Liars’ League: Behind the Scenes, Part 3 – The Event Itself! A guest blog from Liam Hogan

man and machinePreviously (i.e. Part 1 and Part 2) : five amazing stories on the theme of Man & Machine have been selected, polished, paired with our super-talented actors, and rehearsed. So all we need to do now is have them read aloud on stage to an adoring audience, right?
Well, as ever with Liars’ League there’s a little more going on behind the scenes than that! And with this wrap up piece, I also want to credit anyone I have neglected to mention so far. First up for that treatment, is Gaurav Sarin who does the art work for the League’s posters. You can see more of his work here.
After winding our respective ways home from the rehearsals, the actors take their much-scribbled-upon notes and practice their respective Indian/German/Afghan/Machine accents, or make sure they don’t trip up on that key section which happens to also fall on a page break. Katy Darby, founder and Liar Almighty, collects and collates the author and actor bios to create the highly desirable (they all go) event programmes, and updates the Facebook pages as well as ensuring the video and audio recording devices are ready to immortalise the event via Podcast and YouTube channels. Also available via the Liars’ website, of course!
Meanwhile, yours truly, host and backstage photographer for the event, dashed out Part 2 of the blog, before cobbling together his customarily whimsical introduction and a set of fiendishly geeky questions for the Infamous Liars League Book quiz! Ooh …
The doors of our lair beneath The Phoenix opened at 7pm, but the Liars Dissemble (geddit?) a little earlier than that. We have an event to put together, after all …

In addition to a little light room-rearrangement, (good as an actor’s warm up exercise) we run through the tops and tails of each story, to make sure the host isn’t completely discombobulated by the simple act of a handover, and we also take the time to feed the always-ravenous Book of Lies: stories go in, but have you ever seen them come out again? No, nor I!
Mind you, that’s not entirely true anymore, thanks to the endeavours of Arachne Press! Cherry and co have already put together two compilations of the best of Liars’ League stories, London Lies and Lovers Lies, and a third – Weird Lies – is on the way.
Even when the doors open, and while the eager audience amasses, the actors are forgoing the temptations put before them (payment for their services in booze – the event’s in a pub, after all) and instead diligently and soberly practice their lines. What LL does is “performed readings”; so the text is in front of the actors on our snazzy Perspex lectern, but even so, they’re all pros who know that holding their audience entranced often means holding their audience’s gaze, despite the bright lights and the occasional rattle of cutlery. (Food is available, and rather good …)

Sabina Cameron copyright Liam Hogan

Sabina Cameron copyright Liam Hogan

With the room chock full, extending even to the distant far corners, the lights dim, the music quietens, and my big moment arrives – the chance to “Talk like a 1980s robot”. Obviously (thankfully?) this opportunity does not come up very often, and I wasn’t going to miss out … Then, with phones silenced, and audience wondering when I was going to let someone on who knows what they are doing, it was my sincere pleasure to introduce Sabina Cameron to the stage, to read the first story, Duct Tape, Masking Tape, Whatever by (Lovers’ Lies author) Darren Lee.
Now, if you’re reading this blog and you weren’t there, despite my strongly worded advice in Parts 1 and 2: to wit, to attend! – all is not lost, because most appropriately for a Man & Machine theme, Sabina was surrounded by a multitude of recording devices, and if you click the title above it’ll take you through to the Liars page where you can find Video, Audio, and also good ol’fashioned text! (Captured by the fine weave of the textaphone, lower left)

Adam Diggle copyright Liam Hogan

Adam Diggle copyright Liam Hogan

Following Darren’s quirky tale we had Adam Diggle, reading What I am Without by (Lovers’ Lies and Weird Lies author) Richard Smyth. Richard is usually a denizen of Leeds, and ran Liars’ League Leeds from there (easier than running either of the other two offshoots – Liars’ League NYC and Liars’ League Hong Kong from Leeds!) until, after about a year, the Liars’ magic rubbed off on him and he became the world famous author of Bum Fodder – An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper, appearing (aptly enough) on Loose Ends to discuss it with Clive Anderson. And now there’s no stopping him, though alas, this does mean Liars’ Leeds is taking a break.
Richard and his brother James, both of whom have had a multitude of stories performed at Liars’ League and both of whom appear in the pages of the aforementioned and forthcoming Arachne Press’s Liar Anthologies, were hiding out at the back of the room, too modest (or possibly, too late) to grab the front row limelight.

Peter Noble copyright Liam Hogan

Peter Noble copyright Liam Hogan

Wrapping up the first half was Peter Noble, reading The Archive of Ivan Dragoyevich by (Weird Lies author) Alan Graham. As you can see, even the shadows were channelling the spirit, of the late, great, Ivan Dragoyevich! Or the Monster. Or both. Peter and Alan are League regulars so you can track down their previous stories/readings via Who are our Actors? and Who are our Writers?

You’re smart people – of course you are. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this… you KNOW how you get onto our “Who Are Our Audience?” page don’t you? Full disclosure forces me to admit we don’t currently have such a page. But we do have a photo …

liar audience

Liars’ Audience copyright Liam Hogan

There they are! Don’t they look like they’re having a blast? Next time, it could be you! This is during the interval, of course, with the house lights up. Can’t see a soul out there during the intros/readings/book quiz. Fortunately we have very good echolocation…

liarsaul

Saul Reichin copyright Liam Hogan

liar henrietta

Henrietta Clemett copyright Liam Hogan

And after the Infamous Liars’ League book quiz (example (trick) question: “What is the name of the time traveller in HG Wells’s The Time Machine?”) in which three brand spanking new books were given to three highly intelligent and attractive audience members, it was time for the second half, kicked off by Saul Reichlin reading The Car Mover by Rosanna Boscawen.
Rosanna is a new author to the Liars stable, which is humungous, and multinational, and quite simply amazing, as it only includes authors who have had a story read by the League. (Well, yes, I suppose I might be in there somewhere…)
Ending the evening on a predatory note, was Henrietta Clemett, dressed for the Afghan plains, reading The Love Song of the Predator Drone by Owen Booth. I might have mentioned accents previously; Henrietta’s included Ahmed the classical historian/goatherd and the embedded German war philosopher Sabine, a character with whom at least one audience member immediately fell in love …
And that, ladies and gentlemen, brought the evening, and brings this blog, to a rapid close. I won’t mention the hours spent, post-event, making sure the actors, authors, and hosts drank The Phoenix dry (or drier, at the very least) and all the other people who stuck around afterwards, to bask in the glow that comes from another successful event. Intrigued? Excited? Inspired? Visit the Liars’ League website, sign up for our Facebook page, follow the Liars, or tootle your email address over and we’ll do all the work, keeping you informed twice a month, just before each event, and just after the web is updated with all those glorious stories! (Another of Katy’s Herculean tasks …)

We’ll be back, sans blog, for Kings & Queens on the 11th June, and you writers out there, you have until 2nd June to get your 2000 word (or shorter!) stories in on Hope & Glory – July’s theme. Write for us. Read for us. Or sit back and let us read to you. And like the motto says, Everybody Wins!

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