Monday, 20 August 2007

Dubai International ...Shopping Center

Half way home - stopped over in Dubai for an hour or so. This place does happen to have aeroplanes landing and taking off from it, but it's mainly a duty-free shopping center. Which leaves us with three fundamental questions:

* Why do people arrive?
* Why do they leave?
* And why do they spend so much of the intervening time buying digital watches?

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Going home!

In about five minutes, the bus leaves to take us to the airport... we'll soon be home!!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Ruddygore: A Case For The Phantasmagorical

Attended a one-man show in the Paxton today. Entitled "Ruddygore: A Case For The Phantasmagorical", it is a look at the origins of Ruddygore (later renamed Ruddigore), touching on the various people involved, how things came together, what influenced the show. Being a one-man show (actually one plus a technical assistant), it has comedic moments such as hiding behind a box and having a conversation with oneself about a telegram, or conducting a dialogue between Rose Maybud and Mad Margaret by sidestepping and facing the other way. Snippets of video, animation, and audio recordings enhance the show. For those new to Gilbert and Sullivan, this is full of fascinating information about how it all began; for those (like me) who already have a great fascination for the show, it's a dramatisation of what might otherwise be a bald and unconvincing paragraph of facts and stats.

The show is in two acts of just under an hour each, covering both the original time of the opera (1887) and the early 20th century revivals, with a look at the alterations in the latter and the increased success Ruddigore then enjoyed. Pace is maintained, and the performance never really flags, even when Nigel is readying himself for the next piece of business - the screen carries the show for a while, with perhaps a set of stills and some musical backing, or possibly a snippet from a Ruddigore cartoon. At the very end, mention is made of what Gilbert started working on after Ruddigore - The Yeomen of the Guard - and the show concludes with its rousing overture.

Nigel Anderson (the man-on-the-stage) and Michael Thompson (technical) have clearly put a huge amount of work into this, and the results reflect it admirably.

Fun in the Festival Club

After each performance in the G&S Festival, the evening's entertainment continues in the Festival Club with a couple of cabaret performances. As is usual, the group who performed that night in the opera house took the second cabaret today; but after all that was finished, and nearly everyone had gone home, the few of us who hung around were treated to another bit of fun - well, just a bit of fiddling around, really... okay, awful pun. One man and his violin entertained us practically until we were all kicked out at the end of the day. He's amazing - plays all sorts of pieces, weaves bits together (there was one long section where he kept slipping into "Tie me kangaroo down, sport" - fun stuff!), and can make the violin do extraordinary things. I hope he's there again tomorrow, this was a good evening's crazily ridiculous fun!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Festival "Ruddigore"

Just been to see Ruddigore, performed by an international cast drawn from festival-goers - covering a wide range of countries including Estonia, New Zealand, Brazil, and a wide range of counties too :) The leads were auditioned by video (somewhat similarly to the way Savoynet do), but the chorus was assembled during the festival itself - a week before the show. Dick Dauntless also wasn't cast early, incidentally, resulting in an odd programme insert... the main programme could only have the names of people who were cast in time for the printing, and then an insert was printed up listing the members of the Chorus of Bridesmaids, the Chorus of Villagers, and the Chorus of Ancestors. And at the end of the third list was an odd pair:

* Guilherme Gama (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
* Richard Dauntless (Robin's Foster-Brother)

Okay. The insert printer wasn't expecting a principal on the list, we can forgive the oddity... at least the right people were all acknowledged, and spelled correctly too.

The show maintained a high standard of singing quality, energy, and tempo. The stage was used well, and the choreography executed smoothly, but some of the diction was less than clear, partly in consequence of the speed at which various numbers were taken. There were fun touches throughout the show, such as a bridesmaid entering late and "catching up" with her bouquet movements; or another bridesmaid not wanting to listen to Dame Hannah's description of the curse; or Sir Despard leaning against the pros arch while everyone was fawning all over the new bad baronet - Despard seemed as surprised as anyone when Rose suddenly focussed on him.

The chorus work was at a similar high standard - there was the odd late hand movement but by and large everyone stayed together. Interestingly, the chorus of villagers entered Ruddigore Castle along with the bridesmaids, in the second act - each carrying some kind of token or talisman against evil. There was some slight difficulty with the blue stage lights reflecting badly on them (also with Sir Ruthven's and Old Adam's lanterns at the beginning of the act), but they added a neat touch to the scene.

Mad Margaret. I came to the show with high expectations from Elise... a coloratura soprano, not a mezzo, but so utterly and completely insane that she could hardly fail to render Margaret with some real character. And character is exactly what the part needs - Margaret is a very real person, with her own thought processes (which may not QUITE line up with the way other people think!) and her own reasons for doing things. She's mad. She's in love with Despard. She's been thrown over and wants nothing more than to come back to him. And she has an efficient (if not exactly sanitary) way of dealing with flies. I think it would have been appropriate for Rose to be a little more apprehensive in her dealings with Marg - after all, this woman is crazy, you never know what she's going to do - but apart from that, the scene had all the realism it needed. Margaret pulls off a doll's head - she might pull off Rose's next!

Speaking of Rose - very sweet voice. Managed to project personality, emotion, and vocal skill. Lost audibility occasionally but never seriously (and this might have been a consequence of my seat in the upper gallery, too).

Despard was intensely evil in the first act; but in the second, he was so afraid of his now-evil brother that he donned a glove before putting his hand on Ruthven's shoulder. And then he threw the glove to Margaret... and repeated the whole thing a moment later. I was just aching to see what he'd do the third time, but - there was no third time. Ahh well.

All in all, an excellent night's entertainment, and worth re-enjoying by video. Its applause and largely positive adjudicator's review were completely merited.

The show!!

Yesterday was bump in, dress rehearsal, opening night, and closing night, all rolled into one. (And at a salary! Well... no, not quite.) Instead of having a week of preparation, we had twelve hours. The first sight we got of the theatre (other than seeing previous shows) was at 9AM, and then by about 11PM we were all done, finished, gone.

Bump in was fairly straightforward. We didn't have a huge amount of scenery, and everything was stored nearby (in Melbourne we use a trailer to get everything from scenery store to theatre, but here we just took it all by hand). The Festival Ruddigore (which I'm going to be seeing tonight) was in rehearsal in the Octagon, where we'd left all our gear; so we had to come barging in to collect things. I hope it wasn't too distracting to them!

Robert got a chance to do some work on the stage before the orchestra arrived; this mainly involved the men (sticky tape markers on the stage, and sort out the dragoon formations). Then we broke for lunch, after which the entire company gathered for the dress rehearsal. There is only one - one chance to sort everything out. It's the MD's only chance to arrange things with the orchestra, which is important - but it's also our only chance to run the show on the stage. There were a few things that couldn't be rendered perfectly, but there was a little bit of time after the orchestra call in which things like that could be sorted out.

And then, 7:30, we perform. Never before have I seen an audience so large at one of our shows... the theatre seats about 900 people, and it was full - even some standees, I'm told! The applause was tremendous, undoubtedly helping to lift the quality of the production. There were a few problems - a few lines that got muffed, some "phasing issues" in the double choruses (that's just a more polite way of saying the choruses got totally out of time with each other and with the orchestra), and such, but the energy and enthusiasm carried through.

At the end, after the curtain calls, the orchestra struck up Advance Australia Fair. Even some of our non-Australian guests joined in singing our national anthem - I noticed Rachel Middle singing enthusiastically, and afterward she mentioned to me that the (Australian) person standing next to her got the words wrong somewhere, but she - Rachel - had studied it and knew the words perfectly :)

The adjudicator (Gillian Humphreys) was astoundingly positive about the show. She admired the show - I may say she loved it. Too mild.... adored! All her comments are recorded on the DVD of the show. She gushed enthusiasm, commended us for one thing after another, and only had a few criticisms - she noted the timing/phasing problems, and such.

After packing up the show, we all repaired to the Festival Club for the cabaret. I wasn't greatly involved, partly as I was meeting friends (Graeblyn and Elei from Threshold), and partly because I was always busy during rehearsals, and couldn't skedaddle to rehearse the cabaret; so my involvement basically was a subordinate role of talking to the lighting people - there was one point where the lights had to come down for the beginning of a song, and up again part way through, so I cued that from the back of the audience. Oh, and there was one song all about chocolate, for which I supplied props - some empty chocolate wrappers... who'da thunk it!

All in all, a very full-on day - and fully repaid in audience enthusiasm. I've had a number of people today tell me how much they loved the show; several have said that they expect we'll win some sort of prize in the competition. I don't know if we will or not; really, though, it doesn't matter - the show stands or falls on its own merits, as reflected in the general applause of the audience, and when it comes down to it, the adjudicator is only one person. But it's still encouraging to hear a positive review :)

Monday, 13 August 2007

Contacting Threshers

One of the things to do when visiting another country is to meet the people you've known online. As well as Savoynet, I have another such group: Threshold RPG. So far I haven't actually MET any fellow Threshers, but I've been in communication with several, in the hopes of meeting up.

* Graeblyn and Elei - two people, but sharing a phone number. When I told my brother that I'd been speaking on the phone to "Grae and Elei", he asked if they were two characters played by one person :) Hoping to meet up after rehearsal tonight (Mon), and then also again at/after tomorrow's show.

* Thierran - only just recently arrived back from overseas, and thus unsure if she'll be able to come to the show. I hope she will though! We'll meet up one of these times.

There've been a few other UK Threshers speaking to me about meeting up, but I've figured out that England is a reasonably large country (in fact, it's nearly as big as Victoria, which is Australia's smallest mainland state...), and there's no way that I'm travelling outside it. Even to Scotland, sorry but it's a tad far. :D

Exploring Buxton

Buxton is a delightful place to spend time. We are staying in the Derby University Halls of Residence, right near the town center, so we're close to everything. There are several major supermarkets, at least two chocolatiers, and forty-two million eateries, all within walking distance.

The Festival has brought a lot of people here. Nowhere else would I be walking along, minding my own business, and suddenly overhear someone referring to Princess Ida. Quite an odd feeling, that... The flip-side is, we have a good chance of playing to a full house!!

England versus Australia. To be sure, there are differences; but everything's so amazingly similar that it's actually possible to enumerate specific differences - for instance, UK power points are built umop apisdn, with the earth on top; and the aural notification that the pedestrian lights are green is reminiscent of the level crossing warning tones, so it makes me think "stop" rather than "go". By and large, though, most things are highly similar. There is hardly more difference between Melbourne and Buxton than between Melbourne and some of the country towns in Victoria. I've found England a most pleasant place to visit - wish we were here for longer, but there's no way that that's an option now.

Thracian weather?

Interrupting the flow of posts for one thing that struck me... literally actually!

We got pelted with rain today. Hadn't had any rain since we arrived, but now we got what seemed at first like a brief sunshower. It got heavier, though; and we had costumes to carry around, so we had to seek shelter and wait. Walking along the road, with the asphelt steaming and the rain in my face, I could think of only one thing: This is Thracian weather. Rosuav knows all about this.

And, to make it even more Rosuavesque - He's the Armory Coordination Head for the Psions' Guild, and part of my job today involved sorting out and keeping safe a number of swords. We had a pretty spiffy armory, all under lock and key, and I'm keeping track of the things in it. Quite fascinating... he and me, we keep doing the same things.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Meeting Savoynetters

Since arriving here, I've met up with a number of fellow Savoynetters. Apologies to those not mentioned; this is just the few who I can put finger to keyboard about before dashing off to rehearse. In no particular order:

* Rachel Middle: joining our cast. Noticed her in the Savoynet Pinafore - recognized her from Ruddygore where she had played Zorah. Very happy to have her in the cast.
* Jim Cooper: also joining us. Doing a significantly better job than the person whose place in the chorus he has taken over.
* Rebecca Hains: Had spoken by email and expressed interest in buying her CD. Caught her at the last possible opportunity. Very fortunate.
* Elise Curran: LOTS of fun. Playing Mad Margaret in the Festival production, the night after we perform; as a lot of people have said, perfect casting.
* Laurie Marks: Intelligent, fun to talk to, well worth meeting. Left Buxton now I believe.

I'd mention more but it's 10:00 and I have to go. Will add more names later if I get a chance.

Rehearsals

There are a number of people in our Buxton production that weren't in our Melbourne season. Ian Henderson is our new Grosvenor, and Jim Cooper, Rachel Middle, Wendy Falconer, Linda, and another Sue are joining our chorus. (We have so many Sues in this chorus, it's amazing. If you can't think of a lady's name, just call her Sue, you have about a 50-50 chance of being right.) We've had some rehearsals, no obligation, those who are here come and those who aren't don't, with a view to helping along our primary rehearsals. (In about half an hour we'll be starting our first full-on rehearsal, it's going to be all day and everybody - we have another the same tomorrow, and then Tuesday is... err... hell week compressed into about twelve hours.)

South Anglia's "Princess Ida"

The day after Savoynet's Pinafore was South Anglia's Ida. I rocked up to the box office to inquire about tickets, but there weren't any available (well, I could have had a really expensive seat, or else another restricted-viewing seat, neither of which I particularly wanted to do). But I came to the cabaret afterwards (3 quid, which isn't too bad).

First half was Ian Henderson and Rebecca Hains, with Florrie Marks on the piano; some G&S pieces, some non-G&S, some duets, some solos. Well sung. This was Rebecca's last night in Buxton, although I didn't realise it; fortunately she came past us on her way out to greet some of the people with whom I was sharing a table, so I was able to catch her and get a copy of her CD (she had one in her handbag, and I had a ten pound note in my pocket, happy coincidence). She has a lovely voice. I'm listening to her sing Julia's "Tomorrow" aria as I type.

Second half was, as is the custom, the group who'd just performed that night. South Anglia had a brilliant skit entitled "The Radio Version of Murder At Ruddigore Castle"... they made reference, in dialog or song, to every single one of the G&S operas, with the possible exception of Thespis and Trial. It was full of radio jokes, too... they were standing on stage, and it was most amusing to see all the antics (they had a dedicated "Sound Effects" microphone and person, so for instance FX would jump on the floor to indicate the falling of a body, or he'd blow his nose right into the microphone when one of the ladies has been handed a handkerchief).

The evening's entertainment ended, and people just hung around chatting. Perfect opportunity to meet a few Savoynetters... see the next post but one.

Savoynet's Pinafore

Savoynet is an email mailing list that carries a fairly large volume of traffic, mostly related to the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival is an annual event which, among other things, involves a show every night at 7:30pm, by a different performing company each time. It's inevitable that the two would meet... Savoynet people have put together a show every year since 1997 (so I'm told... I've not been around that long!!). It is unique among performing companies, because the people involved come from around the world - and assemble for a VERY short rehearsal season. There's no opportunity to audition beforehand; nobody wants to fly half way around the world only to find out that they weren't chosen this time. Auditions are done by video, which has the benefit (for the panel) that someone's audition piece can be rewound and played over, something that's just a tad difficult when working face-to-face.

So. Savoynet were performing the day that we arrived. Having seen a few Savoynet productions on video previously, we HAD to see it. Alas! The only seats available were around the side, in a place from which you can't see the whole stage. (Upside: They were only 10GBP each, the best seats are around about 50GBP.)

The show was pretty good. Strong cast, overall; I think the Carpenter needed to have a stronger voice, for "A British Tar"; and the Dreaded Recit (right before the Act II Finale) really doesn't improve the show. Criticism has been made of the inclusion of "Reflect, My Child" in the first act, but I think it didn't hurt. Corcoran (Ian Henderson - he'll be singing Grosvenor for us later) was good, and Josephine (Rebecca Hains) was EXCELLENT. The song perhaps would have been a problem if it had been sung badly, but it wasn't.

The chorus did a good job. The men's chorus, particularly, looked impressive; and worrying... because OUR chorus needs a lot of work! The choreography was moderately complicated, and ably executed; the precision of salutes and the like in the Captain's (and Sir Joseph's) entrances was, if not quite perfect, then oh so all-but! I was most favourably impressed.

Afterwards, none of us felt like attending the cabaret. I now kinda wish I had, but at the time, tiredness was just a little too strong.

The flight over

Our flight from Melbourne to Manchester was long. No doubt about that. We flew Emirates, and I have not a single complaint about their service or facilities - it was great.

Baggage check-in at Melbourne was easy, in part because we took advantage of Emirates' online precheckin service - they had all our details and our preferred seats, so it was simply a matter of weighing our baggage and shooting it off to Customs, and printing out our boarding passes. We then made our way in to the inner areas of the airport to kill time, and to find fellow GaSbags. Customs was kinda fascinating. Traal, my laptop (on whom I'm typing up this post) went through the full scan, and what came up on their display was... an almost perfect view of the mainboard. Nothing else. Apparently titanium doesn't come out, which would be odd if it were x-ray based (maybe I'm wrong).

The first leg was Melbourne-Singapore-Dubai, with about an hour's stop in Singapore. In spite of the online checkin showing practically every seat taken, the plane was almost completely empty.... we found out why after Singapore. But for the first hop, we had roomy accommodation. Michael had his backpack on the seat behind him - it got a seatbelt of its own. I wish now Traal had been with me, instead of in the overhead locker, just so he could score a seatbelt like the rest of us.

Singapore. Changi Airport is... an airport. The one thing that most struck me was how similar it was to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport. We arrived there in the wee small hours of the morning, but it was quite warm - and quite busy, too. People everywhere. There were notices up saying that they had wifi hotspots, so of course Traal came out; unfortunately they charge, so as soon as you try to do anything, they redirect you to a page that asks for a credit card. No posting from Singapore.

Next hop - Singapore-Dubai. We had the same seats on the same plane as we'd had from Melbourne, but now there were a LOT more people on board. I don't know if there were many who were travelling only as far as Singapore - it was an option, but by the look of the cabin there weren't many people missing. Heaps of Singapore-Dubai travellers though. No spare seats at all.

Dubai. What is this, an airport or a shopping center? We came in off the plane, went through a VERY abbreviated check (really just a glance at our passports), and then entered a huge multi-level shopping center. Imagine a place like Chadstone... it's something that's pretty modular, bits and pieces can be chopped and changed around without it disrupting anything much. Well, this was just the same, only it looked as if someone had been copying and pasting, and had forgotten to let go of Shift-Insert. It was HUGE.

The final leg of our journey was Dubai-Manchester, no stops. We had separate seat allocation for this. Again, though, we were in a 777, with seating 3-4-3; and again we'd picked a window seat and the seat adjacent to it.

It was a fun trip. I'm accustomed to resting on buses and trains (Michael isn't), so I did fairly well - rested in the airline seat. Unlike some people's idea of sleep, my rest can be taken in very brief snatches - in between being nudged to have something or other pointed out to you :) Consequently, when we arrived, I was... well, tired, but not too tired to go to a show that night. Which brings me to the next post...

Buxton, UK

Apologies to anyone who's been hoping for more. I haven't had much to say... and whenever there HAS been something, I've had no internet connection handy. So now I'm going to post the accumulated thoughts of all the no-connection times into a series of posts.

Well, we're here. Arrived Wednesday at about noon local time. Since then, I/we have:

* Watched the Savoynet production of HMS Pinafore. Pretty good show. Funny. Excellent Josephine.

* Attended the cabaret after the South Anglia Savoy Players' performance. Couldn't get a decent ticket to the show (Ida), but the cabaret was fun. They put on a "radio" version of Murder at Ruddigore Castle.

* Begun rehearsals with some of the new cast, and some of the old. So far rehearsals have been completely optional and only for the people who happen already to be here.

* Met a number of Savoynetters.

* Explored Buxton.

* Got in contact with several Threshers.

I'll expand on each of the above with another post. Hopefully I haven't missed anything major.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Off to the UK!

In just a few hours I'll be in the air, flying to Manchester, UK, via Dubai. I don't know whether I'll be able to be online or not, so for now, goodbye. If all goes well, we will be landing at about noon local time after almost exactly a day in the air.

There'll be a good number of Gilbert and Sullivan people on the plane - we have a group booking. Alas, I think it would NOT be well appreciated if we all start singing... if (as Miss Mackintosh says) it's madness to sing choruses in public, how much worse it must be to sing double choruses!

Oh wait. We're already mad. That's why we're all getting put in these tiny padded cells called "airline seats", and strapped in so we can't escape...

Monday, 6 August 2007

Last to leave...

It seems to be somehow intrinsic to my body that I have to be the last person to leave a place. All those forgotten jobs and forgotten items of property end up landing on me, which means I have to manage everything in my backpack - which makes it rather annoying when someone leaves behind an entire shopping bag full of costume pieces. Um.... hello? We're bumping out of the theatre, can't at least someone hang around??

I keep getting jobs dropped on me, too - not even "Chris, can you please ...", but simply an announcement to everyone saying "You can order copies of the CD through Chris" and that's the first I've ever heard of it. It seems I'm a horizontal surface for jobs to be put on.... hmm, so that's what all those pats on the head are for!