Monthly Archives: April 2012

Media Launch

Media - Press ConferenceSo, rehearsals are well under way. The director assures me that everything is going swimmingly and that the cast are on target for a grand performance on 30 March. Well I hope so.

The Write Now Festival organises a strange event called the Media Launch. This is an opportunity for each of the plays to present a live trailer to the assembled throng that, theoretically, consists of lots of members of the press.

Well we arrived replete with props and costume. We all found a neat little corner to rehearse again and I was just so impressed. Two of the cast and the director had improvised and then written a trailer that was just incredibly professional. No input from the, by now, surplus writer.

So then there was the initial viewing by the festival director. We were first on but went down quite well. Then there was the full dress and tech rehearsal before which we discovered we were scheduled last. That couldn’t have been better, because the last thing the Creatrix and Architect did was to uncover a giant poster on the flip chart. Being last meant that it could stay on the stage – yippee.

3.30pm and we were sent off for a long break. It was a chance for Katie (the theatre’s technician, to take anyone who wanted to the theatre for a final look. Like a mother duck with a gathering of ducklings she went walked off with about ten of us in her wake.

Back to Studio 2, the venue for the launch event, at 5.00 to get changed and await the press. By 6.00pm, the place was packed out – with actors and writers. Hardly any media people turned up. I recognised one reviewer and local radio personality Roger Phillips and he disappeared after the second trailer.

Oh, well! We all had fun and it made me feel far more confident in my cast and director. Roll on the tech/dress rehearsal.

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Radio Script Quality

Is it just me or has the standard in radio drama taken a dive lately?

First off there is what seems to be the ubiquitous narrator. It sometimes seems that the majority of radio plays these days have a narrator. Someone who tells the story when the characters don’t seem to be able to. Sometimes the narrator is an omni-present entity that never appears in the story; sometimes it is one of the characters that is relating the story after the event.

My thoughts wander to theatre at this point. When was the last time you saw or heard a narrator in a stageplay? Can you even name a stageplay with a narrator? Blood Brothers springs immediately to mind and then there’s Public Opinion in Orpheus and the Underworld (which is cheating because that’s an operetta).  I’m really hard pushed to think of another one without Googling.

Not quite so rare, but still not that common, is the narrator in films. Many of the Film Noir productions of the forties and fifties effectively utilised the narrator; Deckard’s narration in the original Blade Runner, I felt, was particularly effective despite Ridley Scott’s later insistence on its removal (but, let’s admit it, it was a great example of film noir sci-fi); Morgan Freeman’s beautiful vocals on Shawshank Redemption made it an unforgettable film.

Now there is a reason that narrators are seldom used in film and rarely used in theatre – it doesn’t work and (he says, donning a bullet proof vest), it is lazy writing. There, I said it. Lazy, lazy, lazy! If the characters can’t tell the story, then the writer should find another story. I read somewhere that the rule for the narrator in a script should be – if it doesn’t work without the narration, then get rid of the narrator and re-write the script. The narrator should add to the story not tell the story – unless you’re writing in film noir style, where it is part of the art.

Take a look at Blade Runner. This was a very film noir style of sci-fi (neo-noir?). It had the constant rain, the almost permanent night time, the down-in-the-dumps detective, the femme fatale, etc. It also had a narrator who told the story very much in the style of Raymond Chandler and the ilk. However, Ridley Scott showed that it worked without the narrator by releasing the film a second time sans narration. Admittedly it was a different film without but it still worked; it still told the same story. Thus, the narration should have stayed.

Don’t even let me get started on the On-the-Nose dialogue.

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Oh! The Stress of Rehearsals

Well, I attended my first rehearsal of “In the Beginning – a slightly irreverent look at creation” on Saturday (10 March).

I‘d  arranged to meet all the cast and director at the director’s flat at 5.30pm. Come six o’clock, we were an actor short. We tried ringing, texting, emailing, and Facebooking but nothing. This doesn’t bode well, I thought.  Well, come six o’clock, we wandered down to the very nice pub who was allowing us to rehearse in the upstairs room, after leaving messages for our errant actor.

masks - Rehearsals for In the Beginning

Now, this rehearsal was mostly to allow me to see an improvised scene so that I could add to the script. This was considered necessary by the director in order to clarify some points and explain how Adam went from a gibbering idiot to a more articulate idiot (of course it’s all down to Eve’s excellent coaching).

Well, that was the theory but, since the scene required all the characters to be on stage and we were missing one actor, it wasn’t as successful as it could be. Oh, well! At least I videoed some of it. However, now I was panicking – we had less than three weeks to the opening.

So, we tried again on Tuesday. Guess what? You guessed. A different actor was missing this time. At least now I have two improvised scene five-and-a-halfs to call on when writing the new bits.

However, I also managed to see other scenes that have been rehearsed already and, I must say, I don’t feel quite so panicked now. They need a lot of polishing but that is to be expected.  As I write this, we have two weeks and a day to the opening performance but only about twelve days to the dress and tech run – that’s when the press can get a chance to see the whole thing if they want.

Oh, damn! I just pressed the panic alarm again!

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Excuse Me!

We Brits are a very polite people, on the whole. Even in my home town of Liverpool, which doesn’t have the best reputation, most people with thank you if you hold a door open; most will let you get off the bus before fighting their way on; most of them apologise if they bump into you, or even if you bump into them; lots of them allow you though the checkout first if you only have one item.

And then there is the “excuse me,” an expression to be heard often when people are trying to get past on an escalator, trying to push through for a bus that you don’t need. A burp or audible fart will often be accompanied by “excuse me.” But almost never will you hear you best friend or neighbour use the expression when they want you to repeat something you’ve said or as an expression of incredulity – in Liverpool that function is usually performed by “Yer wha!”

So why, oh why, does everyone seem to say it on TV? Well, the answer is quite simple really. Those were the words that one writer put into the mouth of one of the characters in Friends, that wonderful American sitcom that first aired on our screens in the 1990’s. Since then, every scriptwriter in the world seems to be putting those words into character’s mouths (except for me, of course).

Excuse me, used in this context, is just another example of an expression that is only ever used in TV land, along with other gems such as “no, please don’t put me on hold” and “little Jimmy just fell over”.

You can also follow me on twitter: @JohnMc_Lpool

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