Kiss Me Kate Diaries: #2

Tuesday, 3rd July: Opening Night

Another opening, another show …

It’s mid afternoon and the band are shattered. We’ve been in rehearsals since twelve and although they gave us a generous forty minutes for lunch today (we’re going up in the world!), the cast have now joined us and we’re choreographing the bows. Which means, of course, that we have to play them over and over again while the various characters put on the right pieces of costume to enter at the right moment.

I guess the mule has a horrible job too, as the stage lights make it pretty hot up there, but nevertheless I think we’re feeling a bit hard done by. The member of the chorus I spoke to earlier seems to be under the impression he has a harder job than we do.

“You get scenes you’re not in to have a rest,” I point out.

“We have to learn lines.”

“We have to learn music.”

“No, you get it there in front of you.”

“We have to learn fingerings and work out how to change to mandolin in the space of a bar.” He doesn’t seem impressed. This makes it clear to me that he’s never been in the band for anything, therefore I will cease to acknowledge his opinion.

At half three we’re turned loose and I’m faced with a quandary. I was under the impression we wouldn’t be leaving until half four, making getting home and back again for 6:15 pretty hard. With almost three hours to spare, I could probably get home quickly enough to make it worth the effort, but what am I gaining from that? An hour on Tumblr? I decide to stay at school as planned. After all, I’ve got my packed tea with me.

While the band disperses and my friends – the keyboard player, ‘Nathaniel’ and the ‘First Man’ – wander off to the high street to get pizza, I settle myself down on the steps at the side of the hall with my Kindle to continue perusing the poetic edda, this time on my own. It’s a shame not to have anyone to laugh at bits with, but at least I don’t have to try and pronounce the random Norse names.

“Miriam, don’t you want to go somewhere more comfortable?”

“Actually, I’m fine here. I like stairs. I mean, I read on the stairs at home.”

“Really?” That’s Mrs Snelling, who is in charge of costumes and all sorts of backstage stuff. She looks bewildered, but leaves me be.

While I’m reading a few of the other dancers and cast members come back, and along with the backstage crew, end up ordering pizza. That’s the thing about productions – it gives you an appetite, and it’s Tuesday, so they can get some sort of deal. Don’t ask me. I don’t order pizza, I’m too skint.

Meanwhile, my friends have returned with their pizza. To my relief they got meaty ones, so I don’t feel too jealous when I go and sit with them. (My ballet-imposed diet would forbid me from joining them, but as I don’t like meat, I don’t want to.) Instead I feel virtuous as I sit there eating cucumber.

Later on I’m dancing on the stage, because that’s always fun, and there’s no one to see me – the cast won’t be back for half an hour, and the band for well over an hour. Later still I’m sitting on the set watching Ben (keys) and Conor (First Man) playing cards. Conor’s called away to the gym where the cast are gathering; Ben teaches me to play Speed. I’m very bad at it.

After band notes and reshuffling of chairs once more we’re in position for the show to start. The band are placing bets on exactly how long the show will last, including the interval. ‘Around three hours’ isn’t accurate enough, apparently.

It’s not an auspicious beginning, as we tremolo for three bars longer than usual waiting for somebody to come on stage, but hopefully the audience didn’t notice. Moving on we’ve got a couple of dodgy points, including forgetting a line of Wunderbar and having Kate sing one verse of ‘I Hate Men’ twice because she got muddled – and I’m having serious mandolin issues down in the band pit.

Unexpected vamps, seriously. (Vamp being a few bars that you repeat during a scene or costume change to stop the audience getting bored. Not a thing that sucks your blood.) I’d just changed to violin, played ten bars, and we were going back to bar 5 – what? That’s a mandolin bar, what are you doing?

I gave up on the mandolin after a while. It kept going out of tune and I don’t actually play the thing, so never mind.

At the interval I say, “Not the best show I’ve ever played.”

“I disagree,” contradicts the viola player to my left. “I think it’s going really well. Almost ominously well. Something has to go wrong now.”

Really? I guess with my mandolin troubles, I’m not seeing it from the same point of view as everyone else. And we all know I’m a perfectionist.

Act 2 begins and I’m feeling much happier now I’ve decided to abandon the mandolin and just play the parts on the violin – I’m not even credited in the programme for mandolin, so no one will notice. We have fewer line fluff-ups, too, maybe because we’ve been focusing on this act a lot over the last couple of days, aware that it’d been neglected until now.

The last few songs are my favourites, and the ones I can play – Brush Up Your Shakespeare being particularly entertaining, to the point where I’ve been memorising it a line at a time in order that I can watch what’s happening on stage while playing (which I don’t recommend if you want to actually play the right notes). Our broken-shouldered Second Man’s doing a great job of singing and remembering his lines considering the rehearsals he missed, and while Conor accidentally patted him at one point, I don’t think it’s done him any lasting damage.

Unfortunately, by this stage my poor left wrist is feeling much abused, and I’m tempted to sit out for a minute. Oh, what’s this, a violin solo? Bother. The show must go on, I suppose… but by the time we play the bows (which get out of time, as usual), it’s killing me.

And it’s over. We survived the first night. When I get home, I celebrate in style with a bottle of J20 – a special edition flavour with all sorts of flavourings in it, to the point where I’m wide awake at 12:30 am and wondering why no one’s online. Not going to do that one again, that’s for sure.

Ben, the keys player, wins the bet with 2 hours 58 minutes. It was in fact 2 hours and 56 minutes. Much like Ianto Jones, the saxophonist has a stopwatch.

As for tonight… well, you know what they say: “Another opening of another show…”

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