Monday, November 7, 2016

A Close Fit

A number of perceptive viewers of our recent show commented on the fact that a good deal of the set (and props) duplicated items from our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in July. At least one of our tech guys, the team coming from Media Resource for this show and doing stellar work, had an eye for the fine detail of the duplication, which surprised me as I didn't realise they'd watched the earlier show.

I explained as best as I could that the reason for the duplication was that the two pieces were conceived of simultaneously and that Angela and I, from our earliest discussions, were keenly aware of the quite remarkable overlaps in the pairing. Frankly it was more than a little bit serendipitously spooky that we found ourselves doing them in the same year. Here's just one example of an overlap, in this case nothing to do with the actual staging of the dramas. Our Principal told us just prior to our first night of The Fantasticks that he was ticking the staging of it off his bucket list, and was delighted to do so. Now I haven't exactly got an official bucket list but I was able to tell the cast and crew of Midsummer just before the final performance that staging it fulfilled an ambition for me.

The thematic overlaps between the two pieces are obvious to the point of absurdity: the essential premise of the musical is the Pyramus &Thisbe situation of Shakespeare's drama, with The Wall prominent in both. It was a bit of a temptation to feature our crazy metal wall once more, but we resisted that one. But our concern with walls was apparent in the design of the musical in more ways than one. Above all, the opposition of the Sun and Moon is central to the twentieth century show in its very construction and we saw it as thematically at the heart of the earlier drama: the Apollonian sun versus the Dionysian moon, and all that. (Sounds pretentious, I know, but it works so who cares?) That meant, in practical terms, that Daniel and Joshua's beautifully realised sun and moon symbols were there to beautify the Midsummer set but were really meant to be integral to the set for the musical, being spun around at key moments in the show.

I'm really not sure if the idea of the ramshackle wooden stage for Pyramus & Thisbe came before or after seeing the 'standard' stage for any production of The Fantasticks (can't think of a production I've seen that hasn't used something like it) but I have an odd sense of something like simultaneity on that one. We certainly knew the wooden stage for the musical needed to be bigger than that for the Mechanicals' ridiculous comedy and I suspect that's where Angela got the idea for using the wooden pallets from. Indeed, once we'd conceived of the big picture sense of the two shows the speed with which she translated that into the detail of the actual platforms provided by the scaffolding and trellises and so on was amazing.

One or two folk noticing all the duplication seemed to suspect us of a sort of lazy cheapness in just using the same stuff. And, of course, they were entirely correct. The set for the musical was remarkably cheap, because we'd already bought it for the earlier show, which meant more cash for the fund-raising. Clever, eh?

I suppose all this is on my mind because we bumped out of the theatrical space today and there was a distinct sense of a very long term project coming to end. Nice that it all worked out in the final analysis.

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