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  • Charm Offensive

    There is a new musical  hero in town. It's an unlikely one. A curly headed housewives' favourite wth a voice that can melt buildings...and it's not Michael Ball! Step up to the Mic (as the kids from Fame once said), Master Joshua Groban.

     

    josh

     

     Of course, after years of working in the Specialities Department of HMV (sadly not as dirty as it sounds), I am familiar with the Groban's work. As far as I was concerned his main crimes against the world were appearing in Ally Macbeal (which was always so self consciously quirky  that wanted wanted to smack it) and of course introducing the stomach churninly awful "You Raise Me Up" to X Factor auditionees everywhere. And Westlife. Something about that song makes me want to slice off my ears with blunted spoons. It's just Danny Boy for goodness sakes...and only wee stained drunks get away with singing that! Anyway, I digress. The point I'm making is that Josh Groban was a minor irritant that never made it onto the Top Dog first floor playlist unless we were forced at gunpoint by marketing goons.

    To be honest, I haven't given Josh Groban much thought in the last 5 years or so. He has barely troubled the charts and never really managed to take the Mothers Day market  by storm in the way he has in America...and yet, 3 weeks before Christmas that all changed.

    Clearly there is nothing unusual about an artist attempting to "break" a country by a concentrated press blitz of interviews and public appearnaces to promote a CD. Shortly before Christmas Josh suddenly appeared EVERYWHERE promoting his new "best of" release. Of course you expect to see him on the National Lottery, or This Morning, or the GMTV sofa with whichever grinning blonde (Fern Britten -who frankly looked a lot better fat- that bird with the mad hair who was rubbish on Strictly Come Dancing, Duncan from  Blue etc) is feeding him the  PR approved questions.

    Smiling through the lense to touch the hearts of grandmothers everywhere with his boy next door charm = CD pissing out the door of the shop (technical term) as people buy it for their mum.

    So far, so predictable. So what happened? Why is he suddenly being talked about at every 30 something's dinner party (albeit slightly shiftily)? We're not the target audience...yet in the last few weeks I've had the same conversation on at  least half a dozen occasions. It goes something like this;

    "What are we listening to?"
    "er...it's a guy called Josh Groban. I know he's supposed to be for grannys, but did you see him on Buzzcocks?!?"
    "Oh my God! I did! He was awesome!"
    " I know! And it turns out he can really sing too!"
    "Wow! You're right. I'm going to buy his album immediately!"

    Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Josh Groban on never mind the Buzzcocks. One of THE most inspired performances on any panel show...ever!

     

    buzzcocks

     

    For any non U.K visitors here is a brief explanation of Buzzcocks. It's a long running pop quiz whi is known for the ritual humiliation of its guests by host Simon "from Popworld" Amstell. Amstell was so offensive to Preston from the Ordinary Boys that he walked off. Most guests can only laugh along and try not to make things worse by weighing in. It makes for compulsive viewing. Ex Boyband members usually come off badly as shown by poor old Antony Costa here;

     

     

    But by far the worst victims of Simon's good natured scorn are hapless Americans. Previous guests from the U.S. have been baffled by the combination of mucky humour and outright rudeness that they are being assaulted by. Weirdly, against all the odds, Josh Groban just got it.

     

     He somehow knew exactly what was required of him and was charming, cool,  funny, and talented and even rendered Simon Amstell speechless. In 30 minutes on BBC 2 he changed from a bland balladeer into a musical god. Anyone who can give a plausible rendition of the intro to the Libertines "Don't Look Back Into The Sun"  using only the power of air guitar and switch it from reggae into a calypso jazz scat styleee without a blink deserves to have me buy their album.

    So. I shall buy your album Josh, despite your urgings to the contrary. I have clearly misjudged you and I openly apologise. Oh...and by the way, February Song is just awesome.

     

     Josh Groban - February Song

  • i can haz netbook

    Look at the pretty I have bought this festive season!

    eeepc

    It does mean that I'm living on toast for the next couple of months and may have to start walkiing to work (yes, I know it's 14 miles away), but soooo worth it!

    Now I can chat on skype, or do some Facebook stalking, or even blog while still in bed, or in the living room, or most dramatically, ON THE BUS!!!!  Well, okay, it has only worked on the bus once so far due to it being Stagecoach (i.e. mostly rubbish) and there rarely being enough seats for everyone let alone working wi-fi. But in theory I can have the internet on the bus on my tiny little 'puter!

    Apart from the brilliance of iPlayer on the move, the most remarkable thing about my new toy is that it is probably the first time ever that I have actually saved dilligently and paid for a high ticket item with money that exists now and is all mine. Which is pretty shameful considering I'm entering my 35th year, but one of the positives of "credit crunch" times. Part of the joy of this purchase has been the months looking at different options on the internet and stroking things in Currys and PC World. In the old carefree days of buy now, pay at some point in the future when I get a fabulous high paying job and my life finally gets on track, I would have just gone..." i want that one"...and bought it. Now that the reality of a career in retail has finally sunk in (after 8 years it's probably not a temporary stop gap anymore) I am actually budgetting and making sensible decisions about what is realistically within my grasp.

    Well, I say that...but if i was really sensible i would have waited another couple of months in order to save myself from the "£2 a day" torture of the next few weeks...but baby steps...

    The weird thing  about all the Credit Crunch chat of recent times is that I had naturally decided to reign myself in before the media frenzy telling me that I had to. Economics are very far from being my strong point so I have to admit that I have just been believing what the BBC tells me without question and panicking accordingly. I was sooo relieved when just before christmas a friend who has been out of the country for a while asked out loud the question that has been blinking in the back of my head for a while. "Why do people suddenly have no money, when the amount they are earning hasn't changed?" It's a good question. I have no money because I always have no money. I have the potential of credit, but am choosing not to exploit it. Most of my friends have more sensible jobs and have always had a healthy disposable income...can that have changed so dramatically just because bread is a few pence more expensive?

    The money people have to spend on unecessary (but life enhancing) crap is definitley going further. Thanks largely to that bald headed, shouty daytime telly bloke the average customer now sees shopping as more of a challenge than a pastime. The run up to Christmas was a battle of the wills between retail and customer.December looked as though it was going to be a disaster as the usual present buying frenzy held off and held off until Christmas week itself. People seemed to think that if they just waited another day they'd get the bargain of the century. I can't tell you how many times people asked me the price of guitars and looked incredulous when I quoted the price that was written clearly on the instrument. "But if I buy this, what will you give me?" Well...a guitar?

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the barter system went out when we swapped potatoes for a more metallic type of coinage! 

    Ach, I can't really complain as I did exactly the same when I bought my netbook.  A flutter of the eyelids, the threat of just ordering from Amazon and the man in PC World gave me a 10% discount. Okay, it was the display model, but it did have the added bonus of including comedy pictures that random shoppers had taken of themselves. I think they were supposed to wipe them before they gave it to me.

    Curses! I deleted them. I should have kept them, posted them here and then alerted the News of the World to the terribly careless way personal details were handled by a respected retailer.  That would have saved me from a month of toast for tea!

     

     

  • Fife is weird...

    So I was traveling through the deepest depths of Fife at some silly hour this morning on my way to work in Dundee for the day. I'll freely admit I was still half asleep, but in one town that I think began with L (but wasn't Lochgelly), I'm pretty sure I saw a cockerel strutting about in the playground of a primary school, a house that had a full size tiger guarding the door of the porch and a mini that was covered by a tarpaulin, on which was a selection of carefully laid out babygros.

    images

    What's that all about?

    I bet it also had a local shop, for local people...

  • Grandma

    Today I had a brief telephonic flirtation with the man who wrote this song...

    He was a lovely customer and fair made my day :)

  • Hello Internets

    have you missed me?

    You may wonder where I've been for the last few months. You may wonder why on earth I've bothered coming back...

    Well, I decided to step away from the computer for a while before I got stuck in an eternal rut of reviewing Holby City endlessly (although this week's episode was blinding so it's tempting to jump back in...) and as the kids from Why Don't You used to urge I went out and did something less boring instead. Nothing special. It's not as though I've saved any rainforests or led a revolution - I've just spent less time sitting at the computer. However in these times of credit crunching (I really don't understand any of what's going on there - give all the bankers a towel and something with "Don't Panic" written in it in large friendly letters then surely everything will go back to normal and I can stop eating Asda economy ham for every meal) there isn't much else for it except sitting at the computer. And I've watched everything there is to offer on iplayer, and 4OD is playing up again, so here I am.

    Just to ease myself back in here are some thoughts that have been crossing my mind today;

    house-keys

    1. I really very much wish that I hadn't left my house keys in a music shop in Dundee yesterday as it made getting into my house when I returned at 11pm somewhat troublesome. My poor Mum had to drive from Arbroath to rescue me as she was the closest person I could think of with keys. Now, it was a bit chilly last night so I had an idea to go and shelter in Big Asda (open 24 hours) while I was awaiting rescue instead of hiding in my shed or huddling against the door. In theory that was all very well, but it did involve a 45 minute walk through a council estate in the middle of the night, where someone was set to fire for no apparent reason a short while ago. And yet my Mum was wholehearted in her support of this plan and said I should definitely go there and she would collect me as close to 1am as she could manage. Of course, being a mother she can't work her mobile phone...so 10 minutes later when I was in the middle of Dunfermline's answer to South Central and heard a gang of marauding youths (probably with knives), emerging from the pitch black park, it was too late to let her know I had changed my mind and picked hypothermia as a preference over multiple stab wounds.

    2. When I eventually made it to Asda, was it the cold and the fear and the general surreal nature of browsing after midnight that made me imagine that I read the cover of a book called something long the lines of "The Amazing Power of Animals" written by a medium who communicates with dead pets? Including Charlie, his own dead springer spaniel. Who decided that was going to be a surefire Christmas hit?

    alan-carr-2005-may

    3. Speaking of books I saw in Asda - and hits (or more accurately hitting) for that matter... what is it about Alan Carr that just makes me want to punch him in the face? I know he's all saucy and self deprecating and "hilarious", but honestly, can someone just fit him with some kind of dimmer switch? or perhaps get his teeth fixed. Or give him voice training, or a better haircut. Or something. There must be something that would make me not sigh heavily and roll my eyes back into my head every time I see him.

    smartcar

    4. And onto cars (see, stay with me, there is a train of thought here). Is it some kind of gender pre-programming that makes me want a ridiculously small and cute car, even though as a double bass player anything without a hatchback is simply insane? I can't look at a Smart car without a small tightening of the womb. And as for the ridiculous Fiat bubble car things that I saw while walking past Arnold Clark's at stupid o'clock this morning...I know they are 8k for something that would be blown of the road if overtaken by a Micra...but soooo cute. And no, I can't elaborate on exactly what model of Fiat it they were. I'm a girl. However, on this occasion I can't even give you a colour because it was dark. But sooooo cute.

    PFO1958

    5. Why is it now impossible to buy a banana to eat today? Since when did it become necessary to plan banana consumption a week in advance? In my blog absence I have become slightly obsessed with baking banana bread. I have yet to perfect the recipe, but I'm getting close. (The latest incarnation is to have more banana, less sugar and added cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips.) I got to the shop after work all fired up to nail it tonight but had to buy green bananas. What use are green bananas to anyone? The magic will be gone from my baking inspiration by the time they are ready to mash at some point in November. America will elect a President faster than I can make banana bread!

    I could go on...and no doubt will in the coming days, but we'll just treat this as a warm up.

    I think it's going to be good to be back :D

  • More Tea Vicar?

    Well this is the first evening in over a month where I have come straight home after work. I've kind of forgotten what it is I do with myself. My house feels cold and a bit odd. The oddness comes mainly because my Mum was staying a couple of weeks ago and cleaned it to within an inch of its life. I'm too scared to touch anything.

    coke

    The other reason for weirdness is that I have tried (and largely succeeded) over the last few weeks to change my entire attitude to what I eat and drink. I have finally given up the evil Coca Cola! This is possibly one of my major achievements of the last 25 years. I'm just not entirely sure of what I'm replacing it with as yet. I'm forcing myself to drink water, but don't really like it. The pub drink of choice has now become soda and lime...but I'm not completely sold on that either. At home I have been experimenting with various strange tea and honey combinations.

    tea

    Tea is entirely alien to me as I've never really enjoyed hot drinks on a regular basis before. Until recently the only reason I have a kettle is for washing dishes. (My house has no running hot water - no, I don't live in the 1850s, I just spend too much in Primark to be able to get the boiler replaced). Yet, I'm getting quite into it. I bought some teaspoons. I have a new favourite mug. I'm starting to get the hang of timing the tea so that it is cool enough to drink by the time I'm actually thirsty. Of course it mostly tastes like warm, gritty puddle...but I'm a grown up dammit! I can train myself to like it. And I shall like it more than the dark, sweet tooth disolving elixir that has rotted me from the inside out for most of my life. Won't I?

    As far as food goes, I have taken a leaf out of Chirpy's book and have embraced the Innocent Smoothie. A glass of that and a pint of water before I leave in the morning and I can now eschew the mid morning fruit scone. My concerted effort to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day has left little room for junk and the revolutionary idea of stopping eating when I'm full means that I had to buy new jeans last week as my other pair kept falling off.

    lockets

    Of course adding a show week where everyone eats just enough to stay alive and many packets of Lockets hasn't hurt my waistline, but the trick is now going to be maintaining it without such major distraction. It turns out that what I do when I'm in the house on my own with nothing in particular to do is eat. And eat. And eat. Luckily I think I have now eaten everything I have in the cupboards, apart from a scraping of peanut butter, a slightly past its best leek and the tin of salmon my mum bought the day I moved into the flat. And about 500 different tea bags.

    I'm not that hungry yet.

    I promise I won't turn into a blog diet bore. There are too many diet blogs around, and none of them are fun. And anyway, it's not a diet, I have never dieted before in my life and I don't plan to start now. It's an attitude change. An attitude change doesn't involve giving up Ready Salted Crisps. If I did that then it'd be a diet. And utter torture!

  • We Felt Very Dull & Mopey

    I'm back! I'm back! Real life has crashed back in after the most all consuming show I've ever done (apart from Hair - pause while all readers who were in Hair stare off into the middle distance and sigh), has taken its final curtain.

    What a week, what a month, what a year so far. As the giant comedown continues apace I'm going to share some highlights of The Gondoliers 08 - mainly because if I can remove it from my head I might be able to get some work done instead of mooning about like a lovestruck teenager. It was only G&S for goodness sakes! Get a grip!

    go

    Jumping straight in then, to the dress rehearsal. I have literally never been so scared in my life. For some reason I had forgotten that the stage at the Kings is huge, and wide and opens straight out onto the level of the stalls. That last fact in particular totally freaked me out. I was expecting a bit more distance between me and the audience, hopefully making it easier to pretend they weren't there. In my mind at that moment it became clear that I was about to be found out and as a result every move, word and note that had come so easily in the church hall left the building and hailed a taxi - leaving me with nothing. Like Bambi in the path of an oncoming 4x4 I stumbled ashen faced through scene after scene. I discovered that the rake of the stage was likely to make me fall over at any given moment. I realised that the slippyness of my character shoes was likely to make me fall over at any given moment. I grasped that the sheer distance to travel from down stage left to down stage right was likely to make me fall over at any given moment. I noticed that if I failed to say the correct line at the correct time then the whole show was likely to fall over at any given moment. (As it turned out on the opening night, it was the stairs on the bridge that actually made me fall over, but what is a slightly skinned elbow between friends). By the time the curtain call came round I was a complete nervous wreck and really wanted it all to go away while I threw up.

    Luckily I managed to get all that out of my system by spending monday night alternately shivering with cold and fever as my body tried to reject the excess adrenalin. At 4.16am on Tuesday morning I really needed to be reminded what on earth I was doing this for. Thankfully things look better in the daylight and at 9am I was pretending to eat an apple turnover on The Meadows as I waited for it to be time to go back to the theatre. I had volunteered to spend the morning standing on stage while lights were focussed and this was quite simply the saviour of the week. Getting the time to just hang out up there and work through the shock and gain balance and composure made my fevered brain settle down again. I totally reccommend it as a cure to stage fright. Unfortunately we were done by midday which left a huge expanse of afternoon to fill with something other than panic. We ambitiously tried to fill a large amount of it with food, but there is no diet like the show week diet, where 3 mouthfulls of large suspicious sausage are more than enough for anyone.

    ribbon

    Pointlessly wandering around in the rain was the next item on the busy doing nothing schedule. It is amazing how crucial the accquisition of pink ribbon can become when you need a common goal to focus on. Soaked to the skin, annoyed by people on Princes Street and bereft of chat,a gondolier and I returned to base camp STILL with 2 hours to go before it was reasonable to return to the theatre. Telly! Why hadn't we thought of that before!

    r&j

    At this point in proceedings I must just digress for a moment. Richard & Judy*. Richard & Judy!!!! How on earth do they get away with it? I don't watch very often, but when I do they always play a blinder. I realise many comedians have parodied the crass gear changes from tragedy to cookery, and the inappropriate comments from Richard are the stuff of legend, but...last tuesday he was interviewing a lady who had written a book about the struggle she had looking after her severely disabled child and the brave but heartbreaking decision she made to have her taken into care. Richard pipes up (while the mother was cradling the child in her arms, on live tv);

    "Infanticide. You considered infanticide. How were you planning on executing the infanticide? What were you thinking? Pillow on the face?".

    I may well have delicate sensibilities but I'm not sure that infanticide is a word to be bandied about at tea time. Especially not when the interview ends with a handbrake turn like this;

    "so there we have it. The tragic tale of a woman who considered the infanticide of her severely disabled child. Available in shops now. And now... yo yo dieting..."

    Anyway, back to the show. It was okay as it goes. Once the overture started on the Tuesday night, the week went on fast forward and I find it difficult to distinguish what happened when. I do remember that as we reached the climax in "Contemplative Fashion" on opening night (my favourite song), someone in the audience exclaimed "nice!" at full volume. That is probably the most satisfying reaction I have ever received - so much so that we nearly forgot to finish the song.

    tights

    Once one performance goes well superstition kicks in and you do everything you can to replicate it. This mainly comes in the form of pacing in the same direction when not on stage and dressing in the same order, or eating the same type of sweet at the same time every night. This time round my "sister" and I became slightly OCD over our tights. G&S is all about white ballet tights. Thick unyielding instruments of torture with a seam up the back, they fit nobody. The only way to wear them is either with a pair of (2 sizes too small) control pants over the top, or with the gusset at your knees. Oh the glamour! For some reason Gianetta and I became convinced that all our talent and knowledge of the lines were contained in these tights...and if we washed them then it would all be lost. Well, quite frankly by friday night the tights could have walked on stage and done the show by themselves. Mmmmm crunchy!

    Friday night. Apart from minor tights discomfort, I can honestly say that Friday night was pretty much the best night of my life so far. Almost everyone I know on the planet was in the audience and my voice and brain and body did what they were told throughout. It's cheating to get all your friends in the audience in order to get a big cheer, but it's lovely all the same :D

    The trouble with peaking on the Friday is that there are still 2 performances and only one direction in which to go. Suffice to say I was rubbish in the matinee, but nobody (apart from my pride) was hurt. Unfortunately that can't be said of saturday night. Poor Guiseppe (my unfortunate Gondolier) bore the full force of my lack of co-ordination. Firstly, when we are re-united in the second act after 3 months apart, I came barrelling across stage at top speed (downhill) and threw myself into his arms. Sadly I hugged in the wrong direction and headbutted him squarely in the face. Just as the stars were clearing from his eyes and the little birdies dispersing from around his head I decided to take him out completely. I can't be doing with having to share the stage with someone else!

    The cachuca was the big dance number. It has taken months to perfect the spinning and the stamping and the clapping, but by show week it was looking rather splendid. The Gondoliers party (ie me and Guiseppe, Gianetta & Marco) got off extremely lightly and spent most of the number off to one side drinking apple juice. However, as the singing stops and the excessive dance break begins we took our places front and centre. By some miracle none of us span right into the orchestra pit (don't laugh, I've seen it happen! - but that's another story). Our arms went up at the right time, we stamped on the right (and left ) foot and I even remembered to swish my skirt at the same time as Gianetta. We made it through 5 performances without a hitch. So why oh why did it have to go so badly wrong on the very last chord of the very last night?

    The orchestra loudly swirls as we quickly twirl and on the final two chords the gents kneel, ladies put their foot on their knee and we throw our arms in the air to tumultuous applause. At least that's what should happen. What actually happened was that the momentum carried us half a turn too far, I thought we'd recovered, but Guiseppe was still half a beat behind. This meant that he was still in the process of kneeling as I brought my knee up full force - right into his face. I experienced the sickening crunch of bone on bone (it felt kind of like attacking a melon with a hammer) and felt teeth biting through my costume as the poor guy went sprawling to the floor with a cocker spaniel yelp. He screamed and I involuntarily shouted "SHIT!!!!!!" right into the microphone at the front of the stage. Through some superhuman effort Guiseppe picked himself up, span through the encore and carried on with the show while mildly concussed. What a trooper! I think I will have 'Nam style flashbacks to that moment for weeks to come!

    pink wine

    And now it's over. As is the way of these things we tried to make it last longer by partying all night, but unfortunately the pink wine runs out eventually and you have to go to bed. Going to bed signals the official end of show week, so I did manage to fend it off till the Sunday night, but I'm still paying for that. I'm clearly getting too old for this.

    The final nail on the show week coffin was at choir rehearsal on Wednesday. Lots of Dunfermline G&S people kindly came to see the show and were very complimentary. I get embarrassed easily when people give me compliments ( prefer the anonimity of applause), but it is still nice to hear that people thought you were good. I guess my head was swelling slightly, but then one of the older ladies arrived and plonked herself down in her normal chair a row in front of me. I knew she had been at the matinee and was waiting to hear what she had to say. She turned to me while taking her coat off and said,

    "yes, it was okay. Your voice sounded tired".

    No more than I deserve really:DD

    *For anyone not of these parts, Richard & Judy are a married couple and king and queen of daytime TV. Richard is a bit younger and thinks he's a dish (he's actually an embarassment), Judy is becoming increasingly elderly and live telly gives her the shakes - which is unfortunate as live telly is her job.

  • Road Trip

    At work today a nice couple bought a digital piano, wrapped it in a full 80 metre roll of cling film, tied it to the roof of their two seater sports car with bungee ropes and drove to Switzerland.

    clingfilm

    That doesn't happen every day.

  • Drama Queen

    I am so glad that I'm not an actress. You know, in real life. It is no surprise that many actresses are unhinged. It's crazy making!

    drama queen

    You may or may not remember that about 18 months ago I auditioned for a part in a show and didn't get it. I wrote about it at length here...

    http://raesblog.blog.co.uk/2006/08/30/next~1084141

    (I know - I still don't know how to post a link without actually posting the link. I'm not the internet goddess you thought...)

    Well...some months later the same part came up in another production of the show and I decided that this time I would attempt to nail the audition. So in a move of unprecedented committment I learned the song and the scene and went into battle again, determined not to let myself down this time. It went pretty well. I remembered all the words, my voice only cracked slightly once during the song and people laughed when I did the scene (it was meant to be funny). I left happy in the knowledge that I hadn't embarassed myself. Closure. Life goes on.

    Except that this time I GOT THE BLOODY PART!!!!!!!!!

    This just doesn't happen. I opened the letter which said something along the lines of "Dear Rae, we'd like to offer you the part of Tessa in our forthcoming production of The Gondoliers"...and I had to have a bit of a sit down. Then I had to text expletives to a couple of people. Then I stood up. Then I sat down again. Then I emailed the entire text of the letter to a friend to make sure that it was telling me what I thought it was telling me. She verfified that it was. Then I stood up again. Then I arranged to meet another friend for coffee to get her to read the letter to make sure it was telling me what I thought it was telling me. She verified that it was. Then I felt a bit sick.

    Now that all happened in June - and I've been feeling a bit sick ever since. It is now 9 weeks till the show and I've just about got the rising gorge under control (today) so I thought I'd write a little bit about The Gondoliers second time around.

    My introduction there makes it sound a bit like I've been picked from the streets to take centre stage, which isn't true. I have had principal roles before, but usually ones that involve being old, or shouting, with one comedy song and a scene and a half if I'm lucky. I usually audition for the old lady/comedy/shouty parts because I'm built to be a sidekick rather than a romantic lead and so I know these are the parts I'm more likely to get. Tessa is a romantic lead! It's mental I get a guy within the first 15 minutes of the show. It's also the first time I've been anything other than back row of the chorus in a grown up Am Dram society. It's a whole new and different experience!

    From the first rehearsal everyone has been really lovely to me. Which is just weird. Most Am Dram Societies are riven with cliques and gossip and it's hard to get a toe hold when you're new. The exceptional reception must be down to what I've come to think of as "the principal effect" (and this is where the crazy sets in). Obvioulsy (paranoia, paranoia) I start thinking that the only reason anyone is being nice is because I'm a principal and they have to be. It couldn't be anything to do with them just being nice people welcoming a newcomer into the fold. I've been round this block before, I know how it works. Through some computer glitch I've ended up with the most desirable female role in the show and now everyone is waiting to see how badly I mess up the first rehearsal so they can whisper to each other that "she's been hopelessly miscast and who does she think she is anyway, waltzing in here wanting to be friends as though she owns the place". Obviously, with all this going on in my unravelling brain I mess up the song the first time through. Cue the spiralling despair that makes me read significant glances from the musical director as disappointment and regret at giving me the part.

    This is hard going on my mental stability already and I've only been in the door 10 minutes!

    The next new and exciting challenge in being a romantic lead is the romance. With Gilbert & Sullivan societies the main thing you can hope for in this situation is that your partner will have at least some of his own teeth. I had spent the summer trying to work out who was going to be playing Guiseppe (my on stage love interest) because the letter you get post auditions just tells you who you are, not the rest of the cast and my society mole helpfully couldn't remember. I pictured a gentleman of advancing years in a badly fitting toupee with a small crust or dried spittle at the corner of his mouth. Imagine my relief to discover that not only was my on stage husband to be a year younger than me, but he was someone I went to school with. And no spittle! What a result. The downside of getting "romantic" with someone that you sort of already know but haven't seen for years is that it's really quite embarassing. Being from the uptight east coast of Scotland I barely hug my family and friends, let alone people I last had a conversation with in 1992. Making matters worse, his dad was my Guidance Teacher and now here I am pawing my respected teacher's son in front of potentially hundreds of people!

    air_kiss

    On a side issue (I don't know how to do footnotes either), the worst part of being a "luvvie" is all the cheek kissing it involves. I never know whether lips are actually supposed to make contact with cheek or if it's more of an ear rubbing exercise. And how do you know if it's going to be a one cheek or double cheek kiss? Is there a secret smile or winking signal that tells you? I invariably miss and slober on a sideburn and go in for the double when the person I'm greeting has moved on to someone else, or gone to the bar. What's wrong with a good firm handshake? You know where you are with one of those.

    Anyway...back to rehearsals. My aim has been to know the music and words really well before even getting to rehearsal, just to give me a bit less to worry about. The trouble is that I'm terrible at learning lines. And there are millions of them! Living on my own I don't have anyone to read through with me as I learn so I have taken to writing them over and over and over in a specially purchased orange notebook. For months I've been sitting on the bus like Jack Nicholson in The Shining copying "When a merry maiden marries, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy" (or something) over and over and over. It's lucky nobody else has seen my book of obsessive compulsion or I'd have been carted off to the psychiatric ward some months ago. Yet, it doesn't matter how well I think I know the words, as soon as I'm faced by a roomful of fellow cast members who have known all the lines since 1952 I draw a complete blank. Can you imagine what that's going to be like in front of an audience? It's torture!

    KingsAuditorium

    The audience. Oh yes. That's the next thing. It's all fun and games larking around twice a week in a church hall...but in the middle of March we will be taking the stage of a real live theatre. One that is normally tramped by proper actors. One that seats 1300 people a night. AAAAAARRRGGGHHHHNNNNGGGGGGG. I feel sick again. This being a principal is excellent for weight loss!

    I tell you what though... I may be unspooling at an alarming rate, and thinking that everyone is talking about me behind my back, and having nightmares about being on stage in a show that I haven't rehearsed, and having diva strops with the director for calling me Rachel (that was perhaps inadvisable behaviour), but I'm having the absolute time of my life! I will never get an opportunity for showing off like this again in my life...I'm just terrified that I waste it.

    The craziest thing of all is that while I am currently all consumed by this show it is of extremely little consequence to literally almost everyone else in the world. If I fall over, or forget a line, or my voice goes wibble when it should wobble it doesn't matter to anybody else apart from me.

    And the other woman who thinks she should have been Tessa...yikes! Excuse me while I have a sit down.

  • Holbyoaks

    Of all the crappy telly I waste my time watching, it is Holby City that I love the best. My devotion to the inner workings of the strangest hosptal in Britain have paid off in recent weeks as the storylines have become increasingly demented. It's as though the BBC have drafted in a platoon of disgruntled ex Hollyoaks writers who were dumped by the mighty Oaks for being too mental.

    holby 1

    Firstly, Jesus of Nazareth (who has frankly always seemed ill at ease as a nurse) took to snorting cocaine from his desk. Rubbing white powder into your gums while on duty may well be okay for Donna (the worst nurse on the planet), but Zefferelli's muse shouldn't get the paranoid jitters while lecturing a colleague's junkie son on the dangers of drugs. You would think that the self righteous moral indignation of soapland would be just around the corner waiting for a smackdown with Jesus (or Mark as he's known in Holby), but no. He entirely got away with it. Sure, his daughter/sister (the hospital bike), was upset for about 5 minutes, but this was hardly the wailing and gnashing of teeth you'd expect from a BBC drugs denoument.

    bow

    Perhaps they'll come back to it..after all they did get a bit distracted by a Robin Hood moment a couple of weeks back. You knew something bad was coming because a pretty and charmingly bland new nurse was introduced and instantly loved by all staff members. And her parents were delightful too. From the second she stepped onto the screen she to all intents and purposes a red shirted crew member of the Starship Holby, about to set foot on a dangerous planet with Captain Kirk (here played by Patsy Kensit). Peril was clearly on its way. Who'd have thought the peril would take the shape of an STD nurse with a crossbow who went a bit wibbley because he looked a lot like Vila from Blake's 7 (or something).

    vila

    Patsy and the red shirt were duly kebabed by the maniac and the handsome doctor with unexpected cancer had to choose which one to save. There apparently weren't enough doctors to save both. In a hospital. With a perfectly good Casualty department. What a surprise...thanks to her ability to marry pop stars, Kensit made it while the other, non famous nurse died. Much sadness ensued - for at least a minute and a half.

    nigel

    Meanwhile Nigel from Eastenders was having a bad day. His position as the fluffiest doctor ever to hit a television screen was making him a push over for allcomers. His son was "going Zammo", his daughter blamed him for naming her after a rubbish Doctor Who assistant (or something) and he was about to let a cute small child with a randomly mentioned dead grandfather die because he couldn't be bothered to perform a heart transplant while his life was falling apart around his ears...oh and did I mention the crossbow wielding mentalist stalking the corridors because he didn't have time to listen to his grievances? Luckily, just as a leap from the Clifton suspension bridge (which is in Holby - not Bristol as we've been led to believe) seemed the only option, Richard Briers was on hand to show him what a "Wonderful Life" he had. At Christmas. Do you see what they did there?

    In a move of genius the like of which is rarely seen in soap operas set outside Chester, we are led to see what would have become of the characters we know and love if Nigel had never existed. While the possibilities could have been endless it turned out that one of them was mad and in an asylum, but most of them were dead. That crossbow thing panned out differently without Nigel there to be all cuddly and benevolent - allowing lots of the actors a day off for Christmas shopping while the episode was filmed. Oh...and Jesus was paralysed, but the extent of his parallel universe coke habit wasn't explored.

    Most touchingly, Nigel got to spend some time with his dead wife. In the real Holby (and it is real - not in any way a fictional city that looks like Bristol) she went to Switzerland to die with dignity as her motor neuron disease took hold some time ago. In It's A Wonderful Life Holby she was stuck in loveless marriage and a state of the art wheelchair because Nigel hadn't been there to give her a good reason to kill herself...it sounded more romantic the way they put it. Needless to say, I cried.

    Nigel from Eastenders then had to decide which life to choose because the end of the episode was fast approaching and there was a girl with a spurious dead Grandfather who needed a new heart back in the the real world. The characters can tell when the end of an episode is nigh because a song will kick in over the hospital intercom which ties in nicely with the events of the day. It is often "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley, or occasionally a spiritual sung by the big black doctor because she was in the original cast of We Will Rock You and so has a nice voice. Thankfully Nigel heard the music and rushed back to the hospital in time to save the girl. As the camera panned back from her bed we see a picture of the oft mentioned randomly dead grandfather...Richard Briers, of course.

    briers

    I can't see where they can take things next...perhaps a shower scene where Denis Lawson discovers that the last 5 years were just a dream? Roll on tonight's episode :D

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