Freitag, 8. August 2014

John Finnemore's Library Edition (1 August 2014)

Again my friend and I had the luck to be able to go to one of John Finnemore's try-outs, this time in the (slightly smelly) lecture hall of Kensington Central Library. As ever, it was brilliant. In contrast to last time, it was with the full cast, but sadly without any songs (well, John had us sing the Souvenir Programme intro). The audience was again pretty mixed, with about one half being typical Radio 4 listeners (whole families of them) and the other half being people who came to Finnemore via Cabin Pressure (there even was another German there – we were so surprised about her starting to talk to us in German that we had to ask her to repeat what she just said). Of course, the big advantage with the try-outs is that you've got a guaranteed seat (as opposed to a free ticket that may or may not get you in) and it's a cosier affair than at a recording, so I reckon that this won't be the last try-out I'll attend.

I'm afraid I don't remember all the sketches, but there was an extremely clever time-travel sketch, one sketch with Patsy Straightwoman, then of course an animal sketch (with fish), one with Harry Potter (which went right over my head), a sketch about dog-owners and their dogs and a 'well, since you ask me', which John did with a glass of red wine in his hand (and later over his shirt). The whole thing was over after an hour, but it actually felt more like 20 minutes. After the show, John came out again for autographs, and later Carrie and Simon joined him. I'm now very much looking forward to listening to this on radio.

As an aside, we were at Croydon Airport visitor centre on the Sunday after the recording. It only opens the first Sunday of every month but if you've got the chance to go there, do it. The old terminal building is now mainly offices, but the tower is kept as a small museum and there's lots of volunteers who explain the exhibits. (There's also a flight simulator. We crashed our planes.)

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Freitag, 31. Mai 2013

John Finnemore's Priory Engagement (20 May 2013)

(Heute mal wieder des Themas wegen in Englisch.)

Beware, this is slightly spoilery. If you don't want to know what the sketches are about then don't read this.

Last week two friends and I were on holiday in London. As luck would have it, John Finnemore was doing a Priory Engagement for his Souvenir Programme during our stay. We were lucky enough to get tickets and the Priory – it's a really lovely pub, and they do really great Mac&Cheese and extremly delicious handmade chips; I'd strongly advise you to visit this pub when you're in the vicinity – was only a mile down from our hostel. The pub isn't huge and it was sold out, of course. In contrast to the Cabin Pressure recording, the audience for the Priory Engagement was pretty diverse – young people, older people, about as much men as women, local people, not so local people and us three Germans (I think we were the only foreigners apart from a few Americans, who seemed to live in London). So whereas the CP audience definitely caused some second-hand embarrassment, this audience couldn't have been better. Anyway. Apart from John Finnemore there were Carrie Quinlan, Simon Kane and Maggie Cabourn-Smith on stage. Lawry Lewin wasn't there, but I don't know why. They did the Priory Engagement just like a radio recording, with (non-stapled) scripts in their hands. The first sketch was about a family with different opinions about parenting. Given that there were 6 or 7 generations alive, this was not your ordinary family gathering. Right at the beginning of the second sketch John's phone rang. John then proceeded to make stern announcements between the sketches (‘Don't record this, please!’). Later Carrie Quinlan took over (‘Beware of swans!’, ‘Staple your scripts!’). I don't think I remember all the sketches, but there was one about a lovely little family business now run in the third generation called North Korea (you don't have that many authentic dictatorships anymore), another Churchill sketch, three Radio 4 sketches — another Archers sketch dipdleedipdeedipdleedip (with Carrie Quinlan as a cow, because farmers evidently always have cows with them), a sketch about those generic Radio 4 plays where the characters spell every bit of plot out for you and one about an art programme that was about detecting rather unlikely forgeries – and a sketch about a bear with sleeping problems in winter (I love his animal sketches). They also performed two old sketches, the supervising sketch and the ghost story sketch with a story in a story in a story in a story. What really had me in stitches though was the song about red trousers, sung by Simon Kane and John Finnemore, with someone whose name I don't remember live on the piano. I didn't catch all the words but it was the crowning moment of an already extremely funny evening. Afterwards we lingered a bit in the pub because it was so nice (on our second visit we found out that the Priory closes at ten, so they were doing overtime that evening) and we also got the obligatory photo (I'm normally not much for photos, but since I can't really nick a script to put it up next to all the set lists from concerts a photo will have to do) and I had my booklet of the fourth Cabin Pressure series signed (it's my favourite of the four booklets). The next logical step would now be to go to an actual Souvenir Programme recording, and I might do just that.

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Donnerstag, 14. Februar 2013

Cabin Pressure recording: Xinzhou and Yverdon-les-Bains

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

Now that I can safely assume that everybody who wanted to has heard all of series 4 of Cabin Pressure, I can tell a few more things about the recording (also now that I've listened to Xinzhou and Yverdon-les-Bains I remembered some things that occurred at the recording).

The X episode wasn't that spectacular in terms of bloopers because it only featured the regular cast and they are visibly at ease with each other. Nonetheless, Finnemore was the first to get a line wrong. At that he said that he never wants to be the first, to which Allam replied in his best Douglas voice "and yet you're always the first to go". When Stephanie Cole fluffed a line she swore a bit, and her swear word of choice was "fiddly-arses", about which Allam and Cumberbatch teased her for the rest of the afternoon. There was also one time – I think it was in Xinzhou rather than Yverdon-les-Bains – when Cumberbatch had to turn away from the mic laughing and almost missed his line because of that. Apart from the aforementioned snowman shoving, they also did many other things visibly, eg the snowball fight (all that was missing were some real snowballs) or the opening and closing of doors or even when they helped each other out of their imaginary jackets. I think Allam also stabbed an imaginary button for talking to ATC. Afterwards they rerecorded Martin's heart to heart with Maxi in Vaduz and one other scene with Maxi – the laughs are a bit stifled there because, as David Tyler said, if you understand what's going on in this scenes just from these few scentences, you've got to be on drugs. Speaking of Vaduz, Finnemore had to recap it because Theresa is mentioned in Xinzhou and when he said that "Martin has finally found someone to go to Duxford Air Museum with", the audience "oooooooh"-ed. Also, Cumberbatch did a fist pump in the background and looked visibly pleased with Martin's private life. Finnemore also mentioned that Arthur came third in a crazy golf tournament (which isn't mentioned in any episode), which got him a round of applause, at which Finnemore looked really proud. One thing that did surprise me upon hearing the episode was how loud we were when Martin explained the rules of fizz-buzz. I didn't realise how much we've laughed at that. I'd have thought we were louder in the scene where Gerti plays as well, but apparently not. That scene was magic, though.

Y had more memorable scenes, what with the greater cast and thus more possibilities to fluff lines. In an interview, Finnemore described the dragon fruit scene as one of his two favourite scenes to record, and he really stood there almost breathing fire and flapping his wings arms and generally giving his best impression of a dragon. I think they needed to gos for that. It was glorious. Another instance of lovely visible acting was when Cole gave Finnemore an imaginary jab into the arm. The other scene where I'm amazed that the audience doesn't drone out the actors was with Douglas and Herc. We were in stitches when Allam arrived at the "whilst in flight". Martin's interview was a bit tricky. I don't think they rerecorded parts of it, but they had to restart many lines. Due to technical difficulties (probably too many laughs or something like that, though one time they had to rerecord a few lines of dialogue because Cumberbatch was speaking too loud) they repeated a scene in the flight deck when Carolyn says hello to Herc and Douglas answers with "nevermind Herc". For that, Anthony Head made his way slowly to the mic and upon Allam's line turned around and went back to his seat with hanging shoulders. In another rerecorded scene with Herc they did a bit of shuffling around until they found their previous positions at the mic, which was very funny to watch. They also rerecorded some scenes for Wokingham. One was the argument between Caitlin and Martin about their jobs, which they did in a normal version and a more angry version – the difference was striking. They used the less aggressive version in the end, probably because the actor who played Elise did the stand-in for Caitlin, so they couldn't use the whole scene but only Cumberbatch's lines and the tone had to fit the presumably less aggressive original version. That was one thing that made the recording very interesting from a technical point of view. There's another scene where you can easily spot that it's rerecorded in the X and Y session because the laughter is much louder than in the rest of Wokingham. In that scene, Carolyn proposes to take Arthur to Mrs Crieff. In the background, Finnemore's Arthur grin grew wider and wider – it was so comical that we laughed at his grin as much as we laughed at the dialogue.

Generally, it was really interesting to see how the actors got visibly into character when they went up to the mic. They not only sound different, they even look different and you can always tell the moment they get in character. Roger Allam sounds pretty much the same except that normally his voice isn't dripping with sarcasm, which makes a huge difference. Cumberbatch is hugely variable in his voice and Martin has a slightly higher voice than Cumberbatch's normal voice, so that difference is pretty pronounced. Anthony Head is always cast in roles where he has to polish his accent, so he normally speaks in a different accent, while the other actors use their own accents (I have read that Head brought sunglasses for the beach scenes in Vaduz, so he also seems to love recording Cabin Pressure). Finnemore sounds surprisingly unlike Arthur, unless he's excited. Then he sounds like a somewhat excited (ie normal) Arthur. Stephanie Cole sounds completely different in her normal voice. Try to find an interview with her, it's really lovely to hear her normal speaking voice. Sadly, she had to go soon after the recording, but I've got autographs on my posters from all the other actors.

In the last scene they cut our reaction – because there definitely was a huge gasp and a few murmurs of protest at that cliffhanger. And let's face it, on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is one of those classic Who cliffhangers where they realised afterwards that they didn't have a proper ending for this week's episode and 10 is Reichenbach, this has got to be at least a 20. And now that it's aired it has such a sense of finality about it. Even though I'm really sad about it, my money is on Z being Zürich as the last episode ever. It's really obvious that the actors love Cabin Pressure and they give up free days or fit the recordings between other jobs even on the same day, but coordinating their schedules seems to be a huge problem. So while Finnemore has written this series so that he can adapt the next series to changes in the cast (or the cast staying the same), it really looks as if Cabin Pressure as we know it will be ending soon.

Under a link there are photos of my posters with autographs (the first poster is by andyprue, the second one by sweettasteofbitter).

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Sonntag, 6. Januar 2013

Cabin Pressure recording (6 Jan 2013)

(Heute ausnahmsweise auf Englisch, falls sich jemand per Google hierher verirrt.)

I had the enormous luck of winning two tickets for Cabin Pressure (17000 applicants for 3×200 tickets). And these tickets don't even guarantee you to get in because the BBC is of the opinion that only about half of the poeple who have tickets will turn up. This may be right for other shows, but not for Cabin Pressure. I started queueing at around 8, which got me position 39 in the queue – a queue that in the end went down the whole street and round the corner into the next street. It wasn't until 4.5 hours later when they would bring out the stickers and let us in. Queueing was fun at first because the people were nice1 and we were shouted at by an enraged woman who threatened to call the police because we were loud (which we weren't at that point) and because we were standing there every weekend (which we definitly weren't – the recordings had a two week and a three week gap between them respectively and you could only apply for one date, so that definitely wasn't us that stood there every weekend). Anyway, she had a very colourful language and the whole incident amused us very much. At half eight, John Finnemore and Roger Allam went into the RADA studios, at quarter to nine Stephanie Cole followed and the last one to go in was Benedict Cumberbatch, at 5 minutes to nine. I have no idea how/when the guest actors have got in. John Finnemore later came out again to wave at us (he is very lovely. I need to ask the BBC if they send John Finnemores out as a birthday present.) Later on, queueing got more and more boring and cold and so on, especially as they gave us our sticker with our position in the queue directly before we got in the building. So you couldn't even go away to have breakfast (my food today consisted largely of 6 cereal bars, until I managed to eat a proper meal after 6). But we got in eventually and even in a somewhat orderly manner.

Of course I can't talk about the content of the episodes. It was the X and Y episodes, but don't ask me for the names, I didn't really understand them. Episode X is a bottle episode with only the regular cast, while episode Y features three guest stars (one of them to be expected) and it's even more dramatic than St Petersburg (I think I can even say that for me it's a more dramatic episode than The Reichenbach Fall). The recording starts with David Tyler saying a few introductory words and making a few bad jokes (he said so himself), the latter to make sure that the microphones for the audience laughter are properly calibrated. The recording was a slightly surreal experience because you not only get to see the people you normally merely hear, but you really hear all the sounds (like the famous bing-bong) and the actors visibly act. For example, there was one scene when Arthur and Douglas shove a snowman (it makes sense in context), so John Finnemore and Roger Allam really were shoving an imaginary snowman. And you can really see a shift in the actors' faces and body languages when they start speaking in character. Speaking of context, after the first run of each episode (they do all the scenes in order, what with not having to chance the set) they retook a few scenes (one because we were laughing too loud – but that's Finnemore's fault, not ours) and additionally they repeated a few scenes from previous episodes which had had some technical problems (or something like that) which really didn't much sense without having heard the episodes in question. But I now know a few things about the middle episodes. The actors also had to start some lines anew, with Cumberbatch probably having the highest number of fluffed lines (mainly due to giggling – which is totally understandable –, though Cumberbatch also wanted to retake a few scenes for artistic reasons). Anyway, the episodes were wonderful. I'd describe X more as a family episode, while Y is a big character episode and, as I said, very dramatic. No bird strikes this time, though. We asked John Finnemore (did I mention that he's very lovely?) afterwards if there will be more episodes or even a whole new series in future, but he couldn't tell us anything. But there's only Z left, so I wouldn't bet on there being another series. A Z special maybe, but I fear that that might be it. (I'll go cry in a corner now.)

Afterwards the cast came back for autographs and really, they are lovely. I even got an autograph from Stephanie Cole, who had to leave shortly after the recording. And I admire Benedict Cumberbatch for his patience because he really was beleaguered by so many people.

I hope I didn't forget anything that's worth telling because that whole day was just massive and full of wonderfull impressions. If the chance arises I'll definitely go to another recording (or a Souvenir Programme recording). Unless I explode sometime in the next 6 weeks because I can't tell anyone how wonderful these episodes were exactly.

  1. Well, they were nice to the other fans, but there were some people that I think are creepy from an actor's perspective. I counted at least three Sherlock coats, one of them as a fully blown cosplay including purple shirt. It's one thing to cosplay at cons, but cosplaying as one character at an event when the actor who plays this character is playing a completely different character is a big no-no. And don't get me started on the people who showered the actors (and one actor in particular…) with gifts. Do they really think the actors keep all that? </rant >

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