My dad, the magician blog
A scratch/sharing today at 4pm went well. This was of stuff we had not really tried before. It went well and was a different atmosphere to the last sharing at Omnibus three weeks ago. That sharing we had 40 school children. This one we had 5 children and 5 adults. It was more the example of how it will probably be in arts centres on tour. I enjoyed it. Things that worked:
Things I have learnt:
Andy and Laura are as always asking the right questions. I don't know the answers yet but it's pushing me on.
Night night. See you Monday.
I am here at South Street Arts Centre, Reading. So are Andy and Laura. However, I need to write content. They need to hear what I have written. Whilst I am writing,they are listening to recordings of my stepdad and Mum talking about all manner of things relating to this project, such as me, magic, bringing up four kids, loving each other, how they first met, living in Cornwall in 1991. They report back to me with their findings and then it goes into more writings. We are a good team.
If you were to walk into our rehearsal room, it might look like we are working on separate things but we are all working for the same goal. I really like our ideas.
This show needs ideas.
Today and yesterday was weird but productive. Weird in the sense that we are not working full steam ahead on the surface but our minds are constantly thinking about it. I like to think, just because you are not working on something, doesn't mean you are not working on it. Anyway, I go to bed. It's day ten tomorrow. Must rest.
Night night. Tom, xxx
It's Tuesday. We are in week 2 of the development. We gave ourselves a day to get to Reading yesterday and we achieved that.
We are in Reading. South Street Arts Centre's Macdevitts Room which is a lovely vaulted, high ceiling space. There is room to spread out. I have a special table for my drum machine.
It was a good day today. I like Laura and Andy questioning and discussing the show so far. We are finding out what the show is about. The show is called 'My Dad, the Magician' but it might be about my Mum just as much. It's interesting what comes out when you don't push.
I am enjoying the story coming out before our eyes. Keep on getting to know our subject. Ian is the subject. I am examining him. So far, I have been interviewing him in person with a voice recorder quietly sitting on the table beside him. This has brought an overall understanding but I want to get a little deeper. A bit more vulnerable. I think he would prefer to answer questions via email. This would give him the chance to be alone and take his time. It feels strange pushing someone I know very well, into a place they might not want to go.
Andy has written me a list of questions for Ian which helps give me some remove and Laura is going to interview my Mum over the phone. I like this. Collaborators helping me out. I can't do it alone.
Night night for now. See you tomorrow.
I do feel that I am doing something I am not sure how I am going to do and that is good. It is making me question and think up ideas that I would not normally think of. It is making me work harder.
We had a little time in the space before the 1.30pm sharing to the school party. This gave me time to pace about, get my music stuff together, have a bread roll, have some grapes, record Horace's voice. Horace is the rabbit I speak to during the show. Come and see the show and find out more.
I have been in family shows before and enjoyed it very much. This is the first time I have performed for them on my own with my own material and I had no idea how to pitch it. Some good advice came from Twitter. Just be yourself, people said. That was nice of people.
I saw the children outside the window coming into the theatre and I did get a wave of fear. When you see children in the flesh en masse they are so interesting and if you are about to perform for them, unnerving. Be myself. Be myself. Hi. Thanks for coming. Thanks for coming. Good to see you. That's it, sit down. Lovely.
To do a little warm up and get them laughing, basically please like me, I let them speak into the microphone and I changed their voices with a pitch lowering effect. They laughed. Phew. Phew. They like me.
Okay let's start the show...
I think it went well. People from Omnibus said it went really well. I enjoyed it a lot. More than I could have hoped. I learnt loads.
They want to see an actual rabbit
Having an assistant playing the drums is good fun
Interaction is good. More of this please
They are impressed with my magic tricks (wow)
7-11 age range is an interesting one. Will challenge me in how I make a show for them
That's it for the minute. I had a latte and a brownie as a treat to myself.
I had a pint and macaroni cheese for dinner.
See you in Reading in a couple of weeks for Weeks 2 and 3.
Yes, it is day four. That was just my way of making a snappy title. Good ideas came today. Andy, Laura and I have a good chemistry. Questions are not afraid to be asked. The story is being emotionally tested. We are all still friends. I am outside of my comfort zone in terms of wondering how I perform for children. I will find out tomorrow with the little preview we have. I am nervous about the magic tricks but what is the worst that can happen. There will be 42 blank faces looking at me and I won't be able to rely on my usual tics such as staring back at the audience with a smile.
Anyway, today Andy made an amazing Guess Who style model of Ian and his two different jobs of being a policeman and then a magician. I like this story we are making. I have to remind myself that we are making a story that actually happened and it is emotionally rich for me. The fact that he was a policeman, then retired through injury, then became a policeman. Why did he do this? I will ask my Dad, Ian more questions next week but essentially I think we have something good and whole.
In the morning, Laura said I should I present my tricks to her and Andy for practice. So, I did. The three rope trick went down well. It is magic. The pouch one took a bit more jigging about but the story wasn't quite right for the trick. Once we got the right story, the trick worked great. Magic and stories, I tell ya.
In the afternoon, we split up into 3 groups.
Laura wrote the script for Horace the Rabbit.
I made a list of all the soundscapes I want to make for the show e.g. Spooky Burglar House, Garden and Kitchen and started making these with my loop station and drum kit.
Andy built a scaled down version of Ian my step Dad that was like a giant Guess Who character. Guess the Job sort of game. It will all become clear, I am sure.
Today was fun.
I got home and showed the three rope trick to my Mother in Law, who I am staying with. It worked on her and she said it was very clever. Put that on the poster.
Let it be known that I am now a magician. I can do magic. I do tricks. And the look on Laura's face today when I did a trick and she was impressed was very satisfying. I have found my way in to learning new tricks. Just give the trick a good story and that will make the audience invest and believe in what you want them to believe. I learnt two new tricks - one was the three rope trick and told the story of me and my two brothers and how my Mum loves us all equally (at this point I make the ropes all go the same size...oooooooooooohhhhh) and the other one was the disappearing love letter trick. I put the love letter that my step-dad Ian first sent to Mum into a magic basket and then change the colour which is the reply from my Mum. It is simple and lovely and then they get married with some confetti coming from somewhere cool.
Tricks and stories. That was my breakthrough today.
How was it going to go? Would Andy and Laura work well together? Had I learned lessons from previous shows and not made it too technical with my musical gadgets? I think I can say yes. Andy and Laura are so good in the rehearsal room. Laura brings a fantastic structural mind brimming with ideas and Andy brings flashes of pure inspiration that are structurally sound. I feel good to be in the room with them. This children's theatre making is easy.
I am enjoying not having my guitar with me. I will make new sounds in different ways than I have done before. I am using a cassette player as an instrument. We looked at the old Commodore 64 sounds and music and were inspired. These are going to be in the show. We are looking at who I was in 1991 when this show is set. I was 11 and played computer games, watched telly with my Dad and went to school. Oh yeah, I should mention that my Dad is my Step-Dad but I call him my Dad to other people and Ian when I am speaking to him. I have known him since I was 8.
I played football occasionally with my two older brothers. Talking of brothers, I have adapted one of Ian's magic tricks, the three rope trick into a story about how he loved us all the same. I keep dropping the ropes at the moment but hopefully, the misdirection of the story will mean you won't mind what happens.
Take care, Tom.
I start rehearsals tomorrow. I am feeling good about this show. I am working with a brilliant team. Laura Mugridge, who I am very close with. Andy Purves who has such a good brain and eye for working out story and logistics. He is cool. Amy Nicholson is designing my costume and she will make something just right.
This show has been in the planning for the last 2 years. Ever since my Dad and I had an argument for the first time in our lives. A proper argument. One where I was actually going to punch him. My brother stepped in and took me for a three hour walk around Falmouth. I came home and my Dad was in floods of tears. The argument was over something really small: I hadn't made a toasted sandwich correctly for him and I told him to 'fuck off' and that I wanted an apology. Him being an ex-copper, he wasn't used to giving apologies so he stood up and faced up to me. I was scared but also so angry. Something in me had really snapped.
Anyway, tomorrow, I start making a children's theatre show. Wish me luck.