Sunday, 23 October 2016

Learning lines...

It's a beautiful autumnal morning full of golden light on turning trees, continuous cups of tea and a day with space in it stretching out in front of me...the temptation to spend this blog waxing lyrical cliches in homage to seasonal Sunday loveliness is ever so tempting but I have a more practical purpose...

I'm going to try and help with the whole line learning business - it's that time in the Autumn term when the Christmas plays need you to confidently and clearly have your lines committed to memory.  It's tricky but it's eminently achievable and the sooner it's done the better the play will here goes...5 top things to remember about learning lines...

1.  Learning lines takes time - you need to set a part lots of short pockets of it - not huge swathes of it - regular 15 minutes of ring feed time - a number of daily fixes - also be strategic - don't try and do the whole play at once - break it down into scenes - sections of scenes - get one of those done and then move on...making sure you revisit to consolidate - but remember it's not going to happen on it's it takes practice - a lot of it!
2.  Learning lines takes action - sitting reading lines in your head is a waste of your time - say        them out loud, walk as you say them - pace, gesture be active and engaged - make it physical as well as cerebral
3.  Learning lines is better in company - find someone to help you - doesn't matter who as long as they are patient and positive - they'll make the whole process so much more effective - they'll also make sure you learn them accurately and not that horrid paraphrasing things actors do so often that make writers weep... also it makes sure you learn your cues as well as your lines...which brings me to...
4.  Learning lines is not all about you - the amount of times I hear - I know my lines I just don't know when they come - and I have to keep a furious growl from becoming audible - your lines are a part of a thought, a feeling, a story, relationships, a whole - you need to learn them in context for what they mean and say as well as the words they are made up of...
5.  Learning lines takes lots of your brain - so if you're struggling record them and listen to them, write them out, say them out loud and in your head, record a rehearsal and listen to it back, make a series of visual inventive and persistent

Hope some of this helps but as a last thought if you're struggling with lines keep your eyes on the prize - once those lines are in your head you get to concentrate on the good stuff - making your character live on stage, in a world that has truth and authenticity...all your energy can go into the realisation of your character and not on trying to remember what to say...
I just love YEW TREE by Alice Kearford
My experience with Black and Orange company, In Black Company were doing a show called The Snow Princess I am a snow flurry a village child and just for a bit the little snow princess. I love doing this show because it’s got snow in it and I love snow and I get to do it with my friends. When I was asked to help with Black Company I felt happy because I’ve never been asked to work with big people before. I find it good to work with big people so that I can learn things from them. Like if you have a line that’s saying that something is going on in the forest. They can show me how to do it .The big people make me feel welcome. By saying things like come here we’ll help you or they will show us what to do. In Orange Company we are doing a play called Santa Got Stuck up the Chimney, I am a star. It is a good show it is funny! My part is a star, we get to dance, I have lots of lines and a sparkly costume! We get the show at the Phoenix theatre, its really good with all the lights on a big stage. I love to go to Yew Tree on a Thursday and see my friends we all play games. My favourite game is called Mafia, we all sit in a circle, close our eyes then Sarah walks around the circle and taps people on the shoulder, these are the Mafia. Sarah tells the Mafia to open their eyes and wake up and then tells them to point to someone who is now dead and the Mafia close there eyes. Sarah tells everyone to wake up and asks us to put our hand up to guess who the Mafia might be. The person who they think has 20 seconds of freedom time and they have to tell us all why they didn’t do the crime, then Sarah asks us to vote if we think they are the mafia if it is 10 or more of us that’s a majority so then Sarah asks them if they were a citizen or mafia ( you have to tell the truth or you are out)! If all the citizens are out first the Mafia win, if all the Mafia are guessed first the citizens win. It is usually the citizens that win. This week I was the Mafia, it was exciting I wanted to get Tom out (my brother) but he got me out first and the citizens won us. This game is good because we all laugh and everyone gets a turn.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Written word trailer - Christmas 2016 - Coming soon to the Phoenix!!

It’s such a creative time at YTYT at the moment – we’ve just performed the Miner’s Memorial Service…read Sam’s excellent blog to put you in the picture about that.  Fulfilling this honour means everyone is now full speed ahead for the Christmas shows and I have to say it’s a delight to watch the ones I am directing take shape.  I thought it would be good to share some highlights so think of the following as a sort of written word trailer…

“Hansel and Gretel,” is free falling into glory with an ever more ridiculous soundtrack. It now includes MC Hammer, Evernescence and a Conga! I have every faith it’s going to be everything you’d expect from a Sapphire show…brave, bold and brilliant…and although it’s great to see the more established members leading the way it’s also a joy to watch new members, of which there are a fair number, meet the challenge of a Sapphire Christmas show with style.

“A Fairytale Like No Other,” really started to come into it’s own this week, the style of the show is individual to say the least and it felt like the cast clicked in terms of getting the discipline and cleanness of delivery.  What also clicked is how once those qualities are there they allow an opportunity for all sorts of playfulness including wiggly armed, ‘It was all a dream physicality,” so you can look forward to that!

Orange Company’s “When Santa got Stuck Up the Chimney,” is just lovely – the very talented younger children are so excited to share with you the efforts of their hard work – there are silly stars and elves and excited children with of course Mr and Mrs Claus heading up this new look at a well known song!

Scarlet company are preparing an eerie physical theatre piece inspired by the story of The Red Shoes and Black Company having now completed their work with the NUM were delighted this week to dive into a storytelling piece inspired by the Russian fairytale, “The Snow Princess.”  In addition to the shows I’m directing Purple and Crimson Company are working hard with the lovely Gemma to produce their usual festive brilliance that completes the Christmas line up…the prospect makes me entirely giddy with anticipation.

As you can see it’s all happening…there’ll be more progress reports as we go – but for now just get those tickets bought!!
The one and only Sam MG...

As a man who identifies as a Socialist, I’ve always been very sympathetic to miners and their plights over the last 30/40 years. Whilst I could, and almost always do, spew anti-Thatcher rhetoric for hours on end, I’ve decided that the sanctity of this blog would instead profit from what Black Company actually did at the Miners Memorial Service on October 8th, and nothing to do with how privatizing and ultimately ending Britain’s main and highly profitable export industries means that growth won’t ever go above 2.5% in my lifetime!

Since (I believe) April, Black Company have been devising, writing, rehearsing and performing ‘Remember the Oaks’, an original piece dedicated to those who were involved in the tragedy at the Oaks Colliery in Barnsley, the worst mining disaster to have ever taken place on English soil, and the second worst on British land after the horrors of the Senghenydd Colliery Disaster in Wales. The piece focused on the families of those affected by the disaster, and how as time passes on – in its unstoppable fashion – it’s important to never forget your history and to never take anything for granted. Money generated from our performances were donated to those campaigning for a statue to commemorate the disaster; a beautiful statue, waiting to be cast in bronze, of a mother and her child rushing to the disaster only moments after it has happened. After a couple of very impressive performances at The Lamproom Theatre in Barnsley and at the HQ of the National Union of Mineworkers, we were asked to do a final (well, is anything ever final?) performance at the Miners Memorial Service at Wakefield Cathedral.

We spent weeks trimming the performance down, taking it from an hour long story to a shorter piece of information about disasters in the Yorkshire area; mainly The Oaks and Lofthouse. Lines were spread equally and power put into all of them, everyone in the Cathedral united in the singular cause of memory for what all of those workers did for us, for their families, for themselves.

Having never performed in a Cathedral before myself, having to adapt to the space – as opposed to that of a theatre – was a welcome challenge. We spent around an hour making changes before the Service, and ultimately is was a task that bettered me as a performer for it. They’re always spacious and echo’s ring around, so projection was something I made a mental note to focus on throughout the piece. It’s fun seeing what an unusual performance space can teach you as an actor.

Performing in dedication of the Miners has been something I’ve revelled in. Not only do they deserve everything we can do, but they deserve us to put everything into it as well; something Black Company did with unrivalled will.

But, as Remember the Oaks taught us, time continues to move in its own man-made and surreal fashion, and merely 4 days after, we began to devise our Christmas show; The Snow Princess.

Now, of course I could explain The Snow Princess to you in its entirety, detailing the physical pieces we created on Thursday night and their metaphorical, symbolic and abstract meanings; but of course, why would I deny you the pleasure of doing that yourself on the 7th and 8th of December, only at the Phoenix Theatre in Castleford?

On a final note, National Theatre Connections has begun to come back into my life this week. Not that you care, but I couldn’t make the auditions next Saturday, and so instead auditioned on Friday night. Last year, Connections was an experience that taught me the most as an actor that I have ever learnt over the duration of a show. With a cast of some of my best friends I enjoyed the process an insurmountable sum; and I cannot wait to get back into it this year.

Whilst this year’s play – Three ­– takes on a radically different tone to Eclipse, would I be able to call myself an actor if I couldn’t say this was something I didn’t welcome into my art?

So I realise this blog has talked about mainly everything and anything, but if I could leave it on any note, it would be this; acting is an unmatchable art form, pay money to see us perform, and Thatcher was the devil.

Sam Mandi-Ghomi

Sunday, 9 October 2016


This weekend was the National Theatre Connections weekend which for me meant an intensive full day workshop in the company of many directors and the playwright of Three, our NTC play for this year.  It's always an important weekend for me - a chance to take stock of where I am as a director and practitioner and to be reminded of things that might have been forced to the back of my mind in the sometimes relentless pace of the Yew Tree/Osborne year.

In the spirit of the title of this year's play - and one of the exercises we did in the workshop - I'm going to focus on three of the most useful things I came away with from yesterday's activities, discussion and reflection:

One - sometimes we need to feel vulnerable and exposed to be liberated from the things that tie us down (or into knots) we need to jump off the metaphorical cliff to know that we can fly - even soar. My job is to create an environment in the rehearsal room where actors feel safe enough to make that leap and support them to keep challenging themselves to tackle greater and greater heights.

Two - that in order to succeed in the rehearsal process actors need to have an exceptional amount of openness, generosity and humility.  Although actors often think they have that sorted greater things can be achieved if they could truly allow those values and attributes to take their rightful place. Too often preconceptions, self service and ego have too much of a presence in the process of making work often entirely unconsciously.

Three - National Connections is such a unique and valuable experience for YTYT actors - it's an opportunity to be pushed further, learn more, fly higher...but it comes with a price (a price which this year I'm going to be a little more insistent upon) which begins with an actors willingness to dedicate themselves to the process of making quality theatre - to be prepared to jump off all of the cliffs that present themselves along the way - to be open, generous and humble - happily the reward for doing so will be a hundred times the investment. 

I for one can't wait to get cracking...
Ellie is our guest blogger this week! 

So my week starts off at Orange, where we're putting together the Christmas show of "When Santa got stuck up the chimney". And all is going well, firstly we played a bit of funky seaweed lead by Sam and Jacob, and then I ran a game of Captain Beaky, and I don't feel like I did too bad! We got straight into a run after our games and were about 2/3 of the way through, which is brilliant! I'm extremely proud of how each member is working! The shows going to look fab! So get booking tickets!
Then I have Black Company, I don't think I've Seen a company be so happy to get cookies! So here, we are creating a new version of the Miners Memorial for the service today, if you're free get yourself to Wakefield cathedral at 2:30, it'll be a treat! 
Next, I have Gold company, which wasn't on this week due to Sarah being down in London to find out more about this years Connections performance!
Then WY Performers and Aladdin, this week it was just the constellations and the maidens of gold and a lot of work was done! We fixed a few dances and they're looking really good!! Don't forget to book your tickets for this too!!

Sunday, 2 October 2016


I thought a lot about joy yesterday and the importance of remembering to be joyful in the moment.

This came about as a result of two excellent rehearsals, which in addition to be productive were also filled with laughter.  Firstly Gold Company’s rehearsal of, “A Fairytale Like No Other.”  We’re making great progress and have already sorted about a boat, the cliffs of insanity and a great deal of the staging.  It’s a brave play stylistically and makes serious demands of the actors who have to snap in and out of character and story frequently.  It’s a real balance of self indulgence and discipline.  Watching the talented actor develop this style is joyous in itself.  

Aladdin was equally delightful with one of the few remaining numbers to be choreographed ticked off and a couple of neglected numbers polished up.  I can really feel the pace hotting up and I’m so excited for the final weeks rehearsals where we can start to enjoy what we’ve worked so hard to create.  A begrudging highlight was Dec and Tom’s (AKA Fahzim and Aladdin) guest appearance in J’ai Ho! alongside the senior dancers.  They do like to stir things up bless them!

Something that occurred to me in both the rehearsals is it was the actors and performers most open to what was going on that had the most joy.  Those cast members that were prepared to dive in with both feet and see what happened, who oozed commitment to the moment, to the character, to the story, to the words, to the movement…the more brave and accepting the approach to the rehearsals the performer was…the more joy they got out of it…and the fact that so many of each cast were in that mode was the reason I finished rehearsals with my heart and head buzzing with the brilliance of the rehearsals I’d had the pleasure of being part of…

Yew Tree Christmas show tickets can be bought here

Aladdin tickets can be bought here