Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Greetings From The Trenches - first rehearsal promo video.

Promotional video from the first rehearsal of Greetings From The Trenches.

Greetings From The Trenches - work in progress

For a while now I have been working on a theatre piece that will be shown in early December at the Jakobus Theatre in Karlsruhe - Germany. I have strong connections with this theatre space and the people who run it and the piece suits the themes of post war Germany and England after The Great War. 'Greeting From The Trenches' is about factual events and a fictionalised notion of two opposing soldiers (one English, one German) meeting at the Christmas Truce and realising the potential in their friendship.

So much has been read about such fraternisation and the promise to write 'after the war is over' and as far as I know there is little evidence that any such discourse happened. My theatre piece examines a poetic notion of the possibility that it did and what the correspondents may talk/write about and how long the writing practise would exist for. Plus what would be subjects? Commonalities? Politics? Normal; life? Poverty? The future? Deep regret? Food?

Emma Brown, an actress based in Holland and a Mezzo/Alt singer joins me for this extraordinary theatre piece and I was delighted to meet up with her last week for a read through of the script so far and a rehearsal. Emma is a superb singer and a fine actress.

Alongside the research ( boy can you research too much about WW1!) and the writing, the script has been developed to the point of  great promise and I have sent off a copy of the play's synopsis to Nottingham Playhouse's Time & Memory new writing initiative. Towards the end of this month I shall know if anything has become of my application.

A couple of weeks ago I had a short tune go through my head that seemed fitting for this piece and rather than assume that I might remember it later in the evening I recorded it on my Dictaphone. Today I have created a short video that shows the development of such an idea. My instinct is to use the tune as a prelude to a poem played on a piano or sung by Emma.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Equus: Review. Nottingham Playhouse Advanced Youth Theatre

Equus by Peter Shaffer is a thematically and textually strong play, demanding vocally and physically, and best played by adults with a younger man in the lead as disturbed teenager Alan Strang. That is the way it would work best.

Think again. The Nottingham Playhouse Advanced Youth Theatre production sweeps all of those assumptions out of the proverbial theatrical stable in a thunderingly good production at the Playhouse's versatile studio space – the Neville Studio.

Shaffer's play about a young man who has blinded several horses in a fit of anguish and deep guilt examines the nature of religious worship and of misguided parental control and the disastrous results thereof. It also looks at passion and what that means to the two main protagonists.

Alan Strang ( a grippingly honest performance in an emotionally difficult role by Tom Martin) has been offered into the care of psychologist Martin Dysart. For the play to work these two roles have to be well thought through and performed with consummate skill and believability. Jacob Seelochan's portrayal of Dysart has a maturity well beyond the age of the young actor and he conveys Dr Dysart's own mentally corrupted impression of himself brilliantly.

This production is directed with great theatrical imagination by Sarah Stephenson and the style of playing for the cast of twelve produces some thrilling theatre and emotional tension in the ensemble. Always engaged, the cast are placed along the back of the space in a jury box and use their bodies and voices to support or disturb the story as it unfolds. At times quite eerie the ensemble also create vocal atmospheres through a build up of sounds/words and stamping of feet. There is a clever device of showing bags of evidence to the jury as the play unfolds.

The riding scenes are confidently and imaginatively done in particular the scene in the field of HaHa where Strang takes a horse called Nuggett for a ride that becomes an erotic experience.

Will Harrison and Eleanor Sharkey impress as the repressive father and mother Frank and Dora Strang and Paige Peddie gives a mature performance as Heather Salomon. Over all a superbly well performed youth theatre production of Shaffers' dynamic play of misdeed and psychological examination.

Equus plays until 16th August.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sardines Magazine. WW1 Centenary feature and more!

I am proud to announce that I have written a World War One centenary special twenty-one page feature for Sardines Magazine (August edition - issue 23) plus an interview with John Godber, Joe McGann and Shobna Gulati. In the last issue Sardines published my interview with Warwick Davis (cover feature), a piece about myself as theatre reviewer and the twinning arrangement at Nottingham's Lace Market Theatre. It is an honour for me to be a contributor to this excellent

 Paul Johnson - Sardines editor in chief - has done a fantastic job of editing my text and bringing the piece even further to life with some brilliant photo arrangements. Amongst the WW1 subjects (all to do with theatre) we feature the puppets from War Horse, an interview with Howard Brenton at The Globe theatre, insights into one production of Private Peaceful plus news and reviews from professional touring productions. Those include Northern Broadsides 'An August Bank Holiday Lark', Nottingham Playhouse's new play 'The Second Minute' by Andy Barrett and directed by Giles Croft and  Alex Gwyther's one man show 'Our  Friends, The Enemy'. Two amateur productions of 'Oh What A Lovely War' are seen in two very different ways and there is a great photographic compilation of pictures from many an amateur First World War play across the country. And much more...

The latest magazine - hot off the press - is chock full of articles that will be fascinating for any lover of the theatre and can be ordered through the Sardines website either as a single magazine or subscription or downloadable. Back copies can also be ordered through the same website.

The John Godber interview took place in the rehearsal rooms at the former Art College on Green Lane and I caught John mid-rehearsal with his production team and cast for a new touring production of his play April In Paris. He was a very straight talking and relaxed man in the interview and revealed some interesting thoughts on the success of his many plays and style of playing.

His actors, Shobna Gulati and Joe McGann were an utter delight to interview alongside John and were very amusing and insightful in their theatrical stories and tales of the rehearsal process.

Many thanks to Heidi McKenzie at Derby Theatre for arranging this interview. Also big thanks to Jo McLeish c/o Nottingham Playhouse and her own company The Media Room for her continuing support.

Well, that's a promotional flavour of my own contribution to this issue of the quarterly magazine - Sardines. I look forward to submitting more work and ideas in 2014.

Many thanks to Paul Johnson, Fariba and the Sardines team.

Phil Lowe

Twitter :PhilLowe7