Thursday, May 28, 2009


Spys Steps is GO.

A seriously long day was worked on Wednesday and at its conclusion Spy Steps was done. There are a few minor details we still want to improve, but it's essentially all done and we're proud of it. Ultimately the get-in consisted of five days prep and one day blitzing Warwick Arts Centre with vinyl. Whilst frantically adhering we were regularly interrupted with questions about the project and congratulations on it. So the feeling is currently pretty good about the piece.

This is the big flash younger brother of Dance Steps, which we made last year. Spy Steps makes full uses of WAC's big expanses of stone floor and plate glass. It revels in it's own on site vinyl cutter and for the well rehearsed, Nina's music makes the whole thing become not just fun, but very exciting indeed (at least I think so and I'm the only one to have experienced it like this so far, which gives us 100% approval rating, maybe we should quit whilst ahead).

Whilst the soundtrack is played each day over the venue's P.A. system at 1 and 6pm the real trick is going to be getting it available online as an MP3 so people can charge around with it on their headphones. Although I have been induced to create a Spy Steps facebook group I have yet to work out how to post the MP3 there for download, which is humiliating and has also prevented me promoting the group to 'all' my 'friends' (are all my 'friends' Electric? let's hope not).


Monday, May 25, 2009


Penny Dreadful Theatre

Our esteemed collaborator Bernadette Russell, who was part of the devising team for Home Of The Wriggler and The Cleansing Of Constance Brown, has been commissioned to write a piece for the the theatre company Penny Dreadful. The show called Missionary's Position is currently on tour in the UK and will be at The Custard Factory Theatre this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I'm planning on being there, and recommend it as potentially a good night out. Bernadette's great to work with, she has a strong personal aesthetic and is full of ideas, so I'm keen to hear what the text will be like. Penny Dreadful aren't dreadful at all. I saw their show Bitches Ball in Edinburgh a couple of years ago and it was engaging and well performed, so there we go, that's the plug. Possibly see you there.



Friday, May 22, 2009


Planning Ahead

As, amidst all its other activity, Stan’s Cafe scrambles to promote 24 Hour Scalextric, which takes place in less than a month time and Spy Steps which opens in less than a week, it was shocking to receive Ex Cathedra’s 2009/10 brochure through the post urging us to book for their Rachmaninoff Vespers concert on Wednesday 23 June NEXT YEAR!



Thursday, May 21, 2009


Spy Steps: Day 2

Late yesterday afternoon Simon and Craig got the great vinyl cutter sparked up and expertly tamed – it pays to buy expensive kit. Today the three of us paced the whole sequence out, resolving a few glitches and intelligent kinks. I’d had some thoughts on the train, they last night. Nina turned up to talk sound. One of the new innovations for this version of the show is to play a soundtrack through the foyer for the audience/performers to synch their action to. As a consequence a few hours were spent with Nina attempting to imagine how long certain sections of the soundtrack may need to be and when specific spot effects are required. The foyer sound system seems beefy enough and Nina was grinning widely, so it could all sound good.

Simon got his head down to designing a host of new icons for the show whilst Craig and I paced out scenes and bounced text ideas and refinements back and forth until we have most of a script we’re happy with.

It’s all coming together… so far.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Spy Steps: Day 1

Day One proper of the Spy Steps devising/get in: Simon, Craig and I did a day at Warwick Arts Centre a couple of months ago and started to sketch out plans and possibilities, now the serious work begins.

The piece starts to form itself as the only clear logical outcome once a host of competing desires and imperatives are pitted against each other. There are architectural features of the Arts Centre that demand to be used and those place practical constraints on us. There are narrative and choreographic incidents that nominate themselves for a place somewhere within the piece. There are visual ideas, which suggest themselves for inclusion for their own sake but need to be bound into the piece. Our narrative is the algorithm which pulls these variable together to equal Spy Steps.

We have a confident swagger with the ‘Steps Series’ now. With Dance Steps at MAC last year we learnt a bit about how the idea works. Now, at WAC, we have a more open building with larger surfaces to work on. Choosing to make a genre piece has given us a host of existing references to draw on, short-hands audiences will immediately recognise and allow us to be more playful and ambitious. We have improved vinyl handling technique, a better sense of what is possible and, perhaps most importantly, we now have our own vinyl cutter.

It’s a relatively expensive piece of kit but as precision cut vinyl is the show’s primary media it seems like a sensible investment. Previously Simon’s designs have taken a minimum of 24 hours to come back from cutting shop, now we can do our own in minutes. This allows us to be more flexible, ambitious and experimental. We probably only need to do two or three more gigs before the machine has paid for itself and of course in the worst case scenario that we don’t get any more gigs, at least we can improve signage @ A E Harris.



Thursday, May 14, 2009


Misquoted Numbers

Of All The People In All The World is now open in both Toronto and Bristol. With Home of the Wriggler also in Bristol today and tomorrow, so it's busy times.

The show got a big feature piece in Toronto's Globe and Mail, it's a decently written piece but embarrassingly most of the numbers are misquoted. Which is a blow.

Back at home things are cranking up as the end of the academic year approaches. Most excitingly it looks as if we will finally get to stage Suzie Small Lifts A Car in collaboration with Mark Anderson. More details on this will follow, but the clue as to the action is in the title. Much like the forthcoming 24 Hour Scalextric.



Monday, May 04, 2009


Toronto Get In Day 1

The container was nearly two hours late arriving but the driver redeemed himself somewhat by pulled off a precision reversing manoeuvre and thus allowing our swarm of technicians to unload in record time.

I fouled up first by not spotting immediately that the numbered doors were being set up where the lettered doors should have been and vice versa. Then it was revealed that I’d misjudged the placement of the flooring and everyone had to put their shoulders in to slide the whole construction 94cm forward. These things happen when I’m left to my own devices. People seemed to take it in good heart. The Enwave’s impressively level floor obviated the need for any painful chocking. Steve is a born Pin Man and in tandem we soon had the doors hung. When Craig and Graeme, ‘fresh’ from the airport, poked their heads in the set was up and looking good.

In Bucharest Alex was Bernadette, here she is to be Jan. By lunch she’d been though her costumes, turned up a pair of trousers and is ready to join Bernadette, Gerard and Gareth on a sightseeing adventure. Nina’s sound is plumbed in. She’s remixed things again and promised us “20% more audio excitement”, which sounds like a bold, does the dial go up to 11?

Over here we’re on 110V power, down from Europe’s 240V. Arvo’s cooked up a plan and a mixture of local lights and step-up transformers, our lighting desk plugged via their lighting desk into their dimmer racks seems to be doing the trick. The fans appear to be cranked up as much as the ever have been, which is good news for those charged with wrangling the Orange Billowing Mass. Low power fans leads to a flaccid mass and no one wants that, least of all the wranglers.



Sunday, May 03, 2009


Easy as Pi

Sit up in a foyer waiting for co-workers to haul in from Manchester, England: beat the jet-lag by staying up forever.

National Express was weirdly painless, despite being the 02.45 Birmingham to Heathrow.
Check in and all else was smooth. The long haul flight helped me solve an e-mail in-box overload.

A photo of The Cleansing of Constance Brown has recently appeared in an A-level text book, so as a Maths, Physics, Geography boy, I took the chance to see the kind of thing A-level Theatre students need to know. I can seen now why I didn't take that option – Physics is far more my thing. Air Canada's in-flight entertainment included an option of Canadian films, a number of them short. My favourite was Easy As Pi, an engaging documentary about kids from a University Maths Soc. reciting Pi to ridiculous degrees of accuracy; that's their thing.

Once imigration and customs sorts grudgingly agreed that Billy could linger a while in their country we were free to install ourselves on the 33rd floor of a Harbour side hotel (free lobby wi-fi). Later I bullied Billy and Alex into walking from 0 – 1184 West Queen Street to an Ethiopian restaurant I had spotted in our welcome pack. The walk was exciting, the city impressive. A band played from the back of a Budget rental van. Darth Vader and storm troopers guarded a comic shot. Every other shop boasted another fresh specialism. Fortunately our meal justified the march, it was delicious.

Tomorrow, bright an early, the work begins.



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