The Incidental Performance

In more standard theatre venues what you do before entering a scene is wait. In the wings or the dressing room typically. Maybe the corridor you’ve strolled through to get to the wings. You wait with your fellow cast members and try to keep quiet.

When it comes to outdoor theatre, you end up in some odd places waiting. These can range from car parks to antique chests, behind trees to dirty great holes in the ground. Sometimes with your colleagues, often not. The only company you can have for a while are your own thoughts or maybe an animal or two. In the dark on your own, if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow try not to be alarmed.

What happens when you inevitably meet a member of the public? That person who isn’t part of the show but who’s day and environment you’ve just made a little bit odd?

These encounters are usually brief and to the point;

“What’s all this about then?”

You learn to distill the entire plot. You become adept at directing people to websites to try and sell that last remaining ticket.

Not all encounters are like that. Some will stay back and just watch you. You’re bordering on an installation. Carrying out a mundane task for you becomes a fascination. What is a man dressed like that doing with a bunch of sticks with fairly lights on? Occasionally I feel a bit like this:

Who knows what those who have a nice distance shot are thinking? Others will want a photograph, so a quick pose and off they go.

A man was in the middle of a phone call once whilst I was waiting. Within his conversation he said to whomever was on the other end – “There’s a bloke in trainers and wings just… standing.” No enquiry as to why I was standing there. He moved on a minute before 40 people dressed in red ran up a big hill. He would have had a lovely view, and his quizzical look would have been partially answered. Oh well! I often wonder what the other person said.

Then we move onto the more involved micro-interactions. I once gave a couple of gentlemen a mini-lecture on George Merryweather whilst being George Merryweather. One of them furiously jotted down notes. All this whilst stood on a lovely little bridge in Watchet, from which I was dangling an enamel cup attached to string over a steam and within that cup was a liquorice slug. That didn’t interest them in the slightest.

A couple of women stopped me once to say how much they loved my odd socks. I was arresting poets at the time, so asked if they saw any would they help me? They laughed and cheerily pronounced they would aid and abet their crime! Good day madams!

During my last tour, I have a task where I ask my group to gather sticks. A small moment in the grand scheme. After the show I’m wrestling with a barrier to the let a car out of the venue. I’m still in costume. A young woman darts across the road towards me, who I recognise from the show that evening. Reaching me she hands me a stick. I give the appropriate character response “That’s a nice stick”. Away she goes without saying a word. The performance was resurrected one last time a few hours after it ended.

Does all this mean anything? Well I like to think I’m doing my bit for Kayfabe! Also it reinforces that particularly once in costume, any number of things can happen. Even though we’re still trying to control as much as possible, this type of performance is open to the elements. As we know the elements will shape whatever it comes in contact with. I wasn’t trained for that as I was taught in the very controlled environment of rehearsal rooms and theaters. We briefly puncture each others realities – that person going for a stroll and me waiting for the show.

A very select audience get a bespoke interaction. Unplanned, very rarely unwelcome and can be great fun.

Film for under a fiver?

Being an actor, there are periods (some very long) where being creative just doesn’t happen. Some of those periods you are grateful for that because you do need to switch off at points. My main interests are football and boxing. However considering Plymouth Argyle’s recent travails against relegation it wasn’t working this time…

Which is why I turned once again to animating. My animation is self-taught (still making a ton of stupid mistakes) and to be kind to myself, crude! Not in the salacious application of that word, more in the construction and execution of said animation. As an advert for trying to entice you to watch any of my output you’re probably going;

“Alex, man, there’s hard sell and then there’s no sell!”

Heck, I harbour dreams – fevered, ludicrous dreams of being a one man Laika studio. Or being a hybrid of Harryhausen/Lynch/Cronenberg. Reality then gives me a swift kick in the shin and runs off cackling. Little bleeder. That kick, which has a left small bruise by the way, is helpful.

Part of the creative process demands that you let certain ideas and goals go. Budget, time, resources or sheer gaps in expertise dictate that. Yep, creativity on a budget comes with a helping of compromise folks. So why not embrace those dang limitations? Why not have a ‘get it done nice and quickly’ project? That’s why the entire budget was a whopping £4.

The plasticine and an app were my only outlays. Everything else was left over from a previous project and those materials weren’t glamorous;

• Cardboard

• Children’s paint

• Gaffer tape (always needed but now I’m out of the stuff!)

• A paper sheet of stone flooring bought on a whim

The result is Fool’s Gold:

Hopefully, if you’re the kind of person who is looking off the beaten track for something, it works for you.

Until the next time brothers and sisters!

Alex

Paper Thin – Reality reshaped

First post in a while, lax I know, but it’s been busy in the good way! Finishing off the tour of The Hunting of the Snark, workshops, as well as filming, animating and a whole lot of editing.

Which leads me to the following link;

http://www.devon-cornwall-film.co.uk/2018/10/12/reality-reshaped-alexander-warn-on-his-film-paper-thin/

A short piece regarding my film – a micro commission for Exeter Phoenix’s Two Short Nights film festival.

Enjoy!

Alex

The Hunting of the Snark

‘Tis the season for new outdoor theatre. I type this as it’s snowing outside, which for a Plymothian is an odd sensation. It’s also one of the few conditions I have yet to perform in. That is why we stick to spring and autumn. Which leads me nicely onto Burn the Curtain’s new show for 2018:

The Hunting of the Snark

Tickets available here for:

HALDON FOREST April 5th, 6th, 7th

SUTTON MANOR COMMUNITY WOODLAND April 19th, 20th, 21st

HAMSTERLY FOREST  May 3rd, 4th 5th

Join the Butcher, the Banker, the Broker, the Barrister and the Bonnetmaker as they hunt for the ever elusive Snark. Take an unforgettable journey through the forest in Burn the Curtain’s new adaptation of this classic poem by Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland).

Come prepared for adventure and with your much needed help, we will make a fresh attempt to find the Snark. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and don’t forget your torch…

There are some extra dates for later in the year and a little added something that will be with in the next month. For further details, tickets visit http://burnthecurtain.co.uk/ or https://forestry.gov.uk/snarkhunter

 

Film making?

Has been a while since my last post, which was one of mostly dates being barked at you. There may well be more soon, watch this space if you wish! Whilst the performance work had dried up somewhat, due to health and overall economic climate. Funding decisions, some made years ago, are really now beginning to bite down hard in the industry. That however is for another post, as this is more about putting some experiments of my own out there.

In January I started on a film making course run by Plymouth College of Art. It was over 10 weeks, well priced and despite having been on a few sets of varying sizes myself, I learned plenty. I do recommend it. This link is for their short courses: https://www.plymouthart.ac.uk/courses/short-courses/

I did embark on making a short film. I’d been talking about it for years and thought “put up or shut up Warn!” So I put up. The short feature that is still in the works (almost bordering on Kubrickian post-production length) and will hopefully see the light of day by the end of this year. The working title is ‘Burden of Memory’. Keep an eye out. Or not, it’s up to you.

Remember one short film does not make necessarily me a film maker. How to practice and keep learning without having to drag up a crew, or work endlessly on a script, or beg, borrow and steal locations and permissions? In order to keep learning about all those things you hear about – sound mixing, colour correction etc, I also decided to indulge my love of daft and stop motion. That’s right, foolishly I moved into the realms of Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, Phill Tippett and Aardman. I ‘designed’ a small character (this was more stick some stuff on a thing and see what happens). He was soon named, and it was fairly obvious as soon as I finished him – Eggbert. In order to stumble before I could even think about strolling, Eggbert does not have any facial features. My brother likes to point out I’d find it too hard and couldn’t be bothered with a face. Well yes and no! I’ve also hankered after being in a double act over the years and I’m happy to defer to a small walking egg.

Then I set myself some rules. Only use my mobile phone, only use available light and no money to be spent beyond the following – armature for the puppet and guitar strings. My guitar really needed re-stringing, she was sounding so dull. Everything else was whatever I had to hand. Here are the first results of my tinkering in things I still don’t know nearly enough about:

Hopefully you will enjoy, or maybe even enjoyed them. Please share if you did.

Adios fellow travellers of the cosmos.

Alex

Dates galore – Company of Wolves and Allen Jeffery

It has been a while and now is the time to add some new dates for upcoming performances.

Burn the Curtain continue taking The Company of Wolves on the road this spring. Three venues are lined up and the details are as follows:

Cwmcarn Forest, Caerphilly, South Wales, NP11 7FA

April 7th, 8th and 9th 2016

Tickets: www.blackwoodminersinstitute.com

Durlston Country Park, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 2JL

April 21st, 22nd and 23rd 2016

Tickets: www.durlston.co.uk or call 01929 424443

Delamere Forest, near Frodsham, Cheshire, CW8 2JD

May 5th, 6th, and 7th 2016

Tickets: www.boxoffice.forestry.gov.uk 03000 680 400

Also my first solo show makes a return this time as part of the second Plymouth Fringe:

The Life and Times of Allen Jeffery

The Nowhere Inn

May 31st, 3pm (more details to follow)

Brighton Festival 2015

Having returned and finally recovered from a week of running (and a spot of lugging) another Brighton Festival is put to bed. The Company of Wolves made it’s first outing of 2015 following its last showing in Halloween last year. We got to run around a large park on the outskirts of Brighton with lots of varied spaces ranging from woods, open flat areas, hills (always one somewhere), ponds, mountain bike trails and a church called Stanmer Park.

A hectic week and with the help of some cracking volunteers, who stuck it out in some pretty shocking weather, we another Argus Angel! This now adds to our previous triumph with Don Quixote by Bicycle. Also balances the directors mantel piece nicely. As always the Brighton crowd were most certainly ‘up for it’. When an audience bring along that kind of energy it doesn’t have help an actor who has to run or walk with them!

Here are a couple of reviews:

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2015/company-wolves/

http://www.theargus.co.uk/leisure/arts_and_entertainments/12939449.Brighton_Festival__The_Company_of_Wolves__Stanmer_Park__until_Saturday__May_9__01273_709709/

Hopefully we’ll return another year, but that is a distant future. Next up for Burn the Curtain and Company of Wolves is the Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival 2015. We will be performing at Longleat House! For details on tickets visit: https://www.salisburyfestival.co.uk/detail.php?id=313

Till whenever

Hoooowwwwwlllllllllll!

Zero Mostel

It’s my birthday today but that isn’t important. I’ve always been more interested about the historical events that have taken place on my birthday. The first part of Tom Baker’s last ever Dr Who story – Logopolis. Number 1 in the charts was “Shaddupa Your Face” by the Joe Dolce Music Theatre. Also I share my birthday with two people I admire greatly – Barry McGuigan and one of the most singular (and very possibly dangerous) actors of all time – Zero Mostel.

Today would have marked his 100th birthday. His most famous role is as Max Bialystock in The Producers. However there are other films you should certainly check out. Panic in the Streets one of his earliest films in which he is a gangster infected with pneumonic plague being pursued through New Orleans! Running with fellow infected mobster Jack Palance, being chased Richard Widmark – all directed by Elia Kazan.

Also his second pairing with Gene Wilder in a film version of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros . It is a peculiar film (attempting to film anything by Ionesco is akin to trying to film Alan Moore) and Mostel also didn’t require make-up for his transformation into a rhino. He made great use of his physical presence and high energy.

Zero was also blacklisted during the McCarthy era which is one reason why his filmography is nowhere near as long as you’d imagine it could. I can’t do him justice in a blog. The best thing to do is go and watch him. A genuine force of nature. The closest I’ve seen in writing to summing him up was by Stella Adler. She wrote in The Art of Acting (talking about her use of animal exercises in training actors):

“As an animal, you must know who you are but not how you’ll react. Being an animal teaches you about spontaneity. If you’re scared, do something. If you’re hungry, do something. Always be specific, never general, and do everything to the maximum. That’s why it’s dangerous to be on stage with an animal –  they always do things to the maximum.

The same was true of Zero Mostel. That’s why I used to warn my students to never get on a stage with an animal, a child or Zero Mostel.” 

High praise indeed!

The Long Distance Actor

A blog post that originally appeared on the Burn the Curtain website:

Rewind 20 years. I’m 13, sat in a sparsely populated class because it’s sports day and I’m a ‘reserve’ for my team. There is a knock at the door. It’s another student.

“Excuse me sir can we talk to Alex please?” Permission granted.

“Alex we need you to run the 1,500m will you do it?”

In minutes I’m changed and on the starting line. Ready, set, go! Three and three-quarter laps of the less then smooth grass running track.

What was I running for? Team points.

What was I running from? Maths (I would have done anything to get out of maths.)

The last 100 metres – sprint hard. Legs burn, breathing is heavy, don’t neglect arms. I cross the finishing line… fifth. No team points. Just the knowledge that I had played my small part in sports day eventually. My dreams of being a professional sportsmen were already over by then. But a lesson called Drama seemed to fill that void…

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The Company of Wolves is another departure for us. We have split audiences up before but not in this fashion. Taking runners and walkers down different paths to different experiences alongside shared ones. All in the failing light of the day. We’re rather enjoying our new venture into the night “muhahahahaha.”

Promenade theatre always coughs up a unique challenge. You see I’ve had a few mad dashes to get to other scenes, all actors do. However I can safely say I hadn’t been required to run 2k to get to my next scene before. For that reason alone pre-rehearsal training was essential. The last time I ran this regularly was my school days. No audience wants to struggle to hear a wheezing actor! Also promenade, like running, can at times give you a strong sense of isolation. Which is rather handy when playing someone like The Huntsman.

Who is he? He is an amalgam of various forms of huntsmen that appear in Angela Carter’s stories. Part detective, part survivalist and thanks to a cool costume provided by Ruth Webb – part bird of prey. The Huntsman exists on the periphery, spending a lot of time off the path. Which is only advisable for the experienced hunter.

Now 20 years later let’s ask these two questions again;

What am I running for? The story.

What am I running from? I can’t possible say. I’ve already revealed far too much…

Moye_Burn_the_Curtain_Wolves_13