Monday was read through day. A van with the major bits of set was being off loaded when I arrived at the theatre and despite there being very tight access into the building everything fitted. Phew! A meet and greet with the company before we all sat down to see what the script sounded like, followed by a model showing with a difference.
Normally everyone gathers round the model box and I do my best to show them how the show will work without knocking too many things over with shacky hands. However today I showed the company photos of the model. When Gemma and I had visited Plymouth all the bits of model that the builders were building were there but the box with the painted floor had gone missing. Process of elimination suggested that Gemma had left it a few weeks ago in Guildford. Calls were made but there was no sign of the model. Luckily I’d taken photos so the theatre had printed them out. I decided to show how one piece of the model would work so went to find it amongst all the bits and bobs. The chaps from Plymouth brought out a big box, inside was my shoe box of bits sitting inside the model box, that we’d assumed was missing forever. It would take too long to put it all back together so the photos had to do.
The rest of the day was spent putting things together on stage and finding space for everything in the wings. The base of the Gin Palace had to be cut out making it no longer water tight but manoeuvrable by the actors. Once the builds from Plymouth had been checked we retired to the pub for some food and maybe a touch too much wine.
Tuesday the set was joined by more things that Chris had built in Bristol. A section of the auditorium was cleared to make it into a carpentry shop for more bits to be built. I drew things out and Chris would then jigsaw them out before a coat of white paint was applied. All the time we could hear songs echoing down the staircases from rehearsals going on elsewhere in the building. Everything existed in one form or another now apart from the main stage set. Due to budget cuts we were planning to reuse old flats that the theatre had, recover them in canvas for me to paint. For this we needed quite a bit of canvas, which hadn’t arrived. We managed to fill the time well and a long day was put in by all.
Wednesday. The last day before rehearsals started on stage. Usually whilst rehearsals for a show are taking place in a rehearsal room the set is being built elsewhere. There is then what is called a fit-up when the set is put on stage, completed and the lighting and sound are added before the actors join for the technical rehearsal. In Chipping Norton however they don’t really have anywhere big enough to rehearse other than the stage. In previous years the set has been fitted up the week before rehearsals start and then finished off when possible. Time was ticking on and still the canvas hadn’t arrived. Phone calls had been made, Chris and Gemma were due to be elsewhere on Thursday. Just as we were trying to work when and where the flats could be done a lady appeared and patiently waited for a gap in conversation. ‘A delivery from Macdougals’ Bloomin brilliant! You have never seen so many people so pleased to see a large roll of fabric before.
Chris covered each flat, which then was primed by me before being positioned out of the way so the next one could be done. One set of flats were put up on stage the other taken into the auditorium for me to paint on Thursday.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday I spent painting away. I’m so glad I’d cut templates out as this saved me hours of drawing. Having a paintshop in the auditorium has meant that I am nearly word perfect with most of the songs for Act 1 and I know some of the dance routines too. Being on hand for questions has been good as I could see how things were being used by the actors, well when I had my glasses on. The portals gradually came together and I managed to time completing parts with breaks in rehearsals so that things could be moved around without too much disturbance.
My two crew worked hard hauling bits up and fixing them together as they were finished. The last section requiring all three of us, pulling, pushing and screwing them together with just enough time for me to catch the last bus to Banbury. Having to return the theatre to normality for films on Sunday gave us added impetus.
My digs are close to the theatre, I have a bathroom all to myself, which has a bath. This and my room together most probably equal the full size of Oleanna. There is also a very friendly old cat called Pepper who can open my bedroom door if I don’t lock it. She is persuasive when it comes to being stroked and will tap me on the nose to get my attention, especially when I am asleep.