Archives For Barbara’s rambles

Go the extra mile - whatever it takes!

Go the extra mile – make your ideas BIG and BOLD (orange is optional)

Never be complacent with your achievements. One of the many beautiful things about theatre is that we always have the next show to work on – we’re never stuck in one place. We live in a sea of constantly changing requirements, ideas and possibilities. And the next show will be so different to the last …. To each new project you take the experience and the lessons from the last. If you’re on the case you will always improve and the process of creating theatre will be a wonderful experience each time. Continue Reading…

Treading your Own Pathway

Barbara —  April 18, 2014 — 3 Comments

A Mad Tea Party by John Tenniel.  Try and find your way to at least one ..

A Mad Tea Party by John Tenniel. Try and find your way to at least one of these each week

Lately I’ve been reviewing (in my head) the nature of creativity and imagination and the ways in which our society supports and/or controls it. In our world of tick boxes, targets and constant exams to measure your worth against rigid criteria, it is no surprise that true creativity is not always encouraged and it is certainly not widely understood. To make life easier for those who shepherd us through the educational system we have to conform to a range that, I’m guessing, is deemed to be ‘normal’. I have many friends who are teachers and they are just as disillusioned with a system that does not allow too much quality interaction and creative activities are often put on the backburner while ‘improving results’ becomes the focus of their valuable time with their students. I know this is a HUGE generalisation and not everyone fits into the box (thank goodness!). There are many sides and stories to this debate, but I’ll just share a few thoughts with you if I may .. Continue Reading…

Ghosts on Stage

Barbara —  February 28, 2014 — Leave a comment
One of my favourite ghosts from 'Gorgeous Gerald and the Ghost'. You can probably tell which one is the ghost (if you can't my costume design has failed)

One of my favourite ghosts from ‘Gorgeous Gerald and the Ghost’. You can probably tell which one is the ghost (if you can’t my costume design has failed)

What is it about ghosts? Why are they so fascinating on stage? Personally, I just love the murky, shady world of the unknowable land of the dead. Putting them on stage is a challenge I relish. They crop up rather a lot in my plays as well, so that’s just as well really. Ghosts, it could be said, are neither in the land of the living nor the dead. The apparition/ghost/shade hovers between two worlds. When conditions are right we can see from one place to another – a glimpse into the land of the dead from the land of the living. It’s what All Hallow’s Eve is all about – the veil is thin .. the dead can arise and be seen. In could also be said that that’s a load of twaddle, but each to their own fantasy I say. I have no idea what ghosts are, if indeed they are anything at all. But I love to play with the idea of a ghost, the idea of a place that does not comply with the rules of our living reality. What makes ghosts and the ghostly realms they inhabit so fascinating is the fact that once upon a time these ghosts were living people. So, unlike the land of faery (another favourite) we have a strong connection to ghosts – they used to be one of us. Continue Reading…

Me and my set

Barbara —  February 16, 2014 — 4 Comments
If your cast are acting in a space like this you really need it weeks ahead! James & the Giant Peach.

If your cast are acting in a space like this you really need it weeks ahead! James & the Giant Peach.Peach design by Jim Rolt.

I have a very intimate relationship with my set when I’m directing a show. Very, very intimate and important. The set is something that starts to take shape in my mind long before the cast have appeared. As I read the script I start to play around with ideas. How will it look? What will it feel like? How can I create the required atmosphere? What do I actually need on stage? What would I like to have? And .. very importantly for me .. how can I avoid scene changes? (See Elegant Scene Changes for my feelings about scene changes). I start my design right there and it evolves with the production. There are lots of different ways to use to the stage – this is just my process, my take on it. My relationship with my set. Continue Reading…

Directors are delicate creatures prone to falling over. Try to be kind by popping along to support them at rehearsals whenever you can ....

Directors are delicate creatures prone to falling over. Try to be kind by popping along to support them at rehearsals whenever you can ….

For no particular reason, (honest – my Maskerade cast are pretty damn good), I’ve recently been wondering why so many folk want to perform on stage, but don’t seem to appreciate that in order to do that well, (or even a bit well), you need to practise. I’m a bit pushy with cast when it comes to rehearsals (meaning I actually require them to be there), but even then there will always be one ….

ACTOR: If I don’t come to the rehearsal this week will I miss anything?
ME: Yes, you’ll miss the rehearsal
ACTOR: But is it important?
ME: If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t bother having it
ACTOR: (Slightly thwarted) Oh. So .. do I need to be there?
ME: (Withering look)

I can’t actually imagine a scenario where we all get to rehearsal and I announce “today we are going to rehearse all the pointless and unimportant parts of the play, feel free to leave before we start as I really don’t want to waste your time …” However, I suppose some people are just hopelessly optimistic.

I recently watched the last bit of a rehearsal for a show that was due to go on in 10 days or so. Most of the cast weren’t there. Nor was the (rather crucial) musician. I just can’t get my head round it. Where were they? Being in a play is a privilege. It’s a joyful commitment you make to create a performance with a whole load of other equally committed people that will be worthy of the ticket price and the audience’s attention. Why on earth wouldn’t you want to be the very best you can be? How can you bear to go on stage knowing that you haven’t given everything? So many rhetorical questions, so little time to bang your head against the nearest hard surface.

Well, it happens I know. A conundrum. Oddly, it also inspired me to write a limerick or three. There really is no reasonable explanation for that either. You may want to look away now …..

A lazy old actor called Fred
Preferred to rehearse from his bed
When it got to first night
An attack of stage fright
Drove everything out of his head

His lines were all over the place
His entrances quite a disgrace
He ‘died’ on stage
Three times every page
Of ‘character’ there wasn’t a trace

There are notions you need to dispel
If this rhyme is ringing a bell
It isn’t a curse
To need to rehearse
It’s the process that helps you excel!

Apologies. I’ll start writing a more useful blog post now!

Many people believe that to exercise your mind you need to read. Read by all means, but then you need to THINK about what you’ve read. Otherwise it’s like standing on the treadmill at the gym without turning it on….

Get into the Mind Gym!

Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Director sitting nicely, brain engaged and keeping quiet (for now)

Listening and watching (in a positive way) are very underrated. In a previous ‘life’ I was a therapist (remedial massage mostly) and I spent many years teaching others how to assess the varying conditions of their clients. Listen, watch and, in the case of a physical therapy, get your hands on (but even then you are listening with your hands). In theatre, observation is everything – but not just in theatre. The same applies if you just want to help a friend. Watch .. listen. Where are they? Continue Reading…

Art and Inspiration ..

Barbara —  March 26, 2013 — 4 Comments
Art Installation at Croft Castle by Rebecca Farkas

Rather cool Art Installation at Croft Castle by Rebecca Farkas

Inspiration is a funny thing. It arrives without warning, disappears without trace when you think you’re on a roll and just occasionally it really surprises you by jumping out of a dark corner and shouting ‘here I am come and get me’ before running off into a cupboard and locking the door. At least .. I think that’s inspiration. Equally it may also apply to many other things, including bottles of expensive champagne. However, one Tuesday afternoon we threw caution and computers to one side and wandered off to have a bit of a jolly at Croft Castle in Herefordshire (very close to where we live in fact). We were reliably informed that there was a contemporary art exhibition created by various artists-in-residence at the castle over the past year, so we went to be amazed and inspired by a combination of old (castle), history (all the things in it, around it and of it) and art.

If inspiration is a funny thing then art is completely hysterical. It seems that anything passes for ‘art’ and it’s all up to the individual to connect with it and be amazed, inspired, amused, impressed – or however it takes you. If you find yourself staring blankly at something that just bypasses all your available processes for comprehension and appreciation, then just move on. No doubt to someone else it will be wonderful. We did a fair bit of moving on to be honest. I think I like the idea that whatever I’m engaging with will transport me to another place and allow me, just for a moment, to get a glimpse of something I’ve never seen before. Theatre, of course, can be brilliant at that because it works with so many senses at once.

Rebecca Farkas again .. in the slate store

Now we’re finding keys .. this is good

In the graveyard next to the Castle Chapel they had made metal frames to represent gravestones that weren’t there anymore. I stared blankly wondering why they had chosen to mark out old graves in that way. Continue Reading…

What Inspiration?

Barbara —  February 28, 2013 — Leave a comment
Brian de Bergerac  provides inspiration for Henry's story in 'Nuts'

Brian de Bergerac provides inspiration for Henry’s story in ‘Nuts’

I just sat down at my computer, I looked at the blog wondering what I might write tonight and casually clicked on the category ‘inspiration’ (next to ‘soapbox’). It seemed like the right thing to do. The page I landed on announced ‘page or resource not found’, which amused me a great deal (I considered leaving it like that forever). So true ….. Then I started typing and a bit further down the page than I am now I did something inexplicable with the shift key and another unknown key in a fateful combination which produced a strange result. I won’t go into detail, it was far to traumatic, but happily it resolved itself by deleting everything I had written. Damn you shift key! One minute inspiration appears to emerge from its hiding place and the next it’s been ‘shifted’ elsewhere. I’m now saving the draft every other word … I don’t trust the shift key (shifty jokes are tugging away here, but I’m resisting them bravely – you should thank me for that). Continue Reading…

This is an old post from another blog – but one I thought worth repeating from my soapbox!!

6a00e54fcf73858834017d3e197c7a970c-800wiNot so much an order as a strong suggestion borne out of a great love for ‘children’s stories’ and much less love for the dumbing down of children’s stories….

What am I talking about? Well, time for me to explain exactly where I’m coming from in terms of children’s stories on stage. I have always loved children’s stories, myths, legends, fairy tales – you name it, they’re great! Why? Because they teach us about life in a way that is magical, beautiful, sometimes dark, sometimes quite scary, but always fair with an ending that usually uplifting (there are exceptions, but B&theB isn’t one of them). Bit like life really… Tales differ for ages of course, but there is ALWAYS a message underpinning the tale. Always something to learn, something that teaches us about how to act, how to love and how to live. This is why we should NOT dumb stories down to mere sugary, weak entertainment that does not engage a person (however old) at any level. Children may not sit around in discussion groups afterwards discussing the inner workings of the tale, but they get the message. We all do. Continue Reading…