Friday, 10 July 2009

I am still alive...

I have, I fear, been a very dilatory blogger recently. This is partly because I have been busy with the promenade play, partly because I am - meanwhile - trying to fit in as much research and thinking as I can on The Black and The White and partly – no, mainly – because I am utterly knackered. In ten days' time we go on holiday and I can barely wait. Not having a proper summer holiday last year has had a terrible knock-on effect into the whole of the last twelve months and the Other Half and I are determined never to let it happen again. A fortnight off must be taken – a week is barely time enough to begin to relax.

So, where am I on various projects?

Well, the promenade play is now complete and has had its first run-through, though we were minus a number of cast members. Walking the thing through the cathedral raised a couple of issues – for instance the area in which I’d planned to have a murder taking place can’t actually be seen very easily from the position in which the audience will be standing at that point, so we’ve had to move it to a less dramatic but more visible spot – but, in general, it was felt that the action fits nicely in to the space. It does look, however, as if the people with the most to do on the day will be, not the actors, but the stewards whose job it’ll be to chivvy the audience through the cathedral at an appropriately fast clip so that we can get the whole thing done on time!

‘Aren’t we going to have long ‘lags’ whilst the audience catch up?’ a cast member asked.

Bloody valid question, I thought, gnawing some handy fingernails.

‘No’ said our casting director/the cathedral’s education officer who’s also playing The Madwoman of Rochester ‘we’ll just start when we’re ready and they’ll soon get the hang of the fact that they’ve got to keep up.’

Ruthless, I thought, but good… definitely good.

It was great hearing real actors speak my words as we went through the first read-through. People laughed when I hoped they would, nodded sagely at things they hadn’t known but were interested to learn (phew!) and the Green Man – cast for his wonderfully booming voice – is going to be fantastic as he fills the cathedral with his roars and his pagan cries of ‘Where are my trees?’

If it rains, the scene in the garden may be abandoned by the audience but the actors are hardened veterans of outdoor performances and were adamant that the show will go on however drenched they get. Stick some cathedral umbrellas by the south door and at least a few people will come out… seemed to be the general consensus.

There was a sticky moment when I realised that there’s going to be no honeysuckle in bloom in September (an essential prop in one scene) but our costume designer quickly came to the rescue and said she could so something in silk.

Yes, our costume designer. Not somebody’s mum or a put-upon volunteer, a real bona-fide costume designer. The Heritage Lottery Fund have given us a budget for the launch of the interpretation project, most of which is going to go on promenade play costumes. So, instead of having begged, borrowed, stolen and home-made costumes for each scene, we’re going to have the real thing, made by a professional whose last commission was to design all the costumes for a community opera in Lewes. It’s going to give a fantastic visual unity to the whole piece and Berthe (the lady in question) came along to the walk-through and took a whole memory-card’s worth of photos of the cathedral to inspire her and to use as background information. (What colours will stand out against this screen, will the black and white of the Tudor chaplains get lost in the polychrome of the lady chapel and if so what should be done about it, etc etc)

So, the promenade play is all coming together. The little casts for each scene will now go away and rehearse together and learn their lines before the next rehearsal towards the end of August when we’ll ‘block’ moves and start polishing things up. That’s going to be an interesting rehearsal as we can’t do it in situ because the cathedral’s being used for something else (tchah – a cathedral being used for services, how inconsiderate!). So I’m going to have to go around taking measurements at the site of each scene, so that we can mock up the approximate acting area, with columns, altars, steps etc, rendered in sticky-tape and cardboard boxes.

Should be fun…

As for the novel. Well, I’ve now met with Will, my editor, and talked it through, but news of that can wait for the next installment, I think.

As I mentioned, I am knackered…


Frances Garrood said...

That sounds so exciting, Alis - actually to SEE what you've written happening. You must feel awfully powerful! And have a lovely holiday. It sounds as though you deserve it.

Alis said...

Hi Frances - funnily enough I don't feel powerful so much as relieved that what I've produced actually looks like working!
Thanks for the holiday wishes - we're really looking forward to it.

Akasha Savage said...

This all sounds terribly exciting Alis. You must let me know dates and times when the perforamces are going to take place, I oh so much want to come along and watch. I'm sure Katy will be interested too...she would love to be involved in something like this. She starts her Performing Arts course at Canterbury College in September.

Alis said...

Hi Akasha - the performances are at 12 noon and 1.00 on the 26th of September - it'd be great to see both of you there!
BTW - how's the Bathory book shaping up?

Juxtabook said...

Oh I wish I was near enough to come and see - it sounds wonderful.

Hope you both have a wonderful holiday.

Alis said...