Standing Up

After some slight nerves and prop related problems on our opening night the show is now in full swing and going well. People seem to be enjoying it and the cast are definitely having fun.

We've updated the website to include photos from the show and they can be found here.

Click around, there's some nice looking stuff.

Countdown to Theatre Crisis: 1 week

There is now only one week until our run at the Etcetera Theatre begins, our final rehearsal was last night and we are ready to please. Thus I implore you to BUY TICKETS and recommend the show to friends, acquaintances and people wearing Multiple Man T-shirts. If we haven't done enough to convince you with our shorts, good reviews or friendly smiles then why not ask us something at our formspring page? Let us sell the show to you. Or ask us about food, drink and sex like everyone else.
We are ready to perform; in our full run last week we still managed to make each other laugh even though the jokes are seven months old to some of us. We have a good show; we just need people to see that.

Our first rehearsal of last week was on Monday, in which Kris and I met with "Special Guest Star Customer" Nina. It's really fun to do the same scene with different actors, you get a different, but just as valid, interpretation of the role that also makes Kris and I perform the scene differently. By forcing myself out of the natural rhythm of the scene predicated by our rehearsals with Amy it now makes it harder to return to the rhythm with Amy creating a looser, more natural performance with both actors. We took a break from constantly running the short scene which resulted in Kris and I explaining time travel theories and some string theory concepts to Nina because there's a lot more to us than pretty faces. This lead to Jackie attempting to explain The Return of Bruce Wayne to Nina whilst I gurned and shrugged. After Nina left, Kris and I performed the opening scene in front of Jackie for the first time since August and because it was so long since rehearsing it, the scene was a lot looser, we relied on instinct to move us where we needed to and some of the changed line readings fit naturally amongst everything else. It was certainly the most comfortable performance of the scene we've done, if not the best.

Tuesday was our last chance at a rehearsal with Dan so we took the opportunity to run through the second half of the play. All went very well the first time through and after some brief notes and picking out things to work on we've dove right in. The second run was another high-energy good performance, the moment Ashlynn and Liz meet is so charming and entertaining to watch but then just before my scene with Ashlynn I mentioned that my biggest fear is saying "You wear faiwy wings for wefewence.." which made Dan, Sandy and Kris erupt in giggles. And then of course I started acting up, replacing every r with a w, directing lines towards them and rudely gesturing at them whilst trying to remain natural. And then when Sandy and Kris re-entered the scene they got their revenge. Basically we performed the last few minutes of the play broken and in hysterics. And it was some of the most fun I've ever had doing a play.

As I mentioned, the full run on Thursday went really well, with us all hitting very high points. There was one stand-out mistake but the culprit was flogged and now I really wish I hadn't done that to myself. It really did go well but the post-acting drop in energy after a consistent high for 90 minutes meant I probably wasn't able to articulate thoughts and feelings to other actors afterwards, one topic in particular anyway. In those situations I find it easier to be dismissive and approach things when my head is clear than to be misunderstood or snap when in a downward slope. So, yeah, sorry if that was annoying for you.

Last night Nina was integrated into the rest of the cast, she got to see the other parts of the play and Sandy and Natalie got to watch the Customer scene with Nina playing the part. We were without Mr. Daniel Farley and I decided to run the play through but skipping over the entirety of Scene 4, which oddly enough still allows the plot to make sense but it's rather abrupt and you lose a lot of character development. Another good run, perhaps not at full energy, but still technically good and we made Nina laugh, which was a pleasant surprise. We had lighting man Julian there to get a sense of the show and watch us fight. He too seemed to enjoy the show (you probably will) and was very complimentary about our actors, which was just lovely to hear.

And that was that. I made sure to tie up all loose ends; clarifying costumes, van hire and the like before saying farewell for the week. It is going to be a weird week and weekend, I will no doubt become increasingly anxious and a small programme problem will no doubt result in me throwing something across a room. But Tuesday will bring that magical moment of entering a space we control. I hope to see you there.

And don't forget you can ask us ANYTHING on the formspring page. Here's a snippet of what to expect:

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Nina Bright (Customer 25th & 26th Nov): I would like to be able to teleport. For the sole purpose of being able to stay in bed longer.

Sandy Jarvis (Liz): Telekinetic. Able to move things with my mind [Like we don't know what that means Sandy]

Kris Wood (Kris): The ability to turn myself to smoke, a la smoke from Mortal Kombat [presumably Kris wouldn't want to be turned into an android]

Jackie O'Sullivan (Producer): Super speed. With my increased metabolism it would be socially acceptable for me to eat more.

Michael Eckett (Liam): I've always thought that combining my biochemistry knowledge with well-honed telekinesis would be pretty powerful. I could controll cell signalling, metabolic processes. And levitate like a boss.

Natalie Martins (Ashlynn): The power to teleport, so when I want to get somewhere, I don't have to sprint to make my train then awkwardly have the door shut a second before I make it, leaving me standing, out of breath and redfaced on the platform like a lemon. Plus it would probably give me 4 hours of my day back. As a bonus I wouldn't have to pay for fares, petrol or air tax, unless the government find a way of somehow taxing teleportation.
Or stop time like in 'Bernard's Watch' Did you ever watch that? Amazing.

    Countdown to Theatre Crisis: 2 weeks

    It's not long until the show now; whilst two weeks can be enough time to rehearse an entire play for companies, with our schedule (and Dan Farley's work schedule) we need to be close to show ready now. Luckily everyone has worked hard to get to this point and we're at a stage where we can confidently go through individual scenes at a high level. The next two weeks will be about piecing scenes together and performing longer stretches.

    And of course concentrating on selling tickets. Our flyers and posters are in the theatre, in the hands of our actors and in reputable comic shops in London. Now that we have a good show it is important to ensure we have a successful show. Thus I remind everyone reading that we did manage to sell over 80 tickets in the Roundhouse in one night, so to avoid disappointment at the Etcetera (42 seats) I would suggest booking tickets.

    The week just gone was about nuance. At the top of the week I rehearsed with Kris and Sandy; we are at the point where the blocking is natural and the movement fluid so that the real performances are starting to come through and this allowed me to pick out looks and gestures in key moments to reveal some emotional clarity. I touched on a quieter moment between Sandy and Kris in which Liz is pressing information from Kris regarding Liam's other artist, Ashlynn, as she is slowly figuring out how to bring everyone together. In doing so I mention a plot point from the characters past about Kris manipulating Liz into thinking Liam might fancy her and complicating their relationship. This bit of history is only vaguely alluded to in the play and happens about 18 months before the time our show covers. It's the kind of information that I have as the writer and that can help an actor understand a character but isn't necessary for the audience to be barraged with. It's sort of like comic book continuity, there's decades of it and some of it is going to mean something to some readers and affect how a character reacts to things but you can't bog down your story with it.

    Actors are still yet to ask me if a character is vegetarian or not.

    And then on Thursday we rehearsed our scenes with Dan in between talking about S&M clubs and furries.

    (Post script: Rather than Michael setting questions for a series of Cast Interviews as we have done in the past, we're opening up a Formspring page for our audience to ask the actors and creators questions. It can be anonymous, you don't have to join; you can use the opportunity to find out more about the project, its origins and influences or ask the actors about what inspires them or things about their characters)

      Countdown to Theatre Crisis: 3 weeks

      Soon after the revival of Stand-Up Comics was underway, after corralling the necessary troops and settling into our first rehearsals, I was comfortable that this iteration of the show could be better than the first. This was four weeks ago now and whilst I still think it is true, there are times when the thoughts residing in my head are not that the show will be better than before but that it has to be. And that is a very dangerous frame of mind.

      These thoughts were only compounded by our first rehearsal of this week, in which Kris and I met with Amy for the first time since August. After dutifully catching up and giving Amy an idea of how the rest of the show is progressing we stormed through Scene 2; the only scene untouched by cast changes or feedback. Almost instantly we were performing at the level we did in Summer and soon Amy was happy to start experimenting and pushing herself whilst Kris and I were content with being able to relax for a change.

      But with this cementing my notion of this performance of Stand-Up Comics having to live up to the previous one and even out do it. I started to dwell on vague doubts and criticisms attached to the final scene of the play. There is still one thing I'd like to try with regards to the Liam/Kris dynamic that I didn't this week because when meeting with Kris, Natalie and Sandy I became far too focused on a pair of fairy wings and tangibility and imagery and I let doubt infect the rehearsal, letting it take up time rather than allowing actors to craft something stronger.

      Then came our last rehearsal of the week, with Kris, Sandy, Dan and me laughing our way through the night. All previous doubts were washed away by the enjoyment of the experience and the knowledge that we were doing well. Halfway through the week, being three weeks away from our performance at the Etcetera, felt tight, now it feels like all the time in the world. Surely enough time to make the show the best it has ever been and I strongly encourage you to buy tickets and see for yourself.

      Countdown to Theatre Crisis: 4 weeks

      This was a week of confrontation and not just because Sandy and I worked on the fight scene as much as possible or because I've taken to kicking Natalie every time she slumps but because I have been confronted with the reasons and motivations for the play's existence that I haven't considered since I finished writing it. It's a lot like Grant Morrison's Animal Man in which Animal Man meets Grant Morrison, except not like that and more like a therapy session with an unlicensed stranger.

      Monday's rehearsal was between Natalie and myself as we worked on Ashlynn as a character and her relationship with Liam. It wasn't all kicking and ridicule from a "professional" towards a tired girl; we sat down and talked through the subtext of Ashlynn's lines and the concept of Ashlynn as a symbol and instrument of change in Liam via her requests not to be treated symbolically.

      Tuesday brought Sandy, Kris and I back together and was our first opportunity to try out some of the softer things Kris and I had spoken about, which have ended up working really well. Now, more familiar with the blocking and lines, small things are popping up like Sandy furiously drawing name badges and a collective of weird walks. Honestly a lot of the play is becoming impromptu weird walks across the stage. The small things come as a result of the time we spend getting to know one another now. Being together for some time now we cover loads including the weird times we've been on TV (Nickelodeon, Sock Puppets and fake wii) and more personal things like school, growing up and failed early romances.

      Thus Kris and I applied this approach to our first rehearsal with SPECIAL GUEST STAR NINA BRIGHT (appearing November 25th and 26th). We spent a rather large amount of the rehearsal talking about Ryan Gosling, Drive, The fight scenes in Kung Fu Panda 2, favourite movies in general, Texas Battle and, our favourite subject, Demolition Man. We did this in the hope that by understanding me and Kris she will understand the piece. And because we really like Demolition Man. I also answered Nina's questions on whether "The Customer" exists in real life and wound up giving a brief history of comics from 1980 onwards and it must not have been fun for her.

      Thursday marked two years since I met Dan, it was my Danniversary, and Sandy encouraged my noting of the date by bringing muffins for us all to devour whilst rehearsing. The long week had finally taken its toll on me though as I (and everyone else) wound up cracking up at some of those smaller moments and jokes that we've been peppering throughout the script. A nice way to end the week but I shall have to be tougher next time we go through this scene so that the audience can laugh as much as we have been.

      Alongside rehearsals Kris has finished designing the poster which you can see on our Productions page and I created a facebook event for the performance. So if you want to declare your commitment to us to an entire social network, you are now able to. We're nice like that.

      Confronted with memories and questions, by people new and old, by worries and stress. And we're surviving. It should be a good show.

      Countdown to Theatre Crisis: 5 weeks

      Reunions are tricky, just read any issue of Green Lantern where Hal has to say "Hi" to characters he'd previously killed when possessed by a yellow fear demon or watch the documentary about Steps reforming. This week was the big Sigil Club reunion for Stand-Up Comics and it featured more fights than a Green Lantern comic but less fights than Steps. Of course our fight was a choreographed fight between Sandy and myself, which is a slightly changed version of the Liam/Liz fight, now taking advantage of stuff Sandy can bring to it and will result in my having to stretch every day.

      Tuesday was to be the first time Natalie and Sandy met each other as we rehearsed the final scene of the play but Dan Farley also decided to come down, offer insight and take the opportunity to meet Natalie when he might not get another chance. What that resulted in was big introductions, the five of us telling stories to Natalie, generally catching up and my favourite rhythmic nonsense warm-up as seen in a Sainsburys advert.

      We've made a lot of progress this week; lines are almost perfect, Natalie has had a bit of time to settle in, my chemistry with Sandy in the initial read for the Liam/Liz moment has made me really positive about that and based on feedback from the summer show I spent Thursday with Kris going over parts of the script where we could bring different things out of his performance. And Dan comfortably returned to the role made for him whilst working well with the changes that Sandy brings. Though it's hard to stop a terrifying man with a booming voice and a shovel.

      With everyone together this week we took the opportunity to take new photos for the poster/ flyers and sent this through to the Etcetera Theatre to put up on their website

      Which means tickets are now on sale! And can be purchased from and I highly recommend purchasing some because it's looking like it's going to be a very exciting show and at £7.50 it will be better value than a Steps concert.

      Countdown to Theatre Crisis: 6 weeks

      It was a bust week for the Sigil Club including a trip to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I say "trip", what I mean is I went to see the film with Jackie. But we also saw and waved at Stripped actor Kate Quinn, so that counts, right? Bookending that were our auditions and rehearsals, which, whilst time consuming, were really enjoyable.

      I started the week with Jackie and Kris, auditioning/interrogating the many brave women who wanted to audition for the role of Ashlynn. We saw a plethora of talented actresses, many different interpretations of lines and I consistently cracked up at the impeccable timing of every actress when they came to deliver one line in particular. And whilst it was tempting to put off the decision and listen to Kris's stories of the Channel 4 complaints department and the one person who consistent complained of aliens contacting him, we eventually found our Ashlynn. So come the 22nd-27th of November we will happily be staring alongside Natalie Martins.

      On the other side of the "great Tinker Tailor divide" was a rehearsal with me, Kris and Sandy. I was struggling to remember a short story about a pig, Kris had overdosed on Snapple and Sandy was celebrating but we managed to pull ourselves together for a mad rehearsal. Much like Liz in the play, Sandy's presence in the scenes/ rehearsals is taking Kris and I out of our comfort zone; blocking is changing, emphasis is shifting and it has resulted in a refreshing and exciting experience. Scenes 3 and 4 are still very loose but once we get as much humour out of the as we can, we'll repeat the moves until it's reflex; a perfect, exaggerated image like a comic panel.

      Next week I'll bring you links to tickets, images and hopefully a message of joy.

      Merry Michael Eckett

      Countdown to Theatre Crisis: 7 weeks

      There is a long standing trope in comic books of people coming back to life; dead does not mean dead. One could be injected with a cure for a terrible virus, that can only be made airborne with the death of its first user, punched to death by a prehistoric alien with bones sticking out of it, or have one's existence snuffed out by fear of riots and still come roaring back at some point.

      After having the second night of our Camden Fringe performance cancelled, Stand-Up Comics will be returning...or relaunching to use the current buzzword of the comics industry.

      New theatre! Cast changes! Same dedication and energy!

      We shall be entertaining in London between the 22nd and 27th of November and will be providing more details and links to buy tickets as soon as possible.

      Until then I shall be your guide as we battle our way towards opening night, bringing you word of our triumphs and losses. One such loss is that Ellie Ross is no longer available to play Liz but we are lucky enough to have Sandy Jarvis, who previously portrayed Ashlynn, step up and be our new Liz. News of our new Ashlynn should surface in next week's update.

      Our first rehearsal was Thursday and it was just Sandy, Kris and myself catching up and running the Liz introduction scene a few ways. We read through the scene with no strict blocking to give Kris and I a chance to see if we still knew our lines and to give Sandy the experience of chasing us around stage. We did another run in a style of a game from 'Whose Line is it Anyway' in which during the scene one of us must be standing, one on the floor and one sitting (either on the desk on on the chair) with the other actors accommodating when one of us changed positions. (This may have resulted with me rolling off a desk and on to the floor, but we are unlikely to keep that in the final piece). For our third run I asked Sandy to boil down Liz's motivation for the scene, the one thing she wants more than anything else and to then go through the scene solely dedicated to that one simple motivation with Kris and I acting as antagonists to that need. Sandy decided that Liz wants her friends attention to get them to spend time with her, and with Kris and I attempting to ignore her and have out own little feuds it resulted with Sandy stepping in between us a lot or following us around which was fun.

      In between we stopped and caught up with each other, lamented the loss of our second night at the Roundhouse, rejoiced that we're moving to a space where there will be less hassle with complex materials like doors, went into semi-detailed accounts of Chlamydia screening and where bacteria fester and generally laughed and teased each other in the way that professionals do when they're tired of acting professionally.

      After seeing a sign for a lecture/meeting entitled "Issues with modern culture" I decided it would make a pretty decent subtitle for a Stand-Up Comics venture, but I don't think we'll be adding it just yet. In future installments I shall chronicle our adventures, jokes and mistakes within rehearsals as well as updating you on new production details. But for now the return of SUC is feeling exactly as it should, a hint of nostalgia fueled by new energy.

      Stand-Up Comics: All New, All Different

      Stand-Up Comics at The Roundhouse Studio Theatre isn't far away now, the 8th and 9th of August seem to be approaching ever so quickly. But that means the last of our shorts set in the SUC universe is ready for all to see.
      Whilst the other two are very much sketches based around the characters lives and interactions with one another this is very much comic book humour.

      This second short is called "All New, All Different" based on this short sketch written by Michael. The written sketch was about X-men continuity in 2009 and this is continuity two years later. A lot has changed. A lot more hasn't.

      We hope you enjoy it and to see you at the show. Tickets can be purchased from The Roundhouse or Ticketweb

      Setting the Scene

      Stand-Up Comics is about comic books. To me comics are quintessential representations of the idea that anything is possible. Indeed Superheroes and Pulp protagonists act as grandiose extensions of our desires and insecurities but the books themselves are a testament to what we can create with unbridled imagination. Comics are not limited to a budget or technology, merely whatever the individuals involved can dream up with paper and pen. They are Da Vinci’s dwellings on man and visions of flying machines rolled into one, with metaphor and action to boot. Stand-Up Comics in story and design is embracing of this idea; it is us not asking “What can we do?” but rather “What can’t we do?”

      However there is a stigma attached to comic books, that they are for children, that they are rudimentary and unintelligent. Perhaps comic books have appealed mostly to children because they are less cynical and still willing to believe that, yes, anything is possible. And thus we as producers of the show were forced to take on the archetypal role of villain. We had to trick you into coming by portraying the show as something other than comics, as something familiar like a television sitcom about situations we can all relate to such as the tribulations and fragility of friendship. We’ve also taken your money but I think that’s more earned rather than treachery.

      The sitcom tropes are all there, they’re just displayed through a four colour, comic book filter and onto a theatre mentality. The single set ‘Work-Com’ perfectly transfers onto stage, however detailed set-dressing becomes something more abstract and a minimalist representation of a space. Shelves aren’t shelves but a 2D backdrop imbued with vibrant comic colours. Comic book captions and sound effects can become something visceral, invading our characters' physical world. By painting the characters’ everyday lives as something epic, we aim to connect our audience to comic book mythology and tropes. The events which impact our protagonists’ lives aren’t a radioactive spider bite, magical lightning bolt or lab explosion; Liam is stuck in what feels like a Batman villain's death-trap, Kris fears what he may be turning into and Liz interprets her friends falling out as the end of her world. We amplify the reactions and surroundings to highlight just what the tragedies and fights mean on a personal level. The catalyst that can transform your life could appear at any moment and in a more humdrum form than you are expecting.

      We guide the audience to make the connection between their world and the hyperreality our characters inhabit because if the Sigil Club are the villains of this piece and the show itself is the catalyst of transformation, who do you think is our hero?

      The story we tell in the play takes place over one day, but it is just one story in the expansive world of Stand-Up Comics that exists in my mind. We treat the show as though it’s an episode of serial television or an issue of a comic, as a further method of both presenting the audience with something comfortable whilst duping them into enjoying something from sequential art and linking fiction with life. There are ‘episodes’ the audience haven’t seen but they don’t need to have. The characters’ world, like ours is much bigger and whilst the events at the time are crucial to them, there is a much wider story as well. This, along with our non-traditional aesthetic and the conundrum Liam faces about what to write, form our message about not letting others restrict us.

      We need not worry about our past, our present is an adventure and our future, the next page, is blank and we can fill it with whatever we want.

      There are also penis jokes to stop people thinking we’re pretentious.

      Stand-Up Comics:Metaphors

      Not only are we performing Stand-Up Comics at The Roundhouse Studio Theatre on the 8th and 9th of August but we've made three shorts set in the SUC universe to run alongside the play.
      They're little extras starring our main characters, focusing on the world they inhabit and sometimes the odd comic book joke.

      This second short is called "Metaphors" based on this short sketch written by Michael.

      We hope you enjoy it and to see you at the show. Tickets can be purchased from The Roundhouse or Ticketweb

      Stand-Up Comics: Retorts

      To go alongside our performance of Stand-Up Comics at The Roundhouse Studio Theatre on the 8th and 9th of August we've made three shorts set in the SUC universe.
      Consider them bonus material, appetisers before the main course in a couple of weeks.

      The first is called "Retorts" and is basically this SUC sketch Michael wrote. It stars Liam and Kris in a usual quiet day at Stand-Up Comics and Kris is happy to keep things that way.

      We hope you enjoy it and to see you at the show. Tickets can be purchased from The Roundhouse or Ticketweb
      We've been so overwhelmed with preparations for the show (8th and 9th of August--Buy tickets NOW!) that we've failed to update everyone on how it's going.

      Firstly our fundraising campaign has just ended and we've managed to raise £175 (minus fees) and this will go towards providing donors with tickets, set and advertising. The lovely people who donated are: Sabrina Terzaga, Alex and Clare Craig, John O'Sullivan, Tom Griffiths, Mike Smith and Maggie Eckett.

      Speaking of advertising, we have a poster and a trailer to show you.

      You can watch the trailer on Vimeo:

      Or on Youtube:

      We hope you like what we're showing you because we have a lot more coming up. 
      See you on the 8th.

      Or 9th.

      Or Both.

      Camden Fringe - Stand-Up Comics

      Tickets for out Camden Fringe production our now on sale! You can find us in the listing here.
      Our upcoming performance of Stand-Up Comics by Michael Eckett is on the 8th and 9th of August at the Roundhouse: Studio Theatre at 6pm.

      We all find some way to escape our problems; but what if you get stuck there?

      Liam, Kris and Liz have been brought together by the comics they read, sell and write to avoid the responsibilities of the real world. But with Liam's attraction to his artist causing him writer's block and Kris' jealousy preventing him from insulting the customers' poor taste, will they be able to remain together? Sensing the friends drifting apart Liz refuses to let anyone escape until they've dealt with their problems.
      With jokes, fights and gravediggers abound, the staff at Stand-Up Comics certainly have issues.

      Stand-Up Comics is a live theatre sitcom, infused with a bombastic comic book look, which examines how pop culture influences our lives, friendships and goals.

      All the show information, including a cast list is on our Productions page.

      You can buy tickets from a variety of places:
      • The easiest and cheapest is from the Fringe Website. However the Fringe will take a percentage of the ticket sale (and rightly so) making it not the best for us when it comes to making money. 
      • You can purchase from The Roundhouse which is cool because it's The Roundhouse and you might already have an account with them etc. However the Roundhouse adds a booking fee so it's a bit more expensive.
      • Finally if you go to our fundraising page at IndieGoGo you can donate $17 (£10) and we'll organise your ticket and thank you for your donation in both the programme and on the website. It is a bit more expensive but the donation goes towards props/ set for the production (And there's no booking fee!)
      • No, seriously check out the fundraising page, we recorded a fun video especially for it and there are other incentives that you can claim if you donate. Including the chance to be named in the play! If you can't donate, that's cool, but please tell others about it in case they're super generous.
      We've also set up a facebook event if you're in to that thing and want to invite people that way. We'd love to see as many people as possible and it would be fantastic if you could invite as many friends as you can, even if you yourself can't make it.

      If anyone is interested in learning a bit more about the show, the inception of the project and the long journey Michael has been on to bring this to the stage he has written a personal blog about it. WARNING: Contains Michael being Michael.

      The Camden Fringe 2011

      We are happy to announce that The Sigil Club will be a part of The Camden Fringe in 2011 performing on the 8th and 9th of August at the Roundhouse: Studio Theatre.

      New play! New Venue! New reasons to be Excited!

      We've just finished our performance of Stripped at The Hen and Chickens and already it feels odd to not be seeing some familiar faces. We've had some very nice comments about the show from both people we know and reviewers (Links to reviews can be found on our Press page).

      We recorded our final performance and once that's edited, we'll draw peoples attention to it. So if you inexplicably missed "this challenging, manic mix of dialogue and physical theatre" because you live in a far off land or forgot how to use a door, then you will get a chance to see a digital, voodoo capture of the piece out of its natural habitat.

      Oh and new news (not about newts) hopefully by the end of the month.

      Thank You.


      During our 'Get-in' day at The Hen & Chickens Theatre we were lucky enough to have Emma Phillips around to take photos. She's put them all up on her Flickr page here and here's a couple of them:

      Once the show wraps I'll have time to feature them properly in the photos section of the website. But for now they can (and should) be seen at Emma's Flickr.

      Cast Interview - Catherine Ashton

      As we approach our production of Stripped we've decided to pose some interview questions to our actors so that the world may get to know them and relate to them before going in. And to find out just how much pain I inflict upon them.
      The final person to blow our mind holes is Catherine Ashton who plays Mother.

      Describe yourself in six words?
      Loyal, compassionate, funny, random, quirky and determined. 

      What attracted you to the role?
      The chance to play my alter ego was undoubtedly my initial attraction to such a great role. Well I couldn't turn it down. I relish character acting and have been waiting for a role like "Mother" to come out and play with.

      What attracted you to me?
      The fact that you were willing to give me the chance and were brave enough to let me play a deranged 70 year old. I shall be forever grateful.

      What's your origin story? What traumatic event or alien encounter has lead you down this theatrical path to the point where I'm making you answer this inane question?
      Well I must thank a nursery teacher of mine, who pointed out to my parents that I'm not just playing Mummy's and Daddy's. But I'm dressing up and directing and putting on plays at nursery. She told them about Saturday classes at Sylvia Young's stage school. And here I am still dressing up and getting to play.

      I’m genuinely jealous of how much fun you’re having dressing up whilst I watch on.
      Tell us about the character you play
      My character is just the sort of mother no one would want. A feisty, outspoken, embarrassing parent, though this doesn't come anywhere near to describing some of "Mothers" character traits. She is sometimes a bit disconcerted and slightly terrifying. But she would do anything for her kids and loves them to pieces! I think she's just slightly misunderstood and is suffering from empty nest syndrome.

      What do you know about the character that no one else knows?
      Well that would be telling! My father once told me that a secret shared, is no longer a secret. But I will tell you this she is partial to a gin and tonic or sherry.

      How have you found the rehearsal process?
      I have thoroughly enjoyed rehearsals but also found it awkward at times in regards to the positioning. Being on ones knees for a long time, as we have all come to learn isn't a comfortable experience. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect group of individuals to be frolicking around with.

      It must be this weird power issue thing I have where I must have you all on your knees before me.
      a member of the chorus you play lots of different characters in different situations. What effect does this have? Do you create intricate back stories for each individual, create a caricature for each line or focus on making each one as different as possible?
      You don't usually get the chance to be let loose on a multiple of characters. I've given every chorus line or chorus member in a scene an individual character. l usually go with my instincts with a character and then build from there. I think it's important to use different tools and techniques for different lines or characters. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to approach this. As long as it gets you to be where you need to be; that's my motto.

      Do you have a specific warm-up or ritual before going on stage?
      I like warming up individually or as a group, depending on the role and also feel of the piece. I do think it's important to warm up physical and vocally. But most importantly it’s essential to be in the right frame of mind, calm and not rushed. I always need to pee, it's my nervous thing! Even when I know I've just gone. But as soon as I'm on stage I'm fine.

      The play is supposedly a comedy and whilst a lot of that rests on the script, everyone has been cast because they're naturally funny. What are your comedy influences?
      Well I am flattered. I think it all depends on the writing. From there an actor is given the chance and freedom to play and create a funny character. I also think that with comedy you have to let the actor find the fun in the scene and lines. That's why it's important to cast the right actor for the right role. But you do also need to have a great and comedic line or script in the first place.

      I honestly couldn’t be happier with who I have delivering those lines.
      You're my actor of a thousand accents. Is there an accent you can't do? Can you do a Martian one or a Russian Dolphin?
      Well I don't know about that, but I do love doing accents. There are more than a few I am yet to conquer! I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to me revealing a new accent or voice. But to be honest some of them just seem to come out, whilst in jest or while looking at a character. I can't do dolphin or Martian yet Michael but, I can do non-specific Russian meerkat. As they say practice makes perfect...I'll be sure to add those two to my list.

      Cast Interview - Amy Wiles

      As we approach our production of Stripped we've decided to pose some interview questions to our actors so that the world may get to know them and relate to them before going in. And to have our Harry Potter dreams crushed.

      Our current victim is Amy Wiles who plays Scarlett.

      Describe yourself in six words?
      Just your average human being, really. 

      What's your origin story?
      I had one of those idyllic childhoods growing up in northern countryside villages; happily married parents, little brother, a cat and a dog. When I was five I started taking dance and singing classes after school with my friends; as the years went by they all left to focus on exams but I could never choose between performing and my only passions at school, art and writing. Then I was awarded a scholarship to train at The Italia Conti in London; fast forward 4 years and about 5 months and here I am. It turns out my mum had dreamt about being an actress before she went onto teach English, and when my brother decided to give drama a go he ended up training at RADA for a year, so I guess it’s in my blood.

      What attracted you to the role?
      Pretty much as soon as I read the script I knew I wanted to be a part of this play. The characters in Stripped are so colourful and the plot is brilliant; it touches on serious subjects, but it’s playful and witty at the same time. I also thought Scarlett would be a really great role to get my teeth into.

      What makes her so good to bite? What do you know about the character that no one else knows?
      We meet Scarlett about half way through the play. ‘He’ has been informed of his death, when finally he hears about a room that holds all the answers to the meaning of his life. But when he enters the room the only thing he finds in it is another lost soul, Scarlett. She’s been driven mad with loneliness and anger towards those who deceived her. I guess what no one else may be aware of is that behind the vicious exterior there is a very vulnerable girl, crippled by vivid hallucinations and psychosis. I decided this could also be linked to her death when I was developing her character since many accident victims develop psychosis as a result of violent trauma.

      You have the…most annoying of my dialogue to deliver, stuff like "blood of the undermind". How do you get your head around that and deliver it straight?
      Scarlett is terribly vicious with her words, but I think that’s partly why I like her character so much. Sometimes what she says very seriously can sound comedic to the audience, but so long as I’m completely in character I won’t get the giggles.

      What is your characters theme song?
      I think her theme song would be Blondie’s ‘One way or another’ or on a darker note Courtney Love’s ‘Life Despite God.’

      You're probably half the height of Kris, is it a challenge to feel threatening to him?
      If I’m honest, no. I’m sure he’s more frightened of me than I am of him. Like a spider.

      You're also a member of a chorus playing lots of different characters in different situations. Do you create intricate back stories for each individual, create a caricature for each line or focus on making each one as different as possible?
      When a chorus member’s line can be as short as 1 or 2 words it seems silly to create a whole character history for that fraction of a second. I tend to concentrate on what is happening in the scene and then see whatever personality seems most natural for that moment. Of course, a ‘funny accent’ thrown in here and there can be amusing for the audience as well as the other actors.

      How have you found the rehearsal process?
      I’ve worked on a few plays that rehearse a couple of evenings a week, so I’m used to long rehearsal periods. Of course it’s still been difficult. Being an actor is like having 2 jobs; 1 to feed the family and 1 to feed your soul. But once you start to see it all come together it feels fantastic, I’m really going to miss everyone when the play finishes its run.

      Do you have a specific warm-up or ritual before going on stage?
      Just like at the beginning of a rehearsal it’s good to get your body warmed up and your brain focused so that the energy stays high throughout the performance. I’ll have to do a few vocal exercises as well since I tend to be a bit ‘shouty’ when I’m playing Scarlett. I’m afraid I don’t do anything dramatic like throw up or sell my soul to Lucifer before a show, so long as I’m confident with my lines I shouldn’t get nervous.

      The play is supposedly a comedy and whilst a lot of that rests on the script, everyone has been cast because they're naturally funny. What are your comedy influences?
      Why, thank you. I think it’s so much harder to write a comedy than a tragedy because everyone has different opinions on what they consider is funny. I’m not sure if I have any specific comedy influences, I just try to see lots of different plays and films and keep an open mind. I’m a big fan of the comedian Tim Minchin, his use of wordplay with music is genius.

      Were you to be around Dan and I when we sing Inflatable You or Rock n Roll Nerd we might just be able to ruin Tim Minchin for you.

      Did you learn any magic spells when you were filming Harry Potter?
      No magic spells I’m afraid, but I did learn how to get paid lots for doing nothing! Background work is great if you can get it, but there are a lot of early mornings and sitting around waiting to do what will end up being just a 5 second shot. I think it’s pretty magic I never missed the bus that took us to the studio at 7am; I am definitely not a morning person!

      And finally if you had Nine days to find the meaning of your life where would you look first?
      I’d look on eBay.

      Cast interview - Daniel Farley

      As we approach our production of Stripped we've decided to pose some interview questions to our actors so that the world may get to know them and relate to them before going in. And to see just how lost actors can be without a script in front of them.

      The latest person to tempt us into their parlour is Daniel Farley who plays The Bishop.

      Describe yourself in six words?
      Tall, not as tall as Kris

      What attracted you to the role?
      The fact that the bishop is really funny.  Although he doesn’t think he is, he is just wonderfully absurd and I like that about him.  Plus I am often a doing more serious roles and really wanted to do something that was more over the top.  He can be a little sinister at times, but it’s his fundamental view point that he is right and the world is wrong that creates this sinister helpfulness.

      What attracted you to me?
      The Beard

      What's your origin story?
      What traumatic event or alien encounter has lead you down this theatrical path to the point where I'm making you answer this inane question?
      I have acted as long as I can remember.  As a child all I wanted to do was play my favourite TV characters.  I would have my brother act with me, re-enacting things like Ghostbusters and Terminator 2.  I don’t really know anything else.

      What is your characters theme song?
      ‘Jesus he knows me’ by Genesis.

      What do you know about the character that no one else knows?
      He knows the path to enlightenment, but he has no idea who his local MP is.

      Being in the chorus also means you’re playing lots of different characters in different situations. What effect does this have? Do you create intricate back stories for each individual, create a caricature for each line or focus on making each one as different as possible?
      The different characters come mainly from caricature, they don’t really have back stories with myself, oddly some inspiration for them popped into my head from random films.  Beetlejuice for one!

      How have you found the rehearsal process?
      Very challenging.
      The play is very different to anything I have done before because of the choral work.  Before, even if I was in every scene, I could concentrate mainly on myself to start with and develop from there.  In this process, I have found that I need to concentrate on everyone around me at all times. Given that my brain is very small, this has proved a challenge.
      It’s also felt a long time coming, which in truth it has.  I am used to rehearsals starting a long time before, but this process started very early and did make those first rehearsals for me feel less urgent. 

      It has been a bit of a drawn out process. I started early because I didn’t know how long Christmas break would be and as you say the choral work requires an intense concentration and awareness that would make the initial blocking a long process
      However it really has created what I think is a very strong cast now, one in which people have become friends. It has been rewarding, my fellow actors are all just brilliant which makes working on the play a pleasure.
      Great, that’s exactly one of the things I was trying to get out of the long process. I needed the chorus to work as a unit; I needed you to be close and completely able to trust one another and form an intuitiveness that takes time,
      And one of the goals of the Sigil Club is to have that communal feel, to have an atmosphere where people can become friends. As it says in the name, a club. One of the most gratifying things I got out of working on The Quest for Beauty with you was a strong friendship and I’d like to allow others to have that experience.

      Though having worked with me before why on Earth would you want to put yourself through that again?
      Who are you again?  I'm sorry my memory is not what it used to be.

      Do you have a specific warm-up or ritual before going on stage?
      Standing alone in the middle of the stage, staring at the empty seats.
      I occasionally try to beat up the director as well.

      If anyone hears crashing about right before the play starts it is not two overenthusiastic young men performing wrestling moves on one another...
      The play is supposedly a comedy and whilst a lot of that rests on the script, everyone has been cast because they're naturally funny. What are your comedy influences?
      Eddie Izzard is one of my favourites, but also Billy Connelly, and the Goons. (I do a fairly passable blue bottle)
      When you say naturally funny, do you mean people laugh when they see me in the street?  Cos that is mainly where it comes from.  I don’t think I am that funny, I play funny characters but I don’t feel like I am the one being funny.  Most of my jokes are pretty bad, I am quite pleased when I tell a gag and people sigh in pain!
      Maybe it turns on when I am in a group, leave me to write a gag on my own, it will be bad, improvise a scene with other people and I will come up with a good line.

      Have you based your performance on any famous Bishops?
      Oddly no, mainly because the main ones I can think of have funny names!  TuTu for example.
      I guess I kinda came to him via an idea of making him a super Bishop, one that ticks all the boxes for a career in the clergy.  For me, he is not intentionally misleading or obstructive, he genuinely wants to help, but has no concept that what you actually need is not something he offers.  Its like if you came to him asking for rope to climb a cliff, and he offers you plane tickets, he has no idea why you suddenly don’t like him.
      Keep refusing his point of view however, and he continues to force it onto even more vehemently.  This is the danger behind the Bishop, the authority figure who cannot have his view challenged, but must change everyone else’s.

      Who is your favourite Bishop?
      The one from the X-Men.

      If you had Nine days to find the meaning of your life where would you look first?
      I have occasionally found the answers in a very good sandwich.
      Unfortunately, it’s never the same sandwich twice.

      Cast Interview - Kate Quinn

      As we approach our production of Stripped we've decided to pose some interview questions to our actors so that the world may get to know them and relate to them before going in. And to see why I should always have my iPad out.
      The next person to impart wisdom is Kate Quinn who plays Magog.

      Describe yourself in six words?
      My hair is brown not black

      What attracted you to the role?
      The breakdown said Magog was a psychopomp and I didn't know what that meant, but it had “Psycho” in it. I also auditioned for Processor, as the original casting on CCP said Magog was male...ha!

      What attracted you to me?
      You have an iPad.

      What's your origin story? What traumatic event or alien encounter has lead you down this theatrical path to the point where I'm making you answer this inane question?
      I auditioned for a play because all my friends were doing it, and got a main role. Opening night was amazing, and I knew from then on that this was something I needed to do forever

      Tell us about the character you play.
      Magog is a Psychopomp, the other half to Gog. For more info, please read Tim's answers, read the Book of Revelations in the Bible, or come see the show!

      That’s how you sell something! What is your characters theme song?
      Helter Skelter – Beatles

      What do you know about the character that no one else knows?
      She has a collection of items that she takes from every soul collection, and if someone was looking through them she would be able to tell you who they belonged to, how they died, when she took them etc.

      How have you found the rehearsal process?
      It has been a very long process...5 months long (but we’ve only been able to meet 1-2 times a week)

      I blame everyone else for that, I’d be there everyday if possible. I’ve missed seeing films for rehearsals, Kate. FILMS!
      I know this is what you wanted as there is a lot of chorus work and we are to work as a unit, but Meriel coming in in January was somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it shook things up!

      Yeah…I planned that…
      During the October-December rehearsals I was also rehearsing and then performing in Theatre of the Damned’s "Grand Guignol" Production so it was a challenge to switch focus constantly! However Ensemble plays are always great because you never know what’s going to happen in each rehearsal and you get to be more a part of the creative process as opposed to a director telling you to take one step forward then two steps to the right. I love being able to get involved - whether people want me to or not! I don't take offence at being told to butt out and shut up, sometimes it’s necessary!

      What effect does being a member of a chorus, playing lots of different characters in different situations have? Do you create intricate back stories for each individual, create a caricature for each line or focus on making each one as different as possible?
      I just looked at each line I was given and thought about what would make sense. Like one of my lines is about being charged 500 that character is constantly twitching.

      Do you have a specific warm-up or ritual before going on stage?
      I do a full limber/warm-up, and then usually the last 10 minutes before the audience are let in I'm nervous and need to be left alone. I get terrible stage fright and can be a bit snappy...

      It’s starting to sound like I’ll have to stay away from as many of you as possible come the performance.
      The play is supposedly a comedy and whilst a lot of that rests on the script, everyone has been cast because they're naturally funny. What are your comedy influences?
      I like intelligent/topical comedy/comedians; my boyfriend and I are always going to stand up gigs! But I think my main comedy influences are from the comedy shows I watched growing up - Friends mainly...I love Friends. But I'm not that funny to be honest, its luck.

      If you had Nine days to find the meaning of your life where would you look first?
      I've kept a diary since I was 9 so a lot of answers are there, but I pretty sure they all point to the stage.

      Have you had any weird dreams possibly caused by a play? I had a dream that the smell of kiwis made you ill. Is this true; am I psychic or just mentally troubled?
      So far I've had no weird dreams, that'll probably happen during the show. But the smell of kiwis definitely doesn’t make me ill, I like kiwis. I eat it all, including the skin. As for your mental troubling...

      Your character is probably the most physically threatening  in the production. Are you that terrifying in real life? first I wouldn't of said I was the most physically threatening but Kris (He) is over a foot taller than me and he flinches when I approach so I must be. As for in real life, ask my boyfriend!

      And you wonder why I don’t tell you to butt out and shut up…
      You're not going method for this right? I don't want to find out on the news you've been transporting the dead somewhere.
      Nope, just transporting all my possessions from my current flat to my new one! If I was a method actor, I would be seriously troubled.