Guest Blog: Joe Alessi - Urban myths, the genius of Coward and 'The Fear'

Guest blogger Joe Alessi writes from the road as he plays Albert in the Australian tour of Brief Encounter.

Blog Four - Urban myths, the genius of Coward and 'The Fear'

We are Kneehigh and I'm an idiot.

An idiot for believing in the hoary old urban myth that water spins down the plug hole in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere to that of the Northern Hem. The first rule of any writer, for that is what I am now, a writer. Think, Hemingway/Umberto Eco (believe me when I tell you that I have actually got a pipe in my mouth for inspiration, I believe that one should always look the part, at least) Sorry, yes, the first rule of any writer/journalist (oh.. I like journalist) is, check your facts and check your sources. Our gorgeous and talented Company Manager, Steph Curtis came to me yesterday having proof read (proof read, yes, I'm getting the feel for this) blog three and gently broke it to me that the water flowing down sink in Australia thing is an urban myth, to say I was mortified is putting it mildly, I had to sit down and let it sink in, all that time I spent in child/chimp/idiot mode by the sink was wasted, along with all that water; I'll probably go to hell for that alone, prodded with sticks by little environmentally conscious demons for eternity.

We arrived at the Dunston Playhouse Theatre here in Adelaide at 10am Tuesday and was greeted by the lovely Shelley who took us to the rehearsal room via a myriad of underground corridors, when we got there we were greeted by Geordie Brookman the Artistic Director of State Theatre who welcomed us warmly and wished us all good things for the subsequent rehearsal period. After warming up (games, yoga, vocal warm up and more games) we started to gently stagger through the play, minus Annette McLaughlin who plays one of my other halves, 'Myrtle Bagot' (poor Nettsy has had to fly all by herself, two days after us as she had to finish her run in Matilda in London last Sunday, playing Mrs Wormwood) For now, 'Myrtle' was ably played by the estimable Simon Harvey, Associate Director at Kneehigh. Now bear in mind that we'd all of us been up from between 2am and 4am the previous night (it's 4:30am as I write this now) and as the day wore on we all got more and more delirious and the rehearsal started to resemble a cross between Alice In Wonderland, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and a rehearsal by the Wooster Group circa 1973 when they were experimenting with mind altering drugs: people were giggling for no apparent reason, talking to walls, making lines up, dozing off, making animal noises, suddenly getting very serious, farting and not caring who heard it, slapping one's face repeatedly, laughing hysterically, getting a little teary and shouting at the ceiling.. I think you get the picture. But throughout that madness, one thing remained ever constant and brought us back to sanity and that was the genius of Noel Coward's writing, it shines like a perfectly cut diamond, every word there for a reason, every emotion and nuance mined for all it's worth. He knew how to write.
I realise how clever our director, Emma was in realising and adapting this story, it's so perfect, the themes within it so timeless that it can withstand anything you throw at it and we certainly do, using film, special effects, people flying through the air, music, comedy, Coward's poetry set as little ditties set to music and dance and yet the writing and the story just props us up, it withstands it and  compliments what we do.. I realised how proud I am to be involved with this piece and very privileged to be working with a very talented group of people, animal noises aside.

At the end of the day and it couldn't come soon enough as we were all at that point seeing double, we were invited for drinks on the banks of the River Torrens where the theatre is situated, by the CEO of State Theatre, Rob Brookman and guess what? After a few (alcoholic) drinks we all perked up and hit our second winds. Funny that.

I think that'll do for Blog Four, I'll put down my pipe and make a cup of tea.

(Joking aside, I'm so not a writer. I was asked to do this for the company to put on their website and I agreed, thinking it'd be a bit of a giggle but when I realised that over twenty thousand people follow the company on Twitter, I suddenly got the fear! So this is me holding my hands up and asking you to bear with me, I'm sure there are and will be grammatical inconsistencies, spelling mistakes, clunky writing and occasional naffness and cliches that will seem more 'Alan Partridge' than Stephen Fry, so i'll leave you with a quote from Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" True dat.)

Love, light, peace and respect

Joe X


Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter

“The most enchanting work of stagecraft ever inspired by a movie” Ben Brantley, The New York Times

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