2019 Roundup

Reprising Old Roles

The year’s final two performance roles were both ones I’d previously taken on, but made bigger in different ways.  TITCO’s production of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds reprised the role of the Journalist but in this time in the impressive Wyvern Theatre in Swindon.  This venue has approximately 650 seats,, each providing an excellent view of the stage.  Adopting the show for a larger scale tested our nerves, increased our travel time and gave us new challenges, such as getting past stage door locks and having an orchestra in the centre of the stage.  But it was a great success and energised the group for each performance.

White Horse Opera’s production of Bizet’s Carmen was bigger from a character sense.   It also brought about increased ticket sales for the company; no opera brings people in quite like this gory and passionate story that is packed-full of memorable songs.  To reprise Escamillo the Toreador was a little daunting; until I thought about it and let go.  The difference between my previous version with Bristol Opera and this time around was that I didn’t feel I had to be anyone else’s Toreador, just my own.  I no longer felt I needed to walk, act and sing a certain way.  I still took the excellent advice from my fellow performers on board as well as the lessons I gathered from performing the role previously, but the pressure was off.  I played him big, bold and arrogant and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Playing Escamillo in Carmen.  Photo courtesy of Gail Foster.
Playing Escamillo in Carmen. Photo courtesy of Gail Foster.

The year finished with five Christmas-themed concerts.  These were mostly for charity or to raise funds for the choir, but a group of us did contribute to a beautiful wedding in Somerset – we stood outside the private chapel belonging to a large house and sang carols to the congregation as they emerged from the ceremony.  The final gig of the year was as part of a quartet singing carols on the stairs of the Royal Crescent Hotel.  Although we were background for the guests as they mingled with each other and prepared for their evening meal, it was gratifying to sing in such an intimate way, and we did occasionally get a smile or a mobile phone pointed in our direction.  The hotel’s hot chocolate is also excellent!

This year’s first major performance project is the Bradfordian’s production of Webber and Rice’s Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!  More on this in another blog entry, soon.

Happy New Year!

Playing the Baker

A post-production review

Performing the Baker with Teresa Bray as Baker’s Wife and Jemma Brown as the Witch.

The Invitation Theatre Company has completed the show run of Sondheim’s Into the Woods.  So, how did it go?

From an overall perspective I have to congratulate everyone involved on what has been a tremendous undertaking and has provided local audiences the opportunity to experience this fairy-tale extravaganza in the intimate setting of the Wharf Theatre. As it turns out, a Sondheim musical requires a lot of dedication both musically and dramatically and a lot of hard of hard work has gone into this production.  Then there’s the set, costumes, lighting and sound effects needed to make this fantasy realm come to life.

This production was a journey all of its own.  The director modified the script considerably, making cuts in order to reduce the running length of the show.  This worked but did mean that some plot or character elements were missing.  The cast was guilty of poor attendance thanks to holidays and other show commitments.  This meant there were perhaps only a handful of rehearsals when the entire cast was available before show week.  Another unexpected issue was that our young performer playing Jack could not legally perform the show for 6 nights in a row.  Luckily, a drama student who had previously performed the role was able to learn it in super-quick time.  Finally, this is a very challenging production musically.  Not only are the vocal lines repetitive but with subtle changes each time, some sections are rhythmically and melodically unpredictable.  For ensemble numbers such as the Act I Prologue and ‘Your Fault’ you really have to know everyone else’s part as well as your own.

How did the part of the Baker evolve? During the final rehearsals the director praised my energy during one scene. That stuck with me.  Playing an Everyman character doesn’t lend itself to putting on any particular character traits but it made sense to me to convey his emotions by engaging with them.  So if he is nervous, provide that nervous energy.  If he is joyful, express that joy.  So in a sense, he becomes a focussed version of me rather than a character of his own.

The Baker, like all the characters who venture into the woods, goes on a journey.  It was important, especially with script cuts, to really show changes in his mood or character during the scenes.  In short order, he starts off relatively content, but becomes nervous and cautious when he starts his journey into the woods.  When he starts retrieving items to make the witch’s potion he becomes emboldened.  This is an important change as the Baker’s Wife needs to see the changes in him by the time they sing the duet, ‘It Takes Two’.

In Act 2, the second journey into the woods turns far more serious.  Again, expressing the part with sincerity and energy are key.  The main change here is showing his dependence on his wife before then having to achieve things without her guiding hand. To quote the character:  “It was my wife who really helped.  I depended on her for everything”.  I really liked developing this relationship and made sure that during Act 1 and the first part of Act 2 he can be seen looking to her for reassurance or moral support.

It was a pleasure to perform such pieces as No-one is Alone, Your Fault and No More.  They are beautifully written songs and it was a treat working with my fellow performers to bring this to life.  Thanks to choreography we were set in our positions and could concentrate on expressing and vocalising the characters.

Verdict Into the Woods is deceptively difficult and requires a lot of hard work and focus to pull off. The Baker is no different in that sense. He requires attention throughout the show and doesn’t really have a lot of off-stage time.  For this reason I’m happy the run is over.  It has been a wonderful experience, one I’m delighted to have had, but now it’s time to leave the woods.

War of the Worlds

Performing as Young Journalist in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds as part of a 2016 The Invitation Theatre Company (TITCo) production.

This is quite an intense show to watch and listen to as it takes place during an invasion of the Earth by martians.  I sang the song Forever Autumn but for the most part was a cipher through which the audience could follow along with the plot.  The biggest stars of this show are undoubtedly the orchestra/band and lighting crew.  The music holds it together and both parts add such a lot to the atmosphere!