Friday, 24 January 2014

Tales from the Orchestra Pit: Guys and Dolls Part 9

This post is a bit late, for which I apologise, on account of yesterday being very hectic. Here I will recount the events of the second and third performances, which took place on Wednesday.
This was quite a long day, seeing as we did two performances. The first was an afternoon matinée, and that was followed by the usual evening show. In total, then, I spent eight hours in the theatre – one hour before each show, then three hours for the duration of each performance.
After a while it gets quite disorientating, spending so much time in the same place with no windows or any indication that there’s a world still going on outside. It’s not long before you lose all sense of time (something that wasn’t helped by the fact my watch had stopped!).
It also occurred to me yesterday just how unnatural it is to do exactly the same thing so many times. When you enter the theatre for the next show, it’s as if you go into a time capsule, as there is so little variation from one day to the next. It could be the first night, or it might be the last night. Is it the afternoon or the evening? There’s no external indication to tell you either way. It’s all just the same. You can imagine the sense of déjà vu.
All in all both shows went very well, probably the best we’ve played them. I had some friends come to see the matinée, and they really loved it. In fact they said that if they were more local they would come to see it again another night, it was so good.
There were the occasional things that weren’t quite right on-stage. There were even some small sections of dialogue that were skipped, although I must admit that I didn’t even notice until it was pointed out to me afterwards.
Which reminds me, at some points in the show, the cast have (deliberately) started experimenting with their lines. This makes things much more interesting for us and adds a little variation to what would otherwise be exact repeats of the show. For example, there’s one scene where the police lieutenant comes across a group of gangsters having a meeting, and sardonically greets them all by name. Well, our lieutenant has taken to saying different names for every show. The original names are things like ‘Angie the Ox’, ‘Society Max’ and ‘Liver Lips Louie’. On the evening performance this time, he interpolated names like ‘Pot Luck Pete’, and ‘Shiny Shoes Simpson (nice shoes)’ instead. This amuses us in the orchestra more than it really should, just because it gives us some distinction between performances.
Another moment we look forward to is when Nicely Nicely Johnson comes on stage eating some food and has to explain to Nathan Detroit that he didn’t carry out his task because he had to get groceries, or something like that. The crew are now giving him different items of food every night. Originally I think it was a bagel and a doughnut, but on the evening show of that day it was a cos lettuce and a cornetto.
The other line that is being varied is the one just before ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’, when Nicely Nicely Johnson is told to get up and testify. I think the original script has Big Julie telling him forcefully ‘Get up you!’, but our Big Julie has been adding a different insult each time. First it was ‘Get up, you fat wad of buffalo!’, then the next time it was ‘Get up, you big fat elephant!’ and then in the evening show he went for ‘Get up, you fat lump of mozzarella!’. What will he think of next?
As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s tiring business playing so many shows, especially two in one day, and by the time it got to 7 o’clock on that night I was getting slightly fed-up. There’s nothing really wrong with the orchestra dressing room – it’s very well-maintained. But it isn’t that big and it can get a bit cramped. There are no windows – I have a feeling we’re underground, giving it the atmosphere of some sort of bunker. The low ceiling is covered with a network of central heating pipes and ventilation ducts. It does tend to get a bit claustrophobic.
The other thing present in our dressing room, as I believe it is in every backstage room, is a speaker for the tannoy system, over which we receive dull announcements like ‘This is your five minute call’ and so on. Things were livened up in the interval of the evening performance when the system was hijacked by one of the cast members, who jokingly gave a pastiche motivational speech along the lines of: “Ladies and gentlemen of the cast and crew, it’s now five minutes until we go back on stage, and I just wanted to say that whatever they throw at you, what ever looks they give you, just ignore them. You just sing your songs and do your dances…” and so on. This was followed shortly after by an announcement from the producer apologising for the behaviour of said cast member in rather a tongue-in-cheek way, and explaining that “He has an insatiable lust for attention”. After another minute or two a third announcement came through requesting that “Please can actors not use the tannoy system”. Aww, why not? It brightened up our evening!
The final thing worth mentioning is that someone in the front row managed to drop their programme on me in the middle of ‘Take Back Your Mink’. I’m not exactly sure how – I just saw something fall down and spotted that it was a programme. During the next break I stuffed it back through the railings for them.
Three shows down, four to go! I’ll give you the lowdown on number four later this morning, and then I’ll be up to date with these chronicles.

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