Alan Ayckbourn

Me and Kim disagree on many things – Chinese or Indian food, red or white wine, but one of the most arguable we find is that of Alan Ayckbourn’s writing. But as part of my North Yorkshire Weekend Extravanagza me, Kim and Kims mum took our seats at the Steven Joseph Theatre in good old Scarborough front. A venue, that Kim’s mum proudly told me, Kim had performed through most of her school career. I had been promised interactive theatre – plenty of opportunities to get involved – play the parts. I was excited and ready – then the bombshell was dropped that Karaoke theatre company was founded by Alan Ayckbourne. Now my one and only experience of Alan Achbornes writing was in the Theatre Royal Haymarket – London – with my stepdad. £10 tickets which the theatre ever so kindly upgraded to ones worth at least £50 in the stalls. The play was one of his biggest and most famous, ‘How the Other Half loves’ with an all-star cast with one person I recognised from Eastenders. I did not enjoy it. Well, I mean it looked good and was staged well but the writing was just dated, cliché and very very misogynistic. You know, women have babies and cook dinners for the husband that works very hard all day. Not great for a self identifying third wave feminist, but the mainly OAP, white, middle class audience chortled and giggled as the story unfolded of cheating relationships and gross misunderstandings. However, this reflection of audience reaction to Acykbourn’s writing was mostly mimicked in the Steven Joseph.

 

The Karaoke Theatre company themselves, were fabulous. All professionally trained actors they seamlessly handled the performance and swatched characters and situations perfectly. It was obvious that they had natural skill in comedy and improvisation, which I would have liked to see more of, because it was in those moments when I laughed hardest. However, the audience interaction had costs and benefits – with one moment in particular. The scene was a classic ‘whodunnit’ – there had been a murder and all were the subjects, with one catch. They were not going to be speaking, that was the job of the audience. Now I am a self-confessed limelight lover – if I can get up and perform I will, so naturally my hand shot straight up – only to be shot straight back down with the charming comment of “oh no, we need a man instead”. OK, but there were no men volunteering their performances. So they came back, to “the lady who had her hand up before, would you like to come down?” – on principle – no she would not, having been shot down in front of an entire theatre. It was rude, humiliating and quite, to a point, sexist. But I said yes, got up and read the part of the male detective, in my best female voice. And as a self-confessed extrovert, really quite enjoyed it – although the experience stuck with me.

Advertisements

Summer; a few thoughts

Summer. Such a big thing as a student. A total expanse between a triumphant finish of one year and and unsure steps into the next brand new one. What you choose to fill it with shapes you as a person every single year. Work, travel, who you see… It all impacts. I’m going to talk about two shows and a few thoughts about summer.

 

The largest part of my summer was having the pleasure of working volenterally as a Assistant Stage Manager/Steward for Common Ground Theatre’s production of The Lumberjills. As the first professional show that I’ve worked backstage show. It was certainly unique. A whole war packed into 1 hour and ten minutes of laughter and shock as three women found a lot out about themselves and eachother. It was also unique as it was set in the middle of the forest I had spent a lot of my childhood in, but hadn’t been to in years. Revisiting and relearning all the quirks of the surroundings was just as magical as the hypnotic singing and spellbinding acting, which made the entire experience charming and adventurous. Seeing the face of real life Lumberjills watch their story being finally represented after many years of recognition

 

The rest of my summer was largely uneventful, but I wanted to make a point about the word home. It’s very evocative of so many emotions, good and bad. Of childhood and of conflict growing up. To me I see rolling hills and sheep (A lot of sheep.) I can hear the voices of friends and family and I can smell the sea. I think of hot days with long walks and cold days with bright fires. Home is something comfortable and reassuring- which is why home isn’t bricks and mortar it’s a feeling in your heart, in your bones- That is when you are truly home.
When Kirsty came to visit me we went and saw Alan Ayckbourn’s Karaoke Theatre Company. It was a unique experience to say the least, awkward audience participation and dated scenario’s attempted to be a modern sketch show, taking us from period dramas to bedroom farces, stopping off at Scandinavian crime drama and a magic trip. Every single piece of the puzzle involved multiple members of the audience (not all of who played along happily, or in the way the actors expected.) The show was funniest when it was improvised- when the audience caught the actors off guard and they were forced to go off script. The ‘jokes’ got polite laughs, but hitching the pink skirt around the beer belly of a hairy man had us gasping for breath. It was exciting to see something new and different being done with theatre- especially one so close to my home brings me some hope for the future of theatre, that it is changing shape in order to constantly entertain and stimulate people that have access to Netflix and the like at the touch of a finger.

Oi – We’re back!

Oi – We’re back!

 
It’s been 3 whole months and it’s been the summer holidays – the last post that went up was our last London theatre trip before we ventured back up North to simg_6366pend our time off.

So, what did we get up to?

Well, I went back to Newcastle. But not after I had London to myself for a few weeks first. In that time I took myself to the theatre, enjoying what little spare time I had when I wasn’t working shifts, bartending or waiting. I saw Headlong’s 1984 – a production that is very dear to my heart having seen it on a school trip in year 12, which led me to decide that theatre was the subject that I actually wanted to do. It was at the Playhouse Theatre, and my £10 seat was shocking – I literally didn’t fit in it, but the production stayed true to what I had seen before. I did find myself losing the wow factor of the moment which had shocked me so much 3 years ago (Don’t worry I’m not spoiling – But it’s three quarters of the way through and really fucking cool), but that was probably only because I had been anticipating it for a long time. But maybe also the venue itself – a very traditional Proscenium Arch theatre which distanced the audience from the stage, especially where I was sat in the Upper circle. Half of the projection board was cut out of my view. All probably reasons my ticket was so cheap, but hey ho I still really enjoyed it. I also took a trip to the Udderbelly, where the Pimms was well out of my price range but where I had a £20 ticket for Gobsmacked. I am fascinated by what the human voice can do, and this show was a musical celebration of just that. 8 singers and a world champion beat boxer creating breathtaking sounds and song. Loved it. And finally, before I got on the train home, for £12 only, I took myself to see Shitfaced Shakespeare at the Leicester Square theatre. Now it is common knowledge that I enjoy a variety of alcoholic beverages, and the actress who was shitfaced seemed to have enjoyed every single kind of drink available. And it was hilarious.

So what did I do for the rest of the summer? Did I travel? Find love? Make a world-changing discovery? Nah. I didn’t. I worked in a shop – a lot, drove my mums car for a week (and didn’t crash it), and moved into a lovely new student house, back in London. I spent 3 weeks in London before the urge to head back north occurred – so I booked my tickets and went to sunny (but chilly) North Yorkshire. I spent the first day in York, where I lost all self control with my debit card, met Kim, got drunk at lunch then went around the chocolate factory under the influence of a cheap bottle of Prosecco. We then got the train to Malton where Kims mum met us, and took us on the most beautiful scenic drive through the moors to the village of Grosmont, where the family home of the Turford’s is. I met the entire family, including Mittens the cat who put a hole in my jeans. Little Sweetie. We drank at the local, visited a rescued Sea Turtle in the Sea Life centre in Scarborough, saw a piece of interactive theatre (of which another specially-dedicated post is coming). We spent our last day discovering that rowing a boat is much harder than it looked in the Rio Olympics and that the best cosmopolitan in the world can be bought at the Moon and Sixpence on Whitby harbour. Then it was time for home. We had a 2 and a half hour leg on a train from York to Kings Cross, made only more troublesome by that fact that we somehow ended up transporting most of Kim’s worldly belongings with us (8 bags. 8. I know). So, as two dedicated Applied Theatre students fuelled by caffeine and artistic inspiration (but mostly caffeine, we’d now been awake for 16 hours) we wrote our first Two Lasses branded piece of theatre. Piano-accompanied spoken word covering the subjects of what we thought we knew when we were freshers, but really didn’t.

img_6522

Writing theatre at 11:10 PM, on a moving train