Oor Ain Wee Show

It was the rehearsal from Hell. My burning question, ‘Are we to have our photos taken before we don our costumes?’ went without conclusive answer (everyone had an answer but none of them matched) least of all from the photographer who, for – some reason unbeknownst to me and, I suspect, him – was wandering about dressed for the Pirates of Penzance when it’s not part of the Programme. And, like everyone else, lost in learning lines.

In fairness, everyone else who was still learning lines was doing so with chairs in hand (sometimes several) which they were attempting to carry through thresholds – such as the rarely-shut door between Dressingroom A and Dressingroom B, the narrow passage past the toilets, and on and off stage. In several simultaneous directions of travel, including up and down.

My most sane moment before I finally fought my way onstage was halfway up a ladder with the Wardrobe Mistress, comparing medical symptoms of stress, looking for bunnets. Although, having a quiet word with a Pixie (in the middle of a shrieking press of bodies) while I wielded nail scissors to cut the pockets open in my jaikit, unaccountably still sewn shut, was similarly soothing. We may, admittedly, have had two completely distinct conversations but at least I had managed to find a place for my personal props.

Having been told, definitely, that I may or may not be required as the Drunk and the Respectable Gentleman both, and that I perhaps absolutely had no business with a chair, I found myself playing both and carrying one Off. Blocking changed (admittedly, I’d missed the last rehearsal) I discovered that if I entered Centre Left, rather than Up Left, purporting to be searching for a body, it made little sense as it was now right in front of me. At least that body could be seen, as distinct from the one I fell over in the pitch dark during a Quick Change, who was busy arranging chairs. He was very good about it, when I saw him in the light later, and we determined that on future exits I would hug the curtain – rather than him.

Scene over, I made my way into the auditorium and such was my state of mind that it took me halfway through a sketch where things fall apart to realise that it was intentional. I was still recovering from the stress of constantly running after articles of costume that I had momentarily laid down on a chair now being carried off through various thresholds.

Not that things were any calmer onstage. My scene producer had to step lively to avoid an incoming chaise-longue just when she thought it safe to enter, in a lovely dirndl dress. Although that may have been her Panto costume and I was confused, like everyone else. Ignoring the frequent audible stage whispers of ‘Quiet in the Wings!’ I sat through various scenes, and even laughed, then went off to wash the dishes. Cups, unlike my fellow members of the Kirkintilloch Players, tend to stay still and don’t shriek.

We finally got that photo taken and I must admit that it looks okay. And the old theatrical wisdom is that ‘If the Dress is a disaster, it’ll be alright on the night’ (technically it was a Tech but it may still count). I hope so. Just as long as no-one shouts ‘Good luck’ or quotes The Scottish Tragedy. Apparently we’re already sold out. I hope people know that chairs will be supplied!

See the website www.kirkintillochplayers.co.uk for info about the company, upcoming shows and links to other Scottish amateur theatre companies. Even when nerve-wracking and bewildering, ‘Am Dram’ is great fun, the theatre in general rejoices in equality and diversity – and allows us to ponder the unsettling fact that our social roles that we perform and value so highly may, in fact, be rather insubstantial.

vintage-drama-poster

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image ‘Vintage Drama Poster’ into the Public Domain.

Advertisements

Lorca in a time of tyranny

Scowling and stamping her cane, as soon as the door was closed and we were hermetically sealed inside her house, Bernarda Alba (Charlaye Blair) dominated the stage of Michael John LaChiusa’s musical from the start. Only towards the end, with the horrific scene outside (a young woman who had murdered her baby born out of wedlock pursued by a stone-throwing mob) did we understand the tremendous social pressure she was under to keep her virgin daughters inside and inviolate until their wedding day. The heavy cross on the wall beside the huge wooden door, the smoking thurible (wielded with the rhythmic clink that marks the expert thurifer) and the imagined image of the Virgin, addressed in prayer, all set the scene for the patriarchal funeral and the funereal matriarchal atmosphere that followed.

Megan-Louise Fraser had the hard job of performing alternatively as virgin, mother and crone in the characters of the mad Maria Josepha, the matronly (and plainly bored) neighbour Prudencia and the young maid, lowest of the low in this very hierarchical household. The contrast between her youthful features and the dress and grey hair of the mother of Bernarda Alba gave us the insight that inside every grandmother there still lives a young woman.

Gemma Elmes (servant) set her face with all the strong character of the gitanas of Andalucia, yet could also be merry and her voice was a delight. Erin McCullagh (Poncia) played the part of the poor relation well and provided an occasional buffer to the tyranny of the mother of the five unfortunate girls.

Such was the magic of this show that we were persuaded by the insistence of the cast to suspend our disbelief and accept that the very beautiful Abbie MacNeil (Angustias) was, in fact, the ugly sister – though the one lucky enough to receive the attentions of the never-seen male suitor. That she was not the only one receiving his attention was the constant rumour, suspicion, jealously and scandal of the other sisters: dignified but playful Magdalena (Heather Crook) and Amelia (Johanne Rishaug Hellman); besotted Martirio (Caitlin Mae); and minxy Adela (Laura Sweeney).

This challenging show was beautifully choreographed by Kally Lloyd-Jones, with the dancers moving now in unison, now in a complex swirl of stage-setting and striking poses lit by the changing hues of set and lighting designer John Holding. Stage management by Holly Adams was, as it should be for this most self-effacing theatrical role, so good it was invisible.

Having lived in Granada for years, I must confess my initial disappointment that more was not made of flamenco rhythms but on reflection the high social status of the household may well have included a disdain for the music of the pueblo and I could not fault the melancholy combination of oboe/ cor anglais, viola and cello, nor the brio of the guitar-playing by Ross Wilson. Directing the music (and playing piano) Christopher Breckenridge accompanied the cast as they moved effortlessly from intoning liturgical chant to singing the sinister ribaldry of Three Moorish Girls.

With such cast, accompaniment, setting and lighting, director Tom Cooper had all the ingredients of a great show and with percussionist Antony Irwin, and strategic slams of the cane, the door and the chairs, the dramatic effect of the action was startling. With no visual required, everyone in the audience knew what we were witnessing at the last scene and – whether we knew the story or not – everyone gasped.

A timely mediation on tyranny and the oppression of women – even (and especially) by each other. 

Bernarda Alba is performed by GAMTA.

gypsy-girl-with-mandolin-c-1870

Thanks to Dawn Hudson, who has released her photo “Gypsy Girl With Mandolin, C. 1870” (Public domain vintage painting by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, available from The National Gallery of Art) into the Public Domain