At last! Today is another milestone step on the nation’s roadmap to recovery as we open up a little more. But if anything confirms The Petuaria Players rational approach to not making premature decisions then the appearance and potential threat of the new variant that is now showing its ugly face is it.
Already there is talk within government that the total lifting of restrictions planned for June may be in jeopardy. That is one of the reasons that we have not scheduled a meeting of our planning committee until that time.
Like ourselves our followers and audience regulars are keen to see us back on the stage and are asking when that will be. The short answer is, we don’t know yet.
It is always a challenge at the best of times to find three plays that fit our cast and their availability and our stage. At the moment we are faced with too many unknowns. We are eager to get there but we need to be in a position – months ahead of a performance – where we know actors and backstage people can commit their free time to a play, are in a safe position to be rehearsing and performing in sometimes very close or intimate proximity and that they will not have to halt a production because a cast member has to self isolate. We have no stand ins. And then we have to know how we can safely bring an audience into our venue and pay our costs.
Many assume we are ready to return to rehearsals but both the rules and the above constraints mean that day is, sadly, still a little way off. Professionals are in a different position and new ways of performing to limited audiences are now in progress and that is to be welcomed.
Hopefully, next month we will have more clarity and be better informed to make decisions. And as soon as we have more news we will be posting it on here and on Facebook. Make sure you are following us to stay informed.
To sum up, our thoughts over these unknowns are about as clear as that infamous statement from Donald Rumsfeld.
….as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know….
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March…
[Act 1 Scene 2 Julius Caesar. William Shakespeare]
Julius Caesar isn’t the only one who had a bad day at the Forum on the 15th of March, known to the Romans as ‘The Ides of March’. We at Petuaria Players did too because it was exactly one year ago today that we met as a group for the last time. (Well, the 16th actually but it was a Monday and even Bill Shakespeare stretched a few truths.)
We were at the books-down stage in rehearsals for Alan Ayckbourn’s FlatSpin and whilst the first time without scripts in hand is always stressful we were all looking forward to putting on this play, not least new girl Sally who had been preparing for her first stage performance with a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
Of course, it was not to be. That was the night that it had become clear that a performance at the end of April would be impossible and we made the decision that had been hovering over us for a few days to postpone the play.
At the time we wondered if we may be able to reschedule it later as our October 2020 play. Who knew then that even October 2021 would be shrouded with a mixture of optimistic promise and uncertainty. We shall see…..
“Is there no play, To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?”
[William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act V, sc I]
Was it really August since our last article was posted on here? When time should be dragging it seems to be rushing. Once again we have a flashback to 2008 to another Alan Ayckbourn play, one which kept everyone on their toes with numerous parts and characters to cope with.
Yes, remember 2008? The year of the financial crisis and start of a decade of waiting for recovery – and where are we today? On the other hand Obama became President of the USA with the promise of a great future. And where are we today? And Lewis Hamilton became F1 World Champion for the first time and…. well at least some things never change!
And in November of that year we took on the challenge of Confusions. This consists of five one act plays all loosely linked by either a character moving from one play to another, or the same location. But the themes of obsession, isolation and companionship appear in comedy form.
Richard Bateman produced the play and, by necessity, acted in it too.
Confusions by Alan Ayckbourn – a comedy in five acts, performed in November 2008
Act 1 – Mother Figure A mother (Lucy) unable to escape from from her children bound existence treats her concerned neighbours as children…
Act 2 – Drinking Companion Lucy’s errant husband Harry is away overnight on business and at his hotel desperately flirts with and attempts to seduce the attractive saleswoman also staying there…
Act 3 – Between Mouthfuls The waiter at the hotel in Act 2 finds himself serving in the restaurant there, where two couples at separate tables find they have an unwelcome common bond…
Act 4 – Gosforth’s Fête In this the most chaotic and farcical act, we find Councillor Mrs. Pearce (previously seen at dinner in Act 3) invited to open Gosforth’s village fete. But when one of the ladies’ personal news is accidentally broadcast over the site PA, a catalogue of disasters and embarrassments are revealed…
Act 5 – A Talk in The Park In the same park where the Fete took place, sit five strangers on separate park benches, each with their own troubles. When Arthur sits next to Beryl to relate his story an uncomfortable Beryl eventually escapes and joins the person at the next bench – where she now relates her own feelings – and so it continues as each one moves to the next bench…. .
Going back to 2008 and the very mention of ‘Improbable Fiction’ brings wry smiles to the cast as they think ‘costumes’. More of that shortly.
Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Improbable Fiction’ was the final play of the season before our summer break that year. It had read well and we all found it hilarious and zany and we looked forward to rehearsals. Janet Drewery took on the responsibility for producing and directing this ambitious production.
It is a light hearted play that centres around Arnold, who runs the Pendon Writers Circle, a group of not particularly talented, unexciting, amateur, aspirational wannabe authors. Arnold himself is a writer of instruction manuals – which gives you an idea of the level of his creative imagination. With his unseen bedridden mother upstairs they meet regularly in his front room. Act One amusingly shows one of these meetings and reveals the characters and their planned novels.
Improbable Fiction by Alan Ayckbourn, performed in 2008
Where the whole play bursts into farcical dream-like fantasy is act two where by some mysterious means the ever sensible and boring Arnold finds himself living in those novels brought vividly to life. However, all five novels and genres become entwined in a comic saga of mayhem that leaves poor Arnold in a very confused state.
Now let me say up front that this was a successful and fun play to do, a production we are proud of. I say all this because behind the scenes we also have fond and amusing memories where things didn’t always quite go to plan……..
When I said earlier ‘costumes’ comes to mind that was related to the ambitious second act. Act one was normality for us. But I doubt the audience were ready for the zany antics of act two. Neither were we really. With no scene changes, just continuous action throughout the whole play, we knew that we were coming off and on stage as different characters with different costumes as we swapped continually between the interwoven five storylines of the writers’ imagination.
Slideshow: Act One
Only when we all went to a Leeds costumiers to select what turned out to be our largest collection of costumes for a single play and possibly our largest hire bill did we begin to realise what we had in store. It was only when the hire costumes arrived – in time for the tech and dress rehearsals – that the practicalities of everyone actually getting into various costumes at speed, to go on for a few lines, and then off and into another, did we realise the challenges we had. Rehearsals had involved no costume changes other than in our imagination. Reality, we discovered, took ten times as long.
The audience was subjected to such a frenzied fast moving confusion of zany characters and plots that they could never have known the tension, stress and sweat backstage, with just seconds to change; the shouts backstage of “which ******* character am I now?” and “Which ***** outfit am I supposed to be in?” We were very afraid of turning up for a three minute scene in the wrong costume. Indeed even our lines had us confused as we announced ourselves with wrong names…. It was, however, all in keeping with the manic plot and unless your name was Alan Ayckbourn the audience could never have known.
Slideshow: Act Two
And who can forget Dianne’s stunning portrayal of a squirrel. Our fondest memory, and hers, was the night she seemed to be wandering around the stage in a drunken fashion, seemingly having lost all sense of direction and had also forgotten to put on her squirrel paws. It turned out that in her frantic rush to change into the squirrel outfit backstage and rush back on in time for her entrance, she realised, too late, that she had thrown the paws into the squirrel head at her last costume change. As she dashed onto stage ramming the head into place the paws slid forward inside and over the eye sockets leaving her stumbling around blind. More suppressed laughter on stage.
As if this mix of characters and plot genres wasn’t enough – a children’s story, a romance, science fiction, crime detection and… a musical – we had to blast our way through a song and choreographed dance routine every night. The song and dance “There’ll be light at the end of the tunnel” took on a new meaning one night when the lighting cable suddenly disconnected plunging the stage into darkness. With a frantic and stressed Richard scrabbling and cursing in the pitch black under the mixer desk amidst a spaghetti bunch of cables we valiantly carried on in true showmanship fashion, our costume glitter sparkling in the pale green hue of the emergency lights. As full light was restored moments later to the line ‘There’ll be light….” the audience was no doubt impressed with our stunning and creative lighting design.
But as I said, despite these humorous memories, we put on a great production and the audience only saw performances they thoroughly enjoyed.
More memories soon!
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