A fantastic show by Paul Gambaccini about the making of On The Waterfront. Delighted he mentioned Waiting for Brando on his Twitter account! Click here to listen to the show again. Incredible story behind OTWF, which has as much drama as the film itself: Miller and Brando working on a similar script, The Hook, before they fell out over Kazan testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee; Frank Sinatra lined up for the role before Sam Spiegel opted for Marlon Brando – Sinatra sues; Brando demands two things in exchange for doing the part – a flat up-front payment for appearing and he be allowed to leave the set every day at 4pm to visit his therapist. Brando’s brilliance is well know from the taxi ‘I coulda been someone’ scene, but an equally, yet more subtle scene, watch how he plays around with Eva Saint-Marie’s glove, when she drops it. Something similar happens with a coin on the counter of the diner in ‘The Wild Ones’ – you’ll find it here, about 1.38 in. Neither scene was scripted in that way – just Brando ‘playing around’. Tickets are now on sale for all the shows on the tour, and sales are already being reprted, so don;t delay as I’m predicting a sell-out again for all shows.
Make sure you catch this on Saturday 2nd Feb, 10.30am on Radio 4. In his series, The Academy Award goes to…’ Paul Gambaccini celebrates On The Waterfront’s 1954 domination of the Oscars. The Radio 4 site says: ‘ON THE WATERFRONT not only gives us the most famous scene ever to take place in the back of a taxi, (“I coulda been a contender!”), it also showcases the talents of director Elia Kazan, and an astonishingly strong support cast – Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb and newcomer Eva Marie Saint- Method Acting at its height.’ All true, but will it tell you that behind the scenes there were suspicions that the play ‘borrowed heavil’ from an unpublished screenplay, ‘The Hook’, that OTWF director Elia Kazan was working on with Arthur Miller? Kazan thought the script was ‘half-assed’, but he was working to raise finance for it when they fell out over Kazan’s decision to name names when he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kazan then teamed up with Bid Schulberg, who had also been living and breathing the waterside bars, and the rest is history. All this and more, including the first ever dramatisation of the little known ‘Connecticut Farmhouse’ scene, when Kazan told Miller he was going to testify, is explored in Waiting for Brando, which returns to the Unity stage after much accalim for its first run in 2012. It plays for five nights from 16-20 April, and then embarks on a short spring tour. Check out the website for ticket details. Tickets for the Unity can be found by clicking here.
Very thoughtful, interesting and overall very positive review of Waiting for Brando, by Denis Joe, writing in The Manchester Salon. Read the edited review below or click here to read the original piece.
|Manchester theatre reviews|
Waiting for Brando
at Unity Theatre, Liverpool
Reviewed by Denis Joe June 2012
Waiting For Brando is one of the most exciting new plays that I have seen in recent years. Mike Morris and Steve Higginson are following in the footsteps of Alan Bleasdale et al, part of a powerful tradition of writing for the stage that is central to the city’s history. The writers, actors and the director of this masterpiece, do not force any one idea, and the audience is left to consider what the play says about the world we live in as well as our role in that world. Waiting For Brando played at the Unity Theatre for three nights as part of the Writing on the Wall Festival. Justifiably it was a sell-out and we can entertain a hope that there will be funding for productions such as this in the future.
The reviews keep coming in, and this one is particularly significant, coming from Stagewon, an online resource and review site ‘for theatre professionals, artists in training and audience members alike to learn, nourish talent and communicate with one another.’ Delighted for all the actors getting the recognition they deserve.
The full review is below, but you can read the original review by clicking here.
Every once in a while an aspiring actor will watch a piece of theatre that reminds them just what drives them to pursue a career in acting; Waiting for Brando was such a performance.
The atmosphere in the bar before the show set the stage for a hotly anticipated final performance of the Unity’s painfully short run of only three nights. As the music of the 1950s subtly played out, the sell out audience eagerly snaked their way into the quaint studio space.
The play tells two stories. One of the tense working relationship between Hollywood director Elia Kazan (Paul Duckworth), and his former friend, playwright, Arthur Miller (Carl Cockram). The other of two Liverpudlian brothers both working on the seas with Cunard. Whilst there are moments of interlinking, the two storylines work well alongside each other in this clever social commentary.
A period set is always a challenge but was delivered with aplomb. The two worlds portrayed were seamlessly interlinked throughout the two story play. One side of the stage was reserved for the tense working office of Kazan, and the other a classic post-WW2 New York bar.
The use of sound and lighting was brilliant. The technical design matched the small performance space perfectly. The use of echo allowed us inside the mind of Kazan, without being over dramatic. The jukebox and guitar offer light musical release from the often tense relationship between brothers; steady Eddie (Daniel Hayes) and his tenacious younger Vinnie (Joe Shipman). These musical interludes had the audience laughing and, on occasion, even quietly singing along.
Hayes’s performance of the sea-hardened Eddie was both warm and strong. The brotherly love he feels for Vinnie subtly escapes his toughened exterior. His ability to create both laughter and tension during the performance is a testament to his talent. The loveable Vinnie is more than successfully portrayed by Shipman. From his first appearance as a downtown conman to his delirious reverence for Marlon Brando, Shipman stands tall in this stellar cast performance.
In the contrasting world Vinnie aspires to see, Duckworth and Cockram offer the harsh reality of 1950s Hollywood. Duckworth’s scruffy exterior and exhausted aura is subtle; his performance is both intense and enticing. Alongside him, Cockram is equally emphatic as former comrade Miller. Like the brothers, this relationship offers glimmers of friendship and warmth in a difficult environment.
The eclectic mixture of comedy, drama and accents makes for a fantastic new piece of theatre. The only travesty is the short run. I have no doubt had this been longer, the powerful all male cast would have been performing to sell out audiences for weeks. Brilliant.
Not my words, but those of LS Media reviewer, Ian D. Hall. Click here for the original review, or read on below. Not sure it can get any better than this.
L.S. Media Rating *****
Cast: Paul Duckworth, Carl Cockram, Joe Shipman, Daniel Hayes.
The exceptional applause that rang out within the confines of the Unity Theatre’s studio two space said it all. From the exceptional performances by all the actors on stage, to the direction and the incredible writing of Mike Morris and Steven Higginson, Waiting For Brando was one of the most outstanding productions of our times.
Waiting For Brando tells the tale of two Liverpool seamen caught up in bar whilst noted American Director Elia Kazan was filming for arguably Marlon Brando’s finest role in On The Waterfront. It is an urban myth that this happened, however all the best urban myths have a tale to tell and even if it never happened, the characterisation of the two brothers in the bar mirrored wonderfully what was going in the United States of America after the war, the bigotry, betrayal, the hatred and rampant suspicion that was out of control in the McCarthy Communism hearings and between two of the greats of American culture in the 20th Century, Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller.
Although the play is only for three days at the Unity, the incredible cast threw everything into their performances and without any doubt, the two radical giants of their day would have approved.
Paul Duckworth, known to many theatre goers in Liverpool as part of the much loved company that has bought Scouse Pacific and Little Scouse on the Prairie to the Royal Court Theatre, excelled and gave the performance of his life as the man behind the camera Elia Kazan. His interaction with Carl Cockham as the legendary playwright Arthur Miller was enough to take your breath away. Whilst the performance space was split in two, with one half reflecting the conversations between the two elder men in the relative comfort of Kazan’s home, the other half was taken up with one of the seedy bars that littered the New York dock side after the Second World War. The feel of decay was overriding and even though the bar had a new juke box in the corner, the good times had quite obviously passed. This mirrored the relationship between the two brothers, their fractured lives splintering and changing before their eyes.
As with the relationship between Paul Duckworth and Carl Cockram, the two brothers were played by actors at the very top of their game. The comfortable ease and horrifying, almost stifling breakdown between Joe Shipman and Daniel Hayes was captured in the great dance scene between the two brothers and the realisation that the elder brother has switched sides and become one of those he had hated.
An absolutely outstanding piece of theatre, it will certainly take something of epic proportions to dislodge this play as one of the finest in Liverpool during 2012.
Ian D. Hall
First night. Packed out theatre. My nerves disappeared as I took my seat, though the sneaky little hip-flask with one of my favourite bourbons, Makers Mark, no doubt helped. I needn’t have been worried. The performances by the lads were fantastic, and it was surprisingly smooth considering it was the first night. One moment, when Vinnie’s guitar strap broke as he was preparing to play, was loved by everyone I spoke to, who assumed it was scripted. I’m not sure how he’ll recreate it, but I’m claiming it was already in the script now!
Anyway, I’m biased, so here’s the link to the Liverpool Echo’s review with the full review printed below. I’ll post more later.
REVIEW: Waiting for Brando at the Unity by Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo
THERE’S nothing like a good urban myth, and the one about two real-life Cunard Yanks allowed to remain propping up the bar in the background of movie On The Waterfront is a doozy.
Who cares if it’s true or not? It’s better if it’s just that, myth, certainly for the team behind Waiting for Brando, receiving its premiere as part of this month’s Writing on the Wall festival.
Co-writers Mike Morris and Steve Higginson have taken the idea of the two Scouse seamen and turned them into a pair of fictional brothers, steady Eddie (Daniel Hayes) and impetuous younger sibling Vinnie (Joe Shipman) inhabiting what is an engaging new piece of theatre.
The pair meet in aNew Yorkbar ahead of their ship departing, but there’s no plain sailing in a complicated and tense relationship first forged during childhood.
Here, the Brando of the title represents change and excitement, for Vinnie at least.
Elsewhere, for director Elia Kazan (Paul Duckworth) the Brando of the title represents both justification and redemption after his decision to denounce fellow artists to McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunts, which lost him the friendship of playwright Arthur Miller (Carl Cockram).
Morris and Higginson show a keen feel for the rhythm and poeticism of dialogue, and have created two distinct styles for the pairs of protagonists, with the action switching back and forwards between them.
The creatives, bathed in the dim light of Kazan’s downtown studio, have sophisticated verbal exchanges (although it helps to have at least a basic knowledge of Kazan’s role in the witch-hunts to understand the arguments), while there’s an easy naturalness to the sharp-edged banter of the brothers, and some smart lines.
“I grew up thinking frowning was a national pastime and my name was Vinnie Don’t,” the younger brother as he sets out his reasoning for turning his back on gloomy post-warBritainfor the shiny brightness ofAmerica.
However, there are times when the writers are too cute for their own good, over-egging the wisdom and witticism along with a torrent of cultural references.
This is a real ensemble piece, albeit with an emphasis on the bar room brothers, and there are impressive performances from all four leading men, particularly Joe Shipman as the frenetic Vinnie.
Is it worth us all waiting for Brando? Yes it is.
Ok, final blog post before the first night of the play. Nervous? Yes. Not sure why, really. Couldn’t be more pleased with the director, cast and others supporting the play. I’m not really nervous about people’s reactions. Hand on heart I truly believe we have done the best we can and I think we have created a script that will stand up – and I’m convinced our cast will make it fly. I feel ready to take any criticism on the chin, but I’m sure people will enjoy it. I’m also convinced that it will have another run, at The Unity, and maybe beyond. Whatever, if the next three nights are half as rewarding and enjoyable as the past three years I’ve worked on this, then it will be a good three nights.
There are many people to thank for helping us bring Waiting for Brando to the stage. Theatre works best when everyone involved pulls together and we consider ourselves blessed to have had the support of the people below, particularly those who have been involved in the production of the play who have put in so much time and effort to make it a success.
Carl Cockram, director and actor, has been incredible. We wouldn’t have got anywhere near this stage without him. I’d recommend him to anyone wishing to get a play on, and for it to be done well. Paul Duckworth (Elia Kazan), Joe Shipman (Vinnie Walsh), Danny Hayes (Eddie Walsh), Michael Ryan, Helen Millne, Christine Gibb, Kal Ross (Sound Design), Nina Patel-Grainger (Set Design), Sam Kent (Set maker – Lobster Productions), Libby Bowers (Costumes), Mathew Barnes (Stage Manager), Tom Wilson (Arthur Steckler & Lighting Tech), Wes Storey (Design), Paul Darby (Website), Sarah Black (Choreography), Andy Frizzel (Music Consultant), Tony Wailey (Inspiration), Gemma Dunne & Suzanne Morris.
Special thanks to our supporters and sponsors:
The Unity Theatre Making Art Award
Graeme Philips and all his staff at The Unity Theatre
Madeline Heneghan, Greg Gibson and all at Writing on the Wall
Lynne Morris, Becky Ryland, Janet and all at Unison
Wild and Wolf
Matt Cox and his Staff from Matt Cox Hairdressing
Many, many thanks,
Mike Morris & Steve Higginson
Think about this: how many times have you seen people walk out of a cinema mid film? How many times have you walked out of a cinema mid film? How many times have you walked out of a theatre mid show, or seen others do it?
I have a theory. People generally don’t walk out of a cinema. The film has to be pretty excruciating for that to happen. It wouldn’t bother the actors, and the film won’t stop playing. You have no agency – your actions will have virtually no impact – and you’d struggle to get a refund (unless of course you go to see The Artist at The Odeon ).
But people do walk out of theatre. Even though there are living (generally) people up there on the stage – the actors, who could be mightily offended, people walk out if they don’t like the performance. In fact, people not only walk out, they make a point of walking out.
At Ben Elton’s Popcorn, many years ago at The Empire, a whole row in front of us walked out five minutes after the second act had resumed. It was as though they had come back in after the break simply to walk out in full view of the actors. Admittedly, we followed them five minutes later. The play was awful- full of actors shouting each line, etc.
I think it happens because we regard cinema, essentially, as a passive experience, whereas we regard theatre as active, some thing in which we feel engaged, something we can have an impact upon. And it’s true. Like in a live concert, performers and crowd can create a unique atmosphere within a theatre unlike anything that can be achieved in a cinema.
And that is the power of theatre – at its best almost life-changing. At its worst, well, who knows, no-one sticks around to find out.
I have to be honest, a swarm of butterflies arrived in my stomach at some point last night, and I think is planning to stay until Friday at least. Sister flew in from Hong Kong yesterday, which is truly lovely of her, and in a way I think that has added to the nerves. There’s no reason to be nervous, really, I have confidence in the play itself, the actors couldn’t be doing a better job and the set, and everything connected with it, is superb. But then I’ve never been here before. Sure, I’ve done other stuff, but this, along with Steve, is really a unique occasion, and a very live one too. And maybe that’s were the worry really lies (see above!).
In the 1967 film Mister Ten Percent, Percy Pointer realises he has signed away 110% of the rights to his play. Our problem isn’t the money – although more is always welcome – but the tickets. All sold out and now there are too many people promised ‘comps’, some of whom (whisper it), are going to be disappointed.
I never thought, not even in my wildest, that we would be in the position we now find ourselves – apologising to people who cannot get a ticket. People are calling The Unity, calling in to the box office and no doubt trying online to get tickets. There is now a reserve list that is growing by the day.
A nice problem to have, and a sign that we are likely to get at least another run out of it. But, in the meantime, this is a public apology to anyone promised a ticket who can’t get in to see the play next week. I’d offer to apologise in person, but will be hiding from about 5pm on Tuesday evening.
In the meantime, check out these latest pics from rehearsals.
The debut performances of Waiting for Brando at The Unity Theatre 22nd – 24th May are now sold out. Sign up to our mailing list to register for exclusive news of future performances.
The amount of interest in Waiting for Brando has been phenomenal. Unison area organiser, Rebecca Ryland, told us the tickets they received as part of their sponsorship deal flew out, and they could have had at least 24 more people per night on the basis of the numbers ringing for more. We have experienced the same. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me they are going to see the play, who look a bit nonplussed when told it has sold out. But we are confident there will be future performances, so please, sign up on the form on the right and make sure you don’t miss out next time.