Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Acting 'A Chip In The Sugar' in Karlsruhe

Regarding the title of this blogpost, I can only speak for myself in this as I did a monologue as Graham and seven other characters from A Chip In The Sugar. All the work I'd put in over the last three months paid off in the three performances I did at the Die Käuze theatre in Karlsruhe. They weren't perfect but then live theatre rarely is and that is the joy in doing it. Working with the imperfections so much that audience of oblivious of them and still entertained is worth the struggle.  I learnt very quickly not to be self critical and analyse oneself or judge the words issuing forth as one acts. To do so is fatal and therby mental blanks can come thick and fast. Not what you want in front of a full auditorium.

"Oh my God Mother!"
The Tuesday morning performance was the probably the best in being pretty much word perfect and the energy from doing an early show paid off plus the fact that I knew that there was a big group of English language students in and also our gang from the Lace Market Theatre had come across town ( some with hangovers) to support myself and the team who were performing The Typists. So all in all I was very pleased with the quality of the performances I gave and the applause, the whoops and the stamping of feet that came as a reward for doing well was very gratifying.

"Get down, He's back!"

I enjoyed the talk back with the students and felt very surprised and happy that they had clubbed together to buy me two very nice bottles of  French wine as a reward for sending them a script marked up by me to illustrate some points about the text and the peculiar English expressions in the work and my understanding of the characters. I also sent them a companion audio CD explaining all and an audio CD of me doing A Chip In The Sugar

"We were just letting our midday meal go down when the Vicar calls."
.As I got towards the last performance I was able to trust that I knew the script well enough to take more pauses and work with the laughter ( a surprising amount actually ) that was coming my way, without losing the plot - so to speak.

"There's a car parked out side and I think there's somebody watching the house.."
Whilst I was in Karlsruhe it was suggested to me that a one man show called Der Kontra Bass or The Double Bass by Peter Suskind might be of interest to me. I have since had a little search on the Internet and from what I've seen it looks interesting. Watch this space.

Phil Lowe

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Finally learnt 45 mins of script

So, after three months of learning Alan Bennett's A Chip In The Sugar I now feel I am ready to perform it in Karlsruhe mid May.

I have had to fit in my rehearsals where I can and do a full time job as well and, of late, I have been rehearsing at the Lace Market Theatre ready for a members only pre-view on May 13th before the group goes to Germany on the 18th.

It has been an interesting journey, the text interpretation getting subtler over the last week or so. Because I have made sure that I know the script very well with time to spare this has given me the opportunity to play around with it a bit and become ultra familiar with the rhythms and subjects. As you may be able to see from the picture above, there are many large passages of text and later in the piece the main character, Graham, starts to reveal his anxieties and breaks away from the story telling to sit quietly in his room (depicted by an armchair). In my rehearsals last week I was having a bit of trouble with mental blanks and realised it was these transitions that were causing the problem. Lots of time concentrating on the main text and character(s) portrayal, less time on the equally important asides were the culprits.

I have also learnt a lot about the techniques of doing one man shows through my experience of performing A Christmas Carol in Germany and UK last December and my training on my Performance Art degree course have all helped me to develop a method and style of solo performance. This is particularly important with using the voice to portray characters in A Chip In The Sugar and also demonstrating the geography of the characters on stage and keeping a connection with them as an actor. In the simplest of terms - not having the character -Mr Turnbull  - mentally to the left of me and suddenly he's over on the right for no reason at all. Also I have used a style of speaking across to 'Mother' for example (seeing her sitting in the chair) and then saying her lines for her forward facing the audience. It's like seeing the character from different angles. Well, that's my intention anyway.

Having a few friends in to watch the rehearsals has helped as the added 'pressure' to perform brings its own rewards and lessons learnt. So thank you to Janette, Paul, Colin, Hilary and David for being my audience. Hilary was particularly helpful and a great laugher. An actor needs to be able to ride the laughs.

Max Bromley suggested slowing some the dialogue down for the German audiences because it is very colloquial in style and another friend - wise in the ways of the theatre - said give yourself time to enjoy any business and don't feel you have to keep talking all the time. On this note I have improved the piece by allowing my character time to go from one time slot to another or one situation change to another. It works so much better that way.

Plus, I created a qulaity CD for myself to listen to myself performing the piece well and have given copies to some friends and acquaintances to listen to and the feedback has been very favourable. One couple said they had listened to it twice and it was like listening to a radio play - only better. Thus encouraged I am now ready to perform the piece in Germany. I can't wait.

Phil Lowe as Graham