Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Playing with Pictures

One of the upsides of your friends knowing you like taking pictures is you often get asked to take pictures for specific events.  Last Saturday morning I had a chance to dress the three witches up, stick them in front of a fire in The Old Gate Inn (who were really lovely and accommodating!), feed them tea and cake (it's a hard life being a witch) and take pictures of them.
I told them to just move slowly and interact with each other so they rattled lines off whilst I jumped around on furniture near them and snapped away.  I was really happy with the results and have sent the best ones off as press photos.
Sunday I had even more fun when Steve gave me my first ever lesson in Photoshop.  The thing about the Discworld is that while you can picture some of the landscapes as possibly being similar to landscapes we know, it is still a fantasy world, born in imagination and every person who thinks of a Discworld setting thinks of something different.

This basically gave me free reign to use some of the photo's I had taken in rehearsals and turn them into scenes from my imagination.

Photoshop is a lot of fun.  I got a little carried away but it was such a thrill to be able to physically put the actors into the settings that I had in my head.  The edges are a little rough (this is the first time I have ever used Photoshop) but overall I was pretty happy with the results!

Firstly Hwel and Tomjon, lost in the mountains near Lancre, taking such a long time getting to the Kingdom that the witches get fed up and decide to meddle after all.
Duke Felmet in the middle of one of his breakdowns, mistaking the handkerchief that the Fool offers for 'a dagger that he sees before him'.  John only had half a Fool's costume at this stage as the rest is being hired.  Yes, that is a Christmas elf's hat - he has a proper Fool's hat for the show but needed something to rehearse with!
The witches with the Discworld floating majestically in the ether behind them.   Steve did this one first and this is what gave me the idea for playing with some of the other pictures.
Artwork credit to nicolsche  http://scribblenauts.wikia.com/
Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg in the middle of a spitting argument about taking revenge on the Duke and Duchess.
Artwork credit to Gaius Duke http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=172601
Magrat and the Fool in a meadow as time freezes and the world moves around them.  This one I like the least and it shows that I do need to work on my blending and colour balance skills to meld the pictures together. 
We normally have pictures from the dress rehearsal decorating the foyer of our plays.  As I am taking the dress rehearsal pictures (interesting challenge as I am acting in Scene 3 as well!) I may end up tweaking my favourites and putting them in Discworld settings!

I'm getting nervous about the play now - we have less than a week until opening night!  The next blog post about the play will be my summary and review one.  Posts also may be a bit sparse over the next week or so - I will be in the theatre for a lot of the time so may not get a chance to post much.

Wish us broken legs!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Burlesque in a Speigeltent

I'm not normally one to go out and play on a school night but there are some things you just can't say no to.

We are bang smack in the middle of the Canterbury Festival and its companion, the Fringe Festival, a fortnight of arts and entertainment events and activities in various venues all over the City.  Sinead is performing in one of the shows this week (Daddy's Girls, presented by Ashcan, at the Salt Restaurant) and we have all been rehearsing our socks off ready for next's week production of Wyrd Sisters.

We needed a girls night out to let our hair down and hitch our skirts up and Shay had exactly the right event for us.

Gilded Lily's Variety Show at the Speigeltent.
Now I don't know about you but I have never been to a Speigeltent before so didn't really know what to expect.  I was picturing a fairly basic marquee, white canvas walls and maybe a nice lantern hanging from the centre.

As we were dropped off at the Kent Cricket Ground I wasn't expecting this
A 1900's mirrored travelling dance hall, reminiscent of the wild bohemia and wanton fin-de-si├Ęcle of the Moulin Rouge era nightlife.  The hall took our breath away.
Inside was a riot of circus colours, rich fabrics and deep woods all inlaid with mirrors reflecting and refracting the light around the interior.  Framing the entrance were etched glass panels featuring intricate, delicate designs and a very popular bar featuring not so intricate and delicate alcohol.

Booths littered the perimeter whilst wooden chairs formed an audience in the large auditorium in the centre.
We had dressed up for the occasion; we felt that we didn't often get the opportunity to go all out and so the hats, petticoats, corsets and elbow length gloves all came out to play.  I think we caused a bit of a stir - as a group we were by far the most dressed up bunch there but it was such good fun to really go for it!

Also, I'm going to apologise for the quality of some of the photo's,  Light levels were really bad and rather purple as well as a decent amount of stage smoke and we weren't allowed any flash photography which all combines to rather pink, grainy, sometimes a bit blurry photo's.  Sorry!
I have never worn this corset before; it is so beautiful though and just look at the workmanship and detail on it.  It is a vintage corset, handed down from my mother and I have always wanted an excuse to wear it out. It was also surprisingly comfortable!  I teamed it with a petticoat that I normally wear under my 50's dresses and a lacey skirt over the top with Victorian heeled booties.  It was a look I have never tried before but one that is so much fun to wear and also attracts a lot of attention!
None of the girls disappointed with their outfits, although I think we all felt much more comfortable en-masse than we did individually!
We grabbed some bottles of wine, grabbed some seats and settled in for the show as the compare came onto the stage to introduce the hostess.
Gilded Lily was our hostess for the evening, a singer and performer with a saucy attitude and a sassy wink, she was wonderful.  She came on in lavish costumes and had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand with her catchphrase of 'Did you like that?  Of course you did, I know you did my darlings!'
She sang four songs I think in total, including one in French (no idea, never heard it before).  Her voice is beautiful with an operatic quality and a rolling timbre to it.  This girl has a serious set of pipes on her!
I don't have many pictures as it's not really right to try and photograph someone in the middle of a burlesque routine, but we were treated to three performances, one involving a balloon routine, one with giant fans and one with a feather boa.  All three were stunning.  I've never been to a burlesque show before but I'm really tempted to look up some more in our area!

This was a variety show so we also had some magicians who were screamingly funny, a very flexible female comedian and my favourite, The Boy With Tape Over His Mouth, a simple concept but so effective.  Having your mouth obscured means you rely totally on your body and your eyes to convey humour and we were in stitches.  Amazingly talented and if you get the chance to see him please take advantage of it!
He even managed to get one member of the audience performing his own strip tease on the stage to 'Leave Your Hat On'.  Kudos to you Sir, that took guts!
This night was an absolute scream and such a fantastic event to go to with a group of your girlfriends.  I know that the Canterbury Festival are fundraising to bring the Speigeltent back again next year.  I only hope that they manage it.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Reading Nook

I'm trying something a little new here.  Once a month I thought I would dedicate a post to the book I have most recently finished reading.  I love reading and always have done.  I managed to make myself severely short sighted by reading under the bedclothes with a torch when I was little and ended up with thick, heavy glasses from the ages of about 10 to 16.  I am also a very fast reader - on a 2 week beach holiday it has not been unheard of for me to finish 16 books (Kindle, you are a lifesaver on the luggage allowance!).
Recently though I have been too tired at night, my usual reading time, to knuckle down and work my way through some good literature and I am missing it if I am honest.  I find I sleep better, I am less stressed and much more relaxed if I have spent even just half an hour immersed in the world of someone else.  Knowing I need to write about a book once a month will keep me on track, without being too onerous on me as a book a month is more than achievable.
My degree was in Classical and Archaeological Studies with English and American Literature but I am ashamed to admit that I still haven't read some of the books I was supposed to have studied!  I want to broaden my reading scope beyond my usual genres (which are fairly mixed anyway but lean heavily towards fantasy, chick lit and the classics) and find some new gems.  Goodreads is wonderful for this and I nearly completed their reading challenge last year.  The plan is to mix up some of the books I have had on my bookshelf for years (Don DeLillo, I'm coming to get you) with others that I have never heard of and those that I return to time and time again (Tolkien, it may be time to dust you off once more). 

So that is the plan.  I want to catalogue my reading exploits here, find new authors to love and worlds to explore.  I want to lose myself in adventures in far off lands and travel to places born from another's imagination.  I want new characters to scream at and cheer on and want to hold my breath with barely constrained excitement as my eyes flicker over the page as fast as I dare to find out what happens next.
I want to murmur "just one more chapter" knowing that the alarm going off in the morning will be all the more painful for it and not really care.

I want to lose myself in ink and paper, the sound of a newly cracked spine and that scent of words and stories that only real books can provide (sorry Kindle, you come up short here).  The fragrance of a library or bookstore, especially one filled with antique books, is like no other on earth. 
I also want to hear from you, the books you love and the books you hate and the books I have to go and get my paws on now.

Hopefully you will like this addition to the blog.  I won't be reviewing - I'm not a reviewer but I will just be open and honest about my opinions.  I hope you will too.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Piri Piri Chicken and Seasoned Wedges

I'm probably going to get strung up by a lot of people when I say this, but I have to come clean.

I don't like Nando's.

I find the chicken greasy and dry at the same time (quite an impressive achievement), the food is never warm and the restaurant is always full of people trying to chase away their hangovers.

However I do like piri piri and it's really not that hard to make at home. 
It's the chili that is the important ingredient and the clue is in the name.  Although people tend to assume piri piri is Portuguese in origin the dish actually originated in Mozambique and can be spelt as piri piri, peri peri or even pili pili.  However you chose to spell it, all versions translate as 'chilli' so the name literally means 'chilli chilli' in Swahili. 
You need little birdseye chilli's for this dish - small, fiery and red.  Go with at least 1, more if you want a bit more heat.  You can scrape the seeds out to amp up the chilli flavour without the heat if you want.  Just be careful - I was careless whilst making this, brushed my nose with my fingers and had burning nostrils for the next hour, a really unpleasant experience!
The longer you marinade the chicken for, the better but it will need at least 2 hours; overnight would be awesome.

To serve I think it goes really well with home-made seasoned potato wedges and corn on the cob dripping in salt and butter.  According to Steve I'm weird for putting salt on my corn but I happen to love it.
For the chicken you need:

4 chicken portions (strangely enough) - on the bone
1 small onion
Tomato passata or puree
Olive Oil
1 lemon (cut in half)
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
Sprinkling of maldon sea salt flakes
1 dried ancho chilli
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried coriander leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 cloves crushed garlic
Between 1 and 5 red birdseye chillli's
Score the chicken with deep strips along the skin.  Fry the onion in a little oil until translucent.  Add the onion, passata, olive oil, juice of half the lemon, herbs, spices, hot sauce and chilli's into a blender and blitz until smooth.  Put the sauce into a freezer bag, add the chicken and mush it all together, making sure you massage the sauce into the chicken well. 

Set aside to marinade until 1 hour before you are ready to eat.

Turn the oven up to 180 and prep your potatoes.  Scrub the skins well and cut them into wedges.  You don't need to peel them.  Scatter the wedges in a baking tray, slosh them with olive oil, pepper, thyme and a generous amount of sea salt and roast for 45 minutes - 1 hour, turning every so often.
Put the chicken into a baking dish and bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour, checking that the juices run clear before serving.  Because you are baking the chicken in the marinade you will find that the skin blackens a little bit. Don't worry - this just adds to the flavour.
Serve with corn on the cob and coleslaw with the chicken juices dribbled over the top and napkins as people will want to invite their fingers to this chicken party!

Friday, 18 October 2013

A Wyrd Update

I'm not sure how many more times I can utilise word play on the title of Wyrd Sisters.  What do you think?  Something Wyrd this way comes?  It's all getting Wyrd in here?  Well that was a bit Wyrd?  Is it getting old yet?

I haven't blogged about Wyrd Sister's for a while, not since the auditions took place over the Summer so I thought (now that the posters have been finalised) that it was time for a little update!
We are well and truly into the rehearsals now.  We have passed the dreaded deadline of 'books down' (no scripts allowed on stage anymore), we are running entire acts (and soon to move into runs of the entire play), we have even done our line run.  A line run is when all the cast sit in a big circle, no acting or movement and simply run the lines back to back.

Without their scripts.

This is a lot harder than it sounds as you normally associate lines with cues of some description and not all of them are verbal.  A lot of cues are physical; a nod of the head, a cross to a new position, someone walks onto the stage and hits you and with a line run you don't have that.

What is the point then I hear you cry?!

A line run forces the cast to listen to each other which means that they are forced to listen for their actual cue line instead of, as frequently happens at this stage in rehearsals, just jumping in when they think it is about the right time for them to speak, often cutting over the top of someone else!  Because line runs are so much faster than an actual run as well (not moving furniture and props around frees up a ridiculous amount of time, as does not having to run the length of time some of the cast spend getting from the top to the bottom of the auditorium and milking it for all they are worth.  Ahem, John?) cast are also acutely aware of areas that they need to swot up on a little bit more.  The basic rule is, if you got a prompt you need to go and learn it again!  I was incredibly frustrated with myself as I missed a cue that I know and forgot another line completely that I also know.  I have never missed these lines before and I don't have many so there really is no excuse.  I was mentally kicking myself afterwards.

We are also in the stage of rehearsals where two little words sporadically appear on the rehearsal schedule.  These two little words are 'sticky bits'.  Sticky bits are small segments of the play that need further examination, it could be a stretch of dialogue between two characters or an action sequence, it could be an entire scene or, as rehearsal last Friday proved, it could be the entire of Act 2 (which is now thankfully unstuck).  In a sticky bits rehearsal we call in the actors involved in that particular section and run it over and over again until it matches the quality of the rest of the production.  Often sticky bits emerge from a lack of focus on that area earlier in the rehearsal schedule and they are never a commentary on the skills or abilities of the actors involved; it's simply a bit where there may be blocking issues (actors obscuring each other on stage), a new prop has been bought in which needs working around or the flow isn't quite right.

We have also started the marketing and publicity (we are really happy with the posters that were made by a friend of one of the cast members in return for a bottle of wine and 2 tickets), props and costumes are midway through being sourced (it's very odd to watch a witch in a cloak riding on a broomstick with jeans on) and the set is nearly complete.
We are on stage in 3 weeks time and for once I am feeling very calm about a production.  God only know how RV, the Director is feeling though!

It is shaping up to be a wonderful, hilarious and completely irreverent show with some superb performances.  If you are around, please do consider coming to see us!

Tickets are on sale from the Gulbenkian Theatre box office now, £12 each and the performance nights are the 6th, 7th and 8th November, curtain up at 7.30pm.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Anti-Pasta Platter

Yes I recognise that this is a bit of a cop out post but I've been ill!  Plus which it all looks pretty and surely that counts for something? 

For the laziest, quickest, easiest yet still pretty stupendous looking starter for a dinner party or dinner for four look no further than the glorious, colourful and delectable anti-pasta platter.
This is ridiculously easy to put together and yet always hits the spot.  You need go no further than your nearest deli counter as well!

The secret to a good anti-pasta platter is variety of flavours, textures and colours.

Cheese is a must - cubes of feta are brilliant as the compliment so many of the other dishes and add a creaminess to the platter.

Salami, chorizo and parma ham provide the smokey flavours.
Sundried tomatoes add a sweetness
Whilst cream cheese stuffed pimento's and pickled anchovies bring the tartness to the platter.
Now these aren't for everyone but rice stuffed vine leaves and pickled octopus add texture and a completely different flavour dimension and are also always a talking point!
Piles of olives are a must.  Get different colours and olive stuffed with lemon, chilli or garlic to ensure added interest.
Finally make sure the whole lot is sprinkled with shredded basil leaves - brilliant paired with the feta!

You can also add toasted pita breads cut into strips with dips.  I think that hummus sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, tzatziki and moss green pesto provide a great variety of flavours and colours.

Give everyone a plate and let their fingers dive in!