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The Wipers Times Rehearsal Diary – Week Three

September 22nd, 2016 No comments

In the third installment of The Wipers Times rehearsal diary, Jake Morgan provides an insight into the actors’ experiences as the play develops and opening night approaches.

This week we pressed on with some intense finessing leading up to a run on Thursday that was attended by writers Nick Newman and Ian Hislop, and David Parfitt from Trademark Productions. Once the run was over we were able to look at what we felt needed shifting and adjusting. Since then we have been integrating notes, which are helping to up the poignancy of certain moments. It was a very friendly room to do a run in and I was really excited to find our moments of comedy invention around the written humour well received. We have a great supportive band of people behind this show and our work is coming together. As we move into our fourth week, we are continuing to build, adjust and shape. This week we pushed ourselves further and we are ready to enter our fourth week in which we will open the show. Damn it’s exciting!

Jake is playing Barnes in The Wipers Times at The Watermill from Thursday 22 September to Saturday 29 October. Find out more and buy tickets.

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The Wipers Times Rehearsal Diary – Week Two

September 20th, 2016 No comments

As Autumn falls and the play starts to take shape, George Kemp energetically details the rehearsal process and discusses the emotional journey that accompanies tackling such a poignant, true story.

Autumn is here. As week two of rehearsals for The Wipers Times comes to a close I think I can officially confirm that there’s a change in the wind.  As the temperature cools outside, it continues to rise in the Rehearsal Room on site.

Having got the whole play on its feet and had a ‘stagger through’ (literally staggering around the room trying to locate desks, lamps and papers whilst singing Nick Green’s brilliant songs) on Friday afternoon, we now have a shape for the play. A sense of the thing as a whole. Up until this point in rehearsals, it often feels like a case of stumbling from one scene to the next, solving each problem as it comes along and then pushing forwards. As soon as you put it all together though, much becomes clear as various things come into focus. The brilliant timeline that Chloe France (our assistant director) and Caroline Leslie (our director) put together for us before rehearsals began gets slightly re-jigged but becomes imperative for tracking the mental and physical journey of the characters.

But what is very clear now is that we have a play. It finally feels, if a little shaky, like it has arrived. We’ve found the dog hiding upstairs, all we have to do now is wrestle it into its lead and then we can take it out for a walk (sorry, I’m spending so much time around the many dogs that come to work with their owners at The Watermill that dog metaphors are now the only ones I can think of). Much of the week was spent blocking the second half of the play but we continue to tirelessly drill Emily Holt’s brilliant choreography alongside Nick’s songs with our fantastic musical director Paul Herbert – who it must be said has a remarkable amount of patience. When told how bad I am my excuse continues to be, “But surely not all of the tommies could sing?” It seems to fall on deaf ears, which is ironic.

I love this discovery time in rehearsals. Discovering the play, the character, where the thoughts come from, how the jokes work. It’s actor and director as detective which is my favourite thing. Not least because particularly for this play the research is so fascinating. We’re all fast becoming much more informed about the conflict on the western front than we were two weeks ago, and to know that through our work some truth about that war can be revealed is very touching. Especially considering we’re dealing with a true story with two very real men at the heart of it. I was transcribing a short hand written memoir by Jack Pearson himself (the character I play) at the beginning of the week and I suddenly thought, I may be the first person to do this. The first to pick through and write up this man’s words in a long time and I suddenly felt very humbled to be giving some sort of voice once more to this incredibly brave and indelibly funny man.

Next week’s work will bring detail and nuance to what we already have, tuning the engine that we’ve spent two weeks building.

George Kemp

George is playing Jack Pearson in The Wipers Times at The Watermill from Thursday 22 September to Saturday 29 October. Find out more and buy tickets.

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The Wipers Times Rehearsal Diary – Week One

September 13th, 2016 No comments

‘The war is not funny Sir’, insists sourpuss Colonel Howfield in the face of his benevolent superior General Mitford.
‘I think the authors are aware of that. I’ve a feeling that may be the point.’

Both Wipers the paper and Wipers the play puncture the reverie surrounding the ‘big questions of the war’ – death, destruction and futility – with humour. As such there’s been plenty of laughs in the rehearsal room this week as we begin to navigate our way through the combination of scenes, sketches and songs comprising The Wipers Times.

We began the week with director Caroline Leslie and designer Dora Schweitzer presenting the model box. Inside was a veritable playground for the actors. One key question we’ve returned to this week is ‘how do we transition from one location and reality to another, in a matter of seconds?’. The options offered by Dora’s design have been one of many leads we have followed in the past few days.

Once we had completed the read-through and blown the summer cobwebs away with a sing through of some of composer Nick Green’s score, led by musical director Paul Herbert, we got stuck into the research. Much like slipping into a post work-out ice bath, immersing oneself in the world of a historical script is best done head first, brusquely and .. erm .. communally. Caroline shared her findings about the Sherwood Foresters’ experiences and battle engagements in WW1, and the experience of trench warfare for soldiers on the Western Front. We also mapped the timeline of the play, in relation to the battles the Foresters fought and the publication dates of the Wipers Times: assigning each scene a date, location and time.

Our immersion, however, was necessarily speedy. Much work had to be done to get the scenes on their feet. As well as blocking the action on stage we have been joined by Movement Director Emily Holt who has helped us crack open the fantastical sketch moments and occasional dance routines the script calls for.

Having rested and refuelled in our billets over the weekend, we are all looking forward to getting stuck into some front line action again in week two.

Chloe France
Assistant Director

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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Four

June 16th, 2016 No comments

Production week…

When one show finishes and another begins, the theatre is miraculously transformed from one world to another as if by magic…

Within minutes of the Untold Stories cast taking their final bow on Saturday night, the Watermill tech team began the ‘get out’.  This is when the theatre is completely gutted of all set, lights, costumes and props to make way for a new show.  It’s wildly exciting for the new company and somewhat heartbreaking for the old company but we get over it during what we call the ‘post-show blues’… This turnaround all happens in just a few days, including all the building, painting, rigging, wiring, sound checking, costume setting; (the list goes on).  Unlike the actors who get four weeks to rehearse the play, the tech team only have a couple of days to perform months of blind planning.  It could be likened to imagining the configuration of a huge jigsaw puzzle without the pieces and then suddenly having to put it together in record time.

Once everything is finally in place, the cast arrives and tech begins.  We start from the very beginning of the play and every time there’s a lighting change, costume change, sound effect, scene change, prop negotiation, entrance or exit, we stop to insert cues or sort out staging issues…so roughly every four or five seconds.  With the ensemble nature of this piece we are all nearly always on stage.  This means that any costume changes usually have to happen within seconds and entrances/exits have to cross smoothly through very tight gaps in the set.  Assistant stage managers and any available actors (usually none) help out those who need to change or get to their next entrance on time. Sometimes we need to actually leave the building and run around the garden in order to get from one side of the stage to the other! (Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain too much…).

Once we’ve spent two days adding the technical elements to the show, we have one dress rehearsal and then previews start! So here’s to all the unsung heroes behind the scenes who make The Watermill’s shows notoriously fantastic.  It’s over to you until our first preview on Thursday.

Who’s coming?!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.

 

 

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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Three

June 9th, 2016 No comments

Back to the beginning…

Now that we’ve finished working through the play we go back and start again.  This time we go through it with a slightly finer tooth comb; making changes to blocking we loosely set in week one, fixing on-stage ‘traffic’ issues, allowing time for costume changes, seeing how those costumes will affect movement we’d choreographed, allowing time to pick up/drop off instruments etc… so there’s a huge amount to do.

We’ve been given our costumes by our lovely wardrobe department and this week we’ve started to wear them in rehearsals. Your movement can be restricted by what you’re wearing so we need to get used to how it feels.  Due to the ensemble nature of this play, many of the parts are ‘double cast’ meaning one actor plays multiple characters.  This week we started to run sections of the play in real time so we can get an idea of how long we have to change our costume… Amanda in the wardrobe department has to be very crafty with elastic and velcro to allow an actor to change costume in less than 20 seconds!

We’ve spent lots of time working the music into the movement sections we finished last week.  There will be live violin, accordion, percussion and singing on stage to accompany these moments and Dom has been engineering when and how this happens.  Some of the music that Dom’s written sounds quite folk like, which works perfectly in complimenting the storytelling nature of the play.  It’s written in a very natural place for our voices, which stops it from sounding like ‘singing’ and more like a band of brothers on a journey…  I like to think that these moments represent Richard Adams’ allusions to the camaraderie of a group of World War II soldiers.  Dom has also written all the underscoring (background music) and sound effects that accompany the play’s scene changes, moments of action or tension, fight scenes and Naomi’s movement sequences.  Adding sound to these sections will allow the drama to have the filmic quality that this script lends itself to.

Nothing else to report really… Oh except we all had a lovely time at The Watermill Summer Fair on Sunday!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.

 

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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week Two

May 31st, 2016 No comments

As we come to the end of week two, we’ve almost blocked the whole script!  By ‘blocked’ I mean worked out each character’s physical journey on stage.  We’ve been using a rehearsal room with the rough dimensions of our set marked out on the floor with tape.  This is so we get an idea of the space we’ll be working in when we get into the theatre.  It feels like you’re playing on a giant road map rug for adults, but it prevents us having to adjust all the blocking to fit the size of the stage.  In week five we get into the theatre and can start using the real set.

We’ve focused a lot on movement this week.  Although we’re telling the story of a group of rabbits, Naomi Said, our Movement Director, doesn’t want us to physically mimic a group of rabbits.  Instead, she’s created seamless moments in the play where we see glimpses of a rabbit’s physical behaviour without having to act the entire play as rabbits.  This means that the story can still be told with truth and poignancy, which was one of our director’s main priorities. We were also given a very important part of our costume… our ears!!  They will act as a visual in communicating that we’re playing rabbits without needing to literally hop around or thump the ground with our feet.
We do a ‘bootcamp’ warm up every morning with Naomi to make sure we’re fit and strong for when we start performances.  Due to the nature of a small animals’ movement, we’ve been working on a very contained and controlled type of movement to make sure we can dart, twitch and jump just like rabbits but in our human form.  This requires a lot of strength and agility, especially when we’re all sharing a small stage, so all those squats and sit-ups definitely won’t be in vain!

Most of the movement has been devised through improvising and work-shopping ideas as a group.  It’s a very creative way of working which has produced lots of exciting and stylistic movement sections.  Now we just need to add music and we’ll be well on our way to creating the cinematic atmosphere that will complete these moments of action…

See you next week!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.

 

 

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OUR UNTOLD STORIES – Letters to Tomorrow Me

May 26th, 2016 No comments

Kiki wrote to herself in her mother tongue

Swanswell clients recovering from alcohol and substance misuse wrote letters to their future selves as part of Our Untold Stories

Summer 2035

Dearest Tara,

I’m writing this letter to remind you of your goals all those years ago and to congratulate you on achieving them! You were in a very hard place and have overcome some very hard obstacles! Well done you!

Leonie is now 21 years old, very beautiful and well adjusted, a bright and loving young woman. You knew you would have that nice silver, Audi sports car, money to maintain that youthful glow, and above all stayed abstinent from alcohol and kept all your close friends and family dear to your heart.

You were, back then, an amazing person to have been through what you did and came through to be an inspiration to others that has made me the amazing woman I am today: a model mother and 1000% there for Leonie.

Yours sincerely, x

 

For support with addiction, you may like to visit swanswell.org or call 0300 003 7025

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Watership Down Rehearsal Diary – Week One

May 26th, 2016 No comments

Week one of Watership Down rehearsals has flown by! We’re having so much fun putting this great play together, so I thought I’d update you on how we’re getting on…

Lots of people have been asking me how on earth it’s going to be done… Rabbit onesies?  Avenue Q style puppets? Animatronics? (actually, no one suggested that) but I can assure you that this version of Watership Down will probably defy all of your expectations.  Our director Adam Penford and Movement Director Naomi Said, are working together to create a language for our rabbits that is both genuine and stylised in order to tell this magical and nostalgic story.

Day one of rehearsals always begins with meeting everyone over tea and coffee and then we all sit in a circle to read through the script. This is usually followed by one of my favourite parts of the rehearsal process, the model box viewing.  A toy-size version of what will soon be our life-size playground, equipped with miniature props, staircases, platforms, and backdrops.  Richard Kent has designed a fantastic set which represents the stunning countryside of Watership Down.  It won’t be long before The Watermill is transformed into a labyrinth of rabbit warrens and patchwork fields… We even had a cast field trip to Watership Down itself so we could take in the view!

Later in the week we sang through composer Dom Coyote’s folky and filmic music, with some of us singing, and some playing instruments.  But to answer another one of your FAQ’s, it’s not a musical.  There are musical moments in the play but there aren’t any tap-dancing bunnies…yet.  We also spent a day playing with some brilliantly designed puppets by Matt Hutchinson which will add yet another creative element of story-telling to this incredibly unique production.

As we move into week two we’ll start to see some of the magic happening…
Until next time!

Scarlet Wilderink

Scarlet is playing Hyzenthlay in Watership Down at The Watermill from Thursday 16 June to Saturday 23 July.
Find out more and buy tickets.

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Bees, Badges and Bunny Ears

May 26th, 2016 No comments

The Watermill Summer Fair looms and Jan, my wife, now a Bee Keeper, will be there – on the Bee Keepers stall with lots for children to do including making their own badges.

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the Andrew Lloyd Webber Trainee which is a one year (paid) appointment at The Watermill Theatre, starting in September. However, my concentration is broken by the background grumblings of “how stupid” and other what I can only assume are Bee Keeper’s sayings.

The Watermill is once again, looking for a Trainee Production/Stage Management Assistant and I’m trying to think how to describe the sort of person we are looking for – the description is not going very well.

Eventually the request of “Lawrence come and sort this out will you” stops my writing – Jan is trying to assemble a button badge maker she has just bought from the Internet with Chinese instructions.

My wife is far more intellectual than I and much better qualified but has not spent her life with the daily and random challenges I meet as a Production Manager.

So I stop and go help her with her challenge at the same time she helps with mine.

This is a bit like describing the sort of person we are looking for. You don’t have to be academic or want to go to university. You just need an enquiring mind and to have that random collection of skills that means you don’t want to be tied down doing just one thing – but also willing to try anything and I mean that….

This week Lee, our current Trainee has set up rehearsal rooms, made props and has spent a day shopping in London with Amanda our costume supervisor. He was also a rabbit for a morning – yes, our next show is Watership Down!  Lee was asked to stand in by our movement coach as a routine had to be worked out with the right number of people.

So if you fancy not only gaining great technical skills – and the possibility of playing the odd furry animal – then why not apply to become our next Trainee Production/Stage Management Assistant?

If you love all sorts of technical stuff, love breaking things and putting them back together again, love art and drawing or are keen on design and technology then this could be for you. This is not a gap year fill in -  but aimed at those who want to just do stuff – practical or physical or technical and creative -  hey you might even become a badge maker at the Summer Fair

For further information please email: csm@watermill.org.uk or call Kerrie on 01635 570925 or you can download an application form by going to our website: https://www.watermill.org.uk/work_for_us

Lawrence T Doyle
Production Manager

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OUR UNTOLD STORIES – The Lost Lionel

May 25th, 2016 No comments

Image created by the author

We’d like to warn you that you may find this contribution to Our Untold Stories upsetting…

This is the story of a close friend, which doesn’t seem like a romantic story, but I still fell in love with him.

I was an art student in my last years of college when I met Mark at a local AS group in the Spring of March 2011. I was new there. He resembled the Hollywood Nerd stereotype often seen in 80’s/90’s films in the clothes that he wore such as his thick rimmed rectangle glasses and woolen sweaters. I sat at his table, and soon enough, we got on and we discovered that we had things in common, like Cartoon Network shows and psychology and he also talked about a show he was very much into called Good Luck Charlie, a sitcom that aired on the Disney Channel. Up until then, we only ever saw each other at the local group.

Several months after we met, I proposed about us meeting up somewhere outside of the group. He was shocked at first, but agreed on the notion that he’d meet my mother afterwards just so that she knew that he wasn’t just a random stranger that I found from the streets. From that day on, we met at our local Costas every other Saturday, often at the same time 2pm. Sometimes we would go to Reading, often to a buffet restaurant named Cosmos. Other times, if there was a film we both wanted to see (such as Wreck It Ralph and Inside Out), we would meet up in Boswells, in Newbury, and then head to Vue, accompanied with a trip to Nandos afterwards. As for paying, since he had a job, he was often the one to pay for the drinks and food, but as the years went by, we agreed to go dutch (we split the bill). Often when we were arranging to meet up, he would initiate it.

Speaking of a job, Mark was working in a mortgage office in Newbury filing papers but he hated that job. He wanted to go to college, but felt because of his Aspergers, he couldn’t go; also he was only in the job for the money and it was what other people wanted. As a result, he was becoming increasingly stressed with the changes that went on with his job. I was the one who said that he should follow and think about what he wanted to do, and not that other people wanted. In the summer of 2012, he resigned from his job and attended college studying Accounting, which was his dream job. He also landed a new job doing bookkeeping for a company in Theale.

While I was at university, 3 years later, and I chatted to the girls in my animation course on toon crushes, I fell in love with him. Among his traditional values, he was a gentleman, in the way that he often escorted me to the train station whenever we were parting. If there were eras to pick if we were in an alternate timeline: it would be either the Victorian Era (I gave him the nickname Mr Darcy) or World War II, because he resembled the men often associated with those timelines. He showed me that there are intelligent life forms on this planet, something I saw less of in secondary school, apart from a few exceptions. I also loved that fact that he was willing to make an effort to socialise, and to try things with me, even though it was out of his comfort zone. We were like high school/childhood sweethearts in the way we were around each other, or at least a potential Disney couple. We were also as weird as each other and we each had our dark secrets, that only we knew about each other.

We were like two animation styles that existed in the same world, like in The Amazing World of Gumball and Drawn Together. I was the wild, expressive, theatrical Tex Avery/Disney type while he was the rotoscoped, down to earth, realistic Mike Judge/Marc Brown type. We were also two like two sides of the human brain: logic and emotion. There are loads of analogies that I could come up with to describe us: He was the water to my fire, the Japan to my America, the cat to my dog, to name a few, but the most important analogy was the art and technology. In short, we were polar opposites: I was the fiery, creative, outspoken, imaginative, theatrical, social, emotional, artistic, chaotic and passionate. He was quiet, logical, traditional, down to earth, realistic, shy, practical, organised, neat and tidy.

I dreamt of us dating, getting married, having children (and that’s saying something since I am not a fan of kids by any stretch! (2 boys and one adopted Asian girl)) and growing old together (similar to Victor and Margaret from One Foot in the Grave and Leon and June from Gogglebox). The reality though, was that a relationship wouldn’t have worked between us. Mark hated being touched, for one. Second, he was one who had difficulty dealing with other people’s emotions and told me that if I was upset, he wouldn’t know how to comfort me, so because of this difficulty, if a relationship was to happen between us, I would end up angrier at him, especially when I knew it wasn’t his fault. So essentially, he was like Edward Scissorhands.

That being said, I wrote several love notes and drew several artworks declaring my love for him, but I never delivered them mostly because it would have made him uncomfortable. I confessed my love to him on two Christmases, but on both occasions, he said that he loved me, but he wasn’t interested in a relationship for the following reasons previously stated, mostly because he didn’t want to potentially hurt me. He was honest and upfront, another quality I loved about him. It broke my heart, sure, but I eventually accepted that he just saw me as a friend, as much as I wanted to date him. We remained close friends, and we still saw each other, but even though we weren’t dating, it felt like I was married to him.

I tried dating other people, including a guy I met through a local autism group in Southampton, who some of my friends set me up with, but it lasted a month before he cheated on me and stalked me the next night. I even tried dating websites, and applying for The Undatables, before they turned me down on the second round, all just to move on from him romantically. And no matter how many guys I met who happened to be handsome and with similar/same interests to me, and were intimate, I always felt guilty that I was deceiving him and I couldn’t quite move on. We were like TV’s most faithful couple Homer and Marge in retrospect, because no matter how any times the couple met people who were essentially dream versions of their better halves, they always went back to each other by the end of the episode.

The last time I ever saw him was when we went to see The Good Dinosaur. The week after, when I was sitting opposite my mum ordering coffee pods online, a phonecall from his mum came and mum answered it. As soon as mum got off the phone, I asked: “What is it?”. Mum was silent for a moment and I thought, “What have I done now?” She then told me the news: the man I fell in love with and only friend committed suicide by hanging himself. That was when my heart shattered to pieces. I cried wildly that afternoon and wanted nothing more than to escape the house, to escape the madness that I was feeling at the time. I was so devastated, that everything felt meaningless and I even wanted to commit suicide myself, just so I could be with him, like in Romeo and Juliet, but of course, that’s not the answer. He didn’t leave a suicide note, so no-one knew why he did it, but I have an idea. On top of his high IQ, he had many issues with his self-esteem. He was ever anxious, and if there was one thing he hated, it was himself. He hated having Aspergers, and he wanted nothing more than a cure for it. Unlike me, who quite frankly couldn’t give a monkeys, Mark was the opposite. He was highly self-conscious, often resulting in him often overcompensating just so he could try and keep up with the Joneses, something that is incredibly difficult for people with autism. I heard that he often said to his mother that he wished he was more like me.

I saw Mark’s body at the funeral directors, in order for closure and I was finally able to give him something that previously would have been impossible for me to do: A Valentines card. I also touched him, and kissed him, which was also something previously out of the question. I read a eulogy for him at his funeral, in which everyone who attended there loved. It was harder to say goodbye to him when I left. I am currently seeing councillors now and am currently getting better. It feels like now that water has gone, fire ignites everything. Now that order has abolished, chaos reigns. Facts disappeared, and now fantasy has nothing to stand on.

A month since my Mr Darcy has gone, and I am still pining for my love till this day. All that I have left of him is the doll he gave me, which resides in my handbag. I don’t know if I’ll ever love again.

 

For support with bereavement, you may like to visit crusewestberks.org or call 01635 523 573

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