Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Bloggings (Part 1)

Well its Christmas time, so firstly if you are reading this Merry Christmas! I have always been a firm believer that Christmas is a good time to look back and reflect over the year gone by, and to take a minute to remember all the people who made it so great, and indeed plot vendetta's against those who were nasty. Just kidding... we all know karma will come and bite them in the arse when Santa doesn't give them any presents in the morning. Santa is real right? So that is what this latest series of blogs will be about, all the awesome people and things that have inspired me over the last year.

I think it goes without saying the first person who has to be mentioned is Fox Jackson-Keen, better known as one of the boys who plays Billy in the West End hit show Billy Elliot The Musical. For those who read one of my very first blogs titled "the inspiration" you will know that he is probably the person who has inspired me most on the drama front. There is something in the way that Fox plays the role of Billy that I really connect with, and a certain level of energy and passion that draws me in to his performances. Its amazing, that every time I see him, I somehow feel even more inspired than I did before when it comes to acting. Despite my numerous writings, I still find it hard to put into words how inspirational and indeed motivational I find Fox's performances...but what can I say? That kid is special, and honestly I don't think i would have pursued drama had it not have seen him, so thanks Fox!

In seeing Billy 30 times, I have met some great people and made some new friends. Today I received a really nice message from one of them. Her name is Becky Chapman, she is part of a Billy obsessed family, comprising of her little sister and mum who all seem really cool people too. (By the way being Billy obsessed is perfectly fine, us crazy people stick together!) Anyhow the message... every year I send people a Christmas message... well a lot of people anyway. She has decided to do the very same thing. Its really nice getting a Christmas message back from someone. Its amazing the power words can convey. So that was a nice surprise for me today! Though before I move on, I think a huge shout out to Bex, Jonas, Justin, Karen, Louis, Lucia & Nicola is due. They are all people I have got to know through the show and they are all such awesome people! I am racking my brain hoping that I haven't missed any of my Billy friends, but inevitably I will have... so if I have, I'm truly sorry!!!

Of course in doing all the drama work I have told you of, I have made some great friends there too. Vikas is probably the most memorable, having done 2 drama courses with him, not to mention the numerous drinking hours in which we have become close friends. All be it we have our differences in opinion, but thats what fuels our drunken conversations. Well not so much drunken, we are far too old and mature for that... well maybe not... That aside, I know that I am always right so never feel threatened by him! Wow I sound big headed sometimes... but honestly he's Scottish, don't believe a word he says. On a serious note however, he is a great guy, really generous and a fantastic friend! I really hope to work with him again in 2010.

This year I have also seen some great shows that have inspired me so much. Asides from Billy I think the most moving show I have seen is War Horse. Its a show that can make grown men cry, it is so real, it rips your heart out and has you on the edge of your seat from start to end. Tied in with some fantastic drama techniques they really make you feel closer to all the action the show really did blow me away. Its a fantastic show, which if you haven't seen I strongly recommend that you do. Its on at the New London Theatre and to the best of my knowledge is booking well into the new year. I also saw La Cage Aux Folles a few weeks back. That too is an amazing show, but more about that in a forthcoming blog! Though I will say now, if you plan to see that it closes in a week or so, so get your tickets now!

So there we have it part one is over and done with, look out for the second part in a day or so, who knows, you may even get a mention!

Have an awesome Christmas!

G xxx

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Connor Doyle Legacy

I won't lie, if somebody asked me to name my top 5 actors, I wouldn't hesitate in putting Connor Doyle right up there. Since the first time I saw him perform in the role of Michael in Billy Elliot the Musical, I knew that he was something special. For me he really stood out from the crowd. You just need to look back over the previous Billy blogs to see what high regard I held him in. So it goes without saying that I was gutted when it was announced he would be leaving after just six months in the show.

All be it he left for the right reasons and on good terms. But there, at least for me would be a huge hole left behind in the show that his performances used to dominate. I have said it so many times before. You don't have to be in the leading role to be the best performer on stage. Connor grabbed every opportunity he had to make a bold statement with his acting. He confronted the role with such determination and dedication, it was evident right from the very first performance, he had no intentions of being second best. Hell, he even learned to tap dance especially for the role, unlike most boys casted in the show who have a history in dance of some sort. Yet the amazing thing was that if you watched him you could have easily believed he had been doing it for years!

The thing with acting is that you can only be taught so much. The rest of a performance relies on what comes naturally to a performer. This is where Connor always came through. He has such a vibrant personality which always shines when on stage. He comes across as the kind of guy who loves making people laugh, and putting smiles on their faces. Such charisma made him perfect for the role of Michael. I saw him something like 13 times, and not once did he ever have a bad show.

Honestly I don't think they could have casted anyone better for the role if they tried! When Lewis Cope left the show after 2 years in the role, I thought it would be impossible to replace him. He was amazing, and left such huge shoes to fill! Then along came Connor. He was the perfect replacement, he bought to life the role in the same way Lewis had managed to over the previous two years. I guess on this occasion lightning did strike twice... there was someone just as good as Lewis. But can that happen again? I am not so sure. There will be a huge void which Connor and previously Lewis have left behind. Honestly I don't think will ever be filled, well at least not in the same way that these two talented actors had managed.

Ok, its true people come and people go. As it happens Connor shared his last night with about seven other cast members including Anabelle as Debbie and Stephanie as "dead mum" and various members of the ensemble. But just like the changing of the seasons, its something that happens. Most of the time you just move on forgetting the faces that once dominated the stage before you. That isn't quite true for Connor however. I've seen the show a few times since his departure and it seems to lack the big personality he had.

I only had the opportunity to talk to Connor twice during his stint in the show, both times he demonstrated what a great guy that he was. Really polite, friendly and taken back by the support his fans showed him. He wasn't afraid to give a little something back either. He would regularly spot out his fans and wave to them as the curtain fell. It makes a huge difference when you feel noticed. It was even nicer for me, seeing as he is one of my acting inspirations. I've been asked a couple of times, how can someone so young be an inspiration alongside the likes of Jon Robyns and John Barrowman. All I can say is, had you watched him perform you would understand. I just hope I can bring to the stage a personality like Connor's when I finally get onto the big stage!

So what is next for Connor? Someone close to him once told me that if Connor is determined to do something nothing will stand in his way. That tells me its not the last we have heard from him. I just hope he returns to the West End sooner rather than later. As its a much lonelier and boring place without him. He has left a mark on a fantastic show, that will be impossible to erase. I can't help but think the benchmark he has set will be difficult to even come close to for quite some time to come.

Finally a picture of me and the legend himself. Thanks Connor and good luck in whatever you go on to do in life!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Drama Stories I Never Quite Finished

Well I guess I tailed off somewhat when talking about my endless drama antics for the autumn term. I will be honest, it was becoming like writing a diary, and as I see it if I don't enjoy writing something, you wont enjoy reading it. So the drama write ups in future will be a little more generalised I think. In part it gives me an excuse to write less, but hopefully it will make a better read as a result. So this blog will summarise the courses I have completed and bring to a close the latest chapter on my quest to act.

I am currently enjoying some time off. I'm not doing much and drama right now, which in a sense is nice. I will feel much more refreshed when January comes around that way. So I guess it would be better to conclude the last stories before I start all the new ones. Though this said I still haven't quite decided what path to take in the new year. I have some ideas but in true Gareth style, I will leave it as late as possible before making a final decision.

So over the last 3 months I have been doing 2 acting courses and one specialised course on voice. They have definitely helped me a lot and built up a lot of confidence. I guess now I feel like I am on the second rung of a very long ladder! But I am also starting to feel a bit disillusioned by the height of that climb thats now before me. I know that I have to stay focused. Though some things are much easier said than done. In the down time between courses I always start to get some negative vibes, but I am sure even the best actors, and all those ones who inspire me so much have their down days too. I really need to get hold of what causes these vibes and be more positive and proactive going into 2010, not just in acting but it would be a start.

So what have I taken away from these last three courses? I learned one hell of a lot about the effective use of the human voice. There is a lot more too it than you would think. But lets take things back to basics here. An actor's voice is like a decorators paint brush. Without it they would be buggered in their trade. When you see the voice as a tool like this, you realise just how important it is to an actor, and how complex it is to use. After all a tool is only any good if it is used correctly, and in essence the same goes for our voices. I know that sounds silly, but effective breathing, posture, articulation, and projection are factors that need to be considered. I will admit this course wasn't the most enthralling at times, but it was beneficial, and that is what was important.

As for the acting courses... they were more down my street. I met some great people who have become good friends, and indeed re-united with old friends, such as Vikas my long time drama drinking buddy, whom I hope to continue drinking and acting with into 2010! The only problem with these courses are that my new friends come from different places and walks of life, and it becomes increasingly difficult to stay in touch with them! Thank god for Facebook! Never thought I would say that in a blog! It reminds me, I really must drop a few people a line over the Christmas break. But back to the blog...

One of the courses heavily featured the play "The Notebook Of Trigorin" which was a Tennessee Williams adaptation of Chekov's "The Seagull". I can honestly say that I learned a lot on this course. I really enjoyed working around that play, and being reunited with my old drama teacher Jenn was wonderful! However the play itself I hated! Its quite ironic really, how I can enjoy the course but not the play! I am more cut out for modern pieces such as "Harper Reagan" which I studied in the other acting course I was taking. In these workshops I worked with Cat Clancey who was also my voice coach. She has some different methods of teaching, and the diversity was such that I could cover the same topic with both Jenn and Cat and learn new things with each of them.

So in terms of acting I think I have revisited a lot of old things and learned some new techniques. I always take a greater interest in the more obscure methods of acting. I think its really important that you look at different ways of reaching for and expressing emotion in acting. Sometimes it isn't as clear cut as you would think. Furthermore there is much more to acting than just being on stage in from of a seated audience. With Cat we learned ways of appealing to all the human senses. It was rather spooky but a lot of fun. I say that purely because I got to freak Danielle out again!

So my pledge for 2010? Well i need to keep working hard at what I am doing if I am to succeed. I have a lot of plans in the pipeline but i think 2010 will be the make or break year for me. The only thing is I have set myself a big goal, and if I am honest achieving it may not be easy, but lets be honest set the bar too low and where will my motivation come from?

So thats the last courses summarised... I have a few blogs planned for the festive period. So make sure you check back soon. Thank you for reading and have an awesome Christmas!

G xxx

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Goodbye Jonathan

It requires a very talented actor to take a small role and make it huge!!! If I am honest, there are very few people, who in my mind that have the ability to do just this. However, there is someone who springs to mind... an actor who has just this evening played out their final night in Billy Elliot the Musical at London's Victoria Palace Theatre. A boy who injects so much passion and energy into his role, it captivates the audiences heart and mind each and every time he takes to the stage. What you may be surprised to hear is that this is not a Billy, nor a Michael. I am talking about Jonathan Danciger who plays the role of Tall Boy. Now on paper this role is rather small, but in reality, a part in any show is what you make of it, and Jonathan is out there to get noticed!

I have always been fond of Jonathan's performances. One of my drama teachers once told me, the key to acting is to be believable within the role in which you are casted. This is what Jonathan has down to a fine art. I think the most notable example of this is during the Royal Ballet scene where he plays a posh upper class child named Tom, who tries to console Billy after what was a less than successful audition. Billy's response is to beat him up! When Jonathan goes to ground there is always a huge audience reaction... a gasp of fear. There is that split second where the entire auditorium fears the worst, thinking something may have gone wrong. He is so convincing, that even having seen him several times I still worry when i see him go down. My heart genuinely skips a beat! No other boy I have seen in the role has ever managed to generate such a reaction. This alone is a testament to how real Jonathan's acting comes across.

So what else sets Jonathan aside from the rest of the crowd? When I see some actors in theatrical productions, I cant help but think they are up there simply because it pays the bills rather than because they love to act. This can leave a performance seeming somewhat hollow and empty. But this is where Jonathan differs. Every line is delivered with such passion and confidence, you really do notice his presence on the stage. His love of acting radiates from each and every character he plays and it always makes for a better all round performance.

Even when he is not at the forefront of the scene, he manages to find a way to bring the character to life. An example of this is in "The Stars Look Down", where his interaction with Michael (particularly when played by Connor Doyle) adds depth to the scene which is normally overlooked by other boys playing the same role. His body language always tells a story and he picks the perfect facial expressions to capture the moment. It is these little touches he adds throughout which puts him in a league of his own!

So as you can see Jonathan sets himself some very high standards, and at tonight's final performance he was not going to let them slip. A faultless show from start to end, and as the curtain fell, I was left wondering whether anyone could fill his shoes. I knew at this point I would really miss seeing him perform, that was for sure. But behind every grey cloud is a blue sky, and for me that was the realisation that he can now go further, he can aim higher and fulfil his dream to perform. Jonathan can leave this show with his head held high, knowing he has delivered some fine performances.

I guess in short his role may not be as big as that of Billy or Michael but one thing is for sure his ability to act far exceeds that of some people in larger roles, which is why I don't think it will be too long before we see Jonathan back on the big stage. Whats more, off the stage he is such a genuinely nice guy who has the time for everyone. I am privileged to have seen such an awesome performer and even more privileged to have met him and his wonderful family who are all so supportive of his talents.

So in conclusion Jonathan has been an inspiration to me. Performances like his are what keep me going. I can look back and learn so much from him, and as I move forward in my quest to act these very same performances will be my motivation. So thank you Jonathan for all your hard work, so many great shows and for being a huge inspiration to me. I hope you achieve everything in life that you have worked for and so very much deserve.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Return Of Saddlers Wells (Part 5)

Its always interesting studying "abstract" theatrical concepts. This was the theme of this afternoon's classes. Now I am sure there are many different abstract styles of performing, but in a 2 hour session there is obviously a limit to what can be taught. So we focused on the concept of some crazy french man, who at the time was considered to be a complete idiot for the ideology behind the method of theatrical art. Now the name of this french dude slips my mind, but honestly, that isn't all that important. The important thing was the way he set about things.

His concept was that the audience should be a greater part of a piece of theatre. Even in most present day productions, the performance takes place on a stage and is watched by rows of people in seats. But what happens when you take a step away from tradition? His theory was that theatre could be much more interactive, with the theatre going on around people and in some cases involving the theatre patron in the art itself. All sounds rather strange doesn't it?

So how does it work? An example may be where a room is set out in a theme, lets imagine a ball, ladies wearing the poshest of gowns, and gents in their tops and tails. All the patrons may be given masks as they enter the ball room, where there is something going on. Though rather than telling the story to the patrons, the actors involve them, maybe actors will dance with the theatre goer whilst the story goes on around them. Its weird i know, but a very interesting concept and certainly makes performing arts more three dimensional.

So thats what we would do. Divided into two groups we were tasked with the concept of creating initially a piece of work that appealed to other senses other than sight, predominantly touch and. We used narration and various items to create the sensation of noise or touch including bubble wrap as rain and feathers brushing against the audiences face to represent the wind among other things. Its amazing how imaginative you can be. With the audience members having their eyes closed imaginations were permitted to run wild. Its a rather spine chilling experience with the right story, and we certainly achieved the response we wanted.

The second task on hand was to create a piece that plays with the mind of the audience member. Our personal space is very precious to us, and we all hate it when someone gets right in our face. So what happens to us when actors violate that personal space? Well the reaction is something much more personal than you would get at a traditional theatre show. We set our scene in some form of psychiatric ward, this time working with Katie and Sally, we orbited the audience members in close proximity as "patients" from the ward, and successfully made the audience members feel uncomfortable by again exploring the concept of touch tied in with some rather freaky acting and repetition of words. Again I was very happy with the overall results of this piece as it worked perfectly. If anyone has been to Thorpe Park on a fright night, this is a very similar method of acting which is used in the mazes that they have.

This was one of the most enjoyable classes, I think personally I did very well and it was something completely new to me. I am really lucky to be among a very talented group. I think all the work the class has achieved to date has been to an amazing standard. I also found out that Danielle intends to do the next class that I will be on with City Academy in the new year, so thats pretty awesome too!

So there you have it... abstract forms of theatrical art can be a lot of fun :)

The Return Of Saddlers Wells (Part 6)

Shakespeare... am I the only one who wishes he had become a postman or something? All the suffering his work has inflicted upon modern youth pretty much equates to child abuse, it really does. I love plays, I love acting and I love theatre... but there is something about William Shakespeare that doesn't sit right with me, though I am not quite sure what it is. So you may have gathered I am not a Shakespeare fan, needless to say I was less than overjoyed to discover that we would be looking at his work in the last day of my current drama course at Saddlers Wells, just over a week ago.

We did however approach things from a different perspective, and it helped. It certainly removed the boredom I associated with the study of his work. School was boring and they never did find a way of making Shakespeare enjoyable. In fact I would liken school study of Shakespeare to being bludgeoned to death with a wooden spoon. In short... very slow and very painful. Today wasn't so bad, and a bit of scene setting helped us get into the flow of things. We looked into "A Mid Summers Night Dream". Allegedly this was a Shakespearean comedy... yet I failed to find it humorous... just confusing. But that I guess was a language thing... it was a lot to take in and honestly, I didn't understand half what was said.

We embarked on a task to perform as a group a modernised version of the script. Loosely all we had to do was follow the storyline and perform it in a way that suited us best. This featured Manuella as Puck, who in the Shakespearean version of the play was a mischievous fairy... we some how turned him into a crack addict drug dealer... only a small difference, I think you will agree. But hugely funny... I would love to know where Manuella got the inspiration for her interpretation of the character. It was awesome! So how did our piece of work go? It was a bit messy, but the ideas and methods of acting were good. With a bit of time it could have become a rather good scene. It may have resembled a typical scene at the Queen Vic in Eastenders. Only difference is we act much better than the morons in that unbearable soap!

So yeah, we had a lot of fun, and it was a nice way to round the course off, however I don't think I have developed a love of Shakespeare yet. The sad thing is, if I want to do more in drama I will need to start exploring his work more and more. I sometimes wish I had a time machine. Most of the time I would only ever use it to fix mistakes that I have made, and believe me there are a lot of those. But if I could make one significant change to the world, i think I would go back to his era, armed with a wooden spoon and inflict the same degree of pain he has done for all the school children who have had to study his plays. Just think what a hero I would become in doing this!

A time machine... hmmm sounds interesting. Does anyone know how to make one? I am a man on a mission... well seeing as I have time on my hands as this is the last in the current series of blogs I may as well start building one myself!

G xxx

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A Large Trigorin And Tonic Please (Part 4 & 5)

So in a desperate bid to catch up on my blogs I am covering the last two weeks of my Thursday evening classes at RADA in one brief blog. Ok, I admit it, its not solely for that reason. This last week just gone I was dreadful, I just wasn't focused, my mind was somewhere else. Where? Who knows! I sure as hell didn't. Either way it doesn't really give me all that much to write about, so consolidating everything into one blog makes so much more sense!

In the first of these two weeks we touched on method acting, with similar approaches to those used for my classes at Saddlers Wells. It was interesting to have this renowned style of actors training taught to us in a different way. You have to remember this script is based in the 1900's, so its much harder to find you're character compared to Harper Regan (the play I study in my other classes) which is set in the present day. Jenn asked us to think of what people wore in those days, a mans attitude to a woman, posture and class among other things. Obviously all we had to base our ideas on were images and footage we had seen from the times. Its difficult to get a completely accurate representation of a character of that era as none of us are Russian for starters and more to the point, none of us are in excess of 100 years old. I felt this class really built on my knowledge of method acting and the timing of this class coincided with my Saddlers Wells classes well.

With regards to the week just passed we each studied a monologue and discovered ways of characterising our role. There are two ways... well, there are many ways but they all fall into these two sub-groups. You can either study a script in depth, where you look at you're character's attitude to themselves and others as well as studying the major changes which happen within that role. Alternatively you can phsicalise that role... I have to be honest whilst the script study made a lot of sense I couldn't see how associating your character to an animal and those animal's mannerisms really helped to build a character all that much. I guess looking back to the workshop it worked a little, but I felt I got a greater understanding of Constantine (my character) by analysing the script in depth. I guess some techniques work better than others for actors, hence why we were shown both approaches.

Whilst generally I was not focused for the second class, I feel my performance of the monologue went relatively well. Sure I could have given it a bit more, but honestly, I feel there were maybe only two or three others better than mine from all of the performances. That's not bad in quite a large class in a week where I was generally rubbish!!!

Well there we have it another rather uninteresting update. I was meant to be going to the theatre last night to see "Into The Woods", but circumstances were stacked up against me... so i missed out! Oh well at least I get to see Billy Elliot in a fortnights time!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Return Of Saddlers Wells (Part 4)

Monologues are very powerful tools in acting, they can be used to incite feelings and emotions, when accompanied by the appropriate acting skills. That is what today's session was all about. I am going to keep this dead short, as this was last week's session rather than the one that I have just returned from. Looks like I have failed to get my updates online as fast as I promised a month ago! Oh well, nobody is perfect... even me. I know that will surprise some of you! Okay, maybe not... anyway, on with the blog...

So what did we get up to? Throughout the play we are studying, which by now you should know is called "Harper Regan" there are various characters all of whom have monologues. Today was about taking those speaches and delivering them in the most effective way. My piece was that of Seth. You may remember him as I talked of him before now. He is Harper's husband, a slightly odd ball character who had a controversial brush with the law. His monologue comes after Harper admits to having sex with another man whilst visiting her dying father. Personally, like before I didn't feel I connected all that well with the character of Seth, though I was assured that I did a good job of the monologue.

Personally I feel you have to understand a character, their mentality and motives to be able to play that role well. Seth is just odd, even his reaction to his wife's confession of having sex with another man seemed unexpected. It was far too sedated, it almost lacked emotion. There is only a certian amount of feeling I as an actor can put into a role, as the words themself have to carry the mood as much as my acting skills do. Honestly, the words Seth uses in this scene were a strange choice of the playwrite I must admit. I much prefer the role of Elwood, who is Harper's boss, he too is weird, but at least I understand what he wants and how he wants to get it! That way I really get into the role and deliver the goods.

So was performing a monologue scary? No not really, I quite like it. I wouldn't say it was me at my best, but apparently i did fairly well. I took whatever pointers I was given on board and went away feeling happy with myself! Though I really do not want to play the role of Seth again, I just don't enjoy his character at all!

A Large Trigorin And Tonic Please (Part 3)

I have to be honest, this weeks session was not that beneficial to me. Maybe it is because we had done very similar work in the first course with Jenn. I don't know, it just felt like a bit of a repetition. The concept was that we would explore the setting of the play, through movements, sound and the surroundings that would have been present in 1900's Russia. Though if I am honest, I don't really feel any more connected to the settings than I did before the session. Whats more I don't think the sound work we did was as rich and as real as the first time we did this task before the summer.

We did however do an interesting task on youth and old age, and what we as individuals associate with these two words. We were asked to create a short scene where we symbolised our age theme. We had to use 6 people and only a few given words. We opted for a seesaw, the kids at either end represented youth and were using words like "party". Myself and Vikas formed the middle pivoting section of the seesaw and our word was used to shed the negative perspective many older people have on youth. But the annoying thing is, I can't even remember what our word was now! Okay, it may not have been the best acted piece, however it was abstract and told a bit of a story of how youth see themselves and how they are perceived by others. If I am completley honest, the other group's work was better acted. They built a human wheelchair for their representation of old age. But the flip side of the coin was that our piece told a better story where there's was a little more fragmented.

So far I can't say I am disappointed at all, I have deffinatly been learning a lot and boosting my drama skills. I feel I have been performing well also which is nice, and generally things are pretty swell. Only this week wasn't as drama rich and beneficial as other weeks. I am sure next week will be better.

Until then, happy reading!


Wednesday, 30 September 2009

When New Jersey Meets London

I think I may have mentioned the show "Jersey Boys" before in a blog. Though if I have it would have been a long time ago. I had last seen this show in the early days of summer, and boy that seems like a long time ago. Well that is of course if you can call it summer? Lets face it the weather was pretty awful, and as I write this the rain is pouring down outside. It's great to be British isn't it? But that is far from the theme of this blog, for this we need to hit East Coast America, New Jersey to be precise, which is the setting for the smash hit West End musical "Jersey Boys".

Now in its second year and still supporting much of the original London cast, Jersey Boys is still packing out The Prince Edward theatre, which is quite an achievement it must be said. Just one look at the sheer size of the auditorium is a statement to the calibre of show which is required to pack the place out night after night. Jersey Boys does just that. Unlike some shows based on musicians of years gone by, this show isn't just about the music. There is a solid story covering the rag to riches tale of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Hell you don't even need to be a fan of Frankie's to enjoy this show, it's that good.

I was lucky enough to catch Ryan Molloy as Frankie Valli. For some reason I always seem to miss him when he is on. Maybe he is scared I will write him a bad blog or something! Well I assure you that would never happen, as all the actors, including the understudies, many of whom I have seen in the five times that I have seen this show always deliver a fantastic performance. This brings me to one of my most important lessons in drama, and that is the rule of "you must make a scene truthful in imaginary circumstances". Ryan does just this, he ceases to be Ryan Molloy, I guess he must have used some extensive method acting techniques to really fill the role of Frankie Valli like he has.

The musical of course includes all the hit songs such as "Sherry", "Walk Like A Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry". Though they also include some of the more obscure numbers and the songs that you hear all the time, but never quite knew who had performed them in the first place. You know the ones? The songs from television adverts, or cover songs performed by current music stars. Either way, it's is a real diverse mix. You have to remember in their prime the band never really hit the UK shores as Beatle Mania was in its height, so for many fans this show is as close to seeing the real thing as you will get. Well not quite, Frankie still tours, but with regards to the original line up, its something that will never be able to happen since Nick Massi passed away in December 2000.

This show really demonstrates that a lot more goes on behind the scenes of any band than ever makes it to the spot light. Mafia links, money laundering, petty crime, love affairs, broken hearts and broken families just hit on a few of the themes covered in the show. As for the way the story is told, it is genius. The way emotion is once agaain used as a tool to toy with the characters is fantastic.

So why is the story's structure genius? Each of the band members tell their interpretation of the story which is split into four seasons. A clever twist on the name, don't you think? Tommy DiVeto is spring, telling his interpretation of how the band started out. Bob Gaudio becomes summer, with his take on the development of the band. Nick Massi is autumn, with his synopsis of events in the bands falling apart whilst Franki Valli covers winter which see's him go solo with a new backing band. Each season is told with the band member's personality in mind, and like one of the opening lines in the show "you ask four guys what happened, you get four different versions". Thats life isn't it? We all have different takes on how things happen, and we remember things the way that we want to remember them!

Well how do I remember this show? It is fantastic! It is a show you can see time and time again, and a definite recommendation of mine! So what are you waiting for? Go book your tickets now!

G xxx

Guest Publication: Tanner Pflueger Unofficial Fan Page

Just prior to Tanner Pflueger's departure from Billy Elliot The Musical in London last month, I was offered the opportunity to write an article for Tanner Pflueger's unofficial fan page. It was a huge honour to be given this opportunity by the team behind the fansite who stated they had enjoyed reading my other articles on this blog. It just goes to show that all my hours sat at my laptop writing these articles are worthwhile. I would like to thank the team at for this opportunity. Please head there to read the article.

A reminder of that address:


G xxx

The Forgotten Billy

Ok, the title is a bit misleading, but for those who have read my blogs about Billy Elliot, you may have noticed that Brad Wilson has never had a review. No no no, its not that I hate him! I can assure you that is not the case and the lack of reviews are for a very valid reason. Despite seeing the show many times, since starting these blogs I have always missed his performances. Unless you have some inside information, its pot luck which Billy you get on the day, though for someone who loves the show as much as me, you can appreciate each Billy individually so as a result never feel disappointed by whoever you get. But it is nice to get to see them all, especially one who you haven't seen in such a long time.

Now I had seen Brad before, twice infact but it was such a long time ago. I was really keen to see him again. Knowing that he would be leaving in a matter of weeks, I needed to see his performance, so I could feel in touch with his interpretation of the role of Billy. Ok that sounded rather cheesy I know, but for his final performance on the 31st October I really wanted to have an understanding of Brad's characterisation of the role. That way I could just enjoy the last show and let it draw me in much like Tanner's final show, rather than sitting there studying all the things that he does differently to the other Billy's.

My memories of Bradley's performances all those months ago were not that easy to remember. They came at a time where whilst I enjoyed the show, I was not as connected with it as I am now. So at that time I maybe didn't pay as much attention to the way that each boy who plays Billy makes it his own. I honestly didn't know what to expect as I took my seat. For me this was a clean slate, a chance to give Bradley the chance he deserved, and that chance I had been waiting to give him for so long now.

It soon became apparent that I had missed so much. I don't want to knock down other Billy's whom I had given glowing reviews to before, but Brad had set the bar high, his standards far exceeded that of those which I had expected and remembered from those early performances. He really was giving so much, putting everything he had into delivering the goods.

I really don't know the best way to explain this. Each Billy normally has a strength and a weakness in their performance. The strength is something you are drawn to specifically, Tom for example is his acting, for Tanner it was his ballet. Now for Brad... there is nothing that stood out... and no that is not a bad thing at all. Rather than one element of his performance standing out, his entire performance lifts you off of your feet and sweeps you away. With every other Billy you watch their performance, with Brad you are part of his performance. I wish I knew how he did it I really do. When you have seen the show in excess of twenty times, it takes someone very special to make it feel like your very first Billy show again... yet Brad managed this with ease!

I don't know where Brad sees himself in the future, but I sure hope that it is on a stage somewhere. He is such a talented actor. He adds little touches to the role which are so real, and his interaction with other characters is so believable. There are young actors whom I have seen who just look cute on a stage... their talents are debatable. But this isn't just a kid on a stage, Brad is an actor and a very talented one at that! As for the cute factor... he has that too, you only need to read the program to find this out. He was taught how to look cute by the Billy House guinea pigs! Does that mean if I get guinea pigs I can look cute too? No? I didn't think so... oh well!!!

There is not a single moment on that stage where Brad ceases to be Billy. To top this off Bradley has a great singing voice and dancing skills to match. I used to envision his ballet would be in the shadows of Tanners performances, and maybe it was. But dance is a very personal means of expression and you can interpret it in any way you like, and honestly my interpretation is that it was perfect! Brad has obviously studied the role in huge depth, it really does show... so is he the best Billy? I think he may well be. Sure I love Tom, Ollie and Fox to pieces, and I am sure my opinion will change but right now Brad is on par with Fox at the top of my Billy league after the performance he gave that evening!

I actually feel gutted that I have not had the chance to see Brad more times, to date I have only seen him three times now. I guess it's the way the cookie crumbles, but I know the final show on Halloween will be immense... far better than trick or treating! I only wish that Brad's leaving was a Halloween trick... but as they say all good things must come to an end, and whilst Brad is drawing an end to his time as Billy, I am sure there is a new chapter about to open somewhere on the horizon!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Goodbye Tanner (Part 2)

We are told that saying goodbye is never easy, and its so true. I had never met Tanner, but as you will have gathered from "Goodbye Tanner (Part 1)", he has been very influential to me. Its amazing that in life, some of the most influential people are those who you never get to meet. For some it is politicians, for others its a sports personality. My inspirations however, have been drawn from actors and actresses both on television and in theatre. Tanner was one of these people, so seeing him move on from Billy Elliot certainly had some emotional strings attached to it.

The auditorium of the Victoria Palace theatre had an indescribable atmosphere. It was electric, super charged in fact. I must admit I had concerns as to whether the show would be as good as normal. There were high emotions among the cast who were saying goodbye to a dear friend. You have to remember there are a lot of child actors in this show, so there was the distinct chance that emotions could overcome them and detract from the overall performance. Well this fear was unfounded, what I would get to see in fact would be a performance of a lifetime, and not just from Tanner. Everybody was on form.

I have previously told you how good Tanner's dancing had become. I'm not going to dwell on that in this blog, having spoken of it so much before in part 1. All I will say is that Tanner received a standing ovation after both "Angry Dance" and "Electricity". Both of which were truly deserved. He was well composed, he stayed on top of the game and delivered both routines faultlessly. Angry Dance was aggressive, powerful and expressive, whilst Electricity was smooth and elegant. It was simply fantastic.

What I really want to talk about is bonds. We all make them with people whom we work with. It is at this point where people cease to be a work colleague and become a friend, its the way that the human mind functions. Though tonight there was a very special bond which shone through, between Tanner and George Maycock, who is one of the three boys who play the role of Michael. You have to bare in mind that the two boys joined the show only a couple of months apart, so go right back, unlike Jake and Connor who have only been in the role of Michael for a few months. So there had been plenty of time to build a genuine friendship, and it was on show tonight. There is a song in Billy Elliot called "Solidarity", that is the backbone to every friendship, and you coud tell that Tanner would be leaving behind some pretty solid friends.

I have seen George and Tanner perform together before, and they do work well together it must be said. Though tonight it was evident George was pulling out all the stops, to ensure Tanner's leaving show would go down as one of the best in history. I have never seen George give so much! I have always said how talented he is, but tonight he was something else, every movement was precision planned, every facial expression told a story and as for the "Expressing Yourself" routine, that was picture perfect, the timing, the steps and the singing. I know this show was all about Tanner, but I have to be honest, that was George's best performance to date.

The final scene where Michael says goodbye to Billy was the moment where the show hit me hardest. As Tanner walked away and the curtain fell, George started to tear up, like a dagger through the heart, the kid was broken. This was no longer Michael saying goodbye to Billy. This was George saying goodbye to Tanner. That is when the reality of what was actually happening started to sink in. Seeing George so upset, was horrible. Now I don't know him personally, but there is a human instinct, where if you see a child hurting, you feel for them and I really did feel for George. Its moments like this when you realise how real some elements of this show actually are. This would have been an emotional goodbye for Michael. But for George, he was no longer acting it... he was living it. So powerful... so emotional.

But you know what? After a performance like that, George can stand tall, and know he truly did Tanner's leaving show justice. What a performance! I will never forget that final scene, but for me the memories will be of Tanner's immense ability to perform which was summarised in a beautiful speech by Stephen Daldry at the beginning of the show.

As for Tanner, he was so well composed throughout. He held himself together and as ever his performance never faltered. What can I say? Tanner has never left me disappointed until now, and the only reason I am disappointed is because I know that I will never get to see him again in the role of Billy. In terms of his actual performance he blew me away like he does every time. There will be a huge hole for any future Billy to fill if they want to compete with Tanner's exceptionally high standards! Something tells me that he will he hard to replace.

Right down to his final curtain call Tanner gave so much over the year he was performing as Billy both in London and New York, and personally I am so appreciative of this and for the inspiration he has provided me. So from me, a very special thank you goes out to Tanner! Speaking on behalf of all the Billy Elliot fans, thank you for so many great shows, you are a real life Billy Elliot and may all the luck in the world go hand in hand with your immense talent and bring you all the success you deserve. Thank you so much.

If you are a fan of Tanner feel free to leave a comment, or anything you like. The comment spaces are there for you to use, It would be lovely to hear what other people think of young Tanner!

G xxx

The Return Of Saddlers Wells (Part 3)

Ok I am getting behind on blogs so I will make this update a really short one. We have started looking at method acting. Some guy many moons ago in Russia developed a theory that the actor should study their character in a huge amount of depth and in a sense become that person, rather than just act the role. Some actors do this through in depth analysis others use a simple"objective" approach. Hows that for a history and drama lesson fused into less than a paragraph? Who said education has to be difficult? Mind you, I have a feeling if you used my exact words in an exam, your results would be awful... so please don't quote me!

So anyway... this objective approach is where an actor says, "my character wants... ". So for example you may say my character wants to get revenge on character x. Its a simple objective that you can build a character around. You may have different objectives in different scenes, or possibly several in a single scene, but the theory is that you lay down the skeleton with this objective approach. So thats the skeleton, wheres the flesh? That is simply how you take that objective and work with it. Thats the drama!

So in terms of acting, I had two scenes this week. The first was a follow on from last week where I got to play the role of Harper Regan's boss. He is a creapy kind of guy and I really like playing this role. His unpredictability and dominance is such fun to work with and explore. Danielle actually commented after the scene, how creepy I made the character when we acted it out. It was perfect, just what I had set out to do. I like roles like this, people who are not at all bland and two dimensional. I think this is why i didn't really connect with my second character "Seth" who is Harper's husband. I dunno what it is he was just a bit to plain by my liking. There was no juicy depths to Seth that I could exploit. He is slowly growing on me, but I'm really unsure whether thats a role that is suited to me.

So in regards to the course... so far so good. Half way through, i'm happy and looking forward to next week. We will be exploring method acting further and an alternative approach to it. I will try to write a slightly more informative blog for that one! But as for this blog... I promised I would keep this one short... and look I kept to my word!

G xxx

Friday, 25 September 2009

A Large Trigorin And Tonic Please (Part 2)

So its a Thursday night which of course finds me back at RADA for an evening of drama related frolics. I was quite looking forward to this evening, after the success of last weeks session. There was however a lingering thought in the back of my mind that with the exception of Les Miserables, I am not really a fan of "classical theatre" (which is what we are studying), though this said I really enjoyed our brief encounter with "The Notebook of Trigorin" a week ago, the question is whether or not this play would grow or tire on me.

My problem with classical theatre is that it sometimes starts to bore me when I study it, which leads to me losing the drive to succeed. If I had to do eight weeks on Shakespeare for example, I think I would die. Looking back in history, I do often wish William Shakespeare would have become a milkman... a postman, or something like that... well anything other than a play write really. Macbeth for GCSE... that was awful, hell it was verging on child abuse subjecting us to that. Bad times!

I mentioned Les Miserbles... Stylistically I should hate everything about this show based upon my theatrical tastes and choices in life. But somehow I don't hate it at all, in fact I love it to pieces. It does however take a lot of concentration when watching the show, compared to lighter hearted productions such as Avenue Q which you can just sit back and enjoy. For some shows this is a real downer but for Les Miserables, such a degree of concentration is a very small price to pay, as the rewards are fantastic. The show is immensely powerful, full of heart and passion with a moving twist to the story. On the other hand, anything by William Shakespere is still shit! Though I will admit I was tempted to go see Jude Law in Hamlet. That was getting some great reviews, but its closed now... so I guess that won't be seeing it afterall. Interestingly at that same theatre The Shawshank Redemption is opening. That could make for some interesting viewing.

I have gone off at tangent again haven't I? So back to my evening of drama. We started with another name game to familiarise ourselves with one another once more. Needless to say, I was completely shit at this. remembering my name proves difficult at times, let alone remembering anybody elses. Especially when I have three different classes a week all with different people... soooooo many names!

Well we soon got on to some real acting which started looking at the characters in the play followed by a study of the first two scenes. Interestingly I got to play the part of Trigorin in both tasks. Ok... that fact alone wasn't interesting at all. What was interesting was how my characterisation of the role evolved from the first task. We have a really strong group, there were a few faces missing, but honestly I think everyone who was there last night was fantastic.

The task at foot was to perform a short scene from the play which was a conversation between two characters. The twist to this task was that although we had the script, we were given no real information on the characters or the setting for the scene. Why was this so? The concept was that we would need to read into our characters more in order to discover this. I like it this way, as when everything is spoon fed to you, it all feels rather false. Rachael had the part of a character called Nina. Nina is an aspiring young actress who has her heart set on becoming huge in Russian theatre much like her love rival Arcadina. Me on the other hand, as I already mentioned, I played the part of Trigorin. Trigorin is an established play write in Russia and is caught in a manic love triangle which he feels is damaging his work. I have to be honest, after this piece, although performed well by both myself and Rachael, I hadn't quite got my head round the characters background. Would this all become more apparent in our second task? Well yes...

As you can imagine in eight weeks it really isn't possible to study and perform the play in full. So in order to start getting our heads round the storyline of the play, the class was split into two. The groups were given a summery of one of the four acts that make up the play. Our group had act two. The task in short was to perform a short piece that summarises the key points in the story. We were given the freedom to perform this in any style we liked, as long as we kept to the character names and didn't stray away too far from the plays settings. We performed a mime with a narrator, and added slight comical edge to the performance. Nothing too brash, we just wanted to lighten it up a little bit.

I was really rather happy with how the performance came across. We spent a lot of time talking through the concept and very little time rehearsing it, but somehow it worked. I'm a bit concerned that everything is going so well actually. This means I am either beginning to truly find myself within drama or i have been really lucky. I am going to go with lucky... I can back this with evidence... at the Vikas after school club (aka the pub), I didn't have to buy one drink! Now thats what I call a good night out and rather lucky indeed!

Anyway a special blog coming your way tomorrow which will feature Eliot Carrington and Tanner Pfluger's final show in Billy Elliot the musical. Look out for it!

G xxx

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Goodbye Tanner (Part 1)

So this is the first of two part blog dedicated To Tanner Pflueger who is in his last week as Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. The second blog will be more a review of his last nights performance and the emotions that come hand in hand with that. This blog however is more a look back at Tanner's twelve month affair with boxing gloves and ballet shoes.

Tanner is currently the only American Billy, whilst not the first, like all the actors from the other side of the pond, Tanner brings with him a wealth of talent and the ability to capture the hearts and mind of the British theatre goer. But what sets Tanner apart from almost any other Billy I have ever seen either in the flesh or on video is his balletic performances. Ballet is in his bloodstream, and I don't think words even exist that will emphasise the sheer power a strong ballet performance can have on someone.

There is a scene in Billy Elliot called "dream ballet" where young billy dances a ballet routine to swan lake with his older self. Its a nice scene, but "nice" is not anything special in the grand scheme of things. Its always been a scene that just blended in to the rest of the show for me, until I saw Tanner perform this for the very first time. It was only then that the scene went from being nice to utterly beautiful and hugely powerful. It became an art form, which had the ability to move me and bring a tear to my eye. I'm not ashamed to say that... it really was something special.

So what makes Tanner's dream ballet that much better than all the others? Well i'm no expert on dance. Even in my own training I have only briefly touched upon the subject. However, when you watch Tanner everything is picture perfect. The posture looks great, the movement is smooth and elegant. Thats what ballet should be in my eyes. It needs to flow, and when I see Tanner perform that is exactly what it does. I guess to draw a comparison, think of some gentle ocean waves lapping the shore... thats Tanner's ballet, its perfect! But it takes more than one scene to make a great performer, so what else is it that I enjoy about Tanner's performance?

Sticking with the theme of dance, there is a piece called "Angry Dance", which is performed at the end of the first act. This is the moment where Billy's emotions hit overdrive. He has worked so hard to get his ballet up to scratch for an audition at the Royal Ballet school. His family are opposed to his ambitions to dance and fulfil his new found dream. As Mrs Wilkinson, his dance teacher and maternal figure throughout the first act walks away, he turns to his dad and says "Mum woulda let us" to which his dad replies "Your mum's dead!". This hits Billy hard and his reaction is "Angry Dance". The routine is full of big movements and a vicious tap routine which summarises just how Billy feels.

Tanner's performance of "Angry Dance" is one of my favorites. He digs deep to express himself so well, he is definitely the angriest of the current Billy's during this scene. The movements are sharp and jerky and show the fire that is fueling Billy's emotions. The movements Tanner opts to use are the complete opposite to ballet, but thats whats needed for a routine like this. Remember those waves lapping the shore for his ballet performance? Well now theres a storm, and the oceans waves are now hitting down hard, the waves are huge and relentless as they batter the sea shore. I guess the point I am trying to make is that Tanner has this immense ability to use dance as a tool to not only express Billy's feelings but to express his own also. Its quite a statement to make, but I think he is the best dancer I have ever seen, or at least my I interpretation of his dance makes him very special in my eyes. He is diverse, individual and very powerful in every routine he partakes in. It goes without saying that his "Electricity" routine is a blinding display also!

Away from dance, Tanner is very expressive in his acting, and his singing is purely angelic. I normally love Electricity for the dance routines, as every Billy is different, and don't get me wrong I love Tanners dance routine also. What Tanner does differently however, is he delivers the song and dance as an entire package. When I watch him its no longer about the dance in the middle bridge, my attention isn't focused solely on that anymore. Its now about everything, the singing is great, the dancing is fantastic and it all fuses to become one solid unit. I love it.

Many people inspire us in life and Tanner certainly has been an inspiration to me. He has really shown me how dance can be used as a medium of expression, and he has opened my eyes to the beauty that dance can have. I know all this sounds rather soppy, but I think its important to be open and honest about things like this. I wish I had the opportunity to thank Tanner for being such an inspiration to me. As among my actors training I intend to learn to dance also, something I wouldn't have even dreamed of before. He has been a key figure in my decision to do this.

Whilst I know when he heads back home I may never get to see him perform again, along with the other inspirational figures in life there will always be a place for him in the heart of every piece of acting or dancing I ever perform. This is because deep down he will have been one of the reasons that I would be standing there in the first place. Thank you Tanner!

Part 2 will come at the weekend after his final performance. I can't wait to see Tanner perform once more, but I am already saddened by the fact that it may be the last I ever get to see.

G xxx

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Return Of Saddlers Wells (Part 2)

So i'm back at Saddlers Wells generally feeling a little better than I have been of late, which on the whole is a good thing, both for me as a person and for my drama. I'm going to cut to the chase right now, as I am not really in the mood to write a long blog today. So this week there was a lot of emphasis on voice, namely because one of my two Sunday classes specialises in vocal technique. This meant that there would be fair amount of repetition in my second session which looks at acting on a broader scale. At times this was a little tedious but it is all a good refresher especially whilst in my early stages of training. It was nice however, that Cat our course facilitator altered some of the exercises a little in order to make them seem a little bit fresher.

The most notable part of this week is that we started to look at the script we will be working on over the coming weeks. I think whilst writing this blog last week I said I had forgotten the play's name which we would be doing. I'm rather forgetful like that. Well its called Harper Regan. Its a modern piece which was performed in the National Theatre last summer. In a nutshell it is about the plight of a woman called Harper Regan who comes up against numerous struggles in life meeting some colourful characters on the way. Seeing as we have only just started work on the play, there really isn't all that much that I can say about it right now. However my first impressions are good, it seems well written and the short extract I performed which saw me play the role of Harper's boss was fun and really saw me get into character rather well.

So far I feel really encouraged working with Cat as a course leader. What has really boosted me is that so far she has given me little criticism at all compared to other class members. She is never harsh towards people, just offers some constructive words to help them build their skills. So far she has given me a lot of praise which has boosted me a lot. Its a really nice environment to work in. What makes it even better is that I have some great class mates. I worked with Sally again a bit this week. She was one of the girls I did my improvisation piece with last week. Shes fun to work with and has some great ideas. Along with Sally I also teamed up with Danielle in two excersises, she too is fantastic to work with and a very warm character to be around. I really hope to work closely with these two again soon!

In other news I am gearing myself up to be at Tanner (Billy), and Eliot's (Small Boy) leaving show at Billy Elliot the musical next Saturday. I've avoided social activity of late whilst I have been feeling a bit down so i'm little nervous about getting out there again so to speak. It will be a sad evening seeing two great guys move on from the show I love so dearly. Only problem is with a distinct lack of cash I haven't worked out how I am going to get there yet! Whats more theres even more sad news from Billy Elliot HQ, as Brad Wilson who also plays the role of Billy has too confirmed that he will be leaving. This won't be until the end of October but it will be sad to see another fantastic cast member leave. Bad Times :( There will be a special blog some time soon covering Tanner's last show so look out for that.

G xxx

Friday, 18 September 2009

A Large Trigorin And Tonic Please (Part 1)

Before I start this update, a note for the regular readers, you now need to concentrate a tiny bit more, as I am writing two series of blogs which will run alongside each other for the next few weeks. The first which was written a couple of days ago, is about my courses at Saddlers Wells on a Sunday. This new series of blogs refer to my course on a Thursday at RADA. Whilst I am sure the coming weeks will bare some resemblances to one another, the courses are very different and refer to two very different plays which we will be performing.

The follow on course for the initial set of classes I took before the summer would be one step further down the road to a career in theatre, well at least thats how I see things. It would be a long road, but I am determined to keep to it and find the success which comes at the end of it. Talking of roads, knowing my friend Vikas would also be part of the course, it lead me to think as well as taking a few steps down the path to theatre stardom, we would also be staggering a few steps down the road to the local pub. This guy has a reputation to uphold! Remember the "Vikas After School Club"? If Not I will refresh your memory in due course. It became a regular activity in the first wave of classes, and I had no doubt that the trend would continue.

Unlike the first classes, this would be a bit more focused on acting rather than just exploring techniques. I like the idea of a more structured and focused approach as you feel that you have achieved a lot more over the 2 months of taking the course.

We would pretty much base the next eight weeks around one particular theatrical piece using the experience which we gained prior to this. The play we would work on is a piece called "The Notebook Of Trigorin". Though it is relatively modern, it's roots can be traced back to the revolutionary Chekhov play "The Seagull", which was adapted by a gentleman called Tennessee Williams into the script which we would be working from in class. Although over 100 years old "The Seagull" has set the standards for acting in modern day productions as at the time it explored new mediums of performance which were diverse and different. These new methods of acting are now what we see and take for granted in modern theatre. But hey, this is a blog not a history lesson so if you want to know more go use google or something! So yes the adaptation of this was called "The Notebook Of Trigorin" and thats what we would be studying.

There were some familiar faces this evening as well as some new ones. It was nice seeing a handful of people from the old classes. It is a testament to how well we gelled as a group to see all of us back together once more. Felt like being back at school after the summer holidays. The space we had this time however was at RADA, which frankly is much easier for me to reach compared to Swiss Cottage where i took the beginners course. Its nice to work in such a professional space like RADA, though I must say the building looks much more glamorous from the outside than it does from the inside. Furthermore a pole in the middle of our rehearsal space is somewhat awkward at times! But hey lets not get too hung up on these little things so early on. Who knows with my new found dancing abilities I could take up pole dancing by the end of this course too!

As ever the first week is about familiarising ourselves with one another and the techniques we would be using within the course. We addressed the idea of soft focus, which teaches you to be loosely conscious of what everyone is doing around you rather than having a sharp focus on just one person. Imagine walking in a line. If you have to keep an equal distance from the person in front of you, your focus will be solely on that individual, as it doesn't matter what anyone else is doing. However if you focus on everyones movements, our focus is less defined and concentrated and therefore becomes soft focus. Its rather difficult to explain but was very interesting to explore.

We went on to look at the history of the play we would be studying. Split into two groups we performed a short improvised piece. We were given a lot of freedom to chose the characters we would play, however the scene would be set in the theatre bar after the very first showing of either the original play "The Seagull" or the Tennessee Williams adaptation "The Notebook Of Trigorin". The concept of the improvisation would be to convey what happened at those very first shows. Believe it or not "The Seagull" which was my groups improvisation piece, has become a legendary play in theatre despite having a disastrous opening night. In short our group had to convey that the first night had been disastrous and show how one mans inspiration took this disaster and turned it into triumph.

I think overall our performance conveyed what happened quite well. It lacked some of the enthusiasm and flamboyance an improvisation piece needs to inspire an audience fully, but for something pieced together in ten minutes flat it did the job. Working with new people for the first time can also be a little difficult as it takes a while to suss out peoples personalities and abilities within acting. With regards to my individual performance, I was ok, maybe not as good as I was on Sunday at Saddlers Wells where we had a similar task, but thats life. You win some, you lose some and the rest of the time you just blend in withe crowd. Today I just blended in.

So in all it was a productive class. We have started to develop a sense of where the next seven weeks are headed. As for where we headed after class... it was to the "Vikas After School Club" of course. We found a nice little pub, the staff are friendly and the beer is cold. After kicking out time when only me and Vikas remained, we headed to KFC which would prove to be a terrible decision. Not only are KFC chips awful, this delay caused me to miss my last train home which ended in a long walk, a taxi ride and huge dent in my wallet!

So thats class 1 at RADA summarised. Keep checking back for new blogs and of course part two next week, where hopefully I will get back home before the clock strikes 3am!

G xxx

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Return Of Saddlers Wells (Part 1)

I will be honest right now. I don't think this blog will make the most enthralling read, I am hardly in the mood to do this write up... come to think of it I am hardly in the mood to do anything of late. Though for four brief hours I did find some happiness, which was rather unexpected for me seeing as these last few weeks I have been feeling terrible. So what happened in these four hours then? I was back at Saddlers Wells doing my drama classes after a month away from the subject. A month is a long time away from something I enjoy so much, every day seemed like a year. The great thing about partaking in drama is that you can just leave the real world behind. For those four hours I don't have to be Gareth... I can be almost anyone or anything I want to be. That makes me happy...

I have two classes back to back, both with a new course tutor called Cat. She is really nice and has an immense ability to get the creativity in the group flowing. Both groups were much smaller than what I had been used to before now. Maybe this was because the group was on a Sunday afternoon rather than a weekday evening which is when most of these courses are held. Who knows? All I know is it would definitely have a different feel working alongside so few people in comparison to my last two courses. I just hope we all get on well seeing how few of us there are! If we don't... well that would just be awkward, wouldn't it?

The first class is on a Sunday is based upon vocal technique, for me this is very important as the voice is one of the most important tools of the trade in acting, just like a paint brush is to a painter and decorator. Obviously being the first week we started on all rather basic relaxation and breathing techniques. Simple? Well yes it is, but you have to start at the bottom and work up. If you don't breathe properly you are getting into bad habits before you have even made a sound. You'd be surprised at how many people get the basics wrong. I want to have mastered the basics before going into a more intensive field of training next year.

Now for the second class, something a lot more relaxed, well at least it was for me... Acting. Like in my previous batch of classes before the summer we explored the depths of status after a few name games to familiarise ourselves with one another. Already I am starting to feel this group gelling well, which will be great for when we get onto the script work thats headed our way next week.

The vast majority of this lessons work was based upon improvisation. Improvisation is fun, as long as you can believe that you are who you are pretending to be. I really don't like the word pretend, it doesn't sound professional, but ultimately thats what improvisation is... it's pretending to be something or someone else. If you cannot believe that you are that something else you are trying to be, how will your audience believe you?

As I mentioned we will be going onto script work in the next couple of weeks. I am quite looking forward to it, we will be working on a modern piece that was performed in the National Theatre last summer... I can't remember its name for the life of me, but I always feel more at home in modern theatre than I do when working on dated script work.

This weeks class culminated with a brief performance which we had put together in two groups. I feel of the two groups we were leagues ahead. The three of us interacted well and produced a nice little scene. I really can't fault what we did too much, we used some great techniques which Cat picked up on, which went very nicely with the positive feedback she gave our group. I was gifted with the lead role in this piece which is rather unlike me. Normally I don't like to play a lead role, I prefer a part which is fairly notable, but not right at the forefront of things. I am rather pleased with the overall outcome of this class, a very positive first session indeed!

Only problem is... now I have to return to reality, and as you may have gathered my reality of late resembles a horror movie rather than the fairytale land we all wish we could live in. Well if i manage to pull myself through to Thursday evening I have another bout of drama then, lets hope this is as positive as what I have just talked about. Who knows it may help pick me up again.

G xxx

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hitting The Wall... Really Rather Hard

A few blogs ago, I said that I am always honest when I write... so do you wanna know how I feel right now? Pretty crap is the god honest answer.

If you drop an egg from your bedroom window, the chances are it will go splat. Of course that is working on the principal that your bedroom is upstairs and the egg isn't hard boiled. Either way this egg... well thats me right now... I feel like I have just gone splat. Why? I don't know, I just feel down, everything around me just feels down. The crazy thing is I have so many supportive people around me who say the nicest things and get right behind me (though not literally you may be pleased to know). They're are friends that I wouldn't trade for the world. Some of these I have only met in recent weeks, others have stood by me for a lot longer. Either way this is a point where I would like to put a big shout out to all my friends who are always there for me, I value each and every one of you. All of a sudden this is sounding more like a speech at the Tony Awards or the Oscars rather than a blog about me feeling down!

I have potential casting calls coming up, all be it for nothing spectacular and three courses in under a weeks time which will further my skills and take me another step closer to achieving that dream of mine which I have waffled on about so much over the last couple of months. Anyone in their right mind would be excited... some how i'm not. Its not nerves, I just feel so emotionless right now. Its like my character, my sole and inner being has been torn from me leaving the empty shell of a person behind. Sure I can fake a smile when I need to, but i'd rather smile because I was happy and not because I want to make other people happy instead. I know that sounds so over the top, but it summarises how I have felt for these last couple of weeks.

I guess I just need to find some inspiration. Watching Billy normally does that for me, especially when Fox is performing. What a great idea!!! Oh wait... I have about £3 to my name... plan B anyone? I guess I just need to hear something inspirational... its amaxing how some wise words normally get me fired up. I know its a Billy Elliot reference again but the most inspirational thing I have heard of late was an old interview with one of the original Billy's called Liam Mower. He said "I don't care if I become famous, I just want to be successful". What very wise words from someone who was twelve years old at the time. I totally feel this, its my thoughts exactly. I am keeping that quote close to my heart. Everyone dreams of stardom when they want to act, I dream of living a lifestyle I enjoy. Hell if my living costs are covered who really needs fame?

So I guess in conclusion, what I really need to do is take that egg thats gone splat, and replace it with a delicious chocolatey easter egg! Shame its not easter time, though that said, at the end of August, Christmas sweets were already appeaing in the supermarkets So anyway, thats where I am right now. So anyone have some words of wisdom that may pick me up?

G xxx