25 July 2011

When the Rain Stops Falling: It is a beautiful play

Actor Richard Chapman returns to Circa for the third time this year (after August: Osage County and The Lead Wait) to take on the 'mesmerizing' Andrew Bovell play, When the Rain Stops Falling. He stops by to tell drama on the waterfront all about his favourite play of the three, and also shares about his time in Japan teaching music and arranging for the Tokyo Philharmonic.

DOTW: What is the basic story of When the Rain Stops Falling?

RC: Set from 1959 to 2039, the story follows four generations of a family and moves between England and Australia. It is an examination of nature versus nurture and the effect we have on our own future through our intentions. Whether knowingly or unknowingly.

DOTW: What can you tell us about your character? What challenges are involved in playing this character?

RC: I play two characters and they are the link between the English side of the family and the Australian side. I play my own grandfather. The older character, Gabriel, leaves his mother in London and travels to Australia to retrace the steps of his father who he hasn’t seen since he was 7. Later, I play the grandson of the Gabriel character who is visiting his father who he also hasn’t seen since he was 7.

Sounds confusing, but that is the beauty of this play. It jumps quickly between generations and countries; which is a convention we are used to seeing in films but not so on stage. Therein lies the challenge; keeping track of where, when, and who I am.

DOTW: What can you tell us about the rest of the cast and director, Sue Wilson?

RC: Having worked with Sue on a few occasions now I’ve noticed that her great strength is casting. This is truly an ensemble piece and the complicit√© of the cast is very important. Sue has once again assembled a great cast each with their own strengths. We all work very well together and there are no egos ruining things. As a director Sue is great at having an in depth understanding of the play as a whole. She knows exactly what is where and who is who, which is really important in a play that jumps around like this one.

DOTW: I understand that you lived in Japan for a few years – what did you do there?

RC: I went over with my wife who was posted there as a NZ diplomat. I had great ideas of doing nothing and being a kept man. Alas, no such concurrence was reached with my wife and I was cruelly thrown into the work force. I tried to get a job as an English teacher like everyone does but apparently the grasp I had of my native tongue wasn’t good enough. Luckily, I happened upon a much better job as a music teacher in The British School in Tokyo. I brought the language of love to children aged 3–18. It was a fantastic place to work and a great job. It took me to several places around Asia and gave me great opportunities to do things I never would have imagined. The thing I’m most proud of doing over there was arranging a couple of pieces that the Tokyo Philharmonic played.

DOTW: What brought you back to New Zealand to take up acting again? Do you have a preference between acting and music?

RC: Our time in Tokyo was always finite. The posting was just 4½ years. I had decided very early on that, despite very much enjoying my job, I didn’t want to continue as a teacher. I was also unable to act in Japan to the degree that I was in NZ prior to leaving. The language was one issue but the main reason was that I just didn’t look like anyone else. I would have been pigeon holed into one area that didn’t appeal to me. My time in Japan teaching music was more of a hiatus from acting. It did, however, rekindle my love for music. I majored in composition at Victoria University and it will always be my first love. I have no preference between the two, acting or music, but for the time being I’m pursuing acting.

DOTW: This will be your third play this year at Circa (after August: Osage County and The Lead Wait); what can audience members expect from When the Rain Stops Falling?

RC: When the Rain Stops Falling is my favourite of the three. The audience can expect to be mesmerized. It is a beautiful play. 

When the Rain Stops Falling opens in Circa One on 30 July, and runs until 27 August. Tickets are available now, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz

18 July 2011

An Oak Tree: "It’s fucking brilliantly written!"

Tim Spite takes a moment from the daunting task of being the only actor in An Oak Tree who actually knows the script to tell drama on the waterfront about the challenges, the highlights and the mishaps of this intriguing and original play.

DOTW: What is the basic premise of An Oak Tree?

TS: A father loses his daughter when she’s hit by a car, possibly her fault. He can’t accept her death; he returns to the scene by the road and in his mind turns a nearby oak tree into his daughter. He later visits a hypnotist for help. Turns out the hypnotist was already involved.

The actor who plays the father has never seen the script before; a new actor every night.

Michele Amas before taking a turn as the guest actor in An Oak Tree.
DOTW: What was the rehearsal process like? How could you rehearse without another actor who knows the script?

TS: Lonely. I had so many lines to learn and so many more lines and directions to learn for the guest actor. My stage manager played the other part for several weeks. By the end of rehearsals she knew the part better than I did. We had to brace ourselves for the first performance with someone entirely new, and, sure as eggs, unprecedented things started happening which were very challenging.

DOTW: The concept seems like it would be quite challenging for an actor; what has been the biggest challenge of performing this play?

TS: Having to think of the other actor and show a duty of care. I usually couldn’t care less about what the other actors are going through as long as they give me my cue lines. Showing a duty of care to another actor as well as yourself needs a much more intense concentration than usual.

DOTW: How have the guest actors responded to An Oak Tree? Have there been any stand-out moments?

TS: Some have been very emotionally affected by the content. Some have found it a real crack-up. Stand out moments were Gavin Rutherford’s Liberace impersonation and Geraldine Brophy’s almost autistic ability to make perfect sense of, and give full emotional weight to a cold read.

Geraldine Brophy before her turn in An Oak Tree.
DOTW: Have any mishaps occurred during the season so far?

TS: Yes, but only because someone who was using the theatre during the day, walked off with one of the small scripts that I give to the guest actor. We couldn’t find it anywhere. Do you think there was a back up script somewhere? No! In the mad scramble to assemble a new script just before the show, I accidently omitted one page of that script. It made for some pretty hair-raising improvisation. Suddenly it wasn’t just the guest actor that was in a play that they didn’t know the lines to! Did anyone notice? I don’t think so. I think they thought it was all part of the conceit of the play. Weird!

DOTW: Finally, what should the audience know about An Oak Tree?

TS: There’s no audience participation. It’s only an hour long. It’s not as dark or weird as it sounds. It’s fucking brilliantly written! You’ll be mesmerized.

Gavin Rutherford before taking the role of the guest actor in An Oak Tree.
An Oak Tree runs in Circa Two until 30 July. The guest actors for the week are posted every Monday on www.circa.co.nz/site/Shows/An-Oak-Tree. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

11 July 2011

Ye Olde School Holiday Fun: A Knight to Remember

About to set forth on a quest for his fifth school holiday kids show, Sir Greg Ellis of the Kingdom of Improvisor takes a moment to tell the royal scribe drama on the waterfront all about A Knight to Remember.

DOTW: What is the general story of A Knight to Remember?

GE: The show is about a knight who has lost his memory and can't remember how or why it happened. He needs the help of the audience to get him to remember.

DOTW: Where did this idea come from? Why do a knight storyline?

GE: It came from a weak pun in a potential title, I'm afraid.

DOTW: How will this one differ from the other kids shows that you have done?

GE: As they are all improvised they differ from each other even in a season. But I think this one will place more emphasis on the improv. The choices the kids make for us will really steer things along.

DOTW: This is the fifth kids show the Improvisors have done at Circa; what is the most hilarious thing that has happened during a performance?

GE: We've had a fair number of kids just wander onstage during the show and not leave - that's always fun. We try not to kick them off and work with them like they're supposed to be there.

DOTW: Have there been any stand out audience members, either for their reaction to the show or their participation?

GE: We also had a little boy in our Pirates show who was being a shark for us. He took his job VERY seriously and kept head-butting Ian who was the bad pirate! It's always the audience who provide our laborite moments.

DOTW: Finally, why should parents bring their kids to A Knight to Remember?

GE: Because it's a show for kids that ends up getting made with their help. They're not passive passengers in this show. And it's fun for parents too!

A Knight to Remember opens in Circa Two on 18 July and runs throughout the school holiday with a final performance on 30 July. Performance times are Monday through Friday at 11am and 1pm and Saturday at 11am. Tickets are $10 per person. To book tickets, please call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz

04 July 2011

Every family will relate to it: Meet the Churchills

Helen Moulder takes a break from playing the wife of iconic figure Winston Churchill to give drama on the waterfront some insight into her character, Lady Clementine Churchill, as well as a look behind-the-scenes of Meet the Churchills.

DOTW: Please tell us about your character, Lady Clementine Churchill.

HM: Clementine Churchill was born in London in 1885, so was a child of the Victorian age. Her mother was the daughter of the 10th Earl of Airlie and her father is uncertain! In the play she says, “He was one of three men, we are simply uncertain which.” Clementine had a difficult and impecunious early life and it was only through the help of an aunt, that she was able to “come out” in London society where she eventually met Winston.  Apart from one brief affair, she was devoted to Winston throughout their life together – they seemed to be very affectionate – but at times she found life with him very difficult and took lots of holidays away from him.  She suffered from neuritis for many years but all her nervous ailments disappeared when Winston died.  She was made a life peer in her own right in 1965 for her services to the Red Cross and other charities and is described as being rather severe. 

Helen Moulder as Lady Clementine Churchill in Meet the Churchills. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: What are the challenges involved in playing this character? Is it more challenging to play a real, historical figure than a fictional character?

HM: Fortunately for me, it is not well known now what Clementine Churchill looked and sounded like, so I had a relatively clean slate.  However, one does feel a responsibility to a real person to get it as right as possible and my main source was an excellent biography of Clementine by her daughter Mary Soames , quite a lot of photographs and the published letters between Winston and Clementine.  The main challenge was the ageing – she was 79 in 1962 when the play is set and I am 63. I had some good help with that – a grey wig and makeup advice and I worked hard at finding a certain physical frailty in my body and voice.

DOTW: Did you know much about Winston Churchill and his family prior to working on this play? How did that factor into your approach to the work?

HM: I knew a reasonable amount about Winston Churchill and had heard the children’s names, but knew no details and certainly nothing about Clementine.  This has made the preparation process wonderfully interesting and rewarding, with the book reading, film watching and group discussions at rehearsals.  The more I found out about her, the more I was able to salt away into my subconscious, which then hopefully contributes to what I do on stage.

Carmel McGlone and Helen Moulder in Meet the Churchills. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: What can you tell us about your fellow cast members and director Ross Jolly?

HM: I’ve worked with Ray Henwood and Jeff Kingsford-Brown several times before, notably with Ray in Two, Noel and Gertie, Hay Fever, Moonlight and Phantom of the Opera (Ken Hill) and Jeff in Nuncrackers, Mum’s Choir, Cynthia Fortitude’s Farewell and Phantom, so we know each other very well, which helps a lot. Carmel and I have worked together once before in Urinetown at Downstage, although we were in Hens’ Teeth together for ten years performing separate acts, and it’s the first time I’ve worked with Byron Coll.  The last time I worked with director Ross Jolly was in Pinter’s Moonlight in 1995, so it’s been great to work with him again.  The rehearsal process was very lively and enjoyable which helped us all gel as a team. We got very good at doing the daily quiz in the Dominion Post at lunchtime, for example! I admire them all tremendously, actually – well, you become like a family for the duration of the show.

DOTW: Have there been any stand-out experiences while working on this play so far?

HM: I suppose when I first put on my costume, wig and the makeup artist did my face, and I saw myself as an 80 year old. It was quite a magical moment, as I felt myself really inhabiting the shoes of Clementine. Up until that moment I had been unsure as to whether I could, so it was a tremendous relief.

DOTW: Finally, what should audiences know about Meet the Churchills?

HM: Apart from containing a fair amount of fascinating historical discussion, the main thrust of the play is the “unfinished business” within the family and that to me is the really interesting stuff. Every family will relate to it. As well as that, the characters are wonderful and the humour very insightful and clever.

Meet the Churchills. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Meet the Churchills is on in Circa One until 16 July - tickets can be booked at the Circa Box Office, 801-7992, or online at www.circa.co.nz