THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON INDIEOMA.COM
So, assuming you read yesterday’s piece, you know about how most Brighton Fringe shows come about, generally speaking, and a little bit about how the show I’m currently working on, When All the Crowds Have Gone, came into being. However, creative planning aside, the first few months of running a Fringe show throw you right into the deep end!
First of all, now that you have a piece you want to work on, maybe even a creative goal or aspiration, you need to start planning how all the pieces are going to fall into place to make it, even remotely, a possibility. This is by far the hardest step, and normally where compromise first rears its ugly head. It can’t all run smoothly: in fact, I’d go so far as to say it never does, but this is the point where the first bumps in the road can appear, and it can be a bit daunting. In the end, the piece you end up with will be what you end up with: all you can do is try and guide it in the right direction from the first decisions you make.
For example, in When All the Crowds Have Gone, I sat down and began some creative planning right after Lucy and I agreed to do the show, but purposefully left a lot of my ideas vague: define yourself too early and you’ll never be satisfied with the end result! So, I decided I wanted to stage the play traverse: a thin strip of stage with the audience on both sides. My original thought for this was to do with creating the semblance of a huge space: a traverse stage, especially in quite a tall room, can recreate an especially large space the characters inhabit: in this case, John (the lead’s) Californian mansion. Also, I hoped to get a raised traverse, thus creating a pseudo-religious atmosphere; I wanted the stage to almost be a dias in the middle of a church. I was also starting to get a feeling for John’s house and the art style: the handful of Californian mansions I have been inside often reflect a Japanese/Eastern aesthetic, combining minimalism, plenty of glass and whites and Eastern object du art (Buddhas, that sort of thing).
Luckily, we managed to find a space that fit a lot of these ideas: the Brighthelm Centre’s church space, often used for theatre productions, is a nice big space, with a proscenium arch stage. Ignoring the rather shallow stage, the space itself fits the whole traverse concept rather well, and fits that whole ‘large space’ thought above. Also, the fact that it is already a church helps create the pseudo-religious feelings: an excellent space to perform in!
With a stage space under our belts, as well as a great script, we then began casting the show. I dread auditions and casting, so much that a year ago I was swearing against them: ah, the follies of youth! I still think they’re the worst way to find actors, and prefer them combined with a sit-down coffee meeting or something similar. Anyway, this year I decided to spread my net a bit wider than normal: instead of just auditioning friends, colleagues and some of their friends and contacts, I decided to actually advertise the auditions, and try and get a wider variety of Brighton and London actors involved. Luckily, that seemed to work pretty well: about half of the auditionees this year were people I’d never met before!
As audition’s go, these weren’t particularly grueling: in fact, the wealth of talent on display made casting quite difficult! I’d recommend having a look at the press release, published on this site, for a better idea who some of these characters are.
I thought we’d have a harder time finding the lead (John): he had to be a forceful, powerful actor, a talented force to be reckoned with. As well as that, he had to be a bit older than I would have expected to come to my auditions, but Trevor Scales stepped into the shoes of John the moment he entered the audition. Trevor is already a very large man, tall and statuesque, but he also has the character and energy to fill a large space with his voice and energy: a very powerful and frightening John! This contrasts very well with Bob Gilchrist, who plays Geoffrey: an excellent actor, well known around Brighton and Lewes, Bob is wonderfully elegant and well-spoken, making him a perfect fit for the very British Geoffrey, thrown in the deep end with this trip across the pond. Complementing these two are the two female leads, and I’m very lucky to have found Valerie Dent and Jessica Jordan-Wrench, two actresses with the gumption, character and enthusiasm to stand up to and perform with these two very different, talented male leads. Valerie, like Bob, does an excellent job capturing the quiet British working wife, and is one of those actors who is always working, always reacting when on stage: no moment slides past. Jess has probably taken on the hardest part: Miranda, the Hollywood actress trying to establish herself as her own person for the first time. All of her lines drip with the desire, the need to be accepted for who she is, and Jess has proved herself an excellent casting with her energy and enthusiasm, creating a wonderful, lovely butterfly of a character, pretty and lively, although so painfully close to be crushed. These very talented b*strds were complemented by a supporting cast including frequent collaborators Janine Robins, Chris Jones and Luke Booys: all talented, reliable and the perfect complement to any cast.
I’ll be honest: I was surprised by how painless this process was. Finding venues and actors is normally much harder than this! Of course, I didn’t know what was coming next: but more about that tomorrow, where I cover first rehearsals and production steps!
ARTICLE NO LONGER ONLINE