In TIme O' Strife and Notes from the Underground

I'm just back from holiday in Poland (which was great) and things are getting really busy.  I started work as assistant director on the National Theatre of Scotland's 'In Time O' Strife' by Joe Corrie, directed by Graham McLaren.  Here's a wee video about the exciting concepts behind the show:

It has been a great experience so far and what has been really nice to see is the way in which Graham incorporates actioning into his rehearsal process.  I talk a little bit about this approach in my previous post about the classes I've been teaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, so it has been very interesting to see the process taken out of the classroom and into the professional rehearsal room.

We have been working through the script scene by scene and attributing an 'action' (ie a transitive verb) to each line/thought.  This can be a slow process to begin with but, as the actors get used to the idea, it starts to speed up.  We then have callers who sit with scripts outside the scene and they will call out the actions and lines as the rehearsal begins.

So the process tends to go

  1. Callers say actions, actors physicalise said action (this can be repeated three or four times)
  2. Callers say actions followed by line, actors still physicalise the action whilst saying the line (again this can be done a number of times).
  3. By this time the actors tend to have a lot of the physicality in their bodies. The callers now just say the lines whilst the actors still physicalise the actions and say the line. Changes may be made to any actions that don't feel right.
This approach allows the actor to really embody the text and to keep the play alive and active. Always being active is vitally important.  We will continue in this manner until the whole play is done.  This work will then become the foundations for future work which will look at objectives and given circumstances etc.  It is great to be in a room where we have both the will and the time to really get underneath the text in a physical, as opposed to cerebral, way and I look forward to developing it further.  

The play also contains a number of exciting dances and songs, having missed the first week of rehearsals due to my holiday I haven't really been a part of this yet but I can't wait to work with the musicians and choreographer:

Whilst working on this play during the day my weekends and evenings have been taken up composing music for my friend Debbie Hannan's new show called 'Notes from the Underground' (based on the novel by Dostoyevsky).  It's a dark, gritty book and it looks like I may be performing some live music in it.  I've enjoyed coming up with some suitably dark, but still melodic and modern, music for this.   Here's a song I wrote, performed and recorded over the weekend called 'The Habit of Living'.  There are a number of lyrical references to the book and also to the song 'Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow' by Nick Cave as Debbie has an idea that will run throughout the play that involves referencing other peoples work.  This is soooooo much lower than I normally sing (I have the voice of a 10 year old girl) so I got up early Sunday morning to grumble my way through it... I'm sure the neighbours appreciated that.  

Music Geek notes: I recorded this on the new Logic Pro X.  I love the programme, I've always been a Cubase man but I think my loyalty has shifted as this programme was far easier and more convenient for me, Cubase 7 seems messy and unwieldy.  

For the drums I used the new Drummer VST. It's amazing, I doubled up the snare and kick with BFD2 and using a wee tip I got off Youtube (where you click option and shift and drag a MIDI part below so that it follows it) it was really easy to get the two working together.  

A screenshot from the project
I then used various instruments from NI Komplete 9 Ultimate (which I love) combined with some of Logic's own synths and guitar plug ins.  I'm lucky enough to have a good collection of Waves plugins as well and highly recommend their SSL series. The EQ is exceptional sounding. I've been through a few mixes, the first one was a little too reverby for Debbie so now the vocal is drier and more in your face.) Here endeth the geek notes.

I've also been working on some instrumental stuff, I was asked to create something that sounded a bit like the Yeah Yeah Yeah, modern indie-pop.  So I came up with this:

The main little guitar riff here has now become the main theme of the score.  I re-recorded it at half the speed and with a lot more distortion (and stuck a wee backwards bit in it).


A few months ago I received an email from an old friend, Craig from Scottish Indie rockers 'Dogs Die In Hot Cars'.  I had recorded all their early demos and was working with them on creating some new songs for a second album that was never to be.  But a song that Craig and I wrote together was picked up by Mike Skinner of the Streets and he then produced it for the band Man Like Me.  We had called it Squeeze, but they have called it Sleaze and made it all very 80s, it's a groovy wee tune. The video has had over 100,000 views and they have supported Plan B, so here's hoping they go places.


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