Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Writefest - Time to stop procrastinating.

It’s that creative time of year again and local playwrights, are busy with pens, pencils, laptops, chalk boards (whatever works for them) creating brand new works to submit for Progress WriteFest.

The deadline for entries has been extended to 10th May and that date is fast approaching. I, of course, am doing my usual last minute dash because I am an expert in procrastination. 

Over the years I have tried to find the answer to “How do you write a play?” and have discovered that writers approach their plays or stories in very different ways and there is no one and only way.  Some like to plot the whole piece in detail, some just plunge in, others become inspired by an idea and form their play around this, some write to a formula or get inspiration from an exercise.

Most of my plays have started with a piece of dialogue that pops into my mind and I pursue this without knowing where it is heading. I do speak out the words while I am typing and I have often shouted, screamed and cried over the keyboard before realising the window is open.

The most essential lesson I have learned and re-learned is that I do actually have to stop procrastinating and SIT DOWN AND WRITE IT.

So all you playwrights who are also experts in the procrastination game - your deadline approaches. It’s time to tidy up that baby you have been nurturing and submit it now! The run time is 10-20 mins, it should not been produced elsewhere, UK residents only. Full rules are on the website - please check before submitting.

-- Liz Carroll

To read more about The 11th Annual WriteFest, you can visit our website: http://www.progresstheatre.co.uk/get-involved/writefest

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Stones in his Pockets Review

Arthur Burke, a long-standing member of Progress, recently watched Stones in his Pockets and sent us the following review:
OK, I’m going to fess up and say I am a member of Progress Theatre, so I do have a vested interest in the place. But my mother taught me always to tell the truth, so if one of their shows is rubbish, I say so.
No danger of that here, though. Marie Jones’s Stones in his Pockets works very well. It doesn’t have a plot so much as several intermingling subplots. It’s about Charlie and Jake, two Irish extras on a film set. They both know they’re at the bottom of the heap. They’re never allowed to forget the huge gulf that exists between the stars and the extras. Charlie, played by Christopher Hoult, tries to hide his sadness behind an ebullient optimism. Owen Goode plays Jake as an almost broken man. He is generally accepting of his position, but the fag end of his pride creeps out occasionally.
Charlie and Jake are not the only people on the film set. But Christopher and Owen are the only people on the stage. How does that work? Well… brilliantly. With minimal props and the occasional hat, the two actors morph energetically into all the other characters. Everything’s done with changes in voice and body language. Owen minces around like Harry Solomon to play Assistant Director Aisling and twists himself into Verbal Kint when he’s the drug addicted Sean. Christopher camps it up as the other Assistant Director, Simon, and even manages to be convincing as a glamorous American actress. (I’m guessing this is why he shaved his beard off before the show.) It says a lot for the actors’ skill that it’s very easy to suspend disbelief. And there’s never any confusion about which part they’re playing when.
John Goodman’s direction keeps everything moving at a fast pace. He allows the two performers free rein to use their considerable talents. And Kelly Hugo deserves credit for agreeing to be Assistant Director of a play that regards assistant directors as the spawn of Satan.
I have a few doubts about the play itself. Some of the transitions from comic to tragic are a bit jarring. But this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the evening. It’s primarily a showcase for two versatile and charismatic actors. Go and see it. And be nice to Christopher and Owen if you see them in the bar afterwards. After playing fifteen characters as well as doing some Irish dancing, they will be a bit tired.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Killer Joe's Set Builder

Tony Travis fits kitchens for a living so spending the bank holiday weekend building the Killer Joe set is a bit of a bus man's holiday. The set is more than just a kitchen; it is the inside of trailer and also includes the suggestion of the roof and sides.

Tony working on the Killer Joe set

Tony doesn't only fit kitchens, he is also an electrician and a voluntary sector consultant after spending ten years as the director of a disability charity in London. He is a writer, holding an MA in writing for Television and a musician. He played bass and backing vocals in Ray Fay a new wave band in the 1980s, you can find the videos on YouTube.

He doesn't just build Progress sets he performs on them too. You can see him next month playing Jack in The Weir.

Multi-talented as he is Tony hasn't built the set all by himself. Several members of the cast and crew willingly pitched in, many sporting their Love's Labour's Lost...And Won t-shirts from last summer's outdoor production.
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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Talking Heads

When I visited a Talking Heads rehearsal last weekend their technical team were busy putting up lights and painting doors. This meant the actors had been sent back to the foyer to rehearse their monologues. It can be difficult to revert to adhoc spaces and random furniture when you have just got used to using the stage space. From what I saw they seemed to be coping well with their temporary arrangements.

Our production of Talking Heads is made up of three separate monologues and initially rehearsals were one actor at a time working with the director. It quickly became clear that it was more fun to have joint rehearsals so that they could encourage each other, watch each piece develop and feel like a cast rather than individual performers.

Each piece has it's challenges, apart from remembering all the lines with no-one to help you out. The actors have to open margarine tubs, put on make-up on stage and shuffle along the floor during a blackout but it was decided that eating toast while delivering a monologue was a step too far!

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Talking Heads by Alan Bennett, 7.45 Monday 20th April - Saturday 25th April 2015

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Animal Farm Musical Director

Animal Farm is a joint production with Progress Youth Theatre and the principle has been carried through to the backstage roles. The musical director is Amelia, who has been a member of the Youth Theatre since she was seven. Her most recent roles were in Roses of Eyam and Murmuring Judges. Although she was only intending to be backstage for this production she has found herself taking on some on-stage roles as people have had to withdraw for various reasons. She is now playing Moses the Raven, a pigeon, Mrs Pilkington and potentially a goat. As she says if she has to be at rehearsals anyway she might as well go the whole hog (pun intended) and be in it is well.

Amelia (right) with assistant stage manager Josie, also a youth theatre member

The first question I asked Amelia was what does a musical director actually do. The rights to the play come with music for all the songs and Amelia arranged some of them to suit the range of voices in the cast. She has then been responsible for teaching the songs at rehearsals and leading vocal warm-ups. She is well qualified for the role as she is studying music A level, plays the violin, sings in the Taplow Youth choir and leads a choir at school. 

Animal Farm starts on Monday 23rd March and runs until Saturday.

Calling all male actors There is still an opportunity to take part in The Merry Wives of Windsor, this year's outdoor production in Caversham court gardens. The performance dates are 15th - 25th July. It should be great fun, please contact the director on merrywives@progresstheatre.co.uk 

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merrywives@progresstheatre.co.uk for more details