A week in the Tower – Day 4

Day 4 in Folkestone’s Tower Theatre began a little late, as traffic was seriously snarled up around Canterbury.  But once we were all gathered, we began with notes – what went wrong and what went right on All Shook Up‘s opening night.  There were many positives, and also several scenes that needed attention, largely the complicated scenes at the end of each act.  So we sorted out our props and costumes in leisurely fashion while each of these scenes was worked on the stage, sometimes with the intention of increasing the pace, sometimes to make the story clearer and once, for me, because I wasn’t milking a joke enough.  We spent some time rehearsing some gasps of astonishment and also ran the curtain call several more times as we’d experienced some traffic problems with this on the opening night.

Unlike the previous day, backstage talk was varied and unpredictable.  The bat had figured prominently in conversations leading up to the opening night, but since it hadn’t made an appearance, we mostly assumed it had moved on elsewhere.  A second bat-free night seems to have confirmed this theory.  This takes away a level of unpredictability and excitement from the experience, but it does make it more likely that the audience will pay attention to us rather than to the wildlife.

In the hours before we began, a stream of helpful suggestions was made about how to make my final costume change smoother, including wearing my wedding shirt underneath my already tight t-shirt (which made it look like I had several belly buttons).  Other possibilities included wearing the shirt, waistcoat and bow tie as normal and just doing my leather jacket up over them with the excuse that my character must be feeling cold, as well as a series of ever more bizarre permutations which made me look steadily more ridiculous and less fit to go out on stage.  In the end, I just had to practice putting on my bow tie over and over again, with encouragement mixed with mockery from my fellow cast members when I continued to find that I couldn’t do it first go every time.  The knack seemed to be to take it slowly, not rush, and certainly not panic, no matter what other distractions I had.

Having worked on milking a gag, gasping, bowing and changing clothes, it was soon time to start the process of getting ready for the show.  First the hair, then the make-up, both fixed with liberal doses of hairspray.  Then the bottom layer of clothes, the poor items which stay on for the whole show, often underneath another costume.  After this, it’s time to collect the microphones and engage in the vocal warm-up before getting the rest of the costume on and standing by for front of house clearance so that we can begin the show.  For some reason, last night I was particularly restless during that waiting period, and ended up crossing from my stage right beginners position back to the dressing room on stage left several times – not a habit I should be cultivating at all.  I am quite privileged to have a beginner position at the very downstage entrance, almost within touching distance of the audience, so I can see the effect of the opening number almost as they do, and I find the sound, lights and staging electrifying, which sets me up well for what I need to do.

The run went more smoothly than the first night, but with less energy, as there was probably less adrenaline floating around everyone’s systems.  There were a few fumbles – I collided with people twice, but both were during general moments of confusion rather than regimented dance numbers, so hopefully went unnoticed.  Sadly, I don’t even know who it was I collided with, so can’t apologise to them.  One person missed an entrance, but we don’t think the audience will have noticed.  A bus stop sign wasn’t taken off in one scene, as the cast member responsible must have forgotten.  And in ‘All Shook Up’, I made a move a beat too early.  Thankfully, I realised and then waited a beat before making the next move.  My friend next to me on stage noticed (how could he fail to notice me suddenly kneel down?), but we have to hope it was a small enough detail not to have looked awful from the front).

In terms of acting, I think my scenes went better than the previous night and I found a few more of the comic beats.  And the wedding scene costume change worked like a dream, thanks to calm and sensible help from the leading man and the stage manager.  I even had a few seconds to collect my thoughts before heading back onto stage – luxury!  Audience reaction wasn’t as extreme as it had been on the opening night, but some people still saw fit to ovate in a standing fashion, and feedback afterwards was good – friends who came just pointed out two places where I need to work further on audibility.

Today, Day 5, a few people are called for 4, but the rest of us aren’t needed until 5.  Sadly, I was woken up at 6am by an argument on the street outside, but such is life.  My throat is feeling slightly unhappy today, so I shall treat it with care and also get on with some baking – we’re having a buffet between the matinée and evening performances on Saturday, and I have been instructed to make cheese straws.  Theatre people may thrive on the sound of applause, but food is almost as good!

    • Trish
    • August 16th, 2010

    It sounds like a fantastic show and that everyone (including the actors) absolutely loved it. What a huge amount of effort it took to make sure it all ran smoothly – but all worth it in the end. Hope the cheese straws turned out well 🙂

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