Off to see the dress rehearsal for the Level 2 Theatre Arts production of Oh What A Lovely War! in the theatre. Patsy has directed the show and updated the central premise, replacing Joan Littlewood's Edwardian Pierrot pre-show with a group of stage technicians preparing backstage for a professional production of the work. This play within a play device provides the audience with an intriguing double take as, to begin with, the various members of the crew egg each other on to parody the invisible actors in a backstage cod, which quickly gathers a life of its own. The ever present need to prepare the space for the real production provides a terrific sense of urgency to the scenes and helps to underline the montage, episodic structure of the original play. It's slightly preposterous as an idea but ever so cleverly realised here.
Tina has also done a wonderful job with the design, re imagining backstage tools as essential costumes and props and this playful invention brings a real sense of delight to the evening.
For all of the hard work and smart direction tonight's run felt a little tentative. With the theatre stripped back and bare, the playing space suddenly seems large and the actors occasionally lost. It surprised me a little as they all seemed on top of the work. Perhaps they're tired? Perhaps they need more time in the space? Perhaps they just need reminding that each performance of work requires fresh investment? Whatever the reason tonight was underplayed. I hope they can find the boost tomorrow. The ideas are great, I just hope the students can do them justice.