I awoke on Tuesday morning, still exhausted after a long drive back to Liverpool following the performance in Redhill, Surrey, my head finally hitting the pillow at 4.30am, to a fantastic post on our Facebook page from a woman called Stacey, who had been at the performance the evening before. It gave me an enormous lift, and confirmed what i had felt for some time, that the play would travel well outside of Liverpool. I could drone on for hours, but Stacey says it better than I ever could:
Excellent, powerful drama. Thank-you for the performance at Redhill, 29th April. Everything about the production is perfect and the small audience is only a sign of the times £ ! Keep touring and continue to be applauded.
It’s good that you’re encouraged by the response from audiences outside Liverpool, but I’m surprised if you thought it might not be well received.- Yes it has historical and social themes of that area, but it doesn’t seem a Liverpool-centric play. Universal themes are part of its quality. Also, (but trying to keep politics aside, for the moment ) it does provoke thoughts about the need for unions / recourse to protection and support in society…and it’s not all ‘fat cats’ in Surrey ! – Not the decisions of men like Vinnie and Eddie that are responsible for the state of the nation.
I wish you success, whatever the way forward turns out to be and hope that New York is favourable !
So we’re back at the Unity again, almost one year on from our debut in 2012. Everything’s the same and everything is different. So what’s the same? Well, the commitment and energy of our cast and crew for one. They are all named on other pages on this site so I won’t name them again here, but they all took to rehearsals like ducks to water, with Danny and Joe commenting that they were surprised at just how much of the script was still in their heads. In fact, after just a couple of days they were already ‘off script’. The short piece of the rehearsals I caught, and the final run-through last Friday, were amazingly powerful, and will have a profound effect upon our audiences. What’s different? The script. Never say never, as far as changes in a script are concerned. You go through a process of firstly thinking that what you have is the best it can ever be, and then, if you are honest, with yourself and with the script, you go through a process most often of letting go, or, to give it its real name, redrafting. And in that process you make some incredible discoveries about what is possible when you allow a script to breathe, and as a result, allow the actors more space to express themselves.
What’s the same: well, Unison are on board again. But we also have a new addition from the unions, and one we hope to build on, of Unite the Union supporting us too. Getting the unions to support us is not primarily about money. It’s about reaching audiences we want to engage with the play; working class audiences who wrestle daily with the contradictions the play throws up, because although set in the 1950′s, we regard this as a contemporary play, and one that has a lot to say with regard to today’s social, political and personal issues. Solidarity, the role and attitude of the left, to stay or go, fight or flight, to grasp opportunities and keep on moving, or settle down in suburban security; these are just a few of the questions we pose, and through union support and engaging with working class communities, we hope we can provoke debate and controversy, and at the same time provide our audiences with a strong, dramatic experience.
Following on from Union North West’s support, Unite, the Union, North West, have also stepped forward to sponsor the play. Unite’s North West regional secretary, Mick Whitley, said, ’It’s great to see a play, written by union members, make it to the stage and onto a national tour. It was hugely popular in 2012 when it first appeared and we want to give our members the opportunity to see a performance of the play everyone is talking about’.
By quoting the code BRANDOUNITE members of Unite can get a discount in ticket prices – £8/£6 instead of £10/£8. This code can be used in person, by telephone and online. Call 0844873 2888 or Click her to go to the box office now.
Two of the North-West’s major unions sponsoring the play and promoting it to their members is a recognition of the strength of its themes – brotherhood, betrayal and solidarity, and an understanding that the play deals with issues relevant to the lives of workers, and not just seamen, and the choices faced by working class people both in the 50′s and today. We’re delighted to have their support and look forward to seeing their members at the performances over the coming weeks.
Following on from their support for the debut of Waiting for Brando in 2012, Unison North West have confirmed their
commitment to the arts by supporting our production in 2013. It’s fitting that we have support from a union, as central to the concerns of the play are the themes of brotherhood, solidarity and betrayal. This plays out on a personal level for the characters, but is also designed to spark discussion among audiences about contemporary issues; in society, in the workplace, and in response to developments that affect our daily lives – taxes, the banks, employment legislation and the Bedroom Tax, to name but a few.
Unison North-West Regional Secretary Kevan Nelson says, ‘Unison are proud to sponsor Waiting for Brando. Our support for this unique play represents just one part of our work with other unions and the NorthWest TUC to build a renewed engagement with the arts.’
Now more than ever, support for the arts from unions, trusts and businesses is needed, particularly by small productions, trying to get their creative work to see the light of day. Unison North West is one of the more enlightened bodies that understands that Unions and arts-based organisations have an affinity and can work together to engage with and enrich the cultural experience of their members. We are enormously grateful for their support and excited to be working with them again.
Unsion members can now get a discount on their tickets at the box office by quoting or inputting the discount code: BRANDOUNISON. Click here to get your tickets now.
Interested in finding out more about unions? Click here to find out more about Unison: http://www.unisonnw.org/
We look forward to seeing you there.
Here we go again. This morning, at, let’s say 9am, the second phase of the Waiting for Brando campaign gets underway. Brando is back with a five night run at The Unity Theatre, Liverpool, followed by a short spring tour, taking in theatres from Cockermouth down to Berkshire. We are blessed to have the same cast and we’re assembling a really good production team (more ab out them later). It’s hard work this stuff, and my respect for anyone producing any sort of artistic work has gone through the roof. Energy, and good people around you – that’s the key. If you run out of energy, it’ll be the good people who’ll save you. We’re doing a bit of rewriting, and expanding the set, etc., but the core of the show that got such a good response last year, remains. Tonight I have packaged up the flyers for the theatres on the tour (see pics), written some copy for the website and twitter, etc., and set up everything – emails, press releases and more, to launch into the press, promo and marketing tomorrow. Knackered, with a capital K. And so to bed.
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.