#Interview By Lou with #Actor #Author Ronald Rand about his play #LetItBeArt and #Book #SoloTransformationOnStage #Stage #Theatre #Bookblog #BookTwitter #Theatreblog #TheArts #Arts #RonaldRand

Interview with Stage Actor/Author/Goodwill Ambassador – Ronald Rand

Today it gives me great pleasure to share an interview with you all, that I conducted with actor Ronald Rand. He is an actor, author and goodwill ambassador. Ronald Rand has appeared in many theatre plays, his latest is Let It Be Art about the life of Harold Clurman, which he tours worldwide. He is also the founder of newspaper – The Soul of The American Actor. His book is Solo Transformation On Stage is available now to purchase and includes a forward by Stephen Lang, most recently famous for playing/voicing the part of Miles Quaritch in the Avatar movies by James Cameron. The cover quote comes from the actor Christopher Plummer.
Thank you very much Ronald for allowing me to interview and for your fascinating answers about your author and stage life, as well as telling a bit about being a Goodwill Ambassador. Ronald Rand also interviews some acting greats. Discover a bit about this too, as well as some photographs Ronald Rand has kindly sent over and granted me permission to use.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Ronald Rand onto my blog. So, let’s begin…

cover SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE by Ronald Rand (1)

You wrote a book that enlightens audiences to the art of solo performance. I’ve seen some actors do this in the UK, such as Simon Callow and Julie Hesmondalgh. I always come away wondering “How do you learn all those lines and how does the way you feel going out on stage differ to that of having a full cast around you?”

Ronald Rand: First, I would like to thank you for this special gift and privilege for this interview and to answer your questions. Congratulations on having such a very fine blog, Bookmarks and Stages.

Well, when I first began acting, I had to have been around six years old, and of course, I was worried like many actors are, about forgetting my lines. Thinking it was all about memorization. But as the years progressed and I’ve worked more and more as an actor, over time I’ve learned that the lines in a play are a natural extension of a person’s thoughts. And if they’re well written by an excellent playwright, they should roll, as The Bard said, “trippingly from the tongue,” because they’re connected to the action of what the person is doing. When I have had to learn lines to perform in a different play other than my solo play, I learn them through their connection to what the person is doing each moment to get what they need.

RONALD RAND as HAROLD CLURMAN in LET IT BE ART!
Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman

 In my solo play, LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman   certainly has a   lot to say but the words he says   come as expressions of what   he needs to say at   the  moment as a natural action in his   storytelling.   Because I bring Harold Clurman to life after a   two-   hour transformation process in what I refer to as the ‘creation room,’ not a dressing room, when   Clurman  arrives, he’s not coming on a stage, he’s arriving at his apartment in New York City and very soon he encounters three of his students (who are actually the audience). And the things he says are a natural extension of him living his life, just the same as you do when you’re talking to others in your daily life. What you’re saying is certainly not lines in a play.

You see, in his reality he’s returning from having seen a play in Brooklyn and he’s merely going on with his life; he’s not coming on a stage. As the actor inside I’m aware that, of course, it’s a stage but Harold Clurman couldn’t care less, he’s in his apartment living his life. I still have to make sure that he’s where he’s supposed to be, and hopefully he will say the words that are in the play when they need to be said. Do I have any idea that he will? I never know for sure, since he’s living his life completely.

When you ask about having a full cast around me. Well, actually Harold Clurman is talking to  three acting students in his apartment (a part of the audience), and at another time in the play, he ‘breaks the fourth wall’ and talks to a group of actors who have come to the first get-together when the Group Theater was born in 1930, (which is also the audience.)

And throughout the play, through Clurman, you meet Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford, Alfred Stieglitz, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, Constantin Stanislavski, Aaron Copland, even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. That’s a pretty amazing cast!  So there’s all these vibrant folks coming to life on his journey through his life. So, in a sense, you might say, there is a ‘full cast’ but they’re not around “me,” they’re with Clurman, and when he heads off to the theater at the end of the play, that’s when I return for the curtain call.

What prompted you to write a book about the transformation of an actor into the person who they are going to play? I must say it is absolutely fascinating as there is so much to explore and I’ve only ever seen this a little in the film and play – The Dresser.

Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman in LET IT BE ART! in Nakuru, Kenya
             Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman

Ronald Rand: Thank you so much for your kind words. SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE: A Journey into the Organic Process of the Art of Transformation came about because of the pandemic. I was in the middle of my 20th year touring in my solo play, and I had completed a performance of LET IT BE ART! at The Ritz Theatre in Sheffield, Alabama to a sold-out audience. They actually stayed almost as long as the performance for the question-and-answer period which I always have at the end of the show. This was in late February 2020, and after that my tour was shut down and I was sequestered like everyone else.

Well, one day I was sitting at my desk, and I thought there has to be some way that I can reach out to people since I can’t do it on stage, and it occurred to me that perhaps I could contribute by sharing the organic process I go through using the Art of Transformation, and share how Stanislavski’s acting chart, ‘The Method of Physical Actions’ makes it possible.

Now I know there’s certainly several books written by actors, some who talk about their process and their life acting on the stage. However, there’s only a few about the art of solo performance, which is a world unto its own. But I think my book is the first to go through an organic process and the transformation necessary to create your own solo show. But more than that, it’s about how to make your dreams come true drawing upon the richness of who you are.

I believe it’s important for the actor today to realize that transformation is necessary. I see so many actors play elements of themselves acting like they’re somebody else, but transformation takes many years through learning about one’s craft and gaining a mastery to bring to life another human being on the stage.

It’s really a never-ending discovery process to sustain a performance for an hour or longer requiring great discipline, focus and a continual stream of storytelling. That’s why I wanted to go into this kind of process more deeply through SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE, and reveal how I use Stanislavski’s ‘Method of Physical Actions’ chart. The same chart he gave to my teacher, Stella Adler when she studied with him in Paris in 1934. She was only American to study for over five weeks with him, and she brought his chart back to the Group Theatre in America.

When I was fortunate to study with Stella Adler for over five years, I gleaned great insights from her teaching which helped me understand the chart in a deep way, and I have tried to bring forward many of the insights through my master acting workshops.

Still, there is always something mysterious about what takes place inside what I refer to as the creation room because for me that’s where creation begins to allow another person to come so that they can live their life through the playwright’s creation. Did I have any idea that this process would evolve this way when I began working on the role of Harold Clurman? Certainly not. At the very beginning, I looked at Clurman as a role or as a character. But I’ve come to believe there is no such thing as a character. There is only the person, a human being who must come and live their life. And I have to allow creation to occur by being an open and willing vessel.

You say that Harold Clurman chose you and you became passionate about his ideas. What were the ideas that then gave you the impulse and drive to bring his life to the stage?

Ronald Rand: I think I first became fascinated by the Group Theatre back in high school when I was studying acting with an excellent drama teacher, David Feldman, at Coral Gables High School in Florida where I was born and grew up. Feldman was a dedicated and unusual high school drama teacher, giving us exercises by Boleslavsky and Michael Chekhov, talking about the Moscow Art Theatre and Vakhtangov, showing us films by Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet, talking about the impact of the Group Theatre and what they did that changed the course of the American Theater.

The productions we would act in had to have been on the same level as those Off-Broadway. All of this had a great impact on my life at the time. When I completed high school and travelled to New York City and studied with Stella Adler, of course, her great impact was to show us the size an actor must rise to inhabit the great roles. I had to throw out pretty much everything I had been doing before since so much of had to with imitation and indicating, now it had to be based on creation and truth. Through her great art of script interpretation, we’d learn how to dissect a play and be an instrument and be in service to the playwright’s work. This is what the actor is responsible for.

And at the same time, I was fortunate to study with Harold Clurman. Every moment transformed my very being through his overpowering passion, his pulsating vibrating thoughts, revealing all the possibilities of how to see life, and acting and what the theater is capable of.

Did I have any idea at the time that I would write a play and bring to life Harold Clurman? Of course not. But later when I read in the introduction to Clurman’s book, The Fervent Years, Stella Adler wrote that she feared that the legacy of Harold Clurman might be lost, and I thought that would be a great tragedy.

That’s what led me to consider writing a play about Clurman. But I actually began a play about the Group Theatre instead and ended up playing Clurman in many staged readings across New York City for several years trying to get it produced. It was finally produced at Northern Illinois University. After that, maybe it was a voice inside that directed me to now write a play about Clurman. But even after reading and re-reading everything he wrote, looking at my notes from my classes with him, watching videos of him, I had to sit down, put everything aside and ask him: “What do you want to say?”

All of a sudden, the floodgates opened and the words that needed to be said came.

So, this is one of the secrets of writing your own show, tapping into the subconscious, and listening. I have to believe that’s why I was chosen to bring his passion and humanity alive, not only for audiences in America but across many different countries. Because what he has to say to us is universal and necessary to hear, especially today.

You talk about the person you are portraying being almost like an extension of yourself and you transform into the character you become, do you ever feel that this influences or affects parts of your own life and how do you separate the two as the psychology, Affective Memory, and molecules that you talk about in your book come into play?

Ronald Rand: Certainly, there’s no question bringing Harold Clurman to life through my play, LET IT BE ART! for over twenty years has had a great influence on my being. It’s also an enormous responsibility to allow his vibrancy and dynamic passion, his great humour, and humanity to come alive in every single moment.

When I decided to dedicate my life to sharing Clurman’s great being, it was after I had worked in numerous films and television shows, but now I made a deeper commitment that I couldn’t work on any production that reflected any kind of negativity, evil or destruction. I have to allow myself to be in a state of affirming the best in our humanity in order to embody Clurman.

Every decision we make in our life, our choices every day is a reflection of our moral values, and we should strive to bring forth love, beauty, and art in all its richness.

And at the same time, we’re always surrounded by invisible molecules moving around us. When I wave my hand through the air, or communicate Clurman’s great passion on stage, everything’s traveling across a sea of molecules. Everything we see, all inanimate objects are made up of invisible molecules, even though they look solid. So, we have to understand and appreciate how it’s all a flow we’re a part of and allow for the greatest energy to come forth, a willingness to affirm our deepest humanity to help others on this planet through the talents we’ve been given. That’s our responsibility, and why transformation becomes all the more necessary to be a vessel in service so that another human being can live and breathe and come and tell their story.

You have advice to always take time and stop between performances, how does this aid your next performance? How do you keep performances feeling fresh for you and the audiences?

Ronald Rand: Sometimes as a performer we’re called upon to do eight performances a week. At other times it so happens that there may be a larger break between one performance to the next. When that occurs, one has to find ways to constantly refresh and refuel one’s persona and keep one prepared, ready for the next performance; it’s always like being ready to run a marathon. Being in a state of readiness is the way I exist because this is my life’s calling which I will be doing to the end of my time. Especially today when as Clurman put it, “We live in an age of amnesia and for the most part, nobody remembers anything that happened the day before yesterday, so you naturally have to say it all over again.”

When audiences all over the world no matter what country I perform in, no matter what language they speak or their background or culture, once they come in contact with Harold Clurman, it’s as if they’re transformed and become excited because what he’s telling them is about something eternal and necessary to be heard today.

When I’m called upon to bring Harold Clurman to life in a performance, it’s never been done before in this particular setting, at this particular moment so everything is completely fresh, and the theatres are always different. Whether I’m performing in the courtyard of a palace or outside on a grassy knoll at a university, or in a tribal hut or a cave theater or inside a thousand seat auditorium.

You mention so many actors, directors from theatre and film in the past and present, such as Charlie Chaplin, Simon Callow, Lin Manuel Miranda and many more… How does studying such a wide range of people and their creations influence you and how important do you think it is for actors, whether they are new or established to know the heritage of theatre and the stories they tell?

Ronald Rand: Well, when I began as an actor, I slowly became aware of my heritage, or as we’re called, being a part of a ‘tribe.’ In high school I read everything actor biography and autobiography I could get my hands on, from Edwin Booth, Ira Aldridge, Salvini, Eleanora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt, Edmund Kean, Michael Chekhov, Vakhtangov to Stanislavski but it’s not only the theater I familiarized myself with. During college, I read countless books on philosophy, psychology, anthropology, the great religions of the world. I read every great novel, poem, and play written by the greatest writers of all time from the Greeks to the present. One particular book, Actors on Acting brought me further in contact with actors from different cultures taking me all over the world

It’s a personal decision to decide to learn about one’s history but I consider it a responsibility. If you’re a baseball player, you certainly want to know about Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson. Why shouldn’t you if you’re an actor know about your heritage? That’s why I’ve included in my book a rich diversity of some of the greatest performers who have inhabited the stage from Ira Aldridge to Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones. There is a great ‘well’ I talk about in my book, SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE, that each of us can draw from, and it will only greatly fuel the ‘leap across the footlights’ and touch the very souls and hearts of the audience.

Towards the end of the book, you had the great opportunity to interview other actors, such as Adrienne Barbeau, Christopher Plummer, Spalding Gray, to name but a few about their own transformations. What did you learn and come away with for your own thoughts or performances from them?

Ronald Rand: I’ve been very fortunate over the past nearly twenty-five years to do over fifteen hundred interviews through my newspaper, The Soul of the American Actor, and it’s brought me in touch with these particular performers that I’ve included in my book. Some of whom have become good friends. By sharing the more than twenty interviews in the book, and their journey as a solo performer, the choices they’ve made and how their particular shows came to life has been extremely inspiring for me, and I hope will also be for the reader.

Eve Ensler talks about how she created The Vagina Monologues, Ben Vereen shows how the world around him deeply affected his choices as a young performer, Christopher Plummer plumbs the depth of his rich being, Stephen Lang (who wrote the Foreword to my book) and Laurence Luckinbill, both highly seasoned performers offer great insights into the extraordinary courage it takes to come on a stage alone and become someone else.

Through the ages up to today, when you see someone like Ralph Fiennes or Simon Callow, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Anna Deavere Smith, or Ian McKellan, you’re experiencing a great thread of our humanity in the stories being revealed. Every time I experience a solo performance, it further awakens my own understanding about what it means to be alive and how much more there is to know about this world.

It’s interesting that you say that in your masterclasses people such as lawyers, therapists, teachers, taxicab drivers and those from other professions come and are a part of your workshops, as if there is a common thread to be realised. What would you say is the common thread and why are so many wide-ranging people attracted to your masterclasses?

Ronald Rand, Goodwill Culltural Ambassador, Fulbright Specialist Scholar teaching his Master Workshop in Mostar, Bosnia
Masterclass in Bosnia
Ronald Rand, Goodwill Cultural Ambassador teaching his Master Workshop at Festival of Fame in Johannesburg, South Africa
Masterclass in Johannesburg

Ronald Rand: It has been a special gift and privilege being able to teach my
‘Art of Transformation’ master acting workshops around the world for the past twenty-five years in over twenty-five countries, and across twenty states at over seventy-five theaters, universities, colleges, and acting schools. And yes, several times a diverse array of those who have attended my workshops come from many different backgrounds and professions. Why do they come? I think it’s because of transformation. We’re all constantly changing every single day, and every choice we make literally transforms us.

When I have individuals from many different backgrounds in my workshops, they’re excited to dip into some of the exercises and learn about Stanislavski’s ‘Method of Physical Actions,’ because for some, they may have thought “What would it take to become an actor?” and they find it fascinating and some realize that they have it within themselves to let their imagination loose, and in one of the exercises, I literally ‘take them off and they all fly like a bird.’ I want to give them a chance to feel this kind of freedom which is not something that always happens in their daily lives.

We have to allow ourselves to dream the biggest dreams we can dream. To achieve everything, we’re born to achieve and enjoy every moment we’re alive. And the more we understand about what moves us forward, perhaps we can be in even greater service to others, especially at a time like this.

Your book is more thought-provoking than I imagined, in a good way. You talk about the late Chadwick Boseman and basically about empowering others. How important do you think theatre is for telling the stories and making the most of what you have to say in this medium, since no one knows what is going to happen in our future?

Ronald Rand: Yes, we live in an age of great uncertainty and there are forces at work constantly trying to upset the balance and harmony of life. However, we know, deep in our beings, the most powerful forces on earth like love, truth, peace, and justice, to name a few, represent the highest ideals of who we are as human beings on this planet.

I mention Chadwick Boseman in my book because he understood the responsibility he was given as an actor and when he became a ‘star,’ he recognized it was part of his responsibility to help empower others. This is certainly what we can do as artists. To help others find their path, and that’s why for me, because the theater is ‘alive in the moment’, through our storytelling we can literally transform others to reach a place where a revelation may come, or the experience may propel them to take a good look at their lives.

Well, while we may not know the future, we actually have the power to shape its potential, and bring a deeper awareness to the others through art. and I’ve personally experienced how a solo performance can touch people in a very deep place.

You have a very accomplished CV, including being a US Goodwill Cultural Ambassador and US State Department Fulbright Specialist Scholar. How did you come to have these positions, how long have you done this for and what are some of the things do they entail?

Ronald Rand: On my first world tour with LET IT BE ART! I was invited to Tbilisi, Georgia to perform at The GIFT Festival. I was welcomed as a Goodwill Cultural Ambassador as a representative from my country to theirs bringing goodwill and as a ‘bridge of understanding.’ And over the years it has happened many times, which is especially meaningful to me.

This coming summer, I have been invited to Iceland’s Act Alone Festival to bring Clurman’s great passion and ideas as the “Elder Statesman of the American Theater.” So, it continues been an enormous responsibility bringing him alive to audiences in several many countries.

When I was first chosen as a US State Department Fulbright Specialist Scholar during my five first five years, I was able to spend six weeks at the University of Sarajevo’s Academy of Dramatic Arts teaching their wonderful students, and at the same time, I was invited to direct a production of Murray Schisgal’s hit comedy, LUV, at one of their most prestigious theatre’s, Chamber Theatre 55 in Sarajevo. The production was in Bosnian, which was an extraordinary learning experience, and I directed three of Bosnia’s finest young actors.

During my second tour as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar, I taught and performed in my solo play for six weeks at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, and then the Malaysian Cultural Ministry invited me as the first American master to bring Stanislavski’s ‘Method of Physical Actions’ across Malaysia to hundreds of students at their State Theatre and schools. Truly a most amazing experience!

On my third tour as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar, I travelled to Uruguay to teach actors and actors and students for five weeks at the Paysandu Theater Group and also ended up directing a workshop production of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town in Spanish with several of the actors of the company.

Being a Goodwill Cultural Ambassador and a Fulbright Specialist Scholar has allowed me to share what we have in common and to learn from one another. It’s up to us to feel empathy for others – this is what makes us human. We must care about others with the greatest of compassion and love, giving our best towards the betterment of all.

It’s always been my goal to inspire and empower people to learn and grow in the most truthful and compassionate way by sharing our creativity and transformation. And it’s about collaboration. I encourage those I’m teaching to feel the rhythm of life, to listen with their heart and soul, to become as expansive as possible, to give more of themselves to others through their craft which I believe adds to the healing which needs to take place between peoples.

When I taught students in Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina, I learned the young student actors are constantly faced with pressures on a daily basis in a very difficult environment divided along ethnic and religious lines. I told them: “Art teaches us we each carry the tools to transform, not only our own lives but to share truths about how to live with those around us. Storytelling can help you shape your frustrations into creative expressions through transformation, finding ways to teach each other a way towards peace, through love, through the power of art, you can inspire others to come together to live in harmony.”

If history has taught us anything, it takes a willingness to build trust, and by coming together in person a dialogue can take place, transforming into an entirely new dynamic of understanding, of empathy – sharing what is basic in all of humanity.

Through SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE, I talk about that through solo performance, we can go further than we ever thought possible. There are no barriers of language or cultural misunderstandings when our performing is done with an open heart, vision, a willingness to share knowledge, and to learn from one another honestly.

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#TheatreReview By Lou of The Dresser By Ronald Harwood Directed By Terry Johnson @captheatres #Terry Johnson #MatthewKelly #SamualHolmes #Review

The Dresser
By Ronald Harwood
Directed by Terry Johnson
Rated: 5 stars

I went to see The Dresser at The King’s Theatre in Edinburgh (Capital Theatres) on Saturday. It was packed of theatre-goers and no wonder. The cast and play was superb in this memorable, not going to leave you play. Ever since I saw the film version of The Dresser I had hoped it would be on stage. It, of course, with its subject matters, lends itself perfectly to actually being staged. This stage version is poignant, mesmorising, sad, funny and acted amazingly. Find out more about it below, including the rest of my no spoilers review.

The Dresser

The Cast

Matthew Kelly as Sir
Samual Holmes as The Dresser (understudy for Julian Clary for the day I saw this)
Emma Amos as Her Ladyship
Rebecca Charles as Madge
Natalie Servat as Irene
Pip Donaghy as Geoffrey
Robert Shaw Cameron as Kent
Peter Yapp as Gloucester
Stephen Cavanagh as Albany
Claire Jester and Michaela Bennison as the ensemble

Inspired by memories of working as Donald Wolfit’s dresser as a young man, Ronald Harwood’s evocative, affectionate and hilarious portrait of backstage life is one of the most acclaimed dramas of modern theatre.

Olivier award-winner, Matthew Kelly stars as an ageing actor-manager, known to his loyal acting company as ‘Sir’, who is struggling to cling on to his sanity and complete his two hundred and twenty seventh performance of King Lear.

Julian Clary (replaced by Samual Holmes due to illness for the day I saw this), stars as Norman, Sir’s devoted dresser who ensures that in spite of everything, the show goes on.  For sixteen years Norman has been there to fix Sir’s wig, massage his ego, remind him of his opening lines and provide the sound effects in the storm scene.

Review

The Dresser takes place behind the scenes of the theatre during the war. The parts the general audience do not see. The portrayal is pretty accurate, there are attitudes, egos, tenderness and confidences. These and the memory loss (on-set dementia), was also portrayed perfectly by Matthew Kelly. The play gives great insight to behind the scenes moments into the life of a dresser and the relationship between the dresser and the actor.

The play has great poignancy and sadness, with some humour for those who perhaps recognise what is really going on and lived through such moments.

Matthew Kelly as Sir (the principle actor) plays lots of Shakespearan characters, that’s what he is known for. The decline in health is evident as he tries to remember his lines for King Lear and the frustration shows. His dresser, played by Samual Holmes had to take a lot of the flack, but the intensity of the relationship was evident. After seeing Matthew Kelly in The Habit of Art online as Covid and lockdowns struck in 2020, I was looking forward to seeing him in-person on stage and he was every bit as excellent as I thought he would be, even with a very different part.
Matthew Kelly and Samual Holmes in The Dresser were evenly matched and so charasmatic and both played their parts with aplomb!

This has now finished in Edinburgh, but if you ever get a chance to see this amazing play, I highly recommend it. This is a play I would happily see again and the company was fabulous!

Capital Theatres

An article about accidentally volunteering for 22 years and advice etc for future volunteers #Volunteering #Volunteer

 

Volunteer

A friend asked on numerous occassions to write a blog about volunteering and the things I’ve done. I declined many, many times. It’s not been my style. Mostly I’ve just done what I’ve done to the best of my ability, mostly quietly in some respects, except I guess not so quietly as it has involved communities of people, who have known what I’ve been up to in my so-called spare time. By and large, I’ve just got on with what’s needed doing. I will say about what I’ve done, but also provide some advice, some positives and some negatives to volunteering. Hopefully this will provide an insight and also inspire or give ideas to other people. This is no vanity thing. It also doesn’t matter how big or small for what you do, if you volunteer, it all will have or is making a positive difference to people’s lives.
I have volunteered for 22 years to date. I hadn’t planned to for this long. It just happened. I am nonly just 40, so that is a bit of my teens and all of my adult life I have found myself volunteering for things. I am not in some swanky job, nor am I rich. I work part-time, don’t earn a lot and I’m also an unpaid carer. Nothing glamourous there… I am just an ordinary woman in a small, ordinary village, in a small county in the UK.
I have tried to add some anecdotes to make it less dry and list like. It may look a lot, but I want to give a taste of all different types of volunteering, give a snapshot of behind the scenes as it were, to certain things and I hope you find it interesting. I hope you read it. Took me longer to write, than it will to read. Honest!
I never had any grand plan to volunteer. I didn’t wake up one morning with a sudden epiphany to volunteer, nor to lead anything or be anyone’s assistant. It all just sort of happened.
I have written some pros/benefits and cons/negatives to volunteering and some advice for anyone thinking of volunteering. The lists are by no means exhaustive. I have then, with some pics included, written about what I have actually done when volunteering. I hope you find it interesting and helpful too. It hopefully gives a bit of insight into volunteering and what sorts of things you can do. Again, not exhaustive.
All I ask is for you to be kind. I’ve never blogged about volunteer work like this before and a wee bit nervous. Thank you!

The Collins Dictionary has a couple of ways of defining Volunteering:

  1. volunteer is someone who does work without being paid for it, because they want to do it.
  2. volunteer is someone who offers to do a particular task or job without being forced to do it.

Benefits from volunteering in no particular order:

  1. You make others and yourself feel good. Yes, you may still eat the carbs etc, but volunteering can help with those endorphines.
  2. Gain new skills and discover that you can do certain things that you may never thought you had within you to achieve, sometimes naturally, other times, moulded and cultivated.
  3. Gain knowledge and experience that you may not get otherwise.
  4. Make new friends, expand your world that is more than just your home, school or workplace.
  5. It’s often a safe place to try out something you haven’t but wanted to try, so long as it fits in with the group you join.
  6. In some cases you can do more than what you can in your paid job, most of my experiences in things I do for free end up like that.
  7. Confidence and Resillience Building
  8. Being part of a close-knit team.

Negatives in no particular order:

  1. It can have its stresses and strains, depending on your position.
  2. It can be time consuming, depending on what it is you do. A helper is less time consuming than a leadership role for example.
  3. You can end up volunteering to fill the government gaps, when they close something down.

A Little About Volunteering Advice (in no particular order)

Volunteering can come in all shapes and sizes, from helping out now and again, to being a regular helper, to leading a group. Whatever you do, have fun with it and find out how you can put skills to use or fit in.

Take a look to see who nearby is looking for volunteers. There are groups that help advertise these posts and check out social media on your local community page. You can also just go into a place and ask verbally about positions too.

Treat volunteering like you were being paid. There is nothing worse than someone committing and then last minute letting people down, unless it seriously can’t be helped, for example, illness, death in a family or you’ve had to move away for a job or family at short notice.
Last minute, with no reason presents challenges for leaders and team members if there are plans in place to implement, depending on the task. For a children’s groups or a large event for example, it could be a matter of whether it could go ahead or not due to ratios.

Get stuck in with different tasks to gain different experiences. Never be afraid to ask questions or to voice an idea to see if it gets the go ahead or not, or gets a discussion going on what is workable, within your volunteer organisation.

Be prepared to commit and be flexible with your time. Be prepared to sometimes rearrange non-urgent plans if you can. Always good to show great commitment so events can go ahead, as some dates, say for a speaker etc, may be outwith your general control as you work around their work commitments, or a trip away may only be able to happen on a certain day.

Don’t go into it thinking it’ll help you walk into a job. It can help for certain jobs, perhaps, but you’ve still got to work hard for those interviews etc just like everyone else.

Do have fun, but also know when to take things seriously too. Do it because you want to and not for some ulterior motive.

You don’t have to be old to volunteer. You can volunteer at most ages. There may be some age restrictions for good reason, on some roles, but there’s often something you can do somewhere.

Respect those who came before you and those who will come after you in a volunteering role. If you do leave a place, give notice if you can and perhaps a reason. Giving notice means any loose ends can be tied up and someone new found.

This is what I have done over these 22 years. Please note, no names are mentioned as I have not sought permission and some would be almost impossible to ask now and I want to be courteous.

Starting Young – child and teenage years.

Blue Peter, I was a fan of this growing up and they had challenges. The schools I went to, including primary, hosted their bring and buy sales and collected aluminium cans for their charities. I helped run a stall sometimes for bring and buy and helped with the can challenge too. I also opted to help out with a Macmillan Coffee Morning.

Prefect and Friends Badge
Colours reflect house colours

Prefect and Friends badges

Then I got involved in things that were even more regular. I’d hit 6th year at school. Final year and I was a Prefect with a little free time. There was a day when there was an impromptu informal meeting (so informal the then Rector sat on a table in our commonroom. He had never done that before or since in my time), to ask if, as a year group it would be worth carrying on with a group called “Friends” that the previous 6th years began. It was like a buddying system, but it grew further than that. This sounded my kind of thing, so I wrote my statement as to why I wanted to join and was accepted. In that year, I not only assisted those having school issues, including bullying, but also joined other groups that staff were starting. I volunteered to assist with children who were consistently finding themselves in trouble at school, to assist with finding solutions and did this for many months, until it started to coincide when I had a class. I did this during my “free class periods”.

I was also, at the same time, head-hunted by an English teacher to start a lunch club for first year girls with her. I could have said no and I think she was half expecting me to, given her reaction when I heard her out and said yes… Put it this way, in a quiet corridor, she stirred the head of History, who was in her nearby class, came out to see what all the fuss was about.
It was to be a safe space for first year girls to speak about anything they wanted and to have fun without peer or male pressure. We had all manner of things like a tv, magazines, nail polishes (they painted my nails a lot as my nails are so long because they start so far down my fingers, that even when cut, they look long ), arts and crafts, including painting on the teacher’s window to brighten up her classroom. Amongst the fun we would listen to the girls, help them, advise them where needed in all manner of things that were on their minds. It ran fortnightly for 30 mins or so. As well as being the assistant, I was sometimes in the lead during busy marking times for teachers. I used to persuade a group of friends to come assist me. Throughout the year other curious teachers would come and see what we were doing too.

Falling into Rainbows – part of Girlguiding for 5-7 year old girls.

In Pic
Leader Promise Badge
HM Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Badge
Girl Guiding Centenary Badges
Rainbows Promise Badge
Pot of Gold badge as girls move to Brownies

Girlguiding badgesIt was accidental. Pure accidental how I got involved. I had been babysitting a 7 year old for my mum’s work colleague and friend. The local Rainbows needed a new volunteer to help out the leader and assistant leader. I was a student too at the time, studying childcare. The normal way round would be for her mum to volunteer herself, even though her daughter was moving onto Brownies. It didn’t happen like that at all. She volunteered me, told the school too and then my mum and then I got to know about it. I don’t know how others would have reacted, but I asked what Rainbows was, I, when a Brownie for a little while and a Girlguide for a little while was vaguely aware of seeing young girls in red tabards and wondered who they were (the uniform has changed, even in my time), and thought I’d better go and see what was going on. It turned out the people running it, I already knew; one ran a youth club and the other helped out at the primary school and I knew her kids, who by this time were late teens. I was still pretty young myself. I had a plan. It was just after Easter holidays, so I’d stay until the summer holidays. That was the plan…… it didn’t work out like that. I was rather enjoying helping out, so I stayed.

I mucked in on every activity going, even when I was a regular helper, from crafts to games to outings, including big county outings to safari parks and more… I did it all.

In Girlguiding there is also a real qualification you can do to gain Assistant or Full Leadership. For those interested, it also means something to employers.

I apparently became the youngest Rainbows Leader in the district I was in. Groups were in districts, so the District Commissioner had informed me. This district was made of Girlguiding groups between a village and a town. I was apparently the first person to have a waiting list in the village I served, which grew as long as my arm. It made District Meetings interesting for awhile as the joke was that I stood on the street hauling them in as for a good while I was reporting that I had new joiners.

When I did take over, I made some changes, but also kept some good things from the previous leadership because they worked and also out of respect. The previous leadership were the first ever in the place I ended up leading. It also gave a sense of heritage/history to it. To me, that sort of thing is important.

I had been asked many a time to be an assistant leader. I declined due to studies (not a degree). When that was all done, I approached the subject and they were delighted. In other words, they now had their successor in the making and got me a mentor. The course takes approximately 2 years to complete. It isn’t like hitting the books and feeling like a student again. It takes a more practical approach with some writing up for evidence, with some visits from the mentor. I had joined in on everything as a regular helper, so I took just under 2 years to complete. This is not something I had to pay for and they paid for PVG checks.

During my time of leading a Rainbows Unit, I contributed to Thinking Day arts and crafts. I covered many topics. A small handful of them were: wellbeing – they created friendship booklets, played games focussed on positivity, created a positive poster about themselves and more… the environment (including the rainforest, which involved music and collages for a bigger wall picture), healthy eating (food and talks), poverty, Rainbows around the world (learning how to say hello and goodbye in different languages, creating passports of where they themselves and other Rainbows come from in the world and doing an activity they would do in their country), and so much more… There were games, crafts, songs, baking, theatre trips to a small local theatre, stories from books, chances for the girls to say how their week was going etc.

If I had been on holiday and seen something interesting, I would take a pic, create something to talk about etc, relating to that or I would just have an idea for the next term anyway, even if Rainbows was on holiday and would prepare bits for starting back and ensure the data base was up to date and deal with the enquiries. Even on holiday, even when I had finished being a leader, I still came across people who were in Girlguiding. I just end up talking to folk and on one occassion on The Thames on a boat, I was talking to a couple of people and it transpired that they too were Rainbows Leaders, so as we were talking, I exchanged some ideas.

During my time in Rainbows, we also helped other charities. We raised money for Strathcarron Hospice, Children In Need, WaterAid, International Nepal Foundation and then a number of other charities through Thinking Day.

The Patron (at time of me being a Rainbows Leader), was/is Sophie, Countess of Wessex (part of the Royal Family). She had an idea for Girlguiding to undertake one of the biggest projects and help a charity of our choice from a list like never before. It was exhausting, rewarding and marvellous all at the same time and somehow felt quite the honour.

Myself and my assistant decided on WaterAid. The challenge set for this was to host an event with songs, that we were given a CD and words for, about water and to raise money and WaterAid would provide a speaker. I already knew someone who had worked out in Nepal with INF and I knew he was great at giving interesting talks and had amazing photos. I invited him instead on the promise we would help him and the charity he was involved with back. We had nights of talking to the girls and doing brainstorm artwork about Nepal and the importance of water, poverty, the location and more… We also did a lot of rehearsing and had persuaded the Brownies to be on-board. We invited parents to attend the talk from my friend, song from us and the girls and tea and nibbles. I can’t remember how much we raised, but I remember it being quite a lot.

I did, as promised, have my friend back again to show photos and give a talk. The girls had done a sponsored silence for a long time (half at Rainbows, half at home. We got a lot of praise from the parents for the quietness as they took is seriously) and they raised a fair amount of money.

There was a Girlguiding Centenary, so I also helped with this. I also, which was so much fun, had joined my Rainbows unit at the bottom of a glen for HRH The Queen’s Diamond Jubillee celebrations (We had previously written to HRH The Queen. I had got the girls to draw her pictures, that I then created into a card, and everyone signed their name and I popped a letter in it. We were all amazed an excited when someone wrote back with a lovely letter and a card with beautiful picture of HRH Queen inside. We had also had our own Queen’s Jubillee party, and everyone dressed in red, white and blue). That night, after some festivities, us leaders took to the hills and climbed to the top to meet some Scouts who then lit a beacon.
Around the wee small hours in the morning we made our descent off of the hills. Just as we were going down. the moon was massive and felt so close and was as red as red could be. It was a magical night and one I’ll always remember.

Girls came back to Rainbows in their teenage years to become helpers and I had one who returned to do the Volunteer  part for her Duke of Edinburgh Award. I mentored her and wrote the reports for her Bronze Award, which she completed and gained. I wrote job references for her and another and a university reference for one of them too.

I was there through good times and hard times, like illness in the family (nothing contageous), because family wanted me to continue no matter what. So, that’s what I did. I’d seen good and hard times in families too and supported as much as I could, despite my young years in age.

Years later, when I retired from being part of a Rainbows Unit,I was persuaded into Friends of Guiding and remained for a few years. This group supports units with projects. I went out to a Brownies unit to help them create basic jewellery. I also, ended up assisting some other units via online, in many parts of the UK, here and there and some people who wanted to volunteer, but weren’t sure.

I have on occasion come across, some now, rather grown-up folk who were in my Rainbows and who were at that Brownies event, who still remember.
I remember the send-off I got from my unit. Apparently there were plans to ambush me into going to the AGM if I backed out of going. Little did I know what was in-store. Loads of people were there for the meeting and the meal. I was then presented with gifts. So between gifts from them and gifts from my own unit, I got a huge cards signed by everyone, a Willow People ornament, a vase, a Love, Laugh Live photo frame that now holds all sorts of photos, a gift voucher, wine and chocolates. I must say I was absolutey astonished and a wee bit overcome.

Putting Green Fingers to use – a community church garden

Buddleja davidii 'Dubonnet'.jpgA church I went to, in an area I used to live in, needed some attention to the garden. The weeds were all over the place and plants were overgrown. It was getting to be a bit like “The Day of the Triffids”. There was a volunteer tending to it, who couldn’t no longer and there hadn’t been any thoughts as to what to do with it. Some of the Elder’s were making tentative moves to suggest someone take it over. I was still at Rainbows at this time, but now also had a garden to tend to as well. I persuaded the elders that I could tackle it. I also persuaded them that it needed new soil and compost, plants and  boards for edging to keep the soil in. Folk then teamed up and put the soil and boards in. (I was at a Rainbows trip at the time).
I varnished the boards, then dug up all the plants (there were quite a lot) and replanted the few that were good. I also persuaded them to give me a budget to buy new plants. So, I got creating. That got the attention of the people in the town, who appreciated it, especially since it was on a main road. One day a professional gardener who told me he worked in a garden for a big historic house, had most surprising p high praise indeed. I was pretty astounded as I hadn’t done anything like that before. I had only the knowledge passed down from my grandparents and parents and the little gardening I had done in the years prior to this and that was may grandparent’s and parent’s gardens, so far from public.
When a Pastor, who had served for many years was moving away, I planted a buddleja in his honour because he had a passion for butterflies and knew what they were all called. I also presented him with a certificate with a picture of it on, on his leaving night party. Again, because history matters.

I helped out at the Sunday Club for a few sessions here and there and was also on the flower rota for the church for a year.

All The World’s A Stage – musical theatre

I helped out with a local very good Amateur Musical Theatre Group. I was asked my someone I knew to help in wardrobe to help actors in costume changes. (I was still at Rainbows for some of the time I did this and did the garden, but left the musical theatre group years after both of those). I had never done anything like it before, but thought I’d give it a go. The musical was Anything Goes by Cole Porter. The changes were fast (normally they manage themselves). So, there I was in an unglamourous backstage area at rehearsals and of course, during the live performance. I was in charge of helping some of the guys and keeping them right, especially one who had asked me to remind him about certain props he had upstairs etc. I learnt who needed what when, organised the clothes in order and listened for what I decided would be the cues to be in position, for near the end of songs/acts etc.

My stint didn’t stop there. I was then told to meet someone in charge of front of house, since that was the only musical they needed extra people in wardrobe for. She had been impressed and wanted me to stay on and be part of her team. I sold programmes and raffle tickets and directed people to seats. I saw the cast do many musicals, including Hello Dolly South Pacific, Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Chicago, to name but a few. I had decided after 10 years, I would end my tenure there and ended on Chicago.
Musicals would run for almost a week, including a matinee, I was there for all of the week and then most of the week, due to work commitments of the time.
Chicago was to be the last musical before lockdown and one of the last to be performed in the country.

Human Trafficking Awareness

A21-347x288-logo.pngA21 Campaign was something a friend of the time had started to be involved with. I had not long finished up being a Rainbows Leader and had started to get itchy feet to do some different charity work.
I got involved with someone I knew, with what she was doing with A21 Campaign. It’s a charity which raises awareness about Human Trafficking. It happens in many countries in the world. They also have people within many countries saving people (most are young and teenage girls). Together, as well as sharing some of their posts on social media, we teamed up and got a few other folk together and created anonymous packages of kindness for those saved. These packages would include the essentials, such as a bar of soap and other toiletries and more, a message of hope and kindness and a nicety such as handmade bracelets and earrings that we would create. Our designated destination was Greece, where girls were being saved. We would send parcels out once a month. In the winter months, we had someone knitting all different sizes of hats too. Every so often we would receive letters of thanks back from the person in charge of this and saying news of what was happening in Greece. We did this for a few years.

Filling in the Gaps –  libraries turning to volunteers and setting up from scratch…

Like lots of the UK, libraries are closing. My local one did, that was also within a community centre, so the whole lot closed, until a group started to reset it up. I ended up on the committee and then on the board for awhile, until I decided I couldn’t do everything and needed to solely turn my attentions onto the library, once it was up and running.

I had worked in libraries before. I started as a relief library assistant. To put in brief, I learnt the ropes and then managed to get a temporary contract and got a branch library to run. I got involved in some events, ran Bookbug and was trained by Scottish Booktrust, made general aesthetic improvements, got schools interested and staff intrigued, helped out at events at the main library, where staff were once paid, and suddenly were not. Then came the bigger cuts… So not to get into the politics, I’ll get back to the voluntary work.
So, all the skills I had learned and cultivated over this time, I took to the community library. I got volunteers, who I trained to do what was required. Was it all that easy? No. All the existing shelves and many books were removed by the council. So, myself and some others negotiated shelving and got some from another disused library and I knew a man with a van to come and help. Team members built up, some for a particular task, such as helping repaint the walls and do murals. I am especially pleased with one that has flying books. There are also lovely trees and wonderful chalkboard paint went on some walls too, which kids and parents make use of.

I then, with the occasional help of other people, sorted through the books the council left to see what was there and checked them off from the lists they created. A joiner made up the shelves and myself and another person put the shelves into the frames and of course got what books we had up. Sounds fast when writing it like this. I put in all the hours. I was there inbetween work and after work and some weekends. I did whatever it took to get it looking like a library. We also created library cards and a system for checking books in and out. Members of the general public nicknamed me “Library Woman” and asked if I had a camp bed in there. It was rather cute and funny. One of the people helping me with the books was a teen who was also doing his Duke of Edinburgh Award, in which I mentored and wrote reports for, for the volunteer part.

The library did become full of books and soon there was also a supply for changeovers of stock, thanks to some generous authors and publishers donating, when they could and when I wrote and also the public. Any new books were labelled as in a public library and the non-fiction, Dewey numbered and put in the correct order. Shelves were also then labelled.

Once the library was ready to open, there was a soft opening and later a grand opening where I, with a few volunteers decided what we wanted to do for this. I’d spoken with the press, who attended. We invited local businesses and local dignitories and some councillor’s and MSPs. Some of whom did attend. The place was buzzing with people saying they expected a shelf or two of tatty books and yet got so much more…
We had an author, reading from her adult book and a children’s book. There were craft activities that were created to go with the children’s book, devised by another volunteer. It had been all hands to the pump to get all sorts of food and cakes and some members of the public also helped with cake baking.

The library had reopened fully and in-fashion. People borrowed books and attended Bookbug, which I negotiated with a co-ordinator to bring it back. I also created, what we think is the first Lego Club in the county, in which the library is located. I had spoken online around 11pm my time, to a guy who worked at Lego. I had created a plan of how to combine books and Lego together. I don’t know if you have to talk to Lego or not, but I did. I ran my idea passed him and he loved it. Lego Club also attracted the local press. We created further author events and some supermarkets also helped with food and drink donations for them.

Covid struck…. Libraries and everything closed. Lockdown 1 happened. So, I ploughed through 100s of pages of the new government legislation to get ready for the future. I created an overview and then a stage by stage plan for when things changed again. Many calls were made between me and a small team, who basically agreed with what I’d said and declared it thorough and another created a risk assessment to go with it and meetings with a board member ensued. Many a late night of working into the wee small hours then occurred to create a click and collect system and a public catalogue of books, plus blurbs (bearing in mind we have nothing that a public library may use. This was yet another thing from scratch). I sat up to the wee small hours sometimes with Glastonbury on in the background and working on click and collect an in another house, so was my assistant.

I worked away on what needed doing, alongside grieving for my gran who died from Covid-19. I also, at that time entered a competition ran by The Book Trust and Penguin for The Thursday Murder Club. You had to write why a library should win… I wrote everything I could think of that went into creating the library. I won it for the library.

Lockdown eased. Libraries could re-open for click and collect. We were ready to go and we reopened as far as we  could, until lockdown 2 occurred. We are currently doing things in the background as the layout of the library has been changed by someone, so we are resetting it all over again, but we did get Bookbug up and running again with live in-person sessions for part of a Festival of Wellbeing.

Singing a Song

A choir had set up online for those who had lost someone to Covid. I had lost my gran in a carehome. A song and music had been composed by someone about people who had died. It went onto music streaming apps and the BBC had picked it up for their show about Covid. The money raised went to helping create a memorial for those who lost lives at St. Paul’s Cathedral and so people won’t forget what happened and so future generations can learn what occurred. On top of this I also supported many people during the height of the Pandemic as much as I possibly could. I listened, cared etc, sometimes people who had lost someone, sometimes it was people who had returned to the NHS, sometimes carers, sometimes people who were just trying to get through it, sometimes in the UK, sometimes abroad. It wasn’t anything official, but I just did this to help a bit.

Future Volunteering

I feel like doing walks for charities. I have done the  Kilt Walk for MS Charities and I think I’ll do a few charitable walks over the next few years.

Continuing to review on my blog and Twitter etc as it seems to be useful to readers, authors, publishers and being an advanced reader to a publisher. All of which I do to voluntarily help and is all free, bar whatever a publisher loses when supplying a book or if I’m lucky, a book festival ticket for free, in exchange of honest reviews.

Even Further In The Future

Maybe discover what it is like to not volunteer. It occurred to me over lockdown 1 when someone asked how long I had volunteered for, that for practically all my adult life, I’ve volunteered and one day I would like to know what it is like not to…. Not yet though. So Watch This Space for what comes next…

 

#TheatreReview by Lou – A Cold Supper Behind Harrods @OriginalTheatre #DavidMorley #PhilipFranks #DavidJason #StephanieCole #AntonLesser #TheatrePlay

A Cold Supper Behind Harrods
By David Morley
Directed by Philip Franks
An Original Theatre Production

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Innovative, Dramatic and wonderfully acted – I highly recommend A Cold Supper Behind Harrods. If you eer see this for a theatre near you or ever online again, I recommend you see it. When I saw this was going to be online, I just knew I had to buy a ticket and I wasn’t disappointed.
Here you can delve into the synopsis and further into the play and why it is so interesting, and I don’t just mean the plot…

Synopsis

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Fifty years after the war that brought them together, three Special Operations Executive agents meet to record interviews for a television documentary.

As Leo, Vera and John wait to be interviewed in a beautiful English garden, drinking tea and doing the crossword, pleasantries give way to deeper darker subjects. A web of self-deception, lies and guilt begins to emerge. Only when all three are about to leave for London in a taxi, for “a cold supper behind Harrods” does the disturbing truth emerge.

 David Morley’s heart-stopping play stars national treasure and 4-time BAFTA Award-winner David JasonStephanie Cole and Anton Lesser with Saffron Coomber and Lucy Doyle

Produced by the award-winning Original Theatre Company, whose recent successes include hit online productions of Birdsong and The Haunting of Alice Bowles and stage productions including the five-star revival of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art.

Review

a-cold-supper-behind-harrodsThis was unusual and yet very interesting. The play was online and yet not just live, but in a theatre and those online were the audience. Cast came on with their scripts, but there was, amazingly, actual scenery and haunting imagery, that shown wonderful technical skill.

It started with conversation between the writer and director and ended with Q&A session that the online audience could participate in, with the 3 main actors involved in this.

What was fascinating was, because in a sense, it was done in quite a raw fashion, as a hybrid of theatre and radio play in a way, it allowed people to see even more of a purity in the inner workings of how actors work as they came on with their scripts. It wasn’t quite a reading, it was more than that and was fully acted out. There were some stumbles, but with so little time to rehearse, this seasoned cast did remarkably well and those moments really did not matter. It added something quite refreshing and the play just kept carrying on. This was just because instead of weeks of rehearsal, they had a day or two. So, no mean feat! There was a bit of a sense of comaraderie amongst them, which is heartwarming. All of the cast, but especially David Jason, Stephanie Cole and Anton Lesser were amazing and it was so good and exciting to see them on stage in a play.

The plot itself was intriguing. We all hear about war heroes or those that started wars, but rarely, to almost never hear of those who weren’t war heroes, but those, in that gap in history, as it were, who seem like ordinary men in wartimes, doing something that later comes back to haunt them. That’s what this play shows with great thought and consideration. David Jason’s character is convincingly a figment of the author’s clever imagination. Stephanie Cole’s and Anton Lesser’s characters were based on real people. Stephanie Coomber and Lucy Doyle were excellent supporting cast, but nevertheless, with important parts.

The play took its twists and turns into their personalities and lives and bit by bit, like droplets of water that get bigger and bigger, the web of lies comes out, until its pouring with deceipt about what had happened to a woman during the war. The technology to portray this woman every so often was expertly done, just enough to show her and depict the memory of her still lingering, still haunting. It all ends in a terrific crescendo and “revenge is best served cold”. When it does come to its conclusion, it may well stay, grasping you and swirling round your mind after it has finished.

If you ever see this play at a theatre, I highly recommend it. I hope that one day this and other plays from The Original Theatre Company tour to each nation in the UK. They are producing some stunning theatre. This performance was online from the Oxford Playhouse Theatre.

#BookReview by Lou – Love and Miss Harris by Peter Maughan @PeterMaughan5 @farragobooks @RandomTTours #ContemporaryFiction #Theatre #HistoricalFiction #Humour

Love And Miss Harris
By Peter Maughan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Love and Miss Harris is perfect for theatre-goers and everyone working in theatre productions. It is also perfect for people who enjoy Ealing Comedies and authors such as P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome and people who enjoy a good bit of capers and humour as the book captures a certain era so divinely. It’s a lot of theatrical fun! This is book 1 of what is becoming a series and I am looking forward to the second already. It’s a feel-good funny book.

Find out more in the blurb and review below. Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review and for Farrago Books for gifting me a copy of the book.

About the Author

Love And Miss Harris Peter Maughan Author picPeter Maughan’s early career covered many trades, working on building sites, in wholesale markets, on fairground rides and in a circus. He studied at the Actor’s Workshop in London, and worked as an actor in the UK and Ireland, subsequently founding a fringe theatre in Barnes, London.
He is married and lives currently in Wales.

 

Love and Miss Harris Cover

Blurb

Titus Llewellyn-Gwlynne, actor/manager of the Red Lion Theatre, has lost a backer who was going to fund a theatrical tour – when unexpected salvation appears.
Their home theatre in the East End of London having been bombed during the war, The Red Lion Touring Company embarks on a tour of Britain to take a play written by their new benefactress into the provinces.

This charming series transports the reader to a lost post-war world of touring rep theatre and once-grand people who have fallen on harder times, smoggy streets, and shared bonhomie over a steaming kettle.
The mood is whimsical, wistful, nostalgic, yet with danger and farce along the way.

Review

I love theatre and everything about it, ever since my mum introduced me to the theatre when I was a teenager, I’ve had a passion for them, so much so, that I even volunteered for just over a decade for a local theatre company, mostly doing front of house duties and occasionally backstage. So, when I was invited to review this book, I jumped at the chance and I think the timing is most apt as theatres and everyone has struggled to get by at this time and now they are starting, slowly but surely, and safely to re-open. This book instantly brings back the joy of theatre and also comedy. The fact it is The Company of Fools series, is in itself theatrical and Shakespearean in that subtitle, although the book itself is not Shakespearean, it’s thoughtful and adds fun and history right there and also cleverly alludes to the fun readers will have, as does that cover. This is worthwhile hopping onto that bus on the cover and enjoying the ride the book takes you on…

Titus, Reuben, Dolly, Jack are prominant characters within this theatrical cast, that instantly transports readers to rep theatre and with wonderful characterisation and observations are divine and everything comes to life. It is also nice that The Windmill Theatre gets a mention as it is pretty famous for rep theatre at this time. 

The title of the book is more clever than you’d think. Love and Miss Harris is the title of a play that Lady Devonaire has written, or rather George, with this as his pseudonymn. The style of writing is quite theatrical in places, which is wonderful and it has a lot of charm. It’s easy to depict in your minds eye – The Red Lion Touring Company losing their theatre due to it being bombed and how they overcome it by jumping on a tour bus and travelling. It shows a certain ingenuity and resillience and admiration how theatre has had to overcome hard times to survive, a bit like today in a way…. So hop on the bus with them and enjoy the ride that is full of humour and get to know a little about the places they go to. That isn’t to say that things are all plain sailing, the company are suspicious of Jack and there’s financial issues to try to overcome. There are also interesting bits about war times too, in memories, that isn’t to say this is a book that jumps from one time frame to another, it isn’t as that wouldn’t have enhanced what is a perfectly good read as it is.

All in all, it is a thoroughly enjoyable book.

I have read the preview for the second in the series and I must say, it is sounding good. 

Love and Miss Harris bt Poster

 

#BookReview of #YA book – Kate In Wating by Becky Albertalli @beckyalbertalli @RomaBaig_ @penguinrandom @The_WriteReads @WriteReadsTours

Kate In Waiting
By Becky Albertalli

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Kate In Waiting is full of humour, the ups and downs of teenage life, including crushes and juggling dull school work with the exciting bright lights of the theatre and exciting rehearsals. Becky Albertalli has nailed it all in such a convincing story and it has just been published. Read the blurb and the review to discover more about the book that has been waiting in the wings…

I thank Roma Baig for gifting me this rather fun YA book.

Kate In Waiting pic

Blurb

From bestselling YA rom-com queen Becky Albertalli (author of Love, Simon) comes a new novel about daring to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight in love, life and theatre.

[PRINCIPAL CAST LIST]
Kate Garfield
Anderson Walker

Best friends, and contrary to popular belief, not co-dependent. Examples:

Carpooling to and from theatre rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient.
Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment.
Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script.

Enter Stage Left: Matt Olsson

He is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship…

Review

Kate In Waiting picMissing theatre? I know I am. So join this YA Romcom and find out about Kate in this witty book about stage life and romance. So many teenagers/young adults will be able to relate, even if having to carpool to rehearsals isn’t part of your life. From the first to the last page this book is very entertaining.

The book screams Teen-RomCom basically and lives in their communal world of SnapChat etc and the need to tell each other everything. There’s the romance and the crushing end of one and also a lot of humour too with Kate, Anderson and Matt, the stars of the show, with a great supporting cast.
The vibe is brilliant within the book, even when everything changes and the script that seemed so planned before makes life a bit messy and the teens suddenly find themselves having to do some improv to figure everything out all over again.

Chapters become scenes and many other theatrical references are made. There’s songs to practice and rehearsals to attend, but amongst all of that, there is school, which is entirely not as exciting, except it gives a bit of a chance for Kate to daydream, until she is interrupted…

Teens will be able to empathise with them all and feel the fun and the pain of those crushes and be there with them right to the very last page.

With warmth and so much humour, this is enough to brighten anyone’s spirits!