For some reason, the people who are putting on Yes Prime Minister - The Tour 2011 have asked me if I would be interested in writing a blog? Why not, I thought? I am spending twenty weeks touring the country and have loads of hours to kill so I might as well write a diary of the whole thing, if only to keep myself amused.
So this is it!
My name, for those of you who have just stumbled across this site and not followed one of my propmpts from twitter or facebook or smoke trailing sign writing plane, is Michael Fenton Stevens. I am touring the UK playing Simon Chester in Yes Prime Minister. Now, this play stars Richard McCabe and Simon Williams (strange fact no.1 - neither of them answer to their official names - Richard is Bill and Simon is Sam - very confusing) so you can tell that my part in the production is not the largest, nor is the most important. In fact, it is the strangest part I have ever been asked to do. I do not appear in the play until Act 2 Scene 2 which is 10 minutes from the end of the play. I'm on stage for about 7 minutes and my character is a television interviewer so the whole thing is filmed on stage with cameras and broadcast to the audience through large monitors in the auditorium. They have the option of watching us on stage but it seems that most of the audience watch the tele. It's a bit like have a screen in a pub; you just can't ignore it. Consequently my performance is mostly watched on tele and, as I have a mic on, I find it is possible to do a tele performance.
There is a big difference between a television performance and a theatre performance. I do most of my professional work on tele and radio, and have not done an enormous amount of theatre, even though I really enjoy it. It's just the way my career has gone. I suppose I'm lucky to have done all forms of acting as often actors do one and not the others. Never the twain shall meet! But it is very weird to come on at the end of a play and do a bit of tele. No sooner have I gone off than we are taking the curtain call and I get a good response from the audience, I believe, because they have only just seen me. If I did my scene at the end of Act 1 they may well think 'who the fuck is that?'. Some may well still be thinking that but if they are they have have obviously nodded off and have been woken suddenly by the warm applause and cheers of appreciation - or possibly gratitude that it's over - you never can be sure. All actors who are greeted at the curtain call by joyous yelps should always bear in mind that it may be the anticipation of standing up and walking about that has inspired the audience. I always think that anyway.
So, we have been in Brighton for the last 2 weeks. That is where we opened the show. But it didn't feel like we had started the tour as I was stilll living at home. Hoorah! I was even there for my recent birthday (please, no flowers; just money). Now we are really off and running. Yesterday we all clambered aboard trains and into cars and made our way North to Leeds. The Grand Theatre does what it says on the tin. Very grand. It was sunny all the way here and then started to pour as we hit the M62 corridor, so that lived up to expectations. The show went very well last night. I even got three seperate laughs in a row without saying a thing. Tele acting you see? You just have to move your eyes and the audience see it. Great beer after the show (Timothy Taylor and Leeds Brewery). And today I have been to lovely Harrogate and Betty's for tea.
Amazingly you always forget how friendly people are in the north. You know it's true, but with time away you think it must just be a memory that has been enhanced by absence and time. But it's bloody true. I had five 'mornings' just walking up the road from my digs this morning so it was not only friendly but accurate.
I will try to post some photos and other things as I go along. But this is really for me, even though the management think it is publicity.