The art of corpsing

I confess, right here, that I am a terrible one for collapsing into giggles.

Thankfully I’ve not done it for years mid performance, but rehearsals are another matter all together.

Often I can be found losing my composure, only to snap back into the role seconds later. Occasionally, more frequently than I would like known, I get a case of the giggles to such a degree that I can barely breath.

Pretty it ain’t!

At the moment I am deep in rehearsals for a delightful play called The Golf Umbrella by William Douglas Home. I pitched to direct but casting issues means I am acting and directing.

One job or the other is challenging enough, but both together???

Yikes, is indeed the word.

But, the fun! The fun is enormous.

I picked my cast well and my crew even better and the collaboration is pure dynamite. Like touching magnesium to a flame.

The ideas are flowing, and the minds just the right side of dirty. Just like my own.

And that very combination tickles my funny bone shamelessly. And everyone else’s too. Thankfully we are all old pros so we shake it off, and on with the show.

All except AM, who manages to keep his reserve through the funniest of situations. But last night was different. Twice, not once, but twice, we had him doubling up in hilarity.

Refreshing just wasn’t the word.

One of the best rehearsals I’ve been involved in.

Magic in a room personified.



Audience With Murder – final curtain

The last few weeks have been a fight with lines that refused to be learned.

This play has got some horrible lines to learn. Quite often the characters have to say the same thing about three different ways, and boy does that make it very confusing.

On the 2nd to last rehearsal before the tech and dress, a fellow cast member was having one hell of an evening. The whole rehearsal nearly every line she had she either garbled or completely forgot – it basically boiled down to a terrible case of the collywobbles. Poor MG!

(Nerves are great when you have control of them, they do wonders to enhance your performance. When you don’t have control of them they can bring you to your knees. )

Of course, then the rest of us got thrown off.

But it gave us all the kick in the rear end we needed because the next rehearsal, the final one, was an absolute blinder. Act 1 lines were near as dammit perfect, Act 2 was fine but needed some work.

Massive relief all round!

Tech rehearsal was something else altogether. Everything that could go wrong did, including as one point broken glass all over the stage! Smashing, indeed.

Dress went well, another broken glass notwithstanding.

And as for the run itself, wowzers about covers it, I think. What an adrenaline rush!

Every night was real test for how well we knew our lines as we performed mental gymnastics to make sure we got back on track after veering wildly off! Such a rush, and not a particularly comfortable one, but we got through it and we got away with it. Great audience reactions and comments.

And the final night was our crowning glory. We aced the performances, got the lines down – in short the best we’ve ever done it!

We ended on a high note, huzzah!




Personal space. Some people are happier getting physically closer than others. Some people absolutely hate any kind of physical contact at all.

Actors, as a very general rule, are pretty tactile people. They are regularly forced into unusually intimate situations with people they barely know, be they romantic in nature, or violent. But, and here’s where it can get awkward, not everyone is comfortable with it.

I am a tactile creature. Unless someone is a problem for me then I am comfortable having my personal space encroached upon – I’ve written in this blog about kisses and romantic clinches I have acted out. I have no problem with stunts and action. If a play or director requires it, I am, generally speaking, up for anything. Except taking off my clothes… under no circumstances will I do that. (You all can breath a sigh of relief now!)

Audience With Murder is proving to be quite action heavy from my perspective with me having to beat people up and be dragged about. Oh, and weapons, I get weapons!

If you hadn’t guessed I’m loving every minute of the action and stunt work. For years I’ve watched with envy as my fellow cast mates – usually the blokes – got to die in spectacular ways, and throw punches and things. Now it is my turn – hooray!

We’ve tried the action one way, and then another, and we are still tweaking it here and there. It is getting better every time, and I think we have it sussed, but I am game for it all.

Anyway, I digress!

Awkward, that is what this is about.

Yes, awkward.

We’ve been rehearsing twice a week since early January, and we are going on stage in roughly 5 weeks time and, until this week, the kiss had not been broached. Time was pressing on, so our intrepid leader GC decided that time to get on with it.

The couple involved in this clinch are SR, who is fairly new to the theatre world, and MB, who is a seasoned pro, but has not had to do anything like this for quite some time.

It took about an hour, with the couple in question on stage, plus the 2 other actors (JG and me) plus the director, (GC) and his wife/the SM, (LC) in the auditorium breaking it down and working it out. The complete madness of this set up (at the time I did think that it was a bit like a ‘how many people does it take to … ‘ joke) made it hilarious which immediately diffused the situation. By the end of the rehearsal MB and SR had it down and it was working an absolute treat.

Fast forward to tonight’s rehearsal. Will it all still work? Or will more work be needed? … … …???






all a bit wrong

We’re well on the way with putting the play together. Initial blocking is sorted and now we are adding in the little touches.

Adding in the little touches is the fun bit: we’re familiar with the text we know the moves, and that is when a bit of creativity starts to flow.

Of course with the fun comes nonsense and messing about and messing up.

Five weeks into the rehearsal period, five weeks, that’s nearly at the half way point, my cast member JG finally points out to me that I am missing a whole syllable from a word. I am saying recrimations instead of recriminations – idiot that I am! Anyway last night I finally got it right: cue a cheer from my cast mates, and a silly dance from me.

Another time we came to a scene where I have been coming from stage left and it was decided that I should come on stage right instead. Last rehearsal I was back stage all ready to come on, I open the door and step onto the stage and I realised I’m on the wrong side of the stage! Woops! I dashed back through the door ran across the back of the stage and sauntered on back on through the other door. Very smooth! Everyone is either looking at me like I’m mad (as if they’ve not figured it out already!) or falling about giggling.

Of course, the best bits won’t come to mind until we are off book, so as of this weekend I am on operation line learning. A tedious job as you just have to knuckle down and do the donkey work. The reward being the fun of rehearsals when everyone is off book and things just flow – that’s when the real magic starts appearing.


Theatre Cams


Humdrum to Highjinks

I’d  had a tiresome day at work yesterday, and the manic excitement of last week’s discovery that I would have stunts and fighting to do has worn off to more of a quiet hum at the back of my head.

Rehearsal last night rumbled along in the typically early-days-fiddly way of stopping and starting. Breaking the section down and blocking it out until it felt right and looked right.Going over it again.

There is one section in act 2 where a detective (SR) interrogates one person (MB) and then sends them away and interrogates the second person (me). SR and MB went through the lines, working out the moves, all’s well and good. I come one, MB goes off.

SR and I run through our lines. My position gets moved about, SR paces about behind me. We run it again, all the same as usual until SR gets a bright idea. All of a sudden he’s growl-shouting. Right in my ear.

For a bloke who must be 6 foot he can move pretty damn quietly and he can growl pretty damn loudly.

To say I yelled is far from overstating it. I think I probably more like bellowed, and jumped a good foot off my chair!



Followed immediately by a huge fit of the giggles that I could not stop for several minutes.

SR is a toad of the first order!

He’s also, or course, a good bloke, and we wouldn’t be without him…. but he’s definitely a toad.

Needless to say my tiresome day was long forgotten: rehearsal works it’s healing magic again!



Audience With Murder

‘Audience With Murder’ is a play, a comedy thriller, so tricky to write a synopsis for that all Samuel French, the publishers could write was the following:

This intriguing and multi-layered, witty thriller is full of unexpected twists. A Russian doll of a play, it moves from a seemingly innocuous domestic play reading, through a murder mystery in the classic style, to a final terrifying and violent climax.

As you can see it tells you absolutely sod all.

And after I read the script for the first time I could see why, and I must say The Stage summed it up best in their review of it’s run the the Edinburgh Festival in 2004:

“It is no accident that the Jermyn Street playbill for this comedy thriller is free of all descriptive matter, save for a photograph of the play script … To offer more could spoil the surprise that, with a string of startling denouements, utterly confounds audience expectations …” 

A bit of a brain frazzler to say the very least.

And the intrepid little theatre group I belong to has picked this play as it’s next production. Very exciting stuff.

We go on in April, and rehearsals started last week. Illness (the dreaded nasty cold bugs doing their seasonal rotation caught me in their grasp) kept me away last week, so this is my 1st week, and Monday was my first rehearsal.

GC is in the director’s chair, and I along with MB, JG and SR are on acting duties.

We started on Monday with act 2, mainly because JG couldn’t make it, and he is not in act 2 all that much, and I ended rehearsal with the biggest grin.

Several times I have watched on with envy as my fellow thespians got to block out and rehearse action sequences and stunts. I was thrilled to discover that in act 2 I get thrown about the stage and I get to use not just one, but two, count ’em, two, weapons.


pig mud



Respect & Teamwork

So there’s this picture doing the rounds on the internet:


I liked it so much I’ve ordered the t-shirt.

No, seriously. I ordered the t-shirt.

It completely nails that actor – back stage relationship. And the odd thing is that actors who swap to ‘the dark side’ for a production immediately adopt that slightly grumpy disgruntled attitude that all crew members have. It’s hilarious!

An then when they go back to acting they do modify their behaviour to be less in the way because now they have walked a mile in the tech guy’s shoes. And that experience feeds their acting: makes them more rounded, improves their performance.

As you already know I have done most jobs around the theatre and my back stage work helps my acting, and my acting helps my back stage work. Especially the stage managing and the even more so the directing. I know how both animals think and I know what they need.

Tempers still fray and frustrations still develop and none of us are perfect, we are human after all, but knowing what the other side goes through definitely helps.

What this picture also reveals is just how much theatre is all about team work. The back stage crew is a team, the cast of actors is a team, but the 2 teams also make a team. If one person, whatever their role, is not pulling their weight it causes stress for everyone else.

For example: the person in charge of lights has had weeks to make the lighting design and then rig it. They don’t get started until the last minute, they don’t have conversations until the last minute.

The whole cast and director and crew is on tender hooks praying that they will have the lighting and effects required for the play in time for the tech rehearsal. They are stressed out and worried, and it was all completely unnecessary… all because lighting was be negligent and disorganised and didn’t communicate.

In short, as a member of the theatre team make sure you are where you say you will be, and do what you say what you will do, know your job and do it. If you are having a problem talk to the team, we can sort it out together.

Or the whole thing could fall apart. Which would make weeks, if not months, of work a complete waste.

Let me tell you there is no bigger joy than being part of team that works. Everyone knows what they are doing, and they know that everyone else knows what they are doing, happy campers all round.


It is like a well oiled machine and it purrs along merrily. Best thing in the world!