Sunday, 7 August 2011

Week Two - See how they Hobble

            Well, the above title will become clear as you progress through this week’s blog – but until then… 
            Monday started rather calmly for me. The benefit of being a character that enters rather late into the play means that I have the luxury of a bit of extra ‘research/homework’ time to needle out all the things that everyone else wishes they had the time to do, but don’t. Ha. I started by reading a book that Chris had bought for me pre-rehearsals and suggested that it may help me with my character. ‘The Man’, as I said in my previous blog, is an escaped German POW who finds himself – inadvertently – in the middle of a right royally British farce. See how they Run must be an exception to the rule of plays written around WW2, in that, it doesn’t portray our particular German friend as a Swastika-clad, gun-toting, malicious-murderer, but as a real person. He is a man, who is, fighting the same battle that we British were, but for the other side. And that is something that ‘Forgotten Voices’ highlights superbly. 
            I recommend it highly to anyone that is interested in WW2 and more broadly, I implore you to read it as a young man who feels that we must remember and hopefully learn from the lessons of the past (he says, glancing an eye at a picture on the front of the Guardian, of the current scenes in Libya). It brought me to tears on more than one occasion and made me laugh as well:

Private John Stanleigh
21 Independent Parachute Company
-       We didn’t really think that we’d have to retreat. We felt we’d done well on our particular front, so it came as quite a surprise. As we got away, we marched down to the river. I was marching next to a bloke who was wearing a German helmet. ‘Why are you taking that home?’ I asked. ‘Vass?’ he seemed to reply. I looked at him and the penny dropped. ‘Are you German?’, ‘Yes.’ ‘What are you doing in this column?’, ‘I’ve had enough of this war, thank you. I want to be a prisoner now.’ So he got evacuated on the boat, along with the rest of us.

Monday was also the launch of our eagerly anticipated ‘Pup Idol’ – your chance to have your four-legged friend appear, on stage, with us! Yes indeed, we will be trawling the surrounding area at each and every leg of the tour looking for the perfect pooch to tread the boards with yours truly and the rest of the cast. We will be holding the first auditions for our ‘Eastbourne Eddy’ (Frasier reference… No? Ok, moving on) next week on the stage with a panel of discerning actors, directors and perhaps a certain Simon Cowell… For legal regal reasons I must make clear that Mr. Cowell will almost certainly not be appearing at said auditions nor does he approve/disapprove of Pup Idol, Pup Watch, Pooper-Scoop Productions or any of its affiliates. Though he does like dogs doesn’t he…? 


The cunning canine will be required to chase our own David Partridge (see menacing picture) across the stage to rapturous applause, completely stealing the show, that, we promise, not to envy.
At all.
In the slightest.
In any way shape or form.
Dylan - The Cat/Dog
The owner of the fabulous Fido will also need to be present, backstage for the duration of the performances, getting exclusive access to the show’s stars and a special glimpse into the secrets of backstage life at the theatre! If you, anyone you know, or don’t know is interested then please get in touch with us via the Devonshire Park theatre on 01323 412000 or email us direct at for more details (those of you interested in applying for later dates of the tour, please keep an eye out). The Original Theatre website is also constantly updating with helpful information under the; ‘news’ tab, so keep on checking there as well as here, by clicking ‘follow’ at the top of the page. Good luck!

My own Mum was quite excited about the news asking, “Does that mean if Dilly (our dog) is chosen, that he’ll be famous?”… Yes Mum… Yes it does. 

I should at this time point out to all hopeful applicants not to be daunted by a cast-member’s Dog being a potential contender. In fact, I could almost categorically claim that Dylan will not even get into the audition room. For you see, Dylan is a special Dog. And by special, I mean not special. And by not special, I mean Backwards. He is a dog that is more akin to a Cat, than a Dog. A Dog, that has the temper of a disgruntled Napoleon and an expression on his face of constant confusion. He is our Dog, and we love him. But the fear of him mauling a cast-member’s face leaves him out of this particular race.
There's no 'I' in team
On Tuesday, a picture (compliments of our Wardrobe Mistress, Pam) came my way of Leo (our Reverend Humphrey and Feste) – taken of him more than 25 years ago. It’s relevance in this week’s Blog is completely arbitrary, but I find it funny so, enjoy. 

It was also my first day getting ‘up on my feet’ and rehearsing a scene with the rest of the cast. I came in early to watch a couple of other scenes and see how the play was progressing, of which it was. Greatly. 
In fact, I was laughing so much at Lucy’s Bambi-legged Miss.Skillon that I had to leave the rehearsal room for fear of distraction. When I had suitably composed myself, I returned to the studio and began work with Chris and Alastair on my first appearance in the play; the Man enters and hits Lionel (Al) over the head with an iron poker. Hmm. Iron poker hey? 

No expense spared
Once the hilarity had subsided we continued with the intentionally loose blocking of the scene. Chris has a great, playful style of directing which means – this week at least – we have centered around importantly not setting the scenes in stone, but playing games - with the text and without - in order to find the different levels and beats of the play. In doing this, our understanding of the script (just like last week) has increased two-fold and the play is far more a part of us (as actors) and not just a series of movements around a set. In fact, the next day, one particular game involved me chasing Arthur (The Bishop of Lax) around the rehearsal room, with ‘the rod’ whilst only able to speak Gobbledigook. It is difficult to express the benefit of this particular exercise without seeing the play – but trust me – it does work. Another example of this game-play is demonstrated in this video of Rachel (Ida) desperately trying to get a message across to Siobhan (Penelope) using only hot water bottles. 

Afterwards, I caught a shot of Siobhan in the hands of Jo, our Hair and Make-up designer testing out a possible hair do for the show. I’m sure she’ll appreciate me including this... 

On Thursday, we continued work on the play. In between scenes, I headed into the nearby Winter Gardens, whose rear entrance backs on to our studio. Now, I must make it clear that I like Eastbourne. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I’m very fond of Eastbourne. Being a seaside boy myself, it reminds me a lot of home. However, it would not be unfair to point out that the town has, on average, a rather sizeable elderly community. Ipso facto, if I were a gerontologist, I would seriously consider Eastbourne as a destination for my field study research. Imagine my surprise then, when entering the Winter Gardens to use the toilets, I passed a door to one of the bars and saw this piece of signage.

 I think I’ll return at the weekend. Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of a hoard of OAPs knocking back the sweet stuff. I’ve already told my Grandparents. They’re on their way.
In the evenings, I’ve been heading down the beach, to catch up on my  diary and have some valuable ‘me’ time. On Thursday evening I was however detained, neither by the pub or miscellaneous bar, but by my FIRST EVER PROFESSIONAL RADIO INTERVIEW.
Get me.
Rachel and I were asked to do the interview and, along with Pete Donno (our terrific Company Manger) who helped us through the details, prepped us for the questioning. It may seem like a stupid thing to be excited about, but for a young actor, first experiences are all exhilarating. I only found out later, that it was to publicise, Pup Idol.
            Pup Idol.
            Upstaged by a dog.
            Still, an interview is an interview and one that will nicely catalogue itself into the little folder in my brain entitled, ‘Rhys’ life experiences’. And, aside from thanking the presenter as ‘Hazel’ (her dog’s name) I think it went pretty well. So, Martha – if you’re reading this – thank you and I’m sorry.
            In celebration of our achievement, Rachel and I went out for a slap up meal to toast our success. After the meal, we walked home, as the cast tends to, along the beach, getting a chance to enjoy the sand and waves when the tide is out. Picture the scene: two actors, a bottle of wine already down the hatch, eager to get back to our digs to revel with our show mates and – I slice the sole of my foot open on a submersed rock. At the time, Dr. Alcohol was doing his job impeccably and, besides from an irksome pain, I had no idea that the cut was as bad as it was. In fact, I was so unaware that I decided to dive straight into the blue for a little night swimming.  It was only back at the digs, that I realised that it was a little more serious than I imagined. As I pulled back my sand-encrusted sock, it was the expression on the faces of my housemates that told the real story. However, insisting it would be fine, I showered, washed, went to bed and thought nothing of it. Yet, in the morning when I woke, unable to walk properly and – with Chris understandably ordering me – I reluctantly went to A&E to get it checked out.
The team hard at work

            At the hospital, I was greeted by a lovely lady called Diane, who sent me through to the waiting room (area) to realise my fate. The prospect of potentially needing stitches or - horror of horrors - an injection, played havoc with my mind. I started continuously yawning (my bodies response to nerves) and inevitably began getting dizzy as I continued to hyperventilate. Pathetic, yes. Smooth criminal, no.
            After an hour or so, a new doctor, who checked out the wound, called me into one of the consultation rooms. I took a deep breath. She scrunched her face. I scrunched mine. She tilted her head. I shook mine. "This is fine. No stitches."
            No stitches! I could have kissed her! The wonderful woman said no stitches! Joy of joys!
            "It's a superficial wound. Super-duper."
            My smile faded. I frowned. Scowled even. SUPERFICIAL?! Super-duper?! I'm waddling around like a peg-legged penguin and you're telling me that it's superficial??! Super-f*&%$@g-duper?! Anyway - I hid my disgust and smiled politely as she handed me over to the nurse.
            The Nurse came into the room with a granite face. She showed neither anger nor happiness, just a fixed contempt at the idiot actor that was laid out in front of her with a nasty boo boo on his foot.    
            She asked, with a hint of suspicion why I was in Eastbourne and explained that I was an actor and touring. Contempt.
            "I'm going to be running around a lot in the next few days." Contempt.
            "What's the play?" she asked.
            "See how they Run" I replied.
            "I see." Contempt.
            "It's a farce - very funny." I offered.
            "I'd hope." She retorted.
            We sat in silence as I mulled over her sarcasm and she, wiped at my cut with all the ferocity she could muster. She dressed the wound.
            "Change the dressing every day. And come back next week so that we can check for infection."
            "No problem. Thanks for all your help."
            She got up and headed out of the room. And, in a moment of reality that could never be scripted - nor believed till the day I die, she stopped, turned toward me, a smile broke on her face that closely resembled Alan Rickman's Sherriff of Nottingham and gently said, “Break a leg." She laughed and left.
            Better than 'Christmas is cancelled', I thought. 
Myself, enjoying the beach
            On Saturday, we were lucky enough to be joined by Alison, our incredible fight director, who, (along with Lucy) braved the horrendously congested M25 to teach us our various pieces of stage combat. I spent most of my time hitting Alastair over the head with the poker and carrying him around the room in a fireman's carry. The great news is that because of Alison's terrific direction, we can now use a real poker in the play as opposed to a lightweight imitation. After she was finished with us, Alison spent the majority of her time with Siobhan and David piecing together the 'Private Lives' fight (which is recollected in the play) of which she choreographed originally for the West End to critical acclaim. Exciting.
            When we weren't being used by Alison, Chris made good use of us, rehearsing scenes and blocking any moments that had been a lot looser earlier on in the week.
            In the evening, we all went to the pub for a well deserved end of week drink and toasted another incredibly productive 6 days.  I inherited a new nickname - Zippy. Apparently I sound like him. Nice. Oh well, at least it means that I can retaliate with some equally horrible nickname's for the others of my own. Bostrom, Donovan, Partridge, be afraid. Be very afraid.
            Today is Sunday. I've just watched Baz Luhrmann's 'Strictly Ballroom'. It was brilliant. I am tired.
            David is going to cook for the house later on which we're all looking forward to, but in the meantime, I look forward to doing as little as possible. Peace out.

- Peg leg

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