Sunday, August 4, 2013

In Buxton: August 2-3, a long weekend of sorts

Like Julia in the Grand Duke I left you all on tenterhooks wondering what it's like to carry costumes. Well just imagine carrying boxes of books - you know, like you might if you run a book business and don't have a loading dock and forklift. Or if you move house and have a lot of books. So, you have the idea of what it's like to have great masses of mass dragging your shoulders out of alignment.

Now imagine they're not neat boxes but floor length robes, which don't want to be folded up or crushed or anything.

Now imagine they're very lop-sided, with most of the weight in the bottom to make them hang properly even when the occupant is dancing. Now you have the idea.

The fairy costumes, on the other hand, were tiny and very light. On the coathanger they looked like the kind of swim suit which would have set 19th century pulpits thundering, but in real life they weren't like that at all. There must be some secret to it.

So when we'd finished bumping in that lot (they call it "getting in" here) we just went off to our own rehearsal. It's been totally amazing being involved in a show with Savoynet. The bar is so much higher than it is at home - the average is about equivalent to the best of our chorus members at home, the kind of people that do minor roles a few times and then go back to the chorus. And the culture is very much work-oriented - nobody sits around playing games on their phone or reading the paper, if they're not on they're practicing marching in time, or running dialogue with the prinnies, or something show related. Not that there isn't a lot of fun time too - scrambled lines, mistaken blocking or anything else that halts a rehearsal invariably causes someone to either respond in character, quote another G&S show or break into a random snatch of dance, whichever is funniest.

At lunch time we watched a DVD of Thespis - GSOV's Thespis of course. Because that's the next show Savoynet are going to do, at the 2014 festival. I noticed it a bit at the time (from behind my follow spot) but a lot more clearly now - the cast of Thespis wasn't as strong as it could have been (very good Thespis, lots were quite good, several were rotten) and the show itself is complete rubbish. If it wasn't for the charm of the uncaught and the fact that it was first, it would be consigned to the rubbish bin of history like so many others of its time. If/when the score is found it'll take the G&S world by storm for two years and then be buried in embarrassment, to come out as often as Utopia or even less.

Then it was back to the hard slog. Rehearse, dinner, Opera House. What a life.

It was Iolanthe done by the pro company, starring our dear friend Amy as one of the fairies. The opening number set the tone of the whole show - "these ladies are my beloved sisters", and they actually showed affection. They kept up the character all through the show too, which I guess is why they're professionals.

If you've read Chris's blog you already know about the ubercool spot effect on Iolanthe's pardon - changed from a green spot to a yellow one by cross-fading the two, an excellent piece of work indeed. That was the point when an old codger next to us asked us to stop enjoying the show so much because he wanted to hear it. We both shut up and unfortunately spent most of the Lord Chancellor's song thinking about what we could tell him at interval. As a Pom he would quite probably have been shut up by my kindly offer of a two pound coin and the suggestion that he upgrade his super economy seat to an Upper Circle seat where he might be able to mix with his own class of selfish bastard instead of having to rough it in the rogue's gallery. He would also have been put properly in his place if he tried to come back with "Don't forget to include the two bores in the gallery in your blog post" and Chris replied "I'll put a description of you too, if you like".

Luckily these brilliant ideas never came to fruition as he promoted himself to an Upper Circle seat (I bet he didn't bother to pay the difference) after interval. From there he glared at us every now and then, and we just smiled back sweetly. At the end of the show he stood in a stairwell (disrupting a flow of people) to wait for another opportunity to glare. We told the Halls our ideas in the club afterwards - and they gave us some more very useful suggestions. We'll keep them in reserve in case of any further lapses of the class system.

So anyway, Iolanthe. Strephon, having been raised by a fairy in a paddock full of sheep, was as affectionate as all his elderly relatives. So was Phyllis, especially to her fiancee - and yet it wasn't embarrassing to watch, simply charming, nothing more. Incidentally they both wore bare feet on stage in Act 1, which was used for comic effect in Act 2 when they got back together again after being dolled up to try to exist in society - in the middle of a very complicated Arcadian dance first Phyllis and then Strephon paused to take off their shoes and throw them satisfyingly into the wings, before picking up the dance right where they left off. Love it! The peers were suitably sneering, which was a stark contrast to the fairies' cheerfulness. Dialogue was delivered naturally, which is something I always like to see. The Lord Chancellor's page was hilarious, following the dance steps precisely with a look of agony on his face.

That night in the club - Pot Luck Pinafore! Due to our lovely Kate having a slight cold, our lovely Elsie stepped in at the last minute to play Josephine. She bore it brilliantly, as a brilliant soprano should. The chorus, aka the entire room, were fairly brilliant too - without rehearsing it about a hundred people (men and women) put the T on the end of "We're exceedingly polite, and he thinks it only right to return the compliment" in the very same millisecond. Part of the credit goes to John Howells for bring a VERY clear conductor - placing consonants becomes a reflex action when you know you can rely on a good cut-off.

You can probably guess the rest - fun times altering words, overacting and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. We had an early night again, because the next morning we had a few errands to run.

When you have wifi and a microwave it's easy to forget you're in a foreign country. Source some props and tart up the ones we have, says the director. Sure, I'll just go to Officeworks and - no wait. The nearest Officeworks is Darwin. Well at least I can find tools and paint at the Scenery Store since tomorrow's Saturday - no that won't work either.

[On a side note, a 66 with a short rake of open wagons just passed my window. The loco was putting out as much smoke as a brand new V/Locity might. The wagons were making as much of an intra-train collision and sticking brakes ruckus as you could expect from an Xtrap set straight out of Ballarat. The track was bumping the train around as much as the brand new track under Middleborough Road. And this is on a freight-only branch line.]

OK back to my story. Where to find a wax seal at such short notice? The job should be easy but it just isn't - the stationer doesn't have them, the Post Office doesn't, and we can't even find a red candle to melt. What's the universal solution for things that open when they shouldn't? Duct tape. Or in theatre, masking tape and paint.

So after all the errands, back to rehearsal. It's really starting to come together, all the chorus numbers have been fully blocked and run, so with just a bit of work with the prinnies we'll be good to run the show. We've even done the curtain calls, and Diana likes them to be fast, just like I do.

Saturday night, and it's the Savoynet group photo and dinner. At the end of rehearsal it was perfect weather for photos. By the time we got everyone together it was thunderstorms and pouring rain. But unlike Melbourne it's not just a case of wait and it'll pass, it was in for the duration. Luckily it let up enough that we could huddle under the shelter of the eaves and get shot, before trudging off damply to the restaurant.

Dinner was lots of fun - especially as this time I didn't accidentally launch my international stage manager career a few days early. We excused ourselves a few minutes after Hail Poetry to go carry Iolanthe costumes out of the Opera House (can you say "glutton for punishment"?) and worked like Aussies for about an hour. That was one show in and one show out, and all sorted and allocated correctly. Free entry to the festival club and free drinks for that? It's a deal!

Pot Luck Trial by Jury! After a desperate plea by Stephen Turnbull I reluctantly, most reluctantly, consented to go up front and be a juror. It's a while since I sang on that stage, come to think of it. And of course we hammed it up - it's not just young Savoynetters who do that, it's hard working war veteran assistant directors as well. That's what I love about this group - everyone is happy to make themselves look ridiculous in order to make the rest of the group laugh. There are different personalities (vivacious attention seekers, mischief filled wags, passionate cricketers, dour voiced codgers, sweet old ladies, the lot) but all of them work hard, welcome newcomers and have a brilliant sense of humour.

So here it is Sunday afternoon and I've spent the morning sleeping, eating (ox tail soup is like French onion soup but thicker and with tiny bits of meat in it), video chatting and blogging. Now I'm going to subject my poor feet to the indignity of socks and shoes again so I can do a load of washing without looking like a hobo. Sorry feet, I know you've still not quite recovered from that bout of nappy rash you picked up when I left shoes and socks on you for over 30 hours in airports and in flight, but you'll just have to grin and bear it like I do. No, I did not say bare it.

OK folks, talk soon, actually maybe not so soon because we've got a double run tomorrow and Tuesday and then it's the show. Micro-blogging on Facebook will stand in if I don't post here.

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