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A week last Thursday night….I went to see  As You Like It at Keswick’s Theatre By The Lake. It’s the first Shakespeare play I ever saw on stage, at Birmingham Rep, with, seemingly, half the cast of Crossroads in the company. Good old Burton Boys Grammar School (I’m being ironic, you should know), had gone to pains to teach us that when we call a Shakespeare play ‘comic’, we don’t mean it’s funny. Birmingham Rep blew that piece of disinformation right out of the water, and won me over to Shakespeare despite everything that the Education system threw at him.

It must be twenty years since I’d seen the play, and last night I was amazed at how much of it – almost every line – came back to me, though I couldn’t have written down more than a few of them without that prompting. It’s remained my favourite play, though I can see it’s not the slickest (and yes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream pushes a hard second).

The TBTL production was as good as I had come to expect, and celebrated the essential romanticism of the play. Jessica Hayles made a fabulous Rosalind – all Rosalinds should be fabulous. I can remember Eileen Atkins in her Ganymede jeans, and still have the theatre programme somewhere! But Layo-Christina Akinlude as Celia/Aliena gave a master-class in how to play the part that is on stage a lot of the time, but has few lines and very little action. With nods, head-shakes, grins, eye-rolls and other micro-movements she mirrored, re-inforced and nudged our responses to what the other characters were saying and doing. It’s a fine line sort of part to walk between too much and not enough, and she was absolutely spot on.

One slight change to Shakespeare’s script puzzled me. An exchange of words, very near to the end, one that you wouldn’t notice was missing unless you were expecting to hear it, had been excised; like a sprig of bitter herb left out of a gourmet dish.

But Bravo! Theatre ByThe Lake, cast and crew.

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Last call for tomorrow at the Theatre Royal, in The Studio, from 4.30 – 6.30 pm you can be there at a rehearsed reading of five new pieces for theatre which will have been intensely explored through the day with Director, Ken Gouge, and four actors who have never seen the work before. The writers have been meeting regularly as a peer group to develop their work, also generously hosted by the Theatre Royal. This is the second such event. It’s free to the public at the reading stage – the first event was much appreciated by all concerned as a fascinating insight into the process of turning a script into a performance piece. If you’re a writer, an actor, a director or someone who loves the theatre arts, do come if you’re free. 

ALSO NOTE the  Playwrights Scratch Project  in the D&G Arts Festival on June 4th – this one with an open submission for writers CLOSING DATE for scripts is 26th April. For full details e mail carolynanne57@gmail.com or see the Creative Scotland page here:

http://opportunities.creativescotland.com/opportunity/index/82f8ca4a-3d7e-4991-b22d-07919bdb6a28/?Ref=%2F%3Ffilter%3D%26area%3D19%26location%3D6

Extracts from three brand new scripts will be presented by actors at a directed, rehearsed reading. Selected from across Scotland and Cumbria, the scripts are read for the first time by the company that morning, then the director and actors get to work. This event is a must for those interested in how new writing for performance develops. There will be an informal gathering in the bar post-show to discuss the plays with the playwrights, actors and the director, Ken Gouge, Edinburgh Festival Fringe First winner. See the Festival brochure page http://www.dgartsfestival.org.uk/event

49 stories,flash fictions and monologues by BHD

Rehearsed reading of five new short plays scripts. All for the price of…

…Its a FREE event. No need to book just turn up.

You’d be very welcome. Spread the word and let anyone else know who you think would be interested.

Playwrights: Tom Murray Vivien Jones Marilyn Messenger Mike Smith Carolyn Yates Lucy Cameron

Director: Ken Gouge

At the Theatre Royal, Dumfries, Saturday 15th April, 4.30pm to 6.30pm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI went to Glasgow a few days ago, to see the musical Singin’ in the Rain.

One thing stood out for me, about the story, that I hadn’t fully realised from watching the old Gene Kelly movie. That was how the character Cosmo glues the story together, how he dominates it in some respects. Cosmo, in case your not familiar with the plot, is the sidekick and pianist of the ‘star’ of the show, and early on in the script that point is made. Don Lockwood is the star. Cosmo is the nobody. Don even lends him his coat, so that while Cosmo gets mobbed by the fans, Don can slip out of the theatre without being seen. But when Cosmo slips on the overcoat, the sleeves are way too big for him.

Even in the film, one can’t (or even cain’t) fail to notice Cosmo’s fabulous tour de force in the dance routine to the song ‘Make ’em Laugh’, and to see the performance (brilliantly done by Stephane Anelli, in the Glasgow production) live on stage makes it even more so! I realised I’d been waiting for that song, but it’s not the only one Cosmo appears in. There are two others where he holds his own with the putative leads, Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in the original filmed version. These are the songs ‘Good Mornin” and ‘Moses Supposes’. The two leads do, of course, get their duos, and the male lead, in what was – as with the Fred Astaire movies – a vehicle for the talents of the lead male dancer primarily, gets his extended ‘ballet’ – Gene Kelly’s term for the ‘Broadway Melody’ sequence, danced in the film with Cyd Charisse. And of course, there is the iconic, and eponymous, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ sequence, which in the stage show delightfully showers the front four rows of the stalls – we sat in the fifth, heh, heh.

Yet, Cosmo has something about him. When he is on stage he is orchestrating the actions of the ‘good guys’ in the faces of their adversaries. He comes up with the idea that will save the day, dubbing the songs of the brash Lina Lamont with the singing of the Debbie Reynolds character, Kathy Selden. He’s the one who thinks up the new title for the ‘talkie’ they are making, and the one who initiates drawing back the curtains on Lina as she mimes to the true heroine’s voice at the end. As a plot device, Cosmo is vital to the story, but I suspect he is more than that. He also the little guy who comes through, who makes good, who lives his life in the shadow of the great, but who, right from the start, when Don and he are Music Hall performers, is not overshadowed by them. The fact that he does so is not lost on us, for we are like him, or aspire to be and that gives him a potency on stage, and in the film, that doesn’t steal anybody’s limelight, but which is both palpable and reassuring.

Sidekicks and buddies, girlfriends and confidantes can be found in many stories. They are often wiser than the heroes they support. They are often long suffering. Look at Sam Gamgee in Lord of the Rings. But they are always valued, by the heroes themselves, and by us, in the penny seats.

Sadly, the musical, at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, twenty minutes walk up from the Central Station, finished it’s run yesterday, but hey, there’s a season of great shows still to come!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA