by Fraser Hooper, Director
We made it, I can’t quite believe it but the old adage is true, the show must go on. On the last week of rehearsals Monday night at about 9:30pm after rehearsing for most of the day, Bronte, Gareth and Gwyn practiced their closing routine. Gwyn clipped his foot on a light, which distracted Bronte resulting in a tumble that rolled her foot. It’s probably fair to say that most of us watching thought it was a minor knock, they are all brilliant acrobats and were always doing dangerous stuff and falling over and this surely seemed no different. Gwyn was absolutely fine but Bronte had fractured her ankle and was now likely to be out of the show. Our opening night was three days away and our leading lady was being led off to hospital.
Tuesday afternoon and Bronte confirms that she is going to be ok, but would probably only be able to do the trapeze routine and hobble around on crutches for the rest of the show. Oh.
We go into meetings at NORPA and I suggest we ask Tom Flanagan to join us. It was the obvious answer and there wasn’t really a Plan B. Tom had worked with Gareth and Gwyn before in The Pitts while Bronte was pregnant with lovely Amelie. I went back to my digs and rewrote the show.
Tom was called and Wednesday morning Pant Boy arrived.
It was still very hot and we were all in shorts and T-shirts except Tom who spent the whole day dressed only in his underpants.
I watched Bronte move very slowly through the house and garden, as she got used to her crutches, my heart sank for her. All this work and now she had a bit part in her own show. I tried to keep as much of the action the same, it needed to be as there was only a day to work with Tom. He wasn’t replacing Bronte but would do a lot of the routines she now couldn’t do. Wednesday was also the dress rehearsal. What we were attempting was mad and then it started to rain. It was a sign. The cane toads had spoken and my god they were loud! It poured and we ran for cover as the they stretched their legs and started to croak. One was showing off his tricks in our circus ring. Tom grabbed it in a plastic bag shoved it in my face and then put the poor thing in the freezer. It’s what you do I was told. Gwyn and I were the only ones who felt a bit concerned. What a way to go, freezing to death next to some sugar free ice pops. We didn’t finish the dress run and the forecast wasn’t looking good for Thursday’s opening night. After experiencing more sun than I had seen since the British summer of 1976 the heavens opened and our first night was cancelled.
I couldn’t believe it. It was though in some ways a blessing, we just weren’t ready, one days rehearsal with a new cast member is really not enough and we all new it. Friday came and our spirits were dampened again as the rain soaked the afternoon, flooded the garden and sent us back into meetings with NORPA. The oracle was consulted and although it was going to be dry for the show the ground was too wet to play on. It gave us a chance to finish the dress run and properly prepare to open on Saturday. We all felt relief in a way, it had flaws but we had a show and it just needed an audience.Watching it on Saturday night with a sold out crowd eagerly anticipating what was going to happen next to me was one of the highlights of my time there. There were problems, getting a 120 people into a house successfully and making sure that everybody had a great time was hard. Making the story work with a brand new character with little rehearsal and one cast member on crutches proved challenging. But we did it, we did it together and I felt proud to be part of it. The audience enjoyed the show. Sunday night though was stronger, we changed a few things and made their journey through the house easier and it felt good that it was going in the right direction.
What an incredible process it has been. There are so many memories good and bad that I will take with me. It was wonderful to work with such an amazing family. Gareth Bronte and Gwyn are inspiring, beautiful, challenging and dedicated people to work with and it’s been an honour to direct them.
And thanks Tom for stepping in at such short notice you were a brilliant addition to the show.
I’ve been absolutely delighted by the generosity and support from NORPA I’ve loved working with you, thank you so much and thanks to the technical crew who were also so fantastic to work with. The last thanks though is to the Lismore audiences, you have been patient, understanding and generous and now we have sell out shows and more added and not just because of the rain. Terrific.
All posts in Open House
by Fraser Hooper, Director
If you came along to rehearsals today I think you could spot who was the Englishman. I’m the one with the ruby red nose standing in the garden wearing a jacket so my arms won’t burn. It’s day three of rehearsals and OH MY GOD it’s hot! I did my washing this morning, hung it out on the line and it was dry before I had pegged my last sock.
I flew in last weekend and made a strange discovery, it’s only a two and a half-hour drive from Brisbane yet Lismore is in a different time zone. Why? That’s about the same as a bus ride from London to Leicester, what’s going on!
I’m over here working with The Pitts directing their latest show Open House for NORPA. What a joy it is, knowing that you are going to spend the day creating ridiculous routines with one extraordinarily talented family. Here’s a taste of what went on today.
Gareth, I say, I want you to dive through the window, get slammed in the face by the door, run around in a dress and shimmy up the pole. Ok, he says, no problem. The routine is tried a couple of times, two head springs, one dive roll and six perfect door slams later it’s time for lunch. I go out for a BLT and a latte, come back and then we add a roof jump, some plate smashing, a rocking horse and a roof top bike ride. It’s only Wednesday, they are incredible, they are like a live cartoon and that’s what I’m watching all day. Fantastic.