August 8, 2014
We did it. And after cutting the tech short to fit in a dress rehearsal, it's a feat of achievement to have survived The White Devil. Not without hiccups.
I messed up the first dance and I'm on the front line. So it's not like nobody noticed. Couldn't hear the start of the music, didn't move into position on time, my bangle flew off and nearly hit a woman in the front row in the FACE, my heels throw me forward so I lose my balance and my dress keeps riding up to my ass SO IT'S NOT LIKE I DIDN'T HAVE A FEW THINGS ON MY MIND.
And there's nothing quite like dancing to a packed house of frozen trepidation. This audience had no idea what to expect - let's face it, they've all been warned about the show's content so they're on the lookout for shocking material from the off.
This is the first play I've been in with an actual age restriction (although perhaps some of them should have had one) but hey, we got our child license - there were two council members with us in the tech keeping an eye on exactly what our kiddy company members have to do. They hardly need worry - our first preview Giovanni was so awesomely confident and capable, he practically tore Tony Jayawardena out of the way to make his final address - no mean feat, Tony's been placed in front of him to shield his view of vile things, he's a big guy.
A first preview throws up so many unforeseen situations - how sticky the floor can get, how much you miss the breather of an interval. In this interval, most of us girls are cleaning up after the last scene. In The Roaring Girl, I have time to cool down from my wool costume, re-do my make-up, eat a little food for energy to get me through the second half and read a few emails, perhaps a copy of Grazia.
I spend most of The White Devil interval over a sink with a jar of cold cream and a flannel. We must turn from a grubby band of convertites (look it up, I had to) to an immaculate display of high-end wedding guests - there's no time to down a banana, there's barely time to pee. (I also want to add that Monday was my BIRTHDAY and I spent most of it as a grubby convertite in my PANTS.)
There's a magic about quick changes though. In rehearsal they loom like homework you keep putting off, in the tech they just seem impossible, in first preview they give you a heart attack because there's no stopping a live audience and rewinding.
Talking of live audiences, they have never felt more like a pack of unpredictable wild animals than this first preview - it's like being thrown to wolves. A dedicated band of RSC followers come to first previews (like the PUSSY CLUB). I suspect the main draw must be spotting gaffs (or gussets after my dress experience) but there is an unpredictable frissante about the event - after a first preview some bits may get cut, others will change - it's a unique experience and they are the first audience to to see it. And quite a bit of my ass.
The White Devil is no comedy so when we do get laughs, it's unnerving. Is that right? Has someone split their pants? (David Rintoul actually did in the tech - his Pope literally cannot be contained) But no, Webster had a sense of humour, albeit a really really sick one.
So. No one threw up (apart from the odd cast member from sheer nerves) and no one walked out. Some people ducked when the guns came out and the front row left were seen washing off Pro-blood in the loos after the show. Hey, Jay Simpson started that way back in Arden of Faversham, at least this season has continuity.
And I have bought big leopard print pants from M&S so at least if the dress rides up, the audience will see something that matches my shoes.
Today we are back in tech and I have never been more proud of this company. We are shattered. We pulled off a wondrous first preview and should all be in bed on a DRIP but the jokes keep coming, the laughter flows - even though some of us lie sprawled across rows of seats and 'stand-by' has become a by-word for 'hang around for another 20 minutes in painful shoes in the DARK. The understudy guys with the most text are drilling lines.
After press night, the next big date in the diary is The White Devil Public Understudy Performance. If we survive 'til then we are INVINCIBLE.
by Lizzie Hopley
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