Taking shape! 😀

The show is really starting to take shape! Cheography is going well with a lot of numbers now starting The have great shape and structure. The whole show is now blocked, which means everyone knows where and what they are doing and scripts are starting to be put down. This is great as the characters can really start to develop, along with the emotions between characters. This is where directing can get really fun and the structure is set and now it can be build and it can grow!

This shows promises to be a real treat, so don’t miss out! Tickets on sale at Shaftesbury arts centre box office http://www.shaftesburyartcentre.org.uk or 01747 825349. The show is on from the 11th July.

Photos by Ian Berry and are of Mack Sennett ( Mark Blackham) and Mabel Normand (Beth Gray).


Week 3!……..

Rehearsals are going really well so far! Chaotic at times, but lots of fun and getting lots done. Act 1 is now blocked completely, and we are starting Act 2 on Thursday of this week. The cast are working really hard with their songs and words, which means we have time to concentrate on character development with principles but also with the chorus. The chorus are so important and can make or break a show, so it is really important that they also develop characters in each scene to become part of the story.

Lots of work is going on behind the scenes as well….looking at the type of film cameras that were used in 1911 vs the 1920s  to help with the look and feel of time passing through the show, when were clapper boards  🎬 invented in relation to the time line in the show and how to create some of the visual effects that help with the overall effect of the show!

A few rehearsal photos of the fab Keystones Kops!

Mack prepares!

So what happens when you find out you have landed one of the title roles in this year’s Summer Show at Shaftesbury Arts Centre – playing Mack Sennett in Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel?  I was the lucky person to do this, in early April, and here are a few words about how I have prepared to play this character, who was one of the biggest influences on the silent movie scene at the beginning of the twentieth century.

I found out I’d got the part a few days after the audition. I had already done a little research into Mack’s real life, as well as the story of the show as part of my preparation for the audition, and had seen it some years ago at Newbury, with David Soul in the leading role. I knew I was about the right age for the older Mack, looking back on his adventures in Movies with Mabel.

As soon as I had collected my script and score from Director Sophie, I met with Musical Director David, spent about 90 minutes getting familiar with every single piece of music that I am involved in, as solo singer or part of the chorus, and recorded a rough rehearsal version that David could email to me. These were on a CD in my car for three weeks prior to rehearsals starting, so I pretty much know everything I have to sing, although of course things may change, if only in a minor way, with harmonies changed, cuts made, or lines given to specific singers in any given song, but at least I went to the first rehearsal ready to sing anything needed from me. I also went to one of David’s pre-rehearsal gatherings, where I met Beth for the first time, and what a relief it was to find how good an actor and singer she is. At 18, Beth is about the age that Mabel first met Mack, and with Mack narrating from his later years, their story should come across well as the years pass through the action of the musical.  Sophie also got Beth and I together to discuss our characters and how they develop, how we react to each other, and to run through all of our key scenes, so that when we rehearse them with the full cast we have already worked out the basics, saving time and helping create the chemistry needed.

My final big piece of preparation was spending four hours today recording every single word that I have to learn, spoken and sung, onto my computer, and then editing this into tracks of two to three minutes each, in scenes or half-scenes. I have found, over the past twenty years or so, that my favourite and most efficient way of learning words is to try and learn a short piece, 2 minutes or so, on my 25-minute drive to work, and then consolidate this on the way home from work in the evening. As more and more words and music are learned, the longer it takes to go through all the words, so I would expect this to take me three to four weeks to learn the 56 minutes of material for Mack and Mabel – 38 tracks in total – some just thirty seconds and others over two minutes long.

I will start learning my spoken words tomorrow, and my deadline is the end of May, as that is the official date for “Books Down”, and once I know my words I will spend every daily commute going through them with the CD, so that I stay accurate, and do not let a single syllable slip, or change the tense or pronoun in any sentence, as that is the sort of thing that can throw a whole speech, or distract one of my fellow performers. We’ve had a few rehearsals now, during which Sophie has set the moves for the first third of the show, and these moves will become part of this learning, adapting as we get our set built in mid to late June.

I have a reputation for learning lines well, something I intend to continue, and this daily routine is, I believe, the reason for my accuracy. I will still forget one or two lines in every performance, that is human, and normal, but every time I do I will correct it in the following show, usually forgetting something different instead!

There we are then, an insight into how I prepare for this role – come and see me as Mack Sennett in Mack and Mabel at Shaftesbury Arts Centre between 11th and 21st July, and if you want to know more, find us on Facebook, Twitter, and at the Centre in Bell Street, Shaftesbury.




Let’s get started!

So,- rehearsals start next week for ‘Mack and Mabel’ at Shaftesbury Arts Centre! We will be rehearsing 2 x week and using Sunday’s for movement and dance rehearsals. The rehearsal schedule is done, the props list is in a draft form and the set is there is my head….so we now just need to get on with character development, learning songs, learning words and setting how the show is going to look. This is the start of a really exciting project.

Tickets are on sale now from http://www.shaftesburyartscentre.org.uk or (01747) 854321 with the opening night having a half price ticket offer!


When Mabel comes in the room!….

Another great sing through tonight for ‘Mack and Mabel’…..some of the songs are starting to sound great and this gives us such a great start when rehearsals start in a couple of weeks!

Mack (Mark Blackham) and Mabel  (Beth Gray) met for the first time and started exploring the characters which was great fun!

Look out for more about these characters, other characters in the show and what we get up to when working on a show!

Mack and Mabel  on from 11th July at Shaftesbury arts centre! Tickets can be bought from http://www.shaftesburyartscentre.org.uk


The excitement starts!

Last night, – we had our first practice session to start learning the songs from ‘Mack and Mabel’! For me, as the director, this was really exciting as it was great to hear the songs being sung and learnt rather than on a CD!

It was a pretty good turn out as well, – which is fantastic as it gets us off the a really great start before rehearsal officially start!

Tickets are on sale from the box office – http://www.shaftesburyartscentre.org.uk with the show opening on Wed 11th July (First night has a half price ticket offer!)