Sunday, 6 June 2010

Haunted houses and men in dresses

Well, it's unofficially official, Jak and I will be directing our first play next year, so now, no longer risking the temptation of fate, I can announce that the play we have chosen is...

da da da daaaahhhh...

The Mystery of Irma Vep - a penny dreadful by Charles Ludlam

Hands up all those who've heard of it... Yup, thought not.

So, here's a little background. It's a spoof of Gothic melodrama, a quick-change farce, loosely based on Rebecca. It requires two male actors to play eleven roles, which include the lord and lady of Mandacrest Manor, a Mrs Danvers-esque housekeeper, a servant with a wooden leg, a werewolf, a vampire and a topless Egyptian princess.

Jak and I have already started designing the set. Pictured is our in-progress, scaled-down and much-simplified Blue Peter effort to help demonstrate our ideas to the set builders. Clearly there is a long way to go! But seeing as neither of us has ever designed a set before or built a mini version, we are rather pleased with our amateur efforts. Anyone caught smirking will be summarily executed - you have been warned.

The quick changes within the play (and I'm sure Jak, who is the 'details queen' of this particular operation, will correct me if I'm wrong) number in the high thirties, the majority of which need to be of around 10 seconds, less if possible. When this play was originally staged in Greenwich Village, New York, in the early 1980s, starring Charles Ludlum and his partner Everett Quinton, people would pay extra to have a seat backstage so they could watch the quick-changes, rather than sit out front and watch the play itself. That's how spectacular they were, and how amazing we hope we can make them. No pressure.

The set involves secret entrances and exits, as well as a bleeding painting, the mechanics of which we have yet to figure out. We have to bring in an Egypt set in the second act that needs to be removed without dropping the curtain and with the audience in situ, which could prove tricky. However, we have a cunning plan up our joint sleeve for that one.

So there will be challenges aplenty, but I have no doubt that we will not panic at all and will remain calm and in complete control throughout the entire project. I'm absolutely sure that will be the case. Okay, 85% sure. Well, high 70s anyway. But then again... Hmmmmmm...

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