Saturday, 27 August 2016

The London Premiere

I arrived in Hackney this morning to be greeted by the all-pervading stench of skunk. Mind you, Highgate was high with the smell last night. Perhaps the hot weather brings it out of people's pores. Perhaps I'm smelling some sort of tree pollen!

We've had an insanely busy day. We finished tech'ing the show in the morning and spent the afternoon doing a dress rehearsal of Act One. All went well. I have seldom been happier working on a show. The very fact that the entire creative team spent the lunch break happily eating sandwiches on the steps of the town hall, joking and laughing, probably tells you as much as you need to know. Hannah, Sam and Alex have been genuinely fabulous to work with.

I got very nervous before the show tonight, partially because we'd not managed to do a dress rehearsal for act two, and partially because I was feeling the enormity of the occasion. I couldn't eat. I got all jittery and turned into a right Chatty Cathy. I drank a gin and tonic to calm myself down. I shan't make a habit of doing that when I'm feeling on edge! I'll feel awful tomorrow.

As I've come to expect from this astounding cast, they all rose to the occasion during the performance to an almost epic degree. I have seldom seen such a high degree of focus from a group of actors. Ben Jones' Brass stopped hearts. Laura Barnard was subtle, nuanced and sang like a bird. Kitty Watson literally shone with the sun. Spin destroyed large swathes of the audience. Matt Pettifor made me proud to be a Midlander. Anna Cookson made me cry. Everyone was brilliant. I was relieved and grateful. The audience responded wonderfully. There were riotous cheers at the end of each of the numbers. You could have heard a pin drop in the quiet sections, and there was a stunned silence as we went into the interval. I don't think I've ever felt such shock radiating from an audience! The only other sound coming from the crowd was the sound of sniffing, and, at times, open weeping!

The theatre felt packed and there was a spontaneous and full standing ovation immediately as the show ended. Hilary was in the audience and said that she'd never felt so compelled to leap to her feet at the end of a show. It was incredibly moving to look up at the circle and see everyone up there on their feet as well. As the band played out, a surge of people rushed to the front of the auditorium to look into the orchestra pit and applaud the players. These kind of shows can so often become about the cast, but the quality of musicianship bursting from those young players is so high that they become every bit the stars of the show as well.

Tweeted plaudits started to pile in immediately after the curtain came down. James Hadley, from MTN said "Brass had the audience weeping before and after the interval. What an incredible WW1 tribute."

Jonathan Baz, a top critic, said it was "fine and stirring."

Mark Shenton, who is probably the most influential musical theatre critic in the UK, described the show as a "magnificent miracle of a musical" and instructed people to "run not walk" to the Hackney Empire to see it. He went on to tweet that "Brass is one of the best musicals from the front line I've ever seen. An evening of gripping power. Stunningly performed."

So I reckon we've all done pretty well and can take a big old pat on our backs. A massive thank you to anyone reading this blog who has helped with Brass at any stage along its journey. Now if we could only get that west end transfer organised. I might start to feel big headed if my T-shirt didn't smell of biscuits again!

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