Never Try This At Home actor Niall Ashdown on, well, Niall Ashdown
TOLD BY AN IDIOT AND RADA ANNOUNCE NEW ASSOCIATION
We are very excited to announce our new relationship with RADA…
Told by an Idiot has embarked on an innovative new creative association with the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). With Told by an Idiot now a Creative Associate of RADA and based at RADA’s Chenies Street studios, the two organisations will have a mutually beneficial relationship; with opportunities including students being involved in R&D weeks of new Told by an Idiot projects and gaining experience on productions, as well as further learning and sharing prospects. The relationship is part of Taught by an Idiot, Told by an Idiot’s participation initiative.
Edward Kemp, Director, RADA: ‘I am very excited by this new association with Told by an Idiot, having been inspired by the company’s work personally and with RADA students having benefited from a more informal relationship over the last three years. Together we share a commitment to education at all levels, a spirit of inquiry and a delight in making theatre immediate. For Told By An Idiot to have remained at the forefront of innovation in UK theatre for 21 years is an astonishing achievement and we look forward to working with them to train of the theatremakers of tomorrow.’
Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter, co-Artistic Directors, Told by an Idiot:‘We are delighted to extend our Taught by an Idiot strand by formalising our relationship with RADA and look forward to giving its students access to our practice and productions. As the theatre landscape changes, it is important for emerging artists to be aware of the ways in which they can make their own work and we enjoy sharing our experience with this new generation of theatre-makers - and benefitting from what we can learn from them too.’
As Creative Associates of RADA, Told by an Idiot will deliver talks, masterclasses and workshops with the relationship developing to include work experience and further opportunities and collaboration.
Polly Tisdall, AD for Never Try This At Home talks second week of rehearsals with the Idiots…
Rehearsal Diary: Week Two
The end of week two and things are getting sloppy. That’s not a comment on the company, all of whom are very much on the ball, it’s a literal truth. We’re in Birmingham, the rehearsal set is up, the drum kit (oh yes, there is a drum kit) is in and fresh towels and warm showers are on stand-by. Let the pie-ing begin!
There’s water, there’s shaving foam and soon, very soon, there will also be baked beans. The actors are sliding onto stage, sometimes with great style, sometimes with less style, but always with impeccable comic timing and, best of all, we’ve managed to capture some of their finer moments on camera. Please see our soon-to-be-released trailer for details.
But how is the show shaping up in the midst of this chaos? Actually, pretty well. There’s not a scene that hasn’t been looked at, played out, played with and then rehashed by writer, Carl. The costumes are being constructed, the wigs are being worn - and in some cases, chopped up to become beards- and the actors are learning their lines (the ones that aren’t improvised that is). To my peril I have been enlisted on a number of occasions to assist with line-learning and have found myself attempting all sorts of accents which are really much better left to my betters. For this I am sorry. But it was a lot of fun.
At the end of the week I was privileged to meet the members of one of our live bands, who will be joining us for the performances. They’re a young, local group and I can’t wait to hear their music in the Rep’s Studio. It’s going to make quite an impact.
The actors went home on Friday with a new updated version of the script while I went home counting up custard pies. The walls of the rehearsal room are now covered with big sheets of paper showing the running order, scene by scene, and detailing how many pies and buckets of water are needed for each. This chart, created by myself and lovingly named The Pie Chart by the cast, is showing signs of exponential growth. So if the number of pies correlates to the number of stars this show is destined to receive, I think that bodes very well.
The only real near disaster this week was when we momentarily lost the ‘I’ve Got Cock Rot’ sign. A difficult few minutes but fortunately the sign was soon restored to it’s rightful place around Ged’s neck and all was well. Curious? You’ll have to come and see the show.
Week 2 in rehearsals with Never Try This At Home actor Dudley Rees…
Rehearsal Blog - Week 2 - Birmingham
February 10, 2014
Week 2, tough but rewarding. The Idiot rehearsal room (which has been relocated from Brixton to Birmingham) is all about the pursuit of fun and intrigue. If we’re not enjoying what we’re creating, or interested in it, why should the audience be? But that said, we work hard for those ingredients. We’re not in Kansas anymore, we’re in Birmingham. And it takes dedication to put on a show.
The work is paying off though. We have 12 scenes up on the rehearsal room wall, loosely describing the action on flip chart paper. There’s also a pie chart. How many custard pies are thrown in each scene. Hahaha pie chart. Good one. We ran the first 6 scenes on Friday and Paul (director) says, “We’re in a good place, we have too much material and at this stage that’s always, always better than not having enough”.
Niall Ashdown (actor) points out that the challenge of coming to a new city is relaxing on a foreign toilet. He’s right, and this adds to the general pressure. Talking of pressure, the shower in my digs has the oomph of someone spitting at me. Petra Massey (actor) put a bucket on my head and punched me in the face this week. Also, the warning on the Edinburgh Traverse website, “Possible Nudity” could possibly be me. I wondered about that warning. It was there way before the devising process began and I always assumed it would turn out to be Petra. I’ve seen two amazing shows by “Spymonkey” - the company Petra co-founded and is resident with and both times she was naked. “I wasn’t naked in the last show!” Petra said to me. But by that she meant she was wearing a giant cat head. Does it not count as naked if you’re wearing something on your face but nowhere else?
The set is being built in the workshop downstairs. It’s too tall to fit in our rehearsal space so we have a scaffold structure that roughly represents it, only shorter. Something about my shoes and the dance floor mean every time I go to touch a metal ladder I get a static electricity shock that could kill a small cat.
Does this sound like a string of complaints? It isn’t, I just want you to know that we’re working hard for this show. Another key element to the process is emotion. For an actor it’s often the only goods of the trade, plus body and voice. Naturally, that can make things, emotional. Next week will be easier. We’ll have figured out how to use the washing machines in our digs, our bowls will be relaxed and we’ve got loads to play with.
Assistant Director Polly Tisdall chats about her first week of rehearsals with the Idiots for Never Try This At Home…
Rehearsal Diary: Week One
After a week of rehearsals with Told By An Idiot I’m looking at the world a bit differently. There are warm up games hard wired into my head (most of them involving a blue plastic football), I am permanently poised for another pun about custard pies and I can’t help being on the look out for the next person to accuse me of killing Chris Tarrant. Confused? I think that’s the whole idea.
Never Try This At Home is based on the chaotic Saturday morning children’s television shows of the 1970s and, a week in, a world of mayhem, slapstick and C-list celebrity is firmly establishing itself.
Rehearsals began last Monday with designer Michael Vale showing us his model box - a miniature version of the set which looks like an adult playground, complete with ladders and fireman’s poles. Watching the cast watching the set I could already see the ideas forming. The exciting thing about this production is that very little is set in stone (forgive the pun) and while the design, and Carl Grose’s script, are at the heart of the action, there is plenty of room for improvisation, change and surprise. Oh and mess. Michael has built in a grid to catch water on stage - and that tells you something.
In the first few days of rehearsal we spend a good deal of time playing. Working in theatre you hear a lot about play; the importance of messing around and being playful in the creative process. What gets less attention is how to play - and Told By An Idiot certainly know how to set up a game. The blue plastic football makes it’s first appearance and we spend a good thirty minutes keeping it in the air, governed by a variety of seemingly impossible rules. As somebody who’s never headed a football in my life (friends will testify that my hand/ eye coordination is somewhat lacking) I find I am suddenly not only expected to use my head and feet to keep the ball in the air but to do maths at the same time. The confusion - both physical and mental - is setting in. Yet, by the end of the morning, we’re all screaming and cheering each other on to get the ball into the bucket (our equivalent of a net) and the cast are beginning to feel like a company. So really, it’s win-win.
Getting down to work on the first few scenes I can begin to see how all of this playing is directly feeding into the show we are creating. A lot of the scenes give way to improvisation games and you can be sure that the actors will be playing games together on stage, live on the performance nights. It will be different every time. This ‘liveness’ is key. Exploring the world of live TV - before it was pre-recorded and you could edit out mistakes- means our on stage world has to be completely live too, with the same risks. Never Try This At Home’s fictional TV show, Shushi is not only live, it’s completely anarchic. And even though we don’t get to start rehearsing with water and custard pies and real ladders until this week in Birmingham, I can already feel the chaos pulling me in. The first week of rehearsals ended with the suggestion that I too get a custard pie in my face. Shushi. I think I’ve been inducted.
Never Try This At Home actor Dudley Rees chats about the first week of rehearsals…
Rehearsal Blog - Week 1 - Brixton
February 04, 2014
As I sit here in bed, mulling over the events of the first week’s rehearsals, naked as the day I was born, it occurs to me that this is not only the most unique and unusual play I’ve ever been involved with but if I were in the audience, I think it would be the most unique and unusual play I’d ever seen too.
So far, “Never Try This at Home” is a mixture of improvisation, wigs, live music, slow motion, nostalgia, sexism and biting satire. I say so far because we’re only at the beginning of a devising process and there are 3 more radical weeks to go. We’re not looking for inspiration from thin air though. Over the past 2 years there have been several research and development weeks - time for Told by an Idiot theatre company to explore ideas, develop the language of the play and fail without consequence.
Paul Hunter, the director, likes to look to at wide range of inspirations. The show’s tagline is, “A disturbing Homage to Saturday Morning TV” and we’ve been looking atLive and Kicking, TISWAS, Going Live, Swapshop and The Big Breakfast. But to that mixture we’ve added Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network and even the recent documentary The Act of Killing. These unlikely combinations can create something entirely new.
Paul oversees a theatrical smelting process, fuelled by improvisation and gladiatorial games. There are “provocations” and “restrictions” which create something live and electric. Carl Grose, the writer, adds new ideas, he provides daily scenes which we then improvise around and some improvisation becomes official “script”. Although there is no script and never will be… unless there is one…
Ultimately the source material, The Act of Killing plus Swapshop, are lost. We’re left with something new, often very funny and still loaded with suggestion and danger.
Highlights of the week have been getting to puppeteer a large mouse and straining my voice during an electrifying game of keepy uppy.
To Birmingham, to continue rehearsals!
Rehearsals shots for #NeverTryThisAtHome
A round-table script reading afternoon!
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