Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Play's The Thing

As you'll know - if you've been reading my blag on a regular basis - I've just been a part of a remarkable group of people who were brought together to perform a play.
It was a remarkable gathering, made all the more remarkable by the fact that only a very few of the eventual cast and crew had known each other prior to the ensemble being assembled by our director.
The play, "Brassed Off", was a re-write (for the stage) from a highly polished screenplay. Every word had been buffed 'til it shone, every movement, every emotion was cleverly and cunningly thought through. The script was a gem.
At the auditions, I stumbled my way through the readings, and I was struck even at that early part of the proceedings how professional this group of amateurs were. I went home without much hope of landing a part. The director, bless her cottom socks, must have piled into a crate or two of sparkling sauvignon blanc, because I received the call that same day. I had a part. And not just a part - I got the very part I'd recognised that I could do some justice to.
The first time we came together was a riot: a dozen people, mostly strangers, who were going to be getting half-naked together in jst a few weeks (the dressing room / wardrobe is a small, tight, unisex space). We all pitched unthuisiastically into our first read through, and our director drew a deep breath, and said we done OK, orright? Actually, she'd never say anything that crude. But that was the essence.
I don't know how she did it, but some theatrical magic was woven over the course of the rehearsals. There was laughter, there was support, there were hints and helping hands and pleas for assistance. There were cakes and biscuits. There was hard work. A lot of hard work. Then the band (the North Shore Brass band, quite the finest band in the land) was brought in, and suddenly what had started out as a good kitchen sink drama / comedy became something... more.
We put in three months of rehearsals. This is a much longer commitment than normal - but it was necessary because some of the cast (indeed, the lead role ) were children, and we needed to have two teams of them. The amount of bitching and moaning that I could have expected with other theatre companies was deafining in its absence. Somehow, we had all individually made a serious, internal commitment to making this a happy experience.
Our romantic leads were theatrical novices, and they had a seriously heavy workload. They were brilliant.
The wardrobe people had to assist in around 150 costume changes. The props folk were brilliant - they had the props (hundreds of 'em) orgamised, on time, in place, every night. Oh - except for the paper knife, which went missing.
I even managed to get most of my lines right.
We had all made a personal commitment to a play, to a script, to an idea... with no real idea of how the box office would do. We all suspected it should do well. But theatre's a harsh mistress: she spanks you when you least expect it. Thankfully, Thespos was with us, because the show was a sell-out.
Every show, every production, will teach me something new about myself. This time - well, it was humility. I'd been a small (but important) part of something that was much bigger than the collective egos involved. And because we were actors, darling, there were a lot of egos - all of whom were willing to take a step back to make the play the winner on each and every night.
So, to my fellow cast and crew-members: thankyou. Thankyou. And thankyou once again. What an amazing bunch of people you all are. And I really hope we get to see each other again. If we should meet again, why - we will smile. If not, then our time together was well spent. A mangled quote, but I hope you know what I mean.
Reading: "Physics of the Impossible", Michio Kaku. I  hope they'reteaching this stuff at school.
Listening to: Bryan Ferry, "Dylanesque". Stunning.
More "Paper Heroes":
“Ain’t I, sir?” Whistler’s tone was sour. “Did you not notice that Charles chappy? Same goggle-eyed face as that mad bugger King George, sir. Got to be related. Put that together with the fact that we were press-ganged, sir, and we’re in the army, right enough.”

“An army of six?”

“Some six, sir.”

“I’ll make it an order if you like, Sean: no more sir.”

“Righto, sir. Andrew. Andy?”

“Andy’s fine. Yes, Hanno will be good in a scrape, and that wee man Grey has a few tricks up his sleeve.” They walked on, passing a half-dozen featureless doors, and Blunt said “I’m worried about the woman, Cienwyn.”

“And if you go falling in love with her, I’ll be the first to be telling your Mrs when we get back.”

“I don’t think there’ll be any going back, Sean.”

Whistler opened his mouth, then shut it like a trap. He trudged along beside Blunt for a moment, then said “This is wrong, sir. Andy, I mean. By rights I should be terrified. In fact, I am. But it’s like it’s not part of me. It’s something else. Somewhere else.”

“I know. I think it’s what they call their embots. I think they’ve fed them to us. We’ve got them, and they’re making us lie to ourselves.”

“That’s half their bloody problem, ain’t it. All very bloody noble, no violence, no more wars, very nice, very good. No anger, though? No fear?”

“Yes. I know. I’m wondering just how much freedom we truly have now.” He was worried about fear: it is a soldier’s friend and motivator. If the Sleepers decided to help out with this problem that they’d been brought back to life for, they’d need to do some soldiering: and a soldier who feels no fear is as useful as a bag of irregular verbs is to a bricklayer.

The two men followed the cats to the common room, and sat with Grey, whose tawny puma stood at his side, sharp yellow eyes flashing a warning at them. At another table Hanno was attempting to make small talk with the quiet American, John Prestor, but it looked like it was uphill work. The savagely scarred man sat still, stroking his cat’s head. He’d called it, for reasons no-one knew, Rambo.

Charles and Paulus sat in tight conversation with Crayne.

“There’ll be hell to pay over there soon,” Whistler said, watching the big American’s face. Crayne was thin-lipped, and frustration flickered in his eyes. “His face’d freeze a fire, so it would.” Crayne’s big black cat sniffed at his shoes. Crayne turned away from Charles, looked at Sean Whistler, and bared his teeth.


  1. It was fun reading more about the play. I can see that it has made fond memories for you and the others involved. I will say that I like your more frequent, post-play postings! Selfish, I know...

  2. What a lovely summation to what was a truly rewarding experience. It's true it was a lot of hard work by a large group of committed people just for the fun of it all, and that's what is important, we all had a fun and positive experience. Thank you all.
    Love from the other wife in your life...

  3. Hey Jim, what an experience for sure. I have to say Company seem to have this ability to ooze enthusiasm and friendship all the way. No wonder I have travelled 3 years in a row to the North Shore for a production. Brassed Off was truly enveloping. Bit like being on a submarine for 3 months. No secrets, no hiding! Hope to tread the boards with you again, Sand :)