BENTWATER ROADS: Another Opening, A Brand New Show.
Thursday 01 July 2010
The big day has arrived and in typical theatrical fashion we were all scribbling away madly in the morning writing good luck cards (actors are very superstitious as well as supportive - the cards never actually say good luck but say 'break a leg').
I headed into town and order a full English breakfast and sat down with my freshly purchased cards to start writing well wishes. With this cast and crew it was an easy task to find lovely things to say about working with them, highlights of their performance and utter belief that they will 'wow the audience'.
'Break a leg' is an odd expression to say to someone to wish them luck and there are several stories about how the expression came about. I like the one I heard that in the time Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth the first in the Theatre it wasn't always a given that the audience would let you have a curtain call (the moment at the end of the play when all the actors come out and take a bow, and the crowd usually claps) at the end of the show. If a company hadn't impressed the crowd enough, then no one would applaud (fair enough really) or worse they would boo and howl at the actors, throwing things at the stage etc. Bowing in Elizabethan England was done by placing on foot a step forward and bending your back leg while lowering your head.
This action was referred to by thespians as ‘breaking a leg' hence when you are wishing someone good luck in the theatre, you are really wishing them a fine enough performance to earn them a chance to bow and be applauded. Nice - even if my explanation is a little convoluted.
We arrive at the Airbase around 2pm ready for a dress run at 2:30pm.
Another superstition is that final dress runs should always go badly to have a successful opening night 'bad dress rehearsal good opening night'. Dan jokingly said from the dressing room (changing rooms) 'you know what they say 'bad dress rehearsal'... ... angry director'.
Well our final dress rehearsal wasn't a nightmare but enough went awry to calm any superstitious fears, a large amount of water was spilt on the middle of the stage a few changes, cues, lines and such like were fluffed and a happy medium was tread between too many mistakes to feel prepared and not enough to dispel any feeling of being cursed.
The nerves before the show were quite quiet and peaceful, we all exchanged our opening night cards after a little dinner, whispering 'break a leg' to one another in the wings and thanking each other for the lovely sentiments in the cards we received, I find all of mine very touching, I even received one in the morning from my landlady Rosie and landlord Ivan and a beautifully hand made one from home with an image of me as a pilot and a touching message from my girlfriend Trina who also called to wish me luck before heading into the Theatre.
Actors all warm up in different ways - I personally love to enter the space an hour or so before the performance and do a voice warm up - usually a series of very silly sounding noises that help to increase the resonance/vibrations in your voice, as well as tongue twisters and little exercises to through your voice from one side of the room to another. For this show I concentrated on twang, that sharp nasal quality of voice that we associate so much with the American accent, making noises like the witch from The Wizard of Oz and bleating like a sheep as well testing how much twang I could add to my lines.
We're not just talking heads so next was a little stretch and a shake out, walking on the grass verges of the air hanger as the crowds arrived at the beer and bbq tents set out in front of the hangers. It was a very odd feeling being able to see your audience before the show and them being able to see you.
With much excitement we started the show and it was a good one. The first half seemed bless and we were very calm going into the second wish flew along nicely as well, with a few hopefully unnoticed hiccoughs along the way. The audience clapped appreciatively and from what I overheard at the beer tent after the show, it sounded like it was enjoyed by everyone (victory!). I asked Ivan whether he was happy and he said with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye 'relieved!' which I took very much as a yes. We sat drinking beer and wine under the stars, with music and good company, chatting about the show and everything under the sun.
As we were driven back to Ipswich by the lovely Penny I felt very proud of what we've managed to achieve, the script is excellent and the direction superb and I think as actors and community chorus we've collectively stepped up to the plate together, the technical crew have worked like mad and its paid off.
Well done everyone, bloody well done!
'Here's to the rest of the run!'