Saturday, 25 June 2011

Border Security and a Beautiful Evening.

Overnight storms had taken out one of the tents on the Normanton site, meaning much of the morning was spent watching a team of technicians wrestle to put get it standing again. As the hours went by the weather began to change and the sun threatened to shine. Perhaps things were going to go our way?

There was a fair amount of nervous tension and so after an early morning run through of duties and responsibilities we dismissed the actors and gave them an afternoon off to relax back at Broccoli Bottom.

Towards the afternoon a VIP tent was set up at the top of the slope looking down into the playing area - blocking many of our exits and entrances. A group of stewards from the Lions club were briefed not to allow any audience to sit between the tent and the staging area in order that an unrestricted view might be achieved. The problem was off course that all of the design and directorial decisions had been made assuming the audience would be right up to the edge of the space. Two weeks of work sabotaged by the desire to protect privilege. It seemed so out of keeping with the generous spirit of the project.

Representations were made but the organisers held firm. Compromises were suggested, but still they held firm. Subversion was considered, but eventually, with our irritation revealed, we had to give in and rush back to the young actors to tell them to break free from the agreed staging and inhabit the newly created gap. It was a destabilising risk, but a critical part of story telling is to decide where you want your audience to be when they hear it. The newly created empty space completely undermined the impact of what we'd created.

The stewards, were as good as their word, enthusiastically patrolling the space, challenging anybody who even thought about taking up position in this tempting vantage point. After watching one of them tell a young family, replete with picnic gear and a buggy, three times where they couldn't sit. I suggested they might like to take a more positive role in finding somewhere where they could. It was so hostile. A really unnecessary gulf.

By six we were in auto pilot. Companies checked off, props and costumes collected, instruments tuned and after a couple of thank you speeches Peter lifted his baton, the orchestra struck up its first notes and the ball rolled.

I spent most of it sitting with young Marcus, who despite never having rehearsed in the space, remembered his part perfectly. Elsewhere I watched from a distance as the teams of actors made cue after cue, working really hard to ensure the show. And then before I'd even really realised it'd started it was over. The final moment of crescendo as the Belle made its way to the horizon, Hannah completed her story and the sixty sailing boats performed their our synchronised dance on the water was beautiful. Tired and relieved I had to fight back the tears.


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