Some Treachery – Interview with Cast & Creatives

‘Some Treachery: A Miss McSkimming Mystery’ is coming up soon!

A radio play recorded in front of a live audience (hilarious sound effects included).

What at first seems like a trivial case soon reveals a plot that could shake the very foundations of the British Empire. With her faithful valet by her side, Miss McSkimming must deal with butlers, the police, mysterious men in the shadows and a hippo, to get to the bottom of what could be her biggest case yet.

A rollicking comedy with a chic lady investigator and mysteries abounding, this piece promises to delight audiences, young and old!

Listen to the interview with cast & creatives –

 

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Black Shuck: Making the Set

Our delightful Designer for Black Shuck, Michelle Bristow, gives us a glimpse into the world of set building – you can come and see the set in situ, 11-19 May 2016 – book your tickets now!

Twitter header Black Shuck

We started out by mitre-ing (real word?) some of the timber so that we could make the structure for the bracing. It was hard!

The next part of the support structure, drilling the main upright piece to the bottom support piece.

Bracing pieces completed!

Laying out the pieces ready to have the holes drilled in to mark where the screws go, in order to be flat packed into my car and assembled at the venue.

Marking out the holes and numbering them, so its easy to match up the pieces at the get in.

Jacobean woodstain was the perfect colour, heres the groyne after two coats – 

The fun (and messy) part – painting! All ready for assembly next week. 

Black Shuck: Talking Genres, by Duncan Hands

You can see Duncan’s writing, Black Shuck, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

Writer of Black Shuck, Duncan Hands, writes about writing a comedy-horror…

One question which keeps arising now that work is starting in earnest on Black Shuck is, “how do you incorporate comedy and horror?” I have three answers, and the easy, trite but honest one is “I like both, why not put them together?”

But that doesn’t really help the poor actors and creatives who have to interpret my script so audiences enjoy watching them, so…

I’ve never said after watching a show, “yeah, it was alright, but I wish there’d been fewer jokes.” Nor have I complained about being moved or scared or shocked after laughing for an hour. That’s entertainment: Charlie Chaplin was the most popular comedian of his age because his films are packed full of melodramatic pathos, Shakespeare’s most brooding tragedy (set in Scotland) contains a hilarious pun-filled routine about brewer’s droop. Taylor Swift sings happy songs, sad songs, and angry songs. And Pinter is considered deadly serious, but while working on productions of his shows I’ve watched the audience roaring with belly-laughter. Yes, it’s wry, dark humour; but it pervades every one of his plays…except, as he pointed out, in the last 10 minutes of each.

Why?

Because making a play is merely a bunch of people collaborating to create a series of moments. If the moments are all witty, or all bleak, or all fey, it’s dull. If you switch between those moods, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts because of the juxtaposition. And if the characters’ world all turns to crap near the end, it’ll hit harder if we care about them, and especially if we’ve laughed with, or at, them.

Chaplin, Shakespeare, Swift and Pinter understand that. I’d be a fool not to learn from them. And it has the happy side-effect of killing snobbery: the Reithian ideal of combining entertainment and education, the ancient Greeks’ belief in art’s ennobling effect, it’s all hollow when you consider that we can all enjoy a good nob gag, and we all enjoy learning something. Both are ennobling, just in different ways. So the slightly longer answer to my original question is, “why be pigeonholed into one genre? Audiences are intelligent enough to take the show on its own terms.”

But…horror depends on suspense. Humour smashes suspense. These two facts mean that combining these two genres is a tightrope walk, and everyone working on it needs to know exactly what we want the audience to feel at any given moment. Don’t put a joke where it doesn’t belong, nor a jump moment. It helps that Blackshaw have put together a team who all enjoy dry, dark humour, but no element of the play should be at the expense of any other.

I’ve had to think why genres exist at all. Basically, I reckon, all works are formulaic. Someone comes up with a recipe, and if you stick to those rules you get a coherent result. Using music as an example, a Country song, a Grime tune or a Bach fugue all work because they stick to their respective rules. But then you break the rules, Johnny Cash puts trumpets in a Country song, Plan B uses an acoustic guitar, Beethoven puts a major 7th where Bach would use the safer minor 3rd, and it creates magic.

Fundamentally, I’m just not very good at following rules. I didn’t sit down to write either a comedy or a horror, I just had a story I wanted to tell, and told it as best I’m able.

You have to be careful mashing up genres, because it’s easier for audiences to know what they’re supposed to be feeling. This show’s not really a pastiche (horror, like film noir, is arguably reaching the point where pastiches are more familiar than the classics of the genre), it’s a medley. There are elements of other genres there too. If you find psychological thriller, sitcom, gangster heist, Theatre of the Absurd…you’d be right. I once heard a Director answer “if you see it, then it’s there,” to a Venue Technician’s question about the symbolism the tech thought he’d perceived in a particular prop book being green. I knew we’d picked a green book because that was the one on the top of the pile at the front of the store…but the director knew that there’s no wrong interpretation.

The genre question is one which has arisen throughout my career. And the best answer is “take it how you will. I’m just putting it out there. Whatever mood you come out feeling is right. So long as you feel something, I’ll be happy I’ve done my job.”

Black Shuck WordPress image

You can see Duncan’s writing, Black Shuck, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

 

The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 38

This week on the Blackshaw Arts Hour Matt and Vikki are in the studio with Iasha, Matt review Eye in the Sky and then we spoke about how it stood up to London Has Fallen in terms of a drone strike movie. Suffice to say Eye in the Sky won.

The wonderful Lesley Strachan crashed a Black Shuck rehearsal and interviewed Director Ellie and cast members Rachel and Alex.
Vikki did a review/Arts Thing of the Week beginning with The Maids and then talking about the importance of reviving specific plays.
Helen Johnson interviewed Duncan Hands, the writer of Black Shuck, about his writing process and how he developed the idea of the upcoming production.
Make sure you get tickets here, come along and say hi to the Blackshaw team at the Bedford, and subscribe to our podcast here to make sure you can always catch The Blackshaw Arts Hour and have access to all our bonus audio content.

Black Shuck: An interview with Rachel Nott

UPDATE: See Rachel in the transfer at the London Horror Festival.

You can see Rachel Nott in the role of ‘Martha’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

Ahead of rehearsals starting, we had a chat with Rachel –

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What are the particular challenges of this play?

Working with Alex, obviously… That aside, there’s a heck of a lot to learn! And the older I get, the worse my memory gets…

Have you done similar projects to this before?

Playing a smuggler? Can’t say I have. I’ve not been in a full-length two-hander before either, so I’m really looking forward to that.

What are you looking forward to at rehearsals?

We are definitely going to be doing a lot of laughing – to the point that we will need to make sure we actually rehearse the play. I also really love playing around with the characters in a rehearsal process – approaching situations differently and seeing what works. Often what you saw was one thing in the initial read-through can become something completely different after rehearsals.

Who are your favourite comic actors?

Hmmm… Steve Coogan, Kathy Burke, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Julia Davis, Mackenzie Crook, Kenneth Williams, Jack Lemmon (old school), Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Catherine O’Hara, Steve Carrell, Will Ferrell, Sandra Bullock… It’s a really long list. I feel bad for leaving people out.

Black Shuck WordPress image

You can see Rachel Nott in the role of ‘Martha’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

 

 

 

Black Shuck: An interview with Alexander Pankhurst

UPDATE: See Alexander in the transfer at the London Horror Festival.

You can see Alexander Pankhurst in the role of ‘Art’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

Ahead of rehearsals starting, we had a chat with Alex –

Alex

Alex’s first answers…

What are the particular challenges of this play?

Working with Rachel Nott

Have you done similar projects to this before?

Yes. With Rachel Nott.

What are you looking forward to at rehearsals?

Rachel Nott.

Who are your favourite comic actors?

Rachel Nott. And Rowan Atkinson.

 

Alex’s revised answers…

What are the particular challenges of this play?

I think that the main issue doing this play (from my perspective) will be varying the pace. Because it’s quite a static piece (only set in one place) and there are only two of us, there is a danger that it could become monotonous for the audience. But I think that Blackshaw are well up to the challenge

Have you done similar projects to this before?

I have done a two hander before (An Audience with the Ghostfinder by M. J. Starling) so that’s familiar ground but every project is different so I’m just looking forward to seeing how this one pans out.

What are you looking forward to at rehearsals?

Absolutely. Working the Ellie and Rachel is always really good fun and they will inevitably have me in stitches.

Who are your favourite comic actors?

There’s so many to choose from, Rowan Atkinson has to be up there along with Julie Walters and Mark Heap but the list is almost endless!

Black Shuck WordPress image

You can see Alex in the role of ‘Art’ in Black Shuck by Duncan Hands, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016, 11-14th & 18-19th May at the Bedford, Balham – £10-12. Book your tickets now!

 

Great Expectations – Getting to know Victoria Hamblen

Victoria Hamblen Headshot

Victoria began performing at the age of 3. As she grew up, Victoria tried a diverse range of dance styles from ballet to hip hop. She expanded on this, performing in many professional and semi-professional theatrical productions as a teenager. At university, Victoria participated in various productions at the Greenwood Theatre, such as Fame, and Hot Mikado ‘Pitti Sing’, then concluded her amateur run with touring productions of The Taming of the Shrew (2013), where she played the role of ‘Bianca’, and ‘Jacqueline’ in Moliere’s The Reluctant Doctor. Since then Victoria set up, and has been running Cyphers theatre company with Marcus J. Bazley, also performing in many Cyphers productions to date.

 

Quick Questions…

1. What’s your favourite scene or character from ‘Great Expectations’?

When Pip leaves Estella forever. It’s so poignant, and makes me cry every time!

2. What’s the last project you worked on?

The Cyphers Chekhov Double Bill (‘The Proposal’ and ‘The Boor’)

3. What’s the last book you read?

‘Villette’ by Charlotte Bronte

4. Not a lot of people know that I…

speak Mandarin.

5. What really grinds your gears?

When people talk when watching a film.

 
You can hear Victoria Hamblen playing Estella / Mrs Joe in our upcoming radio adaptation of Great Expectations – broadcasting on The Blackshaw Arts Hourfrom Sunday 3rd January 2016.

Subscribe on iTunes.

Available to download or stream here.

 

Great Expectations – Getting to know Alexander Pankhurst

Alex

Training: Royal Holloway University of London

Recent Credits include: ‘Jack’ in Staying Alive (Pleasance Theatre with Blackshaw), ‘Demetrius’ and ‘Bottom’ in A Midsummer Nights Dream, ‘Boy’ in Panther, ‘Gerry’ in Dearly Departed, ‘Mal’ in Captcha, ‘Arnold’ in I’ll take a Dozen Accountants…with Sprinkles, ‘Christopher Marlowe’ in Death of Marlowe, ‘Major Steve’ in Love in Freefall, ‘Ash’ in A Million Things, ‘Borachio’ in Much Ado About Nothing, ‘Mercutio’ in Romeo and Juliet, ‘Valentine’ in Two Gentlemen of Verona, ‘Thomas Carnacki’ in Audience with the Ghostfinder, ‘Tom’ in Rabbit, ‘Richard III’ in The Shakespeare Conspiracy, ‘Jamie’ in Airport and ‘Dr Alfred Prunesquallor’ in Gormenghast: Titus Groan.

Quick Questions…

1. What’s your favourite scene or character from ‘Great Expectations’?

It would have to be Will’s Miss Havisham. Delightfully deranged!

2. What’s the last project you worked on?

Blackshaw’s ‘Staying Alive’ at the Pleasance in November.

3. What’s the last book you read?

Malazan Book of the Fallen 05 – Midnight Tides – Steven Erikson, if you like fantasy you will love this series. I cannot recommend it enough.

4. Not a lot of people know that I…

once ate two foot long subs in one sitting.

5. What really grinds your gears?

Slow walkers and people who are rude. (But not those who are rude to slow walkers)

 

You can hear Alexander Pankhurst playing Sergeant / Jaggers in our upcoming radio adaptation of Great Expectations – broadcasting on The Blackshaw Arts Hour from Sunday 3rd January 2016.

Subscribe on iTunes.

Available to download or stream here.

 

Great Expectations – Marcus Bazley’s Adaptation

Unlike a lot of people, I never studied Great Expectations at school. From talking to friends who have, it seems to have spoilt their enjoyment of the novel no end! My only engagement with the novel before reading it, in late 2014, was the BBC TV adaptation from the previous Christmas.

There were two things that struck me immediately on reading the novel myself:

First, it was a first person narrative. This completely changed by understanding of the novel. This was not simply a story – this was a memory. A memory has the ability to deceive and distort events, making the narrative much more nuanced and complex. It also meant that our narrator was inherently fallible.

Second, it was surprisingly funny! Dickens is such an instinctively witty writer – he loves to poke fun at his characters and at his audience – and Great Expectations is no exception. (Although one would be forgiven for thinking it was a story exclusively about nasty rich people and cobwebs from the numerous adaptations.) I was, therefore, determined to reintroduce this lightness to the story and, in doing so, balance its darker moments with moments of genuine comedy.

These were the two main motivations for creating the original stage adaptation that Cyphers performed in February 2015. That and the way in which the casting perfectly suited our company of actors at the time.

The idea for a radio version first occurred to me while I was at Blackshaw’s fifth birthday party. During the afternoon of celebrations, extracts from Blackshaw’s previous radio drama ‘Audience with the Ghost Finder’ were played and a desire for more radio drama for the Arts Hour was expressed. Since finishing Great Expectations on stage, I had been desperate to do more with the script and this seemed like the perfect opportunity!

Going back to the script with a new medium in mind was an absolute joy and it gave me the chance to hone and tighten the adaptation after a bit of breathing space. Plus we would be able to explore the central Cyphers ethos of inspiring the audience’s imagination in a new way. The result, I hope, is a version of Great Expectations that is true to the original tone of the novel, bringing out both its light and its shade, as a man tells his listeners the very personal story of his life.

– Marcus Bazley

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You can listen to Marcus’ adaptation of Great Expectations – broadcasting on The Blackshaw Arts Hour from Sunday 3rd January 2016.

Subscribe on iTunes.

Available to download or stream here.