Praise be to the gods of the Theatre! We made it through our first preview. The whole experience is both palpably real, and elusively unreal. It was a long and gruelling day. It began at 10:30 finishing the technical rehearsal. We got through it with a short break to re-caulk the pool (no details, or it won’t be a surprise!). And were released for an hour lunch before our dress rehearsal. I had to get some groceries. Oh yes. These are the practicalities that fall by the wayside in tech week. So I dashed over to Marks and Spencers, and then went up to the roof of the Swan to eat my lunch. There is a little deck off the Ashcroft Room that overlooks the Avon River and the countryside. It’s quite majestic, and oh so peaceful.
The View from the Ashcroft Room
And from that place of tranquility, we were thrown into our insane dress rehearsal. It’s always tough to get back into the beginning of the play when you haven’t seen it for five days, but all in all, I’d say we did reasonably well. I had four costume changes that I were pretty rocky, including one that I had to abandon. Too bad, because photos were being shot through the run. Ah well. Lost to posterity. There were lots of glitches, and the absolute mayhem that ensues backstage in this piece would have been at least as entertaining as what was happening on stage. We were all learning: actors, dressers, stage-managers, props folks. And it was one steep learning curve that went by in a flash. It’s a bit like a steeplechase: run like stink, and watch out for the hedges and the lakes!An oh-so-short break for dinner and we were in front of people for the first time. Adrenaline is an amazing drug. Josette gave a little speech before the show, just to say that this was the first time this piece was being seen in the WHOLE WORLD!!! and that she may have to stop it if something went wrong. Nothing did. A little miracle. Not that it was all brilliant and perfect, but that we got through relatively unscathed. And that was good enough for all of us. And at the end of it all, we got an encore. I mean we left them clapping for some time, and the house lights were even up, but they called us back and we went. Very generous. Very unexpected.
So now we were pooped. In fact I think we’ve written the book on “pooped”. But. Sir Christopher Bland (the Chairman of the Board for the RSC, and the CEO of British Telecom) and his wife Jenny had asked us out for dinner after the show. They are unable to come for press night next week, as they are going up to their “fishing shack” in Northern Scotland. So they had to come to the first preview, and they wanted to meet us. Do you say no? Well, not me. Many of us went, and some joined after notes. They took us to a fabulous French restaurant in town. The food was amazing. Sir Christopher was particularly impressed that we got an encore bow. He said he has never seen this happen at the Swan. (!) They are really great people. Genuinely interested in the arts and literature. Jenny’s son, Jamie Byng, is the publisher who began the project to retell the ancient myths; the project of which The Penelopiad is only one of many. So this had the potential to be a fantastic evening, but I was not exactly my effervescent self, and had to leave at 11:30 when I hit an insurmountable wall of fatigue. And knowing that the call tomorrow is 10:30 am for notes and bits, and that we are doing two shows.