Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Clockwork Orange - Director's blog (pt 2)


Monday morning week 2 and our first disaster - one of the actors pulls a muscle and our very physical production will have to be rehearsed gingerly until he recovers! We are looking at the riot that opens our play and spews forth our Alex - a world falling apart from which this monster is born.

In the afternoon we run the play with another actor standing in for our injured one while he says his lines from the side. It's very early to be doing a run, but in a production where sound will be integral it is incredibly useful for our Sound Designer to gauge what might be needed, and for our Wardrobe Supervisor to get an idea of exactly how many costumes might be needed - this is still fairly flexible.

It also gives the actors and creative team a chance to talk about where we've got to so far, and get an overview of the piece. Later our Sound Designer plays us his first sounds in the luxury of the main auditorium - an urban landscape which feels perfect for this play. It has been created by the Sound Designer and one of his team smashing every imaginable glass bottle for days in our side stage, recording the results and programming the sound so it can be played rhythmically.

Other departments are working hard on the show and we have the privilege of being able to walk backstage and see bits of set being built, costumes being pulled together, hearing about the marketing team's plans for publicity. I love working this way. Too often as a director you have to plan the whole production in your head and everyone has to follow, as many elements arrive very late in the process, some not until the production week in the theatre. I love other elements coming together earlier in the process and influencing everything else.

For the rest of the week we work through the script again. Nothing is sacred, everything can be changed. We have a first draft only and some of it will be wrong. Different accents are tried, performances become more crafted, elements that don't work are discarded. We even have time for a tea party for one of the actor's birthdays and dinner the same evening. Part of the process is about bonding a company together, and we also have members of the community company working with us as an ensemble. Some days also feel very bitty, with lots of little details to look at, and actors disappearing for wardrobe calls on the one day the designer can be here. Good costumes help immensely to create characters, and actors come back buzzing from wardrobe calls with new ideas or small worries about how their performance is already different from a costume that might have been designed four months ago. Our humble narrator and his droogs are delighted with their costumes...real horrorshow.


Over the weekend the actor playing Alex has run a half marathon in 1hr 43 minutes. Luckily he's still in one piece. Everyone is raring to go. Even now there's a sense that time marches on. There's a feeling that this could be really special, but as with all shows you have to put the work in to get the results - and you never know what you've got until you put it in front of an audience. The ensemble are becoming move involved as we plot them in around what we already have. Fight calls take us two full afternoons - riots, punches, kicks, a dead man falling to the ground, a character jumping from height - everything has to be planned so no-one is hurt. We continue to work through scenes, refining, changing, trying continually to find ways to tell this story more clearly. Every day the play seems more relevant, as much a piece for today as it ever was, and we want to get it right.

Publicity Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

We also do a photoshoot at night in a garage and for the first time I see the droog's costumes and they are really striking. They are more details to be added to the costumes, but even now there's a real sense of the iconoclastic nature of this show, and of Alex's menace. Even as the camera goes, the droogs are getting a sense of how their costumes will work, which usually only happens once one is in tech week on stage.

(Photos by Jeremy Raison, unless otherwise specified)
Read Part 1 of our Director's blog

A Clockwork Orange
13 Oct - 6 Nov

Friday, 24 September 2010

A Clockwork Orange - Director's blog

Director, Jeremy Raison has been blogging from the rehearsal room of A Clockwork Orange. This is an long entry, but it's been a crazy week...and I didn't want to delay posting this any longer. It's well worth a read to get the Director's insight into the rehearsal process:

Day 1

Start as we mean to go on - a morning of fighting and car theft! We’re looking at the physical language of the stage version of A Clockwork Orange which will be stylized to match the stylized language used by Burgess to tell the story. The droogs are soon in the swing of things - crasting and tolchoking with great big bezoomy grins all over their litsos. One actor keeps muttering ‘I’m 47’ as the work out becomes more demanding, but it’s an exhilarating morning - great fun, with lots of laughter as the actors are put into teams to look at different ideas. There’s a brilliant fight sequence devised by two of the actors, in which neither touches at all, which we will come back to later. By the time we‘ve seen one car pushed over a cliff and another set alight, we know this is going to be a great rehearsal period.

In the afternoon we do the traditional read-through, where the whole play is read - and it’s one of the most relaxed I’ve had.

The read-through is absorbing, with Laura Walshe, our stage manager, seeming to do a large proportion of the reading. There are masses of stage directions which will be a lot of fun to stage, but for now are just words on paper. She gets a round of applause at the interval for her hard work!

In the evening there’s a production meeting. The set design has had to change because of budgets. One of the greatest challenges of theatre-making. But we have to make the show to our strengths, and the design is stronger for its re-working. It takes a long time to go through everything, so that everyone will know what is happening and can work together to create something memorable.

Day 2

Into the script. Act One scene one. A lot of laughter as we try to find out what the gang are like. What are their relationships? Alex is the boss, Pete his right hand man, Georgie the wannabe leader, Dim - well, he’s just dim. But he’s also the scariest fighter of them all. And so we start of on Section One’s orgy of destruction that starts the events of the play. and as we work we keep looking at movement. How naturalistic do we want to be? Is this whole story in Alex’s head - how much is it his view of events? He’s on stage almost throughout and in the novel the whole narrative is his. Is he telling it in the present or with the benefit of hindsight after the events of the novel are over?

We have to work out the fights - should they be realistic? Or stylized? What works best to tell this story? Should the audience be exhilarated or disgusted or both? Thrilled or horrified? It’s a complicated balance - Alex for all his evil behaviour is also our charismatic (anti) hero. But if we don’t empathise with him at all, we won’t feel emotionally engaged with the story. And where Burgess’s language in the novel distances the reader from the violence, on stage it can be very present. Audiences will tell us if we have got this right - but that’s a few weeks off yet. Different audiences will also read the play in different ways. When the novel was written in the 1960s it was based on the fights of the Teddy Boys and the Mods. When the film came out it inspired its own 1970s violence. When the play was done in the 1990s, there was a huge new audience of young teens - the film was still banned so they had no access to the dramatised story. They clearly identified with the 15 year old Alex. Clearly an older audience sees the story in a very different light. There are also constant references points such as the Bulger case to make it seem contemporary and continually relevant.

After rehearsal we meet Citizens Community Company members who we want to be in the show. We are looking for a crowd at crucial points in the story. I also like integrating the Citizens community work with its professional work. The Community Company members are remarkable. Very focused, physically exact, keen. It’s an exciting session, seeing how disciplined the community company has become after eleven years. They’ve recently tackled The Grapes of Wrath, an epic show on the main stage of the Citizens Theatre, and the experience has made them very professional. We find it difficult to decide who we aren’t able to use, as every one of them could be in the show, but we only have limited places.

Day 3

A harder day. We have to stage a fight between an old cat lady and Alex. How does she move? She’s no match for him, so how do we stage anything which makes sense of what he finally does to her. In the novel Alex puts his foot in a cat dish and trips. He’s also attacked by cats. We have to find a different way to tell this. It’s a hard session trying to work out what is essential, what works and what doesn’t. Both Ella Vale, choreographer, and I are exhausted - the fight is beginning to resemble a magic sequence. We set something but resolve to come back to this tomorrow. We suspect there’ll be quite of lot of this over the next few weeks: a constant re-evaluation of what we’ve done. The novel is divided into three sections and each is quite different. It’s difficult tying them all together into one coherent whole, and there’s a real danger that Section One is so exciting theatrically that the story itself - about the merits of free will - can get lost.

After rehearsals there’s another mini production meeting. With wardrobe. I’ve given them a cast breakdown including the community company members and so far we need 108 costumes - “can we scale down the number, please, as this is huge?” We promise to do our best, we’ll reallocate some roles, look to simplify. Usually simplifying is good, and strengthens - it focuses the story if done right.

Also speak to Carter Ferguson, fight director par excellence, after rehearsals. He’s done all my shows at the Citizens involving fights - No Mean City was particularly memorable - and is very keen to get involved with this one too. As my last show here, it seems only fitting he should be involved too. We want to look at the fights choreographically first and will then bring him in to refine specific fight moves.

Day 4

We run Section One. This is very early in the rehearsal period to be doing a run, but it’s a delight to watch how the whole act works, where the gaps are, whether the style works. As the actors barely need scripts for this section, it runs together very well, even at this stage. There’s a brilliant car sequence and a very strong introduction of the gang. Some really strong characters are emerging. The scene between Alex and his post corrective advisor, Mr Deltoid, comes off the page very well. We need sound as some of the gaps are simply because we’re meant to be hearing things which aren’t yet there, but it’s still really enlightening to see how this piece might work.

But then we move onto the prison and the Lodovico institute. Suddenly the style is very different, everything feels more naturalistic, and Alex is in some ways unrecognisable from the firebrand he was earlier. Will the audience go with this change in tempo? Should we keep stylizing the acting, in particular, or will these new characters, often with much longer speeches now, become irritating? Are we in danger of creating a completely different world? At the moment there’s a barrage of different accents and different physicalities. The actors are also now using scripts as they’ve only had time to learn up to this point. So rehearsals are a bit slower. We’re really into the meat of the piece, and as the director I’m now the one driving it forward as the initial burst of energy becomes more concentrated.

Day 5

Motoring on through the play. The sheer energy of the beginning of rehearsals has gone as we come towards the end of a tiring physical week. The actor playing Alex, Jay Taylor, brings in what he calls ‘Friday biscuits’. Billy Mack mourns the loss of the Citizens Canteen which used to do fish and chips on a Friday, and was an institution.

But rehearsals are going well. Style is still our constant concern. We run Section Two and it feels completely different to Section One. We also have to deal with the amount of violence - there is a lot in the story, but the play has to be watchable. The violence can neither be dull nor glorified. We want to create something iconic - genuinely fresh, but also emotionally complex and ultimately moving. It’s a real challenge, but one the cast are relishing. There’s a really good feeling in the rehearsal room. The actors are ready to try anything.

I relish this time too. After seven years as Artistic Director of the Citizens Theatre, a position I’ve now left, it’s nice only to have one thing to concentrate on. I remember what a treat it is simply to direct a show.

And whenever the energy drops Ella whips everyone up with a quick warm up: quads (new to me too), traditional games like zip zap bong, and amazing character and movement work to music by Cut Chemist. Brilliant music which feels completely right for this piece - iconic, unusual, quirky, eclectic, driving and genuinely fresh - that’s how we want our play to be. Inspiring and unique. - a genuinely theatrical explosion, unlike anything else. A classic iconic text for a classic iconic theatre.

Jeremy 17 Sept 2010
(Photos by Jeremy Raison)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Vroom, sha-boom and chocolate moles

Click the here to read TAG's latest blog on David Greig's brand new play The Monster in the Hall, which opens in Fife this week, before touring (...and returning to Glasgow on 2 November!).

Photo by Richard Campbell


Monday, 13 September 2010

Want to be in our gang? (...and get an exclusive discount)

D-day...I mean QR day!

I have been barely able to contain my excitement about our special campaign launched today. If you have a smartphone (or have a friend with one!), we are offering you a very special discount on tickets for A Clockwork Orange.

All you need to do is download a QR scanner app and find our posters around Glasgow. We can't tell you where, but they shouldn't been too tough to find!

When you find one, scan the QR (quick response) code and it will give you a secret discount code to get a whopping 2 for 1 on tickets (even concessions*).

I'm pretty sure this means the future has arrived!! It's funny how something so straightforward can bring you such fun. Seriously, give it a go. Good luck.

*See for offer terms and further help on how to take part.


Friday, 10 September 2010

Welcome Jonathan...


Allow me to introduce myself - I am Jonathan Dunn, and on Monday September 6th, I started at the Citizens Theatre as session 2010-11’s Actor Intern! So no doubt, you’ll be seeing and hearing rather a lot from me over the coming 12 months!

I auditioned for this position at the beginning of the summer, before traipsing off to San Francisco for three months to work in a summer camp for the blind and visually impaired, as a performing arts leader.

I arrived back in haste last weekend, and have spent this week settling into my new abode. This was also the first week for new Director Intern, Amanda Gaughan. On Monday we begin rehearsals for “A Clockwork Orange.” which I’m sure you all will be hearing much more about over the coming weeks! I’m super excited about the coming year, and look forward to sharing my experiences at the theatre with you all, through means of a weekly blog!


Working in the Marketing Dept you don't don't often get the chance to be involved directly in the creative process, we're more observers and our creativity comes to the fore through our marketing materials and tactics. So when I heard that the Citizens were working on a new community opera with Scottish Opera, On the Rim of the World, and were looking for folks to get involved - I couldn't resist! On Monday night I went along to audition with the the lovely Elly Goodman, who is drama artist at the Citz and takes our Nightschool classes.

I went along with Suzie, who works in our box office and also loves to sing, and just like in the days of primary school it was nice to have a friend to go in with. There was a real mix of people at the session we attended this evening, which was great – even though there were only nine of us, we represented young and old, those who sing in choirs and a few folk who just came to see what it was all about. After the introductions, a run-down of the story and a few warm up exercises, Elly handed over the reigns to SO’s repetiteur, Matt, to put us through our paces!

The music, written by esteemed composer Orlando Gough, is interestingly jangly and while in theory it shouldn’t work, the clashes and dischordance are what makes it quite intoxicating.

It’s a lot of years since I’ve sung in such a formal ‘choir’ setting and I have to admit it gave me a bit of a thrill. By the time we were singing a Congolese welcome song as a three part round (in what I think was fairly respectable harmony given our small numbers!) I was hooked. There’s nothing that lifts my heart and spirit like a beautiful harmony and being one of the voices that creates it.

I hope that I’m lucky enough to be involved in this project as it progresses!!

PS - Do you enjoy singing too? It's not too late to get involved - we're still looking for adults and children to get involved. There's another chance to audition on Monday 11 October - more info.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

My year as an Actor Intern at the Citz

So, how did that happen...? It’s my last day as Actor Intern at the Citz, and I can’t really believe a year has past since I first stepped through stage door, and what an awesome time I’ve had. In my first week I promised Helen I’d write a regular blog, and then never really kept to my word, so this is my attempt to make up for a years worth of non-blogging. I’ll try not to bore you…

Othello photo by Eamonn McGoldrick

Othello, my first play here, seems like a lifetime ago now. I remember saying to Andy Scott-Ramsay in the wings one night that I couldn’t enjoy being on stage because I was so nervous… So it’s just as well I wasn’t on very often! The pressure of being a ‘professional’ and having to do a good job, as the audience was paying to watch, was obviously too much for me. Luckily my nerves died down by the end of the run, and I am pleased to say I managed to enjoy the last couple of weeks and each of the shows I have done since!

Cinderella photo by Richard Campbell

Cinderella came next. What a ball we had during rehearsals and then in each of the following 59 performances. I was in fits of laughter during every rehearsal with my ugly sister, Sarah Howarth (who had previously played Desdemona in Othello), trying her hardest to make me break in every scene. The best moment for me during the whole run of the Christmas Show was on the first preview, when Sarah and I, during one of our newly added ‘ugglies’ scenes (I think we had probably had the script for about a week), completely lost the plot and both started giggling on stage. Luckily the audience were very forgiving and laughed along with us, but it was such a buzz. Other highlights during Cinderella… “extreme keepy-uppy” in the rehearsal room, matching lion slippers in our dressing room, the daily visits to our dressing room by the lovely Helen McAlpine (Cinderella) to help apply fake eye lashes, and of course Secret Santa… I still don’t know who gave me those amazing gloves!

My Name is Rachel Corrie photo by Tim Morozzo

Then came My Name is Rachel Corrie. I feel like I could write a book about the whole experience; the research, rehearsals, line learning, and of course performance, and actually, the affect it has had on me since. So I am simply going to say I am so grateful to have had such an extraordinary opportunity, and it will remain with me for the rest of my life.

My Name is Rachel Corrie photo by Tim Morozzo

To go from a one- woman play straight into a production of The Grapes of Wrath, with over 40 actors was really something else. It was wonderful to meet so many different people, and work with members of the community, some of which had never been to see a play before let alone performed on the main stage in the Citizens Theatre. I realised how much I take drama and theatre for granted, and was reminded how it can have a hugely positive effect on people’s lives. Some memorable moments from The Grapes of Wrath: hearing the band play together after they had been off rehearsing in secret, Angela (who played Grandma) making me cry in the scene where Granpa dies, Krissy’s (Al’s) funky dancing in the barn dance, and the relief and pride everyone felt at the end of the final show. (Ed. Watch a film about it here).

The Grapes of Wrath photo by Tim Morozzo

Other than the plays I’ve mentioned, I’ve enjoyed working on various other projects throughout the year… the children’s show The Red Shoes, with Leann O’Kasi, Valhalla at the Tron with Andy Arnold, spending time with the young company as they rehearsed Lend Me Your Ears, the Rosie Project, and most recently Tall Tales. I loved seeing the work that was done at HMP Greenock, and just spending a bit of time with each of the departments in the theatre, and getting to know what they all do.

I have loved every moment of my internship. Some days have been easier than others, but I couldn’t have asked for a better way to begin my career. I’ve met some great friends, and will definitely be back… even if it is just to eat cake and drink tea in the office!

M xx

(Ed. We are all going to really miss you too! You can see Mairi talk about My Name is Rachel Corrie here)