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The Play Produced

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THE ERPINGHAM

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By Joe Orton

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Director Raymond Williams discusses this production by the IIkley Players. PLOT AND CASTING

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hen people hear the name Joe Orton they almost invariably think "Smutty!", "Lewd!" "Sex­ ridden!" "Don 't bring your Grannie!" How wrong they can be! This play was written ,in 1965 for an lTV series on The Seven Oeadly Sins and its satire of pride is hilarious , outlandish and occasionally blasphemous with its attacks on the Church, The Establishment and social values. The play is full of stereotypical characters who deliver a battery of typical Orton witticisms at breakneck speed. The unprecedented arrogance of Erpingham, the camp Director, provokes a Peasant's Revolt and, as pride usually comes before a fall, the triumph of the Proletariat over the Director brings down the curtain on this irreverent and yet witty social comment. I first acted in this play twenty-five years ago on a raised podium, in a church hall, without sound effects or lighting. The audience reaction was manic and I always felt I would like to produce the play with the full compliment of sound and lighting cues as described in the script. The opportunity arose this year to perform in the Studio Theatre in the Ilkley Playhouse. This is a marvellous addition to the theatre thanks to a Lottery grant which enables directors to

experiment with less conventional productions due to the fact that a large, square area with multiple lighting bars and variable exits and entrances and fully adjustable audience seating arrangements are available. Because the play itself runs for only 70 minutes, I felt the addition of a twenty minute camp entertainment slot would please both the cast and audience, but more of this later.

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The casting is a simple matter in that the requirement is for very well defined caricatures. The characters are as follows: • Erpingham: Authoritarian , tyrannical camp director • Chief Redcoat Riley: Mad , revolutionary Irishman with delusions of grandeur • Padre: Bumbling , parochial type • WH Harrison: Long-serving, pathetic Redcoat • Jessie Mason: God's gift to lady Redcoat entertainers. No talent. • Kenny and Eileen : The archetypal working class couple • Ted and Lou : Tory social climbers. Snobs , but they don't know it.

From the outset I decidea make the rehearsal s as infor­ as possible and use as muG;" the cast's input in order to the production as spontaneo_ as possible. Orton defines characters and their territorie:; so well that an appreCiation c the timing necessary to poim out his witticisms is the mos' important part of the production . The rehearsals were twice weekly for the firs' few weeks and the rehearsal period lasted for eight week~ decided at an early date to postpone the rehearsal of thE improvised, pre-performance show until a later date. I ask_ the members of the cast to improvise something that the t were very bad at and MARC


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acts were as

oom dancers comic musical interlude by Padre : ~ rnedian

entnloquist and a dummy by Jessie Mason Eileen Fowler' eKercise _ 'ng the audience Percy Edwards' birdsong

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SCENERY - _ only formal set was a _ _"talion of a decrepit

office consisting of a podium with office table and chair, a filing cabinet with picture of the Queen, a flat behind to support a large map of the world, a coat hanger and assorted office props. The acting area, which was bounded on two sides by the three-tiered seating, was divided into two further areas representing a chalet with two sets of chairs and an open area for the Grandi Ballroom and outside scenes .

LIGHTING The lighting was used to define the three main acting areas. The office was

conventionally lit, as was the chalet area eKcept for the ,use of red and blue lighting on the chalet chairs when the different social factions were sitting. The other area was lit conventionally eKcept when used as the Grand Ballroom when lighting more akin to a variety show was used with large areas of miKed pastel colours. The lighting was set up on the computer to cross fade between scenes.

COSTUMES As the whole cast and the pianist were utilised for the concert, they were all dressed in Redcoat costume. At the start of the play, those members of the cast who were not staff members reverted to appropriate costumes.

MUSIC There are many musical and sound cues in the production. These were all followed faithfully. This is an aspect of the production which was missing when I first performed in this piece and their inclusion adds a great deal of realism to the play while helping to pinpoint and emphasise Orton's jibes and caricatures.

SPECIAL EFFECTS AND PROPS The main special effects were created by both the lighting and sound cues when an eKplosion and the sound of someone falling through layers of plate glass were required . The lighting was changed to emergency red and smoke was added. For effect in the theatre entrances, corridors and bar, the sound of people at play at the seaside was used before performances. Live speech

over a Tannoy system was also used. As the lighting and sound plot was so eKtensive, I felt the technical crew deserved some recognition and to that end I included a piece about them in the programme.

SPECIAL

REQUIREMENTS

AND PROBLEMS

If the play is treated as a separate entity, the re is no problem in producing it in any way. It clearly lends itself to a studio rather than a proscenium stage approach as so much more can be done with it. As the audience who attended found out, ,it becomes a very entertaining, summertime show with endless possibilities for an inventive director. All this adds to the ability of the audience to participate in and eKperience the reality of Orton's early writing. I hope that other directors might consider doing this piece as part of an evening's entertainment, which should allow the cast to eKtend themselves as well as enjoy performing for their public.

All scripts, scores and libretti featured in 'The Play Produced' and 'The Musical Produced ' can be obtained from

SERVINr. At1A.H UJ!. TIo4 EATRf; SINCE 117 9

IMusic and scripts available fo r all.

Discounts for members

Tel: 0870 770 2480

FaK: 0870 770 2490

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Amateur Stage

21

The Erpingham Camp - March 2003  

Director Raymond Williams discusses his production of The Erpingham Camp by Joe Orton by The Ilkley Players