Friday, 29 April 2016

What Karsavina Said


  So, here we are off to perform in London for the last time as my character Madame Galina. The decision to stop was sudden. I'm no longer able to conjure the Prima Ballerina Assoluta behind the act, her character motivations or her sense of heritage. Wien I used to imagine her dancing she was a lot like Alla Sizova. Now I see me. I would have a jumble of thoughts during a performance. Rising from the grave Giselle is cold and is waxy in appearance. Nikya in the Shades act is a wisp like cigarette smoke seen in the beam from a cinema projector. The Swan Queen is virtually motionless when the feathers turn into skin because all her energy is being taken up with the transformation - as the temperature of ice changing to water is constant because all the energy from the heat source is going into the melting process. Fonteyn would only move her head so far then make a sudden eyes-right so the audience got a flash of the whites. Maximova insisted that even a step as technical as fouettes must be made personal to each role: the character's inner life should bring a different quality to them; you shouldn't look different just because you have either a rose behind your year or black feathers on your head. Karsavina said that the Firebird's lulling to sleep gesture is like the smoothing of your best linen table cloth. Now I have one thought: get on, get through the act, get off. 
  What Karsavina said leads me to what I'm needing to happen now: starting with having real linen full stop, classier gin than own-label, non-Pound Emporium fairy lights: I want to deal with the fact that I've had a lifestyle bypass. I'm fifty one. There has to be more. 

Thursday, 28 April 2016


               View from the disused railway line between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness

 Waiting for the funding to be done and for the editing to start on my Unbound Book. I'm in limbo. Sitting and waiting. Pacing and waiting. Wanting to maim my next door neighbour for yet again - how many more times does he need to be told? - leaving his balcony door ajar and his blind half down so that it continually thwocks against the jamb. And waiting. Going to the village shop for something to comfort eat while waiting and getting caught in a hail storm. Sneezing and waiting. 
  Walked to Aldeburgh library. Got resentful at all the books being there while mine's in limbo. Coming back to Thorpeness along the disused railway line I was behind two women.  One was striding in a billowing tweed coat with her hands in her back trouser pockets. The other wasn't quite keep pacing with her and dressed in waterproofs. The striding one was saying, 
  'See, look at the haunted aspect of these tall fir trees.  Hear the wind sloughing. Portents of death. You can quite understand the attraction of this place to such writers as M.R.James, can't you?  I can just see him plotting A Warning to the Curious, or whichever, pacing up and down here where we're now walking. Seeing those same trees. Hearing the same sloughing. Feeling the same earth under his feet as he went along here heedless, plotting.'
  I thought it just as her companion asked it: 'What, in spite of all the steam trains running along here back then, dear?' 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

I know I'm a Dog, but Sometimes I'd Like to be a Cat!

    Cheers to @BenPatienceFIt for the subject.  His tweet about repeating the gym movements in your head reminded me of being told to conjure up what I was about to sing when I was taking a breath.  

  Via Youtube I've been an observer at vocal masterclasses. I'm getting back to serious singing in my next show - a mix of opera and stand up about some of the more bizarre situations in which I've sung over the years. I've sung in. Watch this space. 
  Always good to be reminded of the need for correct posture, breathing and support. A lot of the young singers shown didn't know how many pairs of ribs they have or where exactly they were. There was also quite a bit of leaning towards the audience. Some patronising attempts at covering up obvious mistakes by skipping sideways while flourishing an arm. And one bumptious baritone bounced onto the platform to announce, through a daft beard, that he would love to sing "Hai Gia Vinta la Causa". 
  Mate, nobody loves singing something that difficult. 
  I once admitted to being scared of some Rossini when I was singing with British Youth Opera. It was at a cast party, and my remark was overheard by one of those repulsive sopranos who go to Chetham's and later the Royal Northern, meanwhile making old people's lives a misery cutting their teeth doing the rounds of retirement homes singing "Deh, Vieni, Non Tardar". You can't tell one of those sopranos that all the elderly want to do is sit in quiet expectation of their next meal, make passively-racist remarks about the staff and accuse other residents of stealing from their lockers. 
  Anyway, this northern soprano who had heard me admit to being scared of the Rossini laughed on a top F sharp and said, 'Then why do this? I relish all my steppings out to sing, relish them. I wouldn't admit to fear.  Would you, Val? Isn't fear all wrong?' 
  She sneered at me and turned to Val: Valerie Masterson, coaching that year's singers. And bless Val for saying, 'When I sang Constanze at Glyndebourne, I would sit cowering in an armchair all day praying that I had still had all those top Ds by the time of the performance.'  
  The northern soprano, blessedly, ignored me after that. 
  Watching one of the Shakespeare programmes last week - please don't miscast any more stand up comedians in acting parts, thanks - I remembered seeing Cheek by Jowl in As You Like It and thinking I'd like to have a go at playing some of Shakespeare's female parts. Rosalind, perhaps, Beatrice or even Cleopatra...
  The late Rex Doyle, actor, looked sharply at me and said, 'Don't be silly.  You'd get cast as Mad Margaret, Mistress Quickly and Lady Macbeth!' 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Talent Spot

                                              Tom without a ukulele...

  Actor Tom Clegg listened to me quote Stacks, Royal Marine, his eyes like two-dimensional enamelled glass. He breathed before imitating Stacks back to me: 
  'I clearly wouldn't be standing here, would I, princess, if there was a danger of those shells coming over the wire into base? The insurgents are launching them off old bedsteads they got out of an oasis, so sit back down, stow your body armour and careful of my tea tray all laid up proper, cheers.' 
  Clegg is lithe and slim but when he imitated Stacks's full-on, scowling Mancunian, he seemed to be taller, fuller in the chest, and to swagger, even though he was standing still. 
  This happened backstage at a showcase for the Theatre in the Villages rural touring scheme. He is a fan of these schemes, as am I. 
  'I grew up playing heavy metal gigs in village halls and pubs. And one of my first jobs out of college was a five month tour of Dennis Kelly's play D.N.A. produced by the Hull Truck Theatre. I've got a thing about trying to do great work in that environment. John Laidlow, at Live and Local in Warwickshire, is a massive supporter of stuff I'm involved in at the moment.'  As an affiliate with the theatre company Anonymous is a Woman, whose play Think of England is a success just now on the rural touring circuit. 'Too many young actors are worried that they need to be in certain venues in London and being seen by casting agents. I set out to be wherever I am, doing the best I can. It's about the joy! Looking like a tit would be just as bad in Worcestershire, where I'm originally from, as in town. And, also, actors are expected to be better in London than elsewhere. You should apparently sit and study them as they perform.  I tried that with Mark Rylance once, realised I'd got right to the final curtain and missed what it was he was doing, just blown away by his performance.  I'd intended to be like a mechanic looking over a car. But in spite of what I might have intended, I got into the suspended disbelief state. But then I was grateful, on the other hand, because it's only if you suspend your disbelief that you can stumble across something special. Not judging is the main thing.'
  He is philosophical about not getting roles. None of the usual: everyone said I was the best at the audition - the director, the casting agent, the producer, the executive producer, the lesser clout-wielding executive producer, the positively defunct executive producer, the runner, the two students with a free afternoon from RADA in observing the auditions and the inevitable woman in a black velour tracksuit and gypsy headwear abandoning a shopping trolley with a plastic halibut in it just outside the window of the audition room - but they decided to go with a name.  
  Joking aside, Clegg is in line for hefty stuff and time will tell. 
  He mentions: 'I was quite close to getting the audiobook of John Niven's Kill Your Friends. That was just after I'd recorded The Black Door for I.D.Audio.'  
  The non-fiction account of the evolving relationship of successive prime ministers and the secret service, not the novel in which the heroine, a high-powered attorney, allows her sexual fantasy life to impinge on the daily round and it all gets jelly-brained silly. 
  'I was worried I hadn't done a good job on The Black Door. It was quite tricky to relate to, to get any drama into it. And it took longer than was expected. I had eight hour days on it over three weeks. Not every day. But the finished audiobook is twenty-five and a bit hours. I didn't think I'd done it well enough.'
  It was good enough for I.D. to employ him a second time, reading The Sinking Admiral, a novel by members of the current Detection Club, including Simon Brett and Laura Wilson. 'That was more of a fun reading than The Black Door,' Clegg said without irony, 'drama, a storyline. Different characters to voice.' 
  He also played James Landor in the BBC adaptation of And Then There Were None. 'I had to cry a lot in that audition.'
  Talking of which, he's just been helping with the first round of actors' auditions at Guildhall. 
  'I hope you try and talk them all out of becoming actors,' I commented. 
  'Not as such, but I do tell them that I have only three pounds thirty-four pence in my pocket.'
  'And do they ask how you can possibly know that so specifically?'
  'None have so far, but I would be able to tell them it's the change from a tin of tuna I just bought myself for lunch.' 
  He will go into the audition room with actors who need someone to direct a speech to. 'We've had quite a number of Romeos doing Tis torture and not mercy so I was their Friar Laurence. Walking away from them at times if I thought they needed to raise their game and get me back with them. Really focussing on them, which is what acting is all about. Sharing. Being part of the bigger whole. I'm still part of the same group formed at college six years ago: Five Guys from Guildhall. Are you still in contact with any of your singers' intake?'
  I thought yet again about him not being born when I was at Guildhall. I said, 'Julia Gooding and I occasionally eat cake in the Belsize Park Euphorium and reminisce about having the phone number of the Flour Advisory Bureau on the kitchen cork boards in our respective digs. This would have been after Delia Smith wrote about the excellent work being done by the bureau back in the mid-eighties. Julia and I used to ring the Flour Advisory Bureau and sing songs that were bread related. Panis Angelicus. Dough-lente immagine. Yeast-ars of the Pleiades. In the end they blocked our numbers and wrote a letter of complaint to the college bursar.' 
  He was quiet for a few seconds. 'I suppose as classical singers at Guildhall  - totally different from actors - you're more on your own in a studio practising, left to your own devices  Actors are very much in a group, which is a Guildhall thing.'
  Though he doesn't seem to be part of the usual contemporary leading actor thing of perfecting his Tom Hiddleston parody, playing ukulele versions of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and waiting for his agent to ring. 
  'I write a lot of letters, send emails. make sure I hang out. Invertigo, another theatre company I'm involved with, are all about that. Lots of young actors with that 'Fuck it, let's make our own work!' attitude. I'm hankering to play Billy Bibbit, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Richard the Third - his progression right through. Konstantin. And if I could do anything I wanted it would be to produce a season of Doug Lucie plays.'
  May he make this happen, I say. 



Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Drawbacks to being a Drag Ballerina living in the Country

  Two and a half hours of travel to London via a bus and two trains meant it was too far to go back for forgotten bits of costume and my backing tracks. I had a pair of stage manager Zoe Hunn's leggings wrapped around my head like a turban and danced my opening ballet solo to a dubstep remix of Cilla Black singing Step Inside, Love. 
  As I made a careful study thirty years ago of how a swan lands on water, folds its wings and preens its feathers, and muscle memory has kept these movements in my body, I can't guilt-freely just sit for hours watching the swans on Thorpeness Meare and tell myself it's for research. 
  I had to hide my tutu bodice in a pillowcase when I took it down to the laundry room in case I bumped into the German gay couple holidaying in number five and we got all sisterhoody over the beading and frou-frou.  That could only end - as it always does, right? - in them inviting me for drinks, telling me about getting so carried away they dance on tables in Mobel Olfe. Hans will share that he was disowned by his mother when he came out and was only allowed to stand in the street and watch her funeral cortege pass by. And when he is crying in the kitchen, Klaus will tell me about being blackmailed by a Brazilian escort living in Colchester who makes his own guava paste, is learning decoupage at evening classes and hits him. 
  The village shop doesn't stock Tracker Bars. 


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Before you Lift up Your Finger and Tweet-Tweet...

  You can connect with the famous on social media!
  Except, don't. 
  Don't retweet someone who's in TOWIE saying they're off to kill it at spin class. Instead react to a friend's post about their new comedy night, run of a play or of a difficulty overcome. It might help the friend along, and you'll know that you're not pissing into the ether. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

One to Watch - Tom Clegg

  There was a star performing at the showcase I did last night for Theatre in the Villages in Little Kimble. Actor Tom Clegg. I've only just now realised that he looked familiar because I'd seen him in And Then There Were None. 
  He was totally in his scene last night, nailing it - great voice - and backstage reminded me of the adage added to by journalist Paul Heiney, harking back to his farming days:
  'Dogs think people are wonderful because they feed them; cats think people are a load of shit; but a black pot-bellied pig will look you right in the eye.' 
  Tom Clegg just needs that luck malarkey now. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Thoughts on Chaturbate

  I've been challenged to write about something 'now' and 'sexy'. Chaturbate is nearly enough now and almost sexy.  It is to established camshow sites what Uber is to London black cabs. 
  You can watch a Chaturbate performer's show for free and, if you especially like something that they do, tip them with pre-bought tokens. They might smoke, for one popular example, put down their mobile phone for more than five seconds; react hilariously to their cat jumping into shot and landing just where you wouldn't want an open claws scenario. 
  That sort of thing.
  There are rules: No spamming. Do not insist the cam hosts to do as you please. Do not announce other rooms or websites that would conflict with this room. Avoid any argumentative and/or rude posts related to the cam viewing. Do not attempt to post your e-mail address in the public chat.
  An announcement on the public chat feed from a rival performer offering free tokens on their page will be immediately deleted and the performer in question blocked from the feed. An announcement for a professional cam show site was given similarly short shrift, as was one offering passes to a strip club in downtown L.A., one for penis enlargements and a third for Rinso washing powder. 
  Second thoughts - as yesterday afternoon I was half researching Chaturbate for this blog and half watching three Miss Marples back to back, I may be at cross-purposes with myself over that Rinso announcement. 
  All good clean- no, don't pardon the pun, I don't deserve it - fun, except that the professionals have waded in. 
  There are hairy legged, concave chested, convex bellied boy-next-door types, broadcasting from a bedsit via an iphone turned portrait - as there should be. But there are also the uber-buff, all over immac'd, eyes slightly too close together Solo professional porn performers, being filmed by a subsidiary of Universal Pictures in a sexualised nowhere landscape. Our boy next door will be happy to give a full sex show for tips of single tokens, whereas our uber-buffoid will have a reserve estimate of two hundred and ninety-tokens for a flash of his slightly lesser-developed pectoral. And he will make that reserve. 
  To me this reeks of the sadness of a Royal Ballet principal needing to do open class at Pineapple for the ego-boost, or the fully paid up muscle mary intimidating the everyday users of the council provided gym machines in the park opposite Turnpike Lane tube station. I asked on a chaturbate community feed how such clearly professional actors were permitted on what was ostensibly an amateur site.
  The answer I got was that Chaturbate caters for all-comers

Friday, 8 April 2016

Facebook Filtered Message Requests

 Yes, it's annoying, isn't it?  Especially for me, yes especially for me. Poor little me!  Is it the same for you?
  No, it isn't.  It's only been a thing for me. 
  I found my way to the filtered message requests today, expecting to find invitations to have skype sex, opportunities for investment in Rajasthan or offers of work on Autopilot - either an island or a state of mind, I'm not sure which.  And when I got there, OMG OMG OMG OMG, I found had missed out on being elected Pope, on the now obsolete instructions for finding the cure for cancer and a voucher for a free box of Oreos.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Back to Blogging

  Not being very regular with this nicely blog of late, as have been crowdfunding the book My Tutu Went AWOL! as well as writing a new show called - oh, that's a thing, I have to ask the promoters that I'm showcasing it for what I told them it was called.  Have forgotten just now. 
  My new play (I wrote it last year) is called The Ballad of the Pant-Shaking Belter. Except it's not new, it's reworking of Along Came Bill. But it's new as far as grants for new plays are concerned. 
  I want a grant for a new play.
  And a prize from opera diva Teresa Berganza.  I found out that she spends a lot of her time in retirement accepting or awarding prizes. Her step-grandson is a dancer with English National Ballet, and he has booked me to perform at a stag do for one of his colleagues. I've included getting a prize from his step-grandmother on my rider, along with gin, Pringles and Cadbury's chocolate fingers.