Writer/actor Stephen Michael Lowe on the production of Beer!...
Well here they are, my recollections of the
production week at Contact for "Beer!". Apologies for
the delay but my original notes vanished and I’ve been too
busy working on scripts and such to rewrite them until now. That’s
not to say I didn’t want to but being a control freak is rather
time consuming. I also wanted to write something more than a day-to-day
account of what my actions, partly because my memory holds information
about as well as Terry Nutkins holds chopsticks. Instead I decided
to try recalling the stand out moments as best I could, which may
be just as boring as a diary but hey...
The first half of the week was spent battling my nerves. Being co-writer
and actor gave me no end of worries and doubts to contend with;
this week was the culmination of nigh on two years work after all
and the last thing I wanted to do was bugger it up for everyone.
In an attempt to relax I fell upon the unerring support of my family
and spent Monday with my long suffering wife and son, who weren’t
quite sure what was going on as I tend to be a little neglectful
around show time. My dutiful husband and father routine didn’t
last long though as from Tuesday onwards it was all business.
If I'm honest pretty much everything from the moment I stepped into
Contact up to the first performance is a bit of a blur. In fact
the only clear recollections I have are that I couldn’t shake
the taste of all the Kaliber I had to drink (a necessary evil given
the show’s title) and that there were more expletives said
on stage during the dress than were in the script (a fact I blame
Channel M for as they filmed it).
The hours before opening night vanished only to be replaced by my
mounting anxieties – like the cosmos was stealing my marbles
and spitting in my hand for the favour. Before I knew it I was on
stage with a room full of people watching. Thank God then for the
cast and crew, who were able to keep their focus even if I couldn't
and drag us through to the first night without incident. The result
was an entirely competent, if unremarkable, performance from all
involved. The audience enjoyed it but upon reflection we all agreed
that we had done it better in rehearsals.
The next night was undoubtedly the crossroads for the production.
We all knew we had a great show but due to first night nerves and
such little time in the venue space we had fallen short of our best.
It was obvious though that we weren't in for a repeat of Wednesday
from the moment I arrived. It's difficult to describe without using
silly adjectives like tingly but everything and everyone just seemed
more sanguine, more energised. The only potential fly in the ointment
was yours truly, who was still a bag of nerves.
Thursday saw the first KOBAL performance to be signed by a BSL interpreter;
a fact I'd actually forgotten when I took to the stage. It barely
even sunk in when I saw the guy standing there (almost prompting
me to shout at him to sit down). Realising my idiocy I hastily shut
my gob, relaxed and got on with the job in hand. From that moment
on the evening just flew by in a whirlwind of laughter and enjoyment,
leaving everyone overjoyed at the performance.
Now there are those in the minority who say that Thursday's performance,
or rather the strong vocal reaction from the crowd, inadvertently
damaged the subsequent performances because as we geared our performances
more towards the jokes and neglected the more nuanced and dramatic
elements of the production. That may be true, but if you ask the
actors which night they most enjoyed we'll all say Thursday; mainly
because we're fragile and need the love of the crowds to validate
The rest of the week seems almost as much of a blur as the first
half now. There were a couple of occasions when someone (er, me)
forgot to take a prop on stage resulting in some ingenious ad-libbing
from the cast and Bowlsey gained an appreciation for ladies underwear
but before we knew it the show had come to an end and we were celebrating
our success by eating, drinking and generally being merry around
“Beer!” at Contact was KOBAL’s biggest and most
successful show to date. The feedback ranged from positive to great
and as a result we’ll be performing the leaner, meaner version
of the script at the Buxton Fringe in July. Thanks have to be given
to Contact and Arts Council England for helping KOBAL with our first
Two years ago Mark and I started writing a comedy about ourselves,
our friends and a bloody big pink elephant. It’s only fitting
then that the show came to fruition with the help and support of
our friends, old and new, who put their faith, their time and their
talents to the cause. A special thanks goes to the audience who
laughed and cried in all the right places. We love you all (even
Bowlsey and his thong) and look forward to tearing it up in Buxton
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