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Suffolk Summer Theatre – the beginning…

This is a short and sweet post just to put you all in the picture about how my first season of Repertory Theatre is going.  I’ve always wanted to do rep and when the opportunity arose earlier this year I snapped it up.  Add in the fact that I’ll be spending the majority of my 12 weeks in Southwold (with Aldeburgh being the other venue) and I couldn’t refuse – I holidayed here as a Suffolk Summer Theatresmall boy for 3 summers in the 1980’s!  Anyway, it’s all happening now and this is supposed to be a post about the current, not the past…

I’ve been here just over 2 weeks and we open our first play, How The Other Half Loves by Alan Ayckbourn, in 2 days time.  The time pressure in rehearsals is vast!  I still feel like I’ve only just arrived in Suffolk but this afternoon we did a full run on set and in costume (albeit with the set being in a workshop and not on a stage).  There are 6 in the cast and 4 have performed here before; Michael Shaw, Kate Middleton, Rosanna Miles and Eliza McClelland.  Rick Savery and I are in our first seasons.  Our director, David Harris, is very thorough and our 3-strong stage management team of Kate, Antonia and Laurie are really on the ball.  Wardrobe Mistress, Miri Birch, and designer, Maurice Rubens, have created some wonderful designs and everything is being overseen with aplomb by producers Mark Sterling and Peter Adshead.  As ever with these things there are loads of other people heavily involved and I can’t possibly mention them all (but rest assured they are all fantastic!)!

Rehearsals have been hard going with the first play as Ayckbourn’s work is always so technical.  He’s a very precise writer and it’s important to thoroughly dissect his text.  This play has a very unique style, too, involving 2 scenes being played out at the same time on stage – a theatrical device which I have not come across before in this way.  It’s really quite hard to explain Southwold Poppiesbut regardless of that I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone coming along so I’ll keep schtum for now and let you see the production photographs when they come out!  It’s set in 1969 and the colours and patterns in the costumes, set and props are wonderful!

Looking towards the next week or so really starts to show you how a rep season works.  So next Monday morning we have a read through and then start rehearsals for the second play that I’m in.  Yep, rehearsing for Out Of Order by Ray Cooney from 10 ’til 5 and then performing How The Other Half Loves at 8pm.  That all happens for 3 weeks until HTOTL closes on a Saturday to be replaced by OOO on the Monday.  Then guess what?  Yep, we start rehearsing my third and final play, September Tide by Daphne Du Maurier, on the Tuesday morning and the process is repeated again – exhausting mentally and physically!  Having said that, though, I’m blummin’ loving every minute…

I’ll keep you informed of how it’s going (if I can find the time!) but again, if you want to come along and see one, two or all of the shows then please do.  I’m sure we can go for a pint of Adnams or two afterwards…!Southwold panoramic

Incidentally, I did an interview with the Friends of East Suffolk Performing Arts (FESPA) before I came here and it’s available as a PDF online.  Click on this link to see the magazine and then scroll down to page 4!!

End of an Era

It’s often hard to find the words to express yourself when you reach milestones in your life.  It could be a birth, a death, a marriage, anything life changing.  What’s happening to me isn’t quite as momentous as that but in professional terms it’s a very poignant day.  My agent of over 13 years is retiring.

Philippa Howell came to see me playing the leading role of Bobby in a production of Company at my drama school, Bretton Hall, in January 2002 and she signed me up straight the way.  She took on a wide-eyed, eager, raw and naive young actor and helped him to start to find his way in the profession.  Drama schools across the board teach students how to act, how to perform, how to behave etc but generally they all neglect to teach you about the lifestyle you’re taking on; the uncertainty, the knock-backs, the rejections, the selling of your soul.  Philippa not only guided me through all this but, at times, dragged me through it!  It’s a baptism of fire setting foot into the professional world and it’s no wonder up to 70% of trained actors quit during their first year of turning pro.  Since then Philippa and I have grown very close to the point that she has essentially been my second mum and I have become her second son (her words not mine!).  We’ve helped each other through very serious personal times and we’ve both come out the other side with aplomb.  I owe her a lot.

Basically this short post is to say thank you to someone who has put me in the position I am today.  I’m very much looking forward to my new adventure with my next agent, Jane Hollowood, but I can’t let this day pass without doffing my hat to a great lady (and her tireless assistant, Anita!).  It’s been a blast, thank you so much boss!

Cheers, Philly.  xxx

 Philly crop

Focus12 Charity Ball

Last Friday I had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies at the Focus12 Charity Ball in St Edmundsbury Cathedral.  Focus12 is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity  that I have helped raise money for before, some of you may remember me jumping out of a plane for them in 2011.  Anyway, this time I had much less wind in my hair as I drove down to Bury St Edmunds and donned my dinner suit and black tie.  The cathedral is nearly 500 years old and it is only the second time in it’s history that they have given permission for an event such as this to be held there.  Quite an honour.

The evening was packed full of entertainment and, given that we were on his turf, it was Focus12 Ball 2015 (12)started by Reverend Canon Matthew Vernon saying grace.  Dinner was interspersed by various games like the Golden Raffle Ticket and True or False, and after dinner we had an auction then a spot by Mentalist Doug Segal.  Following him Paolo Morena took to the stage (he’s a fabulous live loop artist) and then everyone hit the dance floor to party the night away along to Booty and the Beatz.  All in all it was great fun!

There were many moments I’ll treasure forever; having fun with my friends Sue and Sarah (see below!), watching the performers, listening to the tear jerking speech from someone who had used Focus12, and the stunning location, but the thing that will always stick with me is watching Reverend Vernon having a full on boogie to Dancing Queen by ABBA all of 5 metres in front of the pulpit where he would be addressing his congregation a few short hours later – priceless!  Certainly a time for ‘from the ridiculous to the sublime’!

***UPDATE – 15th March – I’m told we raised over £25,000 from this event, absolutely over the moon!!***

Focus12 Ball 2015 (17)    Focus12 Ball 2015 (16)Focus Charity Ball Flyer

Beauty & the Beast – done & dusted

Another season in panto has now left me.  As usual I’ve been filled with the various emotions that grip me at this time of year; sadness at saying goodbye to some new friends, happiness at getting to go home, nervousness at what the new year might hold, contentment that it’s been another good production that I’ve been involved in and (probably most importantly) relief that I don’t have to smile continuously for 8 hours a day!  I always feel so incredibly privileged to be playing my part in one of theatres oldest and most important traditions, pantomime.  This season has been no different.

#PantoSelfie

The show itself was delightful and all of my friends that came to see it thoroughly enjoyed it, interestingly each picking out different moments to champion as ‘the best bit’.  I think the variety of sketches, songs, jokes and pathos within the production helped to hold the attention of young and old patrons alike.  One thing that I was very impressed about at The Roses was how well the team there had managed to sell the show.  In a lot of theatres there are certain performances where the audience is really quite small.  Normally that wouldn’t effect a production but in panto the audience is integral.  The audience is a character in its own right – they even have their own lines!  The difference between 2 people shouting it’s behind you or 400 people shouting it’s behind you is really quite stark.  As a cast   member who always has to have a dialogue with the audience I cannot stress how important it is!  Imagine if one of the actors was a lot weaker than the rest of the cast, you’d notice it and it would irk you.  If they were inaudible or not quite as energised they’d stand out like a sore thumb.  Exactly the same principle can be applied to the audience in a panto – it’s a strange science and it doesn’t really happen anywhere else in theatreland but the difference is very telling.  Well the staff at The Roses did a wonderful job of making sure we never had too small a house and I really appreciated that.

The feedback that the show received was, I’m led to believe, really positive.  In fact the only complaints we had were someone saying they ‘caught a flash of Beauty’s petticoat unWelcome (small)derneath her big ball gown’ (hmmm, they’ll be saying she flashed an uncovered ankle next…) and someone complained that they got hit on the head by a sweet prompting out Health & Safety officer to ban us throwing sweets out for the rest of the run.  I just don’t understand some people…?!?  Other than that all the reviews we had gushed about it being the best one ever at the Roses and said how they were definitely booking for next year.  It’s fabulous to be involved in a show that is so well received!

A lot of people who don’t work in our industry often don’t think about what companies do away from the theatre.  Admittedly we spend most of our time backstage or onstage but when the final curtain of the day has fallen we can’t simply go home like ‘normal’ people who have ‘normal’ 9-5 jobs do.  Firstly, we’re rarely at home when we’re working in theatre.  The 7 cast members lived in Manchester (me), London, Brighton, Guilford, Bristol and Los Angeles (seriously) and our Deputy Stage Manager lived in Norwich.  We didn’t know anyone in the town itself so invariably we end up spending our evenings with each other.  We all rent rooms in houses and, in certain cases, don’t have access to a lounge or even a comfy chair.  This often leads us to stay out late and sample the various watering holes Tewkesbury has to offer.  I’m rather smug to say that I went to every single town centre pub and/or bar during the run.  Some were nicer than others as you’d expect and I certainly had my favourites.  For food it had to be Theoc House and as a pub it was The Nottingham Arms.  My regular drinking buddies were Jeffrey Harmer (the Dame) and Erin (our DSM).  I don’t think I would’ve survived the run without them!

We also had various company meals and parties.  Naturally we had a Secret SantaDR2 and I still don’t know who had me.  If they happen to read this please note that I’ve been using all my smellies and the miniature radio/amp works well!  Something I’ve not mentioned in these blogs so far is the theatre’s link to one of my comedy heroes, Eric Morecambe.  It was on the Roses stage where Eric had his fatal heart attack and then later died.  I was using his Dressing Room backstage and although it was a bit odd at first to know that that was where he actually passed away I was eventually able to put that to one side and actually used the emotions it stirred in a positive way.  In a weird sort of way it was an honour.

There is one final tradition in panto that I want to mention before I sign off and it’s one that has made me smile in every performance of every show I’ve done.  I’ve never played the baddie but I know when I do the grin won’t move from my face no matter how hard I try!  It involved the walk down at the end of the show (also known as the bows – when each character walks down to the front of the stage individually to take their applause).  Well, even though the baddie has by this point had an epiphany and become good (whether they’re Abanazaar, the Witch, Fleshcreep, the Ugly Sisters etc) the audience can’t help but boo whilst simultaneously clapping and cheering.  It’s such a wonderful juxtaposition and again, it only happens in panto!  You’ve been booing them for the last 2 hours and although you’re applauding the actor you can’t help but give them a little boo, too.  It’s just so odd, try it now – try booing whilst smiling and clapping – it’s just downright bizarre!  I love panto for this, and for all the other wonderful emotions it stirs.

Finally I want to say thank you to the wonderful guys at the Roses, the cast (including the 2 teams of kids, the Lions and Tigers!) my digs landlords Jean and Tony, my drinking partners Jeff and Erin, and of course the good people of Tewkesbury for supporting us throughout our 7½ week stay in their beautiful town.  Also a quick shout out to my friends who came to see the show travelling from places such as Oxfordshire, Reading, Cambridgeshire, Manchester, London, Leicester, Worcester, Farnborough, Aylesbury and Gloucester.  Without wanting to gush… I love you guys!

This week it’s back to reality and I’m seeing friends in shows in Manchester, Harrogate and Stevenage on consecutive nights (thankfully petrol prices have just dropped!) before heading to Leicester to watch my beloved Leicester Tigers on Friday night.  Then… well… I guess it’s time to get on with the rest of January.  Happy New Year everyone – have a fab 2015!  xRoses auditorium

Beauty & the Beast 2014 – we’re open!

Panto season is underway.  One show is in the bag… and it was a corker.

BroomThis week has been hard work.  Tech weeks are always a mixture of emotions; excitement at seeing the set, exhaustion from working consecutive 12½ hour days, enjoying wearing your costumes for the first time, boredom from hanging around for ages whilst the technical team tweak things like sound levels or lights, but mostly just the eager anticipation of finally seeing all the different aspects of the production coming together.  Inevitably, though, it’s all worthwhile when you finally start to perform to a packed house of punters rather than a big room full of empty red velvet seats!

Last night was the first time I have performed at the Roses and it’s certainly a night I won’t forget.  We had a very smooth dress rehearsal (almost too smooth – dress rehearsals aren’t usually as smooth as ours was!) in the afternoon and after a notes session from our director, Ben Crocker, we had an hour off to relax and get some dinner.  I reheated a roast beef dinner that my dad had cooked the previous weekend – I needed some home comforts!  Then everyone started to get ready.  Crew rushed around resetting props and set, our sound engineer, Ash, came and changed all the batteries in our microphones, people passed around opening night cards, our wardrobe mistress, Lou, sat outside the dressing rooms hand sewing last minute alterations to costumes and the cast started to layer on the pantomime make-up.  Over the show relay we could hear the auditorium filling up and then our DSM, Erin, called Act 1 beginners to the stage.  We were about to start.  Behind the curtain there was a final opportunity for hushed Break a Leg‘s to be wished just before the overture began.  We were off…

Two hours later we were bowing and waving at the audience who were cheering and Beauty & The Beast 2014applauding like mad.  The rush of endorphins was incredible!  This is where theatre work kicks tv and film work’s derrière, you get to share a moment with perfect strangers with whom you’ve created a special bond.  The show was a success and the initial feedback has been nothing but positive.

Theatre has a great deal of tradition built into it, both physically and spiritually, and the genre of pantomime probably has the most.  The majority of people know of the Dame being played by a man, shouting out It’s Behind You! at the correct moment and of course the happily ever after theme at the end.  One tradition most people that aren’t in the business don’t know is that of the rhyming couplets that finish the production.  After the bows the cast all have a line or two spoken in verse that plays out directly to the audience and ties up any loose ends, offers resolution or is simply food for thought for them to take away with them.  Originally the cast wouldn’t get given their couplet until the interval of the first night.  The director would come round and give them a slip of paper with their line on it and which of the other characters they would be following.  The couplets would then be a complete surprise to the cast as well as the audience!  Nowadays this tradition has been dumbed down somewhat and in most productions it’s only the final sentence (which everyone says together) that isn’t spoken.  So bear in mind that if you ever go to a panto’s opening night you will be seeing something that has never been rehearsed before!

You may notice I actually skipped the section about the show itself.  There’s one reason for this – I don’t want to give away any spoilers!  We run until the 3rd January so there’s plenty of time left.  I have been told that quite a lot of the performances have already sold out, though, so get on it!  I promise you won’t be disappointed…First Night

The cast enjoy a toast backstage after the first show.

(from L to R): Chris Clarkson, Lauren Silver, Jeffrey Harmer, Madeleine Leslay, Charlie Haskins, Christopher Ashman & Hannah Summers

Beauty & the Beast 2014 – rehearsals

It’s been quite a whirlwind start to my time in Tewkesbury for panto this season.  We’ve had 9 days of rehearsal and we’re about to go into Tech Week, the time when we start on stage and put all the technical aspects into the show such as lighting, costume, sets and props.  It’s been a great rehearsal process so far and the show has not just already started to take shape but it’s also looking in really quite good nick.

I’ve never worked with (or even met!) any of the cast or creatives before so it’s been an interesting start to the gig.  Director Ben Crocker’s CV speaks for itself and I’ve been looking forward to getting a chance to work with him for a while.  The cast features Madeleine Leslay as Beauty, Christopher Ashman as Prince Christophe (and the Beast!), Jeffery Harmer as Madame Mavis de Pamplemousse, Hannah Summers as Malabelle, Charlie Haskins as Jacques and Lauren Silver as Capucine.

Beauty and the Beast is quite unique as pantomimes go as it doesn’t naturally contain the stock pantomime characters and it has the most story of any of the tales we usually hear at this time of year.  This means that there is generally more to pack into the show.  Ben’s writing does this with aplomb with the scenes between the Beast and Beauty my personal favourites.  We also pack a lot of songs into the show, I’m in 9 songs myself!

XRay

Chris learning his lines whilst having his XRay at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (at roughly 12:45am!)

The only thing I haven’t enjoyed so far happened last Monday night as I was walking home from rehearsals.  For no apparant reason I went over on my ankle tearing my ligaments and causing a nasty sprain.  I still don’t know what caused it; it wasn’t wet, there wasn’t a pot hole and I wasn’t under the influence (before you ask!).  It happened at 8:45pm and unfortunately both Tewkesbury and Cheltenham (the next nearest town) hospitals have to close at night due to a lack of funds so I had to go to Gloucester.  The staff there were lovely and I was treated with great care and compassion.  I can’t fault the hospital or the staff at all but it was annoying that it was so far away.  My landlord kindly gave me a lift there and I had to get a £35 taxi ride home.  I’m a big fan of the NHS, I just wish our government were, too.  I’ve been on crutches ever since but I’m due to come off them tomorrow.  Although I’m up to speed with all the staging, the songs and my script I’ll admit to being a bit behind with the dance moves!  Not to worry, though, as I’m a quick learner under pressure…

Anyway, the panto is ready to go up a level now as we start to finesse it.  Apparantly tickets are selling at an unprecedented rate so do get your skates on if you’re thinking of popping to see us at The Roses!

Backing vocalsThe cast recording some backing vocals.  From L to R; Christopher Ashman, Chris Clarkson, Lauren Silver, Hannah Summers, Madeleine Leslay, Charlie Haskins & Jeffrey Harmer.

Turning on Bristol’s Christmas Lights

Well I had a lovely time last night hosting the Christmas Lights Switch On in Bristol.  It was all Cabot Circuscentred around our purpose built stage and rigging system (more on that in a bit) at Cabot Circus, the city’s main shopping location.  We had a show starting at 6pm with Bristol Cathedral Choir singing carols to excited hoardes.  They paraded through the centre of Bristol singing as they went, culminating with a few songs for us whilst lined up on a staircase, all resplendent in Christmas attire.  After that we moved into the main section of the show, our guest act and the reason for our special rig.

Circulus are an innovative circus company that pride themselves on their immersive and modern theatrical productions.  We were treated to a 20 minute performance full of hair-raising feats performedCirculus 2 on a trampoline, on silks, on a cloud swing, on an aerial hoop and all tied together with a spectacular floor show of acrobatics and general mayhem!  They wore costumes that were designed specifically for the show and had a steam punk theme to them.  The only time I’ve heard a crowd make such audible oooh‘s and ahhh‘s was at a fireworks gala!  After their performance reached it’s spectacular climax I returned to the stage to start the countdown.  When we reached zero I pressed the plunger with the lead performer from Circulus and we illuminated the city centre along with setting off some confetti canons and maroons.  The 10,000 strong crowd cheered and joined in with Slade’s I Wish It could Be Christmas Everyday before we brought the show to a close.  A great evening of free entertainment for lots of happy Bristolians!Circulus

My first Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament!

I am writing this a shell of the man I was but 3 days ago for this weekend I partook in my first ever Ultimate Frisbee Tournamant.  I cannot express to you fully just how much of a good time I have had learning the rules of the sport, understanding the ethics, the quirks and the calls (a word with 2 meanings here – more on that later), making loads of new friends and finding a new social circle that I feel I’ve been accepted into without question, particularly one that is nowhere near my usual circles of theatre, performance or gig work!

First things first, though, what is Ultimate Frisbee?  The name is a lot more grand than it needs to be.  It isn’t Ultimate in my opinion, that’s just the name that the Americans that came up with the sport decided to call it (not like the Yanks to try to oversell something, eh?!).  It’s basically like a game of netball but with a frisbee and played on a football pitch.  It involves skills in throwing the disc, tactical awareness and, probably most importantly, a lung busting capability to run your pants off for 55 minutes.  Got it?  Good.

A few months back my friend Liam and I were sat at a pub quiz discussing the fact that we should probably try to get fit and partake in more of an active passtime than sitting in a pub answering some questions.  He said he’d always wanted to try Ultimate and decided he’d look up a local club online.  A week or so later and we’d gone to our first DUFFA session.  Didsbury Ultimate Frisbee For Amateurs is a club that you just turn up and play for fun.  No fees, no membership worries, no commitment, no Hat Logo 2014pressure, just a few hours in Fogg Lane Park on a Sunday evening exercising and burning off your Sunday roast (followed by a trip to the pub!).  Very quickly Liam and I got hooked.  Unfortunately the nature of my job means that I can’t regularly commit to anything so before this weekend I had only been to 5 sessions.  I had been taught how to throw a disc and some of the rudimentary rules and tactics of the game but I really was going into this weekend without really knowing what to expect.

What is a Hat tournament?  Basically all the players names go into a hat and teams are pulled out at random… ish.  When you sign up you give an honest rating of your fitness, skill and experience level.  This is all then fed into a computer which then pulls out teams of 12 players that have a mixture of these skills, plus a healthy smattering of boys and girls, too.  The DUFFA Hat is played at Old Bedians Rugby Club in Manchester and has 24 teams in total meaning there are 288 players there overall.  The theme for this year was ‘Out Of This World’ meaning all the teams, pitches, events had a space/sci-fi twist.  I was on the Autobots team, other names included Starship Troopers, Klingons, Mysterons (that was Liam’s team), Men in Black, Space Invaders, Jetsons and Cosmonauts.  The pitches were called names like Area 51, Endor and Betelguese!  Matches are either 55 minutes long or ‘First to 13’ depending on which happens first.

Now, my teammates were all stars (appropriate given the theme).  Given that I was the token rubbish person they fully included me in everything, made sure I spent a lot of time on the pitch (it’s a rolling sub system so there are 7 on the pitch with 5 subs on the sidelines) and taught me some more of the intricate tactics and tricks to use whilst playing.  They even nominated me as captain which was an honour to do even though it was really quite an intimidating prospect!  All the teams were set challenges to complete over the weekend, too, such as have a team photo where everyone is off the ground, race space The Autobots forming a Team Pyramidhoppers around the pitch and cheerlead another team from the sidelines for a while amongst.  All of my lot fully invested in it and that just added to my enjoyment!

After a game of Ultimate has ended both teams get together at the side of the pitch and stand in a big circle alternating players from each team (like boy/girl/boy/girl but with teams not sexes).  Both captains make a speech (something I didn’t know about until I was told during our first huddle!) and then the teams all partake in a couple of calls (as mentioned before).  A call is basically a little silly game like ‘rock, paper, scissors’ or ‘look-up murder’ but with slightly different names.  The purpose of the calls is to promote unity between teams, forge more friendships and reinforce the inclusive and friendly nature that Ultimate Frisbee prides itself on.  Let me tell you, they work!  It’s little touches like that that made the DUFFA Hat so much fun.  The added layers to the event made it all the more enjoyable.

So how did we get on in the competition overall?  The games played on the Saturday determine which tier you get placed in  on Sunday, the Cup being the top 8 teams, the Plate being the middle 8 teams and the Bowl being the lower 8 teams.  We played well on the Saturday but overall lost 3 of our 4 games (despite ending up with a points difference of zero!) so were placed in the Bowl competition.  On the Sunday we played much better and won all of our games so ending up winning the Bowl!  That is despite losing one player to injury all day and 2 more (including myself) for the final.  We only had 9 (exhausted) players but were able to beat the plucky Ewoks 8-6 (if memory serves me correctly <<<EDIT: my team mate Pip has pointed out it was actually 9-8 so clearly my memory is rubbish!>>> ) to win the Bowl and come in 17th place overall – a fantastic achievement!  To add to it, my team voted me as their MIP (Most Improved Player) so I got presented with a special t-shirt at the end of the event (which I’m still wearing now, I hasten to add!).  Seriously, I loved my team!!  Congratulations to the overall winners of the tournament, The Daleks, too.

My different looks

L: Me in my team strip with my Bowl (filled with Mars, Milky Way, Starmix etc). R: In my fancy dress costume, a ‘Men In Black’ themed robot

I also to tell you a bit about the Saturday night.  The DUFFA lot organised a big party in the marquee and asked me to compère it for them.  I was one of their many volunteers anyway so I was happy to help out in any way I could.  We ran some games, gave away a lot of prizes and had a big fancy dress competition (all space themed, naturally!).  One of the games was completely new to me and a brilliant themed idea!  If I said to you how much beer do you think you would be able to pour into an upturned frisbee disc what would you say?  Half a pint?  A pint?  When first asked this I thought it would be just over a pint.  It’s actually a whopping three pints!  Even looking at it now it’s still quite hard to believe but nevertheless it’s true.  The game is called the 3 Pint Challenge (can you guess where this is going?) and involves 2 people getting a straw each and drinking the aforementioned beer as quickly as they can through said straw whilst being timed.  We had 28 pairings taking part and the winners were Kayleigh and Thom with a phenomenal 14.46 seconds!  Unbelievable!  The winner of the fancy dress was Wall-E, narrowly beating A Robot in the final.  Other notable mentions go to Luke Skywalker, Gru & his Minions, Stargate, The Klangers, The Earth and Optimus Prime.

So yes, that was the weekend I’ve just had.  Throw in putting up tents and setting up the pitches all day on Friday plus taking it all back down again on Sunday night and it’s been a hell of an experience.  I literally had painful amounts of fun, my legs don’t work, my face is sunburnt, my left knee is similar to that of a 90 year old arthritic woman and my heels/soles are ripped to shreds… but I wouldn’t change it for the world!  Big shout out to all of my DUFFA friends who invited me into their team with open arms (too many to mention!) plus my Autobots gang: Adam, Alex, Beth, James, Irish James, Jenny, Picky, Pip, Rhiannon, Spoons and our MVP (Most Valuable Player) Toby.

WHAT a weekend.  Roll on DUFFA Hat 2015…

Team with the Bowls - crop

Back (l to r): Irish James, Chris, Pip, Spoons.     Front: Rhiannon, Toby, Beth, Picky, Adam, James, Jenny.     Missing: Alex as he had to catch a flight to Nice!

 

NB.  On Sunday night after we’d finished packing up the site the volunteers were all invited out to what has been dubbed the ‘Victory Curry’.  28 of us went to a curry house in Didsbury for a well deserved meal.  The funniest moment was when were were leaving and we all got to the top stairs (the curry house is on the first floor).  Suddenly everyone started waddling down the stairs like John Wayne as everyones legs were all seized up having been running around for so long, I’m sure the handrail has never had so much use.  From a jovial group of finely tuned athletes all joking around to a bunch of grumbling and moaning whingers in the space of 5 small steps – hilarious!

Intu Charity 5-a-side day

On Sunday I travelled down to Hucknall Town Football Club near Nottingham to compere thintue innaugural intu Charity 5-a-side football tournament and family fun day.  Intu is (as I’m sure you already know) a company that owns and runs a number of shopping centres all across the UK.  I’ve actually worked in most of them over the years hosting events, doing street theatre or even taking to their purpose built stages to perform specially written shows all for the benefit of their loyal shoppers.  Well this time it was a bit different as it was an intu event specifically for intu staff.

In an nutshell it was an inter-intu football competition split into 2 categories: Under 35’s and Over 35’s.  Each shopping centre was given the opportunity to put together a team from the centre staff (be them security, management, cleaners etc) to compete.  In the build up to the event they had already run a northern heat and a southern heat to determine which centres would make it to the Finals.  On the day we had representatives from (going geographically south to north) Bromley, Uxbridge, Watford, Lakeside, Merry Hill, Chapelfield, Potteries, Victoria Centre, Derby, TraffordCentre, Metrocentre & EldonSquare.  My job was continuity between the games, to relay the scores to the crowds, run some competitions and, well, enjoy myself!  I had a prime seat in the centre of the pitch in my commentary box (which had direct access to a rooftop bathed in sunlight and sill in full view of the pitch!) and the lovely folk of Hucknall Town FC kept bringing me tea, coffee, burgers and hot dogs etc – it was fabulous!  The games were all played in great spirits and the eventual winners were the Trafford Centre in the Under 35’s (aka Samurai Blue) and Derby in the Over 35’s (aka Derby & Joan, Jason & Kylie).  Chapelfield (aka The T Birds) and Bromley (aka Samba Stars) were joint winners in the fancy dress competition.

I hope everyone there had as much fun as I did, it truly was a great day out.  I’d like to say a big thank you to Laurie Taylor and Jenny McKenzie from intu Bromley for all their hard work in mounting the event, they should be very proud!

My view!

Emmerdale – 4th time’s a charm!

Today I finished filming my 4th character on the award winning ITV soap opera Emmerdale.  Each time I’ve been on the show it’s been better and more fun, Emmerdale Woolpackthis time was fantastic!  My first time on the show was in 2004 when I played a Policeman.  After that I was a vet called Glynn Walsh and then the Clerk of the Court in a long running murder trial.  This time I’ve been playing a make-up salesman called Julian.

Over the last week I’ve been driving across the Pennines and back regularly to film different scenes.  Obviously I can’t give away any storylines on here (big faux pas) but I’ve worked with some new cast members that I hadn’t met before.  I even bumped into Amy Walsh (my daughter-in-law from panto this Christmas in Harrogate) in the green room one day as she’s in working on the soap for a few months.  Of all the green rooms I’ve worked in the Emmerdale one is by far the nicest.  I don’t mean that in a physical sense (Emmerdalealthough it is very nice) but more in an atmospheric way.  The regulars always come up and introduce themselves and are willing to have a chat with you, unlike some more of the ‘starry’ places I’ve worked.  Although I don’t get affected by nerves some actors really struggle.  A few friendly words from a nice bunch of people goes a long way to settling people down.

The best thing about this latest stint on the show was the fact that I got to go up to the village to film.  for those of you who don’t know, Emmerdale is a fictional village in rural Yorkshire.  The interior scenes are all filmed in the studios in Leeds but the exterior scenes are shot in a purpose built set on the Harewood House estate just north of the city.  It was fantastic to finally get the chance to go there and wander round those famous streets.  The houses are all real (they’re not made of fibreglass and wood!) and they house the offices, dressing rooms, make-up and costume departments, green room etc.  It was bizarre getting changed above the house/shop/pub (can’t specify which as it might give the game away!) that I then went downstairs to film in!

All in all it’s been a belter of a week.  The extended episode that I’m featured in will be aired on Tuesday 29th July.  Set your videos!

Amy & Chris EmmerdaleAmy Walsh and Chris in the Emmerdale Green Room in the Leeds Studios