Thursday, 25 March 2010

A new flickr site to showcase my theatre photography

Currently there some images from A Christmas Carol, Our Day Out, The Lace Market Theatre Youth group, The Accrington Pals.

Accrington Pals.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Visitors from Karlsruhe.

I am really looking forward to seeing our visitors from Nottingham's twin city of Karlsruhe next week and seeing their performances live at the Lace Market Theatre. They are performing two plays in German, Die Hochmütigen (the high and mighty) and Black Comedy.  The box office number is 0115 9507201
or visit the website and book online. All tickets are free but they are going fast.

Latest update 25.03.10.

Wednesday evening is almost sold out. Still some tickets left for Monday 7.30pm and Tuesday for both performances of High and Mighty. Availability for Thursday 2.30pm and 7.30pm for Peter Schaffer's Black Comedy.

scene from High and Mighty

scene from Black Comedy.

scene from High and Mighty

scene from Black Comedy.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

writing and theatre photography news.

Aside from dilagent job seeking of late I have been concentrating on writing a piece for the Derby Evening Telegraph Bygones newspaper about my experiences as a young boy and teenager going to school in Derby. This is now completed as a well as a seven page piece about the history of the Lace Market Theatre and the cultural exchange they have with two theatres in Germany.

Phil at eleven years old.

Plus, as well as rehearsing for Three Sisters I have been practicing my photography by doing some photos to promote the Lace Market Theatre's Youth theatre production happening this week. I have never been so busy!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Photo collage

This image is a big photo collage I have created for the Lace Market Theatre and the two German theatre groups mentioned in the last three posts. The Karlsruhe groups are coming to Nottingham at the end of this month with two plays to be performed in German as part of the Nottingham/Karlsruhe cultural exchange. The photo was taken as I finished attatching all the photos to the black card and was taken on my living room carpet. It will go on a big notice board at the theatre tomorrow as well as a smaller display of past productions that we have taken to Germany in 2004 and 2008.

Lace Market Theatre visit to Karlsruhe. May 2008

Ausgezeichnet! Fantastisch! Super!

Translated as: Excellent! Fantastic! Great! All three adjectives could certainly be used to describe another hugely successful event with our friends in the German city of Karlsruhe. Again we took two plays to be performed at the two separate theatre spaces in and around Karlsruhe.

This time we shared a coach with the Karlsruhe Friendship Club run by a chap called Arnie. They were going to Karlsruhe at the same time and to travel together was deemed a cost saving exercise. Being of an older generation they like to stop over in Lille to break the journey and we acquiesced with their arrangements. There was a delay on the Eurostar train journey and this had the knock on effect of delaying our arrival at the hotel Ibis in Lille. However the Lace Market folk still found time to enjoy an evening meal at a bistro in a nearby shopping centre. The following day we continued on our journey without any issues and met our hosts at the bus station in Karlsruhe. After some worry, Alan Price, one of the cast in Hay Fever travelling independently, was found waiting for the coach at the train station! A few phone calls later he was returned to the fold after his mistake.

Cast of Hay Fever

As usual our German hosts were incredible in their friendliness and generosity and Linda Croston’s team at Die Käuze enjoyed mountains of delicious local food each day. Larissa and her team kept us all fed and happy despite her father Carl being very ill in hospital at the time.

I had the interesting experience of being hosted by a wonderful old lady called Ursula Roth. She lived on the fifth floor of a block of flats which I often had trouble finding as they all looked the same, didn’t speak any English, had a dodgy front door key, was very nervous about me staying with her as she thought we would have difficulty communicating and she was ill from the early stages of stomach cancer. From the moment I started to speak a little German we got on great! She made me huge breakfasts in the morning, spoke clearly and I leant so much German in her company that when I left she called me her ‘second son’. Bless her.

Monday morning saw another official welcome at the Rathouse for the Lace Market Theatre and our travelling companions, the Karlsruhe Friendship Club. As the Reiseleiter I was very proud to represent our group and particularly proud to do our presentation partly in German.

Cast of Satin 'n Steel.

Satin and Steel by Amanda Whittington played for three performances at the Die Käuze theatre in Waldstadt and Hay Fever by Noël Coward played three times at the Jakobus theatre. Both plays were ecstatically received by the German and English audiences. Incidentally, Markus Künstler tells me that the phrase from Coward’s play, ‘Will you lean on the piano in an attentive attitude? It’s such a help.’ has now become folklore at the Jakobus theatre. They joke that they may well include it in every play that they do.

This time I was with the group at Die Käuze and the two main evening performances were a sell out. The audiences loved the singing, the humour and irony of the piece. Although from a few puzzled faces I do think the Germans did struggle with the strong Nottingham accents portrayed. A few tears were shed over Alison’s handling of the scene with Mum’s ashes. Many thanks also to the Hay Fever crowd for taking the early morning tram to see Satin and Steel’s 10.30am show. It was hot weather even at that early hour.

Our group at Die Käuze made a pilgrimage to the Jakobus theatre one night to see our friends perform Hay Fever on an improvised set and it worked brilliantly. The cast were on top form despite the baking weather and put tons of style and energy into the play. Max was hilarious in his role and the audience gave them several curtain calls at the end.

Jakobus Theatre. Karlsruhe.

Most of the early part of the week itself was taken up with technical preparations and rehearsals in unfamiliar spaces in readiness for the performances themselves. In between times we enjoyed the delights of the city itself including the parks and woodlands of Karlsruhe, all bathed in beautiful warm sunshine. The bars, cafes and shops got a look in too! Not only did we go for a bite to eat but most of the group got bitten too by the bugs in the grass. The Karlsruhe chemists have now sold out of Fenisten gel.

After all the performing was over we were treated to a coach trip to the typically Germanic town of Bretten and spent some time relaxing in the old market place enjoying a cool pils and great company. For lunch we ate at a superb hilltop venue called Steinsberg. Again, lovely food including local asparagus in a creamy blue cheese sauce. From the top of the tower at the venue we saw fabulous views of the vineyards and nearby town. It was alright going up the tower but coming back down the very steep and worn wooden steps again was quite another matter!

Later that afternoon we went to the Auto & Technik museum at Sinsheim and had the opportunity to go inside a real Concorde jet (well, two actually – one French and one Russian) as well as to admire all the amazing cars and planes there. Some of us also chose to visit the Imax Cinema and had a virtual journey through space. All these things given to us gratis by our generous hosts.

Friday saw us making our own entertainment and I know that a group of the younger members went on a bike ride through the Black Forest and others simply hit the shops. The baking weather was still very close and I spent some time at the Zoo and enjoyed an ice cream or two. Later that afternoon the weather broke and there was a dramatic thunderstorm and refreshingly cool rain.

On the Friday evening there was a superb farewell party with gift presentations, some lovely food, plenty of drinks and a chance to relax and enjoy the company of friends. There was also some very funny entertainment in the style of a short pantomime sketch and some singing around the piano with Markus on the keyboard and Helen leaning against the wall in an attentive manner. It helped him. Apparently.

At some ridiculously early hour on the Saturday morning everyone and their hosts gathered at the bus station to say our 8am farewells and Auf Wiedersehens. I must admit that I did get a bit moist eyed as we all hugged and kissed and shook hands. All the English parties got on board, our hosts waved us off and we heard, en route, that the Karlsruhe Friendship Group had had an equally good time with their hosts and were praising Alison and Neil for their performances in Satin and Steel. I don’t think they got to see Hay Fever.

Enjoying some French food in Lille.

The long journey back through three countries gave us all an opportunity for an overnight stop at the same Ibis hotel on the outskirts of the city of Lille. After freshening up a group of us went into the city via the slick metro system for some food and fun and we spent a very pleasant time in a French Bistro. French food, French wine and great company! What a way to end the week! Fab!

Courtesy of Vance the coach driver we all arrived safely back in Nottingham mid afternoon on the Sunday. Many of us just wanted to stay in Karlsruhe and have the experience last forever and there were ideas flying around of maybe doing some of our future plays there in German or at the very least something by a German writer. Hold that page.

Theatre Exchange - Karlsruhe to Nottingham - 2006

Karlsruhe Theatres visit to Nottingham. April 2006

When the Karlsruhe groups arrived in Nottingham in early April 2006 some of their group came early enough to witness the last night of the LMT production of Anna Karenina in which I was playing Levin with Alison Hope as the title role. Most of the others from Germany arrived mid morning on the Sunday morning. The Karlsruhe groups use individual cars and a van to travel and journey via ferry through Hull. It was good to see some familiar faces again and some new folk too. The Die Käuze group were performing Blauer Bahnhof by Kerstin Rothe and Jakobus performed a two person farce by Ray Cooney and Gene Stone with the German title of Bleib doch zum frühstuck or Why not stay to breakfast. Each show had three performances.

Blaue Bahnhof was a multi-media piece played by a young cast with Larissa Kaufmann in the lead as an unpopular girl learning some life lessons. Bleib doch zum frühstuck was very funny and quite raunchy in parts. Peter Grünewald , Christian Müller and Ana Purwa played the parts to perfection. With each play we got a sheet explaining the plots as both were in German. Fun and laughter translates as the same in both languages and there was plenty of that.

Scene from Blaue Bahnhof
Previous to the visit there was a lot of background organising to be done and we planned an official visit to the matinee of Blaue Bahnhof by the Lord Mayor of Nottingham and his wife. I recall that there was a lot of protocol involved regarding behaviour around and particular addressing of the Mayor and Mayoress. You certainly couldn’t just call him “You and your Mrs.”

As it was in Germany, various families and members of the Lace Market Theatre hosted our guests from Karlsruhe and there was lots of inter cultural socialising in terms of going out for meals at Pizza Savai, La Tasca and having a drink or two at the club bar and The Trip to Jerusalem. Our Karlsruhe friend Markus Künstler was very taken with the old Nottingham pub at the foot of the castle and he has told me since that going there was one of his fondest memories of the visit. For the historical aspects, natürlich!

During this visit I helped with the catering side of things, doing the teas and coffees, washing up and helping Max one day in the kitchen. It was great to be involved in it all and to be looking after our guests.

On the Friday we took a coach to Leicestershire for the big trip out and visited the Abbey Victorian Pumping Station – thus reinforcing the idea that the British are obsessed with toilets - and then to the National Space Centre for a fascinating look at space exploration and everything planetary including the 360⁰ planetarium experience. After all this excitement we called into an Indian restaurant at 139 Belgrave Road called Curry Fever and enjoyed an Indian meal with our guests. There was a little spare time after the meal and many of us went for a look around the Indian clothes and accessories shops. On speaking to our friends from Karlsruhe on our next visit in 2008 they loved the Indian food at Mr Sunil Anand’s restaurant and the ethnicity of the area.

On Friday night we gave our guests a fantastic party and they entertained us with the Die Käuze performers performing a jazz dance routine and Markus Künstler played the piano and sung some songs. There was live music from a jazz quartet too. More presentations and heartfelt speeches were given including a nice one from Carl Kaufmann saying how welcomed he and his family felt during their stay with us in Nottingham.

During the week Markus and I swopped tongue twisters in German and English. One of his that I remember was “In Ulm und um Ulm und um Ulm herum.” To this I countered with, “ She stood up in the balcony inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping and amicably welcoming in him.” He did give me another one with lots of words containing the letter F, something about Frisches fisch. I have forgotten it alas. One of the funniest things was trying to teach Manfred how to say “Ey up me duck” and explain what it meant colloquially. I assured him you cannot say “ Guten Tag meine Ente” unless you actually want to say hello to a duck.    

Once again the following day meant that our wonderful friends from Karlsruhe had to return home and after a group photo outside the theatre and some fond goodbyes several packed cars full of smiling, waving Germans disappeared around the corner of Halifax Place and onwards to their homes in Germany. Like us they had a long journey ahead of them and we heard that they had plans to visit a particular place en route that allegedly sold great Fish and Chips!

Some of our German friends on their way home.

Nottingham - Karlsruhe Theatre exchange 2004

A personal look at the Nottingham and Karlsruhe theatre exchange by Phil Lowe.

Known in German as the Deutsch-Englischen Theaterbegegnungen, an exciting exchange of theatre performance has been happening between the Lace Market Theatre, the Theater Die Käuze and the Jakobus Theater in der Fabrik since 1982 when the two amateur Karlsruhe theatre groups came over to perform three plays on our request to form a twinning arrangement through the medium of theatre. On that very first visit the Jakobus Theater performed Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar by Brecht as well as Kannst du zaubern Opa, a piece written by the Grips Theater (Berlin based) and Theater Die Käuze performed Der Meteor by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.

The atmosphere apparently, was electric, and since that foundation of exchange of presenting thrilling and unusual theatre work in another country the twinning event has gone on from strength to strength with many Anglo- German friendships blossoming along the way. In late March 2010 we at the Lace Market Theatre are looking forward to another visit from our friends in Karlsruhe and this will mark the 15th bi-annual exchange.

Lace Market Theatre visit to Karlsruhe May 2004.

My personal story of enjoying such events comes in regarding our visit to Karlsruhe in Easter 2004. I was asked by Max Bromley to play a small part in our production of ‘View from the Bridge’ by Arthur Miller and part of the deal was to also be in the production that was going to Germany to perform at the Jakobus Theatre in central Karlsruhe. I love travelling and speak some German so I jumped at the chance. There would be a short break between the LMT production finishing and the trip to Germany so we had a couple of post production rehearsals to refresh our memories. Max had been to the Karlsruhe theatre before, independently and through the LMT and advised us of the difference between our own stage and the performance space over there. We also got a hint of the hopefully rapturous applause and foot stamping we were likely to receive and the generous nature of our hosts. The Café Bleu, a bar across from the theatre was mentioned too. It all sounded very exciting.

Another two plays were to be performed at the smaller Theater Die Käuze on the outskirts of Karlsruhe, a venue run by the Kaufmann family and colleagues. It exists to perform plays for children. We were taking a one man show called Anorak of Fire by Stephen Dinsdale brilliantly performed by Neil Duckmanton and another larger cast show called Post Mortem by Brian Clarke and the lead woman even learnt some German to say in the show.

Majority of folk from the three productions travelled for fourteen hours on the hired coach and a ferry overnight. The route took us across France, Belgium, and much of Germany and the boarders of the Alsace region. Two of our younger members, Kate and Keith, very nearly got thrown off the coach for constantly making groaning bear noises as we passed through the heavily wooded Ardennes and onwards. Someone foolishly mentioned that there might be bears in the woods and that started them off. I won’t mention who that someone was but he is typing this article up.

The long journey was broken up with regular stops and a change of driver and it also gave rise to the theatre members having an opportunity to properly talk and get to know their friends at the theatre. It was said then and certainly since that although you get involved in a play, the time in rehearsals don’t always give you the chance to get to know your acting/director/backstage friends well. In relation to this I recall enjoying speaking to Andy Taylor about life and such and got to teaching him some German words and phrases, en route.

Once in the city of Karlsruhe we parked the coach outside the Jakobus theatre on Kaiserallee and saw a sea of grinning Germans all thrilled we had made it safely to their city. We dumped our bags and theatre costumes and props inside the building and enjoyed a welcome drink whilst being introduced to our fantastic hosts. John Parker and I stayed at the house of Andrea and Peter Voos and their daughters in Blankenloch-Stutensee. It was about twenty minutes ride away from central Karlsruhe on the beautiful old tramway system. They made us very welcome and comfortable throughout the stay despite poor old John not sleeping well because of his bedroom was practically next to a main train line. It was also part of the hosting tradition that we guests gave the host a small gift as part of the exchange experience. My friend John also had the pleasure of learning the German for cylindrical advertising column, namely Litfaβäule after a certain Herr Litfaβ. Remarkably he retains this knowledge today.

Neil Duckmanton in Anorak of Fire

The following morning we had all been invited to attend an official ‘Welcome to Karlsruhe’ ceremony at the Town Hall or Rathaus am Marktplatz. Once assembled we were indeed welcomed by a representative of the Lord Mayor of Karlsruhe, presentation speeches were made; Gill Scott making ours, and we watched a short film about the city and its industries, economy and attractions and its alleged Mediterranean climate. Afterwards we enjoyed a glass of wine and some light refreshments and felt very welcomed. Each person also got a cloth bag depicting the Karlsruhe logo as a souvenir.

At some point following the official welcome, our group performing ‘ View from the Bridge’ , met at the theatre again and set up the space for the performance later that evening. We had a couple of cast members unable to come on the trip so it was arranged that three actors from Jakobus would take on their small roles. It was quite an intense rehearsal with everyone getting used to the new space and the need to learn new movements. I took the chance to help Max and his team by working with Gerd Lehrmann and Manfred Paul (our new immigration officers) and I explained and rehearsed their performances separately using my basic German language. Gerd was so funny as he seemed dramatically compelled to play a serious part with a comic walk and voice.

The folk at the theatre gave us a huge and delicious lunch (the first of many generous meals) and we all took some time out in order to be fresh and ready for the first evening performance. The other team over at the Theater Die Käuze on Königsberger strasse would’ve had their own similar agendas for their two shows playing later that week.

The play went extremely well and we did get the massive applause and foot stomping we were hoping for and the audiences throughout our three performances were packed houses. After the last performance we even had a champagne reception and a chance to mingle with the audience including a lot of Americans resident in Karlsruhe. Most nights, post show, we all gravitated across the road to the Café Bleu until the early hours. They served nice food and the Hoepfner Pilsner bier was pretty good too.

Above: Image from our production of View from the Bridge.

Our friends over at the Theater Die Käuze reported that they were equally happy in their venue and extremely well looked after by Larissa Kaufmann, her family and host families. The ‘View from the Bridge’ group went over on the tram to support their shows. They had had standing ovations at their performances too and were thrilled by the response.

After the shows were all over we had some free time for relaxing and shopping and eating in nice cafes/restaurants in friendly groups. The flammekûchen, a regional dish with spinach, was delicious. A few people on the visit had decided to stay in hotels and so it was good to catch up with them too and have a relaxed chat over a coffee or glass of wine.

Several of the Lace Market crowd made their way independently on the train to the spa town of Baden Baden for the day and I went there with John Parker. He was great company despite being tired out from lack of sleep and we made the stupid decision to walk from the Baden Baden train station into town figuring it would only be a quick ten minute walk. Three quarter of an hour later we were still on the outskirts and the skies were threatening heavy rain. Finally as the heavens opened we dodged into a posh hotel and sheltered from the storm. A pot of tea later, we ventured out on to the newly wet streets. The town itself was quite small and we didn’t stay that long. Somewhere along the way we bumped into Roger and Gill Newman, had a chat and sandwich to eat and returned to the railway station, this time on the packed bus full of school children!

On Thursday all the English and German theatre collaborators went out on the tram (it is has many more lines than ours in Nottingham having been established in 1934) to a museum of music making machines, the Deutsches Musikautomaten Museum at Schloss Bruchsal and also to a big mansion that was housing a Salvador Dali exhibition including a dozen life size giraffe models in the courtyard. Afterwards we went to a stube (pub) for a meal via a walk through some delightful orchards.

On Good Friday we enjoyed an organised day trip out on a coach with the Karlsruhe groups to Heidelberg and its impressive Schloss. Afterwards some of grabbed a chance to have a nice meal in the town and mooch around the shops. In the evening we were thoroughly spoilt with a fantastic celebratory meal and party at the Jakobus Theatre. There was even a roast pig and all the trimmings brought in on a grand platter. On the tables were gaily coloured, little wooden Easter animals and hens as party decorations. We were really impressed and there were gifts exchanged from our theatre to the German theatres and vice versa. Max and our production presented them with a framed black and white image of the Brooklyn Bridge signed by the company. The other group from the Die Käuze theatre also made their presentations. It was a very pleasantly emotional time and I think we were all aware that the following day would be one for departure and the long journey back across mainland Europe and across the channel to England and home after such a good time.

After that wonderful last night of friendship and presentations and great food it was time to part the next morning. I’m getting tearful even as I write this thinking about our German host’s generosity and the experience of acting in Karlsruhe and new friends made. Our whole English entourage were given wax Easter eggs as a parting gift, big hugs were shared, hangovers quietly spoken of, photos taken and addresses swopped. Then there were some tearful goodbyes and at last the bus started up and we began the long journey home made more special by everyone’s chatter exclaiming what a great time they had had. And funnily enough there weren’t any bear sounds uttered on the journey home.

Three Sisters ....

Well, we've had a few rehearsals now and I am starting to enjoy the text which seemed dry on the page yet when acted out really comes to life and is subtley comical in parts.

I have keeping busy with other creative endeavours too including writing a seven page document for a proposed book about the history of the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham. I am going to reproduce it in the next three blog posts and even if the people themselves aren't familiar to you dear readers then I hope that the fun of perfoming in Germany will come across. I have deliberately kept the narrative light and fluffy as it is supposed to be a postive memory  to be included in the book.

I am also planning to include more creative aspects in this blog re: showing people how to develop their own creativity through play and discovery.