Liars’ League: Behind The Scenes, Part 2 – The Rehearsals! A guest blog from Liam Hogan

man and machineA quick recap (or, heck, you could go read the whole of Part 1): from a field of 45 submissions five brilliant stories battled triumphantly through the Liars’ strenuous selection process, and with the help of a little light feedback (a nip there, a tuck there) are in fine fettle and ready to be paired with five wonderful actors from the Liars’ stable. Or is it an “unstable”? What IS the collective name for the over a hundred actors on the Liars’ books?

It is this wonderful resource that is the unique and enviable raison d’etre of Liars’ League; it was the happy marriage of a desire to see short stories read to their fullest impact, and Katy Darby and Tim Aldrich’s links to the acting fraternity, that lead to the foundation of the League, and is still the reason why it works so well. Great stories, read by pros. This is where the magic begins!

Katy does a call out to all of the actors; who’s available for both rehearsals and performance? (Pesky actors, sometimes they get like, y’know? paid work!) Who can do both a German and an Afghan accent? If it’s a first person story, who (as far as possible) embodies the narrator – the essence – of the piece? We are fortunate indeed that our actors cover a wide range of ages and types, of backgrounds and accents.

The nature of the event – performed readings – attracts talent from the worlds of voiceover (such as recent VOX 2013 Best Female Voiceover Artist winner Louisa Gummer) and audio books (such as Saul Reichlin, the voice of Steig Larsson’s novels on audio, who’s reading on Tuesday! TODAY), as well as more traditional acting forms, and we welcome them all! If you’re an actor interested in performing for the League, see So, you want to read, then, do you?

Once the actors have had a chance to read the stories, it’s time for the Man & Machine rehearsals!

liars rehearsalWARNING: This is an artist’s impression. Actual rehearsals may not be quite as civilised…

So, on Sunday night, fighting grey skies and a Northern line reluctant to carry anyone anywhere, we descended upon the oft-used Kentish Town kitchen of the long-standing Liars’ patron mysteriously known only by a single initial – Q. We encourage and prefer it if the authors can turn up as well, but sometimes their input is limited to a few guideline comments, delivered from afar. (Or “Leeds” as it is sometimes known).

First up for the rehearsals was “The Love Song of the Predator Drone” by Owen Booth (here!), to be read by first time Liar actor Henrietta Clemett. Henrietta has been on the Liars’ books for a while – heads were scratched as to where and when she had her audition; we think it might have been at the Wheatsheaf (the previous Liars’ venue, before we outgrew it). She quickly found her feet and even Owen’s lengthy sentences were no match for her German and Afghan accents.

As she read, Katy and I chipped in directions and suggestions while Owen sat in the corner laughing at his own jokes … Some of the suggestions needed a small amendment to the text – a repeated word here, a need for a pause there, or in one case me getting entirely the wrong end of the stick (silly me), though others kindly agreed that perhaps I wouldn’t be the only one. Being read to is a very different beast to reading the story yourself, and you don’t have the chance (it would somewhat destroy the flow) to ask the actor to repeat a line you didn’t quite get. A quick on-the-fly edit by Owen later removed the possible obstacle, and on with the reading.

Different pieces pose different challenges to the actor-readers. The second rehearsal (What I Am Without by Richard Smyth (Not here!), read by Adam Diggle) raised a perennial difficulty; how the audience can distinguish between the various voices when there is only one reader. In this case made doubly complicated because the narrator was… well, no, I won’t spoil the surprise! Adam had read for the Liars’ at a related event, (Willesden Herald Short Story Prize) but this too would be his first Liars’ League event proper. Naturally, he aced it, but as mentioned in the selection process blog, it is in matters of voice that some good stories prove to be well-nigh unperformable. Occasionally – when the  story is strong enough – we cheat, and drag two actors up onto stage, but that really wouldn’t have helped in this case – you’ll see what I mean when you come watch the show TONIGHT – you ARE coming, aren’t you? Or, if you find this blog in some distant and hazy future, seek out Part 3 for links to the recordings.

The third rehearsal was “The Archive of Ivan Dragoyevich” by Alan Graham (here!), read by Peter Noble. Both Peter and Alan are Liars’ League regulars, and by some strange mind meld thingy, were in perfect synch as the story began.

Like a misaligned video/audio track though, some issues came up as the story proceeded, and as we sat trying to imagine ourselves into the deeper and darker scenarios that Alan had created, well, I for one was thankful for the creature comforts of a cup of tea and a Katy Darby baked cake …

The two remaining stories were rehearsed before and after the traditional Sunday session, (due to actor availability) so this was a short rehearsal for us – giving those who needed to brave bus replacement services a chance to do so with relative impunity. The only thing that remained, official business wise, was to decide the running order.

Those of you who have been to Liars’ nights before know we like to end on a high. usually with a comic story, but there is much more to it than this. With three stories in the first half and two in the second, we’re looking to give you an emotional and literary roller coaster. Our stories for this theme include horror and humour, dark and light, short and long, fantasy and gritty realism. After much debate, the running order will be:

Duct Tape, Masking Tape, Whatever by Darren Lee (Lovers’ Lies author), read by Sabina Cameron
What I am Without by Richard Smyth (Lovers’ Lies author), read by Adam Diggle
The Archive of Ivan Dragoyevich by Alan Graham (Weird Lies author), read by Peter Noble
The Car Mover by Rosanna Boscawen, read by Saul Reichlin
The Love Song of the Predator Drone by Owen Booth, read by Henrietta Clemett

Unless of course, it isn’t.

The next blog, Part 3, will detail the event itself, but really, the biggest favour you could possibly do yourself, is to turn up on Tuesday TODAY!!! at The Phoenix, Cavendish Square and watch it live!

© Liam Hogan 2013

1 thought on “Liars’ League: Behind The Scenes, Part 2 – The Rehearsals! A guest blog from Liam Hogan

  1. Pingback: Liars’ League: Behind the Scenes, Part 3 – The Event Itself! A guest blog from Liam Hogan | Arachne Press

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