Blog: Renny Krupinski

A fight director and stunt co-ordinator for screen and stage, actor and writer, next month he has two plays at the inaugural Studio Season at Oldham Coliseum.

Hero image

22 August

I’m now counting down until I begin rehearsals for Katie Crowder, which is being performed as the opening show of the inaugural Studio season at Oldham Coliseum. We’ve had a couple of not really serious read-throughs, and I am aware they are nothing compared to the pressure of full-on rehearsals where we really have to be on our mettle.

Katie Crowder started life as a one act comedy set in the dressing room of a West End theatre, where two actors are trying to get through the night’s interminable performance, in which one is an understudy and one is a butler. One of them has one line and the other doesn’t have a speaking part at all.

I always felt there was a second act and, having written it, Kevin Shaw, artistic director of Oldham Coliseum, gave me the chance to perform a rehearsed reading with fellow actors Ralph Casson and Kaitlin Howard, in the very studio where we will now be performing it in September.

The rehearsed reading went even better than I had expected and on the strength of that Kevin offered me the chance to not only open the inaugural Studio season with Katie Crowder but then suggested that another play of mine he’d seen earlier in the year, The Alphabet Girl, should follow it.

No pressure then!!

The Alphabet Girl received rave reviews from the Manchester Theatre Awards when it was premiered at the Kings Arms, Salford, exactly one year ago. And Kaitlin Howard, the actress who performs this one-woman show, who is a Coliseum favourite, then went on to be nominated for and subsequently win the Manchester Theatre Awards Best Fringe performance 2014 for playing The Alphabet Girl. She is currently in Edinburgh playing The Alphabet Girl daily to cheering audiences and huge acclaim, and will then open the Wigan Theatre Festival on 2 September, having been asked by the organisers to come and perform especially for them.

In the hope that Katie Crowder will go down as well, Ralph Casson and I begin rehearsals this week. It’s a very tight, many worded, difficult play to perform and the speed is crucial to the comedy. And I must stress it is a comedy and most definitely a comedy for everyone. It’s quite deliberately not a luvvies play that only theatre people will understand. It’s rude, fast and furious, and I hope you come along and join in the fun.

26 August

Day 2 of rehearsals for Katie Crowder have now finished and great progress is being made but not without forthcoming complications rearing their ugly heads. Yesterday the lines were in a very sorry state and our task last night was to go home and DO SOME WORK!! We came in this morning hoping the work had paid off. It had. I’ve sectioned the play off into 10 page segments so we can do specific work on each section and this has really helped and given us a boost in confidence, so much so that we managed a staggered, re-blocked and hardly prompted at all run of act two. A happy state to go home from with a view to much more hard work on the way for the rest of the week. Much thanks has to go to Tom Arrowsmith, who has just completed a foundation course in acting at ALRA North. He has volunteered to sit in with Ralph Casson and myself and drill us on the dialogue while my stage manager, Liam Carty, is still in Edinburgh with The Alphabet Girl. His contribution has been invaluable and will continue to be so.

Publicity is kicking in along with an interview with local newspaper The Saddleworth Independent, posters going up all over the theatre and social media getting a blasting of reviews and tweets. I have had meetings with the technical team at the theatre and plans are taking shape for the studio transformation. Set and props are scheduled to be raided from the theatre store on Thursday and the wardrobe department has brilliantly and quickly resolved all the costume issues.

This is where the complications start. With my other hat on, I’m a stunt co-ordinator when I’m not writing, directing and acting, and although the work is good and comes in fast, I’d sort of hoped everything would dovetail around rehearsals. It has – in a way. For example, today we are rehearsing but only in the evening as I’m filming for Hollyoaks during the day. Friday is pretty much the same as I’m filming for the BBC in the morning. Next week is worse. On Tuesday I’m giving a talk to Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s sponsors straight after rehearsals. I’m not sure when I’m going to prepare that. On Wednesday I’m back with the BBC in the afternoon and on Friday, Hollyoaks has fitted me in in the morning for a fight scene, then I’m off to the National Theatre in London in the afternoon to put the final touches to the staging of a fight in Jane Eyre. After that I’m going over to Sony to work on a new virtual reality game with a fight in it and then I’m coming back to Manchester ready to rehearse on Saturday.

In addition to that The Alphabet Girl is finishing its run in Edinburgh and I must go to Scotland to bring the actor Kaitlin Howard back to the North West, along with the set, ready to open the Wigan Theatre Festival on 2 September and then transfer it to Oldham.

I’m not knocking the amount of work I’m doing. I love it. But really, the gods that organise these things could have got their diaries co-ordinated a bit better these coming weeks and given me a little time to sleep.

But what is great is that Katie Crowder is shaping up to be really funny and a great night at the theatre as a precursor to the already critically acclaimed and award-winning Howard’s performance.

I’ll be letting you know how the week panned out, whether I’ve survived the weekend and made it to week two of rehearsals and just how much downtime I’ve managed to find.

4 September

So, we are now coming to the end of rehearsals, with two runs today and a run on Saturday. Annoyingly, I cannot rehearse this Friday as I’m filming Hollyoaks and then travelling straight down to the National Theatre for a technical rehearsal of Jane Eyre.

It’s been a very stressful week getting the Oldham Coliseum Studio ready for the productions. The main house production is the 80s hit musical Hot Stuff, so we’ve had to deal with a constant stream of drum-thumping pop music. But we’re getting used to it and hopefully when the performances are on it will not be too bad. It was always going to be there – it just makes it hard to concentrate as an actor. The first show in particular, Katie Crowder, is incredibly fast and furious, and any distractions can be fatal.

We’ve managed to put our scripts away and are pretty confident with the lines – there are just so many of them! Mind you, I have only myself to blame.

We’re looking forward to getting the space totally transformed and ready for the performance next week. That’s when the adrenaline will start to kick in and we will realise that we are actually going to have to do this play in front of the public! We have to step up to the mark and prove the play is worthy of a platform at the Coliseum Theatre. There is no point writing a play if you are just going to keep it in the drawer, too frightened to let it see the light of day and be scrutinised by your peers, critics and audiences.

I’m going to bang on again about theatre being for the masses. It is. It is not an elitist pastime. Theatre should be a cathartic experience for anyone who goes. It should take you on an emotive journey. You should definitely have feelings about what you’ve seen, and that’s why I genuinely want to encourage you to feed back on your experience to me, the theatre, the other actors. I’ll be in the bar afterwards to meet anyone who wants to talk. I’m not shy and if you have a comment, please come and tell me, good or bad. I mean that genuinely.

I’ll let you know how Tuesday night goes – but maybe you’ll be there and you won’t need me to tell you. You can buy tickets from the Coliseum box office or from the website.

Incidentally, The Alphabet Girl opened the Wigan Theatre Festival on Wednesday to rapturous applause and fantastic after show comments. Check it out on Twitter: @AlphabetGirlThe and read the fabulous comments people are making.

10 September

So, two shows in and the sound of laughter is such a tonic.

The first night on Tuesday was a bit of a rabbit-in-headlights scenario, in as much as we had absolutely no idea what the reaction would be. They loved it. Totally got the first half, then got that the second half explained much of what had gone before.

The noise from the main house show, Hot Stuff, wasn’t at all detrimental and the pleasure of having a comedy that works carried us through.

A good audience and a good review from the Manchester Theatre Awards set us up for night two, and we had another really loud, vocal crowd that totally bought into the play. Very satisfying.

It’ll always be a nightmare to perform; it’s so fast and such a challenge, but to make people cry with laughter is worth it.

We’re on until Saturday. Do come. If your under 26 it’s only £6.

15 September

Katie Crowder closed on Saturday night after a couple of great reviews from the Manchester Theatre Awards and some fantastic audience responses. We’ve already been asked to perform next year for Wigan Theatre Festival.

Kicking off in a new venue (well, a new space in an old venue) is very hard. Getting an audience to invest time and money in coming to see an unknown is difficult. But we had great responsive audiences every night and Oldham Coliseum was really pleased with the launch.

Today we did the technical and first dress rehearsal for The Alphabet Girl. Earlier this year, Kaitlin Howard, the star and only performer, won the Manchester Theatre Award for Best Fringe Performance for her role in this play. This directly led to the engagement at the Coliseum Theatre. I’m happy to report that the performance is better than ever and we are all looking forward to opening night tonight and the week-long run in the studio space.

Come along and see what all the fuss is about on 15-19 September at 7.30pm. I look forward to seeing you.

We’re also collecting for a charity, the Fragile X Society. Fragile X syndrome is a learning difficulty that affects mainly boys. There is no cure and the condition is largely unknown and under-researched. My twin sons have the syndrome and every penny we collect goes towards furthering our understanding of it. If you know someone with Fragile X or want to know more, visit

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you at the performance.

18 September

The Alphabet Girl has had terrific reviews for its short stay at Oldham Coliseum Theatre. The Oldham Chronicle gave it a glowing review and on Wednesday night we discovered that Kaitlin Howard, the actress who stars in this one-woman show, has been nominated as best actress at The Edinburgh Festival this year for her performance. On top of that, the tweets @AlphabetGirlThe have been fantastic and the after show comments both verbal and written have been stuff to dream of.

We hope to be able to tour the show next year and we are currently looking for venues and sponsors… so if any of you out there know anyone who might have the odd 20-30k to spare, ready to invest do let me know!

The Alphabet Girl has just two more performances at 7.30 pm in The Studio at Oldham Coliseum Theatre (Friday and Saturday night) so if you haven’t seen it yet or are still planning to and haven’t got around to buying your tickets, don’t miss your chance to catch this tour de force performance from one of the UK’s best actresses.

After this, things don’t really calm down, not that I want them to. Next week I’m flying to Budapest to film one of two new films based around the Georges Simenon detective, Maigret, starring Rowan Atkinson and then I’m back to Emmerdale and Hollyoaks arranging the violence for them. I’ve just finished a CBBC series called So Awkward which was all people falling into things, off things and over things and culminated with hanging someone off a door upside down so she could do crunches. It’s a funny job but someone has to do it. Kaitlin will have a few weeks off but incredibly starts rehearsals for Mother Goose at Oldham Coliseum in the middle of October ready for the opening of the pantomime in mid-November. She’ll be playing Fairy Feathers and is delighted to be returning for her second year. After that…it will be 2016 and although there are some jobs pencilled in… a Cyrano de Bergerac in Wales, some Mystery plays in York, Lady Chatterley’s Lover in Sheffield, nothing’s signed and sealed and I don’t believe anything until I’m actually working on it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on the productions of Katie Crowder and The Alphabet Girl and I hope, when we’re next producing them, I’ll be back with more insights into the making and the doing of them. Thank you for reading.

The Alphabet Girl is on 15-19 Sept at Oldham Coliseum

Interact: Responses to Blog: Renny Krupinski

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.