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Oh Dearie Dear, Where Have I been!
“The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures” has been and gone … for now, at least. I know I said in the last post I would put up photos and would be witty and pithy about rehearsals but I’m afraid time, tiredness and emotion defeated me. So, weeks after the performances, I am back!
I would like to take you on a journey!
So, pack your sandwiches, your thermos and iced fancies and strap yourself in … you are about to go on a whistle-stop tour of the last eight weeks!
As the sun began to set one Sunday evening at the beginning of September, a wonderful team of creatives descended on the little seaside town of Ramsgate, bearing gifts. Gifts of talent and enthusiasm, of mirth and friendliness, of creativity and imagination. We sat, with much bonhomie, in my little house, ate supper, drank beer and read a script that was still hot off the presses. Over the following two weeks (well, almost) they sweated and strained, laughed and cried, ate and drank, created and tried to escape but by hook or by crook, through the tightest rehearsal period ever, the merry band of creative ne’er do wells produced a play. Not just a play but a brilliant play.
“Wit, humour, energy – captured AWNP perfectly. I loved it.” Roger Thornington
Above is Alix and Max getting to grips with the script … a script which, true to form, was added to and hacked and cut and pasted and twisted hither and thither. As the two week rehearsal period (2 weeks?) progressed so did the play; two steps forward and one back, a bit like a theatrical soft-shoe shuffle. By the second Thursday we were feeling quite under pressure … especially as some idiot had decided that on that very day we would do an open dress rehearsal.
“No-one will come”, said the idiot, “it’ll just be an ordinary dress rehearsal! Trust me”.
So, forty plus people queued up at the door waiting to be allowed to sit down in a very theatrically cluttered auditorium, to watch an open dress rehearsal.
“I thought you said, no-one would come?”
“We’re not ready”
“You’ll be fine,” said the idiot.
And indeed we were … more or less. Some of the words were strangled or lost altogether, some of the projections decided to take matters into their own hands, some of the scenes needed a lick of … well, rehearsal and, as the play moves in and out of the audience at regular intervals (and in the balcony behind the audience), there was a certain amount of tension amongst the performers … as if doing a brand new play, with a brand new script and in less than two weeks wasn’t tense enough, the writer (whoever he is) had written whole chunks that are to be spoken whilst sitting next to an audience member … no problem! In fact, there was no major problem. Rehearsal was all it needed and we had a whole day to do that before the paying public descended on us.
It is amazing; well, it always amazes me, that in less than twenty-four hours, a creative bunch of people can turn a play from being a creaky, hazy, half-remembered thing to a big, confident, pacey, epic play that an audience whoops and hollers, laughs and cries at and all in the right places. The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures, grew in stature by at least two-hundred percent in those few short hours and we, the performers, felt as though we were walking on air … so, we did, as performers often do, left the theatre in a mess and disappeared down the pub for a few alcoholic beverages. We talked about the show, we talked about the bits that worked particularly well and those bits that need a bit of work and we talked about the audience and how they reacted and … we talked and talked and talked well into the night. Tomorrow is another day … and we have two performances tomorrow … bedtime!
To cut a long and very exciting story short, the play is a success … yes there are bits that I will rewrite, there are bits that we will re-work, there are bits that will just go but … as a piece of modern, fast-paced, creative theatre … it works. Phew!
This Photograph was taken by Tim Spencer and captures the essence of the play, I think. It is not a Victorian Parlour production, it is not a play that sits up on a stage and bumbles in front of a passive audience; it is a rambunctious, daring, fast-paced piece that provokes the audience into caring about the characters and events and into getting involved in this amazing man’s life. It is full of humour, pathos and a great number of clever theatrical devices that move the story forward and captures Pugin’s growing paranoia and his downward spiral into madness. The final scenes of his last days on earth left the audience with tears in their eyes and a lump in their throat.
I am sitting in a house in Truro, Cornwall, looking at the towers of the statuesque Cathedral, as I write this post. It is night. The stars are just beginning to twinkle in the sky and Jupiter, which is in Capricorn at the moment, is by far the brightest thing up there. I am making plans. Oh, yes! Lots of plans. Plans for The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures.
So, I’m going to stop writing this post. I will return to the same spot in a few days time. I will tell you what else has happened since the last post … if you are interested. But for now … I have thinking and writing to do … see you back here … soon!
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