Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wit at Edinburgh - "taking the night bus didn't kill me" shocker

It’s a theatrical tradition that, for a show to go right, everything has to go wrong beforehand. I’ve always rather suspected this to be lies made up by companies blessed with more enthusiasm than skill, but given the endless stream of you’ve-gotta-laugh-or-you’ll-cry-and-never-get-up-again incidents that happened yesterday, I’m inclined to change my opinion.

From Monday we’re performing at Delhi Belly, a bijou space in the vast caverns of the Underbelly on Cowgate. Bijou is a kind word meaning microscopically small. Our director Charlotte – an unflappable genius whose anger/panic/insanity only becomes apparent if you look her straight in the eyes in the afternoon – walked in to find that four feet of the stage was missing.

“We needed a viable fire exit,” said one of the Underbelly techs cheerily. This makes our stage a measly 8ft deep (I am 6’2 and do a lot of lying down) and means we now have to put a large prop on the floor and call it ‘meta’.

Sunday was to be our tech, the first rehearsal since a week-long rush a month ago.

“Wit – um, yeah here you are. 1pm on Monday,” said our techie, Gavin, looking at his clipboard

There was a short pause while Charlotte battled the demons within.

“Gavin, the play has its first run at 1.15 on Monday. We’re supposed to be teching in the morning.”

“Um, well, someone-who-sounds-like-Dave-Michelle has got you down for then.”

Gavin is not thick, just massively overworked. Possibly-Dave-Michelle is also not thick, but definitely numerically dyslexic.After some Charlotte magic worked on the supervising tech, and bribing a reluctant Gavin with tea and donuts to get out bed for 9.30 Monday morning, we set about assembling the props. The NHS hospital bed and office chair are played by Ikea, both being cheap and famously unreliable. We hit a snag when the chair’s last wheel refused point blank to allow itself to be screwed in place. George, Charlotte’s assistant, nearly broke his head falling off it backwards, which will teach him for playing around on swivel chairs when there are beds of minute height to assemble.

The bed is Lilliputian. Alex, who plays one of the doctors, will have to limbo under my character’s pelvis in order to do an exam. Ikea outdid themselves again by making the mattress a good four inches smaller than the bed frame. A sketch group called The House of Windsor eyed our efforts dubiously as we then attempted to make it look a bit less like a horrific metal accident by covering it in sheets and hospital blankets. We lost George, who’d seen the House of Windsor show in London and subsequently turned deep pink and asked reverential questions.

“Wit? I think I’m reviewing that for The Stage,” said one of them horrifying casually. “Acts reviewing other acts.” Charlotte and I turned the full laser beam of our smiles on him. He looked slightly uncomfortable. George was still pink. We’re all probably fucked, but we’ve got a very good play and regardless of Swiftian influence, that should hopefully be enough to engross an audience. It’ll even be all be alright on the night – and it was. We went to Silent Disco. It was the most fun I’ve had in months.

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