Lynn Ruth Miller

Commedienne - Not dead yet

Category: Brighton

FATHERS AND SONS

HARD GRAFT
Written and performed by David Sheppeard

Any man can be a father, but
it takes a special person to be a dad.
Proverb

My favorite show in this year’s Brighton Fringe was David Sheppeard’s Hard Graft. The production was supported by The Arts Council and commissioned by Oval House and is a multi media work of art. “I am making a show about my dad, but I don’t want him to see it,” says Sheppeard and then with videos, commentary and stories, he does what every child tries to do. He examines what his father was and how that made him what he has become. “Why did you have me?” he asks his dad and his dad says, ”I loved your mother and she wanted children.”

But is that reason enough? Is that all a father is to his son? Is he only the sperm provider to make the woman he loves happy? What does a father need to give to his child to be more than just the vehicle that created a life? What does a son have the right to expect from the man who made him? These are the issues explored in this beautiful and thoughtful piece.

As I became absorbed in the scenes before me on stage, I kept asking myself what have we done to our children? Have we intimidated them? Have we made them ashamed to be what they are? Do we as parents have the right to judge the adult that was once our child? “I don’t go to visit my parents as often as I should,” says Sheppeard. “As I walk in the door, I regress to the age of about 14.   …My dad is 72. He is a very old dad.”

And as he describes his father, he tries not just to understand him, but to make valid excuses for the distance between the two of them. “Retiring is a difficult time for a man” he says and indeed it is. It deprives men of their sense of purpose, their feeling of why they are put here on earth. “My dad is really good at telling you what is wrong with the world,” he says and the real meaning of that sentence is that his dad is really good at telling David Sheppeard what is wrong with him. How universal is this feeling that our parents’ criticisms are gospel…how hurtful and how lasting? Would that every parent remembered how strong the impact of his words can be on his child and weighed his words before he spoke.

“I had this idea that when you had to work hard, it made you authentic.” But what if you do not work very hard? What if you are self-obsessed, fixated on your sexuality and homeless? Are you less of a person? More important, are you a disappointment to your parents who did work hard and seem very authentic. If you are that disappointment, does it really matter in the bigger picture of your life?  “The difference between my dad and me is that I care what people think and he doesn’t,” but what Sheppeard is really saying is that his dad acts like he doesn’t care so well that he has fooled his own son, a son who is introspective and feels he has no real roots. “ I don’t really understand how it feels to belong somewhere.”

“I asked him why did you want to be a father and he said it was the natural thing to do. It wasn’t the answer I wanted.” Of course it was not the response Sheppeard sought because he asked the wrong question. The real query was “Why did you want to be MY father?”

We all know we should love and respect our parents. We all believe that deep down we do love them and they love us, but sometimes…all too often in fact…it is very hard to buy those maxims. They don’t seem to reflect the turbulence, the anxiety and the heartbreak that scar every child/parent connection. “You can’t live life backwards. Can I maybe get to loving him instead of just saying the words?”

This is a heartbreaking, sensitive monologue that goes through every child’s mind when he realizes he is not the person his parents expected him to be. The trick is to learn to respect and accept the person you really are. Sadly, it often takes a lifetime to figure that one out.

David Sheppeard ‘s performance is exquisite and he says aloud what is in every person’s mind as they are torn between the drive to rip up the apron strings that bind them to the people who brought them into the world and the guilt we all feel for breaking away and becoming an individual instead of a reflection of our parents’ hopes and dreams. Hard Graft is all about growing pains, the ones we all have right before we bloom.

 

BRIGHTON FRINGE CONTINUES

WORKSHOPS, SHOWS AND PZAZZ
by
Lynn Ruth Miller
I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms,
the most immediate way in which a human being can share
with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.
Oscar Wilde

The Brighton Festival Fringe continues and each day brings more bon-bons to enjoy. The Marlboro has featured some unforgettable shows this year. Julia Asling and Ian Angus Wilkie starred in TALKING HEADS, two exquisite Alan Bennett one acts, A CHIP IN THE SUGAR and A LADY OF LETTERS. Most of the presentations I see on the fringe are mediocre at best, always enthusiastically presented and always of some value but never great theatre. However, this production had everything for me. It was presented by the Britt Forsberg Theatre 21. A LADY OF LETTERS was about a lonely older woman who had nothing to look forward to in life but to observe the life of others . Her only communication with the world was through the letters she wrote. Watching Julia Asling’s sensitive and moving portrayal of a lonely woman searching for something to look forward to in day after empty day reminded me of too many older women I know today who have nothing but their favourite TV programs and their grievances to keep them going. The other one act, A CHIP IN THE SUGAR is a magnificent piece of writing because it pinpoints the walls that older people crash into when they try to live their lives and chase their dreams. An old woman wants to pursue a vivid and exciting romance with a man her son knows is a philanderer. The son cannot understand that when you are in your eighties or nineties, any fling is a glorious one and it need not last forever because, indeed, you will not last forever. Ian Angus Willkie played the outraged son relating the story and he hit just the perfect note. The production was one of the finest I have seen in a very long time because it was truth shown instead of told; truth as powerful and important today as it was when it was first written.
Last Monday, I attended Julian Caddy’s phenomenal workshop ACTING AND CREATING A CHARACTER. On the surface this evening seems to be one dedicated to aspiring actors, but it is so much more than that. Julian Caddy is a talented and innovative actor, thrilling to see on stage in an amazingly wide variety of roles from David Mamet to Tennessee Williams. In his workshop, he discussed the secret to creating a believable character and as he spoke, I could not help but think, “This man is talking about how we view ourselves. He is giving me tools to live a better life.”
“All of your life experience makes you who you are,” he told us. “In life you should always be finding out. We all are products of all we have been.”
Caddy explained the secret to becoming the character you are portraying on stage: “You need to dissect all the unsaid purposes of the person you are being,” he said. “Acting is thinking the thoughts of the character.”
It was then I understood why so many plays I see don’t quite make the grade for me. The actor hasn’t really figured out who he is portraying. Instead, I am seeing the actor himself on the stage and that is why he does not convince me that what I am seeing is real.
The workshop was a beautiful experience in learning to understand myself and in understanding the motivations of others. No one is either horrible or wonderful to himself. He is just who he is. Once you get that, you can analyse what you are watching on stage and can understand why it seems false to you. Julian Caddy is presenting another acting workshop Monday May 21 and if you can get to The Marlboro at 8:30, you will learn a bit more about the plays you are seeing and a lot more about who you are.
I loved THE RIGHT PAIR, Bette Bourne and Peal Shaw’s story, also at the Marlboro Theatre. These two have lived together for over 40 years and although they never thought of it as a marriage, it certainly was a partnership that made their lives whole. The hour contained music, dance and a bit of nostalgia laced together with delightful humour. For me, the show gave me a rare glimpse into what love really means.
If you want to get an overview of the exciting things that are happening every day in May in Brighton, tune into Jeff Hemmings show on Reverb Radio, 5-6pm on Thursdays, 8-10 am on Wednesday mornings. You will get some chat, some reports and a bit of opinions from a guy who swears he knows what he is talking about. But then, isn’t that what all guys say?
The drama is not dead, but liveth,
and contains the gems of better things.
William Archer

May Means Brighton and Shows Shows Shows

THE BUZZ HAS BEGUN
By
Lynn Ruth Miller

In May, Brighton is transformed into a town filled with art, music and drama on every corner tucked into churches, cellars and the backs of bars. People from all over the country and indeed the world gather to sample the best and the worse performance art can offer. This is my fourth year performing and experiencing the excitement of the Brighton Festivals and it has been by far the most invigorating….so much more is happening….so many new venues and special events are popping up.
Much of the bustle and hoopla has been generated by the new director of the Brighton Fringe, Julian Caddy. His own enthusiasm for this marvellous yearly extravaganza has infused new excitement into all of us who are part of the event. Rachel Strange is managing the weekly Fringe City and you can preview most of the shows there every Saturday afternoon to see what you want to check out and what might interest you if only there were 28 hours in the day.
I arrived May first and went to see Des O’Conner in VIVE LE CABARET at Komedia that Thursday. Des O’Conner is producing several outstanding shows at Komedia this May including M. B, The Gentleman Rhymer and Mat Ricardo’s THREE BALLS AND A NEW SUIT, the show that the Herald and Fringe guru gave five stars. All these shows are polished entertainment, and a treat to see. Mr. B. has his audience jumping up and down and singing along as if they all had ingested Mexican Jumping Beans for dinner. Des O’Conner himself is a master performer and charms an audience the moment he steps on a stage. Whenever |I see his name I run to get a ticket and you should do the same. At his solo show last Monday I sat next to his partner who is about to give birth to their baby girl. Whenever the baby’s daddy took to the stage, the infant-to-be kicked and bounced with such vigour, I thought she would choose that very moment to emerge into the world clapping and cheering for Daddy Des as well he deserved….I was all ready to rush to the kitchen for boiling water and towels, but the tiny foetus of a girl decided it was prudent to remain in utero waiting out the next couple weeks before she will emerge no doubt singing, dancing and playing the guitar. It’s got to be in those genes.
I managed to fit in Rose Collis’s TROUSER-WEARING CHARACTERS that Friday at the Marlboro Theatre. This is a well-paced, fact filled one woman show about women who liked to wear trousers and men who did anyway…all connected to Brighton in some way or another. Collis tells us about her favourite Brighton personalities in a mix of music, quotations and monologue. My favourite part of the show was Collis singing and playing the banjo. She has a charming voice and a delightful delivery. I could have done with a little less dialogue…it was often a bit lengthy …..but all in all the show has just about all anyone can ask: interesting content, great energy and music that makes you beg for more. TROUSER-WEARING CHARACTERS continues through May 20 at The Marlboro Theatre. Collis has books to sell and endless stories about Brighton. Be sure to chat with her after the show. …and don’t forget to wear your trousers….that’s what all independent women have a right to do these days. Collis reminds us of the days when female attire was strictly proscribed and trousers, white shirts and ties were not an option…they were an outrage.
In all the years I have been coming to Brighton I have never seen THE LADY BOYS and decided this year to bite the bullet and see what all the hysteria was about. I grabbed my landlady and off we went to see a lot of pretty boys in ladies’ finery. The entire experience is the most commercial I have experienced in Brighton. At every turn we are assaulted with souvenirs to buy, Thai food to eat and loud music pounding in our ears. Fortunately, both my landlady and I are deaf so we managed to avoid the head aches I am sure the rest of the audience suffered the morning after. The show itself is fast paced, loud and bursting with glitz. The costumes are glitter, feathers and flounce and the lady boys are decked out like the tarts they wish they were. Sadly, these young men cannot speak English and the songs they sang meant absolutely nothing to them. They parroted the sounds some director taught them and went through the motions like robots, not quite getting into it because, poor souls, they had no idea what “it” was.
The audience cheered and laughed and smirked at the smutty innuendos just like a good audience should, but it felt like I was at the zoo or in a circus watching well trained animals jump through hoops. I had to keep reminding myself that these were human beings singing and dancing. As I watched them, I realized that although they were indeed giving us plenty of song and dance with all the decorative flash and flutter we deserved for £25 pounds a head, those young lads in burlesque skirts weren’t having fun. Somehow, the whole experience seemed hollow and empty to me. I had the same reaction have when someone has taught their dog to beg: How clever, how cute…but I wouldn’t pay £25 to see him do it no matter how fancy his collar.
I know I am greedy, but I want my entertainment to be fun and I want the people on stage to know what the hell they are saying so they get the expression right. My landlady left at the interval but I stayed hoping I would find a bit of substance in the second act.
I did not.
And I will be back with more observations next time on some marvellous drama , the best I have seen ever at a fringe venue.

WATCH OUT BRIGHTON!!! HERE I COME

GRANNY’S GONE WILD, Lynn Ruth Miller’s hit of the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival  Festival, comes to THE LATEST, 14 – 17 Manchester Street for 4 performances, May 6-9, 7:30 pm £6/£ 5. Tickets 01273 687171 or www.brightonfestivalfringe.org.uk

FUNNIES WITH LYNN RUTH MILLER:
May 10th Jewish Jokes,. 7.30pm £6/£5 conc
May 12th and 13th Granny’s Gone Wild– 10.30pm  £6/£5 conc.
May 14th and 15th – 8pm for Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Cha, Cha, Cha:  2 hour show – £10/£8 conc.
IAMBIC ARTS Theatre
38 GARDNER STREET, (ENTRANCE Regents St)
Tickets: www.  Brightonfestivalfringe.org.uk or 01273 572101

Lynn Ruth Miller  uses the blast furnace of her life to gently boil down the huge amount of experience in the crucible of her mind to leave us all with disarming golden nuggets that threaten our ideas of what is important and remind us that each precious moment is worth wringing every drop of life out of!  She shows us, vividly, that life gets better as you get older, and teaches us, in her sneaky way, that being naughty is ok…Eric Page: Theatre Feed, 2010

Lynn Ruth is wickedly scandalous as she struts across the stage and innocently drops her one-liners like a bombs that leave the audience hemorrhaging with laughter. Pia Johansen,May, 2010

More Information:lynnruth@lynnruthmiller.com
www.lynnruthmiller.com;
UK Phone: 07906688560

 

 

 

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