I parked up on Newcastle Quayside yesterday evening ridiculously early and bristling with nerves. Director Melanie Rashbrooke had invited me to sit in on a rehearsal for Mixtape at the Live theatre and then blog about it. I’ve written a good number of reviews for an internet site, but this was completely different. For a start it’s a blog not a review, and I’m not a paying member of the audience or a reviewer with a press ticket who has every right to be there. I’m intruding upon a working environment. Would I like it if someone came into my office and started taking notes? Undoubtedly not. Status update on Facebook: @Live Theatre feeling nervous
I needn’t have been. I was warmly greeted in the foyer by director Melanie and taken up to the room where the cast of Mixtape were to be rehearsing. As the actors arrived they introduced themselves and shook my hand. They are: James Barton, Samantha Bell, Amy Foley, Chris Foley, Zoe Hakin, and Steven Blackshaw. I didn’t know much about Mixtape in advance though of course I’d swotted up on the Live Theatre’s website.
The group of actors I’ve mentioned take the lyrics of a song and compose a short comedy sketch. Every word used in the sketch must be in the song. Repetition is allowed so each word can used as many times as they wish, but the completed sketch mustn’t be longer than the song itself. The sketches themselves are unusual, unique and hilarious, but there’s an added pleasure in that audience participation is required, because we have to guess the song. Each show has a different theme, so one might be compositions exclusively from Geordie artists; another might feature Country and Western. The show I saw being rehearsed last night consists of tracks that were number one hits over the past two years (with slight variations in the rules depending upon whether you book for the adult show or the family version). “Will you know any of these?” Melanie asked. I didn’t really answer her query properly but I know she’s going to read this so I’ll answer it now.
About 6 years ago I was on training course where we had to play that game (you know the one) where you each take a partner and pin the name of a famous person on to their back and they do the same to you. Then you have to ask questions, “Am I female, am I a politician…….” and so on. The first person to guess their character got to go home early, and I really wanted to go home. The instructor told us; “Please pick a character that your partner is going to have actually heard of, I don’t want anybody obscure.” I just couldn’t guess mine at all, and when the name of the celebrity I was supposed to be was eventually shown to me I yelled at my partner, “I need to be home for the plumber, he told you to pick someone that people would have actually heard of. Who the f****** hell is Pink?” Melanie does that answer your question?
It didn’t matter last night that I was never going to guess any of the songs, or that being given a sheet of the answers didn’t help me much either. When you really love something you enjoy it more every time you see it, which is why you buy a DVD of something you’ve seen at the cinema and play it into the ground. After watching each individual sketch for the first time I looked forward to seeing it again and again. It was a privilege to be given an insight into the building process, how the action is tweaked and performances evolve. If the actors are this bloody brilliant in rehearsal I can’t wait for a week on Saturday when I will get to see them on stage. Melanie asked me once or twice if I needed to be away for anything. No, I was very privileged to stay just where I was.
Driving home I pondered that achieving fame in the acting profession can only be down to that big break, because these young people are as good as anybody I’ve seen on film or television. I saw most of them play two or three different characters and they were utterly believable every time. I once said something similar about an unheard of actor I saw perform at Northern Stage when it was known as the Newcastle Playhouse. His name? Kevin Whately. Their names are James Barton, Samantha Bell, Amy Foley, Chris Foley, Zoe Hakin, and Steven Blackshaw. GO AND SEE THEM!
By Tammy Linsell (guest blogger for October)