Bastard Prompt

I received the following comment to my Musical Spectacular Post.

At first I had concerns that the musicians may have drowned out the singers

Now that’s close! Love the Witches song”.

It occurs to me it is worthy of further explanation because it is not something you always anticipate on an expensive trip to the Theatre. I went to see the Musical South Pacific in London many years ago and was sitting in the front row towards the right. However, all of the Brass instruments were directly in front of us, giving a somewhat unnatural boost to the mix and rather swamping the strings & woodwind. Theatre sound people often get round this by entombing the musicians in the Pit (or sometimes putting them somewhere else entirely) and having a lot of small fill-in speakers along the proscenium edge to counteract the effect of the sound coming from the side.

Now in the days before technology, it was common to put the Stage Manager in the Stage Right corner rather than the normal Stage Left corner for this very reason- so that the act could be heard rather than the Brass. (Possibly there was the need for the Stage Manager to say something to the Musical Director in the event of something going wrong, the standard response was for the MD to say “Shipwreck Chorus Lads” and they would play a holding tune until further notice.) In Theatres, Stage (Actor’s) Left Wing is always known as Prompt Side and Stage Right Opposite Prompt, even if the Prompt Corner is in the Opposite Prompt Corner. Many theatres have P.S. and O.P. directional signs backstage, although the less traditional ones have S.L. and S.R.

Now what do you call a Prompt Side that is on Opposite Prompt? Bastard Prompt. I wonder who made that up? Probably a very confused architect. (Some theatres have Bastard Prompts for architectural reasons rather than historic variety house reasons, the usual one being sod all room offstage downstage left).

A memory of a real shipwreck chorus just sprang into my head, from a 18+ Easter Holiday at Caister talent show many years ago when I was acting as Stage Manager. An appalling “Comedy” act was dying on his feet and was insulting the audience in between momentary flashes of potentially getting it together. Eventually the crowd had had enough and so had I. I said Shipwreck Chorus Lads to the Band and closed the Curtains. They knew exactly what I meant and played him off with… The Winker’s song (Misprint) by Ivor Biggun. An excellent and inspired choice!

Plodging in the clarts

We went to Saltburn Pier yesterday with the intention of doing some fishing or crabbing. Unfortunately, the tide was out!

However, walking below the pier in search of a good shot, I didn’t notice an extra large wave sweep in and swamp my shoes. Having Crocs on, the water went in the sides and top holes so I immediately had very soggy socks.

We did find some small crabs in the water pools beneath the pier. We made sure we put them back though.

English <-> Geordie

Plodging- Paddling in the sea, generally barefoot with trousers rolled up
Clarts- Mud, e.g. as found at Byker Sands, Jarrow Slacks.

"Only dead fish swim with the stream"

When we were at the Alnwick Garden last week, we noticed a new book available about the making of the Garden. Karen balked at the £25 cover price but I noticed it was only £17.50 on Amazon. (I’ve read it now and posted a four star review).

Not only does it have a photo of the Pump room, but it reveals a cheeky secret.

At the start of the bamboo maze is the phrase at the top of the blogpost, representing the Duchess’ struggle with unhelpful conservatism that seriously got in the way of making the garden what it is today.

When you complete the maze, there is a Latin inscription in the centre. It reads:

Omnia, hospites, vidistis.
Vobis gratias agimus.
Nunc, fortuito mingite.

The real translation is NOT what is officially on their website podcast. This schools teacher guide PDF is closer…

I anticipate one of the highly educated Blogpower people with a classical education may be able to get close. (Or Colin Campbell will find an English <-> Latin translator online).

Postscript: The translators I have tried are Cak at it.

Put another nickel in…

The singing talent of Morley Operatic managed to excel recently when they staged their Musical Extravaganza 2 which was even better than the Musical Extravaganza back in 2005. We had pre-arranged to get tickets for Saturday night in the first allocation, mainly by recognising the man who played Wishee Washee back at the Mayor’s Ball. On turning up on the night, we were surprised to find ourselves in the front row, from seats where we could have readily conducted being sat directly behind the Musical Director. At first I had concerns that the musicians may have drowned out the singers but there were enough radio mics in use that we could hear from the nearby PA speaker without a problem.

The show was staged in Morley Town Hall using their standard fit-up stage (the Proscenium of which stays there semi-permanently these days, the bracing of which gave me something to hang the Dean Friedman stage lighting on back in July). They had flats and borders with a fairly neutral green leaf pattern, otherwise known as “another part of the forest” and a large screen at the rear for projected words and images.

Just before the show started, the Tabs were closed (the stage front curtains) in order for the beginners to take their positions. At this point, my Mum said “Oh Dear” as the drapes do look rather sad when closed, being a little threadbare and with insufficient fullness. (Fullness is the amount of additional material pleated into the width to give them a visual richness when hung. 50% is minimum you can get away with for decorative Tabs and 100% is better).

The show was fast paced and very song intensive, apparently 79 songs in total. The first half included songs from Phantom of the Opera and finished before the interval with a set piece from Les Miserables, with one of David’s school Staff playing the foul mouthed Innkeeper’s Wife, Mme Thenardier. (She said three rude words and was chastised for it by david on Monday at School!). They finished with One Day More which also leads up to the Interval in the West End show (although their arrangement seemed slightly adrift with men singing women’s parts and vica versa).

After ASDA Choc Ices, it was back to the second half. The best set in this half to my mind was the Hans Christian Andersen one, excellently sung by the lead and with lively dance by youngsters, including one of David’s friends who played a cute ugly duckling (who turned into a very fine Swan indeed). Special mention must also go to the Singing in the Rain number with excellent Tap dancing . It was odd, though, that the song was repeated with full supporting cast a couple of songs later without any obvious (to me) causal link.

The strangest song had to be the one from Wicked featuring a green faced Wizard of Oz style witch and a woman in a baby doll outfit singing how she was going to make the witch beautiful.

The grand Finale’ was the Joseph megamix, but to my mind it didn’t quite come off and felt slightly stilted at times. Too many glitter wigs & random togs so it looked a bit too much like a (mature) Student party rather than a riot of colour. Sometimes the music soars above what can be squeezed out of a drummer and two keyboard players and it can start to sound a little bit John Shuttleworth-like. Similarly, the lights can sometimes be too revealing/flattening and what really would have worked well was strong cross-lighting from the wings. (Not that there was anywhere to put them in the horribly cramped confines of the platform. The other thing is that most of the principals are very good singers and a few are genuinely excellent ones so it can be easy to forget it isn’t a pro show and then be reminded of it when someone or something is only 90%. Having said that, the Joseph Coat was superb, as was the coloured cape. It must have taken an age to make, I wonder if they can be hired from others via the National Operatic and Drama Association (NODA), the Amateur Theatre UK body? (It is possible to hire other Props and Costumes on a pro or amateur basis, such as Audrey II, the metamorphosising monster from Little Shop of Horrors).

David’s friend has been trying to persuade him to take part but David doesn’t like performing to an audience, getting huge stage fright. (Ironically, though, if he is not the centre of attention, he can quite happily make himself one, such as when he joined me onstage for speeches at Karen’s 40th a couple of years back. Karen seems to think that I harbour a secret desire to get involved, although I tend to constrain myself to a semi-pro basis, preferring to do things professionally and generally get paid for it, where possible).

The Morley Operatic is 80 years old this year, and the programme has a number of long serving members and patrons with NODA long service awards. However, it would take so little to scupper the society, such as poor sales for a run, a key individual losing interest or the price of insurance becoming prohibitive. (Just involving youngsters means chaperones and criminal records checks, neither of which come cheap). Being a Charity, their finances are in the public domain and they seem to be sending accounts again (after some missing years) so it is interesting to see that they pay their musicians (but not very much). I can recall Karen and I going to see an amateur “The Sound of Music” at Batley Town Hall (BD- Before David) and being amused to see the handing out of brown envelopes to the musicians in the interval. However, on reflection, it makes sense to pay professional musicians as there is nothing as uncomfortable (or worthy of sniggering) as the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra.

An amateur practices until (s)he gets it right. A Professional practices until (s)he cannot get it wrong.