Sunday, May 19, 2013
Why the absence? The last 3 weeks of rehearsals were hard. My father died which, whilst a release for a very long term Alzheimers sufferer was still unsettling especially as I did not go to the UK for the funeral.
Then Ritchie's grandfather accidentally ran over and killed a drunk lad lying by the side of the road one early drizzly dawn. Then Danny's younger sister died of cancer. So we were struggling to maintain one let alone two casts, not to mention the emotions of several cast members; plays are not necessarily the most important things in the world at the best of times.
Despite all of this, many people are claiming it is the best of the big shows to date. We seem to have less unexpected laughter than previous years as people follow the story closely. Its strongest element is probably the swift story telling that Jo manages in the second half as we sense a society on the brink of dictatorship. Feelings run high. Last night Charlie was subject to hissing from a section of the audience as his character entwined himself completely round the gangsters. Many have come up after the show to say it is very close to the bone, telling it like it is etc.
Yet for a director this is a confusing time. The show is no longer yours, you lob in a few notes, tweak the odd scene but ultimately whilst you glow if the audience likes it, watching it every time becomes counterproductive; you worry unnecessarily because you yourself feel no more surprises in the production.
so onwards to Love patrol series 7 I guess.
Friday, April 19, 2013
So the thing is blocked out. When the second half moves as it should, it's a giddy ride but it only needs one line to drop, one entrance to be slightly late and the wheels come off.We've been working this second half for the best part of two weeks, one cast one week, the other the next. This is a deflating business and i feel sorry for the second cast. The thrill of discovery is replaced with, if you're not careful, the chore of going over it all again but we did improve on some scenes.There is also as I feared the fact that one or two roles seem more appropriate to members of one cast than the other.
And there's been the evening rehearsals with 37 youth who have proved very hard to keep focussed. Jo came to one rehearsal and when she could bear it no longer (some group chortling and then criticizing another youth's mistake. She stood up and screamed at them, saying that as she'd written it, she was bloody well going to take it back and she didn't give a shit. They were stunned and the next ten minutes were bliss. for the first time one could rehearse little bits to a backdrop of silence.No one dared look anywhere else from their choral seating area than at the actors performing on the stage.The only mistake she made was after the run through, that was very good, she gave the play back to them.Too soon in my opinion! The next day it was business as usual.
In the last 24 hours there's suddenly been unlooked for, unexpected money available for a big extension to the sports area at WSB. It's made it impossible to focus entirely on directing.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
They were mortified when I said at the end that it was the first session I hadn't enjoyed. Must finish it tomorrow.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
With Klaem long Lada ia we had a stodgy post Easter start. Already 8 to 8.30am learn lines/ do exercises regime not being followed, people coming late and some friction over some members desire to get an advance to contribute to a Vila 'bus association' collective that some of us view as at best a loss making venture and at worst little more than a scam. So we talked that out before going further in rehearsals and 17 still want to go ahead with the sceme. But at least a talk about that and a talk about rules and priorities seemed to set us on our way and we had encouraging run throughs of the first half by the end of the week. The other thing that slowed us down was rehearsing the second cast. Instead of understudies we do the show with 2 casts; same actors but swapping parts. This gives most of the core group a crack at something substantial as well as coping with sickness during the run. But with so much chorus and with the first cast bedding down so well, it did feel depressing to go back to the start and work it all out again, especially as most actors had focussed on their role in the first cast. It can get awkward too when someone is so clearly more at ease in one part than the other actor taking that part. It is also incredibly hot and humid in the theatre at present which doesn't make it easier. But still good moments. Joyanne comes up to me before the run through and asks, 'Does June find it easy to tell Terry she cant keep seeing him because she's going overseas on a scholarship or does she really like him and it's actually quite hard to tell him?' I said 'If that's how you want to play it go for it.' And she captured that awkwardness beautifully. I sometimes worry that we're a 'learn our lines bang it down on the stage' kind of group so I like it when actors bring these character questions to scrutinize.
What else? had a chat with a new manager who has transferred from the private sector. The youth centre over small pocket money to a few youth to pick up litter between Wan Smolbag and the Malapoa turn off. She was getting them to sign receipts and one couldn't sign because she couldn't read and another didn't know his family or last name and she helped him sign his other name, writing it in very big letters for him to copy. She talked too of her daughter studying in the Philippines who does work for her church at the weekend and sees a level of poverty she had never encountered in Vanuatu. They visited a mother and 9 children who lived under a tarpaulin and another baby had died two days before the daughters visit but was still lying there as the mother didn't have the money to bury it. And we questioned how long it would be before , or if it ever would reach that stage.
Have spent the weekend blocking out the second half in my head. It has to move at breakneck speed and is full of chorus that will become boring if it is just chanted out. Hopefully bits can be said by actors stepping quickly in and out of character and by whizzing it around our multi tiered set. I find it thrilling when you give yourself a chance to think it through often taking a fairly outlandish thought of where to start off a sequence and then just running with it. Really felt quite powerful...inside my head! Next week the stage where doubtless some of it wont work but at least its a starting point.
Friday, March 29, 2013
We've been focussing on one cast all week because a couple of actors are away. Quote of the week from Helen as I try to set the atmosphere for a scene involving 3 beleaguered wives left at home on a friday night; you're embittered by the struggle for every vatu; one minute this woman's your friend and the other one's your enemy , the next day its the other way round.....'yes, Peter, we know we live it everyday'. Put thoroughly in my place.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Cakes were much enjoyed, (orange polenta in my opinion the best!) as was the rehearsal. Seemed to work although Peter Brook's comments about his first ever day at the RSC resonate each time I tackle a new 'big play'. In The Empty Space he recounts making a model of the first entrance of , I think, As You Like It, the day before and then asking everyone to do it and it was a disaster because they weren't like his models. Some were tall, some short; some walked fast, others slow , which of course opened up new possibilities and he never made another model. I don't make models but the images I see in my head are still generalized and I get so excited as I prepare it thinking that I think I've cracked it. It is only when the actors come in that you realize the flaws or in this case perhaps the floors because there are several different levels, slopes and heights to consider.See the finished set:
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Have been baking cakes all morning..orange polenta, banana, dried fruit bread and carrot cake....some theatre groups start with earnest character discussions, read throughs, impros and we start with a cake breakfast....all with low sugar content naturally! The actors have been on tour with no time off to relax from that and 2 years ago when we started Zero Balans it proved a lovely way to begin. Have the opening 5 page chorus section in my head which is very different form saying it will work on the stage but cant wait. Doubtless tomorrow will be a huge anti climax..someone will be sick, several will be late some will be hungover or generally feeling Monday morning is too hard to handle so feet on the ground..... feet on the ground repeat after me feet on the..
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
The biggest fright in JIN was Titus appearing in his drunken MP scene without a shirt, mimicking the recent photo that appeared in the newspaper of a controversial MP drunk and bare chested outside a night club. It would be the night that I'd chosen to watch the show from the back row where there was no easy escape! Inspired political satire to some members of the audience and unnecessary to others like myself. I mean its not like he's the only MP to be raving drunk in public, just the only one unlucky enough to be caught on photo. Going on bare chested, to me at any rate, let the others off the hook.
Given the actors' fears that perhaps the central character in JIN would be seen as denigrating women, it is funny to see the way in which the audience identify with her and will her on. Audience watching is fascinating, particularly in an alleyway production where you can see the other side mesmerised by Morinda's wonderfully energetic performance . They love every dreadful thing she says and the way she is actually one of the more honest characters.
Daytimes we're filming the kids play. The first time we have done something like this without an overseas presence. We've kept it all on the stage and used stage lights plus a few 300's. It wont look that great probably but hopefully is capturing the energy of the piece in a better way than just pointing a camera at it. More and more endeared to the youth group and the core actors too seem to be enjoying the link. They are so funny. One girl had disappeared off to beauty class at the youth centre just when we were ready to roll on a big song . Someone went to get her and a senior actor said to the rest that none of them were to admonish her. She arrives, we roll, nothing happens. The girl concerned is in tears. Sure enough like a bunch of piranhas they'd gone for her the moment she came back. Half an hour later they're gathered together, errant girl included, around the monitor, laughing their heads off at the final shot we'd taken that day!
On the personal front, Jo and I have taken the plunge, applied for citizenship and been accepted. Now the long process of returning our British and Australian passports.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Photo courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org
April 5, 20 12. A shot from Janis ia Nao (Now's our Chance!) during a rollicking run through last week. If they appear to be looking away from the seating, they're not. Theatre is set up as an alleyway.
All three productions nearing completion. Janis ia Nao; Zero Balans and the youth group play. Not to mention Health force's revival of their diabetes play. The title of which i have forgotten. Fascinating discussion at an organisational meeting about Nutrition. We'd met to propose that anyone wishing to sell food at the centre had to have it approved by the nutrition department/centre. A lot of junk being sold. Fascinating what people don't know. A great discussion around vetsin (MSG). Much amazement that when you add vetsin...and soy sauce...and salt you are actually adding salt times 3!!! One group member asked well if you shouldn't add vetsin, how do you make your food taste good?
The youth play, Whu nao I rong? has had a couple of previews. The most touching was for WSB actors. It being in the round, the company made a very intimate, one row circle audience. It was the first time we’d had the youth perform exclusively for the company, which is a poor reflection on our inclusiveness of the youth drama club. It was beautiful and the hardened pros were visibly moved. There is a sprinkling of very good actors in the youth club and some very young not very good ones but the overall impact of 25 kids of school going age, but not in school, telling us their story in song dance and drama has an impact that more polished stuff sometimes doesn’t.
It is a struggle keeping that group together. There are some wild kids. Every rehearsal seems littered with thumps usually boys on boys but sometimes on girls, either part in jest or vague annoyance. It is impossible to keep the company quiet when it’s offstage and yet its vibrancy and basic love of what they are doing is equally visible. Given that the play isn’t very kind to parents I asked whether they still wanted a show for their parents; perhaps it would make them cross I suggested. ‘No they have to come’ was the chorused response. ‘ We want them to understand! ‘ So, that show is tonight. Hopefully they will be so thrilled to see their children on stage, the content will sort of pass them by!
Photo courtesy of email@example.com
There are some sad stories. For most, school finished before the end of primary and the youth centre has become their second home. My involvement with the youth has come at the same time as my youngest daughter has been doing her teaching practice in quite a tough Melbourne school. The stories she tells us on skype of student dysfunction, difficult home lives and aggression towards teachers are heart breaking and between the two groups I feel a keen sense of how we seem to cast so many youth on to the scrap heap whatever our country’s level of wealth.
Friday, March 16, 2012
End of the first week of rehearsal on the new play. Reached half time! The scenes are in the main two or three people and we've belted along.
I don't know whether the group's doubts about the play and what it's all about have been resolved but it rattles along and seems a good story and it is high time Morinda had a lead role . The wooden blocks? Yes, they are heavy but they have also been pressed into multiple shape duty. This works well but requires energy especially for carting around the bigger ones.
Health Force have been reviving their play on diabetes. They abandoned it yesterday to try and deal with the Blacksands plastic soup. It appears that Planet 107 has made a wall and fence on the river bank, in the process digging up the plastic waste dump of a former tenant, Mr Juicy, and sending it floating along the river. They spent all day on it yesterday but Yaxsley reckons thy'll need a net to get it all.
The youth play is a lot of fun to direct. 26 youth lots of songs and dance and performed in the round. We have a wide range of kids , at least half in the year 6 to year 8 age range and none of them in school. It is the most dedicated group we've had in the 4 years the youth drama's been running. We worked from 5.30 to 8 pm last night. They work with their group leaders in the daytime and i see them two nights a week. It is rewarding when even the rascals are relatively restrained and into it.
The joint is jumping at the moment. All this drama work, masses of kids attending youth centre classes and playing sport. At lunch many different depts plus the youth drama group eat soup and 2 salads at the nutrition centre and there're twice weekly zumba classes that bring together peer educators cleaners project managers actors and a few visitors. It's a joyous place to be right now.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
So, the theatre season is cranking up now. This week we started a new play with the youth group...in the round for a change. The disabled theatre group have re rehearsed their play for schools from last year and will take the plane to Luganville for a tour of schools there. This is a very exciting event for that group. Then next week we start rehearsals for a totally new major play and a revival of Zero Balans which will play in tandem in Vila before going to Luganville in june. We will stage them both in an 'alleyway' stage.
We came back from tramping in NZ to find one group had already improvised a delightful new play on elections and voting . Two other groups were struggling more with their improvised stories and so in the end one group opted to take on the play already devised and the third group that had a central idea that was strong but stubbornly refused to spin out into a play Jo and I scripted . The groups have just come back from their island tours full of tales of the skulduggery going on out there even with the election still 6 months away, some of which is astounding and so depressing.
One common theme of the plays was trying to look at just what some MPs get up to in town which their voters back home have no idea about. Conversely i don't think we have any idea of the extent to which cash and cargo are swilling around the islands. The new big play also concludes with the lead up to an election. We had a read through before the groups went on tour and it provoked some strong discussion. Unlike some previous plays it's a little harder to say what it's about and that disconcerted some actors. Also unusually every main part is female. It's the story of a rather foul mouthed, kava drinking single mum of a disabled teenage daughter who is living on the breadline. Her reprobate boyfriend appears one night and says Mary and her daughter must rescue this enormous sum of stolen money from the forest and keep it even if they don't see him for a long time. A sort of parable ensues about the way people perceive you if you have money . Mary is not a goody goody heroine. A sort of Mother Courage figure I suppose. Some of the actors worry that the play is somehow doing women down. Jo came in to talk about what she was trying to express through the play. We also talked about how when we put a reprobate drunken man at the centre of the play people dont normally say ah you are saying all men are drunkards or doing men down somehow. Drunkenness, bawdiness seem ok for men but when you have a debauched female at the centre of the play, the rules are somehow different. It was a good discussion. The play may not work because people can't find a tidy message from it but we've agreed to give it a go and have some trial audiences. If it doesn't work there's still zero balans which will be fun to restage.
The final part of the play though , that election coda referred to above, is pretty clear; Mary decides to stand for parliament using what is left of her stolen money. As rumours spread about the source of her money she challenges the community to say why her stolen money is any different from that of the MP whom they have been voting for for the last few elections.
Elsewhere in WSB the youth clubs have opened with even larger numbers than before 50 or more for nutrition, sewing and many of them school going age. In drama we have 28. We have a commission from UNICEF to look at child protection otherwise known if one is being cynical as pissing in the wind. We held workshops with the group, mostly teenagers to ask them what made kids unhappy. Various themes were agreed on; being made a slave at home, often if you're adopted in from other branches of the family; watching your parents fight; cruel punishments at school; neglect at school eg teachers who dont show up. They are such a keen bunch and that in itself is a joy. But it is only the first day of rehearsal!I have had the idea of a basic set of boxes that could be chairs tables stones for crossing a river, mountains etc. It was so clear in my head . I know it's not very original but it seemed much neater and cleaner than stools or chairs. I envisaged actors moving them around at speed to make rapidly changing shapes that other actors climbed leapt over etc. A carpenter made the first prototype set today and they weigh a bloody ton especially when you get to the 600 and 800mm high ones....
Book of the month? The Fear by Peter Godwin. An account of trips to Zimbabwe in 2007/8. The bravery and the horror on display mean you read the book with your jaw constantly dropped. Could the same happen here? Who knows. So far the only people to suffer those kind of beatings are escaped prisoners ...not political opponents.
Friday, December 2, 2011
6 filming days left and we should finish. Touch and go there for a while as 16 or so relatively smooth weeks finally came to an end. Donald's sister died, most likely of leukaemia, which took his partner Joyanne out of filming for a week and led to a serious program revamp. And then just when we thought it was all sorted, one of the lynchpins of the revised schedule turned up having shaved completely bald. He thought he had finished. A part timer whose first film this is. He's a well known boxer so one's disbelief was .......restrained .
But here we are a few days from finishing another marathon run...and funding for 6 looks pretty likely. There will be big discussions no doubt when we have our first post Love Patrol meeting. Is this how we want to spend half the year every year?
Anyway a brief post this whilst the crew move the ceiling of the police station round for a new angle. The rains have come, the air is humid, the police station low roofed and with the lights on it is unbelievably hot in there......
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
My exhaustion is exhausted and I have opened a store with a nice range of one sided reading glasses.
Still nothing back from the robbery which proves god does not exist or that the klevas were not true believers.
We were filming a demonstration scene outside the courthouse; people waving banners demanding Tom's release were jostling with police when the real police turned up, 4 of them, and told us the Commissioner wanted us to stop filming; something to do with the uniforms and how we had to reapply to use them; after all this program is seen 'round the world' and the way we were wearing the uniforms could reflect badly on the Vanuatu police !!
A delegation is sent immediately to the Commissioner's house to get to the bottom of this while the rest of us calculate exactly how much re shooting this would mean and whether we'd finish filming next March or April. It turned out his main objection was that some of our extras whom we had chosen to be police were not clean shaven enough ( he had happened to be passing earlier). So it was sighs of relief all round, out with the razors and on with the show.
Anna from AusAID spent the morning with us filming her scenes as the doctor.We met her later in the week and she said she had been exhausted and wondered how we did it. It's good that project partners get first hand experience of the work we do and realise we're not bluffing!
Simon, our clapper board man, has not been with us for 2 weeks. His wife Helen, passed away. She had been sick for many a year with a poorly functioning lung. He had very few family in town; his wife's family are poor and had already had a death the week before. Helen passed away on the morning we were supposed to be filming at the hospital which in a way was fortunate. The group were there and basically took over the arrangements. The expense is so hard for people to deal with. The new corner of the cemetery that was opened up a year ago is a reminder in this week of the world reaching 7 billion, of how quickly our town is growing and how we'll have to find a new burial ground soon. Other parts of the yard at least have some sort of space between graves; here as you move in to throw soil on the coffin and make way for others to do likewise, you stumble over the corners of the burials of the past few days. Beru, our cameraman, was going to get Simon a makeshift cross that day, because, he said, if he didnt, there would be little hope of remembering exactly which Helen's grave was.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Week 5 of LP5
I nearly wrote last week, in a similar vein to Zero Balance comments, that there wasn’t a lot to write about because it was all going so smoothly. And so I suppose it should, to some extent. This is our fourth straight year of LP; our fifth in six years; we have more gear, better cameras, we know the most frequent pitfalls and dangers and try to avoid them and yet…
So at the farewell for our visiting DOP, Chris, who did 4 weeks with us, Jo and the crew spring some news on me that they had been hiding all day. One of our new part timers whose first scene we had recorded at night the week before, has had to take up a last minute place on a training program in NZ. To their credit they had already found a replacement and recorded a demo tape for me to watch..and he was OK. Still, half a night shoot to re record some time.
Then, we’re packing up on Thursday and I am informed that a woman has been blinded by our HMI light (2.5 k). She was 60 metres away at the time and had collapsed saying she couldn’t see; she was already partially sighted in one eye. This could have been explosive but the community was almost apologetic. We took her to the hospital and there is probably more to it. She has very high blood pressure and may have reacted to the shock of seeing the light, which had made her faint. At the time of writing there has been no negative feedback from the community.
A more amusing occurrence. One mother in the same community had called the police to complain about her son who, she said, always got up late and never helped around the house. Urgent police business! A little later two of our actors emerged in police uniform on the nearby road ready for their next scene. Apparently this lad, as observed by our production team enjoying a tea break, shot out of his house and away through the settlement!
Friday, August 26, 2011
August 26th 2011. Filming has started.
The blog that went away! The play finished in another life time; finished well I believe. Full houses most of the time and many compliments although it was hard to keep up with day to day real political dramas!
Now we’re into Love Patrol season five and have completed a month of night shoots. We have new cameras; Cannon 5ds and prime lenses. The image looks gorgeous and what you can do with depth of field compared to the old JVCs is a daily delight!
Funny and not so funny moments:
We had a very good night shoot outside a store in Tagabe. 2 days later the peeling white frontage had been painted green and we have 2 day shoots still to go! So we will try and blast away some of the coat of green and repaint integrating earth as we go.
The schedule is all drawn up and we have been shooting for a week when one cast member announces she is 4 months pregnant and I have some scenes planned for when she would be 7 months …so more work on the schedule required.
There’s a lot of action in this series by our standards and I became frightened all the episodes were a little short so Jo’s been adding scenes and extending dialogue as we go which has been stressful for actors.
Lovely moment the other night whilst we’re waiting in the road in Tagabe for darkness to descend. A middle aged man comes up, shakes my hand and says ‘They must pay to visit the cave’. This is the line of the adviser to the chief from our 1994 film Pacific Star, a part presumably played by this gentleman. Some of the young members of the group most impressed by the heritage they are now part of!
That ‘fabric feeling ‘ was very strong when watching the youth hiphop group perform at the ceremony to mark Ausaid’s handing over of a million dollars to buy all the buildings we currently rent, thus securing the premises for youth for the coming decades. Some of them weren’t born when WSB started in 1989 and we were a 4 man gang doing plays about diarrhoea. Jo was next to me and we smiled at each other in that late middle age way of a ‘journey shared’ moment , trying to ignore the number of expletives in the song the kids were dancing to; looking too uncannily like recent pictures of masked rioters in London. But the energy of their dance seemed to give it such a positive vibe.
Ausaid also officially revealed our new gear transporting lorry with eye catching graphics.I must start putting photos on this blog.