This Evil Thing: Stars in Their Eyes

August 23rd

So, here I am in the final week of Edinburgh…and audiences for This Evil Thing are slowly building, but with over 3,000 (yes, three thousand) shows to choose from, it’s not easy persuading folk to see my show rather than the other 2,999.

In the first week, the List (Scotland’s version of Time Out) reviewed the play and it was a glowing review with not one bad thing to say – but it only received three stars.  The star system is, alas, so important in Edinburgh – one star more or less can make the difference between someone deciding to see a show or not.

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This Evil Thing: and we’re off…

First two previews gone very well! One audience member who travelled down from Dunblane was very emotional at the end.

Also a nice interview here with some background to the piece.

Tickets for THIS EVIL THING now on sale here.

Flyer for THIS EVIL THING below

Michael Mears


This Evil Thing: three days to go…

Did I catch him smiling?

So, we have completed our two London previews of THIS EVIL THING to small invited audiences in our rehearsal space at Room One – without stage lighting but with all the set, sound and costume.

And phew! they seemed to go down well. And I already seem to have a lost a bit of weight. Will need to up my carb intake etc etc in order to perform this piece – and make sure I stay hydrated.

I have strategically-placed sips of water available during the play (in a tea- cup, a sherry glass, a whisky tumbler, and a period bottle), but they are just sips. The serious drinking has to be done well in advance. A voice coach told me you need to start drinking water four hours before you perform to give it time to be fully absorbed by the body.

It’s been an incredible experience, feeling the piece come together with the help of such a brilliant team, Ros, Jane, Zoe and the two Marks…and without wishing to sound too mystical, I really feel the COs themselves are behind the project. I have a large copy of a photograph at home of Bert Brocklesby, the main CO in the play, given to me by his granddaughter Jill Gibbon. Now it may just be fanciful thinking on my part, but when I got home after the first preview I could have sworn that he was smiling ever so slightly – as if to say – ‘Hey up, lad – that were grand…’

His photograph will be coming with me to Edinburgh on August 1st along with photos of the other significant people in the play – safely stowed in an enormous suitcase with everything I might need for my month north of the border. Keep smiling on us, Bert…

This Evil Thing

Just Over One Week To Go…

This time next week I will be safely tucked up in bed – in Edinburgh!!

Would it have been simpler to climb Kilimanjaro than mount THIS EVIL THING? Yes, quite probably. But I don’t regret tackling this hugely ambitious project for one moment.

And with such a great team – director Ros Hutt, designer Mark Friend, sound designer Mark Noble, lighting designer Zoe Spurr and stage manager Jane Andrews. And not forgetting Taylor and Foley who made the nine wooden crates.

Tickets for THIS EVIL THING now on sale here.

Flyer for THIS EVIL THING below

Michael Mears

This Evil Thing: one and a half weeks to go – Bible and the Spud

July 22nd
Hard at work, running chunks of the play now, and indeed the whole play, and although I know all the lines (AND, I think, am saying them in the right order), there is still the little matter of the choreography of the crates to master – the nine wooden crates that are now playing such an integral part in the production.

When the action of the play shifts to France, I have to move them from where they have been assembled to suggest a prison cell in Richmond Castle, to create a French pier or jetty, while some evocative accordion music plays. It’s almost like doing a dance…but myself and director Ros Hutt soon realise there isn’t quite enough music in which to achieve this ‘scene-change’ … so Ros suggests ten seconds more of accordion. But the play is already a minute or two over its allotted length of 75 minutes for Edinburgh, so I say, ‘Let me try it with just five seconds more,’ – and that does seem to solve the problem. Apart from Bible and the spud.

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This Evil Thing: two and a half weeks to go… Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

July 17th
Wonderful recording session this week with two musicians, and four singers from the Helen Chadwick Song Theatre to record music for This Evil Thing.

There is a congregation singing a hymn in chapel at one point in the play, there is a burst of ‘In An English Country Garden’ at another, and ‘I do like to be beside the sea’ when the conscientious objectors are surprised, once they’ve been shipped to France, by being given 24 hours liberty in Boulogne (to ‘think things over’ – whether they really want to carry their protest all the way to the threat of being court-martialled).
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This Evil Thing: three and a half weeks to go… Nine Wooden Crates

July 9th
How to suggest simply but evocatively so many different locations in my play THIS EVIL THING?  A ten feet deep pit in which a C.O. is imprisoned, a Methodist chapel, a work camp outside Aberdeen, a hospital tent, a seaside pier, the House of Commons, an English country garden, a prison cell in Richmond Castle… the list goes on…
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This Evil Thing: four and a half weeks to go… A Chapel in South Yorkshire

Sunday July 3rd

Richmond Castle

Ros Hutt, the director of THIS EVIL THING, and myself were hoping to get up to Richmond Castle in Yorkshire to visit the very cells where Bert Brocklesby and other conscientious objectors were imprisoned in 1916.

There is still graffiti on the walls of one cell, drawn by Bert himself with a piece of charcoal he smuggled in – that graffiti being a rather fine drawing of his fiancee Annie Wainwright; as well as an image of a man bearing the weight of a cross.  (The graffiti is being restored and preserved by English Heritage.) Timetables wouldn’t permit our trip however.
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This Evil Thing: five and a half weeks to go… Skylarks and Sergeants

Sunday June 26th
Had a quick tot up today of all the characters I will portray in This Evil Thing (some with only one line to speak) and it came to 52. Phew. 52 characters in 75 minutes!

Monday June 27th
I am working with brilliant young sound designer Mark Noble on the soundscape for This Evil Thing.  Some of the 52 plus characters I will be playing will be pre-recorded – for example, prisoners who were subject to the infamous ‘No Talking’ rule: we want to record some of their ‘thoughts’, what they would have said could they have spoken.

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This Evil Thing: seven weeks to go…

Well my insect bites have finally gone down!

One week ago I had a brilliant photographic session with the wonderful  Simon Richardson at his house outside Bedford.  We were trying to get some good images for the play I’ve written and will be performing in Edinburgh this August – THIS EVIL THING – the compelling and inspiring story of the young British men who in 1916 said no to war.

One conscientious objector in 1917, James Brightmore, had been imprisoned by the Army in a ten feet deep pit, as no cell was available at the time.  Simon didn’t have a pit in his garden (we could have dug one, I suppose) but he did know of a nearby well that had been cleaned up and might prove to be a good approximation.

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