Hello my dears!
As I write my 2nd blog (you can read my first post here!), we are hurtling towards our previews and opening night for “Oliver!” at the STUNNING Mercury at Abbey Field tent. If you have a ticket for our show, or any of the exciting forthcoming productions at this amazing venue, boy are you in for a treat!
I’m writing this on the eve of our dress rehearsal, so the “butterflies” are certainly fluttering! For the past week, we have been doing what is known as “Tech” (technical rehearsals). Tech is where the various elements of the show come together; set, lights, sound, orchestra, props & costumes, etc. As all of these things are coming together for the first time, Tech can be a long and laborious process; but absolutely essential to the finished product that the audience will see.
The teams from all departments have been putting in 12+ hour long days, rehearsing scene changes, plotting lighting, balancing sound levels, altering and maintaining costumes to name but a few jobs that have to be done.
A large part of Tech is spacing the cast into positions for the big production numbers, eg Consider Yourself and Who Will Buy, making sure everyone can be lit properly to be seen by the audience. This involves a lot of adjustment from the rehearsals for all involved. Luckily, our superb choreographer, Charlie Morgan, comes up with genius ideas to solve unanticipated issues these situations pose. I must also mention how great it is to hear the orchestra for the first time. In every show I’ve ever been involved with, either as Director/Choreographer or Actor, hearing the orchestra for the first time never fails to be a highlight of the rehearsal process for the company. Having the full sound of 13 musicians, under the fabulous Musical Direction of Greg Arrowsmith and expert sound design of Chris Bogg, has been so exciting.
Overseeing and leading the entire process has been Ryan McBryde, our brilliant director, who has meticulously broken down every moment to ensure that his vision is realised and that the show is in great shape before our first audience members arrive in less than 48 hours.
Having spent most of my rehearsals with the young company, “Nancy”, “Bet” & “Bill”, it has been lovely for me to see all the other scenes and songs on the stage with full costume and lighting. The attention to detail is fantastic and really evokes the era of Dickensian London which, try as you might, is very difficult to visualise in the rehearsal room. Since we’ve been in Tech, everything has really started to “come alive”.
Special shout out to the wardrobe department who have beautifully costumed over 50 cast members – some who have 3 or 4 costume changes. I, myself, am wearing no less than 13 pieces of costume (not including socks and pants) all at once for the entire show. Needless to say that, under the lights, it gets rather hot so, if you’re in the front row, I apologise in advance if my perspiration comes flying in your direction!
David Shields has designed a very clever set which works beautifully in this space. There is a high walkway across the back with 2 movable staircases providing access to and from the stage. We also have 2 “sliders” (floor to ceiling pieces which move horizontally along the ground) which help partition the stage for the various environments we find ourselves in throughout the show. There are also several “trucks” (pieces of set on wheels) which are used for specific scenes, eg the coffins in the Sowerberry’s funeral parlour and “my” fireplace in Fagin’s Den. These, along with other elements, combine to create a set of varying depths and heights, which will be a visual treat for the audience, especially when combined with Tim Deiling’s intricate lighting design.
A couple of nerve-wracking moments for me are when I climb a rather high ladder while singing “Reviewing the Situation”, and when I climb the side of a staircase to jump off mid-verse during “I’d Do Anything” – if you’re coming on the last night, I hope my hips haven’t packed in by then!!
I was expecting to walk into “the tent” and, as an actor, have an extremely different experience than usual. However, once you get your head around the fact that the ceiling and floor look rather different, the auditorium is exactly the same as you would expect in a normal theatre. I have utmost admiration for the Mercury technical team as they have built this venue from scratch in such a short space of time. It has all the technology needed to mount a production of this scale in what is, essentially, a field!
So… here we are at the end of my final “Fagin” blog. We’re all very excited to have an audience now to see the culmination of so many months of planning and preparation. Personally, I think the collaboration between the Mercury and Colchester Operatic Society has been a wonderful experience for all concerned and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it. Thank you for reading my musings on “Oliver!” and, should you want to hear any more of me “Reviewing the Situation”, well… you’ll just have to buy a ticket my dears!!
Book for Oliver! today simply follow the link here!