I'm back! I'm back! Real life has crashed back in after the most all consuming show I've ever done (apart from Hair - pause while all readers who were in Hair stare off into the middle distance and sigh), has taken its final curtain.
What a week, what a month, what a year so far. As the giant comedown continues apace I'm going to share some highlights of The Gondoliers 08 - mainly because if I can remove it from my head I might be able to get some work done instead of mooning about like a lovestruck teenager. It was only G&S for goodness sakes! Get a grip!
Jumping straight in then, to the dress rehearsal. I have literally never been so scared in my life. For some reason I had forgotten that the stage at the Kings is huge, and wide and opens straight out onto the level of the stalls. That last fact in particular totally freaked me out. I was expecting a bit more distance between me and the audience, hopefully making it easier to pretend they weren't there. In my mind at that moment it became clear that I was about to be found out and as a result every move, word and note that had come so easily in the church hall left the building and hailed a taxi - leaving me with nothing. Like Bambi in the path of an oncoming 4x4 I stumbled ashen faced through scene after scene. I discovered that the rake of the stage was likely to make me fall over at any given moment. I realised that the slippyness of my character shoes was likely to make me fall over at any given moment. I grasped that the sheer distance to travel from down stage left to down stage right was likely to make me fall over at any given moment. I noticed that if I failed to say the correct line at the correct time then the whole show was likely to fall over at any given moment. (As it turned out on the opening night, it was the stairs on the bridge that actually made me fall over, but what is a slightly skinned elbow between friends). By the time the curtain call came round I was a complete nervous wreck and really wanted it all to go away while I threw up.
Luckily I managed to get all that out of my system by spending monday night alternately shivering with cold and fever as my body tried to reject the excess adrenalin. At 4.16am on Tuesday morning I really needed to be reminded what on earth I was doing this for. Thankfully things look better in the daylight and at 9am I was pretending to eat an apple turnover on The Meadows as I waited for it to be time to go back to the theatre. I had volunteered to spend the morning standing on stage while lights were focussed and this was quite simply the saviour of the week. Getting the time to just hang out up there and work through the shock and gain balance and composure made my fevered brain settle down again. I totally reccommend it as a cure to stage fright. Unfortunately we were done by midday which left a huge expanse of afternoon to fill with something other than panic. We ambitiously tried to fill a large amount of it with food, but there is no diet like the show week diet, where 3 mouthfulls of large suspicious sausage are more than enough for anyone.
Pointlessly wandering around in the rain was the next item on the busy doing nothing schedule. It is amazing how crucial the accquisition of pink ribbon can become when you need a common goal to focus on. Soaked to the skin, annoyed by people on Princes Street and bereft of chat,a gondolier and I returned to base camp STILL with 2 hours to go before it was reasonable to return to the theatre. Telly! Why hadn't we thought of that before!
At this point in proceedings I must just digress for a moment. Richard & Judy*. Richard & Judy!!!! How on earth do they get away with it? I don't watch very often, but when I do they always play a blinder. I realise many comedians have parodied the crass gear changes from tragedy to cookery, and the inappropriate comments from Richard are the stuff of legend, but...last tuesday he was interviewing a lady who had written a book about the struggle she had looking after her severely disabled child and the brave but heartbreaking decision she made to have her taken into care. Richard pipes up (while the mother was cradling the child in her arms, on live tv);
"Infanticide. You considered infanticide. How were you planning on executing the infanticide? What were you thinking? Pillow on the face?".
I may well have delicate sensibilities but I'm not sure that infanticide is a word to be bandied about at tea time. Especially not when the interview ends with a handbrake turn like this;
"so there we have it. The tragic tale of a woman who considered the infanticide of her severely disabled child. Available in shops now. And now... yo yo dieting..."
Anyway, back to the show. It was okay as it goes. Once the overture started on the Tuesday night, the week went on fast forward and I find it difficult to distinguish what happened when. I do remember that as we reached the climax in "Contemplative Fashion" on opening night (my favourite song), someone in the audience exclaimed "nice!" at full volume. That is probably the most satisfying reaction I have ever received - so much so that we nearly forgot to finish the song.
Once one performance goes well superstition kicks in and you do everything you can to replicate it. This mainly comes in the form of pacing in the same direction when not on stage and dressing in the same order, or eating the same type of sweet at the same time every night. This time round my "sister" and I became slightly OCD over our tights. G&S is all about white ballet tights. Thick unyielding instruments of torture with a seam up the back, they fit nobody. The only way to wear them is either with a pair of (2 sizes too small) control pants over the top, or with the gusset at your knees. Oh the glamour! For some reason Gianetta and I became convinced that all our talent and knowledge of the lines were contained in these tights...and if we washed them then it would all be lost. Well, quite frankly by friday night the tights could have walked on stage and done the show by themselves. Mmmmm crunchy!
Friday night. Apart from minor tights discomfort, I can honestly say that Friday night was pretty much the best night of my life so far. Almost everyone I know on the planet was in the audience and my voice and brain and body did what they were told throughout. It's cheating to get all your friends in the audience in order to get a big cheer, but it's lovely all the same
The trouble with peaking on the Friday is that there are still 2 performances and only one direction in which to go. Suffice to say I was rubbish in the matinee, but nobody (apart from my pride) was hurt. Unfortunately that can't be said of saturday night. Poor Guiseppe (my unfortunate Gondolier) bore the full force of my lack of co-ordination. Firstly, when we are re-united in the second act after 3 months apart, I came barrelling across stage at top speed (downhill) and threw myself into his arms. Sadly I hugged in the wrong direction and headbutted him squarely in the face. Just as the stars were clearing from his eyes and the little birdies dispersing from around his head I decided to take him out completely. I can't be doing with having to share the stage with someone else!
The cachuca was the big dance number. It has taken months to perfect the spinning and the stamping and the clapping, but by show week it was looking rather splendid. The Gondoliers party (ie me and Guiseppe, Gianetta & Marco) got off extremely lightly and spent most of the number off to one side drinking apple juice. However, as the singing stops and the excessive dance break begins we took our places front and centre. By some miracle none of us span right into the orchestra pit (don't laugh, I've seen it happen! - but that's another story). Our arms went up at the right time, we stamped on the right (and left ) foot and I even remembered to swish my skirt at the same time as Gianetta. We made it through 5 performances without a hitch. So why oh why did it have to go so badly wrong on the very last chord of the very last night?
The orchestra loudly swirls as we quickly twirl and on the final two chords the gents kneel, ladies put their foot on their knee and we throw our arms in the air to tumultuous applause. At least that's what should happen. What actually happened was that the momentum carried us half a turn too far, I thought we'd recovered, but Guiseppe was still half a beat behind. This meant that he was still in the process of kneeling as I brought my knee up full force - right into his face. I experienced the sickening crunch of bone on bone (it felt kind of like attacking a melon with a hammer) and felt teeth biting through my costume as the poor guy went sprawling to the floor with a cocker spaniel yelp. He screamed and I involuntarily shouted "SHIT!!!!!!" right into the microphone at the front of the stage. Through some superhuman effort Guiseppe picked himself up, span through the encore and carried on with the show while mildly concussed. What a trooper! I think I will have 'Nam style flashbacks to that moment for weeks to come!
And now it's over. As is the way of these things we tried to make it last longer by partying all night, but unfortunately the pink wine runs out eventually and you have to go to bed. Going to bed signals the official end of show week, so I did manage to fend it off till the Sunday night, but I'm still paying for that. I'm clearly getting too old for this.
The final nail on the show week coffin was at choir rehearsal on Wednesday. Lots of Dunfermline G&S people kindly came to see the show and were very complimentary. I get embarrassed easily when people give me compliments ( prefer the anonimity of applause), but it is still nice to hear that people thought you were good. I guess my head was swelling slightly, but then one of the older ladies arrived and plonked herself down in her normal chair a row in front of me. I knew she had been at the matinee and was waiting to hear what she had to say. She turned to me while taking her coat off and said,
"yes, it was okay. Your voice sounded tired".
No more than I deserve really
*For anyone not of these parts, Richard & Judy are a married couple and king and queen of daytime TV. Richard is a bit younger and thinks he's a dish (he's actually an embarassment), Judy is becoming increasingly elderly and live telly gives her the shakes - which is unfortunate as live telly is her job.