In which I tread the boards again after 20+ years

When I was young and single and looking for ways to make new friends in the intimidating and unfriendly-by-reputation deep south, I decided that amateur dramatics was the way to go. I joined the Worthy Players, who were a very friendly and welcoming bunch. I started by doing props for “A Month of Sundays” (it’s harder than you’d think to replicate a pot of tea *safely* and *convincingly* on stage), and then switched between backstage roles and on-stage roles in “SS Farndale Avenue” and “One for the Road” (my name was different then, but you can see the evidence by checking out the previous shows page of their website and scrolling all the way down to 1994/95 – look for Jude Hayes) – and, it turns out, “Humpty Dumpty”, which I’d completely forgotten about… I really enjoyed it, but in the summer of 1995 I moved up to London. My job in London was such that I couldn’t guarantee being in rehearsals (you’d be surprised what crises pop up on Europe-wide car rental applications, and how often it requires you to “stay until it’s done”) and also, London is well known for being full of Proper Actors and I was so intimidated by that idea that I just didn’t investigate the am-dram-wanna-be-not-am scene.

There are days when I really regret that.

So: I got married, had children and couldn’t guarantee being at rehearsals for a whole host of other reasons – in truth, I felt like my family ought to come first. However, they are now old enough that they can be left alone for huge swathes of the day, so I’ve launched back in.

While sight-seeing in Liverpool last year I saw an A-board outside the masonic hall on Hope Street advertising acting classes for adults. And so I signed up (with MAD). Just over a year later, having done 3 terms of classes with them, I signed up for the summer performance “course”, which culminates in a production in a proper theatre.

me as a theatre nurse

I was cast in “Tiger Country” by Nina Raine as “Lakshmi” (renamed to “Laura”), a middle-aged theatre nurse. Clearly acting middle-aged was a stretch, but having worked in a clinical research facility, I’m practically a nurse already anyway… The play is set between Surgery and A&E in a large hospital, and shows the pressures on the NHS through the lives of the people working in it.

rehearsing the trauma scene

Here (below) you can see us performing a testicle removal on Cyril, using barbecue tongs as retainers (we dropped that after the level of guffawing from the audience as they are clearly not a self-retainer, which is what was asked for in the preceding line…). Please note the attractive headgear, and how my hair is *nearly* tucked in!

Posted by Merseyside Academy of Drama – MAD on Saturday, 9 September 2017

Photo from the dress rehearsal, taken by the very talented

The next one shows my awesome acting chops – I was having to pretend to be really pissed off with Lisa (“Vanessa”) here, which was hard because I really like her. I channelled the feeling I had when a particular manager in my past was berating me for some reason or other that was most definitely not my fault.

Posted by Merseyside Academy of Drama – MAD on Saturday, 9 September 2017

Photo from the dress rehearsal, taken by the very talented

The performances felt like they went really well, and the last one was pretty much a sell-out, which really helped with the atmosphere. I liked the challenge of working in the round, enjoyed the rehearsals and being part of a company, and bringing these characters to life. I also got a reputation for being organised as I wanted to make sure my props were all sorted – Lisa is now convinced I should be pursuing a career in stage management.

script and memorabilia

In conclusion, I’m loving it, looking for ways to do more, and wish I’d got my arse in gear to do it years ago… so, watch this space, folks!

The man in the high …warehouse? (spoilers for Man In The High Castle)

We finished Season 2 of The Man In The High Castle last night and although I enjoyed a lot of it (especially the bits with Rufus Sewell in), it’s fair to say I found watching most of Season 2 a confusing and distressing experience.

It didn’t begin well when I started watching the season hoping that it would still be compelling without Rufus, given that I was convinced his character had died near the end of the previous season. Turns out, I was completely wrong about that and that his character had very much not died, and is a major part of this season. So, I’ll own that one and say many “yay”s for more Rufus. This was not the fault of the writers, but a consequence of me getting confused in my middle age. It did, however, start the worrying thought that maybe I should have re-watched at least the end of the last season, just to get my bearings, if not re-watched all of Season 1. Of course, I didn’t do this. Busy-busy life, only so many hours in the day, we’ve already invested in watching it once for goodness’ sakes. I didn’t even read a synopsis, which would probably have proven helpful.

I like the style of the season. What America would be like under the Nazis/Japanese in the 60s if they had won the war was, in my opinion, well imagined. I enjoyed the action up to a certain point, but early on got myself very confused about who was betraying who, and what the point or influence of the eponymous character was. Which meant that the double timeline denouement with (actually, this time) characters coming back from the dead and some things left open ended, for reasons I couldn’t determine was really properly confusing. Because the husband has a tendency to work in front of the TV, I’m often asked what’s going on at various stages. At the end of Season 2, I was unable to help.

“Didn’t she die?”
“Then why is she there?”
“I don’t know.”

If there was meant to be a link back to Season 1, I would have enjoyed clearer references. Late on, we discover that Washington was nuked at the end of the war. That could have been made more of, and could have been a bigger part of the general build-up to the threat of all-out nuclear apocalypse that hung over the second half of the season. As someone who was a child in the 80s, when the cold war still “raged”, the threat, and any fall-out from there being attacks on US soil (in every sense) apart from the obvious different-outcome-of-the-war thing felt very underplayed.

I did, however, enjoy the playing out of the fate of John Smith’s son, Thomas. The boy has a form of MS which, under the 3rd Reich, means that he should be reported to the authorities and euthanised, however, his father is plotting to get him out of the Reich and away to safety. Thomas realises the situation (because he’s a bright lad) and shops himself, but in a way that won’t harm his parents. I never used to try to guess what happens when watching films & TV, but from early on in this episode, I stated several times “he’s going to kill himself”. The scene where the medics arrive to take him away is well-constructed, and very moving. Even given the subject matter, it’s a high point for me.

I was quite disappointed, as well, that the man in the high castle is really a dude in a warehouse. Given that Germany features prominently in the storyline (with John Smith zipping back & forth from New York to Berlin like it’s round the corner) I had high hopes for an actual castle.

If there’s a season 3, I’ll watch it, if only to hope for things to improve. However, there is definitely some winning-me-back to be done.

rat update

Lily thought the rats might get bored in their home, so on Sunday morning we went to get some toys for them.


They now have a ladder with toys on and an exercise wheel… which they don’t seem too taken with as yet. They enjoyed having a run around as we cleaned their home and installed the new furniture. Snowy met Little Miss Sunshine…

snowy & little miss sunshine

While Ellie took on Beatrix Potter.

ellie on the bookshelf

You can see how neither of them is very good at being still for the camera – might have to get the “proper” one out with the fast shutter one day! Also we’re still having to move the bookshelf each time, as they tend to gravitate towards the small gap thereunder…

They seem more settled now, and a bit happier (apart from the hiding under the bookshelf) and Snowy is less bitey, although Lily got nipped on the toe again on Sunday 🙁

holiday weekend!

So, instead of being boring and dull at home, we went to a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party in Bristol. The theme was James Bond so we all glammed up…

..and somehow managed to not pull faces for the camera.

Some atmos shots from the party…

my men…

and the fabulous cake

click to embiggen – it’s worth it! Joel was angling for the angry birds piece, but I think someone else whipped that one. And by the time Daddy was acquiring cake he was in no fit state to be identifying Angry Birds through napkins…

On the way down we stopped at the services. I don’t think this picture makes us look like bad parents, do you?

To be honest, they were fascinated that under 18s weren’t allowed in the area where the slot machines were. Especially when a little boy wandered in there, and apparently triggered an announcement saying “Only over-18s are allowed in this area. If you are under 18 you must leave immediately!” I think that’s when they took up prime viewing position to see if anyone else was told to leave…

The following day, on the way home, we took this bridge (worth every penny of £5.70)…

…to Raglan Castle, which Steve and I went to in the autumn, but as we’re English Heritage members of more than one year’s standing, we get free entry.

We like this one. It’s huge and very ruined because the owners were on the losing side in the civil war.

I went a little bit hipstamatic crazy – sorry about that… I love the 4th picture here, which captures Joel mid-explanation. He’s telling me that he thinks the big hole (probably foundations/cellars) was probably a garbage dump as there’s a bit of garbage left there. Didn’t really have the heart to correct him.

We played hide and seek, starting with finding Daddy, then Mummy, then Joel wanted a go. When we started counting, he shot off over the bridge and headed up to 7 storeys of spiral staircase up to the top of the very tall broken tower. He got very disappointed when we stopped him, and henceforth insisted on him being accompanied by a grown-up for hiding. Which had we thought about it, was an obvious rule really. Heaven forbid he should be anything but dangerously adventurous…

So we ended up with a trip to Ikea (which is what we would have been doing, had we stayed home – I like to think of it as a win-win!) – both Wednesbury and Warrington as the first one didn’t have the shelving unit we were after.

And now back to work, to relax!

can anybody…?

At the moment, the children really love the “” advert featuring a sooped-up version of Queen’s “somebody to love”.

Here they are, singing it with Daddy…

Can anybody…..

find me-ee-ee-ee

somebod-eh toooooooo


I thank you. We’re here all week. Try the veal.

a terribly serious injury

Dad was round the other night, and was playing “catch” with Lily. She missed a fairly direct throw, and the ball hit her eye.

eye patch lily

She spent the night in her bandage & dressings, and although her vision was “still very fuzzy” in the morning, she said she would try without, in the hopes that she didn’t go blind in that eye after all.

Not (just) Brassed Off

Mum’s ticket #2 was a trip on Saturday to a Douglas Music Society concert featuring the Wingates Brass Band. Self-described as a “premiership” band, they lived up to their ranking. Performances were flawless, and the programme was a well thought out evening at the movies. Williams’ “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan was sublime, although I had to spend the intro trying to stop myself from saying “matt damon” in my head in a “Team America” stylee, thus ruining it for myself.

The first half ended with an arrangement of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. It was billed as a ‘slightly unusual’ arrangement & I found myself disappointed with it at first – partly because, although the music was great, they didn’t have the solo voice cry which features at the start of the film, which I felt sure could have been done with one of the instruments there. However, the piece built, including some chanting from the musicians who dealt seamlessly with what could well have been considered a voyage out of their comfort zone, and by the end I felt myself being swept up into an overwhelming crescendo.

The pieces played covered a wide range of films over several decades, not too much John Williams, and a surprise inclusion of “Lara’s Theme” for the benefit of a departing band member – a change that was warmly received by the audience, many of whom were, one suspects, in their prime when the film was released. The two soloists were excellent, one of whom played her own arrangement of “Somewhere over the rainbow”, the other the classic “Orange Juice” concerto (again, as featured in Brassed Off).

On the whole, the concert made me nostalgic for the time when I played myself, and laboured under the tyranny of Mr Bridle’s baton at KEHS. My Dad, who played in the National Youth Brass Band in his time, said that he felt the standard of musicianship over the years has been raised a lot, and he doubts wherher the band of his time would have coped with some of the pieces we heard.

The band’s encore was “Death or Glory”, a classic band pioece which features in the opening sequence of Brassed Off, a film which did a lot for the band movement in the ’90s, and for Grimethorpe in particular.

abigail’s party

Because my mother was not able to go(!), I had the pleasure of accompanying my Dad to Southport Little Theatre on Thursday to see a production of “Abigail’s Party” by Southport Drama Society.

The play is set in Beverley’s living room, while the eponymous party takes place next door. Its intention is to criticize/highlight the futility of social snobbery in the 1970s, and it’s fair to say that the evening the characters undergo is not a pleasant one. The bizarre ending left me wondering if the final curtain was truly such until the cast took their bows.

Staging was excellent, the crew really captured the essence of a 1970s living room, and there were none of the swaying flats that one often associates with amateur performances. The women truly brought their characters to life, whereas the men fulfilled their roles with aplomb. Given the script, where they are called on to be tremendously awkward and pompous by turn, essentially portrayed as the weaker sex, it was hard to tell whether awkward silences were part of the script or a weak point in the performance. The costumes were bang on (Beverley, in particular, had a truly astounding cleavage), and the comic timing excellent.

It’s also a sign of the times that when “Beverley” lit up on stage for the first time, I thought “can she *do* that?” and spent the rest of the evening wondering if I would smell like I’d been to the pub 10 years ago when I got home…