Sunday, 16 January 2011

Gut Girls - in rehearsal

I've noticed the seasons more since we moved to Shoreham; the way the colours and the light change with each passing month. Though I know it won't be long until the hedgerows take on a pinkish hue and the leafbuds swell, for now the landscape remains one of skeletal silhouettes and shadows, charcoal and ashen grey.

We don't have street lights here, so when it gets dark, it's properly dark; inky black and threatening. In January, once the christmas lights have come down it feels even gloomier. My natural reaction is to stay indoors, to turn into a solitary hermit until the promise of spring lures me blinking back into the light, like the Mole from Wind-in-the-Willows. If I lived anywhere else, that might be what happened, but not here, where there is a year-long schedule of events to force us to socialise. Just as I'm sliding into curmudegeonly confinement, the wise thespians of the Shoreham Village Players step up the rehearsals for their next production.

From 2 - 5 March this year, the village hall will become the blood-soaked sheds of a nineteenth century Deptford slaughterhouse, where The Gut Girls will ply their trade. They are a rowdy bunch, foul-mouthed and raucous, strong and independent. Though I'm firmly denying all suggestions of typecasting, I have been cast as one of them, a character called Maggie, and my Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings are now spent wielding an invisible meat cleaver, knocking back imaginary bottles of beer (at least until the props arrive), and swearing like a trooper.

Our director is keen for us all to be as loud and common as possible - a requirement I seem strangely willing and able to fulfill, even though I know it will do nothing for my reputation in the finer drawing rooms of the village. But there's still a certain amount of bravado called for when the script requires you to tousle the hair of a man you barely know, even though you've said hello in the high street a hundred times.

With only the residents of the village and its near neighbours to draw on, there is a certain amount of poetic licence in the casting and some of the 'girls' are a little past the first flush of youth. Take it from me, it's not easy being a fallen woman when it takes so long to get back up from the floor. I'm hopeful that by opening night, one fellow cast-member might stop collapsing in hysterical laughter each time she addresses me with the line 'Are all the women working here as young as you?'

Today was 'books down'; the date underlined in our rehearsal schedules, the day we've all been dreading, when we're supposed to start acting from memory, rather than reading our lines from the scripts. I very quickly worked out which of the cast had done their homework. Suffice to say, I didn't quite rise to the challenge of recalling words and actions and delivering them both in a co-ordinated manner. I think our very patient prompt will sleep soundly in her bed tonight from all her efforts, while our director may well start having nightmares soon.

14 comments:

Pat said...

A good prompt is worth their weight in gold.
I was once prompted whilst applying lipstick - an important bit of business necessary to the plot. I'm told my eyes flashed.

Elisabeth said...

I'm always amazed at the ability of actors to retain their lines. It must be such hard work.

Shopgirl said...

Charming and funny, just right for Sunday afternoon, both the activity and the post. I always enjoyed performing in plays when I was little, not sure when and why I stopped. It was such fun.

Jayne said...

I remember making a very robotic appearance in a 5th grade production of Julius Caesar. That was the end of the beginning for me.
I love local productions, though. So much talent right around the corner.

Ros Taylor said...

Really funny and brought back to memories of your famous line in the school play - "how d'you like your eggs, fried or boiled"

Baglady said...

Brill. I love your description of the spring - you always paint such vivid pictures.

I too would make a terrible fallen woman - the floor is so very far down.

Good luck with your lines. Aside from expecting to get cast as "maid" or the She-Devil it's one of the reasons I've never been brave enough to tread the boards myself.

light208 said...

Good luck. I envy anyone the ability to remember lines. It's entirely beyond me. Have fun with it. :)

Sensible Footwear said...

Always a pleasure to read your posts. I especially enjoyed your opening paragraph

Eryl said...

Gosh it sounds fun, and rather brave, the beer would have to be real every time for me to get up on stage and ruffle a strange man's hair!

The Mad Fat Girl said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! Miss my college days when we did put up a coupla plays. The behind the scenes drama was so much fun, and yes, the thrill of pulling off a good show was awesome! Hope you have a thunderous applause :)

caterpillar said...

Wow...you can act and say the dialogues from memory too? I'd die of stage fright if I had to ever do that....

Seré said...

This was delightful to read. I loved the line about the fallen woman, and can so relate. And Shoreham sounds wonderful. Maybe you can all agree to leave those cheery lights up until April? Or perhaps The Shoreham Village Players install a big marquee with your names in lights! (Spoken like a true American.)

Happy Frog and I said...

I used to love acting at school and I really enjoy watching local plays but I haven't had the courage to try and audition myself. You make it sound very exciting though. Best of luck with it.

Jane said...

Lovely post - full of warmth and camraderie.
Break a leg!