Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Buxton Blog - 12-13/8, I am, you are, we are Arcadian

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to A Buxton Blog! We do apologise for the break in transmission, it is a technical hitch to do with being in several places at once, but this will be rectified as soon as possible. Just don't hold your breath.

To recap, we were in the middle of Arcadians rehearsals with a brilliant MD who brought the show from a 99% to a 110%.

That evening we didn't have a rehearsal so we very gratefully took the evening off and went to see Derby's Princess Ida. We don't get to see Ida very often!

It was a kind of concept production, with King Hildebrand's court dressed in modern evening dress, and Gama's three sons in bikie gang gear. Ida's uni students were all in very boyish suits and trousers, which made Gama's line at the end "Stick to em, men's attire suits you not" a little incongruous.

But the rum tum tum of the military drum and the guns that go boom boom were exactly as they always are, and I'm really glad we had time to see it.

Friday... more rehearsals. For half the day anyway - that evening we bumped in to the theatre (not the opera house, the performing-arts-centre-formerly-known-as-Paxton) so Robert gave us the afternoon off. We're spoilt, only six hours a day of rehearsal. Other groups do eight. If I were director I'd probably try to do ten or twelve but my cast would probably hate me for it.

So what to do with the time? Why, go and see Foggarty's Fairy of course! It's a Gilbert play (no music except silent-movie-style stuff for the beginning and end of each act) and contains not only his stamp of humour but a lot of actual lines that he reused in the shows. I think WSG must have been the forerunner to all the Douglas Adamses and Jasper Ffords who try to deal with the concept of time travel and its implications - and like them all, he found he had to deal with a logical paradox, because Mr Foggarty, by travelling back in time to erase an inconvenient incident in his past, thereby erased the need (and opportunity) to travel back in time and erase it. Quite a brilliant plot.

At interval we noticed it was 4:20... which meant we wouldn't be able to bump in at 4:45 (even though Foggarty's Fairy was only semi-staged and wouldn't take long to bump out). A quick phone call to Andrew and the cast pause their preparations to arrive on the dot laden with costumes. Phew.

When we got in we started arranging the set - a lot of it was hired from Paul Lazell, who managed to be pleasant and courteous throughout the whole operation (something I hadn't seen before). He kept it up all through the show too, which was a relief.

Running our entrances and exits was a process that had to take a while, because (like finding out who owns the zebra) it involved working through a large number of other issues such as wing space, dressing room space, how to deal with curtains instead of wings, etc. Robert didn't enjoy that, especially as the cast couldn't hear him when they weren't actually on the stage. I did my best to relay instructions but it still took time. Then the techs told us there was nobody rostered to do an evening shift, which meant the last-minute extra rehearsal time we'd organized would not happen. Argh. Still, we could tell the cast to go home and get an early night before the Big Day.

Do as I say, don't do as I do - because Chris and I went to the Festival Club to sing a Pot Luck Pinafore! Not to be missed, even on the eve of a rehearsal, sitzprobe and double performance. We got in just after 10pm but even so all our favourite tables were occupied! We'll have to get in even earlier... The Halls (two only, Robert was with his grandparents, who incidentally LOVE the festival just because of events like this which occupy both parents) came in soon after and couldn't find a table at all, so they sat with us. Q: When is it polite for four people to sit together at a table without conversing because they're always either singing or playing games on their phones? A: When all four are confirmed geeks and proud of it. Actually it wasn't just games - Chris Hall had an SSH session so he could keep an eye on the major software upgrade one of his home computers was doing.

And of course the pot-luck is a lot more fun when there's people present who haven't heard all the standard Angelico line alterations ("A carrot, a carrot, I'll pick with this sailor fell" - hey, Sir J was a vegetarian!) and who know a whole set of their own that we hadn't thought of.

Arcadia Day morning dawned cloudy and chilly - in the shade it was so cold it was silly. I just about had to wake David with a bucket of water (obviously going home early didn't help him) but we all got to the theatre in good time. Very good time, since it wasn't open yet.

Fast forward to the middle of the sitz... the fire alarm goes off! We all have to evacuate. Chris managed to grab his entire backpack and stuff (he was the only person his whole area so he wasn't getting in anyone's way) and I, to my shame, grabbed my cup of tea but not my script or even my phone! I guess fire drills at work have left me cynical about the whole thing, "OK let's play at getting outside, waste everyone's time and then get back to work". Bad thing.

So we were outside and just starting to get bored and think there might be something to it when someone said we had the all-clear. We all started filing back in, and then someone said we didn't. So we all filed back out. This happened THREE TIMES and I was just about spitting chips. I never get the jitters, even when I'm doing something new and important, but when the progress is held up and nobody tells me why, that's when it all hits.

Well eventually we got through the rehearsal, with about twenty seconds to spare before the orchestra went into overtime... phew.

A short lunch break and we were back for a performance. No dress rehearsal, so the sound and lighting cues had to be set while we ate lunch. It's a major honour to be in Buxton, but it's hard work. But happily, Angelicos can play several instruments at once and always rise to the challenge when there's hard work to be done. By 2:15 we were just about done, and the front of house people asked me if they could open the house! The show was so popular that people wanted to buy tickets early to avoid disappointment, but they couldn't fit them all in the foyer once they'd bought them so they had to start pushing them through into the house!

So we got ourselves ready and opened the house. And then waited. 40 minutes or so in which to do nothing. No wifi or 3G signal either. As it happened the dressing rooms were so small people had to dress in shifts and then come and stand in the wings, so I had people to chat to. That was nice.

At about 2:55 I was informed that Ian Smith was going to make a speech in front of the curtain, just as if we were in the opera house. Sure, why not. I had to arrange cues with the MD anyway. Whispered exchanges behind the curtain to arrange the order of operations...

At 3:00 and nine seconds the show went up. My first show (what, first? Well, nearly first), and dead on time. Ludwig would be proud of me, beginning as I mean to go on.

Well the show went off fine. Let's just leave it at that, because Blogger might not like it if I spam them with a blow-by-blow description of the performance. Sombra sang the last note of "Far away in Arcadee" right into my ear, I got to crack my standard "filly over there" joke to a new Eileen (Jack: "The filly over there, isn't she a corker!" me, whispered to Eileen: "I don't think he means me, he must mean you!"), the audience laughed at every joke and we took a group photo at the end of the show.

Dinner, once again very brief, then another show. Partial bump-out between acts, and we could hear the pros doing Yeomen in the opera house. Our friends were there doing their partial bump-out too, the one they'd asked us to help with and we'd had to decline for obvious reasons. The audience even better, if possible. At the end, general congratulations - a hug for that, pretty maid! Aye, a hug all round!

Then bump out. I have to say, up to now I've always thought blonde teenage girls who (it's generally agreed) would have a good chance of becoming the next Miss Australia are slow witted, skimpily educated and unaccustomed to working hard in stressful circumstances. On no account would I have expected to find one who could beat me in mental CPU speed. I must now apply an exception table to that idea, in honour of a young lady by the name of Emily. First of all, she got herself out of costume and reported for duty before we'd finished carrying the last few bits of Act 3 set back to the truck. That's +1. Then she took charge of the job of packing the costumes and proceeded to attack it in a manner that made Chris think hard about whether we'd be out by 11pm and be able to go to the Festival Club and sing a pot-luck Trial by Jury. That's +2. Then when I started carrying costumes from the dressing room to the wings for packing, both her hands and her brain out-performed mine by at least 250 milliseconds at each point. If I were petty that would be -8 but I'm not so it's +12. While all this was happening she saw her mother (who's in the Yeomen cast but not Arcadians, and was here to help with costumes) carrying a big box and stopped her to make sure it was a suitable one-person lift. That's +13. Then her mum made a funny comment back and the banter was on for young and old (literally, except "easy on the old"). That's +14. I was forced to make a comment along the lines of "Emily, I used to be like you... if you don't want to end up being begged for at every show and every other event the society does, stop now!"

One day I'd like to see Chris and Emily face off at one of those trivia quizzes. I think they'd be fairly evenly matched.

And so to the cast party. It wasn't the grog-and-banter kind of cast party like the one we had for Trial and Sorcerer. That kind needs lots of young people and at least 25% of them have to be the antics type. But a few decorous drinks and nibbles can be just as much fun, because people start retelling their experiences during the show, remembering past experiences and telling the stories, exploring "what-ifs" based on the characters in the show (especially in the first person) and generally doing what there isn't time to do during rehearsal. It's even better when the two guest artists are present and Andrew has a tube of Vegemite in his cupboard. They took it quite well I think. Vincent said he "disliked it less than Marmite". That just about brought the house down.

And now here it is Sunday afternoon and The Arcadians is gone from our lives - departed and finished. Our Sombra has gone off on holiday up north. We've just had our first music rehearsal for Yeomen, and we're going to do it all again. In a few scant days that too will be finished, as will the 2011 G&S Festival. Carpe diem.


Talldad said...

If Tues is the 16th that will make a fine Victory in Buxton to match 15th August Victory in the Pacific or VJ Day. :-)

Michael Angelico said...

Dad you know better than that! VP Day! VJ Day was 2/9/45.