Friday, 15 August 2014

Cutting hell

It's been another seemingly endless day of highs and lows, which has felt so long, in fact, that I wondered if I'd forgotten to write a blog yesterday because last night now seems such a long time ago.

The day started with a full run of the show. Nathan came, as did Philippa and Hilary. Unfortunately I didn't get Philippa's notes as she rushed off to chat to Sara after the run, and by the time she'd re-emerged, we'd hit the ground running with my own set of notes, and then the day gathered speed...

'Cello gate continued, with the return of young William's instrument, which arrived from the luthier with a new G string. Something was still not right, however. William described it as the string feeling loose and asked if I could tighten it, which of course would have been impossible without sending it out of tune. He was right, however; the G string sounded all twangy and loose, and it soon dawned on me that the luthier had put a D string where the G string should have been, and therefore that poor William's instrument sounded more like a sitar than a 'cello! It was an easy enough fix, however. A G string was soon found and fitted to the 'cello.

I wafted about for the rest of the afternoon, sitting in on a sectional rehearsal with the crazily talented brass boys.

The bombshell of the day arrived via email at 6pm. Fortunately I'd managed to convince Nathan to stay for tea before taking the train back to London, so he was with me when the night of the long knives unravelled.

The email was from our producer, Jeremy. The running times of the show had been calculated based on the run, and for all manner of licensing reasons, it became apparent that large cuts still needed to be made. These are the words which would fill any writer with dread. Killing one's babies is horrific in any circumstances. Having to make the cull in the space of a single evening is simply devastating.

There was a period of about an hour where Nathan and I sat, leafing through the script, searching for cuts which would take huge chunks of time out of the script without losing an entire song, destroying the narrative of the piece, or, more crucially any one actor's raison d'ĂȘtre. It's one of the most painful experiences I've ever endured. The cuts needed to be effective - and in order to be effective, had to be brutal.

Nathan and I agreed on 40 cuts of varying lengths, and took our suggestions to the rest of the creative team, secretly hoping that someone would scream "no! You can't possibly cut that stunning piece of writing." Sadly, all but one of the forty cuts were accepted.

The dreadful task was telling the cast, and we met after rehearsals this evening in one of the boarding houses to deliver the news. I felt like an executioner. The cast looked terrified. Sara got upset. I got upset. Nathan read the list of cuts out loud. The cast occasionally gasped, then tried to be brave. It was truly awful.

I hope in the long run that the cuts will improve the piece. I'm pretty sure they will, in fact, but in the short term I'm not feeling too great.

Still, it's something which happens with all new musicals. They're always big blocks of granite which need to be shaped very carefully. For those in the cast who want careers in theatre, this has perhaps been a useful experience, as it's  something which could well happen to them many more times in the future. I'm sure it will never feel as bad as this, however. Poor things.

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