STG : Not Amateur Enough

Update : I know who won but I’m not telling!

It’s been an exciting time for Strathclyde Theatre Group. We haven’t ‘Saved The Ramshorn’ but we haven’t quite lost it yet. The water is turned off but the University is kind enough to let us sneak in now and then. I still have hopes that we’ll take over the building and run it as a community arts venue but so far that’s a pipe dream. Not that I actually do anything – I just drink lattes, chatter, day-dream, get a bit shy at bizarre moments, turn up late, booze, try to avoid photographs, gossip, eat snacks, write in my notebook, read novels, bitch about stuff, think about going home, tell dog-based anecdotes, look terrible in photographs, & occasionally press the ‘Go’ button on the lighting board.

But despite my chronic malingering NOW has been very busy.

Firstly STG has been involved in a theatre competition called ‘Stagestruck’ that will be shown on Sky Arts in the Spring of 2012. Its focus must be on theatre practice because they haven’t been gathering backstage dramas and they don’t seem to mind the participants blogging about who gets through to the next round. STG got picked for the first round – we sent in a video that was put on their website and the judges picked seven groups and the public voted for one group. Then we went to Northampton for round 2 (we had to perform a scene from the Cherry Orchard) and we got through to the semi-final in Stratford-Upon-Avon. In Stratford, the weekend a fortnight before the judging, we had a workshop with our acting mentor Dame Harriet Walter (who is one of the nicest, most knowledgable, talented actresses in the universe – I’m not exaggerating) and two workshops with the Royal Shakespeare Company, one on movement and one on voice.

The Royal Shakespeare Company!

I’d try to be a reverse snob – but I can’t. They’re a fabulous organisation. Friendly, high quality, a bit quirky and fun. I’d die to work for them – if that wasn’t a complete impossibility (could I be their resident ghost???). My fat non-acting ass sat in the corner and the workshops were still gold-dust. I couldn’t be happier.

The competition itself was more nerve-wracking. Never in my life have I obsessed so much about six cues. Mainly it was because I had to talk into headphones in the wings while watching a monitor and talking to a woman I’ve still never seen. I was very lucky that Sarah was friendly, knew her stuff, knew I was awkward about my stuff and made me feel I wasn’t talking into a scary void. Richard, the over-all stage manager was comfortingly efficient and I could start cueing whenever I wanted, so it wasn’t that bad.

I’m proud of the two scenes from King Lear that we staged. Our actors were fantastic (a couple of fluffed lines were seamlessly covered over) and we had some striking minimalist visuals. Our flaws were happily minor – no sound cues, too close to the end of the stage. We didn’t get through but it was a close thing. Bill Kenwright (my mother’s favourite producer!) loved us and wanted us in the final but we were undone by Quentin Letts (Daily Mail theatre critic – he seemed quite nice & not the spawn of the devil I was expecting) and Miriam Margolyes (adorable actress). Miriam whirlwinded up to our dressing-room afterwards to tell us we were a great group, we should say ‘f*ck them & go on, but we lacked spark; being supportive and utterly crushing in the one speech.

But still – it’s Miriam Margolyes! In person! In Stratford!

The two groups in the final are the operatic Goliath of Regent Rep from Bournemouth and the naturalistic David of Crossmichael Drama Club from the Borders. I’ll be delighted for whoever wins but I have a definite soft spot for Crossmichael and I’d love to see them win it. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

We also got to meet and spend time with the high-energy Liverpool Theatre Group – Tell Tale. They’re young, new and exciting and I can’t wait to see one of their productions.

Next year STG will likely be back in Stratford for another competition : the RSC’s Open Stages. We’ll be staging a full production of Coriolanus and my fingers and toes will be crossed for that one.

This week we’re staging ‘The Crucible’ at the Cottiers Theatre in Glasgow. It’s a great production – even though I have to endure the UNBEARABLE HORROR of school parties. Still – they did love it. Apparently it’s just like Eastenders. Success!

So onwards and upwards! The bleak future is becoming quite bright.

filming our director Bruce Downie for 'Stagestruck'

2 thoughts on “STG : Not Amateur Enough

  1. This is the problem with feedback; I have it when I tell kids they need to write with more style. How do you acquire a “spark”?

    I like to hear and see that kind of reaction from kids ( and yes, they may be racist,since we’re not born with values -we need to learn them). Interacting with a play is surely better than dumbly and dutifully looking at it.

    1. I’ll have to edit it – I thought the capital letters on UNBEARABLE HORROR would emphasise that it’s a comic exaggeration. They are relentlessly culturally insensitive & could do with a bit of ‘tutting’ but that’s all I really meant.

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