And so, after 5 months of rehearsal, Falmouth Community School’s production of Oliver! reached production week. The opening night was Tuesday 7 April and the show would run for 4 nights, ending on Friday 10 April. Before that, on this day, there was to be a preview performance for kids from local junior schools. For us, it was a glorified final dress rehearsal. For them, it was an afternoon off lessons - which was a good chunk of the reason why I was doing it too.
I still had to go to lessons in the morning. I can’t recall what I had timetabled, but everyone in the cast was made aware of what one cast member had been doing that morning when we arrived after lunch to get ready for the performance. Colin Leggo had spent all those months of rehearsal playing one of the Artful Dodgers. Mrs. Stevenson, the school drama teacher and director of the show, had cast two Olivers and two Dodgers who would alternate on the nights of the run. Colin might have been scheduled to play the part that day. However, it was his misfortune to have PE as one of his Monday morning lessons. He told me, “We were supposed to be playing rugby, but it was raining, so we were in the gym hall instead playing ‘crab football’. Someone got up and started running around with the ball, accidentally jumped on my kneecap and broke it. Nice.” Gutted as we all were for Colin, it didn’t affect the balance of the show too much as we had someone else already up to speed with the part. But amateur drama is a precarious business, because understudies are not generally used. In two productions that I’ve directed, I’ve had to step in and act roles when actors have dropped out at short notice - one of them due to slipping on a piece of pizza in a restaurant on the opening day of the production. I also used another to make up for retracting an offer I had made for a part when my original choice dropped out because she thought she was going to be away when the show was staged, only to discover she had mixed up her dates and could do the play after all. As the years pass in this blog, you’ll hear tales of replacements who were replaced after 1 rehearsal because they alienated everyone else and the time I was asked to replace someone, not because they were injured, but their acting was so bad, people threatened to quit if they weren’t replaced. It’s not usually so cut-throat, I promise...
The preview went off without any problems and so the cast, crew and musicians of Oliver! wended home to send their prayers to Colin - who was given his own special curtain call from the second night of the run onwards - and to dream of a successful run. Austrian listeners to John Peel’s Nachtexpress on O3 were given a betting tip ahead of the UK General Election, set for Thursday 9 April. Peel predicted a win for the Conservatives with a reduced majority. He described this as his worst nightmare. I hope he put some money on the result, at least.
A common feature of many of Peel’s shows for non-BBC stations was a wish for people listening from far flung corners of Europe to write to him. 2 Nachtexpress listeners had taken him up on this, but to Peel’s chagrin he had lost both letters. What annoyed him was that if he had been able to name his correspondents, he hoped it might encourage other Nachtexpress listeners to write in as well. He finished the programme by playing Naye, a track from the new album by Matchatcha, Diblo Dibala’s new group. Peel felt that they were slicker than Loketo had been and this was a matter of regret. Matchatcha were further damned with faint praise as only the first minute of Naye was heard before the programme faded out and the news came on.
The selections from the show were taken from an edited version of the show in which the taper chose not to include any of Peel’s dance music selections. Amid tracks which have already surfaced here, the only “new” track I couldn’t share was:
Gorilla - Gone - This track had a question mark against it, and having just listened to it again, that question mark may still be there. A funky and loose piece of power pop driven along by guitar and organ, but blighted by rather gurning vocals. Have a listen below and see what you think.
Live from Stowmarket!