Tech Blog Patience 06

By Chris Armstrong, longtime techie.

2006 saw the society perform Patience. With its idyllic settings, poetry and dripping female choruses, it is possibly one of the more quaint of G&S operettas - although the male chorus of (very finely dressed) dragoon guards do bring in some machismo. This was also my first time on committee, having being co-opted into Press & Publicity after someone dropped out. Owing to some odd technical glitch with my computer (it kept randomly restarting every time it booted up and then just magically fixed itself a few weeks later, I never found out what went wrong with it, but I digress…) I never managed to finish the show's poster and logo properly, so what was eventually presented was actually the mock-up version. I've never been happy with that, but few people seemed to care much. Patience was remarkable in how the cast was exactly balanced between men and women, well, we had one extra man but as Bunthorne ends up alone at the end (sorry, should that be under spoilers?) it worked out perfectly.

The second main show outing for the set saw it put up exactly the same way, the large backboard and wings went up as usual but we eventually managed to bodge together two turrets to go above the entrances. These crenellations (this being the year I learned what that word meant) were originally going to be red, spire like constructions, but as the first versions of these were made of cardboard and were, franky, crap they were dumped in show week and replaced. This was a good lesson in never underestimating the size that pieces of set need to be. What was eventually produced was quite epic in terms of improvised bodging; two slats were bolted across the wings and supported a ~6 ft high frame covered in hardboard. This end result was quite impressive, but Andy Vick did seem to hint that if he knew further in advance about this plan that it would be even more impressive, with the wings reconstructed to take the flats to double height.

The painting of the set has since become a bit of a running joke, with the fact that there were a stupid number of bricks on the set. I can't remember the exact figure (although if someone can remind me…) so lets just say "over 9000" and leave it at that. These were mostly done in the run-up to the show by the cast, but when finally assembled the results of a dozen different people doing the painting manifested in at least a dozen different styles of bricks with the edges of the flats clearly visible where the patterns didn't match up. I then spent most of the week up a ladder homogenising the paint job, and the results seemed to be worth it. The top part particularly was redone to add more battlements, with a black background added in to make the set blend into the screen behind it. This worked well, although these days I'd be tempted to actually build an actual castle from scratch and cut it out properly.

The transition between acts 1 and 2 was a simple job, at least far easier than with Ida. Down came some hastily assembled bunting (just using scissors rather than standing on a ladder to get at the knot) and away went the two trellises that were centre-stage. What was brought on were some flat bushes and trees that were placed around the stage. The first incarnation of the trees were fairly small and weedy, so these were cut up and the green part recycled as more bushes as a larger versions were made and essentially hung on the flats. This probably wasn't the most secure option, but it worked well enough for a speedy set-change. The change wasn't as rehearsed as with Ida but it didn't need to be considering the more simple layout. The more vivid and cartoony paint job, combined with the flat, propped up bushes gave the show a slightly more pantomime feel than other shows. At one point, Chris Charlton knocked one over during a performance and seemed to stay in character while putting it back up, almost as if pondering the ramifications of the sudden change in diegesis upon finding out that you're actually in a stage play.

This was the year that Central Hall Musicals did Fame. This was a pretty good show, although the direction was a little unimaginative and I still can't figure out what they spent their money on. Being the week before our show, they left us plenty to deal with, notably the yellow taxi from the finale, which we eventually managed to wedge somewhere between the stage doors and our set. We handed it a parking ticket (although no one got around to heading to the security centre to borrow a real one to do, I doubt they'd have let us anyway). It's quite a cool prop that apparently gets passed around various amateur productions of Fame, as evidenced by the numerous dents on the front from where many stiletto wearing Carmen Diazes have stomped around on it in the final song. Despite the annoyance of having to shift it, it didn't cause too much a problem.

In the run up to the show we were excited to hear that a new stage manager might be joining us, having contacted technical director Pete Harbottle via email in advance of the show. The email exchange between Pete and "Tim Swann-Mace" gradually got more surreal as the weeks passed by. First, Tim couldn't turn up until Janurary so we didn't expect to see them. Then he commented about how he was looking forward to meeting all the lovely ladies of the society - pervy, but fair enough. Around mid-Janurary, Tim informed us that he wasn't going to be available as his dog had died (even attaching a picture of "Brutus" out of respect). Around the middle of show week, Pete finally had to let Tim know that he couldn't be stage manager as it was too late for him; Tim responded furiously, threatening to come into Central Hall with some of his rugby playing friends and beat the crap out of Pete with sticks. Director Frankie was about two minutes away from calling the security centre to report the threat when Max revealled what we had long suspected; it was him all along, and the only reason that Tim Swann-Mace isn't an anagram of Max Weitzman is because there isn't actually a plausible acronym for Max Weitzman (although it is close, if you change the more awkward letters to something more useful).

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