Wednesday, 4 December 2013

AGM 10th December

The Company's Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday 10th December. The venue will upstairs at The University Arms 6:30-7:30pm. The meeting is open to all and is a good way to find out more about how we work, what's going on and how you can get more involved. We'll also be electing our management team for next year. Please come and join us. One of the items on the agenda will be the draft for a new constitution, you can read a copy here.

Monday, 4 November 2013

STOP PRESS change to Julius Caesar Auditions

Due to illness the auditions for Julius Caesar will now be Thursday 7th and Tuesday 12th of November I am very sorry about this but it has been unavoidable. Please spread the word as far as you can so that hopefully everyone who was planning to come will find out.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Julius Caesar Auditions

On stage 5 - 8th February 2014 will be Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Auditions will be held on Tuesday 5th and Thursday 7th November at 8pm in the Drama Studio rehearsal rooms.

Our auditions operate as follows:

  • All are welcome
  • No preparation is necessary
  • The rehearsal rooms are up the Shearwood Rd side of the Drama Studio past the stage door
  • There is a coded lock on the door, if no-one is about to let you in please knock

"And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?
Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf,
But that he sees the Romans are but sheep:
He were no lion, were not Romans hinds."

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Dunwich Adaptation

It’s a tricky thing writing an adaptation,
On the one hand what works in one medium may not work for another, for example a large chunk of the early story is spent detailing the history of the story, the growth and development of our antagonist from child to adult-looking child, something that would not really work for a play.

On the other hand you change too much and you risk alienating the fans of the original, however given I’d already said I’d try to adapt something to have the slightly campy hammer horror feel this also gave me a structure on how to make any changes.

As such I followed the mentality of a broad strokes adaptation, in that while the key beats of the story would be included the way we got to them, also the fact I was adapting the play for a specific group meant I could follow certain traditions of adaptation.

We’ve always had a point in The Company of including strong female characters; whether it be finding alternate ways to play an existing character to adding one in without making it feel forced,

Wanting to keep the hammer horror approach I had decided certain characters would fit into certain archetypes from these films while also writing the dialogue to be humorous but keeping the lovecraftian undercurrent of dread and ‘wrongness’ wherever possible.

Professor Armitage the heroic elder librarian was written as if Peter Cushing was playing the part, while his assistants Rice & Morgan became slightly more developed from the original text becoming the comic relief foils to the serious professor.

Also a pair of minor villagers; Curtis Whateley and Sally Sawyer became major roles, Curtis becoming an assistant to the professor by extrapolating from an early mention in the book of Dunwich young men sometimes becoming students at neighbouring towns.

While Sally was able to become the no-nonsense intelligent young lady that is a tradition of The Company while also providing good exposition of the villages nature and combining several of the one-shot village women who describe events over the phone into a more pro-active character.

As well as character decisions I also went through the story to find what I call the ‘key beats’ which need to be shown (a holdover from my comic writing hobby) and can then use this as a structure to build around

This allowed us to cover all 10 years of Wilbur’s growth to adulthood in the first act without having to have multiple actors play Wilbur, and also turn several named villagers into a mix of ‘Greek chorus’ of events and make the townsfolk take a more active role in the story.

I also found ways to give Wilbur more stagetime since he being the villain I felt even though in the text he is taken out of the narrative in a rather ignominious manner partway through.  As this was an issue I had noticed people comment on in the text I was able to use the changes to work in a less anticlimactic manner while keeping true to the story’s theme.

Once this structure was done I was able to get on with scripting the scenes themselves, adding in actual text from the story to the dialogue where possible… along with a couple of nods to other Lovecraft works and other geek culture nods that is another company tradition.

All this was the easy part, after that it was a matter of writing…and rewriting…and rewriting and so on so forth, until after several rewrites, one read-through and a lot of tea being drunk I had a finished script to submit.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bringing Lovecraft to the stage,

Having decided I wanted to direct a horror play to submit to the group I then had to find something to perform, at first I considered existing plays but really ask most people to name a horror based play and they’ll give you “The Woman in Black” and that’s about it.

Maybe a few others but mostly serious gothic pieces that are intended as ‘serious theatre’ and require big special effects budgets and other such things.

As such I decided to continue The Company’s longstanding tradition of adaptations by trying my hand at one myself,

I’ve had some experience with script-writing during past experience writing some stuff for the small press self-published comic scene so had the basis, all I needed was something to adapt…

I’d been a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos of one Howard Phillips Lovecraft for a while and had considered adapting one of his tales, however due to his work often falling into the ‘cosmic horror’ genre coupled with the first person viewpoint of the often-nameless narrator (often an avatar or analogue of Lovecraft himself) of many tales few lend themselves to the stage.

Which is a shame as the man has quite a reputation amongst various geek circles and a loyal fanbase who would likely be quite excited about seeing his work on the stage.

However a few stories do break away from this mould, one of them being The Dunwich Horror, while most of his ‘bigger’ stories are similar to his short tales but on a much grander scale this one is very different.

For one thing it has a much more traditional element of Good vs Evil due to having an actual hero and villain along with breaking away from some of Lovecrafts usual “all that mankind does is naught but dust in a grand universe of uncaring chaos” malarkey.

One of the reasons could be that Lovecraft wrote this tale with a clear influence from Arthur Machen’s earlier tale “The Great God Pan” (even working a name drop into the text) which itself had previously been adapted to stage,

The Dunwich Horror also had an advantage in that it had a large cast of characters from University professors, inbred yokel villagers and a family of deranged monster-people.  It also had something that a lot of Lovecraft stories lacked, women.

Lovecraft was not afraid to admit he was not too good at writing characters of the female persuasion with only a handful of women playing main roles in his tales (often villainous), however Dunwich has several village woman and also given the large cast it would be easy to write several characters as being able to be played by either gender based on who auditioned well.

It also had the potential for our cast to ham it up due to the cast including the aforementioned professors, villagers and crazy folk.  The fact it included an invisible monster (thereby sparing us a bad costume) was just the icing on the eldritch cake.

The final deciding factor for me was the fact the book contains one of my favourite pieces of writing out of all of Lovecraft’s body of work, that being the long extract from the Necronomicon read by Professor Armitage.  The extract has a strange almost poetic feel to the dialogue while at the same time giving a real undercurrent of ‘something being wrong’ that sums up the feeling Lovecraft loved to work into his work.

With this all in mind less than a month after the fateful party that gave me this idea I sat down with a copy of the original tale, an empty word document and a large cup of tea, cracked my knuckles and began writing.

But that’s the story for the next update…

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Dunwich Horror Production Blog: In the beginning...

Hello Folks and Folkettes

With the first month of rehearsals for our October production wrapped and the Summer break upon us I'll be using my newly granted access to this here blog to discuss some of the aspects of the production, and to test my access thought I'd give you a little preview of what to expect before the big opening come October,

I'll be discussing such things as why I chose such a work to adapt, a little summary of previous adaptations of HP Lovecrafts work, the perks & perils of adapting a work, and the actual directing process itself from my view as a first-time director but long-time directee.

I'd like to start by sharing the story of how this production came to be,
It all started way back last Summer in the aftermath of the aftershow party for Much Ado About Nothing; the morning after a jolly good night those of us who had spent the night had gathered around the table for breakfast the next morning,

Naturally the conversation shifted to past productions and performances and eventually one of our number uttered the question that set this whole thing off,

"Why aren't there more horror plays?"

This simple little question led to a discussion on the fact that it's quite hard to do serious horror on stage especially as an amateur group, without the right effects, budget and all that jazz what is meant to be chilling and terrifying can come across as camp and cheesy,

Some of our number who had been part of a horror production in the past had just such an experience, the director wanted to do a serious psychological horror while the cast saw the material as more akin to a campy Hammer Horror production.  But funny enough when they performed it in said campy Hammer style the audience responded quite well...which is more than can be said for the director...

But I digress, during this production I had been pondering throwing my hat into the directing ring for a while but had been stuck for a decision as to what to perform, did I want to try my hand at legitimate theatre for my first go?  Or something more comedic?  Either way I wanted to do something that I could put my own unique spin as a director on.

Funnily enough given what kicked this discussion off I had considered looking into horror as a genre for this very reason but had shelved such an idea due to lack of existing adaptations available.

This discussion going on around my slightly sleep-deprived brain gave me just the inspiration I needed! As such I declared to the original question-asker that as there was not enough horror productions I would put one forward as my first directing attempt!  To top it all off I would make sure it was to be performed in the aforementioned vein of the Hammer horror films, even if this did mean adapting it myself.

Of course the problem there was having made such a declaration; that in hindsight no one may have even heard given the various level of consciousness and sobriety at the table; I had to then find something to adapt.

Eventually I found just the thing that would be Lovingly-Crafted and Horribly Performable...

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Auditions for The Comedy of Errors

Our Summer play will be The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare.
The show dates are 12 - 15th June 2013 in the Drama Studio and a performance at the Dore Festival in July. Auditions to be held in the Drama Studio rehearsal rooms on Tuesday 26th and Thursday the 28th from 8pm until 10pm.

  • All are welcome
  • No preparation is necessary
  • The rehearsal rooms are up the Shearwood Rd side of the Drama Studio past the stage door
  • There is a coded lock on the door, if no-one is about to let you in please knock

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Shaw was said to be very happy with the ending to Pygmalion, but after receiving complaints about its inconclusiveness he wrote an epilogue saying what happened to all the characters. What do you think happened to the Henry/Eliza relationship the day after the play finished and beyond. I would be very interested in your thoughts. A.W.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Coming soon to a theatre near you

Happy new year!

We've entered the final week of rehearsals for Pygmalion, a thought which makes us all a bit nervous. It's great seeing the full play instead of individual scenes, and having the rest of the cast sitting in as an audience makes a big difference to how it all feels.

Here are a few rehearsal pictures to whet the appetite:

And finally:

We can now confirm that this year's Summer production will be Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors. Audition dates will be announced shortly, keep an eye on the website for details.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

It is almost show week for Pygmalion.

Our New Year's production, Pygmalion is on from the 16th until the 19th of January 2013.
If you haven't already please book tickets (and tell your friends)
We also need help at the get-in on Sunday the 13th of January. There will be building, painting, lighting and we'll be in the theatre from around 10am to 5pm. We have two shifts, from 10am to 2pm and from 1pm to 5pm. If you can help out please fill in the form on our website or contact Production Manager Tony on