Craig Chalmers

The Beauty of Remembering

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I first got involved in Memory Point(s) last April when the show debuted at The Point in Eastleigh. The project came to my attention after Catherine Church sent an e-mail to one of my lecturers seeking ‘quirky-looking and reliable performers’, I don’t think we were supposed to hear that description but I put myself forward nonetheless and I’m glad I did. Memory Point(s) was completely different to anything I had done before; there wasn’t a lot of traditional ‘acting’ to be done here, the requirement instead to be but a gentle hand to guide people around mysterious and winding spaces, stopping to see pictures, hear sounds and experience the memories of others whilst creating your own. It was fantastic and I was happy to hear that there were plans for the show to tour and that I was still to be involved in my actor/guide guise.

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Fast forward 14-15 months and Memory Point(s) is back and about half way through it’s run at the Theatre Royal Winchester. I had wondered initially how Cath and co were going to make the show work in Winchester. Moving Memory Points from venue to venue takes far more work than a standard end-on piece of theatre. With Platform 4’s creation new routes have to be devised and the soundtrack altered and added to accordingly but I am pleased to report that they’ve done a splendid of job retro-fitting the piece to the nooks and crannies of the Theatre Royal. It manages to retain all of it’s original intimacy and subtlety and gain something in the process, it seems to me that rather than Memory Points being better or worse in any one venue it is instead a different experience at each stop. Themes, images, sounds and events recur, but the buildings and spaces we explore are so different that tours in each venue hold their own special nuances. Of course, we are only in our second venue so this may all be too speculative but I think it will ring true in the upcoming months when Memory Points visits the Poole Lighthouse, Brighton and The Southbank Centre in London.

Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive and I urge you to come and see it, there are still just a few tickets left (I think!). Reviews both local and national have been very good indeed, the links to which can be found below:

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/yoursay/blogs/talking_shop/10516928.Memorable_Show_in_Winchester/?ref=fbrec&fb_action_ids=10151781052935466&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2013/jul/02/memory-points-lyn-gardner-review

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That’s all from me for now, expect more on Memory Point(s) very soon. Until then, cheers.

Craig Chalmers

There Are More Things In Heaven And Earth

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Hello,

So, it is done. I would have posted sooner and given an update on the process last week but so much has changed from then to now and there was so much work to be done that I didn’t have the time. Anyway, as I say, the work-in-progress showings have been completed and our Hamlet Part One is something I think we can be proud of.

‘Part One’ made perfect sense, we were perhaps never going to be able to tell the whole story after a 4 week rehearsal schedule. Well, we could have done but I don’t think that would have done the group justice. It was a wise decision to pause and take stock of what we had at the end of the third week and to polish and embellish our existing material.

And what did we have/do we have? I think 81 minutes of intrigue, humour, atmosphere and terror, a piece that reminds us of our own wavering mortality and at the same time tells us of the immortality of Hamlet as a story, as a text and as a character. Hamlet is forever re-told and will continue to be long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, yet within that life sits a tale of so much death. To be or not to be, yes, quite so… (Charlie Handy, below, as the first player, did a sterling job with that most iconic of speeches).

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But where do we go from here? Onwards only! This is a work that needs to be developed, nay, deserves to be developed. New Tempest Club had grown as a project since last year’s Comedy Of Errors and everyone involved has progressed since then too. We’ve more experience and we’re getting better, our understanding of the text has improved and our performance of the text better as well. More so (and maybe I only speak for myself here) our affection for the words has grown. Shakespeare’s words (whether presented as blank verse or prose) are poetry but, we must remember, however brilliant the bard’s words are, they are not gospel. And by keeping this in mind we allowed ourself to be freed by the text, not constricted by it. We played scenes out of order, added modern English and didn’t even allow our Hamlet to muse most famously on life and death. This approach to the text mightn’t be wholly original but it worked for us and I am pleased with our creation.

Feedback for the show was excellent; friends, family and professionals alike all enjoyed the performance, and some were genuinely moved. I just hope now that we can take heed from what our audiences have said and develop the work further. It’s been a joy to get my teeth into Shakespeare again and I think we’ve created something really special with great potential for growth, and lest we forget,  that was the aim of the project in the first place.

So, to that end, well done to everyone and for all, our thanks.

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Above: Megan Blowey – bottom left, facing away (Marcellus & Rosencrantz), Emma Gutteridge – above Megan (Laertes & Guildenstern), Helen Grime – top left (project co-ordinator and The Fixer), Charlie Handy – right of Emma in the first column of seats (Horatio & First Player), Simon Plumridge – at the desk (Director, Designer, Maker & Ghost of King Hamlet), Josie Doig – above Simon, face blurred (Queen Gertrude), Becky Osborne – right of Josie (Polonius), Gemma Burges – lying on her front (Ophelia), Tom Preston – far right (Hamlet) and myself – out of shot, behind the camera (King Claudius).

Craig Chalmers

Words, Words, Words

Our Hamlet - Tom Preston

Hello again,

So here we are, two weeks in and two weeks to go before New Tempest Club stage their work-in-progress showing of Hamlet. It’s been a busy schedule, 9 full days in the rehearsal spaces so far and what do we have? Possibly not yet half a show. Studying the play in such detail recently has made be realise more than ever just how dense and rich Hamlet is, it’s a thick text, 4 and a half hours played at full length. Our version will be much shorter of course (80-90 mins maximum) but as of the end of this week we’ve only cut and acted to the end of Act 2.

I don’t wish to sound negative, this project is brilliant! I just hope we as a group can do ourselves justice. We began numbering 12 performers but swiftly and bizarrely lost 4 people in the space of the first week. But this doesn’t concern me too much, while our numbers are down I believe the people that we have can and will push themselves to create the best show possible with the time and resources we have. But in losing performers, we gained one; Simon Plumridge our director/designer/maker extraordinaire has agreed to tread the boards once more more and become the ghost of King Hamlet. Couple this with the enduring expertise and guidance of Helen Grime and Sian Radinger and the group is in safe hands. And a special mention need go to Mr Tom Preston, our Hamlet, who is doing a sterling job so far and whom I know will be excellent on the night.

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This post feels a little like the play now, I’ve given you a lot of details but have only just scratched the surface of what there is to tell. (I must be less verbose than Polonius!). What I must say is how pleased I am with some of the ideas and scenes we do have. Tonally, it’s a touch erratic, but there’s never a moment of boredom, each scene so far brings something new, (not totally original or a blinding new reading of the play) just interesting versions of characters and moments that should keep the audience with us for the duration of the show. This, if it can continue is something we can be proud of.

That’s all I have for now, watch this space for something a little more specific and a little less vague next time. Maybe I’ll share my musings on playing Claudius, in short- I like it!

Thanks,

Craig Chalmers