Monthly Archives: January 2015

New Atlantis – The Crystal

In the last year or so, I’ve noticed a growing trend of theatre looking towards the future – imaginings of the world yet to come.  Not the Back To The Future world of hoverboards and self-tying shoelaces, but very plausible scenarios.  A greater reliance on technology, more frequent outbreaks of civil unrest, a strain placed upon resources.  All of these things are present in the brave new world of New Atlantis, a pertinent piece as we approach the General Election in May.

new atlantis

They couldn’t have picked a better building than The Crystal in Royal Victoria, East London (although if you’re not familiar with the area, I’d recommend allowing a little extra time to get there) – all futuristic space-agey glass, vast airy high ceilings and loaded with sustainable engineering – perfect headquarters for the organisation that replaces the failed United Nations in 2036.  But in 2050, the Secretary General calls a meeting to announce that she no longer has the energy to fulfil her duties and must step down; it is now down to us as ‘Agents’ to vote for a new leader from 3 possible canditates.  A little bit King Lear with added “press the red button now” features.  All the while, there is the threat of destabilisation from the ominously named Generation Alpha.

We are introduced to the gravity of the situation through a large screen broadcast: Secretary General Dr. Bryony Weller (Tricia Kelly) speaks with the sort of oratory skill frequently seen in world leaders, yet with a quiet vulnerability.  Her age is rather poignant: hinting to the youngish audience that this will be us in 40 years time, approaching old age and regretting not doing more about climate change when we could still make a tangible difference.  We are encouraged to explore the building for an hour and educate ourselves on the various policies of each candidate by engaging with characters and real scientists.  There are some nice bits of science-fiction styling to the actors’ costumes, whereas the scientists are easily identifiable by their boiler suits.

My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre – you can read the review in full here.

New Atlantis is on until 25th January 2015 at The Crystal, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1GB.   For tickets and more information, go to http://www.enlightenmentcafe.co.uk/ 

A Fine Bright Day Today – rehearsals are go!

BrightDay-FB

Aaaaaargh.

(Don’t panic, I’m actually really enjoying this. But directing is bloody hard work).  We’re now a month into rehearsals for A Fine Bright Day Today and it’s already taking shape.  It’s also T minus 4 weeks to opening night  – which does rather focus the mind.  Erk.

So far, all is well – I have a wonderful cast of 3 people who are all growing nicely into their characters, taking direction and learning their lines. They’re still making me smile, laugh and get a bit choked up (as they should be), even though I’ve now read it/watched it about 50 times.  No one has panicked about any of my requests.  However I’m a bit rubbish at the whole taking charge thing (I’m terrified of coming across as tyrannical or patronising), so it feels a bit odd giving instructions.  My main difficulty has been curbing my tendency to chat and that I have a habit of letting tea breaks go on a bit longer than they probably should.  But cast bonding is important and it’s often during these relaxed moments that I remember random things.

Also, my note taking needs improvement – I need to learn to write neatly, quickly and with clarity.  We’re now at a point where I’d like to give my cast fair chance to run a whole scene without being stopped every 3 seconds – but my notes are either an illegible scrawl, or a haphazard collection of words which make bugger all sense an hour later.  Things like: “Further downstage”, but with no context.  I think it’ll take some of the finest minds in Bletchley Park to decipher what that hell I meant by: “Look move chair on treacle. Shifty.” 

I’ve also given myself a job and a half in aiming for lit, choreographed scene changes – some are almost scenes in themselves (I fully blame the recent production of Let The Right One In for this). No blackouts, no people silently creeping about in the gloom – props will be brought on and taken off as part of the action, making the whole thing completely seamless. In theory.  A bit ambitious for a relatively novice director, but with so many short scenes, I can’t bear the idea of plunging the audience into darkness every couple of minutes. I’m just hoping it’s going to work.

There’s also the mountain of backstage things to deal with. Props, costumes, lights, sound, music…… The music has been easy to choose, but very tricky to assign to scene changes. Some are immediately obvious – on others, I’ve got 2 or 3 possibles.  I really need to sit down, pick through them methodically and make decisions (and most importantly, stick to them – I am often prone to changes of mind – I’ve had to really rein that in).  Then there’s the logistical nightmare of getting props on and off stage – what needs to be pre-set on which side of the stage, where and when it comes on, where and when it goes off – all requiring a finicky level of precision.  But hey, at least it’s not a Punchdrunk production with marauding audience who might start picking stuff up and moving it about……

‘A Fine Bright Day Today’ by Philip Goulding will be on from 5th-14th February 2015 at The Miller Centre Theatre, 30 Godstone Road, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 6RA.  Tickets are £8 and £10, available from http://www.millercentretheatre.org or our Box Office 01883 349 850.  Please come!