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Here we go: the School Play – now officially titled Faults of the Fathers, will go onstage in a couple of weeks, and we are hard at work on it. Yesterday afternoon, as I arrived at the Tiny Theatre for rehearsals, I met a friend and colleague at the door.

“How’s it going?” he asked – and I said it’s going the right kind of dreadfully for two-weeks-from-curtain-up, which is frightening to the students but quite typical, and quite true.

And last night’s rehearsals were a perfect illustration of what I mean. Let’s see…

  • Most of the cast know their lines by now – with two exceptions. One is a College girl with a large role: she is taking a huge exam tomorrow, and has promised to be word-perfect by next Monday – and I rather believe her. The other is the Course Pest, the argumentative, ever-whining, not terribly good and yet presuming one, who has all of ten lines, no clue, and a way to read them off the script as though for the first time through fogged glasses…
  • As a result, Marcello, our gentle, supportive, usually unflappable director threw a minor fit.
  • Blocking is still the tiniest tad fluid here and there. Some scenes are quite set, some are still in progress. One sequence in particular, we had to do four times in a row, and still looked eminently botchable by the time we parted company.
  • The Chorus is, on the whole, shaping up nicely – bot how is it that whenever we split them in two, one half sounds quite well, and the other unfailingly falls into Rosary Mode? No matter how we change each group’s composition, no matter how we demonstrate, one half of the Chorus can’t seem to sound like anything but a bunch of nuns saying their Hail Marys…
  • The black veils finally arrived, and it was chaos. Everyone is wearing a long black veil, only shedding it when a member of the Chorus steps up to become an individual character. Simple and effective, in theory. In practice, there was no end of fiddling, tweaking, dragging, sliding, hanging unevenly, falling down… “Oh, come on,” I groused, stomping on the stage. “How hard can it be?” So I grabbed a veil, and threw it over my head, and all was well until I tried to move, and the damn thing developed a will of its own, sliding every which way, and refusing to stay where it belonged. I guess it will have to be bobby-pins for the Chorus proper, and some juggling for the leads.
  • Lighting is still at what can only be called a fiddling stage.
  • And so on…

All of which, as I said, is a quite regular kind of “dreadful” for the stage we’ve reached, and we’ve still got two weeks, and everything. But… but then there is the other side of the coin. There is that, now and then, things will happen that look, sound, or feel breathtakingly right – just the way they ought to be. Now and then the shape we are aiming for breaks through, all shiny and lovely to see and hear, and it is the most wonderful feeling.

No – that’s not us. It didn’t occur to me to take a picture…

I was sitting in the front row, last night, frowning at two conflicting sets of notes in my prompt book – and I happened to look up right at the moment when the new music, some light-fiddling, and three members of the Chorus combined in breath-taking perfection: three veiled figures silhouetted in the blackest black against an orange-gold background, moving very slowly to the right music…

“There!” exclaimed in unison Marcello and I – and I wish I’d taken a picture, but then perhaps it wouldn’t have done justice to the shimmering, dream-like, perfect moment…

Then, of course, one of the veiled creatures began to fumble with the veil, and the music stopped, and someone asked, was he in the right place – and he wasn’t – and all came tumbling down… but still, for a moment we’ve seen it. It’s there, the thing we’re aiming for, the thing we want to stage in a couple of weeks. It’s there – and it’s hatching.

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