Monday, 20 February 2012

A Chip In The Sugar

The Lace Market Theatre are taking three plays to Karlsruhe as part of a twinning arrangement in May. They are Hedda Gabler, The Typists and A Chip In The Sugar. The Alan Bennett piece (Chip) is a late entry offered by and performed by myself and I have about ten weeks rehearsal to learn sixteen pages of monologue.

I started three days ago and have the first two pages secure. The script is very well written and mostly chronological in the story telling and relatively (ahem) easy to learn. Saying that there are several characters to deal with as well as the main character, Grahame. For an actor this is a gift.


My own poster design above shows Grahame nervously looking outside the house as he feels 'someone' is watching the house.

Later in the rehearsal process I'm going to have to rehearse this with a director/overseeer to cement the work and get used to pausing and picking up dialogue where the laughs are and there are many laughs in this piece.

I am already muttering the lines to myself at any given moment, on the bus, in the street, under my breath at work. Fun times.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Christmas Carol catch up with reviews

These are an article and two reviews that recently got published in the Lace Market Theatre's journal, The Boards. For those who are interested and don't have a chance to read the paper document here they are online.

Taking ‘A Christmas Carol’ to Germany and back, by Phil Lowe.

Where do I begin? Well, I was certainly shown great hospitality from my hosts Gerd and Herrlich Lehrmann and their friendly dog Frickr and got a very warm reception at the Jakobus theatre from Markus, Carsten, Manfred and all my other friends there. Everything possible was done to make my stay and my performances as comfortable and easy as possible and I had a thoroughly good time. The dramatic readings had been very well advertised in the local papers and arts magazines too.

Alright, the weather was a tad inclement, raining nonstop for two days out of the three, but there ain't a lot one can do about that. The last day (Thursday) cleared up and I was able to be a tourist in the beautiful city of Karlsruhe without getting soaked to the skin. There were plenty of opportunities for chilling out and taking a host of festive photos and enjoying some mulled wine, coffee and warm apfelstrüdel and cream in a steamy café or two.

My friend Thorsten Feldman came to the first performance on Tuesday night and we met up on the Wednesday and enjoyed each other's company at the Christmas Fair over a glass of mulled wine: dining later at a student pub: and further, viewing the damp sights around central Karlsruhe in a downpour. I also went to the Theater "Die Käuze" with Thorsten and saw the fantastic set they had built for a production of Snow White or Schneewittchen und die sieben Zwerge.

Having a passion for discovering new food experiences I managed to find a fair few foodie joints to nose around and learnt some new names in German for the specialities on offer. I'm sure one exists, but I never got round to finding an indoors market to investigate. It seemed though, that on every street corner and sometimes one or two in between there was another Apotheke (a chemist). I have never seen so many in one city!

On Thursday I spent some time during the lunch period  in * Café Bleu with a well deserved beer and also ate there later that same evening with Andrea, Gerd, and Herrlich. Lena Maia from the Jakobus theatre made a surprise visit to say 'hello' and it was nice to see her too since their theatre's visit to Nottingham. I feel that I have some real good friends in Karlsruhe formed through the twinning events that we all enjoy and, hopefully, I look forward to another visit with the Lace Market Theatre next May. Maybe, the weather will be better and warmer in the Springtime!

Regarding the performances, I enjoyed them both and enjoyed employing some subtle physical actions to enhance the verbal storytelling. Both the audiences were very attentive considering that the English was very flowery and Dickensian. I felt the idea of playing the music of Personent Hodie and creeping on as the Storyteller rather than just walking to the lectern really worked.

The bigger process of organising the events had been going on since August 2011, including making my own costume. From a performer’s point of view, even though I had been totally been re-writing the script and adding in some authentic German, the production was still a growing piece even as I actually performed it at the Jakobus theatre each night. That added to the excitement of the creative process and kept it alive for me and the audiences.

This development continued as I performed ‘A Christmas Carol’ for a final time this year at the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham on the evening of Sunday 11th of December. Back home I had to adjust again to a new staging and lighting style and edit out all the German. Over forty people attended the performance at the Lace Market and Mr Alan Geary was generous in his review. I would like to progress in this style of story-telling and see where it takes me professionally. I already have plans to approach the Nottingham Playhouse for next December as well as the Waterstone’s Bookshop in Nottingham.

Phil Lowe.

*For anyone who has been on the twinning events in Karlsruhe, the lovely Café Bleu opposite the Jakobus theatre has a special place in their hearts. I imagine that the Trip to Jerusalem will have a similar magic for the Germans when they visit us in Nottingham.

A Christmas Carol
Lace Market Theatre

December 11th 2011

One –man show pays homage to Dickensian delivery.

Phil Lowe’s successful rendering of this Dickens’ classic is a development on the highly successful full-play version he presented three years back.

It is admirable that Lowe doesn’t attempt to usurp the author. This is an homage to the writer; a demonstration of his greatness. And it isn’t a play of the sort with one actor who keeps changing hats – that might have been an embarrassing error.

Rather, it’s an entirely engaging dramatic reading, the kind of show that Dickens himself took on the road. At the start, as soon has some jaunty carol music has faded, Lowe enters from the audience, goes straight to the lectern and gets down to business.

The narrative is beautifully spoken, of course. But Lowe also does the characters well, particularly the grotesques. And he evokes the colours the smells and the emotions. He brilliantly brings out the unfailing emotional tug of the story – Tiny Tim is as annoying as ever, but that’s always the price you pay for Dickens.

Storytelling is, alas, no longer a central part of our culture, but on the strength of this piece of work, it should be.

Alan Geary

Nottingham Post.

Second review.

The choir sings with purity and clarity as a bent up, decrepit looking figure makes its way to a lectern, divesting itself of its winter clothes and metamorphosing itself into an impish, spryer figure with a twinkle in his eye to begin to tell us a well known tale.

Though the story was familiar, some of the smaller details surprised me, such as the use of ribbons by the Cratchits to brighten up everyday clothes, and the cage like support around Tiny Tim’s lame leg (something I don’t remember seeing in any adaptations of the story, though I may be wrong.)

Phil Lowe’s dynamic rendition of the story, and Dickens’ own words, enabled the audience’s imagination to form rich and intricate pictures rivalling anything seen in the cinema. He kept our attention throughout the telling of the story as we eagerly awaited each and every word. His vocal acrobatics allowed each character to be distinguished from each other. The intensity of his performance both emotional and dramatic, was reminiscent of Steven Berkoff’s  one man performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Tell Tale Heart.

Having missed this show the first time round, but having seen and liked the ensemble version that that performance led to, I was curious to see this version. I was not disappointed.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Christmas Carol -One Man show

Back in December 2011 I performed a one man show of A Christmas Carol in Karlsruhe Germany (two nights) and at the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham. The German show was advertised on the Jakobus Theatre website as:

A dramatic reading by Phil Lowe

Gastspiel in englischer Sprache, geeignet ab 6 Jahren

Phil Lowe from the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham will be performing his acclaimed One Man Show of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" at the Jakobus theatre in Karlsruhe. The show - a dramatic reading - will be performed mostly in English and it promises to be a thrilling evening at the theatre.
Phil plays all twenty five characters and is looking forward to visiting Karlsruhe and re-uniting with some of his German friends.
The performances are at 8pm on 6th and 7th of December.
NOT suitable for children under six years old.

Unter den Weihnachtsgeschichten ist sie der absolute Klassiker: "A Christmas Carol" von Charles Dickens (zu Deutsch schlicht "Eine Weihnachtsgeschichte"). Am 19. Dezember 1843 erschien erstmals dieser Text, mit dem Dickens auf die bittere Not der Armen hinweisen wollte. Auch heute noch sind die zentralen Themen von Dickens Geschichte wie Armut, Ungerechtigkeit, Profitgier aber auch die Notwendigkeit von Familie und Freundschaft sowie das Verständnis und das Mitgefühl für Andere von Bedeutung und treten gerade in der Weihnachtszeit verstärkt in unser Bewusstsein. Nicht zuletzt ist diese Geschichte von Charles Dickens eine der meistgelesenen und bekanntesten weltweit. Dafür sprechen auch die unzähligen Verfilmungen und Adaptionen. Sie beinhaltet christliche und gesellschaftliche Grundwerte und hat seit ihrer Entstehung an Aktualität nichts eingebüßt.