Making the Mad World madder
July 22, 2013
There's a great story concerning the recording of David Bowie's 1979 album Lodger. In order to create a loose, garage band-like sound for the song Boy's Keep Swinging, Bowie and Brian Eno had the backing band all swap instruments with each other; thus, the stomping drum intro that your hear at the start of the track is actually being played by legendary session guitarist Carlos Alomar.
I mention this simply because I couldn't help but be reminded of the anecdote by the public understudy performance of A Mad World My Masters.
Almost the entirety of the cast was involved in some way or another. Sometimes a given actor would play more than one character, often in the same scene. Sometimes a given character would be played by more than one actor. All of us played entirely out of position. It was crazy, madcap fun, and entirely in keeping with the spirit of the play.
As such, it was a fantastically enjoyable experience. My only real concern on the morning of the performance was that the audience would be nervous on our behalf, and that this sympathetic anxiety would stifle their laughter to some extent. I needn't have worried.
We had the thrill and the pleasure to perform this one-off version of the play to a fantastically supportive, wonderfully attentive and inexhaustibly raucous crowd. You would expect, as an actor, to find an understudy performance a somewhat nerve-wracking ordeal, but on the afternoon of 5 July, I don't think any of us wanted it to end.
For me, it was a joy to get to sing with our fantastic band, and I can now tell you that the perilous and precarious upper gallery platform affords a stunning view of the Swan (though it would be fair to say that I was glad of the harness).
More than that, I found it a heart-warming reminder of the strength of this company. In particular, I'm full of admiration for Joe, Dwane and Jonny, who managed, in the space of a week, to master complicated comedic business that it had taken Rich, Harry and myself a couple of months to devise and learn.
And master it they did, my Masters. And for that one performance, the mad world of Soho was even madder.
by Ben Deery
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