Saturday, 12 April 2014

the events - choir rehearsal for new cast; qeh performance

I was prompted back to the previous blogpost about The Events by the fact that last Saturday Morris Folk Choir took part in a large-choir version of The Events at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of a choral weekend on the South Bank. About 250 members of choirs which had been used last year were in it, including about ten of ours. I hadn't signed up for it, partly because I wasn't sure if I'd be free (as it turned out we spent that day in Beaconsfield, meeting Naomi and Clive at the Bekonscot model village) and partly because I was afraid it would be an an anti-climax after last year's great experience, just pushing it a step too far to recapture a moment which had passed. I thought about going along to see it, but I thought that I would just be regretful and jealous that I wasn't part of the choir. ATC did a Storify of tweets.

The choir had also been asked if we wanted to do a night in the Arts Depot leg of this year's tour of The Events, but we turned it down because we didn't have enough folk who could definitely say they could do it at the time we were asked about it, and also we were anticipating (rightly) being hard-pressed to learn our new repertoire for our own planned performances this year, especially since we were losing a rehearsal a month by getting more serious about committing to holding folk club each month.

I did get my own last hurrah with The Events, though, which I enjoyed very much. This year's tour has a new cast, Amanda Drew and Cliff Samuel. An email to the Morris members one Friday afternoon was a last-minute call for choir members to help with a rehearsal the next day - they'd been rehearsing for a fortnight, but not yet with a choir, and several of the folk they had lined up for their 'rehearsal with a choir' the next day had pulled out. I presume the email went to several choirs. Only Ileana and I were free to take it up from our choir (I had time to myself that day), and I think possibly only one other person from another choir came along, I think the others being associated with the Young Vic choir or actors they'd had helping them (in fact one of the latter was drafted out of the choir and onto the piano for the whole time until we did the run-through at the end by which time Magnus had arrived); there were about eight or ten of us, including Polina, who had just returned from Norway on an early flight that morning (and thanks to Twitter, I knew she'd had a rough journey, which felt stalkerish to know). It was good to see Polina again, and the stage manager Jess, who I spoke to for a while as I arrived a bit early, and Ramin the director was there also of course, hard at work.

(I remember reading an interview with Malcolm Macdowell in which he said that for a while after A Clockwork Orange he used to badmouth Stanley Kubrick because they'd got so close and had such a good relationship while they were filming it and then nothing, and he felt completely dropped and forgotten about. But after a few more filming experiences he realised that this was just how it worked, the creation of intense community and relationship for the duration of working on a film, then it was over and onto the next one. I guess that it's probably similar in the theatre, and it's testament to Polina and the team that they both have the commitment to and manage to create that community and relationship over and over again with so many choir groups, in a way that makes each choir feel special and valued. I know we did. But I'm always mindful that for choir members like myself it was probably a much more significant experience that it was for the professionals; they're on to the next thing, or even just the next performance, we're back to normal.)

We got there about midday and finished about five, with a break for lunch and then a short break before the run-through. We went slowly through all the choir scenes, before doing a full run-through. I did some of the FAQs and I Ams, of course (Jess said she'd been doing them by herself, essentially, up until then), and also in the run-through I did the speech of the person deputed to tell Claire we were stopping choir, which was nice. It was fascinating to be part of and see the rehearsal process, as they still worked on options of how to do things, and still not entirely on top of lines, with just a few days to go before their first performance. They all seemed to appreciate us being there. The two actors, of course, were different in their performances from Neve and Rudi, but I was sure they'd make a good job of it (and I told them so; I also spoke to Amanda about the conducting bit at the end, which she seemed a bit worried about but I said not to be). Amanda's Claire was warmer than Neve's, I'd say; less damaged yet, and might make more of a connection with audiences and be more moving as a result (or might not, everyone's different). Cliff's Boy was on the one hand lighter and more amusing, but on the other perhaps a greater sense of his unbalancedness.

I really enjoyed being part of that rehearsal, and felt privileged to be so. It was a good way to finish off my Events experience (if finish it is...).