Post show blues

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Post show blues is a state of mind that the majority of theatre people have felt after a show they loved has finished its run. One feels empty, aimless, and often lonely once they’re no longer surrounded by a theatre family. It’s the inevitable crash after an incredible week or two of doing something you love and want to do forever, and the transition from being super busy all the time, to having to return to normal, often mundane life.

Having experienced post show blues several times after shows at school and university, I thought I was over it. After the last few shows I did last year, I was pretty fine, but this was very much down to specific reasons for each show (I went straight into rehearsing another show/I went straight into finishing my degree/I travelled to the Edinburgh Fringe the next day = three reasons why I didn’t really grieve for three different shows). As I mentioned previously, having a full time job not directly linked to theatre means that my opportunities to do shows have somewhat diminished, so I seized the opportunity to work through my half term holiday and play in the pit band for a youth production of Fiddler on the Roof.

The band included several old uni friends, and despite my challenging piano part which took a little while to get to grips with, and the LONGEST ACT 1 EVER, I had a great time performing the show for the week. I always love the way that everyone in pit bands bonds due to being in such close proximity with each other for such a large amount of time, and we, of course, developed our own in jokes and critiques of the writing of the show! It was also pretty cool to be working such different hours to my usual job (8am-5pm) – on matinee days I was working from 2-10:30pm, which meant I could get my much needed lie ins.

And then it ended.  I had one day to sort myself out between the show ending and returning to work, and I was already in a bad mood! Cue a 6:30am start on the Monday morning and all I wanted to do was return to my working life of the previous week. I missed the people, I missed the proper theatre and the proper pit (a novelty for me having performed in a space at the side of the stage throughout uni!), and I missed the thrill of playing a show or two every day. Don’t get me wrong, I do like my full time job, but having one solitary week of *exciting* work and then returning to the real world was always going to be a bit of a shock! It was also just a bit of a surprise to be experiencing post show blues after such a long time  having foolishly assumed that I was over it… I am not!

Thankfully I have two more shows coming up soon: a school show, and the revival of YMT’s Jabberwocky at the Other Palace. I’ve always found that having another show (or two!) to look forward to helps dull the post show blues. I guess it’s a good thing that we get so invested in shows that we miss them terribly once they’re finished, but damn they can be difficult to get over! Bring on the next one.

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Backstage Tour at the National Theatre

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I’ll begin by saying that I LOVE going backstage at theatres. The few times I have done, I’ve been amazed by the winding corridors and seemingly maze-like routes behind and below the stage, as well as by the sheer quantity of space and rooms and goings on behind the scenes to make shows happen. So when I discovered that the National Theatre offers backstage tours most days, I seized the opportunity to buy tickets for myself and my boyfriend (the excuse being it was a birthday treat for him, but I knew we would enjoy it equally… but it was mostly for him. Honest).

We (and the other 18 people) were introduced to our tour guide Maya, who was so knowledgeable, engaging, and generally brilliant. We were given fetching orange high vis jackets to wear which was fun, and gave me a false sense of importance despite the fact that they said ‘National Theatre Backstage Tours’ on the back. Maya told us all a bit about the history of the building and when and why it was built – it’s much newer than I thought, with the building being opened in the 60s (despite the concept of a national theatre being in talks as early as the 19th century).

We entered one of the three auditoriums within the building: The Lyttelton Theatre. I was immediately struck by how modern the space is, but also by its simplicity. Maya explained that the whole idea of this particular theatre is to not let anything draw the audience’s eyes away from the action on stage, explaining the plain decor and the black box around the performance space. This theatre holds nearly 900 people, and it felt like such a nice intimate space from within the stalls.

Next we went into the main auditorium: The Olivier Theatre. Walking into the circle of this theatre was amazing – the view of the stage seemed to be perfect from every angle, and this is because the seating curves around the stage, somewhat hugging it, and the angle is exactly that of humans’ peripheral vision, meaning that the actors on stage can always see everyone in the audience. This space is where Follies was performed, and Macbeth is in technical rehearsals there right now. Sitting in the circle and looking down at the stage made me desperately want to see a show there!

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We reluctantly left The Olivier, and went backstage! We got to see several props from past productions, some of which never even made it on stage due to script and design changes. We also saw the carpentry workshop where many set pieces and props are made, and had a peek into some other workshops too. The National Theatre is a producing theatre, meaning that many sets and props are made backstage, which can be hugely beneficial when shows are rehearsing within the building, as things can be changed very quickly as the shows develop. It’s much like Theatre Royal Plymouth and TR2 in that sense, but on a much bigger scale!

We were taken back to the foyer and handed back our orange jackets, and said a big thank you to Maya (who was brilliant!). We discovered that there is a great theatre shop in the building, which I wish I’d found before because we spent at least an hour in there!

The backstage tour at the National Theatre was awesome, and I would recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in theatre. I learnt so much and now really want to see something in any one of the three theatres. I think it’s so great that a big producing theatre such as the National offers tours such as this, as it definitely sparked my love for theatre even more.

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk 

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The view from the third floor of the National Theatre

My YMT UK experiences

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Youth Music Theatre UK prides itself on being the ‘leading music theatre company for young people’, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in two of their productions during the last two summers, as both a band member and as an assistant musical director. These shows have been invaluable to me as someone trying to get more experience in the theatre world, and with YMT’s auditions tour happening right now, I thought I’d write about the two projects I’ve done.

In 2016 I decided to apply to play keyboards in the band for one of the organisation’s eight projects that year. Although I already had an interest in MDing and had some experience of it at uni, my plan was to be in the band that summer, and then AMD the following summer (which I did!). Anyway, I auditioned in Southampton in January, and then found out in April that I had been placed on a show called The Dark Tower. So after much anticipation I travelled to a boarding school in the south of England to begin the residential rehearsals. The cast of the show had already been there for a week, so myself and the other band members had to slot into both rehearsals and the social life! It was awesome staying in a boarding school, and the fact the rehearsal period was residential was so beneficial, because it meant we were never missing anyone, unlike rehearsals for other shows I’ve done. I became good friends with the rest of the band (and the MDs!), and after a week we travelled to London.

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The Dark Tower was performed at The Bussey Building in Peckham, and it was an immersive experience for the audience, with the production being set over all three floors of the performance space. Obviously this raised logistical problems, such as having to have a keyboard on each floor! We also happened to perform the show during some of the hottest days that year, and sometimes the temperature was unbearable, especially with so many people crammed into the space. I absolutely loved my first experience of YMT, which totally inspired me to apply to be an AMD for a show the following year.

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So, in 2017 I applied for the Creative Trainee scheme, and went to an interview in London, and a few weeks later I was told that I’d been placed on a project called Jabberwocky. Being on the creative team I rehearsed the project for the full two weeks, rather than only one like the previous year. We started rehearsing the show at another boarding school, with our cast of 36 girls aged 11-17. I much preferred being on the creative team and getting to be treated more like an adult, as on The Dark Tower the band were still considered to be ‘young people’. As AMD my responsibilities were to accompany some rehearsals, work on solo sections with small groups of the cast, and to teach some songs to everyone. It was amazing getting to work alongside a professional creative team, who also became our friends!

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After a week we travelled to Kent, as the show was to be performed at Theatre Royal Margate – one of the oldest and most haunted theatres in the country! The theatre is beautiful and it was such a privilege to get to perform there, and it was so nice to be able to have picnics by the sea during breaks from technical rehearsals! The shows went so well and I had such an overwhelming sense of pride for all of the girls in the cast once it was all over.

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YMT projects are such a good way for young people interested in performing to spend their summers. I’ve really appreciated everything both the projects I’ve taken part in have taught me, and I’ve met so many good friends and industry contacts. To anyone interested in doing musical theatre in the future – get involved!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, I’m just passionate about the company!

Shows I worked on in 2017

As well as seeing a fair amount of theatre during 2017, I also managed to make some too! Well, musically direct some anyway. Over the last 3 years the majority of shows I’ve done have been through the musical theatre society at my (old!) uni, but this year I’ve managed to branch out a little bit more too. So here’s my year of shows!

Curtains – March 2017

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Credit: Charlie House Media

Curtains was my last ‘big’ uni show, and definitely my most challenging MDing experience yet! This was partly because I wasn’t just the MD – I had a named part, 3 lines, and a (very short) solo song. Throw into the mix that said part had an indeterminate European  a Russian accent, and this was quite a lot to take on! I also had my first experience of stick conducting a band, and while I relished the challenge, I definitely much prefer keys conducting. Or just keys playing. Anyway, the show turned out brilliantly despite significant levels of stress and I was very proud of everyone involved. #sop

Made in Dagenham – March-April 2017

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This was a show put on by a local amateur dramatics group, and I was ‘only’ in the band! It was great fun though – I played keys 2, and it was really refreshing to be involved in a show outside of uni (although most of the people in the band were uni people!). This was also my first paid pit band gig, so that was exciting… hopefully the first of many??!!

Little Puddle – May 2017

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My first original show! (Not written by me, I hasten to add). I was pleased to be able to help out on this crazy production as AMD, and I also played keys 2 (and a kazoo) in the band. It was so interesting to work on an original show and to be there throughout the process of lyric rewrites and spontaneous key changes!

The 24 Hour Show – June 2017

Every year, the musical theatre society at my old uni rehearses and puts on a show in just 24 hours for charity. I was on the prod team as a co MD, and we auditioned everyone and chose a cast… but didn’t tell the cast what the show was until 24 hours before the first performance. It was a totally mad and surreal experience, during which I got an hour of sleep (which was more than most!) and felt like I went a little bit insane. Nonetheless, we pulled it off, and it was a great show to finish my uni experience with!

Jabberwocky – August 2017

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Having played in the band for a Youth Music Theatre (YMT) production last year, I was so excited to do another one – but this time as the assistant musical director. Getting to work alongside industry professionals was so valuable, and it was such a rewarding (and exhausting!) 2 weeks of constant theatre making! The show involved 39 girls aged 11-17. This was also an original piece, so there were constantly changes being made to the score and script, and often these changes were a result of what the cast spontaneously did which was awesome. Performing the show at the Theatre Royal Margate (the oldest theatre in the country) was amazing too.

 

Now that I have a full time (non theatre based) job, my opportunities to do shows have somewhat diminished, but I hopefully have at least 3 lined up for 2018 already!

3. ‘PVA glue is my best friend’ – an inside look at creating costumes at TR2

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As part of the Theatre Royal Plymouth bloggers’ scheme, I was invited to the wardrobe department at TR2, the theatre’s production and learning centre. We were shown around by Delia, the head of wardrobe, and we got to learn all sorts of things about how, where and why costumes are made, how much it costs, and even how to create realistic looking sick on clothes!

We were welcomed into the wardrobe workshop space, which was full of dummies wearing costumes, which I definitely mistook for real people a few times! Delia showed us some costumes from a production of Rebecca, which was at Theatre Royal Plymouth a couple of years ago, and explained that the costume budgets on shows vary hugely – from around £500 for small, local productions, up to £250,000 for high profile tours of well known musicals. On expensive shows just one garment can cost £1000 to make, especially when fabrics have to be made and printed specifically for a particular character in a particular show. Delia also explained that to work in wardrobe you have to be an all rounder – while individuals have their specialisms, they all need to be prepared to do a bit of everything – including doing the laundry, and even acting as a stand in dresser for performances at the theatre.

Next we went to the costume store: an enormous room full of thousands of garments. While the aisles and rails look crammed full and impossible to trawl through, the room is impeccably organised to make it easy to find any particular piece of costume required. Delia told us that they often hire out costumes to other organisations in the wider community, and that some garments are reused many times in different shows. She described them as ‘treasures I can reuse’, which I thought was a lovely way of putting it, because many of the pieces I saw were so versatile, and definitely ‘treasures’.

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We returned to the wardrobe workshop and Delia showed us some techniques to create special effects on fabric (her own specialism). She emphasised the attention to detail – like when creating fake mud to make clothes look dirty, she has to consider where the production is set, because the colour of mud in Yorkshire, for example, is quite different from the colour of Cornish mud! She used a dirty down spray to customise a pristine white T shirt, and showed us how to create fake blood by using a different spray, and also showed us some fake sick which was… interesting! She told us how different textures can be created using different substances, and stated that ‘PVA glue is my best friend’ due to the sheer amount of things it can be used to make! It was also interesting to find out that experimentation is a key part of creating the correct colour or texture, and that a lot of the wardrobe team’s work is trial and error.

Finally, we got the chance to have a go at creating some fake embroidery. This involved creating a piping bag full of acrylic paint and tracing over a print – it was harder than it sounds! The trick is to create a really small hole for the paint to come out of to maximise the precision when tracing over the lines. Then we filled in the gaps with paint and a brush which was much easier… GCSE art seems a long time ago! It was a really interesting and surprisingly therapeutic task to do and it certainly made us all be quiet for a while!

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Despite knowing very little about the business beforehand, I loved learning so much about the wardrobe department and costume making at TR2. I never realised how much detail goes into the costumes you see on stage, and the size of the costume store was simply immense. I’d like to thank Delia for showing us around and for being so helpful – I have a newfound appreciation for all that the wardrobe team do, as well as a newfound appreciation for PVA glue.

The Wrong Side of Prohibition – Thespis Project Theatre Company, 25/02/17

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Photo credit: Luke Stratta

Thespis Project Theatre Company is a relatively new establishment which brings new theatre to the city of Plymouth. A few other bloggers and I were kindly invited to a performance of The Wrong Side of Prohibition which explores the lives of flappers and gangsters in 1920s America, performed in the brilliantly appropriate speakeasy bar, The Tigermilk, at The Duke of Cornwall Hotel. Thanks to the unique, immersive experience the cast provided us with, it was an exciting evening of exploring new writing which was performed by a promising cast.

The play was cleverly staged around the tables and chairs which seated the audience members, creating a totally immersive show and holding everyone’s complete attention throughout. The costumes were lavish and appropriate for the era, and the general décor of the bar created a stunning back drop for this historical piece, making it the perfect venue for this production.

Anastasios Chalas portrayed the authoritative, manipulative club owner Tony very convincingly, displaying some powerful dramatic acting and good interactions with the other characters – while allowing the audience to feel a small amount of sympathy for him at times. He was well supported by the smaller male characters, who collectively managed to convey the extremity of gender inequality within the society at the time.

Some of the most promising scenes came from the young women playing the showgirls – I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Frankie Hill as Jennie and Sarah Lawrence as Maggie, whose forbidden love was beautifully displayed in some tender scenes. They were complemented well by Heather Brown as Rose, the oldest and most experienced show girl who is even able to manipulate Tony, and Bryony Harvey who portrayed a believable mothering figure to the showgirls. These individuals displayed great promise within their roles, with Lawrence’s emotive acting proving particularly successful.

Another stand out performance came from Nicola Tyrer as Anna, the young Greek girl who is brought to the club at the beginning of the play. Her transformation from a timid girl into a confident singer was realised brilliantly, and Tyrer’s beautiful voice was showcased in her acapella solos, which she performed impeccably; remaining perfectly in key throughout and displaying a good level of acting through song. The contrast between her and the other girls was also evident, not only through their appearances, but also through their levels of experience.

This production was completely different to anything I’ve seen before – I loved the way that the actors broke the fourth wall through delivering their scenes in amongst the audience members – and lines which directly applied to us such as ‘what’re you looking at? Get back to your drinks!’ were both funny and believable given the setting we were in. The production felt far more intimate than your average show in which there is a clear divide between the cast and the audience; and getting to chat to members of the company afterwards was an added bonus!

I had a brilliant evening watching The Wrong Side of Prohibition, and it was really exciting to experience new theatre in the South West. The cast delivered the material impeccably, with some promising performers among them, and the location was simply perfect. I’d like to thank Thespis Project Theatre Company for inviting us to their performance, and I can’t wait to see what they go on to do next.

Like their Facebook page here.

Disclaimer: Thespis Project Theatre Company invited me to their performance of The Wrong Side of Prohibition, but all thoughts expressed here are my own.

Reviewing Theatre: My Experiences

I have, inadvertently, become a theatre reviewer. I’m a person who reviews theatre on the internet, albeit it casually on my own amateur blog. Since I started this blog back in April 2015, I’ve reviewed every single professional production I’ve seen – that was, until last month, when I became extremely aware that I could no longer really view a show without critically judging it and planning my impending review. This, along with the fact that I was really struggling to write about Groundhog Day (purely because I adored it so much and was so overwhelmed by it that it was near impossible to put my feelings into words), led to a brief period of just wanting to enjoy theatre rather than overthink it. Obviously there’s a case for both, and they’re not mutually exclusive, but I think a break is needed every so often.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether bloggers should be able to say whatever we like on the internet about the shows we see, when we’re not technically professionals or being paid to write, but given that bloggers (usually) pay for their own tickets, there’s nothing stopping us from expressing our feelings towards a show.

But then there’s the issue of how personal reviews should be. As I just mentioned, bloggers can write anything, in any style: they can review in first person, in whatever tense they like, with focus on any aspects of the show that they see fit, to any word count (unless they’re on commission… but that’s another matter). So how much should be written about the reality of how good the show is fundamentally as a piece of theatre, and how much of the reviewer’s own opinion and personal connection to the show should be expressed? Although again, there’s not necessarily any ‘should’ where bloggers are concerned.

I went to see the UK tour of Mamma Mia earlier this week, and came out buzzing, as I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Having been totally obsessed with the movie around the ages of 12 and 13, finally getting to watch it live meant a lot to me and was a great experience. The song packed, crowd pleasing second act was great fun to watch, and I had an amazing time. However, once I distanced myself from this initial on the surface enjoyment, I realised that Mamma Mia is fundamentally not a perfect show… it’s far from it. The early scenes need work, and some transitions aren’t as smooth as they could be. It’s flawed, but audiences adore it – and I am no exception. So when I write my review in the next few days (I think my reviewing strike has passed… for now…), I’ll have to work hard to make sure that my own opinions of the show don’t cloud how good it really is, because although I don’t have to, I like to achieve an objective view point.

I’ve learned a lot since writing my very first review on this blog (which I now read back and cringe over. So badly). It’s intriguing how and why some shows are so easy to write about, while others have me staring at a blank word document for hours, struggling to start. The point is, reviewing is a tricky business, and I’m happy continuing as a blogger with no set standards to meet. Reviewing is, and should be fun and that’s why I do it. It can just sometimes become a little difficult to remove my own personal connection to a show from an objective piece of writing – hence reviewing hiatus. Which, as clarified, is now over, so if any production companies are reading, please still offer me comp tickets…!

Review – The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, 17/06/16

22 Ben Forster as The Phantom in The Phantom Of The Opera.  Photo by Matt Crockett LR

I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was to visit my current favourite musical, The Phantom of the Opera, for the fourth time during my weekend London trip for West End Live (see my last two Phantom reviews here and here). There have been some notable cast changes in the leading roles since my last visit over a year ago, which I have mixed opinions about, but overall the experience succeeded in reminding me why I love this show so much.

Ben Forster currently portrays the Phantom, and he generally gives a good performance. His vocals in the title song and Music of the Night are brilliant, although his accent does strangely seem to switch between British and American at times, and occasionally some sustained vowel sounds become distorted, which can be a problem in some of the most climactic moments of these famous pieces. However, Forster does encapsulate the character well, and his character’s evident love for Lisa Anne Wood as Christine is believable and heart breaking in the Final Lair scene.

Alternate Christine, Lisa Anne Wood, is absolutely brilliant. Having only recently taken on the role of alternate Christine having understudied the part for a while, she performs it immaculately. She seems to bring something new to the character, giving it a bit more life and energy than usual, and her voice is simply divine, as displayed early on in Think of Me. Nadim Naaman plays Raoul, and he may have become my favourite actor to play the part ever! He makes Raoul a more likable figure, showing realistic interactions and reactions, and his and Wood’s performance of All I Ask of You is beautiful.

Long-time Phantom cast member Philip Griffiths portrayed Monsieur Andre at this performance (despite being the second cover), opposite Michael Matus as Firmin. It was great to see Griffiths in a leading role, and both men work together well, although they are not the most hilarious pairing of managers I’ve seen in my various visits to this show. However, I still adore their notes scenes, and their clear lack of knowledge about the ballet!

There are several musical numbers in the show which are particularly powerful, and all of these were absolutely nailed during this performance. The act 1 finale, All I Ask of You Reprise, is so moving and ends dramatically, and Forster conveys the Phantom’s emotions at this point in the plot believably. Masquerade is visually and aurally spectacular, featuring the stunning dance routines and movements and intricate costumes and props, meaning that it is difficult to know where to look as there is so much going on. The mausoleum scene is another musical highlight, because at this point the three main characters sing different melodies, all expressing their issues and predicaments, becoming extremely powerful, particularly due to the stunning vocals of Forster, Wood and Naaman.

However, my absolute favourite part of the show is Past the Point of No Return, leading into the Final Lair – and I have never enjoyed it more than during this performance! Forster’s emotion while singing the line ‘Christine, I love you’ is so incredibly sad, and Naaman’s reactions while in the noose are brilliantly believable, generating so much sympathy from the audience. Wood does a great job of being stuck in the middle, unsure of which way to turn, and I cannot fault her acting or singing here in the slightest!

The Phantom of the Opera remains my absolute favourite musical today! The current West End cast are fantastic, and work together very well in the larger scenes, while also maintaining the level of emotion required for the more intimate sections. Although some of the leads are not necessarily the best I feel I’ve seen before, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and the cast pull off some of the most powerful moments perfectly. I’m now left wondering when I can go back for a fifth visit…!

 

Any readers wishing to experience my personal favourite musical for themselves can use this special offer from cheap theatre tickets by following this link.

Plymouth Blog Meet at the Orangery, Mount Edgcumbe – 07/05/16

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On Saturday 7th May, I attended the biggest and best South West blog event at The Orangery at Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwall. The whole thing was impeccably organised by Ellie (of Little Ellie Mae, check out her blog here – she often writes about theatre too!), and I had such a brilliant time. This was the second blog event that I’ve attended, after the picnic last September, so it was really nice to catch up with bloggers I’d met there, along with meeting lots of new people as well.

I arrived in Cornwall on the Cremyll ferry – possibly the coolest way to arrive in the county – and silently wondered whether a few other people on said ferry were bloggers. I eventually plucked up the courage to ask three other girls when we all stopped outside the Orangery and looked a little bemused, causing us to realise that we were indeed all in the right place, and thus we entered the beautiful venue together.

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The theme of the event was Alice in Wonderland, and Ellie had really gone to town with the décor, with such impressive attention to detail! Every table was adorned with teapots filled with fresh flowers, Alice napkins, and sequins and flowers, while larger decorations hung from the chairs and tables, making it feel like a totally immersive wonderland. Once we’d all taken the obligatory photos of the amazing tables, I got chatting to some bloggers I’d never met before, and as always, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to talk to these new people, because we all had something in common.

There was even some live entertainment: two extremely talented girls sang and played the guitar in the background while us bloggers munched on the delicious canapes and talked some more. There were also some advocates for No7 and Benefit, and their tables were consistently busy throughout the afternoon, with bloggers getting skin consultations and free samples, which was a great addition to the event. There were a few giveaways full of exciting products from a variety of brands, and a photographer who took some great candid shots of us all.

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Credit: Owen Bush Photography

As I said, it always comes as a surprise to me at these events that I can just sit down with complete strangers and start talking. Although all of us bloggers are completely different and all write about a variety of things in our own unique styles, we all have our blogs in common. Blogging can, understandably, be a bit of a lonely hobby, seeing as all the time and work we dedicate to it is spent in our own company, on our laptops, in our rooms! So, to meet so many other people who share this solitary hobby is wonderfully refreshing and exciting, and I’m so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many more people in the South West blogging community.

My second blog meet was such an enjoyable experience, and it was so great to see such a vast quantity of bloggers all together in one room. I’m so grateful to Ellie for organising these events for us, as without all of her hard work and effort I would never have had the chance to meet all of these brilliant, inspiring, creative people. Bring on the next one!

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Playing in pits: Company

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This week I’ve had the pleasure of playing in the pit band for a production of Sondheim’s Company at my university. I’ve been playing keys 2, meaning that my part is never simply your standard piano sound – it’s usually a string synthesiser, electric piano, or organ sound. As I’ve written before, I also enjoy musical directing shows (such as Footloose, which was performed at the end of last year), and I’ve realised that the experience of ‘only’ playing in the band for a show is very different to being a crucial part of the production team – which has both good and bad consequences!

When I’ve been an MD for a show before (which I have been twice, with another show coming up in April), I’ve been involved in the production for the entire process. MDs have the responsibility of teaching the cast every musical number, both complicated ensemble harmonies and solos, all while working on vocal technique and later fixing a band to play for the show and leading said band during the performances. However, being merely a band member means that myself and the other players took part in two band rehearsals, and then had the cast sing with us three days before the first performance! This was a little bit crazy, but also incredible that everything came together within that short period of time in the tech and dress runs.

To a certain extent, I welcomed the lack of pressure that I felt as a band member instead of an MD. It definitely meant that my stress levels were down, and I had far less responsibility for anything that went wrong (not that anything has, it’s an incredible show!). But on the other hand, having played the songs countless times and listened to the scenes, Company is so good that I kind of wish that I had been a part of it all the way through the rehearsal process! It was also strange that the band only heard the show in its entirety in the dress rehearsal – at this same point as an MD, I tend to know the show so well that I could play and sing every part in each scene and song! But the unknown show was full of surprises and meant that I continued to enjoy playing it night after night, and became obsessed with a couple of songs (namely Side by Side by Side and Being Alive. They’re so good).

What people often don’t realise is that the experience of playing keyboard 2 is very different to that of playing keyboard 1. Keys 1 is usually played by an MD, and it is fairly similar to the piano/vocal score which is used to accompany rehearsals before the band get involved. It tends to be primarily, or sometimes entirely, on the classic piano sound, and consists of the most important, memorable and exposed piano lines of the songs. However, the second keyboard part is often used to cover other parts in a downsized orchestration, such as additional strings, percussion, and even wind and brass lines. My keys 2 part for Company is largely made up of sustained string synthesiser chords, with a few more iconic sections – such as the striking organ sound for a wedding scene. Keys 2 parts are less demanding than keys 1, which absolutely makes sense seeing as an MD who knows the show inside out tends to play keys 1 – whereas the keys 2 player fills in the gaps left by missing instruments in the pit – and this is occasionally a welcome change for me!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing in the pit for Company (although it still baffles me as to why we call it a pit when it’s actually a two tiered band tower), and have surprisingly appreciated the lack of responsibility created by ‘only’ being in the band rather than an MD. However, as ever, doing a show like this simply makes me want to get stuck into my next MDing experience, which will be How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Company is such a great show to have performed, and I’m in awe of the brilliant cast and production team for making it so amazing.