Friday, July 21, 2006

The Line Up

This dialogue takes place during the introduction to Acts of Communion Act Two - based on the interviews with members of the Church on Rise Park Drama Group. I wanted to create a scenario where performers break out of character to reveal themselves. This could be Brechtian, this could be self-referential, this could be post-modern, but actually, as one of the performers pointed out;

'It''s just like that show where I had to play six different characters except one of those characters is actually me.'

MC: Michael

FOB: Tony

BD 1: Donna

BM 1: Jonathan

BD 2: Louise

FOG: Ian

MOG: Audrey

MOB: Betty

GMOB: Kath

MC: Master of Ceremony

FOB: Father of the Bride

BD 1: Bridesmaid 1

BM 1: Best Man 1

BD 2: Bridesmaid 2

FOG: Father of the Groom

MOG: Mother of the Groom

MOB: Mother of the Bride

GMOB: Grandmother of the Bride

BM 1: [To BM 2] He’s my best friend

BD 1 / BD 2: [To each other] She’s my best friend

BM 1 / BD 1 / BD 2: We met doing this show

FOG / MOG: [To G] He’s our son

FOB / MOB [To B] She’s our daughter

GMOB: She’s my granddaughter… I think

BM 1 / BD 1 / BD 2: [To B and G] They met doing this show

MOB / MOG: We’re very proud

FOB / BM 1: We’re very nervous

BD 1 / BD 2: We’re very drunk

FOG: We’re very bored

GMOB: [loudly] We’re very hard of hearing

FOB: [to GMOB loudly] We’re very proud

GMOB: You’re very loud

BD 1 / BD 2: We’re very disappointed in our dresses

MOB / MOG: We’re very disappointed in the bridesmaids

FOG: We’re very disappointed in the script

BM 1 / FOB: We’re very worried about our speeches

GMOB: We’re very worried about the toilets

All: At the end of the corridor on the left

GMOB: The Line Up took forever

MOG: I don’t practice my lines until quite near the end. What I do I type them out. I type each act out. I don’t type the whole lot just a few lines before. I just read them and really and truly learn the lines.

MOB: I go down and I probably do a page at a time and I go back and I go back.

GMOB: If it’s a play where you’re on from start to finish I usually just tape it. But if you’ve only got this or that I don’t bother.

FOB: I read the whole play through out loud in front of a tape recorder but the part that I’ve got to learn I speak at sotto voce.

FOG: I have a haphazard approach to learning lines.

BD 1: I read through it myself on my own for a while then I practise with my Dad. He knows the play, the plot, the lines before I do.

BD 2: I’m rubbish at learning my lines. I don’t really look at the book really. I guess I’ve just got a bit of a knack.

BM 1: Just reading them will do. I never had too much of a problem except where the lines don’t follow on in a normal conversation.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Absence and Presence


• noun 1 the state of being away from a place or person. 2 (absence of) the non-existence or lack of.

— PHRASES absence makes the heart grow fonder proverb you feel more affection for those you love when parted from them.


• noun 1 (also leave of absence) time when one has permission to be absent from work or duty. 2 formal permission: seeking leave to appeal.

— PHRASES take one’s leave formal say goodbye. take leave to do formal venture or presume to do.

— ORIGIN Old English, related to LIEF and LOVE.

I now realise that the project aim is to interrogate the notion of absence. The dichotomy of high art and low art and the tension between the live and the recorded are relevant to the context not the content. The content centres around a series of dialectics; absence and presence, death and birth, divorce and marriage, debt and wealth, depression and happiness, disability and health. Themes are antithetical to demarcate the territory and harness the cynicism of the academic approach and optimism of Amateur Dramatics. Negative and Positive. The themes are personal and universal and lend structure to the performance and installation. Investigating Act of Communion as; wedding, friendship, fellowship, amateur dramatics group, MA group, coming together to make a performance or coming together to witness a performance.

The MC

I play the MC in both shows. Adapted in each case to each site and each community. e.g. Act One - a university audience. Act Two - an amateur dramatic audience. The first draft of text is below. This was written in an attempt to reflect the reality of the situation. The speeches were sourced from and are there as a template. Although I will work with found text.

Acts of Communion

MC: Ladies and Gentlemen – I do hope you all enjoyed the wedding breakfast. I know I did. The facilities here never fail to amaze me. Now could I remind you if you have mobile phones and know how to use them. Please do switch them off. We wouldn’t want them to ruin the speeches. Unless of course it’s the Best Man ringing up to tell us where he is. Thankfully, two of the Grooms other friends have stepped in at the last minute to share the burden. It’s their first time. It’s not my first time. I’ve been married before. I don’t need to tell you what happened. But today I’m the MC – Master of Ceremonies. I’ll be guiding you through the speeches. Telling you when to stand, sit, clap, laugh and cry. We are up against the clock as the hall is needed by the WI in exactly an hour from now. Before I start just a few housekeeping duties. The toilets are at the end of the corridor, on the left. Can I also remind you that confetti is not permitted on the premises. And that flash photography should be reserved until the cutting of the cake. Can I also point out that for posterity, the speeches and the guests are being filmed. If anybody has an objection to their featuring in the wedding video please do let me know. So I ask you now pray silence for the Father of the Bride.

FOB: Normally, I'm a rather timid public speaker, but today we are so thrilled to see Rhiannon happily married to Thom that I can barely summon up a single nerve …

Standing here today, my mind can't help but return to all those unmentionable years ago and the day I myself got married …

It's been an absolute pleasure to give away my daughter today. My only regret is that I didn't do it years ago …

Sadly, my wife is no longer with us, so what I want to say is for the both of us. I know that, like me, she would be very proud and absolutely delighted to see Thom and Rhiannon getting married here today.

It's not every day you get to walk your daughter up the aisle and see her marry the man of her dreams. Which is quite a relief, believe me, when you know how much this whole thing cost!! Seriously, though …

MC Now the Bride and Groom won’t mind me telling you this. But they’re both students of the arts. In fact they both study Performance and Live Art at Nottingham Trent University. That’s how they met. That means that they’ve got absolutely no excuses when it comes to public speaking. However, it means they’ve got every excuse when it comes to getting married on the cheap. She got her dress from the costume cupboard. The groom went to a charity shop. Everything you see here is set and props. The total budget was £80. And didn’t they do well. They booked this hall through the university. I booked it for them. I asked around and was told that room booking could be done via the Virtual Learning Portal, that the procedure was detailed in the Student Handbook and didn’t I get the email about it. I didn’t get the email so I just came over here and booked it. We’ve only got it for an hour because of the WI. But that did save us money. It’s not a cracking anecdote but it does illustrate that bureaucracy as with weddings can be far too complicated. I know mine was. I’ve been married before. I don’t need to tell you what happened. Sometimes you’re better off doing it on a budget. In an hour. To a small audience. In a small hall. So without further ado I give you The Groom.

G: A very warm welcome to everyone here today, at the end of what has been a fantastic week for sales of Imodium...

(after a protracted engagement)
I knew at once that I had made a powerful impression on Rhiannon, because within weeks of our first meeting, she fled the country for an entire year...

Before I go any further, I'd just like to cordially invite you all to my best man Michael's wedding in six weeks' time, at which I'll be best man and he'll be the groom. I'm sure you'll all want to see the truth of that old saying: "Revenge is a dish best served cold...."

Normally, it's the duty of the best man to get the groom to the church on time, fully dressed and stone-cold sober. As soon as I chose Michael for my best man, however, I knew that the roles were likely to be reversed. Still, one out of three's not bad, is it?

(pretend nervous)
Unaccustomed as I am to pubic spanking... er, I mean...

MC: Some of you bought raffle tickets when you came in – we’re trying to raise some funds for the roof. We don’t need a new one we’re just trying to raise it. Raise the roof. I’m wasted on weddings. I’m wasted. The raffle has already been drawn. It’s an entirely truthful raffle that’s taken place in secret. 1st prize. No. 783. Bottle of Australian Chardonnay. Bin 65. If you’ve been 65 you can have it. 2nd prize. No. 874. Chocolate Fondue Set. Come on. Someone must have bought it. 3rd prize. No. 761. Family biscuit selection. 4th prize. No. 759. Rossini Tumbler. If you put in the right amount of water it sings the theme of the thieving magpie. 5th prize. No. 561. Decorative candles. You’ve always wanted a decorative candle. Now you can have one. 6th prize. No. 852. Swiss handkerchief set. That’s pronounced Swiss. Not Swizz. That concludes the prize draw. If you did play the raffle and you did have a winning ticket please see me on the way out. If you did play the raffle but you didn’t win then maybe next time. If you didn’t play the raffle then please make yourselves known to the caterers because we’re a bit short on cake. Now. It’s no coincidence that some of the raffle prizes shared a striking similarity to items on my wedding list. I’ve been married before. I don’t need to tell you what happened. Next up. The Brides’s speech.

B: You may have noticed that in our ceremony today, I made the decision to 'respect' rather than 'obey' my new husband. It looks like we're going to be together for some time, so it's a good idea to make it clear who's boss from the start …

I always thought being a bride meant you didn't have to do a speech. But then when I got wind of the nonsense that Thom was preparing to say, I knew at once there was no alternative …

(second time around)
There's a first time for everything - and sometimes a second. Voltaire the philosopher put it differently: "Once a philosopher," he said. "Twice a pervert." Well, before we go any further, let me reassure everyone that I'm not in any danger of making the same mistake twice. In fact, in marrying Thom, I am confident that I'm making an altogether different kind of mistake …

While I was racking my brains trying to come up with a way of starting my speech, someone said to me, 'Why not mention the fact that the two of you share the same star sign?' I decided against this idea, however, on the grounds that I'm not much of a one for astrology. Which is unusual for a Scorpio...

Even though we're at the start of a new millennium, some of you here today may still not be very familiar with the idea that the bride gets to give a speech too. Well, wait till I tell you how I proposed...

MC: You know they say in Arabic beliefs, that there exists a bird with one wing that cannot fly. Instead he waits for another bird to come along who only has one wing so cannot fly. Sometimes, he meets a bird who has one wing, but it’s the same wing. They realise they won’t be able to fly together so they exchange pleasantries through coos and flaps and go on their respective ways. Sometimes, he meets a bird whose one wing, which is the right wing or the left wing, whichever wing he doesn’t have, has been so badly strained through her attempts to fly that it is too weak to fly even with the help of his other wing, the right wing or the left wing, whichever wing she doesn’t have. Sometimes, and this happens very rarely, he meets a bird, with the right wing, who feels just like him, who wants to fly but cannot. They embrace; wing over wing, and in their coupling they find they are whole. They fly off into the sky. At first fumbling and tumbling. Then soaring. High above their home, their hurt and their dreams. Now I didn’t write that. I don’t know who did. But I’d like to think that The Bride and Groom are those birds. Flying high above their home, their hurt and their dreams. And that all the other birds the Groom found just didn’t have a good enough wing. I know mine didn’t. I don’t need to tell you what happened. But I did have two Best Men. So let me introduce The Groom’s stand-in wing men. The Best Men.

BM: I realise that I'm probably not the person most of you expected to be speaking at this point, so by way of explanation (removes piece of paper) let me read the following telegram. 'Sorry I couldn't be there today, but I'm unavoidably detained in hospital. Would love to have given the speech today, but will have to make do with watching you sweat it out on the video. All the best - love to bride and groom. Michael.' (Replaces piece of paper.) Well, thanks for that Michael. I'm sure we all wish him well, and hope he makes a speedy recovery from whatever it was that put him in the STD clinic in the first place …

The Powerhouse

Two sessions have taken place at the Powerhouse at Nottingham Trent University, This is Act One. MA Dram. As opposed to Act Two. Am Dram. The cast is as follows:

Bride - Rhiannon Jones
Groom - Ben Hargraves
Best Man - Hugh Dichmont
MC - Michael Pinchbeck

So far we have workshopped movement and text. Four Weddings and a Funeral. A Wedding. A Respectable Wedding. The Wicker Man. A transcript from one of the flights on September 11th. We have worked on removing characters from Brecht's A Respectable Wedding to see how absence affects the action. I am realising already that perhaps more than populism and elitism the main area of investigation is absence and presence.

B [To Father] Eat up Dad you always come off worst.

G Damn Good.

G Cow’s don’t eat cod they’re vegetarian

BM It’s a good light for cod

B Really father it’s too nasty

B Consumption of the spine

BM Cheers old chap

G Cheers everyone

B Every bit. My husband planned it, made the drawings bought the wood, planed it all down, and glued it together, and it really looks quite nice.

BM It looks marvellous. I only wonder how you found the time.

G Evenings, quite often in the lunch hour, but mostly first thing in the morning.

B He got up at five every morning and worked.

B He wanted to do the whole thing himself. Later on we’ll show you the rest of the furniture.

B Longer than you or any of us lot. When you think what went into it. He even made his own glue.

G You can’t trust that rubbish you get in the shops.

B I can never see anything funny in your stories

G I think Father tells a wonderful story

BM First rate. Specially the way you make sure you don’t miss the point.

B They’re too long

G Rubbish

BM Concise. Simple. Artistic.

We have improvised around The Aristocrats joke - an obscene account of a talent scout - substituting the family for the guests at the head table. We've read out wedding cards to records. This is a period of play that is integral to the dynamic of the group. New text evolved during these sessions and has a self-referential tone.

B - Bride
G - Groom
MC - Master of Ceremony

B / G We were working on this show. It was an MA piece and we were roped into playing the Bride and the Groom. We’d never met before but as we were both from Cambridge we talked about what hospitals we were born in

MC I was born in Cambridge too

B / G
What schools we’d been to

G She said St Mary’s

B He said ‘Ooooo’

G She said ‘I know’

B He said my Dad’s a vicar

G She said ‘Oooooo’

B He said ‘I know’

B / G We hit it off straight away

The Interviews

"All the material in this book not derived from my own observation is either taken from official records or is the result of interviews with the persons directly concerned, more often than not numerous interviews conducted over a considerable period of time. Because these 'collaborators' are identified within the text, it would be redundant to name them here; nevertheless I want to express a formal gratitude, for without their patient cooperation my task would have been impossible." - Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Betty Walker
Am Dram

Right at the very beginning when they started doing it here. They asked if anyone was interested and I thought mm yeah quite like that idea so I came along. It was just an interest in just coming along to see what happens and I’ve been in every play we’ve done since. I can’t remember. It was the first one we ever did. It must be. It was fairly early on. It must be twenty years ago I would think. I can’t say exactly because I don’t remember the date but whenever we did the first play. I was just interested in doing. I didn’t know if I could do it or not. I’d never done it before. When I was younger I’d been in. I lived in a village and we used to have little concerts and I’d done one or two bits like that. Sometimes it was singing and sometimes it was little parts not really plays. That was an interest that I’d always had I suppose and then when it came here I thought Yeah! Yeah I can remember there was a gun in it and Jack and Molly Stones were in it and Bob Buckley he did. I’m hopeless with titles. I can’t remember what it was called. If my husband was here he’d tell you straight away because it’s always been his favourite play. I’ve still got it at home. I’ve got all my plays but I can’t think what it was called.

Making people laugh. That’s why I think it’s. We’ve only ever done one serious play. I enjoyed doing that but I think making people laugh. It makes us laugh. We have good fun. Good fellowship and we enjoy it. Sometimes we don’t but most of the time we enjoy it. Gets a bit stressful sometimes but most of the time that is the key thing for me. Making people laugh. Because we all know each other so well. It’s quite nice to be able to get together. It’s a fun time. When I’d first started I’d got the children. I don’t think I was working at the time. But when I was working to me it was a break from doing something you know organised and it was a way of relaxing in one respect. I was a secretary. I had a part that I liked doing. But again don’t ask me what play it was because I won’t remember. I played somebody who was a little bit ‘simple’. And I really enjoyed that part it I really did was a lovely part to play.

Come on. Well I always I must admit I’ve been a bit more slack recently but I always used to read my lines last thing at night before I went to sleep because and I’ve not realised this but I’ve heard some actors say it but that is the best time because you retain it but I didn’t realise it at the time. I have a piece of paper. I go down and I probably do a page at a time and I go back and I go back. I do it from the book. Move down. Bit by bit. Sometimes when I used to go to work. Sometimes when it got a bit close and I thought I need to keep reading it I would sit there. That was about it. Quite a way beforehand. Sometimes they learn them a bit too soon I think. Because of the fact that we only meet once a week we’ve got to start fairly early. We have anyway we’re all getting old now. You think about the characters I think more. You don’t really think it’s people you know unless the lines all go a bit haywire. Then you think Ow Help. But usually you think of the character well I do anyway. They know us. To be honest the audience doesn’t really worry me. When you’re on stage and you hear people laughing. You know immediately who the laugh is coming from. You can tell. I don’t think it makes a difference to me. I must admit it my mind goes like that. Come back to me but at the moment when you ask me on the spot. I can’t think.


I can tell you how I met my husband. At the erm oh crikey I can’t remember it wasn’t the Palais it was the other one. See I’m getting old I can’t remember. But I met him there on New Year’s Eve and we actually got married on April Fools’ Day our wedding anniversary is April 1st thought he’d never forget it but he nearly always does. We got married in the village that I was born and brought up in. Willoughby on the Wold. Don’t know if you know it. Near Keyworth. Got married in the Methodist Chapel there. Thirty nine. It will be our Ruby Wedding next April 1st. Bit traumatic beforehand but a wonderful day.

Audrey Seaman
Am Dram

Urr do you know I can’t remember how I got in to it. I think I came to see them. Oh I know what it was it was your Dad. I read the lesson one Sunday. Your Dad came up to me afterwards and said do you feel like doing Drama. I said I’ve wanted to but I never thought I was good enough and then I came and said I’ll come and give it a try and the rest’s history. About fifteen years I think. I really enjoyed it. I’ve done acting. I’ve done props. I’ve done stage management. I’ve been prompt. And I’ve directed so I’ve done quite a few things considering I wasn’t any good at anything. From reading the plays I like the way it comes together in the end. You going through week after week and you’re thinking oh I’ll never learn my lines and you know I’ll never get this bit right. Then all of a sudden you have a terrible dress rehearsal then on the night it all comes together. It’s wonderful when the audience are laughing I mean that really makes a difference. As long as it’s a comedy. If it’s a tragedy and they’re laughing then you’ve done it wrong. No but you know. If it’s a comedy and they laugh and the more they laugh the more you play up to them then it’s great. I enjoyed playing the drunk a couple of years ago. Yes yes. The vicar’s wife. Bit close to the bone for the church yes it was. Think probably because it was the biggest part I’ve done and I had to I had to I don’t know if I was any good but I had to act in it. It wasn’t just a bit part. I think so. You’ve got to really to get into it. Otherwise you wouldn’t get into it. You’ve got to really live the story otherwise there would be no point.

I remember ages ago my Dad had a terrible cold and his nose was running as he was performing and he took his handkerchief out and blew his nose and it was like that’s my Dad blowing his nose and that’s the way he blows it. It’s not the character it’s my Dad.

What I do I type them out. I type each act out. I don’t type the whole lot just a few lines before. I just read them and really and truly learn the lines. I just read them over and over. I find that helps. If I type them out onto sheets then I’ve got the sheets I don’t need the whole book I know my part is that if you know what I mean. I just keep reading that over and over again. Otherwise if you read the book you just go mad. I know that from experience being a prompt. Hard work. You daren’t take your eyes off it really – if you glance up and then somebody’s forgotten their line you think Ahh! The worst thing is when they come in at the wrong place or something like that. You think Do I correct them? Do I leave them and hope they turn themselves around? You know. I mean if someone misses a line and someone else cuts in then I would never come in with the line but only if they’ve got themselves in a muddle. Luckily I think there’s only one play where they missed a few pages out. It’s a bit hard because you sit there thinking they’re not supposed to know I’m here. I try not to shout but I’ve got such a quiet voice. Your mum’s good she’s critical but a good critic. She can spot things. I was an accountant. I don’t practice my lines until quite near the end I’m a bit naughty. I tend to. If I learn them early I tend to get them mixed up. I forget them. I get them in my mind and then I think
That’s not right and I start putting other words in that aren’t there so I like to leave it to… not the night before but you know I don’t like to learn them too early I mean Harry used to learn his before rehearsal he knew all his but then he went wrong you see because he wasn’t looking at the book and doing the moves and things.


It was a blind date. We were introduced by mutual friends. I worked with a girl and Paul worked with her husband. She went to a party and was introduced to Paul. He was telling her he lived on his own with two children. She said I’ve got a girlfriend who lives on her own with a little boy. She didn’t say anything to me for about three weeks and then at work they were teasing me. I was saying I’ll never meet anybody decent and she went Oh well. Anyway she gave me his number and he rang me and the rest was history. Ha Ha.

We got married at Shakespeare Registry Office because in those days when you’ve been married before they wouldn’t let you get married in church so when we had our 25th last year we got married again in church well had a blessing which was absolutely wonderful.

It is a family. People have even stopped me in the supermarket and said you were in that play. Want me autograph? It is nice. The whole church is a family that’s the nice thing about it. You know each other. You know each other’s family.

Really good sitting at the head table at my son’s wedding. Her parents we know them very well. It was really nice. It was a blur at my first wedding. It was awful. I don’t remember a bloomin thing about it. When the photographs came I couldn’t remember them taking half of them. I couldn’t eat anything at the reception I was too nervous. But no my son’s was a fabulous wedding it really was everybody enjoyed it everybody was talking about it for weeks afterwards. It was one of those sort of it was a lovely day. It weasn’t really sunny but it was really nice. There were 150 guests. We’d got our friends there and her parents took their friends. And we knew some of them and they knew some of ours. So it wasn’t like one of those weddings where you go but you don’t know anyone. It was at Linden Hall in Northumberland. She’s a Geordie.

‘Have you met Donald… my husband… the vicar… the vicar… my husband… Donald.’

If it’s a good play you find yourself laughing. I get a bit fed up of it towards the end. Especially if you’re the prompt or the director it does get a bit boring towards the end. But when it happens on the night it’s all gone again. Oh yes. Adrenalin kicks in. At night it’s really good. Brilliant. Especially if you’ve had a good night.

Louise Walker
Am Dram

I did drama at school and I left school with three O levels and one of those was in drama, the other was in art and the other one was in maths so I figured I needed to do something with one of those. My mother was doing it too so that was it really. I don’t think I’m like my mother but I did follow her into it. Although, gosh I’m really racking some memory cells now – I’ve got a feeling that when I left school I did go and join another drama group in Nottingham and did something vaguely there. It’s just something I love doing.

I’m quite an outgoing character so I find that it’s just natural for me so I quite enjoy just standing on stage being larger than life. I just love that buzz that it gives me. Even with the work I’m doing now although it isn’t drama I do like standing in front of people. I work for a building society and have done for a long time. I’ve just changed jobs and my job title is I’m a coach. I do lots of coaching but one of the things I really enjoy is presenting, speaking to a large group of people, putting on a bit of a performance as well.

There are lots of different things I do to conquer nerves. I use different techniques. Anchoring techniques. If I was in a stressful situation I would have an anchor. An elastic band around the wrist. If I ping the elastic band it triggers a memory, A happy memory or something that went well. You relive that moment. As you relive it you’re setting yourself an anchor. You keep reworking it until eventually just a click of the fingers or the ping of an elastic band can trigger that thought. You can conquer the world.

It doesn’t make a difference. Performing in front of people you know. Although perhaps it does. Now you’ve asked me I’m going o have to think about this. They’re people you know and you want to be good and you want them to think ‘wow she can do this.’ I don’t get nervous. That’s really bizarre. I know a lot of people do but no because I love doing it. The only thing I’m apprehensive about is forgetting my lines. But once you get through the door. No nerves at all. Adrenalin. Big style. I know we only do it for a few nights once a year but certainly I take that time off work because I know once we’ve finished I won’t sleep when I get home.

I’m rubbish at learning my lines. I don’t even look at the book really. I perhaps just have a bit of an ability that when we come an just read through them every week it sticks with me. I’m probably quite lucky. The last thing we did I learnt the lines the night before. I had to shout ‘Quick Trace run the bus is here’ and wear some really terrible clothes. I looked dead classy. Don’t tell anyone. I’m also not afraid to make it up a bit – it puts other people off but I’m a loose cannon. It wouldn’t worry me to improvise at all. I’m aware that the other people on stage wouldn’t be too impressed if I suddenly went off on one but I feel quite confident that if I forgot the lines – I don’t like being prompted – I would try and get by without it by saying something that would hopefully bring us back on track. I don’t like being prompted because that’s a sign of failure. I don’t fail. I don’t want to do things wrong. I’m a complete perfectionist in everything I do. I usually beat myself up and just think I wasn’t good enough but what I’ve learnt as I’ve got older is that it’s not that I’m not good enough it’s that my standards are up here and I’m not where I want to be. I’m a very confident person.

I do remember having to wear a really horrible dressing gown in one show. I was an artists model and I had to come downstairs in this dressing gown after being drawn. I can remember lots of things about them but I can’t remember lines. I can remember one show with Andrew Grindrod – Kath Hyde’s son-in-law – I had to wear lots of nice, posh dresses and I was married to him and had to be really horrible to him which came quite naturally really. Quite scary. But I liked that one.

Do you mind that my dad is often married to your mum?

I’ve been married to Ian. I’ve been married to you. Remember. I was the nurse in the old peoples’ home but I was married to you. The numbers are dwindling so it gets quite limited. Who’s married to who etc. We have a wide range of people and ages means we have to adapt to find something to fit in. She’s not my mother when we’re here – she’s just someone else in the group and that’s cool. I think when we’re onstage I think as the other members of the group as the people they’re playing not the people they are.


I’ve been to a few weddings here. I’m not a wedding fan. Don’t get me going. I feel very passionately about weddings because I really hate them. I just think they’re a complete farce. It’s all a big fuss to me about something that’s personal between two people. I think it’s all a big stage, a big show, and it should be something different to that. I have got some strong views about it maybe because I’ve never been married I don’t know.

I was a bridesmaid once. To my cousin. I was little. I was about 12 or 13. Pink dress with a dark pink sash tied around my middle which my mother made. We sat at the top table.

Tony Pinchbeck
Am Dram

Well, the drama really came after the singing I suppose. First recollection is being involved in a chorus of Pirates of Penzance in the first year of college. Then singing led to doing odd bits of drama. Did a play at church the acting became incidental. Generally since I’ve been involved in the drama group I’ve not done any straight drama. I prefer being part of a musical number than being a straight part. I get more out of singing than acting but I come to enjoy acting almost as much. Well shortly after moving to Rise Park they were starting the drama group and inviting people to come in and read. I read for one or two of the parts and ws made the stage manager. Just moving props around in between scenes and just checking people were where they should be. Nothing too odious. Moving furniture around. I had to bash a table tennis bat on a biscuit tin to simulate a gunshot.

No particular lines stick in my mind. I enjoyed trying to grapple with an American accent for the Curious Savage. In the Sunday school in Wesley Chapel I was always pitched in with readings etc. so I was not unused to saying things in public. There is no drama involved in that. I quite enjoy being in the chorus having my little moment of fame and then slipping into the chorus again. There is something about the safety in numbers.

Escapism really. You have to concentrate on it entirely so it’s being on an alternative plane. You can just concentrate on that and nothing else matters. Saying it’s escapism makes it sound negative. I do get the adrenalin buzz from it. This adrenalin. Waiting in the wings. Remembering your first line. On stage hoping everyone remembers theirs. I dried once in the middle of the song. Sang the wrong verse. We’ve only done one straight play and it was very hard to gauge the audience reaction without the sound of laughter.

If it’s gone well I feel very on a high for a while in the evening it’s a while before you can contemplate going to bed. If it’s not gone well your mind works overtime and you think you’ll have to do better next time. I usually take time off work to do a show. Usually I use bus journeys and tram journeys to learn a few pages at a time. Try to be able to repeat the lines in the order in which they come. They do say if you scratch a solicitor you find a frustrated actor. Problem is if you have to make up your script as you go along. Solicitor in his wig. Minister in his robes. Visual experience. Theatricality.

I try to avoid catching anybody’s eye. Possibly until the curtain call. I try to focus on a line or a spot at the back of the hall. Hopefully the consistency of performance will result. Knowing that there are people out there that you know makes the adrenalin flow a bit faster because you want it to be a performance. I try to imagine the other people on stage as their characters. Sometimes something happens to break the spell. If you forget to take a prop onstage for example. You have to negotiate with each other without speaking. When your mind is half thinking ahead it can be a bit hairy. Sometimes the mind plays tricks on you and you think you’re said something you have and you haven’t. Part of my mind is always thinking ahead to what’s coming so that process gets out of synch.

At one stage the Drama Group could have been called the Church Council at play. All the people who have taken part have been members of this or other churches. I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone who isn’t church minded. That’s never been put to the test. The Drama Group is one arm of the church so we are trying to bring people in, make them aware. There is a sensitivity about whether our play will offend the audience, will our play offend the powers that be. There was one show which had an out of body experience and we had to be careful about it. Where people come back from the dead. You can never comfortably do that kind of thing without it causing bad vibrations.


I think it was serendipity really. Am dram was the social circle in which I was moving. Throughout rehearsal period I hadn’t really spoken to mum at all. I’d noticed her during rehearsal but it was such a dire show for men to be in, only had two notes to sing, we had to construct a bed for My Favourite Things for the children and Maria and that was about it. I remember my one line. ‘Oh Ulrich blocked the driveway.’ We used to say we were the best dressed prop shifters in town. The first time we spoke we were invited to a night club with David and Delia. I noticed mum was with David and Delia and didn’t appear to be attached. Before we had booked I noticed on the board that David had booked three tickets. I thought someone there isn’t attached. The men performed alternative songs that they’d written back stage during the long breaks in between cues. Adelweiss – Ill advice. I had a dance with Mum. Arthur Hunter – acting as Von Trapp – was playing guitar.

Ill advice ill advice
What a session this autumn
Ill advice ill advice
What a lesson we’ve taught ‘em

Poor old Arthur collapsed – is there a Doctor in the house? After he’d been taken to hospital by his nephew who was in the chorus I grabbed mum and danced. Very proud. The party was over. I took three people home. Took a girl to St Giles. Then dropped Alwyn in North Hycombe – a person I had a strong affection for who’s since had a brain tumour. I took Mum home last – even though it was a circuitous route. She invited me in for a drink. We had an affectionate moment on the sofa. Just a kiss. I believe to this day I was probably her first boyfriend. It wasn’t until later that we heard that Arthur had died.

The Church on Rise Park Drama Group

"And if I laugh at any mortal thing -
'Tis that I may not weep" - Byron


"A play comes to life only when the reader or actor is in sympathy with the playwright's intentions. The wrong interpretation of a play distorts its meaning. Overemphasis where none was intended destroys the delicate balance of values and the play then becomes either pointless or in bad taste." - John Patrick, The Camel's Back

The picture you see here is the cast of The Camel's Back performed by the Church on Rise Park Drama Group in 1993. I'm at the back on the left. I was 16. This was my first experience of performance. I talked about this show in my interview to study Theatre at Lancaster University. She asked about my last project. I got in. I formed a theatre company. From amateur to academic to professional to academic to amateur. I'm back at university and back in the Drama Group. Acts of Communion is underway. In May I presented my project to the Drama Group. They said yes. The cast is as follows:

Bridesmaid 1 - Louise Walker
Bridesmaid 2 - Donna Thorne
Best Man 2 - Jonathan Pickering
Father of the Bride - Tony Pinchbeck
Mother of the Bride - Betty Walker
Father of the Groom - Ian Pickering
Grandmother of the Bride - Kath Hyde
MC - Michael Pinchbeck

In June I began a series of interviews with the group. I asked them how they got into drama, what they enjoy about it, how they get into character and learn lines. We discussed the rush of adrenaline that follows a show - my dad (the one in the hat) can never sleep. We talked about weddings - how they met their partner and whether they had any cracking anecdotes. This will be material. The interviews are transcribed in the next posting.