Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Operatic scale

I've just done a lightning-speed production: Act 3 of Wagner's Siegfried in three days, for an outfit called the Mastersingers, performing for the Wagner Society at the Royal Academy of Music last Sunday. Not a bad effort in the time available - it really helped to have somebody as creative as Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts doing the title role. It ended up being quite site-specific: the room was a concert hall, with no stage lighting, so we ended up setting the whole thing in the wreckage of an orchestral concert, with instruments scattered around, lighting from toppled music stands, and the characters in ripped evening dress. The journey through the fire consisted of Siegfried throwing huge quantities of manuscript paper (the very page from the score!) high in the air and all over the space. Given what I'm embarking on for next year, the salutary lesson for me was how difficult it is to be precise in direction when the piece is in a language you don't understand (it was sung in Wagner's mock-mediaeval German). Hearing the English version I directed before in my head led to a rather generalised "it's kind of this" approach, which isn't what theatre really should be.

I was also back at ENO last week, rehearsing in the Xerxes second cast, when the announcement was made of Sean Doran's departure and John Berry's appointment. It's very hard to de-code what's being going on behind closed doors - but it does seem to me that the Board has made a big mistake in not being seen to advertise the job. They may well have appointed John in the end anyway, but it should have been done by the rules and in accordance with Arts Council advice. Now they've given the Arts Council carte blanche to cut them completely if they're seen to mis-manage. "It's not our fault, you didn't follow our procedures". Click for a link!

The cheque from Columbia arrived yesterday. Very nice finally to see that sum of money in reality! Wojtek said it was the biggest cheque he'd ever seen: and I think that's true for the company too - Arts Council funding comes in instalments, but this was the whole lot in one wad. Fired by this, we finish off an application to UNESCO - if we get this money too then we'll really be able to make the production work on the scale it needs. This is a new funder for us, so we're groping in the dark a bit on the application: but I guess I've done enough of these things over the years to have some skill at penetrating funding-speak. In the post it goes, with good luck wishes attached.

Haili emails to say she's still not had a contract from Central, and she's worried about money. I've not had one either.... although I've already started working on the process, having meetings with Seema and Alex Stone (the student lighting designer). I'll be seeing Geof Coleman tomorrow, so it should get sorted then - I'm feeling that I've let her down on this, even though it's not my fault. Hopefully they'll be offering her enough to get the room she needs in London.
On Thursday I went to the re-opening of Oval House to see a show called Weights. It's a simple autobiographical monologue by a black American man called Lynn Manning, centring on the fact that he was blinded in a bar shooting when he was 23. Disability Theatre can be very "issue-led": but this managed to be quite the opposite, in spite (or maybe because) of its intensely personal focus. The sequence about learning to walk with a white stick was hilarious, and the description of blind love-making was very beautiful. Manning's language is very rich in imagery: it was, paradoxically, an incredibly visual show.

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