Monday, August 12, 2013

In Buxton: August 8-11, Oh rapture, how Buxtonian

Fans of listening to G&S in the form of MIDI files may have noticed a heavily veiled Iolanthe reference in the title. Or may notice it now that it's been pointed out. Or it may be too heavily veiled even for that. No matter.

Well I woke up after the late night at the end of our show, wondering what to do. My body clock wanted me to get up but my nose didn't. I stayed in the horizontal position for a few minutes while they argued but they made so much noise I got up and took a cup of tea while Mr C (that's my body clock, keep up) was off in town. I was feeling bad - after all, what a day I'd had! I was feeling pretty happy on the whole though.

So, what to do. Ooooh, Patience is on at the PAC!

I don't get to see Patience very often. Partly because I've been in it the last few times it's been on... It was done very well, as you who follow Chris's blog will already know. I actually liked the pre-curtain stuff during the overture, especially the heartbroken girl who couldn't face the goodbyes and decided instead to put on a dragoon's jacket (which was about a dozen sizes too big for her) and join the regiment. The off note was done beautifully and the Bunthorne-Grosvenor scene was hilarious. And the Duke got to give his "truly lovely" speech because they didn't restore the cut song (which I think was all very well for a once-off but I'm completely over it now). And I still think the Act 2 finale is too short.

That evening, Gondoliers done by the Canadians. Unlike most visiting companies they did it in their own accent, which was a mental gear-change because all through Savoynet rehearsals everyone had been prevailed upon to work very hard on a sort of middle class English accent, and any hint of anything else was sufficient reason to stop the rehearsal and correct it.

As the curtain opened I was very impressed, because in set and costume it was completely Italian, as were the hand gestures everyone gave whenever they opened their mouths. (How do you keep an Italian quiet? Tie his hands behind his back.) Unfortunately though every other aspect of the show lacked sparkle - and Gondoliers more than any other show in the canon needs to be done excellently or it's just a disappointment. I did like Marco's aria though - they managed to find a tenor with a strong top range, AND managed to make him look similar enough to Giuseppe to have us believe they were brothers. The whole Inez scene was done well too, with none of the ridiculous excesses some directors use to pad the part of one of the smallest singing roles in the canon.

Friday was basically the same! This time it was Yeomen in the PAC, and having it running through my head so strongly this festival I was able to take a higher level view, just like I had done on the book of Job - and like in Job I managed to make a discovery. One of the songs really belongs in a slightly different place in the script. I discussed the point with Chris, then with the Halls at the Festival Club, and was listened to politely. So I put it out on Savoynet and our resident Dour Scots Gentleman (who we met in 2009 when we did Grand Duke) agreed, and applied a compliment. Yay! My first useful post on Savoynet!!! Later there was a disputing post, and we'll see how it goes from there.

That evening the Irish professional company were doing Mikado, but we had tickets to the following night's performance so we had an evening off. And this wasn't "our" pro company so we weren't on duty carrying costumes. What to do? Stay home, cook in the oven instead of the microwave, and head for the Festival Club at about 9:30pm.

Now I put it to you - if one can't arrive early enough to get one's own TWROAPP, whose TWROAPP can one arrive early enough to get? Trouble is, the power point is attached to a massive pillar which blocks the view of the stage. The tables in front of the pillar are reserved for cast, the ones off to the side are rectangular and therefore have two seats which don't face the stage (most are round and have only one sub-optimal seat), and as for the ones behind it, well, you'd be lucky to see the stage at all. So the table we like also happen to be the one with the best viewing properties. Shame.

On closer inspection I saw that the person sitting at the TWROAPP was in fact Chris Hall - or at least most of him, I verily believe. He had shaved off his beard, and none could recognize him. He had been on babysitting duty, and hadn't seen the show either. But he had heard the gossip - a dry ice based fog machine had been incorrectly tuned, and had set off the fire alarms and triggered a full evacuation! I'm so glad that didn't happen on my watch, I literally can't imagine what the director might have said.

Well, apart from that it was a pot-luck Utopia! Can you even do that? Well as an indication of an answer to that question, Stephen Turnbull was doing the rounds of the room trying to cast three more roles. There just hadn't been enough volunteers on the sign-up sheet. He found them all on our table - Chris Hall as Tarara (the Chief Exploder to the Crown), Chris Rosuav as Lord D and me as the civil engineering chappie who only gets four lines to sing.

I'd have to say it didn't go all that well. A few people knew it but not nearly enough. Still, the tunes are still running through my head. They're good tunes, and we don't get to hear them all that often because it would be a very ambitious GSOV committee that would dare to put on Utopia - it's almost as much work as Phantom, if it's to be done well. Beauty Stone first, Utopia after that.

By the time we got to kick the flowers out of Utopia it was past midnight so it was time to wind up and go home. The weekend is beginning! Not that it makes any difference to us.

Saturday in the Pavilion Arts Centre was Ruddigore. It wasn't quite a concept show, but it was set in summer - so the Reddering waterfront was full of holidaymakers and the usual entertainments that follow them around, rather than fishing gear. Dame Hannah was a nun, but obviously the director knew nothing at all about Christianity (eg the "morals of a Methodist" line could have been gingered up a bit - even "morals of a monk" would at least be Roman Catholic). Like most of the university productions the principles sang with the chorus, which meant most people were on stage most of the time.

They played the original overture, not the normal one. It's longer but I think it's a good piece. Unfortunately the orchestra were really not all that good - whether it was the reduced orchestrations or just plain mistakes I'm not sure, but they let the singers down badly. But the madrigal (which is a capella) sounded really beautiful, probably as well balanced vocally as I've ever heard it.

In Act 2 the ghosts were on stage and visible for the entire act. They were dressed in black suits and in darkness against a black backdrop, but they still couldn't have moved much without drawing attention. Amazing. Or cruel, depending on your point of view.

Chris dropped in on the memorabilia fair after that, and I hung around to bolster up the economy of Buxton and prove to the local council that the G&S Festival contributes about GBP400m to the local economy - which means they should be a lot nicer to the Smiths, and make them want to stay here rather than go to Harrogate.

Which reminds me, they changed Basingstoke to Harrogate right through Act 2, which meant they had to fiddle with the finale to make it rhyme. They did it well. And of course they replaced Birmingham with Buxton. Nobody could see that coming. But it still got a laugh.

That evening we finally got to see the Irish pro Mikado. Like "our" own pro shows it was drawn from an excellent cast so all the details were sewn up better than they normally are. And yet there was nothing really remarkable about it. Nanki-Poo's address was Harrogate of course, and Ko-Ko's little list included adjudicators and stuff. Lighting was quite good - when Katisha had a go at exposing Nanki-Poo's identity it went to a fairly yellow state done with cross lights, some of which were very close to the stage. So when Katisha crossed down stage prompt in a fit of rage it looked like she was going to bite the head off the lamp!

With no adjudication we had no chance of getting the TWROAPP, or any table at all for that matter, so we headed upstairs to look at the projected image. The Irish group did a very good cabaret but the only other people there we knew were of the "polite society" type who sit in a circle sipping wine and conversing in low tones. So we sat alone and went home pretty soon after they finished.

It's very convenient that Stephen Turnbull announces the next day's activities at the end of the cabaret. He not only reminded us that the next day would be Sunday but told us what time the Sullivan service is held. So we set our alarms accordingly.

I have to put in a side note here, because I forgot to include it when it happened and I passed it and thought to blog it. We have a shopping list on the fridge, with pen complete, which we put up in the first few days when we knew there were a lot of essentials to be bought. John Wellington saw it and slyly added "SHEEP DIP" at the bottom of the list. :D

(When I asked him about it, wondering if he wanted some coffee in the kitchen, it turned out he didn't know that story. So I unintentionally replied to his joke with another. Cool!)

OK back to Sunday. Hey that's today, I'm almost up to date!

We got to Buxton Methodist Church at about 10:15 for a 10:30 choir practice and 11am service. We were welcomed without question and directed to the front where it said "RESERVED FOR CHOIR". Rehearsal was VERY difficult. It was a piece I was basically unfamiliar with, printed in 19th century score where minims were the normal note instead of crotchets, scanned in at 72dpi and then printed out with "fit to page" selected so most of the vertical lines were missing. How do you tell a minim from a semibrieve? You see our difficulty, don't you. Plus we were rehearsing to a pipe organ, so almost no attack on the notes.

Anyway, we muddled through eventually. The rest of the service was pretty much the same as last time, although with a different sermon - not that it was any improvement. The reading was from Kings where Elisha called for a harpist before prophesying. It's the only time any prophet ever did that (well, the only one recorded) so of course you can draw a lesson out of it that covers all times and all situations. Basically the sermon consisted of retelling the reading a bit slower and with a bit more context, then the words "And I think" and then a long speech about how music made him feel.

I think I'll skip the Sullivan service next time. (Assuming there is a next time, which I've been wrong about for the last three times.) Still, Diana seemed to enjoy it - it was apparently a double first for her, first time in a Methodist church, and first time she'd been named from the pulpit.

Chris hung around afterward to chat to the organist, but we basically went straight home for a quiet afternoon.

And so to HMS Pinafore - the first Pinafore we've seen this festival, apart from the pot-luck. Hopefully there's some community singing either before or after. But I'll tell you all about that when we get back.

No comments: