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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 our existence.

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 town.
“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 Manchester production.

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 with you.

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