I've decided to write up my experience of the pre-flight check in different bits and pieces because I am so full of thoughts and feels. This first one will deal only with what happened. I'll post another entry regarding the Q&A session and another with my thoughts on the episode, but that last one I will only post after the actual episode airs to adhere to Finnemore's request that nobody post spoilers. In any case, it was all utterly and absolutely brilliant!( Lots of fangirling and absolutely no spoilers... )
1. I arrived at the tavern a good 2 hours early because I'm paranoid like that. It was easy to locate, a quick walk from the Kilburn High Road station, which is on one of the overground lines. (You can catch this from Euston and it's 2 stops down).
2. The area was already set up with a small stage with four mics and rows of seats off to the side. On the recommendation of one of the bartenders, I headed back up to the Main Street and had a quick dinner of spaghetti at a little Italian restaurant. (The bartenders, by the way, were terrific. One or a couple of them are actors themselves and all were happy to offer drink recommendations. I'm going to see if I can drag Dixie and Qui up here when they're in London in a few weeks.)
3. By the time I arrived back at the tavern, it was a little under an hour until showtime, and people had begun to arrive. Among some of the early birds was a crew that had come down from Milton Keynes including exmoor-in-F-sharp, someone I have recently been following on Tumblr. They'd come to several of these types of events before and were able to tell me what to expect. It was also lovely to find another rabid Sherlock fan in their midst, Curlyboff. I got her Tumblr name, but I don't think she's on LJ. She's a huge Mark Gattiss fan and was totally fangirling one of the bartenders who had been in a show with him.
4. This was as convenient a time as any to crack out the hat and my own crocheted traveling lemon (thank you dragonsinger954), so photos were taken. I did try to do one in full fangirl mode, but my scarf was not behaving and it was incredibly hot inside the pub, so I abandoned that idea. The fangirl was there in spirit and she even got to talk with John Finnemore (more on that later).
5. John and his fellow castmates had arrived by then but were off doing their own thing. About 25 minutes before it started, we gradually drifted over to take seats. I nabbed a spot in the second row next to my Milton Keynes crew and a woman and her son, who were big fans of Finnemore. I did not really circulate to talk with everyone there, but I think I might have been the only one to fly in from another country. Turns out 'I flew in from Sweden just for this.' turned out to be a great conversation starter.
6. Next up was the show, which Finnemore introduced. He explained the purpose of these events since about half of the people hadn't come to one before. In essence, he's still trying out material so some of what we were hearing that evening would not make it into the show. In a sense, we were his beta-audience. It's kind of thrilling to be included in this process. It's also really cool to realize that he is still in the process of writing this episode. Sometimes genius is last minute!
7. As he was doing the set-up, a flash went off from up near the front (I was in the 2nd row!) and Finnemore made a joke (something about, oh that won't make us more nervous) and used that to ask that we not take photos during the session so that things stay mainly informal and relaxed. This is why I did not take an photos once the session started. I figured this would be the case, which is why I was so happy that there was a chance for photos afterwards.
8. Then the performance began. There was no music or sound effects, so the run through was about as long as full show with just a few retakes where someone forgot it was their turn to step in (usually John). Can't blame him though, not only was he performing for us, but he was also evaluating our response to the lines - pretty complex multi-tasking.
9. A note on the performances - I really have to give props to everyone and I am ashamed that I did not make note of their names. I look forward to seeing and hearing more of them. In essence, they did an amazing job at appropriating the voices and styles of the actors they were standing in for while not going for all out mimicry. During the Q&A afterwards, Finnemore acknowledged that when he writes, he can hear the voices and styles of the cast and that this comes through in his writing. Hearing these lines come out of the mouths of other actors really highlighted just how much the development of these characters stems from a synergy between writer and actor.
10. As for Arthur, it's amazing to see him emerge from John Finnemore, and I found myself sometimes wondering how much of Arthur stems from John and how much is based on other people. Finnemore has a lot of energy on stage, just like I imagine Arthur would, but this also came through as he was providing set-up and even when he broke character during the run-through, so I think this is a part of him (at least a public part of him).
11. All my thoughts on the episode which I have not included here due to SPOILERS. I have typed up my thoughts on the actual episode, which I will post after it airs. It will also be an interesting way to see what stays in and what is removed.
12. Afterwards, John sat down for a bit of Q&A, which was really awesome. I actually started taking notes, which I will write up later. I held back and only asked him three.
13. After the Q&A, he stayed around in the bar and I gathered up my courage and approached him with my hat and a pen and asked if he would be so kind as to sign it. He did so gladly, and OMG! I am going to cherish this forever. While he signed it, I told him I had flown in from Sweden, which seemed a good starter. He was pretty taken aback that I had come so far just for this, but I told him how much I enjoyed his work and his facility with language. I mentioned my background as an applied linguist and my appreciation for how well he plays with the nuance of language, whether it be English or French. He told me he had done a paper while at uni in linguistics and we talked a bit more about language. He thanked me again for coming from so far, and I mentioned that I came on behalf of a lot of people in the US and other places who were also fans but could never make it to something like this (that's you guys!) and that it was a privilege to see this live and hear his process. So in all, a very nice interaction. He was very gracious. I managed not to be obnoxious.
14. I did not ask for a photo because I thought I had taken enough from him. But as it turned out, the Milton Keynes crew was still hanging around later hoping for a photo. When they finally approached him, I took the photo of them as a group with him (super cute) and asked if one of them could take one with my camera. And because I wanted this to turn out nicely, I had the photo taken on my camera (not ipad) so it will have to wait until I get back to Sweden before I can upload it. Someone commented on him needing to hunch down so we could fit in the frame together (sometimes I forget that I am rather short) but I told him to stand tall so all my friends could see his actual hight. Anyway, it was such an awesome experience and was totally worth it.
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