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For the last leg of our Black Country Blues tour we played Newhampton Arts Centre, Thimblemill Library in Bearwood and Brook Street Community Centre in Tipton on consecutive evenings. The Mayor of Sandwell and his wife came to see the Thimblemill show, where we had close to a full house, thanks in part no doubt to the show's promotion by the very efficient librarian, Julie Mckirdy.

Our thanks to Julie and to Robert Hazel of Tipton Library for their support of this project, and to Laurence Hipkiss, who joined us for most of the tour and added live music to the majority of the performances.

Thanks should also be given to Richard Bethell (aka Admiral Bob) and Jeris Quinn of cc Mixter, for giving us permission to use recordings of their music on those occasions when Lozz couldn't be present.

We'd also like to thank Greg Hobbs, Vanessa Donovan, Cassandra Wiggan, Lee Davies and Tom Synnott-Bell.


Good crowd at Tipton Library on Tuesday, with an impromptu Q & A session after the show. Last night we played Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton. Next stop Thimblemill Library in Bearwood.

We finished rehearsals on Friday and did a run through of the show on Saturday at The Black Country Arms. We've now embarked on the tour proper, with two performances on Black Country Day, one at West Bromwich Library in the afternoon and one at Smethwick Library in the evening. This evening we're playing Tipton Library. Musician Laurence Hipkiss will be part of the show, playing blues guitar during the scene changes.

My weekend was mostly spent painting and restoring the prop bike and making other props for the actors. On Monday the actors performed the whole play to Jessica Heller, the British Sign Language interpreter for the Newhampton Arts Centre show. They also performed a couple of scenes at a nearby community centre and did a hot seat exercise. Our portable P.A. system has arrived and out floor mic should be coming tomorrow.  

Another full day of rehearsal. Tiring but promising.This evening Suzan and I went to see a woman about a folding bike.


Made a good start with rehearsals yesterday. First read-through and some actor improvisations around a few of the scenes. Today we began to clarify the performances a little more and focus on some of the performance details. We have ten rehearsal days over a fortnight. I've got a feeling the next two weeks are going to fly by.

Rehearsals for Black Country Blues are just around the corner. Yesterday Suzan and I went shopping for costumes for the actors. A large bag was also purchased for the transportation of props!

A few years ago Suzan Spence and I got involved in a project called 'Arts in Empty Spaces' in some disused shops in West Bromwich town centre.  Neither of us knew what to expect when we put ourselves forward. Most of the surrounding spaces were displaying work by local art groups. We decided to write a play together and use the space to put it on, in the hope of distracting some passing shoppers.  

The co-write was a short comedy drama called Black Country Blues. It was written in dialects that reflected our different backgrounds and the make up of our local community. Whether anyone would interrupt their shopping in order to watch it was another matter. Then, about ten minutes before the start time, people began to drift in until there was standing room only. We'd captured an audience. They laughed in the right places and when they drifted away they seemed happy enough with what they'd seen and heard.

This got us both thinking about ways of engaging audiences who may not regularly attend theatre. Neither of us comes from theatre-going families and we both wanted to write for people who don't normally attend stage plays as well as those who do. We both felt we could and should do more things like this. Perhaps now we'd made a start, we could turn it into a trend.

After a period when we were both involved with different projects, we returned to this idea.  Last year Suzan and I, along with several of our friends and colleagues, formed Drama AND SOME cic. We are a Community Interest Company with a number of different objectives, one of which is to bring plays into community spaces that are regularly attended by local people, whether they're conventional theatres or not.

We've decided to launch the company with a new touring version of Black Country Blues which will to timed to coincide with the Black Country Festival, a celebration of local culture in all its different forms. We've re-written, re-designed and re-cast the play as a 90 minute piece (including the interval) that will work equally well at any venue - be it a pub, a library, an arts centre or a community centre. For a week in July, if you're in the West Midlands, you will be able to catch the show at any of these places.

For anyone wishing to know more about the beginnings of the play the original blog is still on the net at:

http://blackcountryblues.wordpress.com

For anyone wishing to follow the latest developments, watch this space. 


 

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