Making theatre requires great patience, good will and collective support. This weekend saw the start of Mosaic 2016 – a festival of 10 new plays created with a company of 30+ actors, 10 directors, 5 designers, 5 producers, a technical support team to die for, and the goodwill of all at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts where we are based. My recent blog touched on the calmness of production meetings, and once again I have been so impressed with the good humour and professionalism of all those involved in pulling this event together.
There are four more weeks to go. 2 plays down, 8 more to follow with tickets at £6 for these 75 minute premieres. It is great to hear discussions between directors and creatives about the next developments and journies for their pieces of work. Come and see for yourselves.
This week I joined a discussion with Andy Barnes of Perfect Pitch exploring his 10 year journey in the development of new writing of Musical Theatre. He has been knee deep in the opening of one of the early shows he developed – The Go-Between. He was exploring with a group of composers, lyricists and bookwriters the need for patience and a willingness to realise that the path from idea to first night can be 5 to 10 years. I saw the original workshop of The Go-Between in 1999 when Russell Labey and Richard Taylor first developed the idea. Russell handed the project on to David Wood, Roger Haines and Richard leading to a first full production of the new version in 2011. “We cannot praise Perfect Pitch enough,” says Wood (in the Stage). “In every respect, the show wouldn’t have come this far without them. The showcases brought the theatres involved in the co-production onboard.” Now 5 years after that production and 17 after the original concept, the show is receiving beautiful reviews for Roger Haines’ production starring Michael Crawford.
Anyone believing page to stage is a quick process should take lessons from Perfect Pitch and The Go-Between. The Mosaic writers and directors are working with new pieces in their very first productions. Some are relatively fixed pieces, others have been in development for just a few weeks. Each will now have a first showing to UK audiences in the small Karamel Theatre, and some will move forward over one two three or more years towards publishing and producing in a final form. Patience…steady as she goes.
I also saw a lovely production of Anne of Green Gables this week, which I first saw in 1969 and this 2016 post-grad Mountview production is the first time I have seen a production since then. I last listened to the album I guess 20 years ago, but I still remembered the amazing score.
Both The Go Between and Anne of Green Gables explore a musical language of haunting quiet storytelling. They are pieces of drama brought to sparkling life through the music, but they are not rock-n-roll smash hit spectacular. The Go Between expects the audience to settle down and listen, to feel the emotions of the drama, and to sense the meditative dreamworld of memory.
I suspect audiences expecting the young bouncing Michael Crawford on tightrope or gothic organ will be disappointed. He is playing an old man exploring the most hurtful blocked memories. The audience around me when I saw it on Thursday were respectful and calmed by the space we were offered.
I was saddened to have reported to me this morning a very different audience experience yesterday at another show (which shall remain nameless) where an actor in training (who shall remain nameless) decided he did not like the show he was seeing. Almost every move by the on stage actors was accompanied by noises of disquiet from this audience member. He decided to pop out to the loo to assuage his boredom, and further disturb his fellow audience, slamming the studio door on the way out and way back. After the show he was challenged by some of those who were with him – and started shouting in the foyer. Now this is, as I said, an actor in training. He was surrounded by potential employers. He didn’t observe the 3 blocks rule (don’t be rude about a show until you have walked 3 blocks because you don’t know who may be listening). He didn’t even observe a 3 steps rule !! He is a fool, and I suspect will be an actor now well remembered, for all the wrong reasons, by potential employers. It is a small world, and we like to work with people that we respect and like to spend time with.
So making good theatre takes time, great patience, teams of people working at their calm professional best, and people you want to spend time with. And finally you have to be so so so talented to be engaged if you are also a pain in the butt.
Tonight a quick trip to see Struan Leslie’s new Benjamin Britten circus piece at Aldeburgh, and then back to sunny Wood Green for week 2 of Mosaic 2016. Get in, tec, dress, and run of two more new plays.