Backstage can be a hectic area during a play production. Some of the cast may be milling about, waiting to enter, others dashing for costume or props, and all trying not to impede the crew which is changing scenery or furniture. It really demands a conscious and concentrated team effort to make it run smoothly. More than once in my almost 40-year stint as an actor, I have found myself, while waiting to go on, grabbed by another person coming off, expecting praise or sympathy for his/her last scene, completely oblivious to the fact that I was psyching myself up for my own entry, fully concentrating on that and my first line. Such actors are not team players.
As The Vicar of Dibley is now in dress rehearsal mode, Joan and I have carefully plotted our entries, required props and costume changes, on large sheets of paper. We pin them up backstage, one on each side of the set, for a quick glance for reassurance or an urgent check as to "what comes next". Although neither of us has a major role in the play, it is still important that we are fully organised and aware of others round us. As Letitia Cropley, the character familiar to TV viewers for her festive floral foliage and calamitous culinary concoctions, Joan needs to make a few quick costume changes, and was a little concerned about having to rush to the ladies'changing room and back, eating up precious seconds.
"I'll just have to change backstage," she said. "I can use that corner to keep out of everyone's way. I bet Judi Dench never had that problem!" The remark was heard by Amdram's Mr Fix-it, aka Ian Jones. Prior to the start of the next rehearsal, Joan was called backstage. From the auditorium I could hear her gasp of surprise. When I joined her, it was to see a free-standing door, in a simple frame, bearing her name and a star and festooned with twinkling lights! Behind the door Ian had put a costume rack, plus some shelving for her several hats. What a wonderful gesture! As well as being funny, it will prove of immense value for Joan, as she can scurry to her little corner — via the door! — change in modesty and return to the fray. So thoughtful on Ian's part. Along with his wife Yvonne, who runs wardrobe and is in charge of props for this production, Ian represents all that is good about local theatre, constantly willing to pitch in and lend a hand wherever it is needed.
In addition, Ian has taken on the role of Jim Trott, the hesitant and bumbling "No, no, no, no-yes!" character and is wonderful. Cast members have worked incredibly hard to provide a show which will both entertain and revive happy memories of the TV programme. Director Chris McKenzie has skilfully guided us along towards his ultimate goal — a fast-paced comedy which will have the audience aching with laughter. Vicar opens on Thursday, June 20, running until Saturday 29. You can't afford to miss it!
JOAN: The Community Choir Fan Club was out in force last Saturday. I am referring to the capacity crowd who turned up at the Baptist Church to enjoy the choir's latest concert, entitled Musicals and Movies Through The Decades. There was a buzz of anticipation as the choir filed in — and rightly so. Musical Director Lynn Whiteside, so perfectly described as "effervescent" by compere Jonathan Greenwell, demonstrated her skill and enjoyment as she led the ladies and the smaller in number but firm-voiced, men into an appealing repertoire of super songs.
The first note signified a gorgeous set of sounds, harmonies and arrangements to come. For me, the choir was at their very best and gave lilting renditions of 42nd Street and the contrasting Stormy Weather to start the afternoon off. Later, they gave hippy, happy numbers from the lesser known musical Hair, even wearing most quirky but appropriate head gear.
The Community Youth Choir looked and sounded delightful. Eight young voices, confident and sweet, sang Can You Feel The Love Tonight and Hallelujah, both perfectly chosen.
Max Woodman was an unknown name to me but Jonathan informed us that he was a Collegiate pupil, in the Collegiate Choir, I should imagine. His voice was both interesting and promising. I enjoyed his Music of the Night, but would encourage him to look up and beyond his audience as his shyness cut him off a wee bit from us. I certainly hope to hear him again.
The warm and witty Jonathan did a great job introducing each number with its history and setting, and an even greater job alongside fellow members of the Whanganui Brass trombone section who are so skilful in their timing and harmonies and such fun to listen to. We wish the whole band all success during their forthcoming visit to China.
Shelley Walls is a lovely human being gifted with a very special singing voice. She appears to sing with ease, feeling the words, sharing the emotions. There are certain singers who touch you deep inside and Shelley does that and her pure singing of Til There Was You and Think of Me from Phantom moved me to tears.
We are blessed to have her as part of our community as we are with Lynn Whiteside and Abigail Livesay. Abby is an extraordinary pianist and so in her element when accompanying the choir. I marvel at the way she adapts to any mood of music, her body moving gently to the rhythm of the piece, her hands communicating the sound and mood to her instrument. She is totally unassuming and always seems surprised at the warm appreciation shown to her by her audience.
These three ladies bring the "wow factor" to any performance they are involved with and their choir love them for it. This shows in the dedication the singers express in their performance and all these elements made Saturday afternoon very special. I went home uplifted, happy inside and with the music singing in my heart.
JOAN: It is always a big relief when you are expecting tradesmen into your home, to find them considerate, kindly, skilful and good company. The perfect example of this is Steve Cox who came, on behalf of Downers, to recover our landline after fibre had been installed. We had spent a long weekend without connection to family or friends and were anxious that a long saga was about to begin. Not with Steve in charge. Taking his shoes off as a matter of habit, he set out his tools with care, quickly found the problem and soon had our sanity restored. No mess, just a real enthusiasm for the job and a careful assessment of his customers, in this case two "wrinklies". He explained the system and how to manage it in laymen's terms but never making us feel inadequate or ancient. He is a delight and I wish him and his family well in their Whanganui endeavours. He runs his own business and deserves our patronage. Many thanks, Steve, for a most fruitful visit.