Where have we been hiding?

by Laura Lindsay

So... It would seem Edinburgh took it out of us somewhat! No blog for 6 months! How have you coped?! Well don't you worry here's an inspiring entry to enrich your lives*

Edinburgh was THE MOST amount of fun and THE MOST tiring thing ever ever ever. Then again I usually avoid anything too strenuous, so maybe it was just like having a 'normal' job, y'know where you have to work hard and that. It was like getting married everyday for a month. Fun, but after a while wishing someone else would wear the pretty dress, pose for the photos and pay for the buffet, to allow me to go and vomit in the chocolate fountain and snog the bride's uncle...

Anyhoo... Edinburgh, was despite the pain, very much worth it. We sold out most nights and got some right good reviews. There were a couple of hairy moments...when I left Pete to deal with the dénouement of the play without the 'key' prop, which I had lost...ooops ... oh and when, in my eagerness to see a lot of stuff, I left just 15 minutes between watching a play and BEING IN a play... double ooops, I also choked on stage - no I didn't forget my lines - like I actually choked - like cough cough splutter argh I can't breathe choke. Still if I had've died (and this was a distinct possibility and I'm definitely NOT being melodramatic) at least I would've died doing what I love - choking on a cold sausage...

We have also got a NATIONAL TOUR programmed as a result of the Edinburgh run** wooooooooooo! We at Black Toffee are proper chuffed with it too. We've got 11 venues over 5 months - all the dates and venues are listed here.

The proper hot of the press very very exciting news is that we have got Arts Council funding to do the tour! Boom. This is brilliant because it means we can do lots of cool stuff like run workshops, get help with PR and marketing...oh and pay ourselves so we can eat - hooray!! We've got lots of brilliant new people on board the team for the tour - Emma McDowell (Marketing Manager), David Burns (PR Manager) and Caroline Hetherington (accent coach).

We start rehearsals this week - just checking we still know our lines, where to stand and how to avoid the furniture, like. Would be great to see you on the tour. Yes you. Ah go on! :)

* the enrichment qualities of this blog have been tested on a sample group of one. Black Toffee cannot verify whether this was in fact the blogger herself (I mean - y'know if it is in fact a she...)

**please note this refers to the 'run' of the production - I did not in fact do any running in Edinburgh. It's really quite hilly y'see. Oh and I HATE running. Oh no I tell a lie I did run once - in the 15 minutes I had to get to the theatre before we opened the house...oooh sweaty

18 days to go!

by Laura Lindsay

Ooh by 'eck it's been a while since we've posted a blog - how very remiss of us! But it's not cos we've been lazy - promise! We've been proper busy at Black Toffee, we'll not bore you with the details. But to summarise:

Re:play = v good (got 4 stars from The Guardian don't you know!)
We got into Underbelly = v good + over the moon 
We reached our Kickstarter target = v good + over the moon + humbled
Started programming our spring tour 2014 = v good + over the moon + EXCITED
18 days till we open = v good + over the moon + EXCITED + a little bit of wee came out.

Preparations for the madness that is Edinburgh Festival Fringe are well under way. We have filmed our trailer with the kind assistance of Amy McIntyre, Lucy Lincoln, Owen Rafferty, Aaron Porter, Lauren Bee, Sam Okell, Simon Tierney-Wigg, Suzie Short and cracking music composition by Harri Chambers. Check it out on our homepage or on this vimeo link.

Accommodation is booked. Flyers are ordered. Set is being built. Rehearsals start on Monday. eeep! We'll keep you posted with photos and hilarious* anecdotes from rehearsals. We'd be really grateful if you can tweet, facebook and generally witter on about us to anyone who'll listen. Share the Facebook site. Follow us on Twitter. Share the Trailer.  Share the love**

* Black Toffee cannot be held responsible if the reader does not find any, or all, of the anecdotes 'hilarious'.

** Apologies for using this phrase. But we're a bit excited. So suck it up :P


Giddy Kippers

by Laura Lindsay

Maiden blog post by Mr Peter Carruthers...

Right then, blog time it is! So, what shall we talk about?

And there’s our first problem; you’ve not really got a say in where this conversation goes have you? I can say whatever the hell I want and all you can do is either carry on reading or go and do something vastly more productive, leaving me rambling away like an old redneck on his porch.

And so it goes with writing and performing your own work. No matter how much you believe in what you’re doing and saying, you really have no idea how it’s going to go down until you’re stood up there in the blinding lights, forcing your thoughts down the necks of the innocent people you hope are still sat out there in the darkness.

Thankfully, when we performed ‘Hidden’ in Preston and then at Joshua Brooks in Manchester, it seemed to go down really well, yay! We had some very kind feedback and some equally kind reviews. Relieved smiles and much patting of backs ensued. Then, Laura and I sat down to watch the DVD…oh dear… “Wow, was I that rushed every night?” “Why am I stood so still? I look frozen!” “Why is my voice so high all the way through that monologue?!” etc, etc. It became extremely apparent to us that although the show had been a success, there was still a lot of room for improvement and there was no way we were going to rest on our laurels.

Enter Martin Jameson.

I first met Martin directly after one of the performances at Joshua Brooks and he was extremely positive about the show. He didn’t waste much time though and quickly went on to tell us that he felt the piece was still a good way short of its potential and that he would love to meet up with us to discuss how we might be able to develop it.

So a few weeks later (following the cringey DVD session) the three of us met up, ate lovely food and got stuck into the script.

That was over a year ago, and here we are, finally ready to unleash the revamped, finely tuned and genetically modified Hidden ‘GTI’ on the Library Theatre Replay Festival. We’re only two days into rehearsals and I’m already giddy as a caffeine fuelled kipper. Although there hasn’t been drastic changes to the script, the new structure and fine tuning of certain scenes has made a massive difference in making the piece feel less like series of monologues and duologues and more like a fully rounded, interwoven play. Martin has been superb in the rehearsal room, he’s really booted us out of our comfort zone and made sure we’re using every last bit of detail from the new script. This new impetus, added to the superb set design and Martin’s almost sexual passion for clever scene transitions has really got the rehearsal room buzzing.

Which brings me back to my original point; how do we know that we’re not just rambling away in a rehearsal room? How do we know if it’s going to go down well when we open next week? Well, I suppose that uncertainty is part of the drug that all actors find so addictive, you never really know for sure until you’re up there sharing your work with that most precious of commodities; an audience.

But then again, sometimes you just know.

Ergo it's the ego

by Laura Lindsay


50 industry invites gone out, only 62 more to do…zzzzzz  Sending invites is hard. It is hard to sound original and personal and interesting and not ever-so-slightly desperate especially when it’s taken you all day and it’s now 1:55 in the morning. It is a very dispiriting thing to do, because you know that the vast majority will get no response and your email will be one of 100’s of invites these industry folk will get in a week. But it is a necessary evil. I would kick myself if I didn’t do it and NOONE came. It’s rather like Coventry playing Shrewsbury on New Years Day, I could have gone to watch the match. I didn’t. Cov lost. Ergo I am possibly, by my inaction, in someway, responsible. Kind of. It is indeed that level of deluded egotism that is required when sending invites to industry, otherwise no one would do it.

And damn Christmas got in the way…there was no point in sending out invites before Christmas as it was a whole year away (kind of) and now it’s the 3rd of January and we’re on in less than a fortnight – arrrghh! I find it slightly distasteful promoting one’s own work (yes I did just use one – I’m proper like that!) I would much rather concentrate on the good old acting part of it, after all that’s why I got into this industry because I like to ACT, not because I like to bombard people’s inboxes with invitations to things in the hope that I may someday convince someone that I might possibly be able to act and that they might possibly want to have half an eye on me whilst I’m doing so. I hate self-promotion, but it’s a means to an end I guess, and no one else is gonna do it.  I hope those of you who know me will forgive me my sickening self-promoting egotism (and those of you who don’t know me will decline a diagnosis of terminal narcissism) over the course of the next few weeks whilst I persuade you to come to see the play what I wrote. And Peter wrote. Don’t forget Peter. See, that’s not so hard, come and see the play that Pete wrote, it’s great. And so is he. Bigging up others is much better. Owen’s great.  And Martin’s great.  And Harri’s great.  And Mark.  And Lindsay.  And all of you bothering to trawl through this blog. YOU ARE ALL GREAT. Thank you for your support.

Tomorrow, I am going shopping for flooring with Pete. That is not acting. And then I will distribute some flyers...also not acting. And then send some more emails...not acting either.  But then we start actual bone fide ACTING on Monday – hurray! Not sure I'll know what to do. I best start on those lines, still the benefit of having written it is that no one can argue that you’ve got it wrong. Not even you Martin ;)

And now, to bed…

Frantic and Antics

by Laura Lindsay

So an eventful couple of weeks seemed to justify making a blog entry…

Pete and I spent 3rd December with the exceptionally talented Neil Bettles of Thick Skin Theatre and Frantic Assembly. Having previously done a fantastic Frantic Assembly workshop with Neil through Jo Adamson-Parker of Northern Spirit Creative, and having seen his work on Beautiful Burnout, I was really keen to work with him on Hidden.

Pete and I have set ourselves somewhat of a challenge by writing three characters each to play in the same show so we thought it’d be good to work on physical characterisation and differentiation of the characters and the different relationships between them. Neil led us through many physical ‘tasks’ (like exercises, but slightly less sweaty than at the gym, but only slightly) to discover rhythms and mannerisms of each character. I’m not sure how much of what Neil did with us would be a trade secret but I’m pretty sure I’d be doing Frantic out of some well-earned cash if I went into too much detail, so to read more about their techniques in devising theatre buy this The Frantic Assembly Book of Devising Theatre. Neil is going onto work on The Full Monty at the Crucible, but reports that he practiced his direction of strip scenes on us are wildly exaggerated.

We then spent 5th December filming our trailer for Re:play. Now then, with more money and time we’d have filmed it with all the proper gubbins, but as we are short on both we filmed it armed only with my iphone (other smart phones are available). Obviously we would like to add that this was an artistic decision not a decision based merely on economics or logistics. You see the footage we’ve captured will look like it has been filmed on a mobile phone DELIBERATELY. Because this gives it the feel of secret, private moments captured on a ‘Hidden’ camera – see what we did there? So definitely not because we didn’t have time or money, clear? Good. We had a lot of fun filming it in six different locations. Cunningly Pete’s scenarios were lying down in bed, sitting on a train and standing up reading a paper. Mine were walking into a toilet (not too bad you think, but Pete standing outside the ladies toilet with a camera did look a bit dodgy!), running up two flights of stairs (repeatedly – Pete is a hard director to please – outtakes available on request), and drinking special brew (tastes like soil fermented in urine – and it didn’t even make the edit!). So just so we’re clear I SUFFERED for my art.

Owen Rafferty has done an amazing job of editing this footage together with an original composition by Harri Chambers to make a perky little trailer that we hope will whet your appetites to see the show in January. It will be online very shortly: watch this space!

We attended the Library Theatre's Media launch for re:play on 12th December where we showed our sparkly new trailer (hot off the...computer). It was lovely to meet up with the other companies performing work at re:play including: Breathe Out Theatre, House of Orphans, Box of Tricks, Monkeywood, Northern Elastic Theatre Company, RealLife Theatre Company, and Kumaluva along with all the staff at the Library Theatre. I am so excited to see all of the shows (some for the second time) at Re:play – it really is a cracking line-up. Don’t forget that you can Buy one get one half price so that’s a reason to see as many of them as you can!

Other than Hidden related activities I have also been busy doing an intensive Meisner training course with Scott Williams of  The Impulse Company through West Yorkshire Theatre Network. It was incredible, and if you ever get a chance to work with Scott – jump! Heartfelt thanks to Scott, the rest of the group and especially to Stephanie Upsall of WYTN for organising it so well and at such a reasonable price.

Right I'm off to Ikea to buy the set - wish me luck!

Laura x