That time I was in SPAMALOT!

Starring as ‘Sir Not Appearing’

Sir Not Appearing!

[click to embiggen]

This past week, thanks to a rather awesome Christmas present from the girlfriend, I was given the chance to appear in a cameo role in the current West End run of Monty Python’s SPAMALOT!

AND.

IT.

WAS.

AWESOME.

Looking back on it now, a good four days later, I still can’t believe it happened! It’s difficult to communicate (using just the written word) how great the whole thing really was. So it’s a good job I took a load of pictures to help me tell the story!

Part 1. Arriving at the Stage Door
The crew greeted us warmly, and were just super super nice about EVERYTHING. ‘Hey! James is here!’ – ‘Is that the Sir Not Appearing?’ – ‘Yeah!’ – ‘Hey everyone! Our Sir Not Appearing is here!’

I turned up with literally zero knowledge of what I was going to be doing or what my line was (didn’t I mention? It was a speaking part too!) as I was kept in the dark right up until arrival. So this whole ‘Sir Not Appearing’ thing? I had no idea what they meant…

The stage manager met us and explained everything:

There’s a part in the play, around two thirds through the first act, when the narrator, after King Arthur has rounded up his men, reads through the names of the Knights of the Round Table… and the last name he reads is ‘the aptly named ‘Sir-not-appearing-in-this-play’. You come on at that point, you say ‘Sorry!’ and then you leave. Easy! Don’t worry, we’ll be rehearsing at around 730pm, plenty of time!

Any fan of the original Monty Python and the Holy Grail knows that this only a slight variation on the film’s script:

NARRATOR: The wise Sir Bedevere was the first to join King Arthur’s knights, but other illustrious names were soon to follow: Sir Launcelot the Brave; Sir Galahad the Pure; and Sir Robin the Not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Launcelot who had nearly fought the Dragon of Agnnor, who had nearly stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol and who had personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill; and the aptly named Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Film. Together they formed a band whose names and deeds were to be retold throughout the centuries, the Knights of the Round Table.

Part 2. Costume!

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[Note – for reasons that will become clear very shortly, I had to shave off my beard. I look about 12yrs old! ARRGH!]

3. Meet the star!
For this run (initially scheduled for a limited six week run but now, thanks to its popularity, on an indefinite extension) of SPAMALOT! King Arthur is played by the one and only Stephen Tompkinson.

And what a bloody nice bloke he is too.

Me and Stephen Tompkinson

Part of the evening’s plan (aside from being a special guest star (ahem, yes – that’s me)) was to meet Stephen backstage and chat to him about all things Python. Again, something I didn’t know was happening until the night and again, something equally brilliant for me to do!

Things Stephen told me about Spamalot:

  • His daughter, with whom he has watched Monty Python’s Holy Grail several times a year, every years, since she was six years old, was the one to convince him to take the role! ‘You’d make me so proud, Daddy!’ – she said to him. ‘How could I say no to that’ he said. Awww!
  • His rehearsal process was a mere ten days. TEN. DAYS. Mental. Alright that’s a pretty intense ten days, but still – I can’t imagine. Fortunately for Stephen, he is only one of two new additions to the cast (the other being the quite brilliant AJ Casey, as The Lady of the Lake) so the ensemble already in place not only welcomed him with open arms but also supported him every step of the way.
  • The name of the game [on this production at least] is Fun! That’s what the director told Stephen on his first night – ‘Just forget your troubles, get out on that stage and have a riot. The audience want to have fun with you, so just have a ball!’
  • This new [ish] version of the play is a lot more inclusive and open than it was in the Palace and is updated accordingly to very current affairs – songs as well!

What a lovely chap. And there was still so much more to come!

4. Rehearsals

Rehearsing with the SPAMALOT gang :)

Again, another moment for the cast to be warm and welcoming. I got my part right first time, and they all cheered and whooped.. Ha! Just, brilliant.

5. Waiting!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIOLB3L_12g?rel=0]

6. Final adjustments
Hat, moustache, beard (yes, that’s right – I shaved my beard so I could wear a fake one, brilliant), mic, and a wish of good luck from the girl.

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Before showtime!

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7. The show!
Backstage the atmosphere was, how can I put it? Hilarious. Laughter, jokes, and merriment were spewing forth from everyone – and that was before anyone was on stage! It was such a great group of people to be around; they clearly loved their work very, very much and every single person who walked past whilst I was waiting in the wings stopped to wish me luck, before they themselves stepped out in front of 700+ people.

Just lovely, lovely people.

When my cue – ‘and the aptly-named…‘ – came I strutted out on stage and beamed at the audience – ‘…Sir-not-appearing-in-this-play!’

Sir Not Appearing!

In four beats: the knights looked at me, I looked at them, I looked back at the audience, and then came the line:

‘SORRY!!!’

And the next thing I knew, I was off again – to roars of laughter!

Exit stage right!

The audience’s reaction was great, and I was grinning from ear to ear.

I was [and still am really] utterly dumbfounded that the whole thing took place at all. I can’t believe it. It was just brilliant.

The team backstage told us that the role of ‘Sir Not Appearing’ is usually played by one of the ensemble however they often throw it open to special guest stars such as celebrities and/or comedians who can come on and kill with that role. In other words, for me to get the opportunity to do it was very special indeed.

Just. Wow.

And while I can’t guarantee that I’m going to be in it next time, I can 100% guarantee that seeing this play will make you laugh. A LOT. I laughed like a madman, both backstage during act one and then again when I joined the audience for act two.

Two last things to say before I finish this epic blog post –

First: Go and see Spamalot. Please. It’s AWESOME. Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, and… and the cast just has so much fun. It would be unfair of me to mention the epic corpsing that took place during the Knights that say Ne segment, so I won’t. But I nearly died laughing.

Second: I have to say thank you to my amazing girlfriend, Jen, for managing to swing what is quite easily the Best. Christmas present. Ever. You rock x

 

 

5 things on Friday #6

Five [and a bit] things of general awesomeness from last week.

  1. Singin’ in the Rain.
    On a whim, I managed to get a couple of stalls tickets to this recently opened West End musical…. and I was not disappointed. Beautiful, fun and very, very wet – Singin’ in the Rain was definitely the highlight of the week. If you’re looking for a show to see in London, then see this.
    .
  2. New Avengers Trailer!
    Do I need to say any more? No, I didn’t think so.
    .
  3. One kick ass lasagne.
    Many, many cheeses. I’ll be making that bad boy again. Oh yes.
    .
  4. Not at MWC.
    Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest mobile telecommunications conference and it happens every year around February time in Barcelona. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a fair few times over the years, however this year (like last year) I won’t be making it over so instead (like last year), Dan and I are throwing a mobile-focused get together in London town. If you’re around, you should come along!
    .
  5. CALM: Campaign Against Living Miserably.
    Suicide is one of the biggest killers of young men in the UK today and this charity has been set up to combat that fairly horrific statistic. I met one of the founders this week and well, I doubt very much this’ll be the last time I blog about the subject (it certainly isn’t the first). For the time being however, please check out Thirty One – a new album of specially curated music from Manchester artists, and the best thing?
    All profits go directly to CALM. Hop to it.

Bonuses: something I spent a lot of time working on last year was finally unveiled, Bonfire.IM became my favourite browser plug-in of all time and the Creative Social (although was somewhat disappointing in the main) yielded the discovery of the AMAZING Bear71

5 things on Friday #5

This week I’m cheating again. Things written on Monday and then backdated to Friday.

Shrug.

Sue me.

5 things of note from this past week –

  1. Travelling Light @ The National Theatre. Admittedly my tickets were freebies from a friend but still, it’s still definitely worth seeing. So what if the accents are ropey at times and who cares if the script is slightly clunky in places – it was lovely little piece of theatre.
    .
  2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol @ The IMAX!! Bloody good and again, well worth seeing (at THE IMAX though, obviously).
    .
  3. #DriveTime – aka ‘tweet along with Drive’ – came and went. It was fun, but could it have been better?
    .
  4. The Descendants (w/ G Clooney). Dead good.; it just kinda… happens. He’s bloody brilliant actually, best thing/most nuanced performance since Michael Clayton. Yep. You should see that too.
    .
  5. The future arrived, via my iPad. Still learning. Amazing.
    .

5 things on Friday #5

Bonuses: Sleb spotting in Soho, covered in snow at Speakeasys in Clapham and some gorgeous MEGACITY photography up in Leeds.

1000heads: Talking about Jerusalem

This is London’s Apollo Theatre, currently showing The Royal Court Theatre’s production of ‘Jerusalem’.

This ‘comic and contemporary vision of rural life‘ has been the subject of many a rave review with such headline grabbing one liners such as:

‘UNARGUABLY ONE OF THE BEST DRAMAS OF THE 21ST CENTURY’
– The Guardian

‘AN INSTANT MODERN CLASSIC’
– The Daily Telegraph

‘A BRILLIANT HYMN TO A VANISHING WORLD’
– The Independent

These rather catchy and awe-inspiring reviews are in fact so good, that the company in question has had them blown up and put on the outside walls of the theatre itself.

However, when I buy my ticket later this week it won’t be because of any of the press that I’ve demonstrated so far. Nor will it be thanks to the rave review that my hairdresser gave me only a few weeks ago.

The reason I want to see Jerusalem (and in fact the only reason I want to see Jerusalem) is this:

See them?

This photo was taken at 9:26am on a Tuesday morning. Every day I walk past this theatre on my way to work and every day since the play first opened, there has been a queue of at least twenty people waiting in line, in the rain, to get their hands on tickets of their own.

Yes, the play really is that good.

But what of word of mouth? I already confessed that my hairdresser had told me herself that it was good. But that wasn’t enough.
I’d read the reviews, again – still not quite enough.

This final piece of the puzzle, this commitment to the cause made real, completed my purchasing journey almost instantly.

In short:

  • Your customer’s purchasing journey could start anywhere.
  • Is this WOM? No. But I’m telling you, right?
  • Did WOM help? Not really, but it was part of the journey.
  • Above you can see at least twenty nascent advocates CRYING OUT to be engaged with. Apollo umbrellas? A thank you for their patron? Something?

How can you make your guest experience more conversational?

Think. Just think.

Bloody Poetry

This isn’t a rant about how much I despise prose and rhyme in all its forms, no, no. Of poetry, I am a fan.

Something else I am a fan of is bloody good theatre and bloody good theatre is something that I saw last night.

Bloody Poetry – a play written by Howard Brenton and currently showing at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington – is not a play I’m familiar with, however I must say that it was thoroughly enjoyable. Good theatre is often difficult to seek out in London. Often you find yourself paying way over the odds to watch a cast that would be lucky to get a walk-on part on Hollyoaks (the West End production of Lord of the Rings for instance). However, with Bloody Poetry, I was fortunate to be entertained by not only a bloody good script, but also a fantastic troupe of bloody good actors.

The piece itself tells the tale of two great poets of our time – Shelley and Byron – and how they first met on the shores of Lake Geneva, then of the subsequent summer of love that followed…

I’ll admit I originally only went along to support my dear friend and old acting partner, Alex Barclay. He’s a damn fine actor and appears in the play as Doctor Polidori, biographer to Lord Byron. I haven’t seen Al in a few months, so I saw last night as a chance to catch up and say hi etc…

But I’m not writing this post for him (sorry Al – I love you really).

I’m putting this post together because the play really is that good. I came out beaming. Byron is perfectly pitched as the horny, swashbuckling cad he no doubt was back in his day. Providing some humorous asides throughout the performance, just think of Rik Mayall’s Lord Flashheart, add in some poetic pathos and you’re there. Ellie Turner – cast as soon-to-be author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley – brings a fantastic realism and stoic worldly-ness to a woman who no doubt would have felt almost on the outskirts of the strange quartet that forms around her. Wise beyond her years, her talent is plain to see and was played perfectly. It feels rude to neglect the rest of the cast (who were all excellent) but I fear I am rambling so will leave you with a piece of blurb from the website and booking details too.

If you’re in London and you fancy something different one night this October, go and see Bloody Poetry, you won’t be disappointed.

“Percy Bysshe Shelley, radical nonconformist, poet, essayist, and committed vegetarian, fled England in 1816 with Mary Shelley and her step-sister Claire Clairmont.

Faced with unrest at home and Revolution abroad, England in 1816 had become a repressive surveillance state; exile was both a choice and a necessity for a poet who advocated for social justice, practised free love and opposed inherited power in any form.

On 25th May 1816, the Shelleys met Lord Byron on the shore of Lake Geneva. Together with Byron’s physician, Dr Polidori, the group spent the summer together, during which Mary began writing ‘Frankenstein’ and Byron and Shelley deepened their friendship. ‘Bloody Poetry’ explores the personal and political passions which drove these young writers and the obstacles they faced. It celebrates their daring while revealing their humanity. As a qualified idealist, Shelley still dares us to dream:

“The great instrument of moral good is the imagination. We must not let it become diseased…We might be all we dream of, happy, high, majestical. Where is the love, beauty and truth we seek, but in our mind? Poets are the legislators of mankind!””

The play runs Tuesday – Sunday until the end of this month. Tickets are £12.00 (£10.00 concessions) and are available from the White Bear Box Office website.

Enjoy! 🙂

The Office Party

02:36 -The Office Party
Current mood: bouncy

Hey folks – see below for details about my next production!

:o)

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come and see it!
It’s really quite good and I know for a fact that a few of the characters in this play are probably working in your office RIGHT NOW.
Hehehe…
This is the same group that I worked with back in November..
..and I can safely say that the standards set then will (hopefully) be exceeded now – would love you to come…

It is quite a good play, with a good cast and fantastic Director and I also know for a fact that most of you have probably worked with the some of the ‘characters’ that appear in this play…
Definitely!

I’m in it – I’m playing Gavin Chapman, MD of Chapman & Howard.
The Office in Question.

Click here to buy tickets for show…

Click here for a map to the Theatre…

Click here for a map to the party on the 9th – NOT the 8th as the poster says below… GRR!

Oh and also – if you can make the party on the 9th that would be even cooler than a snowman’s cool bits!

See below for more details!

Mystery Plays – The Nativity

Ladies & Gentlemen –

I know – my blogging skills have been somewhat lacking of late – but I’ve been acting dah-ling!

On that note…

Short notice I know but…

Next week I am appearing in another play (no more now ’til next year – promise!)

THE NATIVITY,
by Tony Harrison

At:
The cornerHOUSE:
Wed December 6 to Sat December 9.

About the Play:
A company of local actors, singers and musicians are bringing a unique theatrical experience to the cornerHOUSE in Tolworth from December 6.

Collectively known as The Cloud Factory Theatre Company, they will be presenting

The Nativity – the first part of ‘The Mysteries’ trilogy – by poet and
playwright Tony Harrison.
It was first performed in the early 1980s at the
National Theatre, to rave reviews, although its roots go back many hundreds of years.

The script is based on the mediaeval Mystery Plays, which were performed in the streets of many English cities and not only gave ordinary people their first taste of theatre, but also brought the Biblical stories to life as never before.

The Nativity captures the flavour of these open air performances – not only through the rich, poetic language, but also in the fact that it is performed ‘in promenade’. In other words, the audience will be led around the cornerHOUSE, with scenes unfolding all around them.

The production also features a live folk band, who are recreating the
original musical score – a rare event in itself, for it was created by a
band, led by top folk musician John Tams, who played by ear. Nothing was ever written down, and it survives only in recordings.

The Nativity takes you on a journey into the past, from the creation of the world through to the birth of Jesus, blending comedy and tragedy, song and dance, and Christian and ancient English traditions in a way that is totally unique. It promises to be a memorable theatrical experience.

Details:
Performances: from Wed December 6 to Sat December 9.
Doors open 7pm. The show begins at 7.30pm.
Tickets cost £7 (£5 concessions).
To book, call 07949 800929 or email cloud-factory@hotmail.co.uk

Please email me back if you don’t know where this place is – or failing that – check here:
http://www.thecornerhouse.org

A bit from me:
This play is unlike anything I’ve ever been in before and will be very different (I’m sure) to anything you’ve seen before – it’s a lot of fun and if manage to make it along I’m sure you’ll have a fun evening… The cast are great and the live band really adds to the whole atmosphere of the piece…
Those of you that came to see me in Mum’s Legs/Alone earlier this year – this production is at the same place…
(so you know where you’re going!)
Those of you who came to see me in Our Country’s Good – this production is NOT at the same place – it’s a bit further on past Kingston, through Surbiton and nearly into Tolworth – a 281 from Twix will sort you out no bother!

Email/Text/Call me if you have any questions etc…
Obviously – this is extremely late notice and it’s my own fault for leaving it so late for posting this blog so if you can’t make it I’ll understand – but if you can – then WHOOPEEEEE!
I’ll see you there!

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