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Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Cast of Hang

With a little over a week to go, some news on the lovely cast of Hang.  It obviously includes me, but that's a given, but also these two talented actresses.

Pamela Flanagan

Pamela hails from Dublin and came to London to attend the Academy Drama School. Since graduating she has toured extensively through the UK and Europe. Theatre roles include: Landlady in Two, Octavia in Anthony and Cleopatra, Nancy in Dance Hall Days and Pegeen Mike in The Playboy of the Western World. She previously worked with Milk Bottle Productions on The Natural History of Trolls.

Of course, that's just the official stuff.  I first consciously met the delightful Pamela backstage at a production I had a little finger of involvement in a few years back, The Revengers.  As it happens I had probably met her before at a production of Othello I'd been in, which she recently reminded me she had seen.  But we first worked together on The Natural History of Trolls - Pamela being one of the principle voices who did all of the shows at the New Wimbledon Studio.  In fact, due to her ability to say the word 'fuzzy' in a particularly amusing way, I rewrote the script slightly in her honour.  Pamela will be principally playing the part of Amanda, who has a difficult relationship with her tusks.

Gillian Horgan

Gillian Horgan is from Cork, and trained at Drama Studio London. Theatre credits include: “The Inner Life of Veronika Zabenko”, "The Natural History of Trolls” at the New Wimbledon Studio, “No Dogs” at the White Bear, “Susanna” at Theatro Technis, "Tilt" at the Cockpit Theatre, "Famine" at the Old Red Lion, and "Monsieur Venus" at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Screen credits include: “Wounded”, "Three", “Forget-Me-Not”, “Camden Calling”, "Verge", "Black Coffee" and "The Boat That Rocked".

The fabulous Gillian is another survivor of The Natural History of Trolls from its original production at the New Wimbledon Studio.  Gillian will be playing a number of roles, including a media spin doctor, trying to spin the end of civilisation as we know it.  In a piece of worthless trivia, Gillian is responsible for bringing to my attention one of the odder search items that anyone has typed into google to then discover my blog.  Having come from Cork and acted in a show called No Dogs, some poor soul who typed '1 day old dogs in cork' came whizzing to my cast blog post for a show about orange penguins.  Could be worse, one ex-cast member of that same production shares their name with a performer of hard-core pornography.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
World Premiere of a New Comedy by Robert Crighton

The world is turning inside out - people are starting to turn into animals and no one knows what's normal anymore.  Even the man who actually wants to be a zebra can't quite fit into this brave new world.  Dating is complicated enough when everyone's human.

Performing as a radio comedy before a live audience and broadcasting online as a live stream.
To listen to the Live Stream on the night go to

Watch the hilarious trailer for the show here.

Performing Live and Online on Monday 31st March at 7.30pm
Tickets: Pay What You Want
There are only twenty-five tickets available for this one-off show - so book now.  
The Quay Theatre, Quay Lane, Sudbury, CO10 2AN
Box Office: 01787 374 745 or online here.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Robin Thicke, Lily Allen and a Zebra...

All walk into a bar.  The barman asks, "why the long face?"  The Zebra replies, "because they've both been criticised for the creation of inappropriate images/music, so the round's on me".
Okay, this story is quite old now, but I bring it up in relation to publicity - the dangers thereof.  I was planning a few photos the other week for my next show Hang.  I was to stand, dressed in my fetching zebra onesie, holding up a protest slogan - the play is partly about a man called Brian who wants to be a zebra and is persecuted for it.  It is, to some degree, a satire, a political drama, a think piece.  It is also hopefully funny.
But as I thought about the implications of this image I started to come a bit unstuck.  In the play there is a logic to Brian's protest.  It is both funny and entirely serious.  It is and it isn't a parallel to other civil rights protests.  In the context of the play this relationship between the serious and absurd should be clear - it should not be misunderstood.  Out of context then things look quite different.
So, I thought I'd do a shoot of Brian protesting, but then I thought this might be trouble.  I was going to have him holding a placard with a slogan - but what?  I wrote out a few and did a rough shoot to try them out - more for this blog than for actually publicity.  Here are two of the test photos.
Number 1.  "I am normal and I want my freedom."
This is a quote from the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.  It is a generic cry for non-conformity.  It is safe.

Number 2.  Some People are Zebras - Get Over It.  This is a spoof of a famous gay slogan campaigning for equal rights.  In the context of the play this would be alright.  As a separate image it says, "Being Gay is as absurd as wanting to be a zebra".  This is not what the play is about and I would be distressed if this is what people took from it.  It is not acceptable, it would never be used (except as illustration for the argument of this blog post).

So what has all this to do with Robin Thicke and Lily Allen?  Well, back in the mists of 2013 Robin Thicke produced an enormously successful song Blurred Lines which was widely judged to be 'a bit rapey'.  The lyrics and the cavorting naked ladies in the video were deemed misogynistic.  His defence for the video was that the director of the video was a woman and the naked ladies thought it was fine, so what was the problem?
Ironically Lily Allen then put out a video for a song critical of exactly what Robin Thicke represented, but in a shot in her video she had a number of black ladies twerking behind her.  This was deemed by some to be slightly racist.  Her defence for the video was that the dancers were fine with it, so what was the problem?  The Robin Thicke defence, as it were.
The problem is, of course, obvious.  It doesn't matter what you think is fine in the context of a rehearsal, a play or when recording a music video - once that image, play or video enters the public sphere, I will be interpreted in its own context, the context of the world around.  The reason why I haven't used the above ideas for actual publicity photos is because their meaning outside of the play is fluid and so can come to mean something very, very different.  Even within the context of the play Hang there is room for misunderstanding of the message of the play.  Audiences do not always understand the difference between what characters say and what the play is saying - confusing, for example, the presence of a racist (sexist/zebrist etc) character on stage and the play being racist (sexist/zebrist etc).  But that's a totally different problem to ensuring clarity in your messages to the media.
This is one of the reasons why people come a cropper with social media - they don't appreciate the number of interpretations a statement or image can have when decontextualised.  We have all (those who use social media) at some point found a lighthearted comment be interpreted as an attack.  This is why lol was invented - to explain to the reader that something is a joke.  Lol is context.  Lol is sometimes vital.  But I can hardly put lol next to my photos - that would just make matters worse.
So, instead, a silly trailer.  I like my trailer - it's fun, it's silly and I don't think you can misinterpret it.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Hunting of the Laugh

Comedy is like sex.  The more comedy you get, the more you want.
Hang on... I'll start this again.
Laughter is like sex.  The more laughs you get, the more you want and the less satisfied you become with perfectly good laughs because they're not as exciting as those first laughs...
Okay... let's give up the sex analogy thing, just not working.
I've just finished performing in a run of She Stoops to Conquer.  It wasn't a long run, five nights, which meant there wasn't much time to hunt for the laughs.  It is an addictive business, laugh hunting.  You're looking for the maximum return of laughs per line, per action - so long as you don't fall into the trap of simply mugging for the sake of it.  That way madness lies.
Some lines are nearly guaranteed for laughs.  They're called jokes.  You set 'em up, I'll knock 'em down.  So long as you don't completely bugger them up, you'll get a laugh.  Rather than worrying about getting the laugh, you are more worried about the size and spend a lot of time worrying about the mechanics of the line.  Will a stress on this syllable get a bigger laugh than on this one?  (Again, that way madness also lies.)
Then there are the lines that are not inherently hilariously funny but in context can be funny.  I spent most of the week trying to squeeze at least a titter out of these.  But, until the last night, two titters evaded me.  And I didn't know why.
This is the exchange in the script (I played Hastings):

HASTINGS. Well, but where have you left the ladies? I die with impatience.
TONY. Left them! Why where should I leave them but where I found them?
HASTINGS. This is a riddle.
TONY. Riddle me this then. What's that goes round the house, and round the house, and never touches the house?
HASTINGS. I'm still astray.
TONY. Why, that's it, mon. I have led them astray...

Not an inherently hilarious section, but with distinct possibilities.  Now, I knew from rehearsal that if I put a slight beat in before the line 'This is a riddle' and the following 'I'm still astray' I should get a slight laugh.  Not a big laugh, but a little laugh.  Tony, it has been established is a character who doesn't quite say what he means and certainly not quickly or clearly - a moment to think about what he said and then saying so seemed moderately amusing.  
In rehearsal the beat worked - I got a titter or two from the cast, so I knew I wasn't barking up the wrong tree.  First night.  Nothing.  Second night.  Nothing.  Third night.  Nothing.  Fourth night.  Nothing.  I said the line in different ways, varied the pausing, tried it as an aside to the audience, adjusted the physical scoring of the beat... NOTHING.
So, in desperation, I did something a bit unprofessional and made a request of my fellow performer.  I asked Tony to change the blocking slightly and look at me on the proceeding line.
And, dear reader, we got the ghost of a titter.  On that first line, just the ghost of a titter.  And on the second, a genuinely tiny but actually measurable one.
We may not have got the complete laugh, but at least I knew, with a few more performances, we would have done.  We understood why it wasn't working (there was not enough connection between what he was saying to me and me to him, basically) and that was everything.
As I say, that way madness lies.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Hang - Official Untrailer

Been a little quiet this week or so, been very busy setting up the next phase of Project 10/52 - much news soon.  But for the moment enjoy the official untrailer for Hang

Milk Bottle Productions Presents
The world premiere of new comedy by award-winning writer Robert Crighton
The world is turning inside out - people are starting to turn into animals and no one knows what's normal anymore. Even the man who actually wants to be a zebra can't quite fit into this brave new world. Dating is complicated enough when everyone's human.

Performing as a radio comedy before a live audience and broadcasting online as a live stream.
To watch live book your tickets at the Quay Box Office -
To listen to the Live Stream go to

Performing Live and Online on Monday 31st March at 7.30pm
Tickets: Pay What You Want
The Quay Theatre, Sudbury - Box Office: 01787 374745