Thursday, 29 July 2010

An Inspector Calls: Act For A Cause

People will know that whilst I can be a fiery character at times, I have a huge heart... that sounds so big headed but it is true... well most of the time anyway. So today's blog gives you a little insight into one of my little projects called "Act For A Cause" which is affiliated to the drama society of which I am part - The Black Fox Theatre Society.

I thought up the principal of "Act For A Cause" a long time before I had any idea what I was going to do performance wise. The concept is that acting should be able to benefit others, not only through entertainment value, but also as a platform to raise awareness and funds for needed causes. When you think about it, there is a huge opportunity to convey a message to an audience be it through the play itself, the production's programme or a short announcement at the end of a show. The audience is right in front of you and attentive, you don't need to work for their attention... you already have it... its the perfect opportunity to get people involved with your cause.

I gave the concept some thought, and I really felt that it needed a personal touch to it. I have the feeling that when you support a large charity, though you know they do good work, you are not really sure how your money is being spent. This in turn means there is no true satisfaction that you personally have made a difference. There is also a huge lack of emotional attachment to larger charities, which for me is an issue. If you are promoting a cause, or raising funds... you need passion, because it is that passion which will encourage others to support what you are doing and give you the drive to push for the best possible results.

With these considerations in mind I decided that "Act For A Cause" would be very personal and very direct. The cause would be an individual, somebody with a story to tell, someone you can relate to. I wanted people to know that their support will directly benefit one individual, and I wanted people to know how the money raised would be spent and to know first hand how much it would mean to that individual. What is beautiful about this is that the story then continues, its not the end the minute you donate some money, you walk away knowing that in fact you have allowed a brand new chapter in that individuals life to begin. Whats more because there is a personal feel to the cause - you know exactly what the next chapter has in store.

The issue is that there are thousands of worthy causes out there, people with a story, brave and courageous people who have been through more than their fair share of bad luck. I had to therefore set myself some criteria for this project. I decided that I wanted a sick child to benefit in some way or another. There is so much we take for granted when we are kids, even as adults. Its not until you realise how hard some kids have it, and how much they have missed out on that you realise how lucky so many of us are. I set our researching some cases, and in the end my shortlist amounted to about 100 different children.

It was horrible reading through the stories, realising the individual torments, and daily battles that these youngsters have to endure. it was harder still for me having to strike causes from my shortlist. The only thing which comforted me was that none of the people involved knew that I was shortlisting them. I felt it best that way. Finally I got myself down to a handful of cases, and it was at this point that I knew exactly who I wanted to support. I kept going back to his story, a young lad called Ben Smith.

Ben is eleven years old and has been bravely fighting leukemia and its side effects, which has left him very poorly. What touched me most about Ben was his spirit. Just reading about everything he s doing with his life, his feet must never touch the ground. That is not to say that the other kids stories lacked spirit, but Ben's was right out there. He is learning the drums and dance among other things and not letting his illness consume his life. Though this fight obviously brings huge challenges not only for Ben but also his family, who are just as extraordinary. Not only are they a close loving family, they work tirelessly to raise awareness and money for leukemia charities as well as keeping Ben's followers up to date with his news and progress.

Ben's spirit really moved me, I am not ashamed to admit there was a tear or two whilst reading about his fight. The fact that Ben is so very poorly, yet such a fighter with such an infectious smile made him my favorite. He is special... I knew that from the moment I first read about him. So it is fair to say that a special kid deserves the very best "Act For A Cause" had to offer.

But this cause isn't all about Ben. His family have been forced to live on one income, with Ben's dad being his full time carer. So on top of this struggle, Ben and his family can't always enjoy the luxuries some of us take for granted. Yet their passion not only for Ben but other sick children through their fund raising but also their unity as a family through all of these tough times makes them very very special people.

I therefore set out to find out what Ben's dream is. Dreams can come true, and f they deserved to come true for anyone its Ben and his family. It transpires he has always wanted to go too Disney Land in Florida. So that is our aim, to somehow get him and his family there! It will be a blast for Ben and his sisters that's for sure!

We know this will be a huge task, but I am determined to make our first "Act For A Cause" a success. We will be doing this by donating whatever we can from out ticket sales at the production as well as raising funds on the door etc. There will be a feature on Ben in the programme also. As with many not for profit organisations, we ourselves rely on sponsorship and donations. I liked the fact that people donating to our drama society know that in part their donation is not only helping the actors involved that it also plays a part in making Ben's dream come true. It makes you feel better when you know that the money you donate isn't helping just one good cause, it in fact helps two. Its like a buy one get one free offer at Tesco... only much better!

I really wanted our drama society to be different, with better morals and ethics than most of the bigoted drama groups around. I hope this is one of many ideas that make us unique. Just got to hope we raise enough funds now to stage the show on the scale which we are hoping to! Not only for the shows case but also for Ben!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sunday Morning - Must Mean Church!!!

Well its a Sunday morning so all the good girls and boys are at church. I however am not a good boy it would seem, still in bed with my laptop at my side. However this blog is about as close as I am ever going to get to going to church on a Sunday morning, as I bring you my views on the West End musical "Sister Act".

With Sister Act closing at the end of October, it only made sense that I should see it before it departs from the London Palladium. Furthermore it was a show that neither myself or friend Louis had seen before. Having seen most of the shows in the West End it was definitely time for something fresh and new. The show had come with some high recommendations, though with it closing after just about a year maybe a little longer (i think), I was concerned that this in part reflected a poor audience response to the show. So I guess I went in with an open mind and no specific expectations which is sometimes a good thing. After all it was my high expectations of Wicked the musical which left me disappointed when it failed to reach the benchmark I had set.

I will at this point confess I have not even seen the film Sister Act, though I knew the rough plot. The show opens at a seedy night club where Patina Miller who stars in the lead role of Deloris Van Cartier is performing a cabaret routine on her birthday. It is after her set when looking for her boyfriend that she witnesses him commit a horrific murder which forces her on the run. Well I say horrific murder because it sounds good - truthfully it was more of a low key, cheesily acted murder. After reporting the crime to the police officer (who happens to be a geek who had a thing for Deloris in their school days) she is stowed away in a convent, among a group or disciplined nuns with an inability to sing. Needless to say Patina Miller's character saves the day, by teaching the nuns to sing in a completely new genre which changes all of their lives and saves the church they are associated with.

The show is meant to be cheesy - the fight scenes, the storyline - it is premium extra mature cheddar cheese at its finest. But that's what a show like this is meant to be, its a feel good musical that is there to give you a lift when you need it. With catchy sing along tunes Such as "Fabulous Baby" it is inevitable that you are going to leave singing the songs all the way home. Or in my case go away attempting to sing all the way home... trust me, you really don't want to hear me sing! No really... I am awful, I make even the worst singers on Britain's Got Talent look good!

I have to be honest whilst Patina Miller was on top form, I didn't think much of Simon Webbe in the role of "Shank" - the bad guy. I don't know what it is about West End productions that see the need to get washed up pop stars into their shows. Most of the time these pop stars don't have formal vocal training (lets be honest you don't need in to lip sync on stage!). The challenges of singing every night is often too much and the vocal strain becomes evident. Further more they are just what I said - wash ups. They are no longer stars... so why not look to the drama schools for some budding fresh new talent? With Sheila Hancock and Patina Miller among the cast, its not as though the production needs another "big" name!

So acting wise - there is nothing to be astounded by, but then again I don't think this show was ever meant to be taken seriously. I do however think the directors and creators of the show have mis-judged their target audience. In my opinion the show was written with the intent to be a family show, however the structure and storyline is a little confusing at times, leaving the younger audience at a loss. I may be wrong - but I feel this may be a partial reason for the shows demise in the West End. It would have been better targeted to a teen and young adult audience in my mind. Further more (and this is a criticism of many shows), there is not enough done to draw people in from outside of London. Posters at railway stations are not enough!!! You need to proactively reach out to your target audience and reel them in... I simply think that Sister Act has not done this at all. Though I think next month the door numbers will see a lift as "Whoppi Goldberg" from the original 1992 film will join the cast for a short run as Mother Superior.

In all - a fun show. Its a shame that it is closing, but in turn that will make way for a new show. I believe that will be "The Wizard of Oz" in the new year. I would recommend people see it before it closes at the end of October, as it is a feel good show. You walk away happy, relaxed and whilst you may not plan to see it a second time around, you wont have regretted your decision to go see it in the first place.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Miners Strike Reaches Potters Bar

My latest theatrical outing drew me to Potters Bar, a rather non descript little town somewhere north of London. At this point I must emphasise, my geography is rubbish - the UK is pretty much split into three zones. Firstly you have "the south" where I live, then there's "London", finally anywhere beyond London just becomes "the north". I should stress, I wouldn't advise using my geographical teachings in an exam... you won't get very far. Anyhow, I found myself in "the north" to see my very good friend Louis Gaudencio in the Top Hat Stage & Screen School's rendition of Billy Elliot, which formed part of the 5th Birthday Billy Youth Theatre initiative. Having been to one other Billy Youth Theatre production in Woking a month or so ago, I knew that I would both be expecting a lot and drawing a lot of comparisons to both that show and the West End performance.

I think what is interesting in seeing two different amateur performances of the same show is that you get to see just how important and influential the direction becomes. I think the directors role is often forgotten about in reviews when the writers lavish praise upon the actors or alternatively blast them for a shoddy performance. The fact remains that the director is at the helm and is ultimately responsible for whatever goes on. So that is where I am going to start my review today.

I will be brutally honest - I disagreed with more than I agreed with in terms of the direction. For starters what was with cutting "He Could Be A Star"? The song represents a pinnacle turning point in the show where Billy's family come around to the idea of him becoming a dancer. It also stands for the unity and spirit within the community in that era. Ultimately, aside from Billy wanting to become a dancer this is one of the main themes of the musical which is brought to life in the original London show. The song "Once We Were Kings" had also been scrubbed from the performance. Again it highlighted the miners spirit as well as their plight and suffering at the time. I feel these two parts were hugely missed, and in effect altered the sentiments and meaning of the show. I would however like to say on the music front, the band in the capable hands of musical director Grant Martn were fabulous!

But what about the acting? Well with all youth productions you come across a mixed bag of young actors, but I love crediting those who really deserve it, and tonight I am going to start with Sarah Phasey. I must say I felt she was really strong, with a fantastic voice. Her harmonising with Joshua Smyth (the second act Billy) in the reprise of the Letter was perfect, and captured the emotion of the song so well. Throughout I felt Sarah delivered a performance that could be likened to the West End "dead mum", both in her voice and mannerisms. Whilst it is only a small role, it is a hugely significant one - and a role I feel Sarah delivered superbly throughout. The same praise can be lavished upon Louis Gaudencio who rose to the occasion in the role of Tony, the older brother of Billy. His characterisation of the part seems to be derived from that of Craig Gallivan who currently stars in the same role in the West End. Louis was confident throughout, and too delivered a memorable performance. Another huge talent waiting for a big break.

A strange directing decision was to cast two boys in the role of Billy, one for each act of the show. With the size of the role, I could see the benefits of this (as there would be less pressure on each boy to learn their part). Equally however it makes you want to compare them with one another which inevitably I am about to do. The first act Billy - Harry Sharer seemed to lack a little confidence, which is understandable as I would imagine this is the biggest show he has done to date. I do however feel he has all the potential stowed away which will develop in due course, he is young, I would imagine no older than 11 or 12, so give him a year or two and I think he will be rather good indeed.

Harry bowed out during "angry dance" making way for a fantastic tap dancer who I'd love to credit by name, however he isn't listed in the programme. I have to admit this was one of the highlights of the show for me... simply amazing raw talent, boy could this kid dance! The second act made way for Joshua Smyth who I must say is an extremely talented actor in the making, delivering his lines with expression and emotion throughout he took ownership of the stage which is essential when in a lead role. A confident performance tied in with a fantastic ability to sing ensured that the second act really stood out even if it was lacking two of my favorite songs from the show. Joshua has a natural ability to perform, that is something which can never be taught, and it is that ability which I feel will see him progress a long way within performing arts should he wish to take that route in life.

Now on to the role of Michael... anyone who knows me will know just how picky I am when it comes to this part in the show. Just read everything I have to say on a current West End Michael "Jake Pratt" and you will see exactly what I mean. Sam Higgs therefore had a lot on his plate if he was to impress me. Thankfully he had what it needed, an uncompromisable level of energy, a great sense of movement and of course that cheeky Michael charm which radiates into the audience drawing out the laughter. Sam made "Expressing Yourself" look like a breeze in the park, though a moment that really pleased me was when Michael declares he will miss Billy if he goes off to ballet school. In the West End version of the show, this moment is completely lost when Michael delivers the line too quickly. Sam however took a moment to capture the mood, a short silence then "well I'd miss you".... sheer acting beauty that, bringing such feeling into a line put the icing on the cake for an all round superb performance from Sam.

I will confess now that I wasn't keen on the performance of Callum Crawford as Billy's Dad. Whilst he was confident, his articulation was so fast at times I struggled to take in exactly what he was saying, but further more he seemed to lack expression and emotion in his voice. I think this aside he deserves a little credit. Callum was part of another Top Hat cast for the show and stood in for this performance at the last minute when the casted dad was forced to pull out of the show for personal reasons. Maybe the nerves in unfamiliar surroundings among a cast he barley knew got to him? I don't know, I just expected more from a lead role especially seeing as he too is an older performer.

I also felt the Mrs Wilkinson lacked the attitude she needed, at times I guess she just seemed too nice and lacked authority. Though I should emphasise the role played by Emily Miles was again confident and well learned, just seemed to lack that spark it needed. I am sure there is natural ability there which in another role would allow her to shine (see what i did there... shine... Mrs Wilkinson's song... yeah terrible pun, I'm sorry) But seriously, I feel Emily has potential, just maybe this role wasn't quite right for her. I would also have loved to of seen more prominence from the ensemble roles also, and maybe more emphasis put onto their parts, most notably the policemen in the song solidarity.

So my views overall - I felt disappointed by the direction of the show. Tied in with the opening of this review, I feel the minimalism was too much at times, a basic set would have made a huge difference. The show could have done with a few more rehearsals I felt, especially seeing as the demands on such a young cast were so great. I think that would have helped confidence issues, and the few slip ups which various members encountered. Though in all I felt the cast did pull together well, and there were some exceptional performances.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Everything In Birmingham Is Just So

I find myself in the heart of Birmingham, and whats more I have been in the city for a few hours already, and get this... I've not been mugged or stabbed... I know!!! I am just as surprised as you are!!! No... truthfully people round here have been lovely, including the two police officers who helped me after my iPhone decided to try and kill me! (Its true... but I shouldn't wander too much off topic... you know what I am like!)

So why the hell am I in Birmingham? Well, since getting back into performing and mingling among theatrical circles, I have met a lot of new people and made new friends. One of these is James Hinton, who forms part of the "The Young Rep", a Birmingham based youth theatre group, who are staging their musical rendition of "Just So". The musical is based on the immortal short stories of Rudyard Kipling in the words of the programme. I guess he got bored of writing stories, which was probably a good thing as Mr Kipling makes the most fantastic cakes these days instead.

I am always keen to support my friends when they perform, us small time actors have to stick together... or something like that! Not long ago I traveled to Liverpool to see a friend in a fabulous version of "Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi", and next week I am seeing another friend perform in Potters Bar (wherever the hell that is... no really! Someone tell me... I haven't got a clue). So for the very same reason I am here in Birmingham. From my perspective it is also nice to see smaller shows as that is what I hope to be involved with in the near future, so it helps to give me ideas on how we can stage our smaller projects.

My concern with all young casts is that unlike a professional performance you will always get actors of mixed abilities. When you are sat in your seat just before the show starts you can only hope that the director has cast the right people in the right roles, especially in musicals as the singing and choreographed movement is much more defined and disciplined than in a play. Its something that leaves me nervous every time. My experiences have been mixed until now, so it was time to see what Birmingham had to offer.

Well what can I say? A stand out performance came from Glen Jordan who played the elephant child, which was one of the three lead roles in the show. Just like football, in acting you have to be just as good off the ball as you do on the ball. Ok strange analogy I know, but the principal is the same. Even when the spotlight is not directly on you, you have to remember that the audience is still aware that you're there and can see everything that you do. This is where Glen shone, every reaction, every movement was mastered to perfection. It didn't matter if he was hiding behind a tree, he let his body language portray his characters emotions at that specific moment in time. Its something that many actors forget - but Glen really impressed me here.

So that was Glen when the spotlight wasn't directly shining down on him, so what happens when he is at the forefront of the action? He is a blinding actor who is passionate about performing, who owns the stage when he is up there. As for his singing it was note perfect, and again the best in the entire company. It is rare to find someone who can blow you away on all levels, but Glen is an example that these performers do really exist. I really cannot emphasise how good this guy is.... put him on a West End stage, and you wouldn't be able to tell him apart from the pros, that's how good he really is. Glen will have a future in theatre... I just know it!

Kristal Watkins and Emily Owen were also fantastic within their roles as the two female leads. Both clearly have a passion for singing, and have taken on their roles with a great deal of confidence. They both had solo pieces which they delivered well most notably a song about the kolokolo bird who couldn't fly sung by Emily which was superb.

As for the supports on the whole I feel they too delivered their parts well. Not that I doubt my friends, but James really blew me away with his singing and characterisation of the Leopard. I never realised he was such a good singer until now, I'm still in shock! You learn something new about your friends every day I suppose! I don't want to be too critical of his partner playing the Jaguar but I feel James was far better, the pairing in my eyes was questionable, as James' counterpart seemed uncomfortable on stage. There was a real mixed ability among the supports some better than others, but as I said in the opening this was expected.

I think the story was very well written, and very family friendly, and it all flowed rather well in fact. However there was a role of a Kangaroo (who interestingly was played by the same girl who was a talking cooking stove which I thought was played very well indeed) in the second half of the show. I have to say it was well acted... very hyper and bouncy... frankly superb. I just struggled to appreciate how it fitted into the script (seeing as its based in Africa). Ths was explained in part but at this point I felt the script just went off at a random tangent. Though as I said very well acted, but I felt let down by the girl playing the dingo who the kangaroo partnered. Now I am not here to slag off actors, but I have always said I will speak my mind and be truthful in reviews. I just felt the dingo I felt had no passion, it was almost like the girl playing the role didn't want to be there, which really let the side down. Its a good job it was only a small role I suppose! The girl playing the Rhino however was fabulous with a great voice and her entrance from the back of the theatre was impressive, she really took hold of her opportunity in the spotlight and dominated.

The set was fairly minimalistic but effective, the music was well written. The ensemble pieces worked really well and were fantastically harmonised, which I feel was an issue in some of the duets and smaller group numbers where it didn't work as well. I feel a lot of work must have gone into this show as ts come off really well overall. Sound wise there were issues throughout, which left me wanting to deck the sound man. I always get annoyed when the technical team let down the performers... maybe that's just the actor in me having a rant?

Overall I was pleased with the outcome. I am proud of my friend for being part of the show and for performing so well (even though he disputes this.... but we all know Gareth knows best). But most of all I am pleased to have stumbled across yet another fantastically talented performer - Glen Jordon. Look out for his name in the west end programmes in the coming few years... he will be there I assure you!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Save The Last Dance For Me (Rambert Blog Series Finale)

Ok this will be short and in a few seconds you will find out why.... no really this finale to my series of Rambert blogs will probably disappoint as much as the final episode of Lost when that came to an end earlier this year. So please don't get your hopes up... in fact why are you still reading?

I felt that I needed to round up the Rambert series of blogs. Its not good to leave a story at a loose end after all. I left off after my first visit to Rambert, I went to two more shows after this. The first at Saddlers Wells later that week and another back at the school itself the week after. Whilst all were similar, there were some subtle differences between the shows, but what they all had in common was the fact they all left me amazed and in awe of the talent I was witnessing before my very eyes.

I think it shows that we all need a reality check. We look to television shows like X Factor and Britain's Got Talent to find what are supposed to be the most talented acts in the country. But are we right to do this? I appreciate there is much ability on these shows, but are they really the best in the country? I think not. When you see a show like the three that I witnessed you realise that talent goes beyond "ability". It calls on passion, energy and self belief, and each of those attributes can be found in every performer at every Rambert show. So you want real talent? Switch off the TV and see a show like I did. You will not regret it.

So where is this blog leading? I could talk about the latter two Rambert shows in depth. I could highlight the differences between the three shows. I could attempt an in depth analysis of the performances. (But lets face it I am no expert so that would be a journalism suicide) I could also talk about each of my chats with Liam. I could point out why i feel so inspired. You know what? I could do a lot of things... but I am not going to.

The point is there are a lot of things I could say. But when you go through an experience that means such a tremendous amount to you, sometimes its nicer to keep it closer to the heart rather than blurb it all across the internet. I love sharing things with anyone who wants to read my blogs and I made a rule that I would be as open as possible, but you know this is going to be an exception to the rule, and lets face it we can all bend the ruses sometimes!

All I will say in conclusion, is that I now appreciate dance more than ever before, and I have learned so much in my short time at these three shows. As for Liam, I thought the world of him before these shows, I now think even more of him on every single level, I have some great memories not only from the shows but also in getting to chat with him afterwards. Oh, and yes I will be back at Rambert next time they have a show thats for sure!

Oh in other news - 2 days ago marked my blog's first birthday... where are the cards and presents people???

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A Chance Encounter At Rambert

At the interval of the show I had read about the struggle Rambert are having in raising funds for student bursaries. I can relate - it is so very hard to raise funds for the arts, my theatre group too are struggling to raise the urgently needed funds for our forthcoming production of An Inspector Calls. The show tonight had only cost me £6 entry, which by any standards is a bargain. Yet seeing all the hard work that had gone into making it happen, I felt almost guilty that I had paid so little to see such divine art. I have to be honest I am very morally bound as a person, and whilst at times it might not seem that way, I know from experience that if I feel bad about something, I need to address that issue immediately otherwise it gets at me for a long time after that.

It was this which spurred me into turning around and heading back into the building. I'd grasped £30 from my wallet. Bar a few coppers it was pretty much all I had. I looked around for a donations box... there wasn't one. I couldn't just walk away, I had to find some way of getting the cash to the school. After all I wanted to give a little something back having had such an amazing evening.

I pondered over my options for a moment, when I saw someone who was clearly affiliated with the school who I assumed was one of the teachers. I approached him cautiously (as anyone will tell you, in certain circumstances I am very nervous and find it hard to talk to people) and asked whether there was such a box. He said there wasn't, which at least meant I wasn't being blind when I couldn't see one minutes earlier. I explained my predicament, at which he offered to ensure the money got to the right place. I was very trusting in handing the notes over... after all this could be anyone, I didn't know him... yet I trusted him.

Sometimes you get a gut feeling which just makes you trust someone, and that feeling was right as it transpired that I was talking to the principal of Rambert. We had a nice little chat, though I must confess I was still very nervous. Ross McKim isn't what you would envision the principal of a high profile dance school to be like, or at least he didn't seem that way to me. He was very down to earth, laid back and seemed to enjoy a fantastic rapport with his students. What a lovely guy he was.

As I left the building for the second time that evening, I felt somewhat lifted. I knew I had done my bit and looking back, the evening was amazing. I was still in awe at the immense ability I had witnessed throughout. Furthermore I had seen my biggest inspiration, Liam Mower perform. Could the night get any better? I mean c'mon I was already on a natural high from everything that had happened thus far... I already felt things were perfect.

I slowly pondered towards the huge gates at the entrance of the school, no doubt muttering a song or a tune... like I am prone to doing. As I looked up, among a few of what I assume are his friends was Liam. What to do? Nerves once again set in. This was becoming a familiar feeling. However at that split second I remembered back to the last time I had spoke to him. He was lovely. Then another split second later it did cross my mind whether in different circumstances things would be the same. I was genuinely scared of making conversation at this point, as I slowly strolled in his general direction.

"Hey Liam, great show" I uttered.... or something to that effect anyhow. The next couple of seconds seemed like an eternity as he gave me a look which said "I know you from somewhere but I can't remember where". I reminded him of our last chat and he seemed pleasantly surprised to see me, maybe he didn't think I would keep to my word of showing up, or maybe he was just pleased to have had support at the show. I really don't know. We proceeded to chat for a minute or so, mostly about the evening. He genuinely seemed interested in what I had to say, which was so nice. It was a lovely chat!

What happened next is so typical of me in normal circumstances... problem is these were far from normal circumstances!!! Whenever I leave a friend I always hug them. It is just so "Gareth like" to do that. Just ask any of my drama buddies! Yet when I am around people who have inspired me I normally remain very much composed. But out of the blue I turned to Liam and gave him a hug goodbye. This was such a spontaneous moment, but it was fantastic as Liam hugged back. I have to say on record he is a fantastic hugger... but for me it was something special to share a moment like that. A hug with any of my friends is a really great moment, but a hug with Liam is on a whole new level.

As I walked home I couldn't help but wish the next 40 odd hours away, as yet gain I would be at a Rambert performance, only this time at Saddlers Wells. More about that next time!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Lets Get Ready To Rambert

So following on from yesterday...

As the lights dimmed I felt a strange sense of security which I hadn't felt all evening. I guess all of a sudden I was no longer feeling like a rouge, rather part of a unified audience gathered for the very same purpose. No longer was I an outsider, I felt like I was starting to blend in. My lack of technical knowledge didn't matter anymore either, and the fact that I knew nobody around me had now become irrelevant. I could just sit back and enjoy the show. I must admit, I still didn't know what to expect, but I was still very excited to be seeing something like this.

With the lights dimmed a pattering of bare feet rumbled across the floor as about ten dancers took their places for the opening routine called "First Steps", which was one of Liam's two pieces. I really liked this dance it was smooth, elegant and extremely diverse. I appreciate that it wasn't the most technical but it had a real warmth to it. In my mind there is always more warmth in group numbers, as you start to appreciate relationships and interaction between the dancers. It also brings to light the intensive discipline required when performing, as timing and placement is everything. That of course is without taking into account the difficulty of the movement and flexibility that is required of the dancer which must put a lot of physical strain on the body.

Already I felt so much more relaxed, I had already sunken into a state of sheer awe at the ability of the dancers I had seen, and we were only a matter of minutes into the performance. I was loving it, I felt invigorated, inspired and refreshed, and with the evening still young I had a feeling that by the end, I would be speechless.

Whilst I was very much in support of Liam, I couldn't help but notice as the evening progressed that there was nobody at fault. To date I have never been to a show where I could say that every performer was perfect. I think this is where my lack of technical knowledge is fantastic. I take everything I see at face value, which means I am not looking to analyse the work, rather just enjoy it, which is a really nice feeling.

Something I did note however... a stand out performance came from a third year student by the name of Ashley Orwin. He just looked so happy to be performing, and his smile completely infectious. He really came to life in "Diversion Of Angels" which was the final piece of the night however was on form all evening and just seemed to be having so much fun. It's so nice to see a performance like that and it makes such a huge difference to the audience to watch someone like that.

Anyhow... I talked of Ashley's smile. Seems irrelevant doesn't it? But I assure you, its not irrelevant at all. Never before had i noticed the importance of facial expressions and body language in dance. After all dance isn't just a series of choreographed movements. It is filled with so much emotion, and furthermore each routine tells a story. This requires more than the movements, body language alone can create imagery to set the mood of the piece being performed in an instant.

A piece which captured a much deeper and darker side of emotional spectrum was "Brahman", which incidentally was Liam's 2nd piece of the evening. It happens to be one of my favorite routines of the performance too. It was packed with short sharp movements and ever changing relationships among the dancers. With such depth and mystery to it, I couldn't help but be drawn in. At times it reminded me of the fight sequences in the awesomely choreographed "West Side Story", though I really don't know why. Maybe it was down to the way in which the dancers interacted with one another or possibly the heightened senses brought by the darkness and mystery within the routine. Either way it was fantastic and really demonstrated the pressures placed upon the body during dance and the strength required to perform to that standard.

Its impossible to single out the best dance or the best dancer of the evening but I guess I really should try. Of course Liam is and will remain my favorite purely for the positive influence he has played on my life both inside and outside of performing. He was absolutely superb an exceeded all expectations I had of him. You can see the energy, passion and hard work which he and indeed everyone has put into the show to make it happen. I was left breathless by it all. If I had to name two dancers who really did shine in addition to Liam it would be Josh Ben-Tovim and Ashley Orwin. So look out for those names someday because they will make it far... I am sure of that.

Anyhow, as the show drew to an end, I slowly made my way out to the main gates into the quiet and secluded side road in which Rambert is situated. But something didn't feel right. I checked my pockets... wallet, keys, phones... I wasn't missing anything, but I somehow just couldn't walk away. Why? Well that will all become apparent next time....

G x

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Rouge At Rambert

Anyone who knows me well will appreciate just how much I love performing arts, and as I have said many times before, I rely on the inspiration certain individuals bring to me. There aren't too many people who have the ability to change the way I set about things, but those who do manage to inspire me become very special to me.

One of these people is Liam Mower. What is it about Liam that inspires me so much? Yeah I know what you are thinking... Billy Elliot. That's where you would be wrong. He in fact single handed changed my outlook on dance as a performing medium. That's quite a result! But he inspires me in the way he leads his life also. Liam has never let anything stand in his way when it's come to living his dream to dance. Now at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, he has once again left his life behind in Hull putting everything he had on the line to follow his dreams. That is determination and I really admire that so much! He has openly said that whilst he enjoyed acting he wants to fulfil his aspirations in dance whilst at his prime. In short he is living his life to the max in the way he wants to live it. So that's what I really like about Liam among other things of course!

With a more diverse outlook on performing arts I was really keen to see a show that was all about dance and nothing else. After all it's not quite the same to appreciate dance when it's part of a different show such as a musical. When briefly chatting to Liam at the end of March he made me aware of the Rambert end if term shows. I at that point announced I would go see him perform.

I am sure Liam wouldn't have remembered that conversation, but I did, and was determined to be true to my word. I was also very excited about the prospect of such a show and knowing the standard of training the students at Rambert receive, I was sure it would be an amazing evening.

Furthermore in terms of my own acting... I guess I feel like I have been running on empty these last couple of weeks. I needed refueling (and unlike cars you can't just take me to a petrol station). This needed something special, or rather someone special who could rejuvenate my energy levels and motivation to perform. So there was now even more reason to get along to the show! As with a bit of luck it would give me the lift I was looking for, and if it was anything like the last time I saw Liam perform I knew it would do just that.

I arrived in good time and for a moment stood outside of the main gates to the school. For some reason I was nervous, I felt like a bit of a rouge... Out of place as after all whilst I love watching dance routines I am no expert! As i listened to people talk I became increasingly aware that I was the newbie, baffled by the dance terminology that was being thrown around. I also always imagined shows like this to be for people far posher than me... And let's face it... I'm not very posh. I was truly concerned that I wouldn't fit in and for a brief moment wondered if I should just turn and run.

A few deep breaths later I proceeded onto the lobby then took my aisle seat in the second row of the impressive studio facility at the heart of the school. I was strangely nervous, but excited to know Liam would be one of the first dancers to perform in a routine called "First Steps". But how would the show fair? Would I enjoy it? Would Liam still remain one of my biggest inspirations when the night came to a close? All will be revealed next time!

G x