Monday 23rd January
Having got back late from Fives at Eton and Highgate on Sunday followed by directing the house play rehearsal (Brendan Behan’s, The Quare Fellow ) in the evening, it was, in all honesty, a struggle to get up on Monday morning for a meeting with the headmaster alongside Will and Henry, the head and co-deputy head of school, (8:15 really does feel like the small hours when it’s still dark outside). Inconveniently I do have a PR (either Private Reading, or Personal Relaxation, depending on how you look at it) so a lie-in was lost. However, the free time meant that I could catch up on some of the work that I hadn’t done because of play rehearsals which extended late into the night, and the further time spent building the set (something I’m sure west-end directors, or Mr Fanning for that matter, don’t have to do). On Monday afternoon I conducted an experiment: Was it possible to go from Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton and back on the train between lunch and period 6, and pick up costumes as well? The answer was a resounding ‘no’. I found the costume warehouse (with a little help from my Mum, who works with my Dad in Wolverhampton) and arrived at the train station just in time, but it turned out that carrying it all back from the station on my own was hardly convenient. I arrived very late for period 6 (French) and hadn’t quite done the essay either… Monday evening brought the tech rehearsal for the play, an affair which was as stressful as expected, and apparently taught Mr Portier a few new words! We left the theatre at 1 am, very worried, because the wood for the other two Prison cells we were building for our set had not turned up!
Tuesday 24th January
A slightly more subdued day. The snooze button on the alarm clock took a serious beating, and at 20 to 9, I got up, quickly performed some running repairs on my bike, and got to period one just in time. After a quick game of fives that afternoon, I went to the theatre to arrange everything for our proto-dress rehearsal that night. It was still very worrying; would the actors have learnt their lines? Did we have all the props and costumes? Were the lights and sound sorted? And, most worryingly, would our ‘prisoners’ turn up? (You know who you are.) As it was, the rehearsal went well; the only major culprit, who has yet to pay his £3.50 fine, was my younger brother Tom. His entrance came. His entrance went. His character remained ethereally non-existent. I found him tucked in a corner backstage watching a film on his laptop, and promptly abused some power in order to confiscate the laptop from him. Finished that evening with further set construction, and a stint with Adam Foster, editing photos for the poster. Things were beginning to look promising.
Wednesday 25th January
The morning of the dress rehearsal proper. I can honestly say that I’ve never been so nervous about a play, but yet again the cast pulled it off. I spent the morning first doing a chapel duty, and then created more excuses for not handing in work! The only real concern afterwards was the exhaustion of the cast, which I hoped that an early (10:30 ish) night would rectify. Oh, and the fact that the stage was still not finished! I stayed in the theatre with a conscript of painters from the fifth form (amongst whom was my younger brother, who seemed more interested in painting ‘D.R.F.C’ onto everything, than painting a door bright red as I had asked him!) Despite a titanic effort, the stage however, was not done by the time we went to bed, at about 2 am!
Thursday and Friday
Unusually for a house play, neither of our performances let us down (it really was a relief to not spend the second night trying to make up for the first). Obviously, there were a few hitches, considering that the play had been put together in only two and a half weeks, but there were some good performances: Arthur Fearnall was confident and flamboyant as the patriarchal prisoner, Dunlavin, his younger brother Stamos, along with Ed Harrison, both making their Ingram’s stage debuts were terrific, and worryingly convincing as two more prisoners. Kiran Morjaria gave an authoritative performance as Warder Regan, helped by another newcomer, Rob Treasure. Regan’s ‘Meths-rubbing’ scene with Dunlavin was a real highlight! The two young prisoners also were as irritating as intended, and both Tom Flowers and Joe Bell ought to be looking to perform more in the years to come. Peter Evans, as the snappy Prison chief, despite his confessed stage fright, left no doubt as to the ‘bloody stupidity’ of the warders, and, in the end, seemed far more confident than he himself had forecast. There were naturally a few negatives (probably more from my point of view than the audience’s) audibility was sometimes an issue, and occasionally, perhaps due to such a short rehearsal period, people seemed slightly uncomfortable in their presence on stage. The star-performance, however, must go to Joe Bell, (sorry Dimitri – the cameo chef falls into second place!) who was incredibly funny and energetic in his portrayal of Dunlavin’s elderly Neighbour; a furious poking walking stick accompanied him round the stage, and he seemed very at ease with what was going on elsewhere. Two other prisoners deserve a mention; Sam Welti and Max Mason, both playing prisoners whom we first meet out in the exercise yard, who, in the end, proved both funny, and moving as the play descended into its darker finale, despite having been ‘economical’ on attending rehearsals! Technically, the play was difficult to pull together; the final bars went up on the cell walls about an hour before Thursday’s performance, and the stage was painted again with about half an hour to go. Huge credit therefore must go to Dan Hurcomb, and Bruce Maitland, who drilled about 300 metres of wood together (when you include all the bars etc) in order to construct our four 3m x 2m x 2m prison cells). As with last year’s Ingram’s production Calvin Chan’s lighting provided some stylish touches and helped to lower the mood, as the final scene approached. As a final point, it is worth noting that Ed Grant, who played Holy Healey, was in bed suffering with a migraine for most of Friday, and, despite my request to the san to kindly ‘sort him out’, things did not look completely positive. Yet the show must go on, and Ed (‘Lid’ to his mates) was just as amusing as ever as the bumbling prison inspector. Described by one critic as a ‘cool show’, this production of The Quare Fellow has been a pleasure to be in charge of, and, as my last play in the Ashton theatre, also quite emotional. The after play pizza, which went on even longer than the stage painting sessions (!) was richly deserved by all.
Saturday 28th January
Coach Weekend, and thank god for that! I slept straight through, and nearly missed my first lesson, quickly ran over to Quod to hand out some posters for the sixth from options fair, and then dashed back to the Alington Hall to watch a lecture by John Hoskinson, a former pro golfer who unfortunately killed a cyclist whilst drink-driving and served three years in prison. It was a very moving lecture, which brought a poignant end to the week. As I left for home, I grabbed my Fives gloves, ready for a trip down to Eton the next day to play in the Under 21s tournament. God I need some sleep!