Friday, 12 July 2013

My Week wih Kenneth

The stage is set for the Q&A
On Thursday we were on the Virgin Pendalino back off up to Manchester to see Sir Kenneth Branagh again. Not in the play this time but at a private audience and Question and Answer session arranged for the Ken Friends (internet fan club) by his wonderful P.A. Tamar. Jude and Maggie had organised this for us - as ken-friends had travelled from all over - quite a few from America - to see his Macbeth. I think he likes the fan club because they raise money every year to fund bursaries for actors who couldn't otherwise go to drama school.

Festival Square

This time we were meeting in Festival Square (which had temporarily taken over half of Albert Square, in front of the Town Hall) where much of the Manchester International Festival 2013 was taking place.

Macbeth everywhere!
We had to go round the back at 11am and meet all the other Ken-Friends who were there. They checked our names against the guest list (squeeee!!) and we were allowed into the compound. There I met up with Toni (another ken-friend) and Rob (another long-suffering partner!) who I hadn't seen since Ken's last live performance as Richard III in Sheffield over ten years ago! It was great to see them again :-) There were about 40 of us altogether.

Then the official photographer gathered us together and prepped us on how to have a great photo taken. He wanted us to close our eyes until he said "Open" then open them as wide as we could - then the third photo he took after that would be perfect!

He said he'd learnt this while doing wedding photography and being sick of finding that there was always someone with their eyes closed on every picture!

Once we'd be briefed by him we were allowed into the Festival Pavilion (big tent) and take our places. There were quite a few seats set out - as the sponsors were going to be allowed into our Q&A session later (I'm sure I've go that the right way round - or maybe it was their session WE were gate crashing!) Anyway - the smaller of us stood on the stage and the others in front of it - then in strolled Kenneth Branagh himself looking fresh and casual in a black polo shirt and blue jeans. He said hello to each of us and shook each of our hands.

He chatted away about the play asking if we'd seen it and telling us a few insider secrets on how they conceal the blood sacs around the set to stealthily pick up at the right time and how he'd had a mishap with his on the first night and squeezed it too hard in the wrong direction and covered the Festival Director in blood. His seat is now known among the cast as the "blood seat" - so he told us to be careful where we sat if we hadn't seen it yet!

Then he stood in the middle of the line up in front of the stage so that we could al be photographed together with him. The photographer took quit a few shots - and as soon as I get a copy it will be on this blog :-)

Gordon Burns introduces the Q&A
He then went of to get ready for the Q&A session and we took our seats at the front. They then let the sponsors in and they began the session. Firstly Gordon Burns (of the Krypton Factor) came on and introduced firstly Alex Kingston, then Ray Fearon, who had been an excellent Macduff and then Ken himself.

He had a script with lots of questions for each of them that he ran through. How did Alex and Ray get the call to ask them to be in it? (He asked Alex over a cup of tea - though she said she only had water and Ray over something stronger - although h also clamed to have had just water!) How they felt when they got the role, how they interpreted it and lots more I can't remember. Sadly once they'd got the spotlights on them - no photos came out properly :-(

It as fascinating stuff - to hear how the venue and set and action had all come together as they rehearsed it. Gordon asked Ray about the first time he was in something with Ken  his first ever film acting job and when he was asked to do it there and then asked if he could think about it!! He said his agent had always told him "Never say Yes in the room" Lucky he did say yes and he's worked with him a few times now. He says Ken is a "very, very nice man"

All too soon the session was over and we all trooped back outside into the blazing sun. We were pretty peckish by now so went for some lunch with Toni and Rob. They are vegetarian and we'd spotted a place (on the internet) that was highly recommended by The Guardian and was nearby and did veggie food. It was the Armenian Taverna - in a basement under the Virgin building.

Remains of Rum Baba

Interesting Moustaches :-)

Good food and company!

They were correct - the food was great! I had a starter of hummus and bread and Nathan had an aubergine dip called Mutabal. Toni and Rob had a plateful of Vegetarian Mezze. After that I had some chicken in cream and mushroom and Nathan and had Madznov Kebab -  a spicy lamb kebab with egg on it. It was all delicious. I have to report that we did indulge in desserts too. The Rum Babas were magnificent in size and rum content :-)

After that we said goodbye to Toni and Rob, envying them as they were off to see Macbeth later. We did advise them to wear very little clothing, take iced water and a fan.

We did a little shopping then wandered back to the station through Piccadilly Gardens, where lots of people were enjoying the sun. However, when I got back to the station to come home I realised that my phone was no longer in my bag. I had last had it out in the Gardens as we walked along. We tried to ring it but it had already been switched off and the Sim taken out as the "Find My Phone" app didn't work either. We reported it to the police and then went to the EE shop to get them to stop the Sim so no-one could run up a huge bill for me. It was annoying - but it didn't spoil a wonderful day. It had a big scratch across the screen and I was thinking of getting another one anyway! I hope they can't sell it!

Nathan is great - he got me one of his old phones and set it all up for me with my new Sim card - so I am good to go again. I do think that the little phone pockets at the top of handbags are not necessarily a good idea. I will be more careful in future!!

1 comment:

  1. I had to admit this as a former Ken-Friend (which is how you and I met, Berni!), but I actually didn't know our Ken was doing MACBETH - my favorite Shakespearean tragedy! I do envy you having seen it - and I loved all the detail about the Q&A - wish I'd been there! (I suspect quite a few people who read it feel the same way!) So glad you got to do all the great events in such a short time - guess I'd better get back on the list, huh??

    Sorry about your phone - but sounds like the universe just wanted you to have a new one!