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adventures in acting & stand-up

Archive for the category “Acting”

The Blue Dot Cafe

The latest development in my reluctant engagement with technology

I set up this blogsite thing almost two years ago. In my first post, I said something to the effect that I wasn’t entirely sure I belonged in the blogosphere (is that where we are? In fact, I do quite like it here), and that I didn’t anticipate becoming a regular blogger. Well, on that point, I can only wish there were more areas of life in which I could be proved so outstandingly right!

Having succeeded beyond my wildest dreams at becoming a barely contributing blogger, I think it’s time to take the next step, and become an equally rare podcaster.

I wasn’t actually looking for a reason to enter this field; there are quite enough of the things to be going on with, I’d have thought. But I’ve been daydreaming recently about the sort of place I’d like to hang out (and the sort of people I’d like to hang out with) if it existed, and the idea grew from there. Until it somehow formed itself as an occasional arts-themed audio podcast.

So, I’ve spent the last few days making a pilot – not for wide circulation on podhosting sites (imagine me even knowing a term like that!), but to sit calmly here in the hope you’ll listen to it and – most importantly – tell me what you think.

Here it is:

Blue Dot Cafe Pilot

Please click and listen.

(maybe open it in a new window so you can continue reading the rest of this page)

What do you think?

Do you like the idea? How do you think it might develop from here? Is my technical quality acceptable? I had a few issues with it, some of which I can overcome next time, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard worse than this. Or, maybe my crisp master copy will deteriorate when it gets transferred here? I know you can hear quite a lot of the edits (or is that just me hearing where I know they are?), but it’s my first project and I have faith that I’ll improve with experience – the last time I edited audio was with a block and a razor blade. It was quicker.

Younger readers may need to research this reference.

Are you involved with, or an admirer of, the arts? What do you think should be included in later editions? Is there anything you’d like to contribute? Don’t hold back!

Are you a podcaster? What important consideration have I naively overlooked?

PLEASE let me know what you think, either by commenting on this post, or by emailing me at

And, if you think it’s any good, do invite others to come here and give it a listen too, if you think they might enjoy it. The more the merrier.

Many, many thanks to all who assisted me with this ( I think you’ve all been tagged in this post). And particular thanks to Ann Druyan, President of the Carl Sagan Foundation ( My spirits have been uplifted by the positive response I’ve had from everyone I approached. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that every response I’ve had has been positive; two or three people haven’t replied to my messages yet, but I’m hopeful they will, before I go ‘live’ with this thing (if I go ‘live’ with this thing).

A couple of things you might also like to know:

My guest, Ben Mars, has appeared in numerous British TV productions. American visitors may also have seen him as the guy fishing strange things out of a river in the Mike’s Hard Lemonade TV ads.

The bands you heard are both on Facebook:

The Jellybean Rebellion’s single A Little Bit Indie / Hold On can be downloaded from:

There. A new blog post AND a podcast in embryo, What could be more 21st Century than that?


Happy School Days

So, that’s The History Boys done, then. For now, anyway. There have been enigmatic mutterings… That is all I can say… It is all I know.

The preparation I mentioned in my last post did pay off, I think. The project was intensive and hard work, but enormously rewarding. I had the joy of working with a great cast on a great play. For several of “the boys”, this was their first professional engagement, and it was an honour to share that experience with them. I look forward with excitement to watching their undoubtedly glorious careers blooming from this point forward.

Personally, the thrill was to find that a wish list role was within my ability. There have been a few nice comments in online reviews, which modesty, of course, forbids my posting here. The short but vital experience of this job has left me with new friends and many happy memories. Here are some of them:

An Actor Prepares and all that

When you find yourself in heated discussions about whether to say “isn’t” or “is not”, when you anguish about whether to stand or sit or walk in a circle, when you take a stand about whether you have or haven’t seen something that’s just happened inches in front of you… you’d better hope you’re in a rehearsal room because if you’re not, you may need a nice lie down.

I’ve spent the last week rehearsing the role of Hector in Alan Bennett’s modern classic, THE HISTORY BOYS, which opens at the Greenwich Theatre a week tomorrow (yikes!). That’s Monday 18th til Sunday 24th June (10 performances in 7 days – more info at ) and I couldn’t be enjoying it more.

It’s a short run with a short rehearsal period, and it’s shaping up really nicely. The cast are great, and the writing… oh, the writing!

Happily, this casting was confirmed a few weeks before rehearsals began, so I was able to spend a bit of time in the sunshine (remember the sunshine?) getting to grips with the lines and learning a bit about the character I’m playing.

If you’ve seen other pages on this blog thing, you’ll know that I’m a lover of poetry. But not a well informed one. Nothing like Hector. The man’s a cultural oracle! He speaks largely in quotes and references, so preparing for this play has been a little like swotting for ‘A’ Levels. But in a good way.

On which point, incidentally, I now realise why I was such a thicky at school all those years ago – no Google! How I wish I could have had the facility to type “Larkin unspent” into a search engine and immediately discover the poem “I Remember, I Remember”. No, I’m not going to reproduce it for you here – go search!

Another reason I underachieved, I think – and I’ve always been resentful of this – is that I had no Hector at my school. Someone who engages his pupils and makes them WANT to learn. I wonder if anyone ever did have as Hector a Hector as Hector, to be honest – and if you’re familiar with the play, you’ll know there’s a darker side to him too, which creates a brilliant theatrical dilemma when deciding how the audience feels about the character.

But back to the research. I have really enjoyed unpicking Mr Bennett’s intricate needlework; I have revisited the works of WH Auden, AE Housman, Larkin, Coleridge, Kipling… read passages from the Bible and dusted off my prized hardback edition of The Wind In The Willows, which my father took a good deal of convincing to pay a whole guinea for when I was 11. That’s £1.05p, kids. The equivalent of more than 4 months pocket money at the time.

I even found myself, on a recent trip to Belgium, sitting in this War Cemetery in Ypres for a reflective hour, reading the poetry of Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and others.

I’d love to tell you that was an exercise in Method Acting or something, but the truth is, I was in Belgium buying cheap fags anyway. Which doesn’t change the fact that I often have a pensive moment somewhere in Flanders whenever I go there.

How much a moment like that affects the performance is difficult to gauge, of course, but it is certainly the sort of thing Hector would do; it provides a useful picture in my head in a particular scene, but perhaps most valuably, I found it personally moving to see those regiments of gravestones, most of which acknowledge merely “A soldier of the Great War” or “A Lance Corporal of the Great war”, with the addition “known unto God”.

I stood at the end of a line of stones and it seemed to stretch forever. I briefly imagined that line as so many young men in their late teens and early twenties, then looked around me, at what was actually a pretty small War Cemetery. Why, there was probably only about a thousand people buried there.

As I wandered among the stones, a very touching thing happened. Three noisy schoolboys were laughing together as they walked home on the other side of the low wall between the cemetery and the street. They saw me and immediately quietened down. They continued their joke as they walked by, but in hushed voices. As a mark of respect, I assume. I don’t want to say that wouldn’t happen in the UK. I don’t want to say that.

Hector’s boys would have done the same, of course. They are lively, funny, bright, clowning kids on the threshold of the rest of their lives, but Hector has also contributed to the development of their sensitivity and humanity.

THE BOYS – clockwise from left: Lawrence Murphy, Adam Lawrence, Shamir Dawood, Alasdair Hankinson, David Ellis, Chris Aukett, Andrew Chase & Joe Morrow

You really should come to see this play if you possibly can. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s thought provoking. And it’s only on for a week – get booking!

Here’s a little trailer the company has put on YouTube. I’m not in it, but it gives a flavour of the hijinks we’ve been enjoying this week.

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