Friday, August 19, 2016

Ahh my Fringe show. I loved this one. For all the hair tearing out and for all the secret tears, this one turned out to be a little piece of magic. 

The first night. Perched up with my dad and Andy in the vertiginous step-free lighting "box" (on which I burst my toe one silently clambering night), we did our first complete run in the venue.

At the tech the day before, we experienced a power out. Turned out that too great a volume in that space trips some switch which shuts the power off for the sake of the residents. Good to know in a show featuring a live band. So we didn't get a complete run through. We didn't get all the songs. We didn't get lights in the right place. And we didn't have any time to fix it.
So, surely as ever in the Fringe, the opening night was a dress and a tech and a performance combined. 

But they all did good. It was a little scratchy in places. But it looked gorgeous and fizzed with youth and energy and Fringe excitement so we kind of got away with it. I fled past a couple of our wonderful costume designers / sourcers, Abbi and Olivia, in the superfast change over between our show and In a Forest, Dark and Deep. (We persisted in running at one hour and 52 minutes so came down at 8:22. Forest started at 9.) And they both seemed delightfully thrilled to see it in the flesh. All credit to them for finding scraps from Home Street and scraps from countless charity shops and having the imagination to make it look so luscious.
I wrote notes to myself during each performance, the volume of which diminished over the week. Monday's notes said things like "top step, Staci", "lovely plant flirting, Alma" and "great head on lap, Lauryn".

We had two tiny children in the audience that night. And when Lysander burst on stage from the back of the auditorium, the tiny girl turned to her mum, full of wonder, and mouthed "where did he come from?" They flinched terribly when the lion roared. And swayed and clapped joyfully when Puck burst into Cee Lo Green's  Forget You. (Which proved to be, as Neil predicted, something of a showstopper.)

Tuesday, we sold out. This was unexpected. But thrilling. Of course. When four latecomers had stamped up and down the steps to get into the auditorium from the back door, after the show had started, taking an interminable time to find empty seats in the dark, I've scribbled a note to my dad: "let's hope no-one else turns up!" My notes dwindle for the second night to mostly being about bottle placement and things I like ("Caroline / Peaseblossom doing this lovely little gesture to Mustardseed during All About The Bass on "every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top" / "Matt, love your face on the Thisbe speech"). I've written many notes to myself about whether or not the donkey's head is visible enough. "Better in grey??" But this show was magic. As pretty much perfect as perfect could be. They nailed it and I danced with delight backstage when I flew round the back when the show was done to start the switchover.

Wednesday, we sold out again.  I wrote "Gregor, don't wear the flower in your pocket!!!", GLITTER SPRAY (a reminder to myself to buy MORE), "Caroline and the tealights great" "Puck lapel after Titania brushes it off lovely". They were a little tired and a little sluggish this night. Understandably. And I think pretty imperceptibly to an unknowing audience.   

Thursday morning, Liz emailed me in great excitement. "We've sold out for the rest of the run." Here are the rightly pleased with themselves cast and band before the show that evening. The show that evening was obviously extra excellent. My favourites in this pic are Tom (drums) and James (very cool bass) at the back of the pack.

By happy serendipity, we had two trumpets that night. Gloria in excelsius deo. Innis had played for the start of the week but was away for the weekend. Geoff had been away earlier that week. And for one night only, we had them both on stage. I'm obviously very biased but it was an extra special show.  

Aside from delighted comments ("Love Potion Eilidh excellent", "Forget You trumpets sounded excellent", "TRUMPETS DREAM (A Little Dream) GORGEOUS"), that evening I have only "Gregor flower pocket NO NO NO". 

By Friday, it had dawned on me that Liz who had also worked like a mule on getting the show up and running hadn't had a chance to see it, any of it, in situ, as she'd been running about MCing backstage as stage manager. So I bravely switched roles with her and harangued them all backstage, stalking Puck through the corridors, to make sure they all got on and off on time. 

This was a treat too. I didn't know they all dance backstage to the songs. I didn't know Lysander and Hermia sit nestled up adorably on the sofa at the start awaiting their entrance. I didn't know Hippolyta changed from her ridiculously regal Amazonian queen outfit at the start into mufti for the middle of the show before she changes back into being queen and then newly veiled wife for the final scene. I loved them all dancing to Puck's nailing it Forget You. I loved the peace after the hubbub when EVERYONE is on stage for the final scene. I loved hearing the audience enjoying it - and guessing from the way the actors spoke their lines that it was going good. I loved hearing a tiny child on the intercom calling "bye" to Demetrius and Helena when they scampered off into the forest in act 2 scene 1. 

I learnt subsequently that possibly the same aforementioned small child had been sitting on the front row and when Lysander lay down to sleep in front of the small child when his weariness proves too much, the child leant down and started whispering his lines from earlier in the play (astonishing recall!) to him.

Here are some of my backstage pics. Matt / Quince and the wonderfully versatile Flute / Thisbe / Abbye. And the dysfunctional family: Oberon, Titania and Puck. Beautiful.

And all of a sudden, it was the closing night. I'm almost certain a guy in the back row exclaimed "Jesus Christ!" when Helena declaimed that she would "die upon the hand I know so well". I presumed it must be Helena's real life husband to have become so involved so quickly in her plight, but, like the night when I convinced myself that Innis' entire family were sat along the back row, apparently not. 

Lysander got a laugh for his wheedling with Hermia when he wished to sleep more closely with her in the woods. Flute got a round of applause for her death scene. My notes say only: "Royals. Just." (Just was shorthand for perfection) and "Geoff amazing trumpet on Look of Love". And the audience clapped and clapped. 

So another show gets packed back into a box and the shreds and leftovers are returned to the decaying gloom of our set / props / costumes store. I'll sit the beautiful donkey's head on a shelf with the comedy papier maché donkey's head I found in there before all of this began.

As ever, hindsight is a phenomenal thing. My vegetative state this week is testament to the work that went into the show. But then so is the incredible outpouring of fondness and fun and collective delight in achievement that has bestrewn social media in the aftermath. Like Oberon's salt green streams turned into yellow gold. 

My only regret is that I couldn't make the show smell of jasmine. 

(I thought it would be too faffy. Stupid defeatist.)


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