Monday, 13 December 2010

The ghost of Christmas present

Well, I am now all up to speed on the backstage happenings of Darker Shores, which opens tomorrow night, and after a six-hour rehearsal yesterday I think we’re pretty much there. It’s final dress tonight, so Jak and I can iron out our final set-moving wrinkles.

Darker Shores is a Gothic ghost story set in the 1870s. Professor Stokes takes lodgings at the Sea House on a desolate stretch of the East Sussex coast, but the troubled history of the house comes to the fore with a series of disturbing and mysterious events. He enlists the help of an American spiritualist to try to find out what or who is haunting the house and whether it can ever be cleansed of the vengeful spirit.

Trickery is used to add to the mystery and spine-tingly drama, and the director, Duncan, got a professional magician in during the rehearsal process to teach the cast some cunning illusions. I can tell you no more as they were sworn to secrecy, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun anyway. Suffice to say – it’s all very clever and should keep the audience on their toes!

Jak is stage manager for the production and is therefore in charge of the backstage magic, and I am her trusty (I hope!) second in command – we have to move scenery, reset furniture and props during blackouts and, best fun of all, create a spooky atmosphere with the help of smoke machines. The trick with these is to puff enough smoke to set the scene, but not so much that you gas the cast, as Jak discovered briefly yesterday! There’s nothing quite so scary as a ghost with a hacking cough!

The writer, Michael Punter, came to rehearsal yesterday and seemed pleased with what everyone has achieved. I can take no credit for any of it as I literally only joined the team a week ago, but they’ve clearly all worked so hard and have produced a rather marvellous play that, I think, won’t fail to get the hairs on the back of people’s necks standing on end.

And Jak and I, both seasoned actors but neither of us ever having worked on the backstage technical side of things before, are loving it! We are utterly involved in the play, we get to help, in a small way, to make it what it is, but we don’t have to remember any lines! It’s truly wonderful – why didn’t we ever think of this before!

Production photos were only taken yesterday, so when I can get my hands on a couple I will post them up here so you can appreciate the ghoulishness and Duncan’s outstanding set.

(L to R) Mel, Mark, Fred and Matt get to grips with the seance scene in rehearsals

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