Making Petticoats Out of Hosepipe

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As you may have seen, the blog has been rather quiet on its normally pro-active days. If you’ve been paying attention, you’d have seen my mentions of a 24-hour musical run by our Drama society, RUDS.

What is this? you may ask. Some misunderstand and presume a musical whose running time is 24 hours. In reality, we were given the musical’s reveal 38 (ish) hours before its night. Well, 9am on the Monday for curtains up Tuesday 7.15. That’s a block of 12, a rest of 6 hours, and a second block of 12 hours in which to work.

We had two days to learn lines, blocking, music, make set, props, costume, plan lighting, sound, and every other little thing that is theatre.

But, you know, it’s for charity – the Ollie Young Foundation for children with brain tumours – so any/all stress has been worth it.

The musical? Beauty and The Beast – again! This musical is following me, but at least I only had to deal with it for two days. If I’d been exposed to the songs and lines any longer, I might have lost my tiny mind!

Anyway! *ahem*

I’ll admit I’m very much a backseat driver when it comes to acting, so I stayed out of the way of the principles’ moments, and attempted to lay a hand with the props/setting. Well, on the first day. On the second day, although there were a couple of ‘lazy’ hours, I found myself on stage a lot more. And by that, I mean: we were working on the Be Our Guest number at 8 in the morning. Yes, indeed.

I found myself a couple of solo lines, too. That was cool. ‘Cause I totally knew what I was doing with the big numbers after doing them last year, yeah?

The answer to that question is a most definite no, especially considering that I was one of the only ensemble members to be the Gaston song, despite that being the only ensemble number I didn’t perform in last year. So I was learning those lyrics completely off-hat. Now I know how some of the others were feeling when given lyrics and dance-moves in Be Our Guest.

At least I was allowed to stand on my own barstool/chair!

As with any short-term rehearsal, we did run out of time for some things: some numbers were cut, be that by part or whole, and some bits of dialogue we, the ensemble, hadn’t been properly introduced to. I was just lucky for the aforementioned previous performance and the many, many times I listened to The Mob Song that I knew of the dialogue beforehand to ad lib (is it ad libitum when one knows the line but hasn’t been allocated it?) when Maurice and Belle required it.

With DIY musicals, we have that problem/uniqueness that we go back to wartime style and made do with literally everything. Lots and lots of cardboard! I leant most of my hands to the background stuff, such as cutting out and painting cardboard flatware. (As it must be, most of the less-fabric-like costumes have to be quickly whipped up out of the simplest of materials, such as cardboard.) A friend of mine made three costumes in half an hour at one point! As you can guess, the effort put in by those with the skills was incredible. And I guess I’m both envious of them and glad I’m not someone who can sew!

In addition, some of the costumes were not as straight-forward as sewing together scraps into shapes. The frame of Belle’s petticoats (you know, the springy bits of the yellow ball-gown) we made out of hosepipe cut into coils to fit the dress.

As for me – barmaid, spoon, wolf, lady with baby/babies (the number is inconsistent in the libretto) – I was scraping together my props from reused objects of past productions. I almost lost one of my shirts to the costume bag after the performance because I’d used it as part of my fake baby and then simply cast it aside to change my characters. We, ensemble and principles, got specific 24 Hour Musical t-shirts to wear, with which to be in consistent attire when most of us lacked a detailed type of costume. As I said, accessories were everything.

Belle and Maurice singing No Matter What

Of course, our plan generated a lot of (unexpected, I suspect) attention. BBC Radio Berkshire were good enough to our producer, ITV Meridian came and videoed, as well as Get Reading doing an online article. I have nothing but thanks to everyone who took part and came to see our performance. You know I love charity events; and, regardless, I loved more than the challenge, but the sheer act of being on a stage again after the absence of acting for longer than a year. It’s been too long.

I was lucky in any case. Blessed to be a part of this event.

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