snow is falling, all around me, children playing, having fun (cos the schools are closed) …

Now this might surprise you – cos it’s not like there has been blanket (no pun intended) rolling news coverage – but it’s a bit snowy up North right now.

It was fun. For a day or so. But the novelty has well and truly worn off.

The guttering has been pulled off the side of the house from the weight of falling sheets of snow, walking anywhere takes frickin’ ages and my boots are really starting to chaff, the post is not being delivered and there is a package I need by Thursday, 3 of the 3 things I had scheduled to do last night were cancelled and I am sick of being bloody freezing.

On the plus, I got to wear my ear muffs today but even it has a downside cos the subsequent slightly-clammy-ears were no fun.

AND there is the possibility that my train journey to London at the end of the week to see But Otherwise Went Well is going to be disrupted. Whaaaaaa?! Fingers crossed, though. Fingers. Crossed.  All the reports from HQ seem positive, the director and actors seem to be enjoying working on the play. Which is good. I just hope I get to see it …

Stupid warm front hitting stupid cold front … **shakes fist at sky (from which, surprise surprise, more of the stuff is currently falling)**

What else? Well, there is loads else but it’s mostly work-in-development and you know I don’t like to go in to that in great detail (jinx).

So. Erm. Rascally Scoundrels won an Award recently. Best New Writing at the Ovation Awards, don’t  you know. Not for a play of mine, but ‘Trust’ by fellow Rascal Roz Wyllie … but I’ll hang off the coat tails until they notice and boot me off.  I couldn’t go to the event in Whitby cos I was in the midst of moving house but they brought home the bacon (aka a small trophy).

Past Glories; Day 129: I delivered Draft #2 yesterday. Based on the read-through my aim was to tighten it all up, esp the last section. I managed to get rid of 7 pages worth, which was pretty good going. Just waiting on getting a meeting together with the director Kath Frazer to discuss it further and see if a final re-draft is required before auditions etc grind in to action. Exciting …

Dobrý den …

It was first mooted as ‘a bit of an idea’ over a coffee in the middle of last year.

By October proposals had been written and forms filled in, and then an email arrived. I still have it. It reads thus:  Dear Ros, Degna and Alison, we are delighted to tell you that your production has been selected to perform at Fringe Festival Praha 2010 …

Blood & Money was alive, scheduled to perform and we hadn’t even written it yet. Gulp.

I’ve kept the website up-to-date with some of the process that followed: extracts from early drafts performed at First In Three; deadlines; preview reading at The People’s Theatre and most recently a preview performance at Live Theatre.

A week after said preview performance we boarded a flight to Prague … well, some of us did. One of our cast had her flights moved about due to the BA strikes, leading to a delightful six-hour solo wait in Brussels Airport, while another followed on the next day. Anyway, I digress. We all made it there in the end.

With 38 shows performing in 7 venues across 9 days there is no time for slacking.

The day after we arrived, two of the company – Jill and Faye – performed a short scene from the play as part of Fringe Sunday. A laid back, good-humoured affair hosted by Fringe co-founders Carole Wears and Steve Gove, it’s an afternoon when companies perform extracts from their plays. The crowd were fantastic, up for a good time and supporting everyone all the way. Our piece went down well – it was a good start. And we were now officially international artistes!

Guide book in hand (in Roz’s hand I hasten to add, if I was put in charge of directions we wouldn’t have made it out of the Apartment building), Roz and I went round local cafes and bars leaving flyers and posters. Unlike at the Edinburgh Fringe, the people of Prague don’t get bombarded on the streets as flyering is illegal. On the one hand this is frustrating because you don’t get to chat to people and see where the flyers are going. On the other it’s fantastic, because I can testify from personal experience that there is nothing so soul destroying as trying to flyer a disinterested public, especially in the pouring rain.

While we spread the word in Old Town and New Town, director Degna led the cast in last minute rehearsals in the Apartment in Mala Strana. They pushed all the furniture out of the way and marked out the size of the stage on the floor. That’s one of the great things about Fringe, it’s pretty ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants theatre! Our actors really rose to the challenges and did us proud.

The show opened on Tuesday 1 June at Divaldo Na Pradle-Kavarna. We had spent the morning convincing ourselves that no one was coming. I tried to drown myself in a glass of Pilsner, while gnawing off what was left of my nails. But amazingly, 3.30pm rolled around and there was an audience. They came. This must be what Kevin Costner meant when he said “if you build it they will come”. They will indeed Kevin, they will indeed. Phew.

And they kept coming. On the Thursday we played to a capacity crowd, which was fantastic, and topped off with a reviewer calling the show “a high point of this year’s Fringe”.

After four performances it was all over. All the work, all the stress, all the money, all the organisation, all the logistics – all folded up with our set and tidied away. It was both the longest and the shortest week of my life. Sitting here now I can’t believe it’s over – that we’ve been and done it and lived to tell the tale.

In hindsight, debuting Rascally Scoundrels at an international Festival was pretty ambitious – Roz, Degna and I did keep catching each other’s eye and laughing at the audacity and stupidity of it all. But, we did it. And any future projects will seem like a doddle in comparison!

Fringe Festival Praha 2010

Some of the highlights: Blood & Money (obv!); that chocolate pancake; Carol, Steve, Giles, Honza and the team; The Harbour; sunshine; visiting the British Embassy; Horse, the views; other people being able to read maps; Municipal House; making it through in one piece …

(Lowlights? A few. Wylliova Tours in the pouring rain; the shows we missed; the crushing disappointment of the Astronomical Clock; there not being enough hours in the day for another pancake)

Blood & Money @ Live Theatre

On 24th May, Blood & Money previewed at Live Theatre. Still half way through rehearsals it was a work-in-progress, but a chance for people to see where we were going with it.

Thanks to the sterling work of director Degna and the cast Jill, Faye and Mat, the show was up on its feet and heading in the right direction.

Hats off to Amy Watts who designed, constructed and delivered our set – based on the concept of ‘ties that bind’ it’s a gorgeous construction of wound wool and string. Beautiful to look at, a nightmare to untangle I expect (not that it will ever happen, and if it does we have scissors and spare wool!)

Thank you to all at Live Theatre, and everyone who came along to support us and donated so generously … x

Some photos from the night … [click] to enlarge:

Blood & Money debuts …

Well. There we are. Blood & Money got its first public airing last night. And it was goooood. Phew.

A while back we (as in Rascally Scoundrels, not the Royal ‘we’) applied to First In Three – a monthly event at Northern Stage that gives artists the chance to showcase new work or work-in-progress. In January we were told we’d been selected as one of five performances on the February bill. Yikes! No cast, still on early drafts. But, nothing like a performance in front of the paying public to get the ball rolling!

A casting call was put out. We were lucky enough to audition a great group of actors and it was a very tough choice. In the end we plumped for Anna Bolton, Jill Dellow and Mat Hobbins. We are having the same cast for both plays, so the trio will play two roles each.

Jump to a rainy Sunday in mid-February and we all get together at Live for our one rehearsal day.

We read both scripts in full, but the focus will be on the extracts we’ve selected for First In Three. With about 15 mins each, we’re doing from the beginning-ish of Roz’s and from the middle-ish of mine. The extract I have chosen is too short so am duly dispatched to a computer to work up the piece from an earlier point. I try not to panic and eat an egg sandwich.

Ably led by our director Degna, the day goes well and we all disperse feeling confident. Kind of. The nerves are never far off.

Jump to a rainy Wednesday (at least it didn’t snow) and we find ourselves at Northern Stage. Luckily for us, the group scheduled in before us haven’t turned up – so we get a whole hour in the space to rehearse on top of our allocated hour for tech rehearsal. This is a good sign, surely.

Word is it’s a sell out. I hoover up Anna’s chips (she didn’t want them) and try not to lapse in to a coma of terror. Actually, I am uncharacteristically calm. The cast are great, Degna’s done us proud, the event organiser as already told us how much she enjoyed the pieces in rehearsal.

But. I am never calm. I decide to worry about not being worried.

In the end it goes a dream. They split us up, so my Blood opens the night and Roz’s Money closes it. The audience seem happy. They laugh in the right places. Don’t laugh in the right places. They dutifully scribble on their feedback forms.

We presented the pieces script-in-hand, just to cement the fact that these are works-in-progress. The night gave food for thought, so I’ll squirrel the script away for a bit and (hopefully) emerge with a new and improved version in the not too distant future …

Thanks to Degna, the cast, Roz and the team at Northern Stage.

BELOW some [slightly blurry] photos taken during First In Three reheasals:

'Blood' - Susan (Jill Dellow) & Elle (Anna Bolton)

'Blood' - Susan (Jill Dellow) & Chris (Mat Hobbins)

'Blood' - Elle (Anna Bolton) sees the light!

'Blood' - Susan (Jill Dellow) & Elle (Anna Bolton)

[photos kindly taken by Roz on her swish-swoo BlackBerry cos we are both rubbish and forgot our cameras]