What a strange experience this has been! On Monday at 6pm I met Andy the Litfest Artistic Director and a photographer from the local paper for the hand-over of the Mystery Launch theme. (I dread to think what the photo will look like – I had rushed to the meeting from the railway station and found myself posing by a headless statue just outside the priory…)
The theme was “The Secret Library”, which (after a quick Google to check I wasn’t missing anything specific) proved to be nice and broad. Between the hand-over and mid-afternoon Tuesday, a huge number of emails, phone calls, texts and tweets were exchanged between potential performers and me and gradually a structure began to emerge – in my head at least – for the show. An hour’s meeting/rehearsal followed, where performance material was given out and where I talked way too much in an attempt to explain what I hoped would happen. My group of performers left, slightly bewildered, I think, but still wonderfully willing!
And then there was Wednesday.
Wednesday included an interview on local radio (which I did in a complete blur), a manic shopping trip to spend the £33 budget on appropriate items, and a three and a half hour rehearsal in the theatre, complete with lighting technician and stage manager. Good will abounded and I think – hope – everyone had fun. Somehow, we walked through and then ran a complete hour’s show – with singers joining for the final hour of rehearsal to add some finishing touches. There were still sections we couldn’t fully rehearse – namely the two brief “interactive” segments -where we hoped members of the audience would come onto the stage to return books given to them as they entered the theatre – and the finale – on which most of the budget had been spent and which was something we could only really run once fully. So, at 5.30pm, a nervous, but focussed, cast took a brief break before the show began.
At 6.00 an good-sized and expectant audience sat in The Round theatre space and we began. The audience were very supportive and seemed to like what they saw: 12 performers (plus 6 singers) were on stage throughout, reading books as if in a library,while 3 librarians patrolled the stage and audience, and the show itself comprised a series of different stories and poems, including romances, adventures and ghost stories, told, and read by different cast members and linked by appropriate songs. Because I had confidence in the high quality of my performers, I was able to relax and enjoy much of what happened – especially as I could sense (I think!) that the audience was on our side.
As the finale drew near, though, I began to get nervous – really for the first time that day (not because I’m over-confident, but because I’d been too busy to worry!). The finale, you see, as I mentioned earlier, was where I’d spent the majority of the budget and I suddenly started to worry that I’d been too flippant – or surreal – and that it would fall flat. The finale was to be a “firework display” – every good opening event needs one! – and so I had bought loads of shiny tinsel, confetti and balloons and hidden them in the balcony of The Round for the the three librarians to pop (balloons) and shower over the audience (shiny things) while the singing group sang a piece of classical music and the cast shared chocolates with the audience. It worked in my head, but everyone I’d mentioned it to over the 48 hours – including the cast and singers – had nodded at me sympathetically and looked away.
Thankfully, however, the audience got into the spirit and really seemed to get – and enjoy – it (maybe it was the chocolates!), so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and enjoyed it too.
Reader, we did it! Perfectly? Of course not! But energetically and to the best of our ability given all the constraints.
An enormous thanks to any performers – and crew – who are reading this – I was really proud of you all.
Here’s to the next challenge…