Thursday, 16 June 2011

Libraries, a pub and a cafe

So haven't blogged for a while and need to get up to speed with the project so far.

The half term at the start of June saw the second week of library performances with an interesting mix of venues and audiences, ranging from one group that were all under 6 to another group which was big for this project. Amongst the best events were Matson and Longlevens with brilliant and enthusiastic children, young people, parents and child minders. Again it seems such a crime that the libraries in places like Matson are being taken away. All I can say is pass this on to any councillors out there as it is needed!!

When I say that above that doesn't mean other library audiences weren't brilliant and enthusiastic by the way. All of them were great. It was just that the larger numbers and more noticeable participants came in these two venues.

There is a little note here by the way - don't ever try to have a mini wool sack race near a mini cheese rolling hill. One racer slipped and damaged the hill! It's repairable but Coopers Hill will never be the same now a giant has trodden on it!

At the start of June we performed Mad Jack and The Severn Bore at the New Inn. Audience numbers were low but the performance was very highly praised by the small but perfectly formed audience. The weird thing was Gloucester itself on that night which was like a scene from 28 Days Later - no-one about at all. Since found out we clashed with a major choral concert and Giffords Circus - but surely everyone in Gloucester couldn't have been at these two events? Ah well.

Sub Rooms Cafe performance on 15th June went very well. It's an interesting little venue the Sub Rooms Cafe with a two metre stage and a bar at the back but quite cosy to perform in.

It's kind of good as a preparation for the Barnstaple Fringe Theatrefest ( on 24th and 25th June and Exeter Fringe Festival ( - 29th June where both stages are about this size.

Great audience at the Subs Cafe including a gentleman with Veteran Commando connections who pointed out a couple of mistakes (including my salute!! - How could I get this wrong?? - won't happen again!). Audience feedback on departure was great - a couple of "Excellents", "Wonderful", "Powerful" and a "Very informative".

So Mad Jack and the Fearless Navigator are off to Devon for a week. If you're down that way then come along to the shows.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Quiet night in Gloucester

Saturday night saw the first pub performance of the run of "Mad Jack and The Severn Bore" at the New Inn in Gloucester. To say it was a small select audience would be honest. Didn't know before hand how many if any were turning up and we got a few. The show went very well with nice comments and accolades from the audience, who were unfortunately rattling around in the very lovely function room at the very nice and hospitable New Inn.
I wondered at first whether we hadn't put out enough publicity, or whether it had gone in the wrong places and yet everywhere I went to refill the leaflets they'd all gone. Had someone mysteriously snuck up behind and thrown them away or was it genuinely that no-one was around in Gloucester on Saturday night?
The mystery was compounded by two other things - ten minutes before the show I nipped out to have my customary warm up - a quick smoke - and wandered up to the centre of the town. It was like a scene from 28 Days Later. One Big Issue seller and a snoggy couple and that was it! For the centre of a busy city on a Saturday night? And after the show as we packed away we counted the total number of people sitting in the bar. Six! Where were the good citizens of Gloucester on Saturday night?
Any way, onwards and upwards, next show at the Sub Rooms Cafe, Stroud on 15th June after a week in libraries for half term. Should be a good one. If anyone knows where the Gloucester folk were on Saturday night (and I'm not just talking about the show) I'd like to solve the mystery.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Randwick and beyond

Played the first double bill of The Fearless Navigator and Mad Jack and the Severn Bore last Saturday to a great audience of 60 people at Randwick Village Hall. Its always strange when you do a performance for the first time as you're never to sure whether it's going to work, whether what you've created is easy to undersatnd or has enough depth to it.
As I'd already performed Fearless Navigator was very confident with howard Blackburn's story but Mad Jack is a different kind of character. The real man from what I know from reading about him and talking to his sons was almost a comic book hero from the Commando magazine series. As such he comes across to a large part as quite cold and emotionless.
His adventures are fantastic but have I found the real man in the script and performance. Within the script I've added elements which make him more than this. It was whilst watching a documentary about Eddie Izzard that something was said which seemed to sum Jack up. Eddie was talking about his dad (a career soldier) and about his mother who died when he was 7. He said something along the lines of grieving along the army lines - without emotion. So maybe I have got Mad Jack right!
The audience feedback afterwards was great and lighting and sound courtesy of Mr. Broadbent were brilliant (no pun intended) as well - adding just the right amount to the performance.
Next show in the series is at Nailsworth School for 60 children and then on Saturday we are doing a one off for Help for Heroes at the New Inn in Gloucester. £ 5.00 a ticket and all profits go to the charity. Come along and find out more about the first man to surf the Severn.
After that it's the Sub Rooms Cafe on Wednesday June 15th, before an extra gig at Yorkley on Friday 17th June and then down to Devon. the good news is that we also now have an event which is being publicised on the Olympics website as we are doing a show at Nailsworth on 23rd July, one year before the 2012 Olympics kick off. Lots to do, lots of excitement and hopefully lots of fun!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Just over two weeks to go....

It's a little over two weeks before the first full length performances of the Forgotten Sporting Heroes Double Bill - Mad Jack and the Severn Bore and The Fearless Navigator at Randwick Village Hall, Randwick, GL6 6HS (for sat navvers) on 14th May at 7.30 p.m.
It's all getting to that nervy phase now, scripts are done, rehearsing started but there's lighting to sort, backdrop to finish and costume to finish sourcing.
The more I've dug into the Mad Jack Churchill story, the more fascinating it has become. Initially I was worried that it would just be a gung ho "Commando" comic of a story which is how it can be viewed but there's a lot more to it now, there's a sadder, darker element crept in. That's not to say the gung ho "Commando" isn't still there. It now has light and shade - in one section very dark shade!!
The Fearless Navigator has always been (in some ways) the easier, more direct story to tell. Howard Blackburn's story is moving, heroic and at times sad.
With both men though they are tales of courage over different adversity, bravery above all else and inspiration.
If you want to see for yourself come along to Randwick Village Hall or book a ticket by phoning 01453 757136.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Great day at Hesters Way

Library events are now in full swing with Gloucester yesterday and Hesters Way today. Roughly the same number of people at each event and both went very well. Hesters Way is a great place to do these events as they are really appreciated. The kids who were there wanted to know more and get more information as well as try out the "Mini Cheese Rolling" again.
That's why it is such a shame - shame is too small a word - a travesty that the library is closing. Every event we've done there has been brilliantly received. The library is very well used and its wanted and needed by the community.
Chatting with a couple of girls aged 7 and 9 whilst I was packing away, they were talking about their love of books. They didn't have a parent with them but obviously the library is a safe space which encourages that love of books.
Will they still be able to have that love if they have to travel miles and wait for their parents to take them, instead of just walking round the corner?
The councillors who have taken this decision obviously don't realise the potential devastation they are causing.
Any way, don't want to put a downer on a great day! Thanks to everyone who turned up both yesterday and today and see you tomorrow in Tewkesbury!!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Forgotten Sporting Heroes of Gloucestershire: Posters, Pictures, Publicity and Libraries

Forgotten Sporting Heroes of Gloucestershire: Posters, Pictures, Publicity and Libraries: "Monday April 11th kicks off the first week of the library performances and workshops. Four short (10 - 15 minute) characters including How..."

Posters, Pictures, Publicity and Libraries

Monday April 11th kicks off the first week of the library performances and workshops. Four short (10 - 15 minute) characters including Howard Blackburn, Mad Jack Churchill, Sidney Smith (Stroud born Wimbledon champion) and Bill Hayward - Baughan motorcyle rider and champion.
The workshop will be a lively affair with mini cheese rolling, woolsack racing,leaping and spurning the barre (Gloucestershire's answer to tossing the caber)
Its then almost a month until first public performances of hour long shows Fearless Navigator and Mad Jack and the Severn Bore.
Photos have been taken for the press like the one on this page, posters produced, flyers are done. Just have to label them up and get them out to venues. Thats on top of finishing scripts, rehearsing, sorting lighting and sound and practising the bagpipes.
This is far more complicated than I thought. Maybe it's because they're cheap pipes or maybe because I'm not fully au fait (is that how you spell that?) with the bagpipe principle.
Not going to be Jack's standard I think so might have to let the magic of theatre intervene. You can work out for yourself what I mean by that.
It's all getting close and its all getting exciting. The Forgotten Sporting Heroes of Gloucestershire are on their way. Details of which libraries follows very soon. See you there!!