Archive for May, 2017


The audience applauded and the lights faded. Another performing arts concert was over.  The beams of pride on the faces crowded onto the stage were infectious and enough of a reward for any club leader. 

I’d dabbled with performing arts club on several occasions, mostly assisting or being the guy in charge of the buttons. This year was my first time as leader and I was very aware of the responsibility I was taking on back in September. Of course I wanted the children to enjoy their extra-curricular club but I also wanted to provide a theatrical experience to the richest possible point. I wanted them to understand and share my passion for performance and hopefully develop a thirst for the stage. 

My idea was to give the children as much control as possible. I didn’t want this to just be another tick box job that’s rushed through. A drama club for the sake of having a drama club. I wanted then to learn and take enjoyment from it

Having ownership over the production ensured rehearsals were fizzing with energy and excitement. I discussed characters with each lead – motivations, backgrounds etc – and enjoyed watching ideas form in each actors mind. I encouraged improvisation (which often had hilarious outcomes) and I made sure the final script was jam packed with the children’s ideas. 

The result was fabulous. The energy this week has been excited but relaxed. We’ve had minor problems with prop-finding and line-remembering but all have been easily overcome. It’s been a very relaxed and pleasant final rehearsal process because the children were clear on what they were expected to do. I didn’t need to stress out because I knew I could trust them to pull it off. 

And they did! The positive messages from the audience (children,  staff members, parents) have been overwhelming. The actors handled each performance with a professionalism many would assume would be beyond a primary school drama club. 

It’s been a fun ride, not without its difficult moments, but I am itching to get going on next year’s production already. 

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Oh. My. God.

48hours left.

Months of planning and prepping and rehearsing have led us to this week. We’ve spent today on a last minute hunt for props and costumes before having our final rehearsal.

Everything is as ready as it will ever be. A tree has been erected in the dinner hall and the PE cupboard is now home to Excalibur.

With just one full day left before the performance, the children are far more relaxed than the staff (which is how it should be!). Although today’s performance was not quite as energy-fuelled as other rehearsals, the children have worked hard to put this production together and I’m sure they’ll dazzle for the school and their parents on Wednesday.

Strangely, for me, an odd calmness settled over me today. I’ve got faith in the children to pull it off but it’s also oddly comforting to know that I only have to days left to worry about anything performing arts related! Bring on the show!

Well I think we can all agree that this week’s episode of Doctor Who was terrifiying. Set on a troubled space station, Oxygen saw the Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive to answer a distress signal. As if dealing with the space-zombies (dead astronauts being carried around by their smart-suit) wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with the lack of oxygen. Stressful stuff.

It feels like the Doctor has been travelling to increasingly darker territories since the show’s return in 2005. We’ve had everything from face-consuming gas masks to shadows that will eat you alive but it seems the show is still finding new ways to make us shudder.

Whilst Russel T Davies injected fresh new life into Doctor Who, it’s been Steven Moffatt who is responsible for giving it that chilling streak. Since the beginning of his reign we’ve had the Weeping Angels (terrifying!), Dream Crabs (bloody terrifying!) and the Silence (Oh good God, I’d forgotten about those!) – all suitably creepy enough to give us nightmares. But is this what Doctor Who is about? There’s plenty of criticism online that recent series’ have been too dark and scary for children and there’s lots of people who would like to see it return to its warmer, family-friendly roots.

Take Oxygen. I have to admit, I was freaked. The imagery of the dead astronauts stomping around the space station was effectively eerie, an image I can’t imagine many children will be forgetting in a hurry. But, to me, that’s what it’s all about. Yes, I like watching the Doctor travelling to different planets and having banter with his companions but I also like it when it scares me. When I’m still thinking about it as I go to bed. The Doctor lives a dangerous life and it does the audience good to be reminded of that. It’s not all Oods and Robin Hood. One of the most powerful sequences in this episode was the moment Bill is exposed to the vacuum of space. The peril felt real, aided by a great performance from Pearl Mackie. Bill’s genuine fear throughout the episode came across really well, adding to that feeling of unease as you watch from behind your cushion. Then, ofcourse, the suckerpunch of episode came as the Doctor paid a price for his adventures and lost his sight. Grim stuff.

It’s not just the monsters. We’ve been hit with a different kind of scary several times in recent series as the show has proved it can do psychological terror pretty well too. For example, the words ‘Don’t cremate me’ are enough to give you goose bumps. Doctor Who is able to show us just how awful our own world can be, because anything is possible in the Whoniverse, even the most horrendous of situations.

But should Doctor Who tone down the fear factor? Of course not! Classic Who is remembered most for being terrifying (if a little shoddy on the special effects) so NuWho is simply bringing that thread into 2017. It’s a rare breed of show that has a license to do whatever it wants, so it should always be finding new ways to scare us. The best episodes are the ones we’re stilling thinking about and shuddering days later. Doctor Who should always have the ability to send us diving behind the sofa.

Image result for Doctor Who scary gif

Drama and performance is a passion for me so I was really pleased when I was asked to take over the Performing Arts club. We’ve got a bunch of very talented and enthusiastic children this year, and they’ve been working super hard since January to put together a show based on (a topic of their choice) Welsh Myths and Legends.

We’ve seen everything – from costume confusion to corpsing to totally improvised dialogue! Now we’ve got two weeks left until the performance date. Rehearsals are going well but that anxious ‘oh-my-goodness-two-weeks-left’ feeling is starting to trouble me. We’ve got a child who doesn’t know how to yawn, a tyrannical barber’s wife and I’m having to give lessons in villainy at lunch time. The children have done a fabulous job at learning their lines so I’m not too concerned about that, but I am concerned about what I can do to aid their performance. They’ve worked tremendously hard – fashioning a story, a script and creating some brilliant performances – so they deserve the best support they can get. So it’s a shorter blog post from me this week, because I’m neck-deep in music-editing, prop-sourcing and set-designing.  Wish us luck!

A few weeks ago I had a burst of inspiration. I was adding to old material and creating new work for what felt like a whole week solid. It was just pouring out of me and I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) stop it. The last few weeks that wave of creativity has truly crashed and become a pathetic dribble of vague ideas, all due to that frustrating mess of distractions – life. In the past, when I’m struggling, I find I can take inspiration from music. I’ve said before that music is a large part of my life and, aside from the stuff I might sing along to in my car, I’ve got a bank of music I turn to if I want to jump-start a story in my head. Below are five of, what I think, are the most inspirational musicians for writing (as well as providing dramatic soundtracks for your day….or am I the only one who does that?)

Murray Gold – I’m a Doctor Who fan and Murray Gold’s soundtrack comes with a whole TARDIS full of inspiration. Tracks such as ‘The Master Tape’, ‘The Majestic Tale of the Madman with a Box’ and ‘The Rueful Fate of Donna Noble’ are awesome kick-starters for a dramatic showdown or fully-charged finale. A lot of Reset was written with Murray Gold’s series 4 soundtrack blasting in the background, particularly tracks from latter episodes. Not only has he composed some deliciously dramatic pieces, but his tracks, such as ‘The Dream of a Normal Death’, ‘Goodbye Pond’ and ‘The Long Song’ can also be beautifully poignant. I’ve used Murray Gold’s music to inspire my own work but I’ve also played it many times in the classroom to inspire creative writing (and the children always love it). It’s also worth noting that Gold has composed some wonderful incidental pieces for Torchwood, such as ‘Death of Toshiko’ which always makes me a bit damp around the eyes.

Scala & the Kolacny Brothers – I first heard their take on U2’s ‘With or Without You’ some years ago on an advert for Downton Abbey. It was such a haunting piece of music that I had to find out more, and I’ve since added their versions of ‘Use Somebody’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Every breath you take’ to my writing playlist. Nothing quite tops ‘With or Without You’ when it comes to sending shivers up your arms, though.

Michael GiacchinoLost was one of my favourite TV shows and, apart from the bonkers characters and quirky mysteries, I loved it for its music. My favourite piece of incidental music from Lost is ‘Moving On’. I love how it rises and falls, from soft and gentle to a breath-taking crescendo that just makes you cry! (It’s also great for calming down rowdy Year 6s, I’ve found). Giacchino is also behind some amazing scores from films such as Up and Jurassic World.

John Williams – Speaking of Jurassic World/Park, I had to include the film’s original composer, who created that iconic theme tune (and, alright, I may have been guilty of playing it at full blast as I’ve driven around Wales). Whether you’re into dinos or not, it’s really difficult not to get excited when the music swells. Of course, Williams is also famous for the Star Wars soundtrack, which is equally as inspiring for dramatic writing.

Alan Menken – Responsible for creating some classic Disney tunes, I had to include Menken’s work. Regardless of the catchy songs, Menken’s back catalogue of instrumental scores alone is worthy of this list. From The Little Mermaid to Tangled , Menken has created many breathtaking pieces of music. One of my favourites is ‘Transformation’ from Beauty and the Beast. (Close your eyes, have a listen and feel happy!)