25th January
I am writing this on the 11.00 train from Kings X to Leeds, for what will be the final week of rehearsals before the opening night of Ruddigore. As I sit here watching the world whizz by, it occurs to me that a weekend at home can be a surreal experience when you are so immersed in the latter stages of mounting a new production. I’d so love to be able to switch off, relax, take the dog for a walk, you know, spend some ‘quality time’ with my family. But when I say that my kids were made to sit with me at the piano and sing through Rose Maybud’s ‘Waltz Song’, that they were drilled in the intricacies of Ruddigore’s plot at least 5 times, that I woke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, with the ‘Matter Trio’ whirling around my brain, and that I spent the weekend prowling around the house like Vincent Price on acid (Yes, I play the baddie!), you’ll realise that I’m currently finding it difficult to distinguish between reality and the Victorian melodrama of Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan. The stage and orchestra 1 rehearsal is later today, and I can’t wait to hear the fabulous Opera North orchestra.
26th January
Yesterday was wonderful. Not surprisingly the orchestra lifted the production onto a new level. Stage and orchestra 2 and 3 rehearsals are today, and the sense of excitement building is palpable across the board; almost more so than any production I’ve been involved in for some time. Maybe we’re desperate to do ‘Ruddigore’ justice, to silence the individuals who question its contemporary relevance. Maybe, it’s because, in this age of cynicism, it is such glorious fun being involved in something so unashamedly theatrical. Or maybe we just want to put on a great show for all those G&S fans who, it is said, will be arriving by land, sea and air. I am certain they won’t be disappointed by the ‘look’ of the show. Richard Hudson’s set and Gabrielle Dolton’s costumes are quite simply ravishing, and that doesn’t half help us as performers!
The buzz in the theatre is terrific. On stage, rehearsals for the ghosts’ scene (always technically difficult) are under way, and I watch an army of stage crew operating a dizzying array of trap doors and sliding panels that will bring to life, literally, the ancestral hall of Ruddigore. Out in the corridor it is a hive of activity. I pass a group of ‘bridesmaids’ practising the Charleston. Dressers wait expectantly to help principals with their quick changes, and a couple of skeletons whizz by on their way to the stage. An ear-splitting roar of laughter from the stage signals the end of the ghosts’ scene, and soon I’ll be on; my character transformed from the villainous Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Act 1, to the self-righteous, self-appointed pillar of society in Act 2. But my transformation is being potentially thwarted by a moustache that has become unstuck. I rush back to my dressing room to apply more glue. The rest of the evening passes without incident.
27th January
I’m off to the theatre now for the last run before the dress-rehearsal tomorrow. I consider myself very lucky to have been part of this show, and hope it’s a success; it deserves to be with all the work that has gone into it, not least Jo Davis’ (the director) tireless energy and insight. Hopefully we’ll see you in Leeds or on tour somewhere.