Ups and Downs

cast and crew.jpg2017 started so well with my delightful trip to Barcelona (see previous post)  and then the beginning of rehearsals for Steel Magnolias. I was blessed with a wonderful cast and crew and it was an exhilarating feeling to be back at the Neath Little Theatre and involved in my first directorial production in almost 12 years. So it was full steam ahead.

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My fabulous cast 

Steel Magnolias is a beautiful play. It was a great film but in my opinion, the play is a better option. The film is a watered down version of the play in that we meet many different characters and visit a variety of locations. In the play we meet the 6 main characters only and the story develops from the conversations that take place in one setting. We learn about their relationships with their partners, families and friends from the sometimes hilarious conversations they have while assembled at Truvy’s Hair Salon in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana on a Saturday morning. The action unfolds here. We are the onlookers as these ladies prepare themselves for the social events of their lives: weddings, funeral, parties. Here they are applying their public faces while at the same time revealing their very private selves by confessing their deepest fears, greatest hopes and heaviest burdens. It is a beautiful play – a bittersweet, tragicomedy, fulfilling experience. If you get the opportunity to catch a production in your area, then do so  and don’t let anyone say that it is a play for women only. Men need to see this play, too!

My wonderful set courtesy of Paul and Lee and thank you to Tony of Nine Croft Road and Celtic Prop Hire for the props.

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Towards the end of the rehearsal time, I ironically found myself embroiled  in a tragic drama all of my own. It was a Saturday evening at the end of February at 11:30pm. I was comfortably catching up on Series 2 of Broadchurch and could hear what I believed to be  the doors banging upstairs, caused, as I thought at the time, by a draught due to the open windows in the bedrooms. When the banging became a nuisance I decided to resolve the problem once and for all by pausing Broadchurch, climbing the stairs and closing all open windows.  I reached the landing only to find the upstairs bathed in a golden light which I couldn’t fathom for the life of me. Looking out of the  bathroom window I discovered that the golden light was coming from huge, raging orange flames shooting out of the camper van and the car. They were both ablaze. This caught me completely off guard and very slowly panic started to creep in. I couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. Instinct made me rush for the phone, dial 999 and get the fire engine to the house as soon as humanly possible.  I could not begin to imagine what would happen next!! There was banging, popping, fizzing and all sorts of firework sounds coming from the scene!! The flames were stretching higher and higher and there was NOTHING I could do! After what seemed like an eternity the engine arrived only to find that it couldn’t get down to the house from the top of our drive and therefore the hose had to be unravelled, attached to a hydrant and dragged some 150 yards to the vehicles. Barred from going outside the back door, I sat helplessly at my kitchen table in despair! By 3am, the fire was out and the shock of the evening set in. A sobbing me thanked the police and the firefighters for their efforts and away they went leaving me grieving pitifully the loss of by life companions. For those who read my blogs and know me, you will know that my van, aka Vin Diesel, has been a prominent feature in our lives over the past 18 months and now, he was gone!! Gone!

I was heartbroken. I am still hertbroken. The van was also packed ready for our next trip. Camping equipment, awning, tables chairs, bedding, karting overalls, helmets, winter coats, clothes, jackets, you name it – it was in the van. The car was also reasonably packed with clothing, bedding, chairs, duvets, pillows and things that are just left in a car! All gone up in flames.  Seeing them both in ruins was so difficult. Watching them being towed away was heart wrenching. The fire caused damage to the driveway, the electric cables, my hot tub and the guttering and windows of the house, but thankfully, nobody was hurt and we were lucky to get away relatively lightly.

van 3  van 8

van 5  van 7van 6  van 4

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Two months down the line I am still vanless. The insurance companies have been wonderful and peace has been restored. However, I miss my dear little van so much. I drive around in my new car and see VW campers cheerfully zipping down the roads heading for fun holidays and feel such a pang of longing. I am keeping an eye out for a new one as I have become accustomed to  being a proud and happy ‘Dubber’ so, as they say, watch this space.

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The best is yet to come. I’m retired! 

 

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The Prima Donna Years

Good afternoon. We are now well into October  and having a beautiful week here during my favourite season! ‘ Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’  to quote Keats. The poem, Ode to Autumn, by the way, according to the Guardian, is apparently the most anthologised English poem.

I am now getting ready for another project! Directing a play!! I have recently been having a hankering after a past that did not materialise! I have always wanted to be an actress  or work in theatre – well I did when I was a teenager! I would spend hours locked in my room playing the part of great tragic heroines. I would make up words as I went along and my characters were mostly based on films I’d watched or historic characters I had read about or heard about at school! In reality, the most tragic part about the whole thing was that I would think of all kinds of sad things to make myself cry while acting out the paInn_of_the_Sixth_Happiness-1958-MSS-poster-5rts before my death!! The greatest part I played to my audience of no one was that of Gladys Aylward after watching the film ‘Inn of the Sixth Happiness’! Oh my, how I protected those children from the shootings and saved them all by covering as many of them as I could using my body as their protective armour, huddled right there, on my bedroom floor!  And then the denouement –  my strapping, strong, tanned, handsome love interest, having been made aware of the shooting, would find me draped over the surviving children and take me in his strong, warm arms whispering words of love, tears pouring down his grief-stricken face as I smile at him and breathe my last breath! Waaah!

And then there was the true story of the very brave Violette Szabo, portrayed in the 1958 220px-carvehernamepridefilm ‘Carve Her Name with Pride’ which is based on her life working for the Special Operations Executive during World War II as a spy. Violette subsequently was captured, tortured and executed by the Germans. I threw myself heart and soul into that role, feeling her pain and her fear, and would recite with great passion, the poem used in the film as the passing on of secret codes, to whoever would listen!! And here it is:-

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

By Leo Marks

Other heroines I acted our were Anne Boleyn after watching the film  3726101  Anne of a Thousand Days 7 times. Kneeling on the old footstool in my bedroom with my hair tied up and speaking words of comfort to my executioner and just longing and hoping and waiting for Richard Burton to barge into the room in his knee length dress and fur cape, halt the execution and wrap me in his arms and carry me away on horseback  to the palace where I would be reunited with Elizabeth and change history forever, but of course that was not to be! And then there was Joan of Arc but I changed the end of her story due to my fear of fire!!

And so, back to present day and reality! When I felt strong and well enough I returned to Neath Little Theatre (NLT) my local amateur dramatic company. I have been a member since the early 90s but with the birth of my son and promotion at work, it got more and more difficult to keep being involved and therefore I took a 7 year gap – but now I’m back!! In December last year I helped out witdancingh a production of Dancing at Lughnasa which was performed in March and ran for a week, then I directed my own short one act play, Bar and Ger by Geraldine Aron.  poster

 

 

Now I have committed to directing Steel Magnolias in March next year and have already begun working on it. There is so much to cover when directing a play and the standards at NLT are very high so no pressure! I need to begin by sorting out the cast, the set, the production team, auditions, and then of course rehearsals and costumes etc etc I am really looking forward to it and have plenty of time these days to give it my all. The play will run for a week at the beginning of March! It may seem ages to go yet but it will be upon us in no time so what am I doing sitting here telling you all about it while I should be at my desk sorting out auditions for next week!!

Enjoy your journey and we will meet up again soon at the next Pit Stop!

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