Hecate Theatre Co.

Making theatre with an all-female twist.

Blog archive

Since we made the move to a new site, four years of blog posts have been sadly left behind! However, we’ve chosen some highlights from our Assistant Producer, Nicky, to be kept here for your reference.

To paraphrase McFly… It’s All About Me…!

Posted in Nicky’s Word by admin at 11 August, 2013

I’ve been very quiet recently. Sorry about that. However my silence does not mean that I’ve been idle. Far from it!
This year has been one of Hecate’s busiest yet and, as I type, the cast of The Graveyard Slot are arriving in Edinburgh for our second appearance at the fringe, sadly this year I can’t accompany them as I am zipping from place to place with an open air tour of Treasure Island. Absentee producing is a very difficult task and congratulations must land on the shoulders of our artistic director for successfully managing the Edinburgh prep virtually single handedly!
Meanwhile, I can’t complain; the weather has been good to us (even if it’s costing a fortune in suncream) and I’m seeing some of the most beautiful places the UK has to offer. Admittedly the 3G and Wi-Fi in the Cairngorms – and other stunning locations – is somewhat lacking and the struggle to source our Edinburgh company uniform (who knew bright orange hoodies were so hard to come by?!?) may have added a certain stress to those mighty peaks…. But on balance I can’t complain. I even squeezed a visit in to Edinburgh in July!
In fact that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about Edinburgh. Now there is a special place. Haven’t been? Then go. Go now. Stop reading this and go book your train ticket. Go experience the wonder and madness that is the fringe. What are you waiting for? On your way, get going and scraper!
Just be certain to pop into theSpace @ Surgeons Hall to catch The Graveyard Slot while you’re there!

Sisters are doing it for themselves!

Posted in Company News by admin at 4 March, 2013
It’s a new year – and new times are afoot here at Hecate as we embark on our first performance of a published play (that isn’t Shakespeare) with Gwen Cherrell’s The Madam. A parlour room drama about four sisters, one who has just returned from prison, it’s an intense exploration of sibling rivalry and fractured trust. Who should you believe? Find out at The Alma Tavern this April.
Not based in Bristol? No problem. In our first venture outside of the West Country since the Edinburgh Fringe 2012, Hecate are travelling to the brand spanking new Stratford-Upon-Avon Fringe Festival on the weekend of May 23-24.
And if all THAT wasn’t enough for you – head on over to our Current Shows page to see what we’ve got lined up for the rest of the year, starting with a little event on some big issues this March…

Open Your Eyes, Close Your Ears

Posted in Nicky’s Word by admin at 7 October, 2012
Here at Hecate, we always like to try something new and it’s always fun to bring people into the theatre who wouldn’t otherwise have attended. I have friends who were dragged virtually kicking and screaming to watch the first performance of Metamorphoses back in March 2011, who have since been to see every Bristol reincarnation of the play and are now asking me what my next performance is? THIS, clearly, is the reaction that we want!
At the start of the year, Hecate elected to produce its first ever radio play and to do so Live on Stage. The reasons for this were twofold: firstly, our Artistic Director Hannah-Marie Chidwick is a self confessed fan of the radio style of the 1930s and 40s and secondly, with the aim of making theatre more inclusive for those with disabilities; in this instance, for those who are visually impaired.
Happily, today many shows offer signed performances so that those with a loss of hearing can still enjoy the full theatrical experience of attending the theatre, without feeling that they are missing out on any of the action. THIS feeling is something that we at Hecate Theatre Co wish to replicate with The Graveyard Slot.
Written by Matthew Watt and now in its second incarnation, The Graveyard Slot is a spooky radio play performed live that does exactly what it says on the tin. Stood in front of two microphones, our cast of 6 actors and 1 musician bring to life the story of Janet de Bastion’s family manor using music, sound effects and a whole heap of silly voices. Although the nature of a radio play means it could be comfortably performed in a studio or village hall type space with no adverse affect, the company deliberately chose theatrical venues to keep the sense of occasion. Going to the theatre should always have the feel of something special about it and in the case of a live radio play, all audience members, regardless of whether they have 20/20 vision or none at all, can enjoy that sense of occasion equally. Now don’t get me wrong, the cast of The Graveyard Slot are beautiful to look upon, but not being able to see them won’t take anything away from the performance.
Toward that end, we invite one and all to come and join us at The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol from the 8th to 13th October, or at The Rondo Theatre, Bath for October 31st and Hallowe’en. Whatever your age, height, hair colour or glasses prescription, Hecate Theatre would love to include you in The Graveyard Slot audience. Just remember to bring your ears and a smile and prepare to be entertained by the stunning special effects that only old shoes, a money jar, maracas, a velvet sash, a tambourine, a wind chime and 6 vocally gymnastic actors can provide.

Fringe Fun Part 2: A day in the life…

Posted in Nicky’s Word by admin at 25 September, 2012
Are you heading to the fringe next year? If so then read on to enjoy our account of a typical Edinburgh Fringe performers day and see if you’re ready…
In my last blog, the lead up to the Fringe was covered, press releases had been sent off and you re-join us now with rehearsals completed and the preview performed to a sell-out audience. Costumes and (minimalist) set are packed and ready to go, our Edinburgh journey is about to begin!
Upon arrival in Edinburgh we were immediately faced with an accommodation mix up by our letting agent that would be worthy of its own dedicated blog. However, as I don’t wish to weary your eyes, suffice to say that we were unable to get into our flat by fair or foul means and that none of the relevant parties were answering their phones. Whilst we contemplated potential homelessness (on 4 hours sleep and 12 hours of travel) we also had to conduct our 90 minute technical rehearsal. This undertaking would normally require a full day, yet by Edinburgh standards our 90 minute technical slot was almost excessive!
The following day was our opening performance and the beginning of the madness in earnest. A typical day for an Edinburgh performer (at least one performing a tea time show) looks something like this:
11 a.m. Basic company warm up and/or notes, usually in the living room of the shared accommodation as very few venues have studios for such activities (one company with an 8.10pm slot were regularly to be seen warming up in the bar, surrounded by their waiting audience)
12 p.m. Commence flyering. Flyering is usually run in 2 hr+ shifts that overlap. Activities such a singing, friezes and the enactment of short scenes are common place. As is the handing out of giveaways (our freebie of choice was jelly snakes) and bellowing about special offers “2-4-1 when you quote GO TO BED at our Box Office!” Flyering in the rain is also highly likely and all of this is expected of EVERY member of the cast and crew.
3.30 p.m. Upon finishing flyering the cast and crew are required to relax for half an hour prior to starting the run; sitting down in the courtyard with our banner prominently displayed around the cast as they relax… In reality most of this time was spent on Twitter spreading the good news about our show, tweeting about special offers and generally making as much noise about our run as possible. As Assistant Producer I became the bane of my cast’s social media life by requiring they all join Twitter and tweet like crazy about the show; praise be to those lovely people for taking me at my word and doing such a grand job!
3.50 p.m. Head into the toilet to get changed. Try to timetable changes so as not to meet the hundreds of audience members flooding out from other shows: getting stuck in a queue for the bathroom is not an adequate excuse for missing ‘curtain up’!
4.00 p.m. Flyer the courtyard in advance of the show. Try not to hassle the patrons whilst still encouraging them to take a chance on our show and spend their hard earned cash on 45 minutes of drama by a company they have yet to hear of… Simple, eh?
4.10 p.m. Gain access to our venue. Set props and scenery. Liaise with venue technical staff to ensure the correct gels are in place and lights are focused correctly.
4.15 p.m. Main cast vocal and physical warm up
4.20 p.m. Doors Open
4.25 p.m. Showtime!
5.10 p.m. The show finishes. Cast leave the stage and immediately begin stripping down the set and tidying props away to their respective homes.
5.15 p.m. Leave the space ready for the next show.
Some shows expect their casts to return to the mile at this point to continue flyering, but with our timeslot we found little benefit from this and after the show the cast are free to enjoy their evening as they wish. Technically the production team are too, although once more the reality is very different. Emails are sent, tickets are booked for critics, reviews are discovered and rejoiced over, and morning visits to Fringe Central are planned to run riot with the printer, stapler and guillotine to affix those all-important stars to our flyers!
A word to the wise: take your own stapler and scissors to the fringe. After one wasted morning of queuing for the guillotine/staplers at Fringe Central, I hunted down the one stationary shop in Edinburgh that still had staples in stock and set up a production line back at our accommodation. Cue serial TV watching, tea drinking and stapling sessions.
This is perhaps a succinct version of what is required by an actor at the Edinburgh Fringe, but until an actor has experienced it for themselves it can’t be fully appreciated.
Essential items for your suitcase for an Edinburgh Fringe run are:
Layers! It may be August but don’t expect sun!
That said… sun cream. If you forget that on a three hour flyering shift and you are lucky enough to experience sunshine you will turn an interesting shade of lobster.
A rain coat
Equally an umbrella
Sturdy (waterproof) flyering shoes
Stapler
Scissors
Vitamin C tablets. This is most important. Illness spreads quickly through a shared house, especially when energy reserves are low. Keep yourself healthy and bright.
A smart phone, tablet or computer to keep abreast of online happenings and spread the word!
There are other items but those are (in this blogger’s opinion) the most pressing. So if you’re heading to the festival next year, be prepared, but above all, enjoy! It’s an experience like no other.

Hi diddle dee dee!

Posted in Nicky’s Word by admin at 18 May, 2012
An actor’s life for me! Erm…
Well.
Oh my.
I’ve been promoted. Sort of. In any case I’m going to have a lot more work to do! Our illustrious company founder and artistic director has taken leave of her senses and elevated me to the dizzy heights of assistant producer on Metamorphoses: Fables from Ovid.
After parading around my house feel all requisite and significant for half an hour, the reality of my new position began to dawn on me. No longer is my sole responsibility learning my lines and turning up on time. Some of the delicate threads that are woven together to produce the high calibre of work presented by Hecate are now in my hands. Oh Lord.
Not that I’m scared you understand, a little daunted perhaps, incredibly excited for sure but nonetheless I have now crossed that scary line from actor to production team. I’ve even been trusted with the company passwords. (You can ask me what they are but I’m not telling)After only one day of sitting in my new seat, I suddenly appreciate all the work the Producer has previously carried out alone. Example:
The Edinburgh Fringe website has comprehensive documents covering all that you need to know about taking your show to your fringe. Great! These documents are each about 17 pages long. Oh… gosh. That’s … thorough. There’s a least 6 of them to read and digest in great detail. Oh. My.
So as I prepare to kill a few trees and print these guides off (don’t worry I’m an avid recycler) I can’t help being torn between being grateful I never had to do any of this before and excited that I now have the opportunity to help promote the company I’m so proud of…
Oh come on. We all know that I’m loving this. Bring on the work. Bring on the late nights and the energy drinks and the stress.
After all, as a wise blogger once implied… what’s life without a challenge?

The question and nature of challenge…

Posted in Nicky’s Word by admin at 15 March, 2012
I went for an audition a few days ago for a company that regularly performs the works of the Bard to great critical acclaim. The audition was relatively straight forward. Chat to the director, then perform one Shakespeare, one contemporary and then work one of the speeches with the director. All this I have done before. Bear with me; I am getting to my point… In the space of five short minutes under the instruction of this particular director, I was forced to re-evaluate my whole approach to the text, with the upshot being a performance I never could have achieved on my own. I left the room hoping very much to work with this director again, but thinking – whatever the outcome – that I had learned something important in that little room. Thanking him for the experience I left the room excited and with a real bounce to my step… On the bus journey home it dawned on me: challenge. That is what has been missing from my working life.
I have harped on about Metamorphoses in many of my blogs, because that play was special for many reasons. It has taken me until now to identify that one of the reasons that the play was so exciting, was because the work was inherently challenging. The subject matter was both delicate and brutal, the quality of performance from the other cast members continually forced me to ‘up my game’ and the director had a clear insight into the text and what she expected. It was rarely easy but it was always frustrating, fascinating and fantastic by turns.
The dictionary definition of challenge in this context is as follows:
Challenge: (noun) a test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking.
The key word here is stimulating. As an actor, it’s very easy to become complacent about your craft, to settle into comfortable parts, to stay within your comfort zone. Years ago as a student, I never understood why I would wish to step out of that safe zone; after all I knew what I was doing there… not so now.
Being safe is DULL. But being challenged? Well, as I demonstrated earlier, that can cause you to produce work you never thought was in your capabilities… And that is why I love Hecate. Like the goddess the company derives its name from, nothing is ever serene or predictable; the pieces are always challenging and unique and because of this, always rewarding.
So! Now that I’ve realised I need a challenge, I just have to find one!
All offers and suggestions are welcome…

Triple Threat? That’s not enough anymore!

Posted in Nicky’s Word by admin at 21 November, 2011
Just a little thought this one….
For those that don’t know, the Triple Threat refers to performers who can sing, act and dance, making them more versatile performers, capable of tackling all different types of roles. However, those Triple Threat performers are being over taken by an emerging breed….
The Quadruple Threat: actors who sing, act, dance and play an instrument to a Grade 8 standard or higher. Or, as I prefer to think of these thoroughly accomplished people, Super Humans.
In an industry hard hit by the recession where funding is rapidly disappearing, producers are finding that casting actors who play instruments not only creates an exciting piece of theatre (which in turn draws greater audiences), but also allows money saving on orchestra costs. In the last 12 – 18 months I have seen countless jobs that I am unable to apply for because I gave up flute at the age of 14 and piano at the age of 17. (Should have listened to my father and persevered!)
I can’t help but be impressed by those performers who have mastered all these four disciplines and through my jealous haze I have a lot of respect for them. The concern is, are casting directors and producers asking too much of performers? Well, judging by the success of several of these shows (in particular the John Doyle directed 2004 production of Sweeney Todd, which could be credited with sparking off this trend) and the high calibre of the performers involved…. Well, it looks like the answer could be no. Clearly the performers are out there and now being a Triple Threat is simply not enough if you are to compete with your all singing, all dancing, Stanislavsky trained, cello playing neighbour.
So, should performing arts institutions be encouraging students to dust off their musical instruments and practise their way back to performance level? Or does it fall to the individual to enhance their skill base?
Personally I know what I think – and I’d love to debate this more, but I’ve got 10 years of practising to catch up on!

For more madness from Nicola’s world, visit www.nicolafoxfield.co.uk

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