Saturday, 25 September 2010


Firstly, apologies for the picture. I took it on a walk along Salisbury Crags one afternoon and the view looks more or less north-west towards Calton Hill and I'm looking into the light. And the picture isn't really 'tourist' Edinburgh. What you see in the foreground is the Scottish Parliament and it is the modern face of Scotland. It's a 'new-build' and was beset with problems, not least of which was the cost which soared from an original estimate of £40 million to a cool £440 million. Another time I might take a closer look. It lay outside the Festival bubble that I inhabited almost exclusively for the three weeks I spent in the city.

After an afternoon performance of The Chalk Giants in Norwich we dismantled the set and packed it into the back of the Puppet Theatre's long white van. Tim, the lighting engineer, and I drove through the night, arriving at dawn and managed a couple of hours' sleep before our technical rehearsal began at 9am. The rest of the company arrived by car an hour behind us.

The two technicians provided by the venue, and who alternated over the course of the next three weeks, had obviously been instructed to be strict with the visiting companies. Although we had negotiated an extended get-in, only 15 minutes was allowed in which to strike our set and vacate the auditorium. As we did this the next act had to get their set past us on the narrow stairs and onto the stage as our 15 minute get-out coincided with their 15 minute get-in. We were given a solemn warning that fines, at the rate of £10 for each minute would be meted out to companies that took longer than the time alotted to clear the stage.

We quickly established a highly efficient routine but there is no doubt that our elaborate set, including a fair amount of technical equipment, suffered as a result of the time constraints. However our technicians, John and Neil, thawed considerably over the course of the run, taking a keen interest and becoming very helpful. They also had the lighting cues, which Tim had given them before hopping on a flight back to Norwich, off pat from the outset. And we became so adept at striking the set that 15 minutes seemed overly generous.

Even so, I had little time to think about photography. But here's a rare shot of Steve setting up for Pinocchio. The toy theatre belongs to the Chalk Giants set and is there so we can pre-set the lights as that show played straight after.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

September's free music game

This one is called Biddly Biddly Bop and I got it from an actor friend called Lucy. I usually post a game at the beginning of each month but various factors contributed to a delay this time around. It's an excellent back-to-school activity or workshop icebreaker. Enjoy.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Good vibrations?

I played at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts earlier today, a building designed by Sir Norman Foster on the UEA campus to house the Sainsbury art collection. The jazz/klezmer trio of which I am a part is not especially loud but we do amplify ourselves. And I remember playing here in a nine-piece salsa band some years ago which certainly packed a punch.

It occurred to me that future generations may be shocked at the damage our noise has done to the molecular structures of the works on display, some of which are thousands of years old. I completed an archaeology degree at a time when the practice of leaving parts of a site untouched (so that scholars as yet unborn could one day apply techniques that would make ours appear crude by comparison) was still a recent development. It was symptomatic of a new humility in science: the idea that although we may be at the cutting edge of knowledge we may not yet be the finished article.

I love playing at SCVA but will do so henceforth with a slight feeling of unease. But I notice the venue never seems to hire any operatic sopranos so maybe they're way ahead of me on this. Should I ask to see their risk assessment paperwork or keep schtum and be grateful for the gig?