Coming out of the chrysalis
May 14, 2013
There was a funny end-of-term sort of frisson in the air on our last Friday in London. The end of the laval stage in the life of our production had arrived, and, after nine weeks, it was time for us to emerge from our Clapham chrysalis.
The fact that we were all relishing the prospect of a two-day weekend in the glorious early summer sun probably had something to do with it as well.
But the anticipation of the move to Stratford wasn't the only reason for excitement. From the very first day of work on A Mad World My Masters, it's been clear that the music will play a huge part in defining the character of the show. Blues and jazz interludes run through the piece and help to hold it all together, like a syncopated, pentatonic backbone. This is Soho in the 50s, after all.
Linda John Pierre, our jazz singer, has been dazzling us with her effulgent voice throughout rehearsals, but we'd not yet worked with the rest of the band. As delighted as we were to finally meet our brilliant musicians, we were even more thrilled to hear them play.
Not only do they perform this music brilliantly, but they do so in the gutsy and seductive spirit of the play itself. To borrow a phrase from the play, you'd have to be 'musty visaged' indeed not to be won over by the spectacle of Ian Redford launching exuberantly into Let the Good Times Roll backed by a six-piece jazz band, complete with horns.
It occurs to me that Follywit, Sponger and Oboe are, in an odd way, not unlike jazz musicians themselves. They go through life riffing off of one another, and improvising their way in and out of trouble. If he were a musician, I think Sponger would probably play the double bass - though that might be 'a prop too far', even for me…
by Ben Deery
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