Daily Jottings

Tuesday 9th December 2014

Why oh why do actors not learn their lines properly prior to rehearsals ? I have seen far too many actors and performers struggle,get stressed,panic,and ultimately let down their fellow performers by not putting in the home work prior to rehearsals, Scripts are normally sent out way in advance of the rehearsal period-giving ample time to arrive on day one- pretty much knowing where you are going with a play-and then the blocking of the show helps consolidate the knowledge of the lines.

I worked for many years with Newpalm who presented a series of plays in Summer rep-and we were often rehearsing three or four plays at the same time. Daunting to some ? Not really- Newpalm ensured we had had the scripts six weeks in advance giving us two weeks learning time per show and then a further two weeks rehearsals in London before the first play opened.

I always made sure I knew my way through the scripts as soon as they arrived so by the time rehearsals came I just had to equate them withe the moves.

One old stallwart of Newpalm asked how I could possibly learn lines without knowing how my fellow actors were going to deliver them. ANSWER: You listen-and adjust your intonation according to your fellow performers inflection and intonation. The aforementioned actor very often carried his script up until the last minute and not giving his colleagues the performance they needed to interact with him.(Rather selfish in my book!)

A similar situation has emerged this year.I am currently in pantomime  and one of the ''names '-no doubt on far more money than I am -hasn't bothered to learn her scriopt properly. She has bumbled her way through the rehearsal period,got stressed during the technical rehearsal and has held us back in getting the show up to speed. AND-still is ! Even after opening last Friday-this lady from some soap or other still doesn't now her lines sufficently well to give a well paced,comedic performance-worthy of everyone else in the company.She wanders all over the stage not knowing where her next line is coming from-often causing us to have to hastily re-think our own lines due to her inadequacy.It makes for a very unsettling evening !!

She wasn't the only one mind you-several others  had left it to the last minute-resulting in a slow paced show-and mis-timed gags. WHY DO YOU DO IT???

PS. A little bit of advie to anyone playing dame in pantomime and in the fortunate position of being able to supply your own costumes= as soon as the script arrives-start learning the script witth the costume changes in mind-knowing exactly what you will wear for each scene.Believe me-it bears fruit when you come to technical and dress rehearsals-when the rest of the cast is running round in panic-not knowing what they are wearing-while I can serenely concentrate on getting another layer onto my performance.

John Nathan Turner told me when he directed me in ''Mother Goose''-don't take the panic of the costume change onstage with you.(Wise words indeed)!

- Funerals are such strange occasions-one goes through every emotion under the sun-sadness,relief-and hopefully some laughter at some stage-as we remember fondly the person whose life we are celebrating.I attended the funeral of John Gould yesterday in Brighton-our lovely musical director from Brighton revue company.A very good turn-out at the crematorium and some lovely tributes-particularly  by David Woods and Gay Soper.It was wonderful to learn so much about John's life that we never knew.
We all joined in singing "Bring me Sunshine" as well! At the end -when the curtains closed to a round of applause-they opened again to gales of laughter and the spotlight came on above John's coffin,before the curtains closed for one last time.Back to a local pub for the wake afterwards-it was like being in the CAA-so many theatrical friends I hadn't seen in ages-for a good catch up.
So-if something good can come out of days like this-it's bringing friends and family together and remembering that person with fondness and gratitude for what they taught us.I certainly learnt a lot from John and worked on some great shows with him.