BSC Address

Monday, January 26, 2009

World War

I don't think there can be a harder subject to bring to the stage than the First World War - an utterly futile and hopeless episode in human history. Even harder to bring it before an audience of 11+ teenagers, who must be slightly bewildered and perhaps a little jaded by the black and white images of people who lived so long ago.

But in a week's time we will do just that with the Frightful First World War - our latest HORRIBLE HISTORIES production in conjunction with the Woeful Second World War for 6+. Thankfully we've managed to pull together a fantastic team of actors and creatives and judging by the rehearsal on Saturday, it will hit exactly the right note between humour and horror, bringing out the absurdity of the conflict while hitting you squarely between the eyes with the sheer waste of ordinary young lives. In the middle of cheery of war songs I suddenly found myself welling up at one song which captures the situation swallowing up millions of men. And the story of Paul, a young man who never made it to the end, is beautifully created in the drama of the production.

WW2 is slightly easier in that it concentrates on the story of Sally and Alf who get evacuated to darkest Wales, but in representing the bombing of Coventry in 3D at the end of the show, the task is still to engage the children with Sally's adventure, while demonstrating the real consequences of war on a civilian population.

WW1 and WW2. I'm glad we only have to go through it all on stage!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Every so often you're reminded that drama has a power way beyond the obvious.

Yesterday I held a workshop for WHY THE WHALES CAME with an entire school, about two hundred 4yr olds to 11yr olds. I asked them to show me their best scary face. Having picked out eight kids of all ages, I let the school choose who they thought was best at looking "scared"! Among them was a 4 year old boy who when his turn came looked like he was going to bust! The whole school broke into rapturous cheers and applause.

I don't know if and when that young boy will again experience an entire school cheering him to the rafters. But the smile on his face seemed to suggest the accolade will last a lifetime.

It felt like a brief but important moment in that young man's life.

All because of 30 minutes of drama.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I still can't quite believe that a black man is now President of the United States. It still feels like a dream.

One sometimes loses hope about the human race, but occasionally we defy the sceptics and take an undeniable step forward in the advancement of humanity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Once again...

Once again I've been bowled over by the standard of our understudys who have been out in force this week. Hasan Dixon took the role of Mowgli on Friday and delivered a tremendous performance. While Andrew Thompson was playing the lead role of Daniel in Why The Whales Came last Tuesday and was back on again today playing Dad and Big Tim - and no-one could have possibly guessed it was his first day on stage playing these two roles. And now Lyndsey Orr will be on stage tomorrow playing Tabaqui.

There's nothing more interesting than watching talented actors rise to the challenge of leading roles at short notice. Their hard work behind the scenes has had the chance to flower beautifully. I'm lucky to have had the chance to see them all at work.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Richard Dreyfuss

My friend, who is not an actor, had an interesting point of view concerning the fuss over the delayed opening of COMPLICIT:

"Surely RD unsteady with his lines is still more enjoyable to watch than a lot of actors who are on top of their lines?"

Certainly a view that could start a debate...!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Dice House

The latest production of THE DICE HOUSE opens on Tuesday. It's already selling well, so if you fancy it, get yourself down to Islington!

Jack Lemmon

Richard Dreyfuss' performance in COMPLICIT reminded me of Jack Lemmon in VETERAN'S DAY in 1989. Another extraordinary performance by an actor who was very much having to fill the void left by a weak play. I have rarely seen an actor working so hard in all my life! It was brilliant and humbling. I was lucky enough to interview Mr Lemmon six weeks later to help capitalise the BSC and since both he and now recently Harold Pinter have died, I can finally tell the story he told me that morning.

The play had been slated by the critics but, much to his enormous credit, Lemmon was supremely loyal to the show - declaring publicily how much he liked the script. However, before we went on stage he told me a different story: in truth he hadn't been at all sure about the script when he was first sent it, but Harold Pinter had called him to say how good he thought the play was and he successfully encouraged JL to take the role. Jack Lemmon's advice to me that morning was simple: he told me with a wry smile - "Never take advice about a play from Harold Pinter!"

Richard Dreyfuss

I went to see Richard Dreyfuss in COMPLICIT at The Old Vic last week. It was their third preview and a fascinating evening of theatre: RD is not yet on top of lines - he has a lot! But it was the sort of performance you don't see on the English stage very often - completely inhabited, utterly open/vulnerable and sincerely felt. Certainly one of the best performances I've ever seen.

I was front row of the stalls and now that the theatre has been configured in the round, you're three feet away from the actors. I could have watched another four hours of his performance. It was a priceless opporunity to witness such a watchable actor at work. I almost wonder if it will be as interesting when he is fully on top of the play, because part of the joy was seeing him work through the role, right in front of you. (I had the same experience when Albert Finney, Tom Courtney and Ken Stott first previewed ART - it was electric (particularly when Stott forgot half of the famous speech!) - and when I saw the show again three months later it had lost much the neurosis of the characters and become a comfortable comedy).

David Suchet is also excellent in COMPLICIT and in complete command of his performance. I just wish the play had been better, given that it's more of an intellectual debate than a drama, albeit about an important subject.

I walked out of the theatre as high as a kite - a genuine dramatic thrill of the first order.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


I have fallen in love with an American cop series called THE SHIELD. It has certainly the best scripts, the best filming and the best acting that I have seen on TV in a loooooong time! Having tuned in late into the series, I was always behind on some of the plot, so I bought the first series on DVD. What a treat! Thoroughly recommended.