The Play Produced
By Tudor Gates
Shirley Haynes writes on the Thrapston Players' production for WWF'S Global Applause 200212003.
t was Autumn 2002. We were about to present Alan Ayckbourn's Round and Round the Garden. I had agreed to direct the next production in spring but no decision had been made as to the play. 'What about this play Tudor Gates has written for WWF?' I asked. So we embarked on Saving Ardley.
CASTING As usual with such a small group it was a question of 'Can we cast it?' We needed Lady Ardley in her 60 's, Selina in her 20's and Teddy in his 30 's; two fairly mature ladies and an elderly butler. At the casting meeting in early January we were presented
with men aged 20 and 60 and women aged approximately 70 , 50, 40, 35 and 17. Eventually we decided to risk the age anomalies and with agreement from the 35-year old to act as prompter, started rehearsals.
THE WORKSHOP After initial read-throughs , Morton, Mrs Simmons and I attended the workshop in Chatham . Meeting the author and other groups embarking on the play made a fascinating and helpful day. Tudor Gates suggested that as our Lady Ardley and Selina had a rather unlikely mother and daughter age gap, we might be able to make it a grandmother/granddaughter combination . I did give this some thought but decided that it wouldn 't fit the bill. There just isn 't the same acerbic friction in the relationship , which is necessary for the play. We would encourage
Lady Ardley to tint out the white and make our 17 -year old look older with a swept-up, sophisticated hairstyle.
REHEARSALS We work with two rehearsals a week on Monday and Friday evenings and are lucky to be able to hold half of these actually on the stage in the converted cinema where we perform. For the first five weeks our Teddy was rehearsing then performing in panto with another society, so was only able to attend one rehearsal per week . We took the opportunity to rehearse the fi rst 20 pages (before Teddy comes on the scene) rather thoroughly. This was not entirely aided by our Miss Pomfret also being involved in a panto, which meant that she didn't join us until the end of February. I cancelled the rehearsal on the Friday when Teddy was performing and a group of us went to watch
Snow White in the neighbouring town. The following Monday I worked with just Teddy and Selina and concentrated on bringing out their mutual antagonism. By mid-February we had only rehearsed Act I so spent the next three weeks concentrating on Act II before combining them. In theory we then rehearsed the whole play each evening but in practice concentrating in part on sequences needing extra work. This included ending the antagonism engendered between Teddy and Selina earlier to their obvious attraction towards the end.
PUBLICITY We sent out press releases to all local media. BBC Radio
Northampton responded with a request for a presence in the studio on Monday morning chat show. I went with Lady Ardley and Morton so that we were able to give the taster that the interviewer wanted wi,th an excerpt from the opening scene. The Kettering Evening Telegraph offered a photographer for Friday 28th March but eventually she turned up on the following Monday, the picture appearing with appropriate preview on Thursday. The Nene Valley News, a free paper delivered to all houses ill town, took a photo and gave us a good spread on the Artscene page. Posters around the town and a leaflet drop, mostly to new properties, came next. Finally the Victorian Tea Shop where our tickets are sold staged a window display of wild animals Â soft variety. We used the WWF video before the curtain during the run of the play to create interest in the brochure.
THE SET Our set builders like to get going early. Discussion of design started in January. We chose a box set with French windows upstage right and double doors centre stage left. The
position of entrances is governed by the shape of our stage. Our only access is from the fire door and through the auditorium . It needs to be screened in some way, but retain its fire escape property. In the Ayckbourn we built a garden shed to cover it. This time the crew came up with a Georgian porticoed front door. The fireplace centre back appeared, undercoated dark brown. I viewed it in disbelief. Careful not to upset this vital element of the team I enquired politely what colour they envisaged it finally. 'Sort of grey, possibly mottled' was the reply. I had hoped for an Adam fireplace and said so. Blank faces. 'What's that?' We do have a member who is an artist and often gets called on to do tricky bits on the set. I had a quiet word. Next time I looked, there it was - a masterpiece that Adam would have been happy to claim as his own. The furniture came from our store in Morton's garage and loans from the producer and Mrs Simmons.
PROPERTIES The main problem appeared to be the tray dropped by the butler. Obviously things were likely to be damaged. Our local Oxfam shop came up with a coffee pot, etc, which we could have cheaply if we brought it back after use. It was fairly robust and they thought it would survive enough to re-sell it. The cups and saucers were our next concern. We wanted the ones to be dropped to match those already on the set so decided we needed four each night to be safe. Our
Salvation Army store said they had lots of cups and saucers, which they didn't want. 'Please help yourself. ' I took them at their word and included a few odd ones for rehearsal.
THE OVERTURE We used Noel Coward's Stately Homes of England as overture. What could be better?
THE PRODUCT,I ON The first night went well. A good appreciative audience laughed throughout. Then about five minutes before the end the power went off. Without even a stutter the cast continued in the twilight of the emergency lights. I was proud of them. Apparently the only person who could have rectified the problem was on stage in the person of Morton, the butler. The other three performances went well in full lighting and we raised ÂŁ300+ for WWF.
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