Act One and a dog called Theodore

We’re a month into rehearsals for Michael Frayn’s Here, performed by the Southsea Shakespeare Actors, and at the weekend we attempted a run-through of Act One, the first half of the play.

I was really pleased with it, especially considering it was the first time off book for certain scenes. My three lovely actors, Ben, Faye and Sue, gave it a good go, and I think we all felt we’d benefited from seeing how the different sections of the first act fit together.

Theodore

There are four scenes in the play – Act one Scene one and two, and Act two Scene one and two – and I’d broken this up for rehearsals into smaller, more manageable sections. Up until now we’ve only worked on these sections individually, so it was really helpful to see them all flow together. The first run-through can be rather disorienting, even if just one half of the play, for this very reason. On top of that the actors are not just trying to remember their lines for one small section, but for the whole of the first act, knowing they won’t really get a chance to check their lines at any point until they’ve finished.

A few notes that I’d given the actors previously were forgotten, but this is to be expected, and overall I felt very comfortable with what I saw. My stage manager, Courtney, was there to prompt, and there were multiple occasions when I could hear him chuckling at the side of me, so I was confident that none of the humour we’d worked on had been lost.

After the run-through followed by a break, we discussed various matters including what to do with Theodore (pictured). This soft toy dog makes several appearances in the play, and is a key member of the cast. Naturally, therefore, it is important that we get him right. Faye spotted this adorable little fella in a charity shop and brought him along to rehearsal to see what we thought. As we sat contemplating the many misfortunes we could inflict on the poor chap to make him look considerably more threadbare, as is required in the play, we looked into his big furry face and melted. We couldnt do it. Or rather, I couldn’t. Thus a conversation ensued on how we could make him look threadbare while inflicting the least ‘pain’. Yes, I am sad. No, I do not live on my own with five cats.

The plan at present is to cake a few patches of his fur in food – spaghetti’s a firm favourite – and apply a medium dusting of coffee granules to get a grubby effect. I will be seeing the grubbified Theodore at rehearsal tonight, so I hope they haven’t been too hard on him!

 

Creating Balance with Anglepoise

I’ve never had a particular fascination with lamps. Yes, they can look nice and I appreciate there are various different designs to suit different tastes, but essentially they’re a rather practical thing. You switch it on so you can see better. So when I heard (rather later than everyone else in Portsmouth, it seems) that Anglepoise was teaming up with Strong Island and the University of Portsmouth (UoP) for a creative project called Creating Balance, I must admit I didn’t jump in the air with excitement.

Creating Balance 5

An iconic British brand, Anglepoise is famous for its instantly recognisable lamps. Think of a traditional desk lamp, and you’re most likely thinking of the shape of an Anglepoise lamp. They’re practical yet pleasing in an aesthetic way, as well as energy efficient.

When I first met with Paul Gonella of Strong Island back in the Autumn to discuss joining their team of local writers for the website, I noticed a pile of brochures showcasing the Creating Balance Project, and thus my interest was piqued.

They had taken a simple, everyday object – the lamp – and captured it in a whole new light. If you’re in Portsmouth then do look out for one of these A5 booklets, as they’re full of awesome photography and a lot of lamp action! Just flicking through the pages makes you realise how many creative spirits there are on our little island (Portsmouth’s on an island, don’t you know!), and how much talent this creative community has.

The Creating Balance project, organised by photographer and UoP lecturer Claire Sambrook, twinned 10 artists with 10 local photographers and gave them an Anglepoise lamp (or several) to play with. According to the brochure, “the aim was to explore the true meaning of balance at work and in life and to document its significance in the creative process”.

I work at the University of Portsmouth, where the new part of Eldon Building, which houses the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, has just opened. It includes a ground-floor exhibition space, which is currently home to several art installations, including a seemingly uniform cluster of Anglepoise lamps.

I say seemingly, because as you get closer to the display, you start to notice all the little discrepancies and variations in positioning – a little lower here, a fraction higher there. Portsmouth people can wander down to Eldon Building and take a look, and I believe the newly-opened coffee shop there is also open to the public. If you’re in the area and want to see more of the exhibition, pop down to the Aspex Gallery in Gunwharf Quays from now until 2nd March.

I took a few shots of the installation in the Eldon Building (see above), called Changing Faces, which complements and connects to the Creating Balance project. I tried to give a sense of the almost mesmerizing quality of it. However, please bear in mind I’m no photographer, and was using an iPhone 4S! I’d like to say they’re in circles because I thought it would be in keeping with the circular heads of the lamps, but in reality I’ve just discovered how to make an image gallery in WordPress and am working my way through the different display options with far too much enthusiasm.