I woke up yesterday and peered at myself in the mirror to discover the darkest rings under my eyes. I imagine I'll soon be looking like one of those characters in the Victorian seaside post cards who's had a practical joke done on them involving a telescope and a bottle of ink. Bizarrely though, despite being exhausted, and bloated due to the copious amounts of food I've been shoving into myself, as I wake up on my last morning here, and dutifully strip my bed, I find myself not that keen on leaving. It's possible to become a little institutionalised during these courses. Yes, it's a gruelling and exhausting regime but it's become the norm. I'm wondering if I'm not suffering from the NYMT equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome!
We worked our way to the end of the show yesterday, which felt like a somewhat epic achievement. The end of Brass is devastating. I think you'd have to be made of stone not to be moved, largely because we know that going over the top was something which happened to so many men in real life. It strikes me that I'll go to my grave not really understanding why the generals chose to fight the Battle of the Somme in the manner in which it was fought. It feels barbaric in an almost medieval way. The concept of a generation of men being told that they were merely born to suffer goes against everything we've subsequently learned about human rights and entitlement. A staggering and almost comic level of efficiency went into planning the battle. White tape was laid across No Man's Land in the run up to the battle which informed each battalion the area of land they had to stay within. The poor Bradford Pals were sent out a few nights before going over the top to cut the grass in No Man's Land so that the allies could see what was going on. Reports from the time indicate that the allies' biggest error was instructing its men to walk across No Man's Land rather than run. If we'd have run, the Germans would undoubtedly have been overwhelmed. The more I think about the Battle of the Somme, the more angry and upset I become.
As the writer of a show it's rather difficult to have a private little cry. Very often, just as a sequence finishes, someone comes up to ask a question, or someone will feel the need to publicly address the fact that the writer is in tears. Crying in rehearsals is something which is very rare for me. Normally speaking I'm way too busy orchestrating, panicking or thinking about technical stuff to have the time for that footle. The fact that I'm regularly found blubbing away on this project is absolutely down to the extraordinary creative team and strength of the cast. They have ensured that I don't have anything to worry about, so I can sit back... And let my guard down!
The cast are so conscientious. Last night, after rehearsals ended, I thought they might make a beeline for the pub, but, as I sat in the television room at the halls of residence watching the fascinatingly bizarre spectacle of jujitsu at the Olympics, all I could hear were little bits of my music drifting around the house. The cast was still rehearsing. As I went to bed, a group of girls were sitting around the kitchen table, marking up their scripts with highlighters. I honestly think that many of the pros I work with could learn a thing or two from these young people's work ethic.
...And yet still there seems to be time for them to be gracious and caring. I emerged from the canteen yesterday to find a group of them, with the stage management team, feeding sugar water from a metal spoon to a tired bumble bee. You'll be pleased to hear that the sugar syrup perked the little fella up and he flew off happily after his lovely meal.
Last night we did the first part of the sitzprobe. For those who don't work in theatre, the "sitz" is the highlight of most people's rehearsal period. It's when the band and singers finally come together to showcase what they've been doing separately. Everyone sits down to do it (hence the name) and it's always very exciting. It can be brutally stressful for a composer. This one wasn't. The band are really on it, and we're in a far, far better place than we were at this stage when we did the show in 2014.