diary

 

Wednesday 4th July 2001
Independence Day

The American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, is set to the tune of an English drinking song ("To Anacreon in Heaven"). There's an irony in there somewhere. I am writing this on a cloudy rainy Independence Day. Everyone is hoping the rain holds off for the barbeques and fireworks for later tonight. I am planning to go to the Jersey side of the river to watch the fireworks over Manhattan.

Well finally we are in our New York theatre. 45 Bleeker Street Theatre is a pretty good off-Broadway space. First of all it has the advantage of being in the village and on Bleeker Street which is a very buzzy little area. Here is the Actors Studio, Jazz club, Blues club and many swish cafes and bars. The theatre is right outside the Bleeker Street subway. It is also an art gallery. The outside is not very spectacular and is dominated by the huge Much Ado poster which is backlit and is beginning to fade in the sun. It also has air conditioning, which although quite noisy is a huge bonus especially since the temperature this week in the city has reached 100 degrees. The space itself is very roomy. It has a wide performing space and it seats around 350. The only drawback are the pillars that are in front of the acting space which are typical to all these old warehouse buildings in this area. The Tisch theatre has exactly the same problem. But the space is so wide that it really doesn't matter. The plain white cloth at the back has now been replaced by a huge Union Jack which is backlit. The stools are now at the side of the stage instead of the back and are placed among very stylish mannequins wearing the black dark clothing of Beau Brummel. The BMW new Mini is yet to arrive and will be placed to stage right, so that will give you some idea of the width. The whole impression is very chic and stylish. Peter has done a great job with the lights stretching the board to its limits. The dressing rooms are beneath the stage. They are tiny, but there are showers which is nice surprise. Reminds me of The Goodbye Girl. Expect Nicol Williamson to appear any minute. The main cellar is right below the auditorium is in the process of being renovated. This serves as an atmospheric green room for pre-show banter.

After a brief break after the tour we were thrown into the a completely mad and tiring pre-production week. The tiredness was compounded by the weather becoming very hot and humid. Any movement produced copious sweating, and this was even with the air conditioning working overtime. The techs were tedious. We had to change quite a lot of the movement and the setting of the props were a nightmare as they now had to be placed in and around the mannequins. A dress Wednesday night, a dress Thursday afternoon, 1st preview on Thursday, preview on Friday night, then two shows Saturday & Sunday proved a punishing schedule. The First preview went well, but changes that involved some of the comedy proved with a very hot and tired Friday audience a bit of a setback. Some compromises were reached over the next few shows, culminating in a very good show for the Beau Brummel Fashion Night.


Peter seemed very pleased about the show and very keen to input his ideas on the performing side. Robert was less energetic as he had to move at the weekend and into an apartment he hadn't seen. He says it needs painting throughout and I suggested that we should go like the Amish in Witness and have a painting party. It would be done in no time. It was he and Dionne's wedding anniversary on the Monday. They have a wonderful thing that they do together. They both have alarms on their watches which are set to go off at midnight. When this happens - together or apart - wherever they are, they wiggle their toes. So if they are apart... their toes are in unison. Romantic fools!

Had clam chowder for the first time. Delicious. And a Manhattan (in Manhattan) which was lethal.

Lori came over on Thursday night. We haven't seen each other for five weeks and it was a blessing to have her around again. Immediately felt calmer about everything. On the Friday night, after the show, we met up with Paul Kerryson and his partner Simon. Had Cosmopolitans in their Japanese hotel with a Japanese jazz band. A very jolly night. They had got into to see The Producers only because it was announced Nathan Lane wasn't on that night. Apparently limousines would pull up and then seeing Mr Lane wasn't performing, drive straight on. $100 is nothing to those people I suppose. Paul and Simon loved the show. They had been to see Follies the night before, guests of Stephen Sondheim who entertained them at his house beforehand. Apparently that show is a little disappointing.

Lori, Jim and Jack came to see the show on Sunday night. It was a smallish audience as we are still in previews, but was encouraged that they all loved the play. Lori said it seemed like it should be in a better space. Peter was very charming and attentive with them which was much appreciated. Peter and Robert are worried about the choice of reviewer for NY Times. the good news is that it will be prominent and immediate; the bad news... they think he has a reputation of not liking anything avant guarde. I tried to reassure them that anything could happen... he could be ill that particular night... and a saw gleam in Peter's eye as if he thought there might be a way to bring that about.

Test drove a new beetle with Lori. It was gold with a powered sunroof and alloy wheels and was a thing of dangerous beauty. Want one!

The Beau Brummel Night was a hoot. Peter had lined up English food like Walkers Crisps, Egg Cress sandwiches and copious bottles of wine. Speeches were made before the show and we came on to see all the Beau Brummel sopranos sitting in the front row dressed identically. The interval took half an hour, and although they took a while to tune in and get over the resentment of the play interrupting the party - with the help of the alcohol, they relaxed and a good time was had by all.

Lori and I stayed in Manhattan that night, and the following day took a trip to the theatre where Mama Mia is opening in October. Cats had been there for years, and they are having to renovate the whole auditorium and put back the proscenium arch. We took a few pics for the London cast back home. In NY they have a huge Mama Mia poster which covers both sides of the theatre. Lori looked wistful. We then went over to Astoria, Queens to see Alex and ShirleyAnn who took us on a guided tour of the area. The N Train goes through the middle of the main thoroughfare... vis a vis French Connection. The area is very Greek and for a moment we could have been back in Cyprus again.

Lori got a cab out to Kennedy Airport and I went home and felt nauseous. Don't know if this was psychosomatic or not, but Jim was concerned enough to send out for Pizza and hot chicken wings. Cheered myself up by watching my first DVD - The Sound of Music. One of the most important films for me because I went to see it with my mother in London as a special treat. This was very soon after my parents' divorce and I was seven. I fell in love with it. I remember when it was re-released when I was sixteen and I invited a girl out on a date to see it. I don't know why I was so surprised that she didn't show up. I fulfilled an ambition to play Cpt Von Trapp at Leicester three years ago. It was a fabulous production and we were very naughty and just re-wrote the book (which is dreadful) and went to the film for inspiration. It is a wonderful feeling to fulfill an ambition. I have one left which is the RSC.

Anyway to see the film on DVD was like seeing an old friend completely refreshed. The colors are vibrant, the image is crystal clear and the sound is awesome. It came on two discs and had documentaries, trailers, a narrative by the director, storyboards, posters, games... etc.. It is the most wonderful technology and a thing of great wonder and beauty.

My brother, Robin, got married today to the lovely Julie. I wish them all happiness and love. Felt strange that I couldn't be there.

 

Monday 9th July 2001

Don't feel as centered when Lori's not around, but will just have to keep working hard so I don't dwell on her not being here. She's back in four weeks which is not so bad. It must be hard for her when she so wants so badly to come home. Shows going ok. We had two pictures in Time Out this week. One was an advert and another was an extra from the picture editor. Everyone still nervous about the NY Times reviewer. Apparently he's now coming on the Wednesday, which is still a preview and the first show after two days off.

The audiences are much better when they're younger. We have a lot of older ones in previews who belong to The Theatre Development Fund and so can get much cheaper tickets. On Wednesday Cameron mistimed the laundry and so the shirts were damp. Uncomfortable at first, but we sweat so much that very soon we didn't notice.

I went to Robert's new apartment on Saturday night to have a look at the room I would be letting out. A little put off by it being so close to Harlem, dirty streets, the bell not working and the rat I saw in the street outside which was as big as a small cat. However inside it's certainly not bad at all. The room itself is small and reminds me of the room I had in Kennington in Rachel Sanders' flat before her boyfriend burnt it down. (Another story) Anyway had far too much wine that night, got to bed too late and regretted it all the next day for the two shows. When will I learn? The next day the journey took me 35 mins door to door. From Jersey it takes 1hr 55mins.

Got a letter from Gemma Jones (who was in Bridget Jones Diary). She said she didn't work for nine months recently. I find that hard to believe. She's just about to go into rehearsals for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Frances O'Connor, Ned Beatty and Brendan Fraser for the West End. I'm hoping she'll come to New York with it. Got a card from Helena Kaut-Howson (wonderfully eccentric Polish theatre director)too. She asked if there had been a stage version of The Postman Always Rings Twice. There isn't, but Harry Connick jnr is writing a musical based on a modern New Orleans' set-up of Therese Raquin. It's in workshop development stage at the moment. I think that's called Synchronicity.

I walked back most nights. Jim always asleep on the sofa of course. Rarely goes to bed until everyone is in. Ahhh.

Alex and Shirley-Ann very excited on the Sunday. They had to been with brunch with their friends and had seen... Vinny Jones. This was thrilling for Alex being a big soccer fan. Shirley-Ann went a little gooey and said he had beautiful eyes. The warm up was delayed because all the Brits were in hysterics!

Picked up a paper on the train into work which I thought was the New York Times. It turned out to be the Philadelphia Enquirer. On the front page of the arts section it had an article on the Philly drama awards. Spin by Robert Sherwood which played at the Wilma was listed in the top ten productions - the only new play to do so. I played the candidate in the London production. E-mailed Robert, who replied straight away. It seems he knew nothing about it. I was really pleased for him as I admire his writing and extremely happy to be the bearer of good news. Would love to do one of his plays in New York. May be one day. I saw also that Adam Grupper who played Jerry won best actor.

So drinks all round then! Mario, one of the young interns came up to me and said: 'So you were in Dr Who..." It turns out that he used to watch it as a kid. They're everywhere. A woman was fast asleep in the front row on Thursday night. It made me come out with complete rubbish in one scene. Most disconcerting! Late night on Friday. Nate had a surprise birthday bash. Nate very touched that people turned up.

Of course I will do whatever is needed on The Tempest tour coz Peter now says I'll be leading the company. Hmm. It's hard being a grown-up sometimes. Getting very nervous about all the workshops I'll be called on to do.

Coming back on Sunday and saw the Man in the Moon. I thought I was hallucinating at first. But there it was... - a definite face. I have never seen that before.

Wonderful moment on Sunday when an old lady got up from her seat in the middle of the first Don John scene, walked across the front of the stage towards the rest-rooms which are off-stage right. Unfortunately she got held up by the mannequins which are placed at the side, and was heard in the dark to cry to them. "I can't find my way to the lavatory!"

Probably the reason I later came out with this classic line: "And as I wooed for thee to disgrace her, I will join with thee to... um... disgrace her." Jim and Jack are away this week, so I have the house to myself. I'm taking the opportunity to learn the Tempest and just to chill out. I know that come July 23rd, there will be no rest until the end of November

 

Sunday 15th July 2001

This week began with the calm before the storm. I took full advantage of my Jersey base and rested up with the Tempest script, slowly cramming the lines into my head. But this was the opening week, and just to throw something else into an already stressful scenario, the mini arrived on Monday. This meant extra rehearsal on the Tuesday, as we had to work all the ideas Robert had thought up of how to incorporate the new star. Of course with the critics coming on Wednesday and Thursday nights, us actors weren't best pleased having our patterns and scenes completely changed. One of the scenes was completely revamped. This scene that had us at a dinner table I think we must have spent over 8 hours on in the rehearsal period. At a stroke it was gone. It left you wondering if it was any good in the first place and grieving for the waste of time. The cast grumbled their way through an arduous evening rehearsal. The show was quickly renamed Much Ado About a Mini. The mini by the way turned out to be an original 1960s model rather than the BMW we had been expecting. It was also bright yellow. And so to the Wednesday show, our last preview... But we expected the Times critic.

The show was fine. Only Time Out and Backstage come to review. The good news was that the Times was coming on Thursday and it wasn't going to be Bruce Webber after all, but Anita Gates who's much kinder and so everyone was mightily relieved. As for the show... well it was a bit surreal... we were all a bit nervous and conscious of the car all the time, but Robert and Peter seemed very pleased. I got through it really, and didn't mess up, which sometimes is the best thing. The others had been up since 9. for a 50 min version of the Iliad at the Lincoln Center. Into rehearsal for 1 at Bleecker street, back to the Lincoln Center at 4 to get ready for a 5 o'clock show of the Iliad, and then came straight back to do evening show of Much Ado. Everyone dead on their feet, and of course because of all the anxiety about the bloody mini, everyone was wired and couldn't get to sleep till 3. I Saw The Iliad today. I felt I should, not only because my fellow actors were getting up at the crack of dawn and I felt I should show some support, but also because will be telling the next story in The Wrath of Achilles. It was absolutely brilliant. Very very exciting. I was so proud of them. It just re-enforced that despite all the madness, the work that comes out at the end of it all is very special. The wife sent me chocolates that were covering fresh strawberries. Delicious.

And so to the first night. If you wanted a dream first night, well this was the one. The audience was enthusiastic from the start and we were just so pleased to be opening at last. Here's my entry later that night.

It's 2.20 in the morning and I'm home in Jersey... and Hurrah!!! The first night was a complete triumph. We flew and took the audience with us. There may have been a few students in and rentacrowd there, but the show was so shit hot that the rest came along for the ride. I was right on the money and the scenes with Louis and I were electric. Standing ovation at the end and champagne (Moet & Chandon) from Peter at the end. I had lots of nice compliments. (Charismatic, and looking like Russell Crowe were just a couple... haha) Just needed my wife to be with me to protect me from the hordes of female admirers!! But she was with me in spirit because before the show I received the most beautiful bouquet of flowers from her. Had an absolute ball. Apparently the woman from the Times was laughing... so we will see. We had a great little party in the foyer afterwards. Met my Miranda who seemed perfect for the part. To have an opening night in New York was romantic, exciting and great fun. Just needed my mum to be there so I could say: "My mother loved it everyone!" (The Goodbye Girl again)

This was probably written when I may have been suffering a little from too much champagne. But you get the flavor of the night. It was a shame that Time Out and Backstage couldn't have been there.

Alex went to put his trousers on after the show and a mouse shot out from underneath them and into a hole in the wall. This with the little red gnats has turned our dressing-rooms area into a quite a hostile animal sanctuary. The mouse was nicknamed Suree by Alex.

The following day the little red gnats had practically taken over the dressing-room and a dead mouse was found outside them with maggots crawling out of it. Much mourning for Suree. Alex heartbroken - not helped by my singing: "Suree with the Maggots on Top Oh the romance of the Off Broadway actor. The show definitely has a buzz about it. People have been talking... you could feel it in the audience. I think we may have a hit... what did Olivier says... it smelt of Brighton and candyfloss!!

Two Internet reviews came out… both very good. But everyone is holding their breath on The Times.

Robert stormed into the second show at the interval like a football coach. "For God's sake smile… you're all so fucking miserable…. You're giving up on them." I remember I always used to take issue with my Rugby master at boarding school on comments flying around about my team during a match. (I was captain) Sometimes you have to be on the pitch to size up the opposition. The audiences on Saturday and Sunday were small and quiet… but then really appreciative at the end. But it made the four shows on those two days very hard work especially after such a grueling week.

On Sunday night I was just thinking about going to sleep when I decided just to check the New York Times website. I immediately became wide-awake when I realized that the review was there. Hardly daring to look, I nervously clicked on the web page. It was a good as you could wish for. Hurrah for us!! So pleased for Robert and Peter… well… for all of us. It was what we had all been working for. Should give the company and us the boost and more importantly the energy for the run and for The Tempest and Wrath of Achilles. Hooray, Hooray!!

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