Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Archive for the ‘Firsts’ Category

Party Where You Are Party

Posted by Oli on Friday 20th November, 2009

Today marks the point 2 years ago when I received the ultimate gift from a wonderful person. It is, therefore, a day to celebrate.

Being currently ensconced up in Liverpool and far away from many of my friends, I’ve developed a slightly novel way of celebrating using the magic of Facebook and Twitter.

I’m asking anyone who wants to join me in celebration to find their own way to mark the occasion, whether it be a party, a trip to the pub or just raising a glass in their living room and to take a picture of themselves doing it and upload it to either the Facebook event page or onto Twitter.

If you’re on Facebook, search for “Oli’s 2nd Second Birthday. Party Where You Are Party” or find my profile and get to it from there. If you’re a Tweeter, simply use the hashtag #oli2nd.

Have a great day today and, if you get chance, raise a glass to me and my donor.


Posted in Day-to-day, Family, Firsts, Friends, Transplant | 1 Comment »

The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus

Posted by Oli on Saturday 31st October, 2009

Everything I’ve seen about Heath Ledger’s final film has told me two things: 1) It’s Heath Ledger’s final film (he died half-way through production, to be variously replaced throughout the film by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel and Jude Law) and 2) It’s utterly rubbish.

From watching the film myself today, I’ve discovered three things:

1) It’s almost the ultimate Terry Gilliam movie, combining the tangible, off-kilter world of a only-slightly-stylised reality with the final-given-enough-money beauty of the CGI creating the heavily surrealist world beyond the mirror that take people inside their own minds. Where his previous films have failed for me has been the difficulty in realising this clash of the real and the fantastical, but Parnassus does it almost perfectly.

2) The three actors who came in to finish the film, playing 3 versions of Ledger’s Tony who appear through the mirror did a great job. Admittedly, knowing the story behind the film made me almost predisposed to look on them favourably: all three stepped in as friends of Ledger’s to offer their services, all three fitted the film in around their other filming commitments and all three donated their fees to Ledger’s young daughter. But all three of them also hit just the right balance of the surrealist elements of a shape-shifting lead character by keeping just the right amount of Ledger’s original performance while infusing it with a spirit and attitude of their own. It never feels like 3 people pretending to be Heath Ledger, which would have been dreadful.

3) I really, really, really liked it.

So I may well be the odd one out in all of this, but frankly, who cares? I unashamedly love this movie. I love all that it stands for, I love all that it means, I love all that it’s been through and I love the end product more than any other Gilliam film I’ve seen before.

As a side note, K’s come back up to Liverpool with me today and we saw Parnassus at FACT, an amazing Liverpool cinema and gallery space which impresses me more and more every time I go. Today’s screening was in a small-ish box room with the audience all seated on 2-person sofas; a brand new experience for me, but a great one. There should be a flickhouse like this in every city.

Posted in Day-to-day, Family, Film, Firsts | 1 Comment »

Jonathan Pryce

Posted by Oli on Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The one upside of Willows going into rehearsals this week of all weeks (LIPA reading week, that is) is that I was still around to witness this year’s first Masterclass with the legendary Jonathan Pryce of Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean and Miss Saigon fame.

Once again revealing quite how aged I am in relation to the rest of the students at LIPA (or at least the majority), I first saw Jonathan Pryce when he played Fagin in Sam Mendes’ revival of Oliver! in the West End way back in 1994 when most of my classmates were learning to walk.

Thanks to the Pirates series, he’s now famous throughout the student body at LIPA and, since he’s literally just up the road (about 500 yards from LIPA) doing The Caretaker at the Everyman at the moment, he stopped in to talk to us all today.

He may have been nervous or just unsure at the start, as he was somewhat bland and struggling to relate to the audience to begin with, but as time went on he warmed up and became more and more ebullient and amusing with all of his anecdotes. Among my favourites:

  • He turned down the opportunity of taking over from Michael Crawford in the title role of the original production of Phantom of the Opera
  • He gave first jobs to both Julie Walters and Bill Nighy, recalling of Nighy’s audition that he thought we was either an absolute genius or absolute rubbish. He maintains (jokingly) it’s the latter.
  • When he and Nighy were reunited on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Nighy performed in a lycra body suit with motion-capture markers all over his body and face. The sight made it impossible to get through an emotional scene without laughing, prompting the writer to approach Pryce and ask if everything was OK with the scene.
  • He never actually read the entire script for Pirates and frequently only knew what was going on by asking Jack Davenport while the shots were being set up.
  • When performing in the ill-fated National Theatre production of My Fair Lady, he remarked to one audience “This is you first Eliza, but it’s my second today and third in two days. If anyone would like to apply to play Eliza in this production, please contact Stage Door after the show.”

It’s amazing to be studying what I love in a place I can’t get enough of and to have the added bonus of people like this coming in to talk to us. After almost 2 hours at it, I think the entire audience of actors, dancers, technicians and managers left the room utterly inspired and energised.

Who’s next?

Posted in Day-to-day, Film, Firsts, Theatre, Uni | Leave a Comment »

Willows begins…

Posted by Oli on Monday 26th October, 2009

I say it begins, but for most of the backstage staff, it already has – weeks and weeks ago. But all too often in theatre the start of a production is marked by the start of the rehearsal process.

Like the dutiful techies we all are, foregoing our reading week to be here for the show, we trudged our way to the 4th floor of the main LIPA building and into the room which will house rehearsals for Wind in the Willows for the next 4 weeks before we hit the Paul McCartney Auditorium for a week of technical and dress rehearsals to realise the show everyone’s had in their heads since the first week of term.

Today was also the first time I’d had to see the model box, the small, scale model of what will eventually be realised on stage. I know this is a big show, but seeing the model box today really rammed home just how HUGE the whole thing is. The monstrous set takes up the entire PMA stage and a little bit more besides and there is an incredible amount of work for us lowly ASMs to do in keeping the show running with all the appropriate scene changes as the show goes on.

It’s both extraordinarily exciting and not a little bit daunting. I’ve never been an ASM before – I’ve stage managed, I’ve production managed, but so much of the success of the performance itself rests on the ASMs getting their cues right. Because an ASM missing a cue in the middle of a show is likely to cause one of the most obvious slip ups in the theatre. It’s possible to miss lighting and sound cues without people really being aware, but if the setting and props aren’t in the right place when they’re needed, the actors can look like a right bunch of muppets.

Am looking forward to it, though. I think it’s going to be a great show and a fun show to work on. So here’s to four weeks of running around Liverpool like a loony getting everything sorted and a final week of running around LIPA like a loony getting everything sorteder.

Deep breath!

Posted in Day-to-day, Firsts, Theatre, Uni, Work | 1 Comment »

Flurry of work

Posted by Oli on Wednesday 30th September, 2009

Right, first off I should offer my apologies for my mini (or maxi) rant in my last post. I really was annoyed though. For the record – if anyone from the STUDENT LOANS COMPANY or SLC happens to be reading this – I still don’t have the stuff I need to be able to square away my loans and actually get some money. Thanks to to lovely Bank of Mum & Dad, however, I’ve been able to settle myself with a computer in my room to allow me to actually, you know, work. That loan’s being called in as soon as the real one comes through.

But let’s move on as that’s not what you want to read/hear about anyway, is it? You want to hear about LIPA and – specifically – how awesome it is. And boy is it.

I’ve now been living in Liverpool for 16 days, which already feels like months. I know Liverpool pretty well now, although I’m still finding decent little short-cuts and cut-throughs to get me places even quicker. I’ve got my walk to uni down to a steady 15 minutes at a sensible pace and I can find just about every shop I want to or need to in town now, too. I’ve also learned that I’m never going to have a problem finding a Tesco. There’s at least 5 within a 15 minute walk of me, either at LIPA or my apartment.

The course is brilliant – a great mix of general knowledge technical and design stuff and more detailed, specific tasks. It is hard work though. All our days begin at 9.30am – because that’s the time professional theatre workers come in, usually – and if we have all day lectures, as I now do on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, we are timetabled to be there until between 4.30 (usually) and 7pm (on occasion).

In addition to the timetabled stuff I already have 5 assignments from my 6 modules, the first of which is due in just three weeks and happens to be the very, very hardest of them all. It’s called the Slice of LIPA project and it’s part of our design and construction course. We all have to choose a part of LIPA to accurately recreate in a 1:25 scale model.

I’ve chosen this area, the entrance to the Institute’s studio theatre venue in the atrium:

The Sennheiser Studio Theatre at LIPA

The Sennheiser Studio Theatre at LIPA

I have to say I thought it was a good compromise between tricky detailing and large sections of block colour, but as I began to measure for and – on Tuesday – to make the model, I discovered I was wrong. Apart from anything else I spent nearly 2 hours on Tuesday morning measuring out, cutting and carving all 12 individual paving slabs, after my initial plan to make it work, well, didn’t.

Across the other modules I’ve also been on a tour of the whole theatre, including the grid – the part of a theatre where all the wires holding up the flying scenery are gathered and other technical stuff happens that I either don’t know or is too complicated to get into here (mostly the former, granted). From the grid you can also get to the roof, which is where this photo is from:

The sunset over Liverpool from the LIPA roof

The sunset over Liverpool from the LIPA roof

Not bad for a view, eh?

I have also started a stage management module, a lighting and electrics module, a context and professional development combined module and a fundamental skills module. These include climbing ladders, health & safety, soldering, reading scripts, breaking scripts down, knowing what DMX means and a variety of other things.

And on top of all this academicness (which may or may not be a real word), I’ve also been assigned my first show as an ASM (Assistant Stage Manager – get used to the abbreviation because I’m not clarifying it every time I write it on here!). I’m going to be working on the first big show of the year in the Paul McCartney Auditorium, which is to be Wind in the Willows. And when I say big, I mean big with a capital “B”. And, from the model box I saw yesterday, with a capital “I” and “G” too, I suspect.

In fact, I must excuse myself from this missive to go and wade my way through the script again and then tackle the 18 page (yes, EIGHTEEN page) props list. Wish me luck.

Posted in Annoyances, Day-to-day, Family, Firsts, Projects, Theatre, Uni | 1 Comment »