Summer Blogs: Faustus to The Fringe
The cast and crew of Doctor Faustus prepare for their make or break week in Edinburgh, in the second of our Summer Blogs.
Abi Bennett is a first year MML student at St. Catz and George Johnston is a first year historian at St. Johns. They are both members of the chorus in Rory Attwood’s production of Doctor Faustus, the ADC Mainshow at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. Read the review of the show’s last run, starring much of the same cast, and follow the rehearsals progress here.
Our gruelling daily toil of flyering and performing has been made worse by added rehearsals in the morning. I’m not really sure what a gruelling daily toil is, but I’ve had to stick up at least 2 posters every day so far, which seems like a ludicrous amount of work for the summer holidays. Or ‘long vac’ as my DoS insistently refers to it – “We don’t have holidays here at Cambridge. That would imply you don’t have to do academic work in them. We only have ‘breaks between terms’.”
As I’ve settled into the rhythm of performing every night, the show has become more routine and thus I’ve started to delve into the delights of Edinburgh. I would heartily recommend anyone up here during the Fringe to catch ‘A Midsummer Night’s Madness’ (get tickets here); they manage to insert the word ‘bruv’ into a piece of Shakespeare without it sounding tacky nor forced. An impressive feat by anyone’s books.
There’s also a disappointing club called Cabaret Voltaire where the local Edinburgh girls all look bizarrely like they’ve been raised just off Sloane Square. Can’t understand a word they say though. Must admit I haven’t picked up Scottish too quick. Seems like perhaps I made the wrong the decisions and should have just gone ‘tubing’ with lady-boys in Thailand instead.
Lost In Translation
Tonight was the third night of the run, and our biggest audience yet. Of our 205-seat space, only a few were left empty. Considering the average audience at the Fringe is only four people, we feel understandably smug this evening. However, quite a substantial part of the audience was made up of excitable Japanese tourists. The camera flashes going off before the show had even started made me feel like I was right back on King’s Parade. But the whoops and cheers at the end made up for all that.
In our first few days here, we have so far had two proper nights out. The first was in our local gay bar, originally discovered by the cast of The Cure. We joined them there, along with The Footlights, for their drag cabaret night. Two slightly podgy middle aged men miming badly along to show tunes is surprisingly entertaining. Along with amazing drinks deals too. The locals, however, were slightly confused as to why about thirty Cambridge students had colonised such a small bar, somewhere in the Edinburgh suburbs.
Last night The Footlights hosted a party in their flat, enviably close to the city centre. The rest of us are languishing slightly in the outskirts of the centre, a good twenty-five minutes’ walk from the Royal Mile, yet they are living barely two minutes away. Unfortunately, I fell asleep (a combination of long days of flyering and a few too many glasses of port) before the rest of the cast left the flat, so I can’t reveal much of what went on. However, I am sure George will go into more detail in his next post!
Our days here are focused on publicising the show, involving throwing ourselves into the ‘postering war’, and harassing tourists on the Royal Mile with flyers. Along the Mile there are two rows of metal ‘drums’ – ten foot high metal columns, plastered with posters. However, there are hundreds of shows competing for space on just six drums, and so posters are only visible for a matter of hours until they are covered up by others. Hence the ‘postering war’; constant re-postering of all the drums, just to make sure there is nearly always at least one of ours visible. In order to make our flyering a bit more memorable and effective, we have decided to flyer in character. So, the entire chorus have been flocking up and down the Mile in our costumes – dirty white night gowns – in the character of envy. Scaring small children is so satisfying.
Today we did our first show. Exciting. Owing to eleven of us inhabiting a single flat with only one bathroom we had to get up in shifts to avoid a massive queue to use the toilet. Mine was the earliest at 10.30am, and once we were out the door we made our way to the ‘Royal Mile’ in central Edinburgh.
The morning consisted of going around various cafés, bars and pubs, and begging them to let us put a Faustus poster up in their windows. We got quite a few up but already a good part of the choice spaces had been claimed. Other tasks included trying to plaster as many posters as we could along large pillars in central Edinburgh that are put up to help shows advertise.
After lunch we returned to the centre to flyer in costume. Needless to say our producer is an Oberstüfer. Most of the posters that we put up with such care that morning had already been covered by a fresh layer advertising other people’s shows. However, getting over our disappointment, we proceeded to creep through the crowd, the girls in white gowns, Jason (the other male chorus member) and I in white leggings and night-shirts. Our brief was generally to behave as demonically and horribly as possible, which made our flyer-ing very effective. We even had some admiring looks from the Oxford Revue troupe.
It was mighty tiring though and I headed off in the late afternoon to catch the Cambridge Footlights which my dad had accidently bought a spare ticket for. They didn’t disappoint, delivering a slick and sharp hour of sketch comedy to an audience that were perhaps slightly too old to get all the jokes.
As the sun fell we started to prepare for our opening night. Even though I don’t have a huge part I still got that empty feeling in my stomach as we did some vocal warm-up exercises. I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. Part of me hates it. The pressure. The panic. The fear of ‘screwing-up’. But I’ve got to admit that another part of me definitely enjoys it. The pressure. The adrenalin. Losing yourself underneath the lights.
The show went really well, a few first night hiccups aside. We got a larger audience than we expected, which bodes well for the rest of the month. Now we just need to keep that standard up on a daily basis.
Easier blogged than done.
As Abi says, I did waltz down to King’s Cross today to catch my train at the perfectly reasonable hour of 10.15am. However, I didn’t have an M&S sandwich to munch on, nor an Innocent Smoothie to sip. Much to my chagrin. Instead, I brought a wedge of cheese and some crackers from home. As I got out a knife on the train to cut the cheese a young child sitting opposite me said in a cute voice, “that’s a knife!” “Yes…” the Geordie man sitting next to me replied, “this train’s going all the way to Glasgow”.
I attempted to laugh nervously in a northern accent. I’m pretty certain it was a drastic failure. My efforts to understand my cabbie in Edinburgh were similarly unsuccessful. Arriving at Waverley train station I realised I had the street address of our house but no directions. Determined to save the cost of a taxi fare, I had a flash of inspiration. I could use my new Blackberry! So I downloaded the Google Maps app, put in my destination, got directions, was about to head off. And then it started pouring down. Again. I imagine it was the same opening of the heavens that got Abi. They should make an app that stops it raining in August.
The technical rehearsal went well this evening. The studio space we will be performing in is surprisingly large (seating about 220) which is daunting but at the same time really exciting. It is also bizarrely hot inside the venue, which meant we spent a good deal of time practising how to project our voices confidently and comfortably over the noise of the fans. Other than that, the techies we borrowed from the Footlights Tour Show sorted out our lighting quickly and efficiently making this a surprisingly stress free ‘tech’.
Touch down in Edinburgh
Scotland has so far lived up to its reputation for crap weather and very cheap alcohol (the latter being very much more welcome than the former). A trip to Tesco resulted in a seasonal downpour and four very soggy cast members (August anyone?); however, we did also return with nine bottles of red wine at £1.64 each! The Cambridge Wine Merchants, with their meagre ‘3 for £10’ offer should hang their heads in shame. We have also acquired a shopping trolley, and are as yet unsure as to whether we should hand it back. Personally I think it adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to our front garden.
I was first to arrive at our flat today, after a horrendously early flight from Gatwick this morning. Even this, however, apparently does not allow me the right of ‘bagsies’; the latecomers are much bemoaning their fates in tiny box rooms and on sofas, as I luxuriate in my double room with splendid views of Arthur’s Seat. In my defence, I would like to argue that I have come furthest, yet managed to get here first, dragging myself from the comfort of my bed and onto a crammed Easyjet flight, hemmed in next to a screaming baby. Whereas the others got up late, meandered to Kings Cross, and enjoyed a pootling journey through the English countryside, munching on M&S sandwiches and sipping at Innocent smoothies. I have earned this room.
Tonight is our tech run, the first time we’ll see our stage! However, we don’t start until 9.30pm, and so won’t finish until about 1.30am, meaning that this is going to be one hell of a long day. Luckily, we managed to persuade them to move our time slot, as originally they had scheduled us at 11.30pm-3.30am, at which point I would not have been good company. If all goes well, we should be all ready for our first proper run on Wednesday, the first of 25 shows.
The Cure and Days Off
The day after our preview saw the other ADC Edinburgh show’s preview, The Cure. Written by Kat Griffiths, it tells the story of Dylan and Jude, two sexually frustrated students, following their romantic endeavours with both wit and poignancy.
If anyone gets the chance to see it in Edinburgh, I would highly recommend it! Afterwards, an impromptu party started in the bar, with the casts of all three shows rehearsing here. A messy ending in The Maypole ensued, with a certain unnamed actor returning home comatose in a vomit-filled taxi.
Sadly, we are the last show left here now, as the others have all gone home in preparation for Edinburgh. The ADC clubroom feels weirdly empty, though it does mean we now have free reign over all the instant coffee we could ever want. Luckily, after the ‘house debacle’, we have managed to commandeer the clubroom as our sitting room, even though it is a good half hour’s walk from our rooms…
Our gripes with Fitz continue. This morning, I was woken by my bedder at 8.30am, nearly two hours before I was planning on emerging. Even during term time I wouldn’t expect such early morning rousing, let alone when we’re being forced into paying £14 a night. I feel sorry for the massive group of German tourists who arrived yesterday; holidays should not feature irate bedders and mower-wielding gardeners at obscene times in the morning.
A new craze has swept the cast: staring contests. However, these are no ordinary staring contests; blinking is allowed, and the object is to make your opponent either laugh or look away first. After a period of two years without crying, Jason has managed to reawaken George’s tear ducts many a time. Although not everyone would agree with me, I would give the title of King Starer to Toby, whose range of unearthly noises manages to unnerve any opponent he faces.
However, his lead is rivalled by Jason, whose iron-clad tear ducts seem to withstand any amount of staring.
Since our preview, rehearsals have focused more on Faustus and Mephistophilis, giving us chorus much more free time. You might expect this to lead to much general apathy, but no! Instead we have been busy with blogging, tweeting, making virals, interviews and websites. Promo-wise, we are going crazy. Expect a barrage any time soon.
Tonight we did our preview show at the ADC. After just five days of rehearsing in Cambridge I was really quite worried about our first performance. But everything went okay. Which is great.
I mean I fumbled some lines – but who doesn’t? I might have got lost in my friar’s costume and fallen off the front of the stage while attempting to change during the performance. Well that was my fault. An audience made up of easy to please ‘townies’ rather than pretentious, head-up-arses English students, was just what we needed to give us a positive boost going into our second week of rehearsals before the fringe.
Owing to last minute costumes not looking like what the director had imagined, Jason (a fellow chorus member) and I performed topless in tight, tight leggings. Ben’s strip (as Dr. Faustus) at the end of the play meant all the males of the cast were topless, while the women were forced into thick white blankets that left far too much for the imagination. The director would just like to inform anyone reading that despite this he is not gay. In fact he’s single. And desperate.
Work on the Faustus viral – a youtube video (hopefully) so hilarious that thousands watch it and consequently come see our show in Edinburgh – has continued. Interviews with an actor who had lost his ‘motivation’ will feature, as will conversations with one chorus member who claims he was chosen to play the lead role of Dr. Faustus but lost out due to an ‘administrative error’.
Faustus is also now tweeting. I’m not sure if anyone reading will know Toby Parker-Rees as the man who wrote perhaps the most controversial review this year, but more of his enlightening insights (as our official Twitter-Bug) can be found here.
Getting evicted the day before The Preview
Apparently Fitz don’t like ball games. An impromptu ‘world cup final’ between two cast members this evening saw us kicked out of our lovely (though shit) cast house, and into the (even shitter) Fitz college halls. Not that we have anything against Fitz obviously.
It’s a pity we weren’t warned beforehand that ball games weren’t allowed, though footballs strewn about the garden and it being 6.30 in the evening should have made it absolutely clear to us that world cup finals were strictly forbidden.
A spontaneous gathering a couple of nights before, where the companies of two other Edinburgh shows had come over, had possibly annoyed our neighbours, who appeared to be made up entirely of MPhil students, getting up at 6am to work on their groundbreaking theses for 20 hours a day. Effectively, we’re blaming Silent Cannnonfire and The Cure.
However, it wasn’t the loudest night in the world, there being no music. Indeed, everyone outside were just having DMCs about ‘being in the wrong place right now’, or just a quiet, but satisfying, bitch about other Cambridge directors they have worked with.
So, as we bed down in our new digs, nursing our new found grievances against Fitzwilliam College, we cannot help but pity anyone who has to live here during term time.
Three days rehearsals down. Quite a few more to go. The Faustus cast has been self-proclaimed by one of its more esteemed members as “the most good-looking cast” in Edinburgh. We aren’t in Edinburgh yet, but doubtless this man is confident we are at the very least the best looking cast rehearsing in the ADC at the moment. I’m not so sure. However, we have already had our first case of inter-cast copulation.
Given this is my virgin Edinburgh, and indeed ADC, show I must confess to have no idea how regular this is. ‘Show-mances’ I am told, are common. Earth-shattering sex that wakes up the entire house is a new experience for me.
The second idea brought to the table by the aforementioned cast member was TOTAL THEATRE. Our various attempts to bring this holy grail of acting to the ADC have included, but not been limited to, interpretative dance, ADDING EMOTION TO YOUR VOICE BY SHOUTING, and using the answer “that’s total theatre” in response to any kind of question or criticism one is posed.
Our ironically named cleaner Joy disliked the mess we made last night. In a note written to us, Joy hyphenated the word mess-up. How we Cambridge snobs laughed.
‘Going viral’ is the task for tonight. More on that later.
I apologise for any unfortunate spelling or grammatical errors in this passage, but it was written in the kitchen of our shared house in Fitz, after rather too many bottles of wine, one of which, appropriately named ‘Dog’s Bollocks’, was pilfered from our neighbours’ kitchen.
The day started well enough, with a four hour physical drama workshop, delivered by a Le Coq trained movement director, Will Pinchin. After rehearsals had finished, having consumed our weight in pasta and cheap white wine, we decided it was a perfectly good idea to cut our lead’s hair, resulting in thick black curls all over the floor, us, and somehow all our crockery.
With our preview looming on Friday, perhaps such drunken casting ‘bonding’ is not such a great idea, but we shall have to see what tomorrow, and our hangovers, brings.