Play Time

Witches Abroad, Monstrous ProductionsAs many of you know, we’ve been in a play – Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad by Monstrous Productions. This wasn’t stepping out of our comfort zone, this was being picked up by one one those grabbers in arcades and being dropped into someone’s else’s comfort zone. One, we’ve never acted in anything and two, we’re not great in large groups of people. In fact, it’s only in the last week that we’ve felt able to be more ourselves around people and actually talk to the rest of the cast.

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The marvelous crew. Top – bottom: Craig, Sam, Hitch, Alex, Sarah-Jayne (makeup) Hannah, Callum & Ruby

And we’ve been there since November! Bit late we know. Since we stopped participating in the warm-up games, we felt more comfortable and more part of the group. It sounds a bit backwards, but watching rather than participating makes it easier for us to bond with people because we lose the self-consciousness that participation brings, so we can be more ourselves. Though this kinda sounds stalkerish. *Adopts creepy voices* “we like watching you.” We’re also better when we’re in smaller groups, or talking two-on-one.

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Alex as Desiderata

Wednesday was opening night. Weirdly, we weren’t nervous until about 3 p.m. Then we had to do our breathing exercises until we reached The Gate. Once we were inside The Gate, we were ok. Especially when we went and sat on the stairs by ourselves 😀 We joked on Facebook that we were being our usual anti-social selves, but really we find noise overwhelming so sometimes find small dark, quiet places to retreat to, such as woods, stairwells, morgue fridges… Ruby, who plays the maid Sam, did a fantastic job of making us look scary and keeping us company throughout the play. We had to practise the bows and were given a 15 minute warning. As some people were still having their makeup done, we put our wigs on ourselves. We got lost in all that hair. It took us so long to fight our way free and force the wigs into some kind of submission, we were late to the bowing practice. Curse you, wigs!

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Isabelle and Callum as Dismass and Gammer

Straight after the bows, was the group photo. We were already at the back of the stage when everyone assembled. It wasn’t a deliberate ploy to hide, but when everyone gathered, we could no longer be seen. Which was fine until Craig noticed he couldn’t see us. Goddamn it. Why do people always notice when we’ve gone missing? It seriously hampers our plans and mischief-making. Though we weren’t the only ones hiding, were we, Ellen? 😉

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Director, Amy and assistant director, Ed

Craig tried to persuade us to go down the front. We don’t mind being lost in a crowd in group photos, but there’s no way in hell we will ever stand at the front. Yes we are two of the shortest cast members, but no. Richard (who played various roles) did threaten to throw us over the top, so Cat warned him that we do indeed, bite 😀 People who don’t know us very well, don’t realise how bloody stubborn we can be. We got our own way in the end, as is proved by the group shot at the bottom of this post.

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Lowri and Ben as Magrat and Albert Hurker

As soon as it got to scene 18 and we were waiting in the wings, the nerves hit. Luckily, Caroline, who plays Lilith is in the scene with us and she’s a lot of fun, so she helped distract us, as did Craig, who was operating the curtain in the wing Cat was lurking in. Our hearts were pounding the minute we walked on stage. We were certain the audience would be able to see them trying to break through their bony cages. Fortunately, we didn’t trip and the scene went brilliantly. There was even a startled gasp as Caroline offered the mice to us.

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Caroline and us as Lilith Weatherwax and the Snake Twins

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Zoe and Tony as Nanny Ogg and Jason Ogg

Our next scene, scene 29, could have potentially gone wrong. When Granny Weatherwax (Ellen) throws a mouse behind a curtain, we chase it. In the tech rehearsals, we nearly collided with speakers that tried to deny us entry. Luckily we had enough space and even managed to find the mouse. Each night, the audience seemed to like us scampering after the mouse. For scene 36, we came through the door by the audience. As we were waiting with Richard, who plays a guard in this scene, a member of the audience came out.

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Matthew, Katya and Luke

He looked a little startled to see three cast members lurking. As he trotted down the stairs, Cat called “surprise!” When he returned to the audience, we were loitering by the door on the inside, surprising him again. It’s fun to see how many of the audience notice us standing amongst them. The hardest part about scene 36 (the ball scene) is when Lilith clicks her fingers and we have to freeze. Our eyes burn and it’s extremely difficult not to blink. We failed miserably at this as our eyes were watering and burning throughout the entire scene. But we survived the opening night! Only 4 more runs to go…Witches Abroad

Here’s the review Wales Online wrote about opening night. And here is the one from Mithril Wisdom.

Night 2 started brilliantly – we took Cards Against Humanity backstage. We have the bigger, blacker box with every expansion, including the two new ones. What started out with four players, soon turned into 14. Unfortunately, we only had 20 minutes to play, but it was still fun.

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Antonio and Isabelle as a guard and the princess

We managed to sneak a look at our headshots in the programme before they were whisked away to be sold. We’ve been dreading them, because we normally take hideous photos, but Craig’s worked a miracle and they are actually decent photos. It’s a good job we didn’t spend money on smiley face cover-up stickers. Plus putting stickers over our faces in every programme would’ve been very time-consuming. We may have to hire him for our author events and Calamityville shenanigans.

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Pat as Mrs Pleasant

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Tony and Katya as Jason and his wife

Night 2 went really well. We weren’t as nervous and our hearts didn’t pound when we were on stage, so we consider that a success. We also haven’t face planted yet, though there’s still time. Our former psychologist, Neil came to this performance, so after our character photos, we joined him in the bar. We haven’t seen him since he retired in July, so it was great to catch up.

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Jacky and Ben as the Honorable Douglas Incessant and Lady Incessant

It was only a few years ago that Neil had to fight to get us to go into Starbucks, now because of him, we’re in a play. We don’t have many talents in life, but alongside getting lost, getting locked in places is one of them. We usually get locked in pubs, bars or even bowling alleys with our mate, Andrew, and we’ve been accidentally locked in Pembroke Castle. This time, us and Neil got locked in The Gate. We battled with the locks, rattling the door and flicking up locks on the other door, only for the barmaid to come and press a button beside the door. It immediately opened. It’s not the first time during this play that we’ve embarrassed ourselves with a door.

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Lucy and Lowri as Ella and Magrat

Night 3 was a little different. Or rather, our makeup was a little different. Zoe painted our teeth to look like we had pointy teeth.

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us and our creepy teeth

We loved them. They were suitably creepy. In the other performances, we didn’t open our mouths, which made little sense when one of Nanny Ogg’s lines is: “I’ve never seen teeth like those on anyone before.” Now we could grin menacingly. We made sure to warn Caroline before our scene with her, so we didn’t freak her out when she offered us the mice.

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Fenn as the woodcutter

When word spread about our teeth, other members of the cast wanted to see them. They were impressed and creeped out. Strangely, we found ourselves smiling more at everyone when we knew they found our teeth frightening. Before the show started, we nipped out with Ruby to get food, forgetting we were in full snake makeup. Oddly, we got less weird looks than we do when we go out normally. This says a lot :/ We once again had to fight with our wigs – the fringes were so long that when we put the wigs on, we couldn’t see our faces in the mirror to adjust them. We looked like Cousin It after getting struck by lightning.

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Meg and John as ball guests

Backstage, we were treated to a unique experience – watching Death (Alistair) twerking by his scythe in full costume. It’s not something you see every day and we’re glad we got to witness it. This time whilst we waited outside the theatre doors with Richard before the ball scene, instead of frightening audience members, the three of us practised our serial killer smiles. Despite our snake teeth, Richard won.

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Alistair as Death

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Meg as Red Riding Hood

After the play finished, we met up Neen, and her wife, Zoe in the bar. We overheard a guy saying something about the snake twins and how different they look in real life because they’re Goths. By this point, we were dressed in our usual clothes and had removed all the makeup. Except the teeth. We loved the teeth and refused to wash them off.

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Granny, Nanny and Luke as the wolf

He turned around and saw us sitting at the table behind him. So we flashed our pointy teeth at him. Rather than fleeing the bar in terror, he came over to speak to us. He said he really enjoyed our scenes and found it really creepy when Caroline pretends to feed us the mice. It seems everyone except us finds that scene unnerving. Maybe we’ve been snake owners for too long! He also enjoyed us scampering off after the mouse Ellen throws. He couldn’t believe how synchronised we were.

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Ellen, Lowri and Zoe as Granny Weatherwax, Magrat and Nanny Ogg

Day 4 was going to be a long day. There was a matinee performance for the first time, as well as an evening performance. Between performances, we made a mad dash to our favourite chip shop, Younger’s, which is in Birchgrove. Not exactly near The Gate. We didn’t bother taking off our snake makeup. At first, the boys in the chippie didn’t seem to notice, which left us wondering if we always look this weird. But then one of them asked what the occasion was. When we explained we were in a play and we were the creepy snake twins, his response was: “of course you are.”

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Caroline, Michael and Nick as Lilith, the Duc and Captain de Vere

We started the evening performance tweeting with a member of the audience, which was fun. Rules of Play were celebrating TableTop Day downstairs and it was really tempting to join them, as we were missing out on going to Counters, the board game event our friends run in Ponty. Unfortunately, the game event made things very difficult for us and Richard: when we were waiting to come on for the ball scene, we couldn’t hear a word that was said on stage. The three of us were pressed up against the door, desperately trying to listen for our cue to enter. Witches AbroadLuckily, Tony, who played Jason Ogg, was great at projecting. Usually we hear him clearly, but even he was almost impossible to hear. Thankfully, nobody left the theatre at that point, or they would’ve sent the three of us flying backwards down the stairs, with Richard’s spear tumbling after us and probably taking out someone’s eye. In the play, we can only be defeated by magic and being stamped on, but in real life, a door to the face would have done the trick. The matinee was filmed and will be posted on YouTube. We were nervous when we found out it was going to be filmed and were convinced that would be the moment we fall down the steps with our wigs skidding across the floor. Because this is what happens when we’re being filmed. In normal life, we never fall over, but as soon as the Calamityville Horror cameras start rolling, we turn in to trip hazards. Luckily we didn’t trip because we wouldn’t have been able to synchronise that.

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Dominique as Mrs Gogle, Harry as the Baron and Nanny

And no, we never did get the hang of those damn wigs.

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Ben, Richard and John threatening Granny with a terrible fate

Special thanks to Ruby, for not only persuading us to take part, but also for doing such a good job with our makeup and letting us know when our scenes were coming up. Thanks to Ruby, Zoe, Pat, Caroline and Craig for keeping us amused during rehearsals and throughout the shows. And thanks to Ellen for making us feel welcome and Nick for letting us keep the snakes 🙂 Thanks to Amy for wanting us in the play, Ed for making rehearsals fun, and Hannah for making sure we were ok. Also, big thanks to our mum, Lynette, sister, Sarah, our mates Neen, Zoe, Tom, Amy, Bryn and Jo, our former psychologist, Neil and our zumba instructor, Julia and her two sons who came to see us. We really appreciate the support. Show week has been our favourite week of all. We feel we got to know people a bit better, even if it was a little late.

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Fenn and John leading Terrence the toymaker to the dungeon

Over 700 tickets were sold for Witches Abroad, with the four nights selling out. £3,350 was raised for Alzheimer’s Research, which takes the total amount raised from all the plays to £11,000! Auditions for the next play, Night Watch will take place 11th-14th May (subject to change). Men especially are wanted! Email monstrousproductions2012@gmail.com for an audition pack.

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Witches Abroad

Meet the monsters

Photos by Craig Harper

Dressing Up

Witches Abroad, Monstrous ProductionsLast night we had our very first dress rehearsal for Monstrous Productions’ Witches Abroad in The Gate Arts Centre. We donned our costumes and had to remove our jewellery. We feel naked without our jewellery. Then we utterly failed to put our wigs on. We’ve had short hair since we were 8 and dealing with long wigs was a…challenge. We got completely tangled in them. And that was after we’d removed all our rings. So the make up lady, Sarah-Jayne had to help us. After Isabelle, who plays various roles, had problems too, we created a hashtag – #wigissues which we will no doubt be using a lot. With the long silver wigs and white mascara Ruby (who plays maid Sam and will be doing our make up) lent us, one thing was clear: we have very dark eyebrows. We look like bargain basement Daenerys Stormborns. Might need to use the white mascara on our eyebrows. That’s ok, right? We never wear mascara but we assume it will work on eyebrows.

We were barefoot as we’re meant to be silent. And it worked. We joined the rest of the cast on the stage floor then terrified Harry, who plays the Baron. He hadn’t heard us approach, turned around and there we were, in Snake Twin mode. He jumped 😀 Usually it’s only Caroline (Lillith) we get to frighten so it’s nice to spread the fear around 😀 We’ve bought croc effect nail paint from Barry M so our toe and fingernails will look like scales. We know we’ll be too far away for people to see them, but we’ll know about them.

There’s one problem with us being barefoot – we’re even shorter. In rehearsals when we wear our boots, we’re not a great deal shorter than Caroline. But now we’re barefoot and she’s in heels. We feel we lose part of our creepy factor when we look like Oompa-Loompas that have been denied the sun.

It’s brilliant seeing the play all performed in costume. It’s like we’re watching it for real. For our final scene, we appear through a different entrance, so during the interval, we decided to explore The Gate so we could find our way round from our usual stage entrance to our final one. You know how good we are at getting lost and we don’t want to be wandering the Gate on opening night trying to find the right door. Because you know that will happen. So we scampered off backstage. It’s so much easier to scamper when you’re barefoot. We found the stairs so followed them then found ourselves by the toilets, so thought we’d make use of them. You know what’s like, sometimes you need to go but just can’t be arsed to make the effort, but there they were.

Germophobes might want to skip this paragraph. We scurried in, only to suddenly remember we were still barefoot. In public toilets. Luckily, the floor was dry and clean, but by the time we realised, it was already too late. And there was no way we were heading back upstairs for our boots. All we can say is, thank god we weren’t using the men’s toilets for once! Those who know us well know we have a tendency to use the men’s toilets if the women’s are full or if we fail to find them. Our advice is: always make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear when using public toilets. At least we weren’t barefoot in the toilets at the Smiley Cafe on the weekend. Our skin would had to have been acid dipped.

Craig, who played Mort, was taking photos of everyone, but fortunately, he didn’t get a decent one of us. That’s because 99% of the time, we take terrible photos. We’ve also managed to escape being in the other rehearsal ones 😀 Either that, or Craig’s realised that we take awful photos and has very kindly spared us by not posting them. Thanks Craig, we appreciate it 🙂 We dread to think what our programme photos look like. Perhaps we should borrow the programmes and slap stickers over our pictures. Or better yet, cover them with photos of our snake, Charlie.

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Charlie, ready for his close-up

The show runs Wednesday April 8th – Saturday April 11th with a matinee performance on the Saturday as well as the evening show. So please please please come. Even if it’s just to laugh at us looking like ageing drag queens. It’s a fantastic play and we’re not just saying that because we’re in it. We’ve seen it so many times now and we never get bored of it. Tickets are £8 available here or you can buy paper tickets from us.

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Warlock says “come and see Witches Abroad.”

The Play’s the Thing

Witches Abroad, Monstrous ProductionsWith 5 weeks to go until Witches Abroad’s opening night, we had our first rehearsal at The Gate. It’s an old church converted into an arts centre and we’ve been there twice before to watch Monstrous Productions’ Pratchett plays, but last night we got to go back stage. We were excited. Exploring places is our thing. Not sure how we’re all going to fit in to the dressing room though. We’ll probably follow our usual protocol of changing in toilets or the car. That’s not the glamorous image of actors, we know, but then again, we’re not actors. And we’re really good at changing in toilets and cars.

The warm up game consisted of two things we’re most uncomfortable with – closing your eyes in public and having people touch you as you walk around. So we were allowed to guard the steps to make sure no-one hurt themselves. One guy did, but he walked into the side barrier, not the steps. We weren’t guarding the sides. You’d think that having been part of this since November that we’d be completely at ease with everyone and be the typical us that our friends are used to, especially since everyone there is so nice. But we retreat into socially awkward us in big groups. We know we come across as aloof, probably even unfriendly, but we’re really not, even if we do immediately go and sit on the other side of the room from everyone else 😀 Sorry, fellow cast members. We actually like you but there’s a lot of you so we’ll continue sitting on the other side by ourselves looking awkward. If you’ve watched our Calamityville episodes, you may have noticed that when we’ve done group vigils, we don’t speak until we’re forced to. Socially Awkward Penguins isn’t a choice, it’s a lifestyle. Though we did speak to two guys last night. About the torture of epilating. Check us out enhancing our social skills!

We thought that our inability to lose our Socially Awkward Penguin state meant we were regressing, but our MCT therapist assured us we’re not. Now the anxiety has lessened, we’re left with our pathological make-up. Which unfortunately in our case, is Socially Awkward Penguin. If you ask our mum, she’ll tell you that even when we were 18 months old, we’d refuse to go into a play park if there was even one other child in there. We’d stand outside and wait until they had gone. (Standing and staring, just like the snake twins.) But our therapist said we must see this as an advantage. We’re playing creepy characters who don’t speak, so if we were as confident and comfortable as everyone else, we would be less convincing in our roles.

It was fantastic getting to see parts of the play performed at the Gate. It seems so real now. We can’t wait for the dress rehearsals. The speed runs of some scenes were brilliant. And the good news is, we terrify Caroline, who plays Lilith, every time we walk on stage to join her in our first scene. All we do is walk on, stare and nod. See, we said we were born to play creepy twins. In one scene we get to run behind a curtain and stay there in the dark for the rest of the scene. That might be our favourite bit. We love small dark spaces, they relax us. As our time spent in Newsham Park’s naughty cupboards and morgue fridge will testify.

It’s been an interesting experience to be involved in a play, especially as we were in the audience for Mort and Wyrd Sisters, so to be on the other side is strange. Part of us wishes we could be in the audience with our friends, so we’d get to see the whole play, because it really is brilliant. It doesn’t matter how many times we hear some of the lines, we still laugh. We’re in awe of everyone who have already learned their lines, in particular Zoe, who plays Nanny Ogg – she’s been off script for a while. All we have to do is remember when we walk on. Despite being Socially Awkward Penguins, we haven’t regretted saying yes. How many people get to say they’ve acted in a play of one of Terry Pratchett’s books? A year ago, no amount of cajoling/bribery/being held at gun point would have persuaded us to take part.

We’ve started reading Witches Abroad and Wyrd Sisters and we can’t read Granny, Nanny and Magrat’s dialogue without hearing it being spoken by Ellen, Zoe and Lowri who play them. It’s strange but also nice. If you love Pratchett, come and see the play. If you’ve never read a Pratchett book, come and see the play anyway. If you hate Pratchett… *tumble weed blows past* come and see the damn play. It’s well worth the money and you’re helping a great cause, as the money gets donated to Alzheimer’s UK.

Witches Abroad is on April 8th – 11th. Tickets are £8 or £6 concessions and you can buy them here or we have paper ones.

Witches Abroad

Warlock says “come and see Witches Abroad.”

Backstage Pass

It sounds like the start to a horror film – a stranger approaches you in a chip shop and asks you to act in a play. Luckily this is real life and the person who approached us was Ruby, a crew member from Monstrous Productions. If you remember, we’ve been to see two of the Terry Pratchett plays they’ve performed – Mort and Wyrd Sisters, which we reviewed. And this time, we’re on the other side. We’re being transformed into snakes. Or rather, women who think they’re snakes. Apparently, Monstrous Productions really wanted us to be the twins – they knew about us through our reviews. To be honest, we were reluctant to participate. One, because although most of our social anxiety is gone, our innate shyness means we’re still not great in large groups. And two, because we love going to see the plays and we didn’t want to miss this one. But we went to the auditions anyway and enjoyed them, even participating in the role play. When we decided to stick with our yearly resolution of ‘say yes to things’, being in a play wasn’t something we’d envisioned.

Directed by Amy Davies, this will be the UK premiere of Pratchett’s Witches Abroad. Jason Anthony, who runs the Discworld newsletter with 20,000 subscribers, is coming to review the play. We’re so glad we don’t have a speaking role! Witches Abroad is about the three witches – Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick – trying to stop a servant girl from marrying the prince. Somebody has been turning real life into stories, but real life isn’t fiction and happy endings can’t be forced.

Having been in the audience twice, it’s great to see how things are done backstage. This is our first experience of being involved with a play in any way and we’re really enjoying it. A lot of work goes into these plays. Everyone is really lovely and we love watching people rehearse, because at least we get to see the play, albeit in small sections. Everyone who’s in it is really talented and we’re not just saying that now we’re part of it. Seriously, read our previous reviews. We find the warm up games difficult, due to our social awkwardness and we know we look as awkward as we feel, but everyone else has a lot of fun with them. We can’t wait to see the rehearsals progress from reading off the scripts, to acting it out in costume. As writers, it’s invaluable experience to see it from the inside. We’ve often thought it would be great to either write a play, or turn one of our stories into one, so it’s fascinating to see how it all comes together.

Our three scenes involve us standing around, looking creepy. It’s like we were born for these roles 😀 In one of our scenes, we have to maintain eye contact with one of the witches, Magrat. Those who know us in real life, know we generally avoid eye contact as much as possible, so having to hold it is challenging, but that probably adds to our creepy factor. If you come and see it, we’ll be unrecognisable as we’ll be in pretty dresses and long silver wigs. So we’ll be the ones looking like old drag queens. We always go to the plays with our mate, Tom and his girlfriend, Amy. After our first rehearsal, we texted Tom and told him about the dresses and said he wasn’t allowed to laugh when we’re on stage. When we texted him about the wigs, his response was “do you still expect me not to laugh?” 😀

Witches Abroad will run from April 8th – 11th at The Gate Arts Centre, Keppoch Street, Cardiff. Tickets are £8 and are available from here. So please come and see it if you can. Not for us – we’re only in 3 scenes, but come because it’s a brilliant, funny play. All profits go to Alzheimer’s research.

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Witches Abroad, Monstrous Productions