Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Preview two

We got to the theatre this morning and sat in the stalls with the cast whilst the director, choreographer and music team gave their notes. The most extraordinary thing happened at one point when the entire cast suddenly started screaming, like some sort of insane Toronto Blessing. It was bizarre. I thought I was in a production of The Crucible. The hysteria spread through the velvet seats like a wild fire! Even I started yelling, thinking one of the cast was having a fit, or something had fallen from the ceiling and decapitated someone.

It turned out a large beetle had run across the floor. A blessed beetle! Not even a rat! What a load of fuss about nothing! 

We rehearsed through the afternoon and hastily rewrote a scene. Poor Ako in the cast bore the brunt of changes - I watched his face panicking as we continued to change sequences.

That's the nature of a preview period. For a show with an open-ended West End run, the previews would last up to a month, and herald major changes. Numbers get cut and re-written. People lose their songs. Some cast members go from having principal roles to becoming members of the chorus. I think Memory in Cats was written in previews. It's a crucial period.

We have a very complicated moment in the show which involves a declaration of love. I won't say more than that because I don't want to spoil anyone's enjoyment. It does seem to be shocking people, however, and causing rather extreme and weird responses from the audience. On the first night someone laughed really loudly... So we're re-writing the scene in an attempt to ensure this doesn't happen again, as it's a little off-putting for the actors. 

Lots of friends came to see the show tonight. Ellie arrived just after 6pm, and we sat and ate macaroni in the circle whilst the cast warmed up onstage. 

Little Welsh Nathalie and Little Michelle were both there. Michelle brought her Dad and Ben. David Gregory from the Rebel Chorus was also in the audience. Luke the director seems astonished by the amount of friends we have. Perhaps he doesn't like us very much! 

I overheard a woman talking in the bar. She said she'd read in the Guardian that the show was about Greenham and had to come along. I turned around to see a woman with greying hair in a pair of crazy plaits who was plainly once a Greenham women. We had a little chat and I explained that I was the co-writer of the show. She shook me by the hand and thanked me profusely for "remembering us." I explained that I'd been really worried that the Greenham women would hate the piece as a result of the writers being men (and a computer!) She rolled her eyes to heaven: "if I wanted to write about Napolean, no one would complain that I wasn't French!" I liked the fact that she'd come to see the show because of its subject matter rather than its scientific premise! 

She loved the show. I could hear her laughing and cooing in the audience behind me. She came up to me afterwards to thank me for triggering so many memories. I felt rather chuffed.
The show was better today. Neater. The cast were a little flatter in terms of energy, and there were one or two eggy moments. Someone tripped. Someone forgot to make their entrance. Typical second night. But the audience loved it. No one stood, but the applause lasted through the play out and beyond. Hurrah. 

We went for a drink afterwards with Nathalie, David and Llio in a pub with a Welsh flag flying outside. It was the first post-theatre-show drink I've had as a working West End professional since I worked on Taboo 13 years ago. It felt good. I'd like to do it more.

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