On Sunday night, D and I went to this musical, which is a 1994 reworking of the classic, La Ronde.
The conceit (as adapted in the musical in a series of vignettes spanning the twentieth century) is as follows:
the prostitute does a love job with the soldier, who then steals her brooch;
the soldier has a farewell fling with the nurse;
the nurse seduces the schoolboy;
the schoolboy meets the married woman for a blow-job in the cinema;
the married woman persuades her husband to stay in and have sex rather than go to the opera;
the husband, returning from London on the Titanic, dallies with the young man from steerage, choosing fulfilled oblivion over the lifeboat (the young man is not so amused, which leads to a piece of business (**) I refer to further below);*
a working class young man goes home from the disco with the wannabe script-writer/auteur;*
the author of the musical has a honky-tonk scene with his leading lady who demands a rewrite;
the leading lady (now a film star) entertains the congressman, and gives him a brooch given to her by an admirer;
the congressman, drunk, wakes up in the arms of the prostitute who has picked him up for a love job – she won’t take money, so he gives her the brooch.
It was mounted as part of the Mardi Gras festival at the Darlinghurst Theatre by an outfit called the Gaiety Theatre, which proclaims its mission as to mount theatre which includes gay characters and by representing gay people thus affirming their existence (that’s my own paraphrase). You might think it’s a bit late to still have to do this, but probably it still isn’t. That aspect is represented in the musical adaptation of the original play by the asterixed scenes above and by the simple device of changing the gender of one character (the sweet young thing from steerage). Anyway, any excuse to put on a show is a good excuse, I suspect.
There is a cast of 10; a band of 4; stage and lighting crew of 2 or maybe 3 as well as front of house (2). The theatre seats 111 if full (or so I read somewhere: and this seems roughly right). The tickets were $30/$35, which is pretty reasonable. The run is 4 theatrical weeks (31 January to 23 February with, I guess, some previews). You can do the math for yourself, but I presume that they can only be doing this on some kind of a profit share basis. Once you factor in the rights, the director (who is also the choreographer, which might account for one reviewer’s view that it was “just a touch over-choreographed”) and at least, I would have thought, a 3-week rehearsal period, that would have to be a pretty tight ship.
I enjoyed it. D did too, though over all he felt it didn’t really make the grade – he is a bit intolerant of imperfections – and bewailed the necessarily straitened production values. Bryce Hallett, in the SMH, referred to the “talented young cast, including several recent graduates of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts” and then added “the approach inevitably invites some miscasting and a lack of necessary depth here and there.”
I think this is a fair comment. Not all of the cast could really fill their roles (though not necesssarily the WAAPA newcomers), and there were a couple of scenes which fell a bit flat. But for the price it was better than good enough, and worth going to see.
I presume further that the point of “this approach” (including the profit-sharing aspect, if that is the case) is that the cast are in it for the exposure and the chance to develop their craft. This makes it all the more inexplicable that the budget didn’t run to a printed cast list and some degree of biographical information about the performers and other participants. So I can’t say much about them here.
Many years ago my elder sister was in a rock band, The Laughing Clowns, which at the time enjoyed cult status amongst the (self-appointed, as ever) cognoscenti. A few clips still turn up occasionally on Rage. Eventually, they set off for London where, not long after, the band broke up, although it reformed once or twice after that back in Australia. I still remember picking her up in spectacularly stony silence from a band meeting at the end of an Australian tour for which she had returned from London. At the meeting it had emerged that, after paying the roadies and for the equipment hire, there was less than $50 each for the band members on top of the dole-equivalent subsistence allowance they had paid themselves for the tour. (In the world of rock and roll, the roadies are proverbially always paid.) There had been a gap in the middle of the tour and there was some talk of the savings which could have been made if the manager had thought to return the hired equipment for this period. Fortunately, my sister had stipulated for a return air ticket before accepting the engagement.
I hope the actors do better out of this show than that. However, like those proverbial roadies, the musicians and the crew probably deserve to be paid properly or at least adequately first.
Apart from being concerned for the cast’s economic welfare, at one point (**) D became quite agitated on OH&S grounds. A glass was knocked to the ground and it broke. Some of the cast were dancing barefoot. (At this point I noticed a bandage on one actor’s big toe.) The glass-knocking was a predictable incident of an essential piece of business. Could they not have anticipated this and run to plastic “glasses”?
Perhaps this is another of those things that they teach you to look out for at stage manager school, because the stage manager called out from the last row where she was [wo]manning the lighting desk that the performance had to stop to sweep up, because “My actors are dancing with bare feet down there.” The stage hand swept up, first ineffectually with a brush and pan and then a little more effectively with a large broom. The stage manager made some rather gruff remark about the joys of live theatre and the performance resumed. It still seemed rather slap-dash, and we scanned the stage anxiously for tell-tale glisterings of glass.
D remained concerned that a chaise longue which lay in the line-of-shatter might still have glass on it. He was right. Two scenes later, a terrible disaster was only just averted when, seconds before the leading lady plunged dramatically onto the chaise longue, her fellow actor in the scene spotted and removed a sizeable segment of the bowl of the glass.