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A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Actors Blowing my own trumpet Brighton Fringe Theatre

Better than I’d dared to hope for

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Peter Kenny, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons and Dylan Corbett-Bader a few minutes before our final performance

So what a week. I’m writing this first thing on a Monday morning, after an extraordinary week. A Glass of Nothing played to three sell out audiences. It garnered some great reviews (which I’ll link again to here and here).

Having now seen the play run in front of living breathing audiences, there are bits I’d like to quickly tighten up, and other bits I’ll cut. I’m convinced the play has excellent bones, however, and it is definitely worth pushing on with.

The cast were a joy to work with. Beth, Kitty and Dylan, were sensational and there were no passengers in this cast. People’s feedback to me on all three has been fabulous. Beth carried the show, had the biggest part and showed enormous bravery transforming herself into a sensational diva, by turns touching and outrageous. Kitty, proved herself a versatile, natural comedienne and won herself an agent through her performance.

The most pressure was on Dylan, who for reasons already gone into on this blog, was featured in the national newspapers. He showed off a delicious comedy timing. He really is a loveable young man, on and off stage. I am sure will go on to achieve whatever he sets his sights on. His family are wise enough to protect him from the weight of expectation and let him flourish in his own way.

I found myself being quoted (as ‘Peter Kenny playwright’) on page three of The Daily Mail. Inevitably in the telling of Ronnie Corbett and Dylan’s story there was a slight warping of reality. According to the press, Dylan had the starring role in the play, for example, while  Beth and Kitty appeared in photos uncredited. That all their photos were on websites and in local and national newspapers, just from having been in a fringe show, is rather splendid though. And I’m naturally chuffed that a play I wrote was the context for all this.

So Beth and I are going to have a planning meeting later this week, to decide our next steps. But I think we’re both determined there will be next steps. And on a rather grubby practical note, having not made a loss on the show is rather nice. Traditionally fringe shows are holes into which money is poured, but when the beans are counted we will make as small profit, we can invest in the next production, such as buying tickets to Edinburgh for example.

Below: the glamorous backstage reality of the fringe.

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Theatre

Dylan rises to the challenge

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Dylan Corbett-Bader, grandson of comic legend Ronnie Corbett performing on stage in A Glass of Nothing, a comedy running as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival in Brighton this week ***Pic by David McHugh / Brighton Pictures 07768 721637***

Here’s a nice piece in the Daily Mail about Dylan. For an 18 year old, he is already extremely mature and professional. His grandfather, the much-loved performer Ronnie Corbett died during the period we were rehearsing the play. Although very sad, if anything his grandfather’s passing made Dylan more determined to succeed.

This week was so important for Dylan for all kinds of reasons. And as a cast, Beth, Kitty and I are really proud he did so well.

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A Glass of Nothing Theatre

Four stars from Arts Award Voice

Really happy that A Glass of Nothing received another four star review from Isabelle Emma Stokes, who writes: “…dark humour playfully dances on the thin line between imagination and reality. Drowning in beautifully written monologues – it charms, pouts and glitters.”

Read Isabelle Emma Stokes’ review on the Arts Award Voice site.

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Comedy Reviews Theatre

Four stars from BroadwayBaby

Absolutely chuffed by a great review of ‘A Glass of Nothing’ by Charley Ville.

“Writer Peter Kenny’s and actor-director Beth Symons’s A Glass of Nothing knows exactly what it’s doing – and who it’s doing it for. The very first lines pop like a Formula 1 celebration and we are delightfully bathed in a stream of deliciously fizzing jokes and observations. Featherweight bliss, this is a real Babysham of a show.”

Read the full review here.

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Comedy Theatre

Smashed it!

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Too twitchy to take photos, but I snapped Beth moments before the doors opened. She is set on stage as the play begins, and as people file in. In retrospect I think this is quite a sadistic thing to inflict on an actor, but then she directed it so she only has herself to blame. Of course everyone was nervous. My own approach was a kind of numbed pseudo-calm. I sat rigidly watching the actors (in the bare few minutes we had left after setting the stage) pacing about on stage muttering lines to themselves.

I find it hard not to resort to X Factor cliches, but the cast undeniably smashed it . We had a great audience – warm and supportive – and a full house. Thank God people laughed lots when it was funny, and got sucked into the drama of the darker bits. An absolute result for a first night.

Everyone gave it their best. With the pivotal role, Beth was daring,hilarious and chameleon-like. And she kept the play glued together. Dylan exuded humour, confidence and is completely loveable. While Kitty was note perfect in the weirdly bitchy parts we’d inflicted on her, and her own improvisation of a hungover office worker was really funny. I managed not to screw up my tiny role too.

After the audience had gone, I poked my head into the tiny wing and found Beth, Kitty and Dylan sardined into the tiny stage wing, giggling hysterically about having made it through the first night.

A fantastic first show. But by God I needed a beer afterwards. Seems the next two nights are full houses too so bring ’em on.

And last, but not least… The Argus has picked up on Dylan’s story here. We’re all proud of him too.

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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Fringe Comedy Performance Theatre

First show tonight

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Beth and Kitty and A Glass of Nothing

This morning I thought I’d write an update from the safety of the duvet.

At the end of our last rehearsal (we crowbarred four complete run throughs plus a tech rehearsal into the weekend) I told Beth, Kitty and Dylan how proud I was of them. They’ve  expanded the play and added so much. Beth has the pivotal role, and is onstage most of the time, but she still has been able to direct proceedings, with me also chipping in. Casting Kitty and Dylan was a big win, and spending hours in rehearsal rooms is much easier when everyone is so easygoing and professional.

Happily, we’ve pretty much sold out the Theatre Box. This means we will have covered our venue costs, promotion costs and so on. There’s little money to be made from this malarkey, but doing better than breaking even means we can put the money towards our next venture.

After we sold the bulk of the tickets there has been a small wave of publicity surrounding Dylan, who is the late Ronnie Corbett’s grandson. The Daily Mail, the Argus and no doubt some other places are picking up on Dylan’s ‘taking to the stage’. We all had a laugh at the photo from when he was about 15 that the Mail used for him. Dylan has a naturally loveable presence, a fine asset for an actor – and has been entirely professional about carrying on despite being very sad about his loss.

My nerves are just about under control. I’m trying not to twitch like Herbert Lom in the Pink Panther movies. Naturally my excitement is seasoned with the odd flash of panic… Visions of everyone forgetting their lines, a stony-faced audience, haywire sound and lighting, and then how an unexpected tsunami rushes in from the English Channel and washes the Theatre Box and the rest of Brighton away mid-performance…

One good thing was that Beth, Kitty, (see above in their white coats) my wife Lorraine and I went about the Warren at the weekend asking people if they’d like to drink a glass of nothing. Several people drank it and commented on its flavours. That the glass could be full of possibilities, imagination and fabulousness seemed to be readily understood. Get that, you get the play.

Right. No more displacement activities. Better get up, and get on with the day. We’re on at 8:30 tonight. Breakfast, then a spot of work, then gym then… YIKES!

PS:  I did my first meme last night…

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A Glass of Nothing Actors Comedy Theatre

A shiver of anticipation

 

Last blog about this show till the first night, which is Tuesday 17th May. All fairly calm offstage, while onstage things are hotting up. In two days our tech rehearsal, then a few more run throughs… Then we’re on. Typically, it was only last week that we discovered the perfect place to rehearse: Copperdollar Studio. Heartily recommend for other actors, photographers, dancers and anyone else who needs a clean, atmospheric and warmly-organic feeling place to work.

At the time of writing, the last night of A Glass of Nothing has sold out, and the other two nights are going well. My private OMG-please-let-the-audience-be-more-than-x number was passed a long time ago. Much to my relief.

Rehearsals fall into the usual rhythm of excellent and challenging. Fortunately, our last one was a cracker. I actually got shivers down my spine as we were running through it. The play seems so much bigger now than when I wrote it.

Last minute tickets from here, and a few more snaps of our cast below.

 

 

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a writer's life Poetry Theatre

Two thoughts on poetry vs theatre

As a poet who writes plays, here are a couple of thoughts about poetry vs theatre while rehearsing my play A Glass of Nothing for the Brighton Fringe.

Control

 

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I love this image of Jackson Pollock, at work above, because it makes me think about control. When people publish my poems I am always chuffed. But if they choose not to, that is their own affair. I can’t control it. The only bit I can control, however, is writing the poem as best I can. I think of this as focusing on the job at hand. (This is not to deny there are other black arts of persuasion, schmoozing, expert social media work etc. to tip the balance.) Though I sometimes share drafts of poems, I never write poetry in a spirit of compromise. There are fashions in poetry, but the poets I most admire write like themselves ; set the style, not chase it.

You can write the first draft of your play alone, just as you would a poem. You might even find that ideas and metaphors you might use in a poem, can also be used on stage. But the moment your ideas solidify into living, breathing actors, you cheerfully surrender control. Your idea becomes enriched as a co-creation. As a born collaborator, I love this process. I have less control, but find it liberating.

I write poems in a tightly controlled way, and working on this play is making me question how I write poetry, and if I can do it in a less rigidly-controlled, more splattery way.

 

Suggestion 

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Here is Beth looking in an imaginary mirror. We’ve just got her a real one to stare at for the show. But in a play I love how a whole world can be suggested with a glance. In my play, for example, a character peers behind one of the flats backstage and says ‘the fire is licking through the forest’. The audience naturally imagines what the actor is seeing, with no special effects budget at all.

Of course poems leave things unsaid and imply things all the time. While there is a visual element to how a poem is laid out, most of the action takes place in the reader’s head. The poet in me is loving the way the theatre allows you to take the action from inside your head, and place it in  real three dimensional space. Unlike film, which often attempts to show you as much as it can, theatre is full of suggestion. It positively magnetises imaginative participation.

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A Glass of Nothing Comedy Theatre

Rabbiting about The Warren

Beth and I went to the opening of the Warren theatre complex. A fabulous and buzzy atmosphere, good beers, and the unmistakable Fringe vibe. Frankly we’re buzzing too after seeing The Theatre Box where our show will be held. It is red and strangely compelling. And that’s just from the outside. Sipping a pint of East Coast IPA, and looking at the various venues and people beginning to stream in, I began to feel excitable.

I’m very confident about the show at the moment. Being a neurotic, I’m trying not to over-analyse this in case my tranquility collapses like a house of cards. But it is an empirically verifiable fact that tickets are already selling like rather toasty cakes, with our last night looking particularly healthy. And rehearsals are excellent: this play is a living and breathing entity with its own soul and momentum. All that and laughs too.

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In rehearsals, interesting how progress happens in fits and starts. A great surge of progress can be made in one day. An onrushing deadline and the prospect of public humiliation certainly focuses the mind when it comes to learning lines. I know both Beth and I have had ghastly being on stage having no lines type dreams. At least Beth will be on stage, with Kitty and Dylan. I’ll just be twitching in the front row.

Beth has a complex, multifaceted part and in the last week suddenly the strands of the character fell together into one convincing and hilarious whole. It was a privilege to see this happening. I can’t wait for the play, and Beth’s role, to be unleashed on the world.

A Glass of Nothing is on 17th 18th 19th May, at 8:30. The show runs for an hour, and we should be done by 9:30-ish should you need to escape the fleshpots and temptations of Brighton early. Here’s a wee bit about us on Brighton Bites Reviews Hub.

And here’s the obligatory ‘tickets from here’ link. 🙂 Please come…

 

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A Glass of Nothing Actors Brighton Fringe Comedy Performance Theatre

Build it and they will come… we hope!

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On the top deck of the bus, travelling to rehearsals yesterday, I took a blurry snap of people assembling The Warren where our show will be staged. Seeing The Warren being built, focuses the mind more than it would if it were a permanent theatre. Bum-clenching proof that there are just three weeks till the show’s opening night.

Happily enough, we’ve already sold dozens of tickets which is making the Kenny twitchometer slightly calmer. If you’d like to come, and please do if you can, find a link here to tickets. The comedy play runs at about an hour, which is enough to fulfil Beth Symon’s three wishes of absolute beauty, having the perfect partner, and a glittering career. She’s ably abetted by the Kitty Underhill and Dylan Corbett-Bader who are playing several figments of her imagination with gusto and versatility.

Rehearsals have been excellent. Thankfully we’ve got to the point now where the stabilisers are coming off the bike, and we’re freewheeling through entire show in rehearsals. Lots to be done in the next few week, and I’m still tweaking the script, but we’re on track. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Below… Beth, Kitty and Dylan.