Tuesday, 19 January 2010

I'll Follow You Until You Love Me, or at least as long as you do what I WANT.

Fans are a fickle group. They claim to like/love/obsess over their chosen film, musician etc. and yet they're usually the first the criticise when something happens they don't like, almost as though they have an ownership over their fandom of choice. When of course, that's not how it works at all, and not how it should work either. As Julie Gardner (BBC producer) puts it: "I make drama to support each author's vision. It's not a democracy. Whether people like it or not, it's storytelling." Imagine if storytelling was a democracy?! It'd be like one of those ridiculous games that you played as a child, involving a many-folded piece of paper on which each person wrote a line of a story, culminating in a nonsensical adventure featuring Gwendolyn the bear-fighting, world-saving, cross-dressing nun from Liverpool who is a rockstar in her spare time. Of course, I'm not saying that fans should automatically love everything that their idol creates without thought or critique, but the (often unnecessary) backlash is completely over the top. Sure, if you don't like it, great. Move on.

But some people, especially on the Internet, react with such pure, overzealous hate that I'm a little worried. Okay, the latest episode of Eastenders didn't thrill you beyond belief - but who cares enough to whine, whinge and moan about it? And don't even get me started on people who officially make complaints (we're looking at you, Daily Mail readers). They evidently have too much time on their hands and need a hobby. Maybe knitting.

So imagine my non-surprise when reading a rumour on film magazine Empire's website about Tim Burton's latest film project. Apparently, it is to be a Wicked-type tale, featuring Malificent, the evil witch from Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty' who curses the Princess Aurora and tries multiple times to kill her, before turning into an enormous dragon and generally being a bit of a badass. The film will be from her perspective and try to explain why she hates that baby so much. It actually sounds like a really interesting idea; sure, its not Burton-original material but if he makes a brilliant film, does anyone mind?

However, Empire then have the tenacity (read, sarcasm) to suggest that Burton could pull of the mix of fairy tale and gothic, and that perhaps 'his missus, Helena Bonham Carter, could be rather wonderful in the bad title role'. Another Tim Burton film with Helena Bonham Carter, some fans replied. What's next, casting Johnny Depp as Prince Charming? He's not creating an original idea? He's being all QUIRKY AND DARK AND MYSTERIOUS?! YEEGADZ!

I have no problem whatsoever with Burton tackling films in his favourite genre, with his favourite actors and with his favourite material, as long as he makes a good film. Which he generally does. There was a similar reaction when casting for 'Alice in Wonderland' revealed Depp as the Mad Hatter and Bonham Carter as the Red Queen; the same again for Sweeney Todd. Why do these fans care so much that the director is doing this? He's not repeating himself, of that I'm quite sure - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is as far from Sweeney Todd as Avatar is from Winnie the Pooh. The guy likes his gothic movies. Great. He hasn't come up with an original idea in a while. Fantastic. He re-uses actors who have proven themselves in the past and fit the parts. So sue him.

Now, if he cast Bonham Carter and Depp willy nilly through every film in roles they didn't suit, I would understand the reaction. If he tried to remake High School Musical with Depp as Troy Bolton, I'd probably question him too. But they are both two powerful character actors who invest in their roles and always impress - even in Sweeney Todd, where their vocal talents left something to be desired, they both acted beautifully. Sure, Burton could spread the love around, especially in the recession, but why risk valuable studio dollars on unknown or untested talent when he has two movie stars who are going to bring in the punters and act well? He doesn't always use the same actors; in Alice, we see Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas and newcomer Mia Wasikowska, whilst we hear the vocal talents of Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Barbara Windsor, all of whom are, to my knowledge, Burton virgins (He also brings along favourites Timothy Spall and Christopher Lee, but lets keep that quiet in case the fans add that fuel to the fire).

With the advent of the Internet, fanboys and girls have become much more vocal and self-important. They will still go see the films, buy the music and play the games that they claim to love and yet seem to hate, and therefore they are eliminating any real power they have, the power of choice. Tim Burton is still going to produce gothic, trippy, glorious films with his favourite stars and I for one, am extremely happy about that fact.

Edit: Here's another example of stupendous fan hate, following the announcement as Marc Webb (director of (500) Days of Summer, one of my favourite films of 2009) as the director of the rebooted Spiderman franchise: WARNING, MAY CONTAIN ABUSIVE AND UNSAVOURY LANGUAGE

"FUCKING CUNTY BOLLOCKS!!!!!!!!! 500 DAYS OF SUMMER is one of the WORST pieces of celluloid shit I've ever endured! ah, to hell with this."

Well isn't that lovely? Not, 'I don't like his work but I'll give it a go and reserve judgement when I see the film.' No, 'He's only made one film and therefore I can't judge him'. Instead its, HATEHATEHAHTESWEARSWEARSWEAR. Completely rational and sensible.

Monday, 18 January 2010

'Restricted View' - I Can't See the Point

The likelihood of this post shaking off all vestiges of grammar, sense and semblance and descending into what is colloquially known as a 'rant' is quite high. This may be in part due to the fact that today was my first day back at college, and thus I am in equal amounts tired and in pain (mostly caused by five periods of dance and a body clock that refused to let me sleep until 3am). However, my anger and frustration were mainly caused when my frequent attempts to buy tickets for 'the Little Dog Laughed' at the Garrick Theatre where met with either obscenely high prices or seats of a slightly lower value being labeled 'restricted view'.

Now, I have to admit that I am a bargain hunter. I refuse to pay the sometimes extortionate prices that theatre owners and producers place on their shows and thus will trawl the Internet for any deal. Despite my eagerness for a deal or bargain, I also want a good seat. I see thirty pounds as a lot of money, and if I'm paying that much to see a show or play, I want to be in the stalls or at least the front of the dress circle. So far, my dedication hasn't steered me wrong - there's always a good deal out there if you're willing to find it, rather than just pay seventy pound to Ticketmaster.

However, LDL really seemed to thwart me and seriously tested my patience. Tickets in the stalls were ranging at about fifty pounds. This seemed quite normal to me. However, tickets in the dress and upper circles were also marketed at this price, despite a notice claiming that 'many of the seats in these areas have a restricted view'. Ah, the restricted view, the bane of the theatre goer.

Why, in any theatre commissioner, architect or builders mind, would anyone, anyone, build a theatre with some seats that do not have a complete view of the stage? I'm paying to see a play, therefore I want to see all of it, not whichever parts the directer chooses to block in my allocated square of the stage. I suppose that in some cases, the natural curve of the circle will place some disruption on the audience's view; however in my experience and opinion, this seats are always priced way below the surrounding, fully-viewed seats.

Sometimes, the theatre is built in what seems a sensible fashion, and the designer for the production decides, "Screw this, the audience are only paying their hard-earned cash, a percentage of which will end up in my pocket, to see this play, I'm going to design such an intricate and obnoxious set that only those able to pay upwards of seventy pounds to sit in the very centre of the stalls can see!" In a way, this annoys me even more; unfortunately I haven't seen the Little Dog Laughed yet and thus cannot comment on which of these two ailiments it falls under.

I must state, that I haven't got a personal vendetta against the show itself and am very much looking forward to seeing it. It has a few big names starring and this naturally leads to higher prices. Its more that the frustration of searching for tickets brought this matter to my mind. Who an earth came up with this ridiculous notion?

Rant over.

Oh, and in the end I managed to find stall seats, row R for twenty-five pounds. I told you I was relentless.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Impression Pressure

It's been almost a year since I started this blog and, just as that first post was about auditions, so this post is too. I have to admit, I haven't been particularly dedicated to keeping it up-to-date, and I think this is partly because my focus was so narrow - when nothing of note was going on in my career, I had nothing to write about. So, in the new year I think I want to widen the appeal - keep it theatrical based but maybe extend it to reviews, industry gossip and the like, rather than just my personal story.

So, in keeping with my new philosophy, I want to discuss auditions for drama school. Between October and June, drama schools begin their annual intake auditions and the numbers of auditionees seem to mount up ever higher each year, ranging from complete amateurs to those who could tap before they could walk. Naturally, the pressure is on for all candidates; for most, these will be their first auditions (which are nerve-wracking enough, standing infront of esteemed teachers and actors and performing) and for all they will decide their future, for the next year or so. Many see drama school as their only gateway into the industry. I myself am preparing monologues and songs for the long slog which will be the audition circuit. My auditions this year range from January to April, stretch across three countries and ask for a whole range of different material. I admit to being a tad stressed, a few butterflies tickling the stomach just before I fall asleep.

However, the pressure I was feeling was nothing compared to those writing in today's issue of industry paper 'The Stage'. Each week in the letters section, selections from a thread on the papers forums are featured and this issue had several lengthy posts about the pressures one puts upon themselves to impress the auditioning panel and to live up to their successes last year. One reader wrote, "Last year, I had recalls at Central for two strands (acting and musical theatre), GSA, Arts Ed (reserve list), RADA (three rounds). I now feel under pressure - what if applying to the same schools this year means I don't get recalls? Will that means I have regressed?

I can sort of understand their point, but why let themselves get so bogged under with all the stress? Last year at Mountview, I got to the final round of their acting auditions. Is this making me more worried than last year? No. I see it as an achievement last year, of course, but if I don't make it to the same stage this year, that's fine. Maybe they're looking for something different this year; maybe they already have somebody like me; maybe everyone else is just a lot better this year! But to put doubt upon your own talent and skill isn't going to help in an audition situation and will probably be noticeable to the panel.

Of course I'm a bit worried and of course I'll be nervous about it on the day. But I don't see the point in worrying unduly and to excess when its not going to help. Some nervous energy always helps but it seems these worriers have over-thought their situation so much that on audition day, they'll end up too petrified to speak! If you are prepared, have put in the effort and do your best on audition day, you can't ask for anything more. You will get in or you won't. But worrying won't change that. If you get in, fantastic! If not, okay, its upsetting, but it isn't the end of the world. You can try again next year, try and break the industry without training or, in extreme cases (and please don't think I'm telling you to do this!) try your hand at something else. Who knows, this may give you the 'life experience' so many drama schools ask for, or even lead you in unexpected ways into a job in the industry!

I start back at college next week and expect to be thrown back into the exhaustive but amazing routine of the training - and hopefully I'll keep this place a little more updated!

So get back to your ballet barre, sing your heart out and stop worrying!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Something Wicked This Way Comes

This week I saw Wicked for the third time - the last time I saw it was for my birthday last year and after seeing an advert at the cinema when I saw UP (amazing film by the way, go see it. Pixar are genius') I really wanted to go see it again. Last week at school we had a musical theatre lesson with a teacher we hadn't had before, George Ure, who's currently in the ensemble understudying Boq in Wicked, London. There were a fair few fans in the class and we ended up chatting about the show and he told us he was going on as Boq on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. We had a trip to Arts Ed to see their third year show, 'My Favorite Year' on Tuesday and managed to get tickets for the evening performance of Wicked.

The trip to Arts Ed was definitely inspiring but not particularly groundbreaking. We were taken to a series of lessons that covered all three disciplines and by the end of the classes I was desperate to join in. However, I didn't really learn anything knew, although the standard of the performers there was extremely high, which seemed a shock to some people. The show itself really wasn't my cup of tea, although the performances were all very, very good.

Then we made our way to Victoria and after a little mayhem involving tickets, watched a fantastic performance. Alexia Khadime was on as Elphaba and was brilliant as always - however, I did prefer her performance the last time I saw her, particularly in Defying Gravity, which usually gives that goose bump moment. However, this could due to my dwindling like of the show as a whole. However George, as Boq, was brilliant and another of my teachers, Adam Garcia (ensemble) was too - most of us could not take our eyes of them during most of the show!

During the interval we got a phone call from George - he was able to take us backstage after the show! This led to quite a lot of excitement by us and intrigue by surrounding audience members. After the performance we headed to the stage door and met Adam and George who took us backstage, much to the jealous of the fans gathered at SD - some of them wondered whether they could have followed us in!

Seeing the working side of the theatre was incredible - the props and costumes were amazing detailed and it was really interesting just to see behind the scenes. The best part, for me at least, was going in front of the Oz Map curtain and standing on the stage before of the 2,000+ seat theatre. It really inspired me and was daunting but amazing. It really brought home the reality of performing in front of so many people, night after night and gave me even more determination.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Finger Lickin' Good!

I've been at PPA about five weeks now and am loving it. Its hard work obviously and getting up at 6am is far from my glamorous but on the whole my all-acting, all-singing, all-dancing life is definitely living up to expectations. I can already see myself improving and learning so much, especially in dance, where previously I had no training whatsoever. I can now tell my fifth position from my plie, am beginning to master phonetics and have a whole bunch of new songs to sing. We've begun applications for drama schools which is quite scary already but I feel so much more prepared already. We have our GSA, Arts Ed and Mountview auditions privately through the course, which is nice, but I've begun my applications elsewhere too. I'm going to apply to RADA, LAMDA, Central, LIPA, East15, Rose Bruford, Guildhall, ALRA, Royal Scottish and Royal Welsh.

I got a call from my agent on Thursday, who had an audition for a KFC commercial the next day, which I went to, and yesterday heard I had a recall today! My Shakespeare teacher, Gemma, had told us stories of commercial auditions being notoriously short and not particularly taxing to an actor because they are mainly looking for a look and I definitely experienced that today. I left college at half two, traveled for almost two hours to get to the casting ten minutes early and then waiting for half an hour before going into the room, meeting the director and producer, and doing three takes of walking across a room pretending to eat KFC, wave to someone off camera, and then keep walking. Obviously its good experience and whatnot but I came out of it thinking "Was that it?!" However, the job is ridiculously good money and I've got everything crossed!

Lastly and completley non-theatrey but I am absolutely in love with Lady GaGa's new song 'Bad Romance'. I've always had a music-crush on the Lady but I think this is possibly her finest single and have it on repeat constantly! Hopefully a few of us from college will be going to her 'Monster Ball' when it tours England in February! Check out the song below:

Sunday, 20 September 2009

No News is Good News?

I've really neglected my blog over the summer but that could be due to distinct lack in drama-related activities, except the megafest that was NYT. Since returning from the course, I've really not done much performing, theatre-going or anything of that kind. Many if not most of my friends are off to university this week and next, and its been an emotional few days, with saying goodbyes followed by 'See you at Christmas!' which just seems ridiculously far away. However, with goodbyes comes hellos, and I've seen some NYT people recently, and next weekend will be venturing to Oxford for one's birthday, which will be fantastic. I can't wait to see everyone.

Next Monday, however, the relaxing and partying will pretty much stop as I start my course at PPA. I'm really excited, albeit nervous, because it will be a whole new place, whole new people, and when it comes to dance, a whole new discipline. Although its only a year, that's still a long time and if something isn't right... I dread to think. I'm going to go with an open, positive mind though, and hope I enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed previous experiences. I'm sure to learn a lot too, although I'm going to be exhausted!

I've also started rehearsals for a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, which will be performed at the Epsom Playhouse in January - buy tickets! Its a new company for me, one where adults play the principle roles and younger members are in the chorus, so thats also a new and good thing. Being in the chorus, there's a lot more dancing and singing (which will help me!) and there's a proper choreographer and musical director (who works at Laine) - all good things! Met some nice people there too, already.

I'm hopefully going to see an amateur production of the Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown this week. I've never seen the show but I love the music and really wish I had seen the Notes from New York production with Julie Atherton and Paul Spicer. So I'm hoping this will be a good production and won't kill my love for the show!

Lastly, audition season is nearly upon us. I've begun to look at monologues, though haven't got serious yet, mainly looking at a few Shakespeare plays and one modern play in particular, Punk Rock, which I saw a few weeks ago. I'm not sure to what extent we'll work on audition prep at PPA so I'm not getting too concerned, though I have begun to rethink some of my course applications, having heard from a LIPA newbie that first year boys have to shave all their hair off...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

We Are the Now Generation

Back again for the mega NYT review. This post will probably be fairly long.

NYT was a truly fantastic experience and definitely confirmed (if it needed confirming!) that drama and theatre is what I want to go into. The course itself was inspiring and educating, developing my skills and introducing totally new ways of working. I also met some of the most amazing people I've ever met and really made some lifelong friends.

The first week of the course was spent on developing our skills, because the next week we would develop a piece of theatre to be performed in the outside amphitheater at Laban. This meant daily yoga in order to both keep us fit and also give us an awareness of our bodies. This mainly consisted of the '5 Tibetans', a series of exercises that our director, Neil, performed with ease but which we found very difficult. We also performed Sun Salutations which gradually increased in number throughout the course. Both of these exercises became the bane of our lives but, ironically, many of us have carried on post-course both in tribute to Neil and in the realisation they actually did us good!

We also had workshops on movement with various outside instructors, to create interesting ways of moving and 'beautiful' theatre. This mainly meant working as an ensemble and moving in time as one giant machine. Similarly we worked on voice in order to make sure that we would be heard outside. We sang songs, improvised, learnt dance lifts, did trust exercises and played games

The second week consisted of developing two minutes of material that would be inspired by the work and play we had done the week before. There were 10 courses happening during the two weeks, and once each had come up with two minutes of material, the whole course would be incorporated to produce a twenty minute piece. Our piece, which eventually was known as the 'Haka Hug' began with a clump of people kneeling and singing a Kenyan funeral song. At the end of the song, one of our group was raised by the others so that she appeared to be flying and blew a kiss to another, who stumbled backwards. He then ran forwards to towards the group, lifting himself onto the shoulders of two, who would fall sideways. The entire group would then fall to the floor in a ripple effect. This was then proceeded by the standing picking up those lying and hugging them to a piece of music called 'Hope There's Someone' by Anthony and the Johnsons.

The other groups pieces were all very different but incredible and the final piece was amazing. We performed it twice on Saturday afternoon to a group of NYT higher ups and various other people. After the final performance, I felt conflicting emotions: we had just performed an amazing piece of theatre and were now officially members of the National Youth Theatre, but this also meant our course was over.

This is a video of part of the performance taken by one of the directors, Paul Clayton:

The best part of the course, though, was the people I met. Everyone on our course was extremely friendly and interesting and there was a core of about 10 of us who spent the majority of our time together. Its really strange how close you can get to people within only two weeks but when you spend every minute with people and you're going through something so intense, you really feel like you've known them for years. Most of us hadn't lived alone before and the added pressures of cooking, cleaning and money management was another thing that brought us all together. The last few days were very sad and many a tear was shed on the final Sunday when each of us said our goodbyes and parted ways. We all tried to remember that we'd all see each other again and that it wasn't the end but the beginning. Still, it was a great group of people and, through Facebook and texting, we all know how much we miss each other. A few of the group are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and others, including myself, are planning a roadtrip up there to see everyone and celebrate one girl's 18th birthday. I really can't wait to see them again.

A made a few videos with photos and songs that were used in the final performance:


I really haven't covered half of what we did or half of how amazing it was, but if I did I'd be here for hours. I'm sure I'll come back to it someday, but now let me just say that NYT was fantastic, I'll never forget it, and if anyone's thinking about auditioning, DO IT!