired use of the few props they had, turning a four-piece wooden structure from a fire place into an easel, a carriage and a swing seat to name but four transported us from the warmth of the kitchen hearth to the chill of a winter ride in a horse and carriage.

Musical instruments also played an important role, including a tin whistle, clarinet and accordion, each helping create the image, whether it was a magnificent ballroom or the cosy intimacy of a small living room.

Humour was also very much part of the performance; the hypochondriac Mr Woodhouse who fussed about everything,

“He’s going to London for a haircut? Sixteen miles for a haircut?”

And the audience clearly adored the play, John and Sam from Leeds who were staying at Hook Farm Camping Site loved the show and the theatre,

We saw the theatre when we visited the TIC so we bought our tickets then and you’re right, they are lovely ladies in there and we love it here, it reminds of the Hebden Bridge Theatre in West Yorkshire. There’s such a nice atmosphere here and it feels really special and the show was brilliant!”

As Emma said, they express themselves very properly!

Sophia is Backstage! at the ballet…

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Backstage! blog by Sophia Moseley

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Position one, two, three and four and the demi plié; I still remember each of them but perhaps it’s that cliché about riding a bike, you never forget. Although I was probably less keen to go to my Saturday morning ballet classes than I was to dash down to the sweet shop on my bike, but that’s another story. However, whilst I didn’t progress my ballerina skills beyond grade II, I never stopped loving ballet.

So when the JSLN Dance Company came to the Marine Theatre to perform ‘Variations of Pointe’, I did a déboulé in double quick time.

Choreographed by Sӧren Niewelt who has had the privilege of dancing with famed German choreographer Pina Bausch, the performance was presented in three very different acts starting with an adaption of Petrouchka. The costumes are cheerfully bright and colourful and the story of unrequited love is brilliantly conveyed to the audience. I loved the way the ballerina marionette moved seamlessly from her wooden puppet stiffness to the smooth and graceful flow of that famous burlesque ballet.

Niewelt’s choice of adapting the TV sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo into ballet in Act 2 was met with a mixed response and if it wasn’t for the fact I was familiar with the TV programme, I’m not sure I would have got it. With the theme music to Bond’s Golden Eye, songs La Vie en Rose and Springtime for Hitler, it was an unruly musical mixture that accompanied the story. Of course, the Fallen Madonna with the big boobies also made an appearance!

The third and final Act was something more akin to what I am used to with music by Vivaldi this more conventional form of dance shows the smoothness and elegance that for me is what ballet is all about. The sheer strength combined with the fluid beauty of each allégro and pas de deux; there’s no razzmatazz or chutzpah, just that incredible magic of ballet.

Now where did I put that old Raleigh push bike..?

 

Sophia is Backstage! at the open air Danny Champion of the World show…

Blog by Sophia Moseley

 

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It was when the elderly and otherwise docile French bulldog scampered away from its owner, through the audience and up to the stage in an effort to chase the pheasants, that made me think this is what open air theatre is all about.

But they were no ordinary pheasants and the Illyria Theatre’s production of Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World was no ordinary production.

It’s been aeons since I enjoyed an open air performance; I think it was As You Like It in London’s Hyde Park but even so I can remember how much I enjoyed the experience of alfresco theatre and you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop than the famous Cobb and Monmouth beach. We were even lucky enough to enjoy a rain free afternoon which is probably the only disadvantage of open air events in the UK.

However, the advantages are many including having enough room to peddle a Rolls Royce, a police car and a bicycle around the stage, these being just a few of the extraordinary props the Illyria brought along.

For it was the scenery that transported the audience to a small village in Roald Dahl’s imagination where we saw into Danny’s gypsy caravan home, the chicken run and back yard and the great forest where his dad William went poaching that belonged to Mr Hazell,

“Do you know what’s meant by poaching?”

“Poaching eggs you mean?”

“No, poaching’s stealing and poaching’s an art”

Then there was the garage and forecourt as well as the school room where the teacher soon had us singing All Things Bright and Beautiful!

The puppetry was also brilliant as our bulldog audience member will agree with chickens and pheasants scratching and pecking around and even flying around the audience.

With picnic blankets and cushions, Pimms from the Marine Bar and plenty of ice cream during the interval, it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I’m just glad the seagulls that were wheeling overhead didn’t let their curiosity get the better of them as they eyed their pheasant cousins curiously down below!

 

Sophia goes Backstage! at the Jazz Festival

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“Believe it or not, we quite like a cloudy day with a bit of rain.”

Just a few days into some warmer weather, Matt Harris’ comment was met with some derision as he introduced the fantastic CSUN Jazz Band all the way from sunny California, but I think even if Lyme Regis had not been bathed in sunshine, the energetic and extremely talented 22-piece band would still have left the audience in complete rapture.

The CSUN Jazz Band is the epitome of that congenial Californian custom with their casual American college boy look whilst simultaneously being fully focussed on the task in hand; they immediately captivated the audience as they leapt into their performance that was part of the Lyme Regis Jazz & Blues weekend.

The obvious camaraderie between the players with plenty of supportive smiles and nods of admiration as individual band members stood to play lead, added to the mix of creating that sensational big band sound.

We heard hits including Dizzy Gillespie’s Woody‘n You, Count Basie and Johnny Hodges Squatty Roo, but such was the eclectic mix we also enjoyed Matt Harris’ arrangement of Tim Ries’s arrangement of the Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Woman with guitarist Victor San Pedro singing the lyrics.

And it wasn’t just about the fantastic music, the young students aged 18-38 had many other talents, including trumpeter Michael,

“How quickly can you solve a Rubik’s Cube puzzle,” Matt asked the audience. How about with one hand, whilst playing the trumpet?

If it’s Michael, the answer is less than 60 seconds! With witty anecdotes and humorous stories, Matt and CSUN really did give us the complete package of wholesome American entertainment.

The audience couldn’t get enough and the encore was James Brown’s I Feel Good once more with singer/guitarist Victor.

The audience exit poll included words like “fantastic”, “brilliant” and “excellent” and as you asked Matt, cricket whites have been de rigueur since the 19th century, maybe next time we’ll explain the rules of the game!

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Blog by Sophia Moseley

Sophia goes Backstage! at Stand Fast Theatre’s R&D residency

 

StandFast

Motherland

Blog post by Sophia Moseley

 

Having been spoilt with all the fascinating R&D guests culminating in an end of week public performance, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when Katie Henry’s Stand Fast Theatre chose not to reveal the fruits of their labour. But after being allowed to watch a couple of outtakes plus talking to Katie and playwright Silva Semerciyan, I understood their rationale.

During their week director Katie, collaborated with playwright Silva and fellow actors Sandra Voe (who plays Olga), Anita Wright, Emily Tucker (who plays Alina) and Adam Foster to discover how Motherland might evolve.

Katie and Silva used their week to explore the key players along with the most important elements of the story. They dissected it with the help of copious amounts of post-it notes stuck on the theatre window, each one representing an extract from the play that determined its importance, and then pieced together the story a bit like a mosaic, creating the right image but possibly on a smaller scale.

But the tricky part is how to decide what stays and what goes,

“As I’ve been writing I’ve kept an eye on the structure,” says Silva.

They called on valuable input from the actors who soon got a feel for their roles giving their opinion on the strengths of the character; it wasn’t just about reading the part, they were experimenting with the impact of dialogue and different scenarios.

From the snippet I saw, Motherland is pretty powerful stuff as Silva takes us to the nuclear wasteland of Chernobyl and somewhere to call ‘home’, although Alina discovers her grandmother, Olga is anything but welcoming; and whilst it is still a work-in-progress, its imagery and ideology exposing the defiance and vulnerability of human nature gives a harrowing but heart-breaking look at a terrible tragedy.

“Our long term aim is to generate interest from producers and programmers so that we can have a stage production and this week has helped us onto the next phase, it’s a massive step forward and hopefully closer to our end goal,” said Katie and I for one, will look forward to its first night.

 

 

Sophia goes Backstage! as theatre Duty Manager

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The Call of Duty

 

You’ve heard of the Night Manager? Well, now meet the Duty Manager!

Having recently landed this rather prestigious role, I spent a gruelling two evenings shadowing my mentors so I could learn the ropes of this distinguished post and was soon ready to fly solo.

It may have been Friday the 13th but this was theatre, what could possibly go wrong?

My first night got off to a flying start with my pre-flight checks completed when three of our marvellous volunteers, Wendy, Susan and David who were running the coffee bar, found the hot water dispenser was dispensing anything but hot water, so without losing my cool the problem was quickly fixed and we soon had plenty of piping hot water to serve our guests with a fresh cuppa.

Crisis averted.

Feeling quite triumphant I was ready for anything; I didn’t have to wait long.

Another volunteer, Danny, who tonight was acting as usher said there was a problem with the loos.

Now some of you may know that our Artistic Director, Clemmie Reynolds, has some very exciting plans for the front of house that includes replacing the aged facilities that are the embodiment of post (or possibly pre) war lavatorial experiences. This occasionally means there is a nasty niff, the source of which…actually we won’t go into that. But after an emergency dash to the local supermarket we soon dealt with the whiff thanks to some Floral Glade.

I felt invincible!

It was a full house and it wasn’t long before it was curtains up and everyone was enjoying the Lyme Regis Musical Theatre’s performance of Sister Act and I was allowed a behind the scenes look at the tech.

A brilliant first act and during the interval after carrying out my interim checks, I did a bit of meeting and greeting and came across Paula Beviss aka Sister Mary Fowles’ husband who told me Paula suffered from Parkinson’s but loves taking part in the musical productions. Then there was Councillor Owen Lovell who was there in his official capacity as Mayor of Lyme Regis.

So allowing for a few Friday the 13th hiccups, this new Duty Manger looks forward to welcoming you here soon. Let’s go on with the show!

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Thanks Sophia! Well done. More Backstage! next week…

Sophia goes Backstage! with Luke Brown’s Princess R&D

Luke Brown

You need a strong stomach to work with Luke Brown; also strong arms, legs, in fact the workout they did each morning was not so much a warm-up exercise as a foot-drill for soldiers!

Princess takes you on a journey of love from the first nerve-racking date to the final break-up; the title is the name Luke gave his mother (behind her back) and it is his emotionally turbulent childhood that led him to produce this show.

“It’s an autobiographical exploration about the things I’ve seen and witnessed. The lack of a mother’s love during my childhood has affected my love as an adult.”

Combining gymnastics, dance, drama and improvisation, the choreography Luke has devised emulates the often choppy waters of relationships,

“The show is about the beauty and brutality of true love, the ability to love connects the human race, it is something that everyone would feel at some point.”

This was the first time the performers Amy Robertson, Kyle Lawson and Andrzej Kamienski had met, but watching them you’d think they’d been working together for weeks, especially one scene when they were nudging each other out of the way to recall a memory,

“It seemed when you complimented me that your smile was only an outline.”

“When you told me, at least you knew I had a heart because you broke it.”

We saw three chapters; the first performed by Kyle and Andrzej showed the excitement of new love then on to the demise of the relationship.

We didn’t see the boxing ring scene or Amy in the wedding dress and unicorn head, “I have a headful of dreams but the reality is very different” but the message of love, how the seed is planted in young people and the different ways it grows resounded with the audience but for me it was the athletic performance and simultaneous narration that explained Luke’s theory that…

 “The world of love is random”

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Thanks Sophia! Thanks to Luke Brown and his company. More Backstage! next week…

Sophia goes Backstage! at the Marine Music Hall Dinner

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It was the gathering of the great and the good from the chimney sweep and the academic to the can-can dancer and the aristocrat; such was the pull of the Marine’s invitation to enjoy an evening of music, dining and award-winning entertainment.

Everyone embraced the idea of dress to impress from top hat and tails to the striking crispness of a dinner jacket and Edwardian suffragettes to the saucy fishnet tights of the music hall girls and with the back drop of the sun setting on Golden Cap, everyone enjoyed the pre-dinner drinks whilst being entertained by the internationally renowned Slightly Fat Features and their Peepo Show along with the world’s first cinematic perambulator.

It was a job to decide who to talk to, I would have happily chatted to every single guest but that would have filled a book not a blog; for instance there was Maralyn and Malcolm Hinxman who arrived in a minibus with a group of 16 from Charmouth, and from Plymouth were the chimney sweep Hambley brothers, Mike and Mark,

“We’re hoping to audition for Bert from Mary Poppins”, accompanied by their suffragette wives Sue and Linda.

And to keep it authentic, Karen, Sally, Debbie and Sarah from Suffolk googled traditional Edwardian names and for the evening they were called Edna, Aggie, Winnie and Fanny. This was their first visit to the Marine but they all agreed it would be the first of many!

Jeremy and Sue Burrows from Sussex, looking the epitome of glamour, told me

“We are looking forward to some fun and daftness!”

By the time I made my way into the auditorium that had been transformed into a grand theatrical dining room, 101 guests were being waited on hand on foot by the team of volunteer waiting staff.

The raffle caused great excitement and I was delighted to see Sue the suffragette win a bottle of Champagne and the lucky winner of the 1st prize, a trip to the Badminton Horse Trials was won by Nathalie Allan.

Even the delayed arrival of the pie and mash main course did nothing to dampen their spirits, the atmosphere was convivial and everyone was smiling. Without question the evening was a resounding success, well done to all!

More photos from this fantastic event to follow on the Backstage! blog…

Sophia is Backstage! with The Drive R&D

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“I’m not going to apologise for cleaning the fridge.”

Now my paranoia knows no bounds so when I heard Lynne Forbes, Co-Artistic Director of Angel Exit Theatre saying this to the other co-director Tamsin Fessey I discretely dashed over to the theatre fridge fearing the worst.

Such was their convincing acting as they practiced their lines walking round the theatre, but I was relieved to discover it was an important line in their performance.

The Drive has been on hold due to their other show Otto and the Robin, along with a trip to Denmark with the Marine’s ex-theatrical director Tim Bell, but now it’s back on the agenda,

“With the R&D show coming up it was good to galvanize ideas again, we want to find a physical and theatrical language and see what we can do within the framework” said Lynne.

A story of a friendship between two women; regrets, grief, loss and memories of relationships they have had with other female friends; you soon work out the two completely different characters, one of them is pretty relaxed about life but the other standoffish and reluctant to talk.

But it is during the drive itself and later in the hotel when some recognisable human behaviour patterns start to emerge; those awkward moments when we let our guard down after we’ve had one too many and then losing our temper in an explosion of anger, and it is this audience awareness that Lynne and Tamsin are hoping to draw on.

They have also deliberately kept the props to the minimum combining the tech with their acting so the audience focus on the performers,

“We are aiming to have a show that doesn’t have much kit and finding interesting ways the actors can control and project the imaging.”

There was certainly plenty of positive audience feedback so I look forward to hearing more about the theatrical journey of ‘The Drive’ and in the meantime we’ll keep an eye on the fridge!