Thursday, March 3, 2005

News from the Front

"Oh What A Lovely War!", despite a major last minute crisis, is playing to full houses and an amazing reception from audiences. We’re two nights down and three to go.

The rewards of sacrificing up to 12 or 15 hours a week on rehearsal over the last 5 or 6 weeks are becoming wonderfully apparent as the show goes off each night largely without a hitch.

The hideous crisis, though, was that we’re doing a musical with live piano and drums accompaniment and the night of the technical rehearsal our pianist fell really ill. By the next morning he’d been hospitalised with sort of stomach infection, the poor guy.

As a friend of the director and producer, I spent the morning of the dress rehearsal frantically e-mailing musicians (then friends of friends of musicians) while they chased around Cambridge. Eventually I got an ad out on a musicians’ e-mail list – and we found someone who knew the piano score for the show already, so all was well.

And the show really has come together. The liveliness of the Edwardian popular songs and comedy in the first half are going over really well in the intimate (and very oddly shaped) space of the Corpus Playroom, and contrasting nicely with the much darker humour of the second half.

It’s also fabulous that we’d sold out the run, other than 20 seats on the first night, before the show opened – and not only sold out the first night, but had to turn people away. True, the venue only sits 80 or 90, but over a 5 night run it’s still a big achievement. (Our producer is a PR genius.)

I’m really beginning to relax into my second-half role of Sir Douglas Haig, and have got some praise for my surprisingly convincing “rah rah” toff’s accent. I did come out with an utterly Australian “ab-Zurd” instead of the UK RP “ab-Surd” as a British naval officer on opening night, but otherwise I’m giving the order to “AD-vance” (with a short plosive "a") instead of a drawling “ad-VAH-nce” nicely. My comic accent for the American war profiteer (think John Wayne meets a pirate in Texas) is also playing well.

The cast is amazingly talented, and has bonded really well. We don’t so much whistle as we work (we have 20 minutes to get-out the set and all props before the late show comes in) as sing tunes from the show.

I’m quite exhausted, but loving every bit of it. As with reading Sir Isaac Newton last term, though, I still get a really stupid buzz out of being an Australian in Cambridge playing significant figures from British history.

Revenge of the empire, wot.

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