Sunday, 30 March 2014

They think it's all over...

Well the virtual curtain comes down on a mammoth run of shows, and finishes with a glorious 'Night at the Oscars' from our St Albans Saturday schools.

A much shorter tech and dress (thank goodness) as we'd done much of the hard work the day before, but the performances at the dress were rather lacklustre. But they seemed to listen to the words of encouragement we gave them before the break and came back with all guns blazing!

A fantastic job from a lovely group of kids - well done all.

So that's the end of the 'Perfect Storm' - 8 days, 8 shows, 4 venues. We've come home to find our son has made us a lovely vegetable soup and that is the perfect end to an eventful, exhausting, inspiring and ultimately totally satisfying week. I'll sleep on it and come back with my highlights of the week tomorrow - and yes, Louisa, that little slip tonight will be one of them...

Saturday, 29 March 2014

What an epic!

Wow - 3 hours!?! The longest show we've ever done by a country mile, but the kids were fabulous throughout - patient, well behaved, polite and smiling - a total pleasure to work with.

As were the teachers who did a brilliant job, and the crew of the SandPit who coped admirably with our perhaps less than rigorous preparation.

The day started with us rigging the show and decorating Front of House - it's a bling extravaganza! The tech dress started late and got later. By the time it was supposed to finish we still had about 7 numbers to tech. But we got there in the end and boy it was worth it.

Mid show we decided to change the end so that a reprise of the final number was avoided - it was hot in that theatre and I think the audience had seen enough! Good call I think - we'll do the same tomorrow,

My feet hurt like never before, I can't move my right knee and my back refuses to let me get up. And the clocks go forward tonight.

But one more show to go... and we're sure it'll be a cracker too! What a day...

Friday, 28 March 2014

Exhaustion begins to grip...

I confess I'm totally exhausted already and we haven't even started the weekend run yet! My back is seriously stiff and my knee is killing me and A is dead on her feet...but the show must go on.

Today started with a trip to wonderland - well a barn in Flamstead anyway,  where Susie G's events company keep their stores. We left with loads of goodies for the theatre - Gatsby-style boards, chandeliers, VIP ropes. The theatre should look fantastic and we're very grateful to the hugely generous Mrs G.

And from then it's been absolutely relentless - printing 8ft posters using A4 paper which have to be stuck together, running orders for the shows backstage, burning CDs, creating a sound effect of a zebra being attacked by a lion, ironing hundreds of t-shirts, digging in the garage for the last prop or two, cutting sticks into wands, printing certificates, packing stuff into boxes, ticking off lengthy checklists, delivering everything to the theatre etc etc

And then the final blow - I've printed 130 programmes upside down. I think I'm going to cry. I'm sure I'll feel better after a good night's sleep. And a few Paracetamol. And a glass of wine.

But it will be brilliant tomorrow. We've got an excellent crowd in and a packed programme. Finally for today here's a picture of the SandPit team trying out one of our props for tomorrow.

I'll be blogging and tweeting from the theatre tomorrow. See you there!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Reality has bitten

It's not easy being natural on stage. The 'method acting' approach requires dedication and commitment and a high degree of relaxation. So the Best School of Acting Advanced group did a fine job last night with some extremely challenging (and very poignant for the audience) material.

They really have progressed as performers under Lisa's guidance and with this show and TheBYTE's show earlier in the week we are extremely proud of our older students!

So today it's getting the programmes ready for the weekend and a load of other admin-y type stuff. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Elephant has left the room

So the virtual curtain has come down on The Maltings' run of TheBYTE's  'This Is My Elephant' which has exceeded all my expectations a brilliant job by uber-director Lisa, scriptmeister Anna Reynolds and the cast. The quality of the performances, scripting and characterisation were superb and demonstrated just what a strong group we now have at TheBYTE - our only sadness is that soon we are losing some to university and drama school but we know they will go there with some solid experience and technique behind them thanks to their time at TheBYTE and Best - and hopefully a whole bunch of great memories. Here are a few pics...

We did film the show too - hopefully we can do something with that.

We think that after the Greenwich Festival there's still another step for this show to take. The lovely thing was that when we asked the cast whether they'd be interested in a further show and rework, their hands shot up in unison.

The Maltings is a lovely little theatre. When Best was launched it was the venue for our first three years' public performances - 'The Selfish Giant',  'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Shake, Ripple & Roll.' but then it just became too small for the sizes of casts we had.

Then when we launched TheBYTE we took our first shows there too - 'The Musicians', 'Just' and 'Shut Up'. At that time it was  happy and thriving council-run venue with enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who supported us at every stage. It was sad to see this energy dismantled - firstly when their budget was cut (mostly diverted to the incoming Trestle) and then when it was threatened with closure.

But now the space has a new lease of life thanks to local group, 'OVO'. They've brightened it up, brought high quality theatre back to the stage and we are delighted that from September we'll be basing our youth theatre activities there - including (we hope) a technical stream for budding lighting gurus.

So next on the agenda is our Best School of Acting showcase - 'Reality Bites'. This is a collection of mini scenes from the works of James Saunders and aims to flex their Stanislavskian muscles. It's tomorrow (Wednesday 26th March) at The Maltings.

For today, the last piece of costume for the weekends 'Oscars' show has arrived - joy!

Monday, 24 March 2014

This Is My Excellent Elephant

What a wonderful show TheBYTE has devised with the help of Lisa and Anna Reynolds. I admit I shed a tear at the dress rehearsal and I was smugly satisfied to see a number of pairs of spectacles being hastily removed and tissues applied in the first night audience. Sorry about the picture - will try and get a better one tonight...

TheBYTE has developed into a really strong team and this show is all about teamwork.

The devising process too has been a very important and valuable one for the cast.  Starting with their own character they allowed the story to develop organically. What has resulted is a witty, warm and very moving piece of totally original theatre - something they can all be very proud of.

It's the second night tonight and I strongly urge anyone who is free to get down to. The Maltings and see it. Tickets on the door are £5. You won't regret it!

From here the show moves to the Greenwich Young People's Festival on 6th April.

Next up it's Best School of Acting with Reality Bites on Wednesday, also at The Maltings (which is a fab venue by the way).

Meanwhile an offer has arrived of some really great things with which to decrease The Sandpit for the shows this weekend. Very exciting.

I am sitting here printing off tickets for tonight's show - need some more programmes too. Also have to write the programmes for the weekend...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Production week tales

Best is coming into a frantic week of shows:-

Saturday 22nd - First Class showings in St Albans
Sunday 23rd- tech, dress and show TheByte's production of "This Is My Elephant"
UPDATE - have just seen the dress of this and it is SUPERB!!! DON'T MISS IT!
Monday 24th - second show of T.IM.E., 
Wednesday 26th - Best School of Acting's show 'Reality Bites' at The Maltings
Saturday  29th First class Hertford show 'Jack and the Beanstalk', and we tech dress and perform 'A Night at the Oscars' with Hertford and Best St Albans Friday schools
Sunday 30th - Tech dress and perform 'A Night at the Oscars' with Best's St.Albans Saturday schools

So I thought I'd keep a little diary so you can see what this is all like for a behind the scenes point of view!

I'm sitting in the foyer of The Maltings Theatre as the tech whizz Phil and director Lisa set things up. 

Cast member Isaac has just arrived, fresh from his first Friday at the 'Thriller' academy which seemed to go really well. What and exciting opportunity for him! And aren't we proud?

At the moment the stage is bare and for anyone in the theatre a space like that sends a thrill of anticipation.

Meanwhile, back at Best HQ (er... our house) every available piece of space has been taken up with costume and props for the upcoming Oscars shows.

This is not a fun time - all the costumes are bought in or come from our ever burgeoning store in our garage and it's very hard on the back shifting around heavy tuff crates.

We hear two of our Hertford cast now won't be there for the show. This is not the place to set down our reaction to such late news but primarily our concern is for the rest of the cast and the work they now have to do in recasting, learning new lines and resetting choreography.

On the subject of missed rehearsals etc, this is the hardest thing to communicate positively to parents. The missing cast member (although they might know their lines) has to be brought up to date with the latest changes and as we only see people once a week they lose familiarity with the blocking and choreography and we have to do it all again when they return.

And it's the remaining cast who turn up who suffer. A rehearsal where any cast member is missing is not a true rehearsal and they lose the chance as a group to take the piece further - you can only tread water as you know you will have to go back and redo the changes and cues.

But we do know we are here first and foremost to give all our students a fun time - we can't be overly worried when children miss rehearsals - they have so much on in their lives it's hardly surprising. So we take a very laid back approach to our shows knowing "we'll get what we get" and although our teachers can get stressed as they want to out on e best show they possibly can, we are happy if our students are happy.

The cast for today's show arrive soon for their tech and dress. It's an exciting play they have devised themselves which has than been scripted by local playwright Anna Reynolds. After it's run here it going to the Greenwich Young People's Festival in April where it'll be performed at The Tramshed in Woolwich.

Check back tomorrow to find out how everything goes!