Wednesday, 23 May 2012


It’s time to reflect on our time here in Canada and that task is now left to me and SBM...  The trip itself has been full of activity, fun, laughs, relaxing and some craziness along the way.  But without all those emotions (and more) we couldn’t have had the full rounded LITF / Canada experience!

The festival itself was certainly an opportunity to see how other theatre groups work and learn lessons from the variety of skills on offer.  I had the chance to see 5 brilliant plays from Nova Scotia, Egypt, Germany, USA and Canada.  Most notably (for me), the German offering of “Noah and the Flood”, an inspired and clever portrayal of a well known tale; full of humour and with a very catchy tune that we’ve all been humming for days now!! SBM also appreciated the German play, although she says she didn’t understand a word but “got the two-by-two Hurrah, Hurrah” bit and she does love cuddly toys! Personally, I wish I’d had more time to see the other talented groups that were on offer, but there was socialising and sleeping and eating and drinking to be squeezed into our week too!! 

It was excellent to see how committed and enthusiastic people are towards the festival but the best part of the whole deal was the camaraderie and opportunity to share ideas amongst the members of our own group.  We’ve come up with loads of thoughts about how to take things forward within BLT, how to promote ourselves within the community and how to raise our profile in general.  I think that we have a wealth of talent and skills to utilise and SBM and I look forward to being part of that process upon our return home.

Godfather Death was well received at LITF and the feedback was really positive!  It was encouraging to hear other people’s great comments and both SBM, myself and the rest of the team feel that our performance was tighter than it has ever been. Specifically the audience participation at the end of the play was a breathtaking moment for us all and one we hope to emulate in Cwmbran!!!

We’re leaving Halifax and Liverpool with a smile on our faces and we hope we’ve touched the hearts of others.  We’re also leaving with Jerry’s massive concrete construction (!) and if there is anything we’d like to feed back to the festival organisers... PLEASE consider the baggage allowance of your INTERNATIONAL participants and award winners lol!!!!

Sarah & Shelley

Sunday, 20 May 2012

We won two awards !!!

Hey everyone - I'm not normally one for public speaking but... Tonight was awards night at the Liverpool International Theatre Festival and we are very proud to have won two awards. Jerry won Best Supporting Actor and we also won Exceptional Lighting and Sound award. Everyone here is so happy - and I'm sure the gang will be blogging tomorrow. Nye

Back at the Astor after 4 years......

Here we are back in Nova Scotia after four years, and it’s been a pleasure once again. It’s been great to see the friends we made last time again, and the welcome has been as warm as ever. But I’m sure all this has been said already, so I’ll cut to my peronal edited highlights...

I’ve rarely been as nervous as I was waiting to go on to do Fancying Sheep in 2008, but four years on that hadn’t changed, as we stood through the inevitable delay. Fine for us merely getting anxious, but poor Sarah in the box couldn’t have known when we’d be starting, and Blair’s design, incorporating generous holes for carrying - and breathing if you happen to be inside - came into its own. Thanks Blair. The show wouldn’t have been the same if we’d had to start it by reviving Sarah.

The show went well, which was a relief for me. I’d been nervous about taking the devil role immortalised by young Mills, and trying to find physical stuff that would work, as well as not forgetting my lines. No repeat of a recent rehearsal - “as ‘e gorn?.....................line?” was required, but I didn’t feel I’d nailed it physically either. Neil’s advice was timely: “Say your lines and don’t bump into anything.” I took it to heart...

Yesterday the human mortality theme - taken up by numerous other shows as well as ours - was carried on when Rob and Blair kindly took us over to Coffin Island. Aside from the name, Jerry took the controls on the way over and proceeded to win the shooting contest later in the afternoon. Driven to Coffin Island by Death, the deadliest shot in the New World.

Steve Wride


Video BLOG - LITF from Coffins Island

The inane ramblings of the Wales team - reflecting on LITF so far - from Coffin's Island, Liverpool, Nova Scotia.


And here is my first blog! What a wonderful Festival this has been for all of us. Neil and I feel like we've come home again and it is incredible how we pick up with all our friends here just as though we'd only been away a moment and not two years. As you have no doubt already gathered, our trip didn't begin so smoothly but I promise you that contrary to popular belief, Mr M. and I didn't come to blows on our extended trek! The opening ceremony was magnificent and full of emotion - I think we did the Welsh anthem proud - we certainly sang with some hwyl. And then a real treat - excerpts from "The Full Monty" to begin the Festival which has opened my eyes to friends old and new! The opening play was "Jeux des Massacre" from Les Aragnees du Boui Boui which was superb and set the standard for all of us. Then the day of our performance dawned and with it the break in the weather that had been promised - out came the sun and on came the Welsh. I really enjoyed the performance itself, despite a slight hitch involving a breeze, an uncooperative candle and a few more verses of a song than anticipated but hey ho that's the magic of live theatre. The standing ovation we received was a heart-warming moment and brought a lump to our throats - happy day. And so to The Dr J.C. Wickwire school for our visit on Friday - a hall full of very well-behaved youngsters and our presentation of life in Wales with a live web-link back to Blackwood Primary school who have begun a partnership programme with the Wickwire. Lily Jones, Sarah's daughter was the presenter of two short films and her "Lilycam" was such fun as she introduced her school. With the "official" duties out of the way, we could relax and enjoy the other performances and this we have done, seeing some wonderful theatre, proving that language is no barrier to great art. Saturday we gratefully accepted the offer of a trip to Coffin Island to blow the cobwebs away - and that we did! Fresh lobster on the menu, fun and games and the birth of "Shelley World" which will comprise "Shellyisms" which I have dutifully been recording and will share with the world when I think the world is ready for them! We got soaked on the way back - the sea being a little "choppy" but that just added to the fun. Last evening the Gala was the chance to put on the glad rags and look glamorous and we had a fantastic time with  lovely food and a live band. Today, Sunday, is the last official day of the Festival and the closing ceremony tonight is sure to be emotional. So our thoughts begin to turn toward home but we've a couple of days to go yet and a few more memories to create!

Last day

Well here we are on the last day of LITF. Where has the time gone?
Had a very enjoyable day out with Rob and Blair Saturday who kindly gave of thirty day and took us out to an island where we ate fresh lobster caught that morning and even got to do some shooting!!
Just 2 more plays to see today then award night. Wondering if team BLT will be bringing any home having carried the flag.
I know that if we are not successful we will still have impressed many people with our production. Even today people are still coming up to us saying they thoroughly enjoyed it. One guy last night said that he loved the play and he particularly liked the character 'death' and would love to play him. A nice thought for me having portrayed the character and Vic for writing it and giving me the opportunity to be a part of it.
Last night was the Gala evening. After the last show people went to the Best Western to have a meal. There were prizes to be won in draws. Most comprised t shirts hats  etc with
The LITF Logo. The final prize was a certificate for free admission to the next festival in 2014. The announcement was made and a name was called. I heard the name Jerry, I looked around as there is a driver who has been wonderful out here with that name to see where she was sat. With that some called out what's the last name I heard mine!! So with great surprise I went to collect the certificate.
After sitting down I decided that I would give it to the host that Nye and I have been billited with, Peggy.
A lovely straight talking Canadian who has opened her home to us. She has made our stay pleasant and we come and go as we please. No airs or graces. I couldn't think of anyone more deserving of this as she puts a tremendous amount of work into the festival but has to pay full price for all the tickets for the plays she watches. At least I know that next time she will not have to pay!
I know she won't see this here unless someone prints it off for her but just wanted to make people who are good enough to read this be aware of her volunteer work along with others in this very friendly community.
Right enough of this. The sun is shining so I am going to stop and enjoy my coffee.

Cheers for reading if you got this far!!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Our Rehearsal in a Garage

A couple of photo's from our rehearsal in Blair & Deborah's garage yesterday. Those of you who have seen the play in Blackwood you will notice that Blair has re-created the set exactly as it was at home.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Godfather Death - The Travelling Band

The Godfather Death’s Travelling Band

Hi all.
Here is my first blog from Canada. Well this certainly has been a real eventful past 48 hours since our departure.
Not sure if news has filtered through but the Maidmans started the event by realising, after they had left home and were sitting in Newport waiting for Steve Wride that they had left an overnight bag back in sunny Aberdare!!.
Everything for a reason they say because after they had delivered Steve to car 2 (comprising Myself, Nye, Sarah and Shelly) and were merrily making our way along the M4, Nye had realised that the web cam for the broadcast was sitting happily back in Blackwood (along with my cane I hasten to add). So after some frantic calls between various houses and cars car 1 (the Maidmans) were swinging by Blackwood on their way back to pick up the items on their way through as my good lady Ros along with my youngest daughter Sally met them at the rendezvous site to transfer the contraband.
This was happening whilst car 2 was merrily making its way to the refreshment stop (The Spring Inn) just outside Newbury. Very nice it was too.
So eventually Cars 1 and 2 met at Reading services to make their way to the Travel Lodge in gatwick. Beers were swilled and stories of the night were exchanged.
Wednesday morning arrived and we made our way to Gatwick after I decided that I would drive everyone round the perimeter of the airport as I missed the turn to get to South Terminal. My excuse being that I wanted to show them exactly how large London's 2nd airport was.
The flight went well and was pretty uneventful. However I did wonder what the average age of the people was on the plane as for a moment I thought I was on a remake of Cocoon!!
Usual bland airline food and the philosophy of if we can sell everything on this plane at exorbitant prices we will!!
Landing was good too as we were warned of turbulence coming in over Halifax but I think the pilot was just wanting to see the look of panic in everyones eyes when he said it as I thought it was pretty good.
So we made our way through customs. Everyone through ok but guess what. Steve Wride was no where to be seen. On looking through the glass that separated the arrivals area from those who went through immigration. We could see Steve sitting quite comfortably filling in his 2nd form as he had left the one we were given on the plane!. For a moment I thought Steve was making himself comfortable for a while. A security guard went over to him to check he was ok and in his usual relaxed style just nodded, smiled and said he would be done soon.
So out of baggage claim and into the airport. Met our drivers and made our way to Liverpool. One and a half hours later were delivered to the holding point, The Curling Club. Registration made monies paid by us and some purchases of the festival goodies we  were driven to our billets.
Settled in we then made our way back to the Astor Theatre for the opening cerimonies of the festival.

 Flags paraded for each country anthems sung and speeches made we settled in for some scenes from the Full Monty. I’ll leave my thought to myself on that. Suffice to say my retena is now scarred with images I should never have seen.
Opening play was by a local Canadian group and I thought it was a very good piece even though I ddnt understand a word of it.
We adjurned to Lanes for an opening party but in view of the 2 days we had traveling many of us decided that as we had a long day ahead of us headed back to our respective billets.
So Thursday has dawned and we are just about to head to Deb and Blairs place to rehearse and then get the 5 tons of wood over to the Astor Theatre.
Feeling a little nervous now as the time approaches but its a great experience.
I know this has been a long blog but trying to get things down for people to read and catch up on where we are now. All being equal should be able to add items on a more regular basis.
Dont forget we are hoping to stream live from Canada and will be ‘going up’ 8.30 pm here 00.30 am Friday UK time. I hope some of you can catch it!! - - click on Live Stream !
Cheers from us all.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Tightening The Tale To Travel.

With just four days and one rehearsal before the flight leaves London for Halifax, Nova Scotia taking the cast of Godfather Death and it's Technical Director, but, alas, not it's Director and Devil, to The Liverpool International Theatre Festival, it is time for reflection. Have we done with this play what we wanted to do? We wanted to redefine it from the predominately two-handed, virtuoso piece it was originally written as, into an ensemble piece, which admittedly had less obvious possibilities for humour, bur with greater opportunity for atmosphere and Brechtian interplay as cast moved from audience to a storytelling event, into figures in the tale, guided and manipulated by the, now elfin, Stranger. Feedback is interesting. The set and lighting is certainly a triumph for the BBC's Nye Brown and for Peter Musto. It and is used well and worked hard by a well choreographed production. The production came within one mark of winning the Gwent Festival but in order to win in Canada, or indeed in the Wales Final, it will need to be more confident in itself. What the production lacked, and I can say this as the man responsible, was absolute belief in themselves from the whole cast. They will need to be bigger and bolder to take this from a very good production to a superb one. It needs a swagger in it's step: bigger, bolder performances from all. This is a play of two halves - the first rumbustious and comic - the comedy needs a little more underlining with timing, exaggeration and greater projection of energy in places. The second half of the play is tender, reflective and involves a change in pace and mood. This is almost there, but again needs a little more underlining. All this is about work at the margins. A strong group of actors, buoyed by their success will now make the necessary slight changes to take this on. I wonder how the Canadians and international groups will enjoy this Brechtian piece - a style of theatre which is not for all: some preferring the sense of sustained illusion and realism. I remember a wonderful German piece four years ago not being well received at all by some of the audience and certainly by adjudicators not familiar with the Brechtian tradition so strong in European theatre. So, tomorrow, in our last hour so or to address these things, we'll try and tighten it all a notch again. The cast will doubtless be more focused on lines and transporting props and costumes while I fret over polishing and squeezing a bit more out of this old tale. Hwyl. Bon voyage and Guten Nacht, meine Lieben. Vic Mills.