Back among ὁι πολλοι

It’s getting on for a month since Iolanthe, which I was performing with the Rhos-on-Sea Savoyards in Colwyn Bay, finished and I’ve been intending to write something about how the shows went.

We had 4 performances, on consecutive evenings.  The house was comfortably full on the first three nights but surprisingly less full on the Saturday (which, being a weekend and the final night, would traditionally be expected to be the busiest night).  Although there were plenty of mistakes each evening (mostly different ones each time), things generally went pretty well.

One of the most memorable moments was when the Lord Chancellor missed one of his entrances on the first night.  The actor was sitting down in the dressing room revising his lines for the forthcoming scene and I was fairly sure that he was due on stage imminently.  Given that he’s got over 50 years experience as a Savoyard and I was new to the group, I was reluctant to say anything about this, but I mentioned it to one of the other established members of the troupe who gently raised it with him and was assured that there was plenty of time yet.  That was just a moment before the director came storming down the stairs to find out where the Chancellor was when he was supposed to be on stage!  The actress playing Iolanthe (whose last remark before his (intended) entrance was along the lines of “but, lo, here he comes…”) did a fine bit of ad-libbing (“I was sure I saw him coming. It must have been somebody else.”) and managed to keep the audience amused until he made it onto the stage.

I had friends go to see at least 3 of the performances and they all seem to have enjoyed what they saw, even on the Friday night, which was (for some reason) by far the weakest performance overall.  Several of them remarked how well I played the part of a pompous git – at least I hope they think I was only acting!

Sadly, the person who was giving me lifts across to the rehearsals has now landed a new job near Liverpool and will be moving away from the area very soon.  Since it’s a bit too far to cycle to Colwyn Bay every week and I don’t think it’s practical to get the train across every time, this means I won’t be performing in the next show (“The Mikado”, to be performed in the autumn) and quite probably not in any others.  I hope, though, that I might be able to get across and watch some more of the shows now that my experience of taking part in G&S has given me an increased appreciation for the art.

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Nearly showtime!

This time next week I will be getting into costume and enduring the tender ministrations of the make-up crew in preparation for the opening night of Iolanthe.  We had the penultimate ordinary rehearsal yesterday and have the final one on Friday, followed by a technical rehearsal on Monday (when we’ll be in the performance venue for the first time and sorting out details of lighting etc.) and a dress rehearsal on Tuesday, then performances from Wednesday to Friday.

By this stage it is, fortunately, beginning to come together quite nicely although it is still a little unpolished in places.  I’m confident that we should be able to put on a show that will be entertaining both for the audience and the players.

In case you happen to be in the area next week, the show is happening at St Paul’s Church in Colwyn Bay (starting at 7:30pm each night, I think) and tickets are available at the bargain price of £5.

Curtains and characterisation

Last night’s Iolanthe rehearsal was fun, because we had our first look at the costumes we’ll be wearing.  For the peers (I am one), this consists of a heavy cloak (which feels like it’s made from an old curtain and weighs about half a tonne) and a coronet (as well as black trousers and a white shirt – but we’ll be providing those ourselves and probably not bothering with them until the dress rehearsal).  Rather than just seeing the costumes and trying them on, we wore them for the rehearsal as this gives us a chance to get used to moving in them.  Some of the moves, such as sweeping the cloak to accompany singing the words “bow, bow, ye lower middle classes” (one of my favourite lines in the chorus part, despite my egalitarian leanings), can’t really be done without the costumes and it’s also useful to know what movements we can’t achieve while wearing them.

Those of us who remembered also brought the shoes we’ll be wearing for the performance, as one of the more seasoned actors within the company recommended this as being an excellent way of helping you to get into character.  It’s also useful, as with wearing the cloaks or other parts of the costumes (probably less of an issue for the fairies with their wings, but certainly applicable to their wands), for establishing what is and isn’t possible when dressed for the part.

Initially, I must confess, I was somewhat sceptical about the value of wearing my performance shoes during a rehearsal but when I actually tried it I found that the combination of the shoes and the cloak did help me to get into the character of a rather proud and condescending upper-class twit that the role calls for.

There’s only about a month now until the show itself (28th to 31st March) and the growing awareness of our increasingly limited rehearsal time seems to be doing wonders for everyone’s concentration.  I think it will indeed be alright on the night.

Tripping hither and thither

I’ve just got home from my fourth rehearsal for Iolanthe. Tonight we went through the first part of Act 2 and also the finale. Together with last week’s run through of Act 1, this means I’ve now had at least one go at everything I’m involved in. It’s still a fair way off performance standard but still plenty of time until the show.

Bang the Trumpets!

I have recently begun a new musical venture, joining the Rhos-on-Sea Savoyards for their forthcoming performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe. I was roped in a couple of weeks ago by my friend Jane, who is the assistant director of the show, as they were rather short of men to sing in the chorus. I’m going to be one of the 2nd basses (i.e. the ones who get the proper low notes), playing the part of a brainless peer.

I went along to watch their performance of Ruddigore last year and was very impressed. Although I had previously heard recordings of various Gilbert & Sullivan pieces, that was the first time I’d seen a whole one of their operas performed live. It did somewhat kindle my interest in their work, although I didn’t expect that I’d actually be taking part in a performance quite so soon.

So far I have been to two rehearsals (they are weekly) and have been listening hard to recordings of the various pieces I’ll be singing in. I’m getting to grips fairly well with the first, and I think most difficult, of the songs for the male chorus, the Entrance of the Peers (AKA “Loudly let the trumpet bray”), which includes such fun lines as “bow, bow, ye lower middle classes, bow ye tradesmen, bow ye masses”. The main problem I’ve been having with it is mixing up the words in a couple of lines so that, instead of singing “blow the trumpets, bang the brasses” as I should, I am tending to sing “bang the trumpets”.

The performances, of which there will be four, will be taking place in the last week of March, so I’ve got plenty of time to get the words straightened out.