I meant to do this earlier and now the guys at Cues & News have got in ahead of me. Their version is infinitely better than mine but what can you do.
Back in the early days of September I found myself helping out at auditions for the fifth play of the year at Williamstown Little Theatre. I had just finished a four week stint in Sydney after a four week stint in Europe and had managed to costume the fourth play which was opening in the early days of September. I’ll do the auditions, I thought to myself. That’ll wrap up the theatrical year nicely, I thought to myself. If I can’t give my friend Barbara a couple of hours on a Sunday and a couple more on a Monday, then what kind of friend am I.
So we did the auditions. Lots of them. And we laughed. Lots of times. Loudly. I got home on the Sunday night and downloaded an e-book of the novel the play we were holding auditions for was based. And I read it. That Sunday night. When I should have been sleeping. All of it. To The End. It was all right. Not filled with humour. But okay.
By 7pm on the Monday, I was back at auditions. I thought I was tired. I had no idea what tired actually meant.
In our heads we had cast three-quarters of the play. We were still missing the hero. There were options, some really good options but we knew we hadn’t hit gold. Auditions were winding down, we were main-lining dark chocolate Maltesers and it was cold. Way too cold for September.
The last auditonee entered the room. He wasn’t auditioning for the hero but Barb, in her indomitable fashion, talked him into it. And we knew. We had him. We had the play cast.
Two short days later – and the night before The Seafarer was due to open, just when my theatrical work was done – my phone pinged. The depicted conversation ensued.
I didn’t faint. I should have. We had no idea how we were going to do it all. But we did it all. And then some. These are my takeaways from The 39 Steps.
- Printing and compiling 27 A1 (look it up) maps uses a lot of ink and magic tape.
- If you need the Scottish Moors hand painted on a stage curtain, Loraine Callow is your only woman.
- Period costumes have to be designed by Tony Tartaro.
- And Tony has to have a team of dedicated, enthusiastic, talented sewers.
- No idea is impossible.
- If you’re going to need a stage crew, call on The Nancey Boys.
- You don’t need a trick bow-tie when you’ve got Liam O’Kane.
- No idea is too silly.
- With the right team in place, you can achieve everything.
- There is no such thing as too much laughter.
- You will find paint in the most obscure parts of your body.
- Organise your space well and you can fit a bridge in it.
- And a train.
- If you need a BBC Received Pronuncioation Voiceover, Patrick Slee is your only man.
- Somebody nearby always has a trombone. You just have to ask.
- Cast well and all will be well.
- It is really easy to fold a map.
- Dion Sexton is a genius.
- Moving portraits are far more believable than moving statues.
- It’s the old jokes that get the most laughter.
- And the most groans.
- You can sleep in a box bed. Even when it is an actual box.
- Audience participation doesn’t have to be cruel.
- Get it right and you will be rewarded.
- But that is not why you do it.
- People who can play multiple characters are amazing.
- As is the person who has to play opposite them.
- Sometimes you need a nightly prop audit.
- And a room for wigs and props.
- The weather will not co-operate.
- But everything else will.
- Laughter is cheaper than therapy.
- You find yourself explaining how an older lady’s boobs go south.
- Then positioning them.
- If you sprinkle paint on the floor incorrectly, be prepared to remove it. Immediately.
- Wind (weather) and wind (coil) are easily confused.
- Excellent lighting and sound add so much to a production.
- You will always want to do front of house with Kerry Drumm.
- And you will always love to work with Barbara Hughes.
Roll on, Play one 2018 and
Thanks, The 39 Steps