Sunday, 29 May 2011

Snapshots of my life in which virtue is triumphant

That is, those snapshots of my life in theatrical performances. Friends of mine have blooged about their varied G&S experiences, and since today is the centenary of Gilbert's death, it seems a fitting moment to do mine.

So I cast my mind back to late 2007/early 2008. I was in the second year of my degree, still quite enjoying it, but something of a social recluse. I needed to do more things with my life, so I looked at the list of societies and saw Gilbert & Sullivan. "That'll involve singing," I thought. Let's go for it!
And after feeling slightly out of place for a little while, I got into it. The Mikado, a good show to start someone on G&S, which I have since seen performed twice without me being involved.
That red make-up was hell to get off, but I think it worked reasonably - certainly we got a striking distinction between the men, all red and black, and the women, all white and blue (Once they'd scrubbed off the red from having been men in the opening chorus).

I recall our director mentioned that since I joined relatively late in the rehearsal period, he hadn't thought I'd be able to do the performance - a clear indication that he didn't know me that well. On the contrary, come the performances, I seemed to know everything somewhat better than the other two members of the male chorus, and some of the principals (No offense to our Pooh-Bah, he was great, but I did know all his lines, while he forgot one or two).

On to a summer show, for which I was again late getting into it due to mishaps with getting me on the society mailing list. Sherlock Holmes and the House of Almost Certain Death was an excellent show to be in the chorus for, because the chorus got to be many things depending on the scene - policemen, a wall, servants, some sort of incompetent theatrical troupe, pathologists and drunkards. Actually, I did have a very small part (One line) as Second Drunk. Given I only started drinking alcohol about a month before the performances, not the best fit, but acting disoriented was quite easy - I just removed my glasses.
For the record, that gormless look on my face is me acting drunk. Entirely deliberate.
Onto another year. Main show of 2009 was Patience. Being in from the start of the rehearsal period this time, I did audition, but didn't get a part, sadly. But in any case, I still enjoyed myself as a heavy dragoon (Once I found a helmet which didn't keep falling off)
Helmet threatening to fall off, hence why I'm staring at my feet.
Odd costuming, which I still don't understand to this day - there's a line about the dragoons' uniforms, "Red and yellow - primary coloours. Oh, South Kensington!" So I don't really get why we were dressed in black, with grey sashes. I suppose there was again the contrast with the women, who were more colourful in their aestheticism, but it doesn't really make sense with that line.
Random point - a Playgrounder got married last year and I swear he looks remarkably like our Bunthorne. See the photos in this post I made. What do you think?

Summer show that year was How to Marry an Aristocrat. To my mind, possibly the ideal summer show - full of small parts, so everyone gets to do something (IIRC, we only had one person who was just chorus), but for those less confident about acting, it doesn't have to be anything too big.
I got my first principal part in this show, as Sir Rupert Strangeways, Duke of Wansworth, who has disguised himself as a commoner in order to find his true love.
Very much in the mould of the Gilbertian romantic tenor - complete with completely sincere speeches which are, in one way or another, utterly ridiculous. I struggled to keep a straight face at times, but it was gratifying to have to wait for the audience to stop laughing before delivering my next line.

And now the big one. 2010. HMS Pinafore. My first principal role in a main show, and it just happens to be my favourite role G&S ever wrote, in my favourite show they ever wrote. When I received the email telling me I was playing Ralph Rackstraw, I had to keep re-reading it to be sure it wasn't a figment of my imagination.

A lot of cherished memories, but since I did it for a second time two weeks ago (Though in a rather different style), I'll save the Pinafore comments for that post.

Summer show of 2010 was something one of our members wrote called A Tale of Liquor and Dice, about a zookeeper who's gambled away all his money, young couples in love, and getting drunk.
Much as I love romantic tenor roles, they are all more or less the same character, just in different sets of circumstances, so on this occasion I thought I'd take a break and go for the other tenor role, one of a pair of incompetent mafiosos trying to collect the money from the aforementioned zookeeper.
As a sidenote, the summer shows have had the interesting effect of teaching me more of the music for actual G&S shows, because once the summer shows are done with, I invariably look over the original words for the songs used. Just one more element in my quest to become a walking set of G&S vocal scores!

Leaving behind NUGSS now, I started getting into the other local G&S societies, to satisfy my obsession. In Ruddigore, I ended up playing the dastardly Sir Roderic Murgatroyd, the deceased previous bad Baronet of Ruddigore, which I believe I've mentioned before, is the reason I originally grew a beard - trying to look old enough to be the uncle of two of my co-stars, one of whom is about a year younger than me, and the other in the region of a decade older.

A relatively small part, but a very enjoyable one. Sir Roderic is one of a number of parts in the G&S shows, who only turn up in Act 2, but then get some of the best music, and in several cases as soon as they come on stage, the plot starts to revolve around them somewhat.

And all subsequent productions in which I've taken part have been since I started this blog, so I'll just link to the relevant posts I made about them:
The Grand Duke

Yeomen of the Guard
As mentioned, I did Pinafore again 2 weeks ago, a post about that is coming soon.
I'm also doing The Grand Duke again (Twice in one year - I shall be the envy of obsessive G&S enthusiasts the world over!), but any comments on that will have to wait.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if you care but I happen to know the relevance of the black and white costumes despite the blatant primary colours line - hte idea was that the characters see what they liked but the audience were dimly aware that those without colour were not 'in fashion' so to speak; the colours or lack of were signals to the audience, an endorsement of the original Gilbertian themes. With the changing preferences of the women so the costumes coloured or discoloured to reflect the character's current popularity. Or, at least, that was what he was going for :)