Tuesday, 5 April 2011

April in Paris: tweeting in the company of actors

Well that was an experience and a half...and I haven't even seen the show yet.  But I want to and if it wasn't for a clash in commitments this evening, I would have been dashing straight into the pit to see April in Paris at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds.

You see, there's nothing that quite sells a show like the people who are starring in it, and tonight I spent an hour with actors Wendi Peters and Robert Angell, who form the cast of John Godber's latest production of his well-known play for touring company Hull Truck.

In a social-media conference hosted this evening by the Theatre Royal, bloggers and Tweeters had the chance to ask the actors about their roles, their touring experience and find out more about the work of highly acclaimed writer and producer John Godber.  And what a fascinating hour it was. I certainly took the opportunity to throw in some  questions and the feedback from Wendi and Rob soon highlighted their passion about their work, and indeed this particular play about a middle-aged married couple in Paris.

I quickly discovered how Rob, whose TV credits include Waterloo Road and Brookside, has worked for Hull Truck for 23 years and in that time has performed in 28 of its plays.  Like Wendi, who is well-known for her part as Coronation Street's Cilla Battersby Brown, Rob revealed how he much prefers the stage to television and it became obvious how both have a real enthusiasm for touring.  In fact, Wendi said that stage is her first love and what appeals to her most is the freshness of being able to grab a new script, rehearse it, perform it and then move onto the challenge of the next production.

Now at risk of sounding like a theatrical heathen, I admit that I have very little experience of John Godber's work, but having recently finished a scriptwriting course, I was intrigued to find out more about his style and in particular how actors work with dialogue.

Wendi likens the fast nature of the script to a 'tennis match of lines' between her character Bet and her stage-husband Al (performed by Rob), stating that the dialogue was tricky to learn at first but having soon got into the swing of it she loves the way it flows, especially the moments that are met with laughter from the audience. She also shared how that in order to prepare for each performance, her trick is to act out the first page of the script immediately before appearing on-stage for Act I.

Rob added how he sees John Godber as the master of observation, which is demonstrated by the nature of the 'one liners' throughout his work.  He also revealed how the writer likes to make the audience's imaginations work for themselves, using the power of the lines and characterisation, with very little dependency on stage-sets.  However, with that said, regular followers of Godber's work will have a pleasant surprise when the curtain opens to the start of Act II.

So, do you see what I mean?   Hearing the the actors talk about their roles in April in Paris was like having a huge chocolate cake dangled right above your nose, without being able to grab even a small bite.   It's a real shame I couldn't make it to the actual show tonight, because having experienced the actors' passion for their play and having heard about the talents of its creator, I really now want to see if for myself.   In my very own drama-queen fashion, I suppose you could say I'm champing at the bit.

At least I've got a few days to juggle around my social diary as the play will be at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 9 April.  After that, it heads back up north to Leeds.

This evening's social-media conference was the Theatre Royal's first event of this kind to engage bloggers and Tweeters directly with the cast, and from a theatre-goer's perspective, I found it very useful.  If you'd like to find out more about what other tweeters are saying about the event or the play itself, you can do so by following the Twitter hashtag #AprilInParis. Also, if you'd like to be involved in any other blogger\Twitter events at the Theatre Royal, just drop a line to their Head of External Relations chris@theatreroyal.org, who would be happy to keep you updated with news of future events  You can also follow him on Twitter as @ChrisGrady.  The theatre's tweets can be found by following @TheatreRoyalBSE.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a photo I took of the actors Wendi Peters and Rob Angell before they scooted off to prepare for tonight's performance.  Don't they look lovely!  Of course next time I see them, they'll probably be on stage, most likely bickering away as a bored married couple.  That's if they actually bicker.  That's one question I forgot to ask.  Oh well, I'll be sure to find out for myself on Thursday.

P.S.  On the subject of cake, you might like to know that Wendi is an avid user of social media too.  Check out her own blog over at http://wendipeterspuddingqueen.blogspot.com/.

UPDATE: 8 April 2011:  Having been to the show and seen it for myself, I just have to say that Rob and Wendi gave a truly brilliant, bickering performance last night and I can only add to the great reviews that I've received from everyone I know who has seen this production of April in Paris.  It was an excellent production that stayed true to my expectations from the interview with the actors, with fantastic comedic moments ranging from intimate knowing chuckles to lots of laugh-out-loud moments.  So catch it while you can.  It's far too good to miss.