Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leaving January Behind with Glee

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for January to be over and done with. It's not been a bad month exactly, just a completely uneventful and torpid one; I've barely socialised since New Year's Eve and what with the bank balance recovering after Christmas excesses, there hasn't even been a decent retail therapy session to perk me up. The most exciting thing to happen was the snow and even that turned out to be a royal pain in the arse once the initial novelty wore off. But now as the first month of the year draws to a close, the invitations are starting to trickle in for February and March, giving me something more diverting to look forward to and I am willing away the last dreary days.

There really has been so little going on these past few weeks that I've been carving through the DVD box sets (24 series 6, Six Feet Under series 3) at an unprecedented rate and even getting hooked on current TV shows - like the outstandingly entertaining Glee. For most of the year I barely turn on the TV except to watch films and haven't been bothered enough about anything lately to get into watching it religiously, but for Glee I make an exception. On first glance you might presume it to be a schmaltzy High School Musical wannabe, but actually it veers much more towards being a parody of such cheese-fests. To me it is also enormously nostalgic, since I was a member of the UK equivalent of High School Glee Club and the politics and histrionics take me right back. Even Ant, who is not a fan of musicals or American teen drama, is enjoying it immensely. If you have yet to catch on, you can catch up via 4oD - it's well worth it, honestly.

While we're on the subject of TV highlights, this week saw the return of the glorious Mad Men - an altogether different, but equally compelling affair. I have yet to watch episode one and am dying to discover how things will pan out following season 2's tumultuous ending. Will Betty take her incorrigible gigolo of a husband back? Will the frocks be even more fabulous than last series? Who will have an affair with who? How will I ever cope with having to wait a whole week between episodes? In fact I'd better stop writing and settle down for my fix right now. See you in February, when I will hopefully have more to talk about than what's on the box.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Festive Finale, the Devonshire Park Theatre Way

Officially the Christmas festivities finished on Wednesday 6th Jan, also known as Twelfth Night, when decorations should have been down and mince pies eaten up ready for the obligatory New Year dieting regime - but I managed to stretch it out one more day by going to see a pantomime on Thursday 7th. Tacky, garish and predictable, pantomime is a great British tradition widely loved (including by me) for exactly those reasons. Anyone who grew up in this country and got taken to pantomime as a child will be pre-programmed with all the necessary responses - "he's behind you", "oh no it isn't", "boo, hiss" etc - to be able to participate without thinking. It's a shared experience, comforting in its familiarity.

For those of us on the inside, there is another great tradition that accompanies the pantomime season and that is the crew Cod panto - where the backstage team get dressed up and mercilessly (but fondly) mock the show for the enjoyment of its actors. Having worked for Eastbourne Theatres for many years back in my teens and early twenties, I am lucky enough to get an invite to see the Devonshire Park's annual Cod - this year 'Jack and His Big Stalk' which took place after the public show last Thursday. Quite apart from the enjoyment of seeing old friends donning drag and prancing about camply, the Cod was genuinely amusing by virtue of its sharply side-splitting script - written by the DP's resident Stage Manager (and my dear friend), Paul Debreczeny. You can catch a few highlights in this little YouTube video of mine.

The Turns and Twirlies (aka actors and dancers) took the ridicule in good part and actually seemed quite impressed at the previously hidden talents of their behind-the-scenes colleagues. My own dear mum (who works on the stage door) even bagged herself a cameo, showing off her theatrical pedigree - which was again something of a revelation to many of the assembled. What with the added bonus of free-flowing wine throughout the show and catching up with old friends afterwards during a lock-in at the Buccaneer pub next door, it was a very jolly way to round off the seasonal festivities. And a stack of cash was also raised for the Sussex Air Ambulance charity in the process. Good work, chaps.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Zombies, Magpies and Thomas Truax

What better way to relieve the end of holiday blues than by being a zombie in a music video? That's exactly what we felt last weekend when the call went out on Twitter for extras to appear in Thomas Truax's latest video shoot on Sunday. Best of all the shoot was happening just down the road from us in Eastbourne, at a venue close to my heart - the Under Ground theatre. Once just the plain old Library Theatre, the Under Ground was the setting for many amdram adventures of my youth, most notably Godspell and the Pajama Game which both hold extremely happy memories. The place hasn't changed a bit and walking in there was like walking straight back into my mis-spent youth.

Since discovering him at the Freebutt last year along with all his wacky homemade instruments, Thomas Truax has fast become one of my favourite artists (so much so that he made it into my new blog header) and I was delighted to have the chance to star alongside him. Despite all the dressing up over the years, I've never been a zombie before, and thought it would be a fun experience. As it turned out, I still haven't been a zombie because I unwittingly volunteered myself to be a magpie instead. This involved wearing a big magpie head, out of which I could see very little, and dancing in step (not very easy with a big magpie head on) with a fellow magpie called Robin (was I the only one to see the humour there?) who had been 'volunteered' by his girlfriend for the part. Ant and James enjoyed being the tallest zombies on stage and milking their roles - as you can see from this snap of them barbecuing a (fake) human heart. Everyone involved was jolly nice and we even went for a pint with some other zombies in the Dewdrop afterwards.

The video won't be ready for another couple of months, but in the meantime I strongly recommend that you have a look at one of Thomas Truax's previous (and also very brilliantly odd) videos here on YouTube, or even better, buy one of his excellent albums. You can see more photos of the zombie video shoot on my Flickr page.


Monday, January 04, 2010

2009 in Photographs

The Christmas festivities are over, the New Year hangover subsiding. I'm thinking back over 2009 - a year of highs and lows, adventure and discovery - and looking ahead to 2010. While the memories are still fresh, I have chosen my favourite photographs from last year, which you can see below. What I love most about these snaps is that everyone in them looks so genuinely happy - there's not a forced photo-smile to be seen. I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many vivacious, passionate people and I look forward to spending more happy times with them all this year. A joyous and fruitful New Year one and all.



All the photos in this slideshow are from my Flickr stream. Come on over and see more: www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar