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A Glass of Nothing Actors Theatre

‘A Glass of Nothing’ still half full

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Beth finds somewhere quiet to apply makeup in the Surgeons’ Hall

So… Edinburgh. Blimey, it was an exhausting. In fact so exhausting, it has taken me two weeks to get around to writing about it… Edinburgh utterly dwarfs the  Brighton Festival, and the competition for bums (on seats) is ferocious. Nothing beats first hand experience of publicising and flying for your play, sticking together as a unit and delivering great performances to all kinds of audiences. Not to mention getting into the rhythm of gulping  post-performance beers and discovering late night Edinburgh delicacies such as the macaroni pie.

We learned lots. Next time we take on Edinburgh we’ll do things a little differently. My biggest learning was that putting a short run play on at the beginning of the festival is disadvantageous when seeking reviews. Luckily we had some corkers from the Brighton Festival, so we did okay. We had a couple of quiet nights but luckily this improved towards the end of the run. I’m always surprised at how different audiences can react so differently to the same play. Lots of laughter on one night, a serious absorption into the dark side of the play on the other. While one night, we were all surprised how everyone took against Kitty’s character to side with Beth.

We all made time to see some other shows of course, but I found it hard to see as many as I’d have liked. Shows had tiny audiences were often excellent too.  We took in several women comedians, and I particularly liked Jane Postlethwaite whose work was full of imagination as well as being extremely funny.

All in all, however, it was a hugely positive experience. We left Edinburgh proud of ourselves. And I was bursting with pride in how brilliantly everyone had done. Beth was magnificent, pouting and flirting with the audience.  Kitty and Matt were sensational, and delivered excellent performances every night.  And a big shout out to Amy who did our tech, and for my wife Lorraine who was our bedrock (plus stagehand). We all lived together in a top of a tenement flat in Leith too, like a thespian Walton family. Maybe next year? Hmm…. Now there’s an idea.

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Amy Freeman on tech
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Matt Colborne, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons August 2017, Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh
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A Glass of Nothing Brighton Blonde Productions Theatre

‘A Glass of Nothing’ theSpace@Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh 4-5 & 7-10 August

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Tickets available here

I’ve always liked collaborations. Brighton Blonde Productions, the theatre production company I put together with my stepdaughter Beth Symons has been a particularly excellent one. Our Edinburgh trip will be our third run as Brighton Blonde Productions.

It is good to write with an actor in mind, instead of starting with a blank sheet. For A Glass of Nothing, Beth and I drank beers and discussed the pressing concerns of a woman  woman in her twenties (beyond the next round of course). When writing it, all I had to do was consult my inner Beth and ask myself if she would say those lines. Beth’s influence means that the play deals with social media, and the pressure to conform to expectations of beauty and so on. It has turned out to be a dark comedy for the selfie generation.

It’s nice for us as a family. The ever supportive Lorraine (my wife, Beth’s mother) is listed as our official stage hand for the show. I’ve been to the Edinburgh festival as a punter was great fun. Taking a play to Edinburgh will, fingers crossed, be at least as much fun — mixed with dread and horror, obviously.

I am also mightily relieved that the fabulous and multitalented Kitty Underhill will join us in Edinburgh too. Kitty is a top comedy actress, and her enthusiasm, poise and hilarious ad libs have contributed enormously to the show. For the Edinburgh run we’ve recruited actor and model Matt Colborne to play the male roles. Beth and I have started intensively rehearsing with him, and I’m already excited about the new character dimensions Matt can bring to the show.

Turns out everyone in the show is an actor/model. I also have a tiny cameo in the show — but it will come as no surprise that I am not an actor/model at all. Though the cast are all busy on other work, somehow, we’re pulling it altogether. So if you find yourself in Edinburgh at the beginning of August. Come along!

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A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Brighton Blonde Productions Poetry Telltale Press Theatre

Precious time

I’ve spent the last couple of months with little time. I’ve been commuting to London to work in an advertising agency every day (a four hour round trip). The Gods of Freelance then added in more work for me to do on the train, and in the evenings and weekends and through holidays. By chance this coincided with one of my worst-ever bouts of depression. I rarely get depressed. Glum, sure, but that’s usually over in a few days. But being down for weeks on end was unusual for me, and my respect for people who keep on keeping on, despite dealing with repeated depression, is more acute now.

Now, having thawed from that glacier, I feel myself again. Being depressed for me means having myself at the centre of all my thoughts. And you can take it from me, it is a tedious place. Now I can laugh about myself again,  I can’t wait to get stuck into being creative on my own projects. The enforced ‘downtime’ has given me unexpected benefits. I am suddenly much clearer about two of my projects. Time is often the best editor. I could have done without pouring tea into my laptop the other day, however, but that’s a different story.

* * *

I attended the recent Telltale Press reading in Lewes, which featured Siegfried Baber, mining his love of Americana to enormous effect, Marion Tracey whose poems have an Apollonian dreamlike clarity.  Sarah Barnsley read particularly well I thought. One of her poems, called The Fugitive, I loved. It reminded me of C.P. Cavafy’s wonderful concreteness. I think Sarah’s work is fantastic. Sarah introduced her friend Katrina Naomi who also read excellently, despite being interrupted by the Telltale Stand collapsing dramatically as if some poltergeist had given it a good shake. Katrina’s work seems effortless, both accessible and deep. Everyone lapped up her reading.

I snapped two rather poor photos on the night. One of Sarah Barnsley, and the other of Katrina Naomi. The room was packed, although it doesn’t look like it.

* * *

Meanwhile two of my poetry chums are on the cusp of new publications, and I’m delighted for both of them.

By old pal Richard Fleming is just about to publish Stone Witness, a new collection with the Guernsey-oriented Blue Ormer Publishing. Richard’s box of books has just arrived and his blog captures the moment. It is going to be launched during the Guernsey Literary Festival, and I am really looking to seeing him soon, and owning a copy.

Meanwhile Robin Houghton has had a pamphlet accepted by Cinnamon, called All The Relevant Gods, to be published next year. Robin has an inspiring blog post about the journey to acceptance here. For all kinds of reasons, even for an exceptional poet like Robin, making progress can be tough. But it means getting the breakthrough is even sweeter.

* * *

Beth Symons and I are beginning to sort out our Edinburgh Fringe run. We all have somewhere to stay, which is a start. We are just about to start auditioning for a male actor (preferably Brighton based, or within striking distance) to join the ensemble. So if you happen to be male, in your twenties, and an actor with comedy chops, then please get in touch with me through this site.

My play, A Glass of Nothing, which is directed by and stars Beth Symons, and features Kitty Underhill will be on at  The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall, Theatre 2, 9.10pm on 5/8/17, (free preview) 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th August 17 (4-night run).  Naturally I hope to be blah-blahing about this more ere long.

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Performance Theatre

A golden moment

There is a section of A Glass of Nothing where Beth is transformed into the world’s most beautiful woman and goes into the audience, requests a phone and takes a selfie. I just love this pic taken last night at the Marlborough Theatre.

Our wee two-day run of We Three Kings and A Glass of Nothing is over. Brighton Blonde Productions will be back in the new year, not least with taking A Glass of Nothing to Edinburgh. Running A Glass of Nothing again, in a slightly trimmed version for me was a proof of concept. With Beth shining at its centre, this is a piece I am truly proud of.

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Beth Symons in ‘A Glass of Nothing’

The cast of We Three Kings a few minutes before the start of the show. Left to right, James Kuszewski, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons, and Dylan Corbett-Bader. We Three Kings is a half an hour twisted nativity play with hope in its heart, and these are the people who made its hope shine.

 

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James Kuszewski, Kitty Underhill, Beth Symons, Dylan Corbett-Bader in ‘We Three Kings’
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Brighton Blonde Productions Comedy Theatre

Time to shine

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After a six hour rehearsal, a snap taken last night in The Duke of Wellington whose rehearsal room we are using. Left to right, James Kuszewski, Dylan Corbett-Bader, Kitty Underhill and Beth Symons all with well deserved cookie accessories. I think their performances are peaking at just the right time. Beth has struck the balance of ensuring the cast is well rehearsed, but not jaded. We’ve got some intensive work this week, before our shows at the Marlborough Theatre this Thursday  8th and Friday 9th. Please come along if you can. A nice preview of our Brighton Blonde Productions show can be found here in BN1 Magazine.

The older I get, it becomes clear that time is the most precious resource. In my experience, no kind of art happens in a vacuum. Everyone else in the cast is juggling work and other commitments. As for me, in the last two weeks I’ve been visiting my mother’s husband who has been in intensive care in  a London hospital following a triple bypass. This kind of stark contrast, moving from intensive care ward to rehearsal room, increases my  determination to take every opportunity I can. I hope not an out of control egotism, just a desire to say everything I have to say that’s worth saying, while there’s still time.

That four such talented and hilarious actors are happy to give up their time, effort and energy to make these two dark comedies live and breathe is something I’m extremely grateful for.

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Brighton Blonde Productions Comedy Theatre

The play’s the thing

Last night Brighton Blonde Productions regrouped.  Our next shows are on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th December at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton.

It was good after the success of the summer (four star reviews and all) to read through it again making cuts and tweaks. We want to get it so tight it squeaks.

Plus we are going not launch We Three Kings, a short 30-minute piece I am now writing like mad, as we want to start rehearsing it shortly. It is a kind of twisted Nativity. I love Christmas, so doing a play about the three kings is a bit of a bucket list thing.

As you an see, we’ve got a new multitalented recruit, James, to our lemonade-powered cast.

Below left to right: Dylan Corbett-Bader, Beth Symons, Kitty Underhill and James Kuszewski. More news here soon.

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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 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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