Thursday, 20 December 2012

Day 26- A Good "Sign" of the time!

“I have always thought it would be a blessing if each person could be blind and deaf for a few days during his early adult life. Darkness would make him appreciate sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.” –{Helen Keller ~ Blind and Deaf American Author and Educator 1880-1968}

I chose this quote because the cast, crew, theatre staff and probably the audiences have experienced a few humbling shows this week past, and I thought special reference should be made to them.  On Friday passed we did a special "relaxed performance", where parents of children part of the autistic spectrum and similar learning difficulties, were catered too in a special one off showing.  What is a relaxed performance - well I'll list the main principals...

  • House lighting remains on at a low level.
  • Band and microphone levels reduced.
  • Sound & special effects are removed.
  • Actors coming down into the audience removed or frequency reduced.
  • A special chill out zone for all patrons.
  • Theatre doors left open and normal social rules "relaxed".
The aim of the theatre was to provide an atmosphere where, families who would normally avoid the theatre due to their anxieties, could gather and enjoy themselves knowing that they wouldn't be judged or frowned upon by other (perhaps) ignorant patrons.  The families had been sent out information packs the week before, so that parents could prepare their children for what was to come - these packs included pictures of the actors.

The feedback I have heard and seen seems fantastic and so many parents said that their children thoroughly enjoyed the show, and due to the set-up of the performance parents felt able to enjoy themselves too, without having to worry about their children.  They all seemed to enjoy the meet and greet at the end, where all the principals went front of house to say goodbye.  This gives them a closure to the show.  I'm not an expert on these matters, so I hope I haven't relayed of this information too erroneously, but it all seemed worthwhile and something that will be repeated annually.  Why has this not be thought of sooner and on a more widespread playing field?!  Hopefully plans are in action to rectify this!

Following this up we were joined on stage for the Tuesday evening performance by Anne McAllister, who gave a BSL signed performance.  She receives the script in advance so she knows what is coming.  Bless Anne, it's not an easy job - there's a lot to get through and it's sometimes quite quick.  I remember having some good banter with Anne the last time I was here, as she frantically relayed our tongue twister to the audience!  She's brilliant - and probably did it better than myself and Lloyd (2008/9's Wishee Washee).

I couldn't let her get away without a bit of a mention this year, so with "I am PC Pongo of the Old Peking Police force" came "And that ay easy to say in this authentic Chinese accent!  Hey Anne - how are you going to cope signing in a Brummie accent!"  It got a good laugh and more importantly a smile from Anne herself!  Good on her!

The highlight of the special guests for me was probably the veterans from Headley Court.  A soldier rehabilitation centre not far from here, where men & women, injured whilst on active service, can rebuild their lives.  We had people without arms and legs,  but lacking no spirit whatsoever!  They were an inspirational group of guys.  Royce stepped forward at the end of the show and made a short speech about them, their struggles and their successes to date, and congratulated them on how far they'd already come!  The audience were very receptive!

Down in the bar afterwards we met them all, and had a good chat about them and the show.  I moan and grumble when I get bruises from the mangle and here are these folks, beaming smiles, high spirits and full of the vigour of life, I imagine highly focused on the old adage "when you've stared death in the face..."  I think everyone left the bar both touched and uplifted, after signing programmes and taking pictures - although the chaps wanted far more pictures of Emma than they did any of the rest of us!!

Thank you to everyone at the Yvonne Arnaud who arranged for these choking yet inspirational and heart warming events!  I always feel good after a show - but this was on a different level!

Best wishes,

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Day 24 - "Everyone's a critic!" - but not here (SO FAR!)

“The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all” {Mark Twain}

That I would argue is a fair comment - as long as the audience enjoys a show, why worry about the critics?!  As much as I agree however it's hard for a lot of (but not all) actors to dread reviews and take them to heart (or to their heads) when they finally get to read them! Personally I haven't been reviewed enough to have developed an aversion to them... I'm eager to read what has been said (if anything) about my performance.  Thankfully, so far, all of our reviews have been very positive and complimentary!!  I do hope I haven't jinxed anything there!!!

The legs and arms are still getting battered and bruised!!  I'm absolutely covered in them.. but as I keep saying if things get a laugh, each bruise seems worth it.  It'll probably look like I have tanned legs for months afterwards!

We've developed a little "false corpse" in the show now.  Things are starting to develop as we all settle into the show, and everyone is feeling more comfortable to ad-lib if required.  This particular false corpse though has been around in one form or another since rehearsal - in fact I spoke about it a couple of weeks ago.  Royce loves to take the mickey out of my accent, in particular at the top of Act II, the word "money" which apparently I say as "Munaaaaaay!"  The audience LOVE him ridiculing me and my "embarrassment" of being 'caught out'.  Obviously they believe it's happening for the first time - but we know the truth - and now so do you!

On Saturday, the rest of the cast decided to get in on the action.  Emma came in as Aladdin saying "Mom, I always said I'd come back rich with lots of 'munaaaaay!'" and PG added "Isn't it great having all this "munaaaaay PC Pongo!'"  So to keep it up... I changed my rhyming couplet at the end of the show to "We hope you liked our Pantomime and that you found us funny, for giving up your Saturday night and spending all your 'munaaaay!'"  which seemed to go down well!!!

After this little comic moment I headed off to the dressing rooms, undressing Aladdin and vice versa, as is our ritual - it's not what you may think from reading that statement... it's just that myself and Emma have beautiful costumes that are quite difficult get ones self out of!  Anyway... I carried on down the corridor and wondered "who's been in my room?!"  Dressing room door wide open!  The answer soon hit me, as I walked in and was greeted with "SURPRISE"  from The Jarvo!!  Sunday was Sandy's day off so she decided, very sneakily, to come down and surprise me!  And that she did!  I was so shocked I literally fell out of the dressing room!  Pure shock.  I hugged her, then pushed her away because I was "so sweaty", then pulled her back, and pushed her away again.  I was so taken a back, i didn't know what to do with myself!

So, I had a lovely evening... although not resting my voice as planned, catching up and chilling our with Sandy!  It was just the tonic for both of us - and had given us the drive to get through to Christmas day, without seeing each other!  Aaaaaaaah - Pongo's got a soppy side!

Best wishes!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Do we actors put too much faith in this stuff?!

Day 21 - Pongo and his Magic LUMP!!

"The delights the ten thousand million delights of a pantomime." {Charles Dickens}

Hello readers... Pongo is back for a quick update from pantoland after another busy few days.  "Momma & Poppa Pongo" we're in on Saturday followed by a very tasty curry, so I had little chance for an update then and Sunday was the crew party night.  Mom and dad really enjoyed it, so that was good to hear... they're always very honest with me and wouldn't pander for the sake of it.

Come party night I'd already told people that I was going to have one or two and then head home - as so often happens though that one or two turned into seven or eight or more...!  It was a lovely evening... spent mostly chatting to Mr Barber, Jane my agent, Emma, Leighton and the third Jamie of the group (Mr Attle - costume designer).  I'd bedded down and claimed the Belvedier room as "the Quiet spot!"  where people could have a chat instead of the party music - I must be getting old!  but there was sense as well - saving ones voice!

The party ended up moving on - as it so often does to a certain agents house!  The wonderful Jane!!! She's looked after us all so often, with her seemingly endless supply of gin and wine!!  That's what happens when you're so popular and get given so many gifts!! I was up quite late to say the least and ended up spending most of my day off in bed... SLEEPING!!  The sleep that I have been so desperately craving!!!  This snoozing was broken by a delicious steak dinner at the D&P, a quick Skype to "The Jarvo", a soak for my bruised and battered bones and then.... back to sleep!  What a day off!!!

So, I was all well, rested and bursting with energy for press night, which unfortunately did see a couple of extra cuts come my way.  It was a big shame to lose mine and PG's slapstick business with the axe BUT "that's showbiz!" and ultimately the cuts are only made to improve the pace of the show.  I think a little grieving from me and PG and the moment will soon pass!  It's a pitty you don't get "theatre extras" like you do on a DVD!  Maybe we'll set up a private viewing for anyone interested!  (I jest!)

My arnicare rubbing skills have developed enormously the past couple of days... bumps, bruises and lumps seem to be popping up from no where - it does mean I can justify having a bath every night to "soak away the pains!"

The feedback from press night has been great and the reviews will hopefully follow soon... positive if possible please Mr Critic!!  Apologies for the "Diary" delays... but I seem to be some kind of Internet curse as I've had no connection at the theatre or at home since the weekend!  Hopefully we're back on track!