Learn a musical and perform it 24 hours later? But which one?

4.10am – I am kept awake by Husband of Mine tossing and turning.  He is awake, knowing that he needs to get up at 5.30am to catch a flight to Guernsey for a meeting.

5.30am – I hear the alarm go off, but fall asleep again without too much trouble.

7.58am – I wake, hear the faint sound of the television from downstairs, and realise happily that Son of Mine has, for once, obeyed my instructions to the letter:

“Do not under any circumstances, unless there is a crisis which you cannot resolve yourself, wake me up any earlier than 8.00am.  Especially if it is just to ask if you can go downstairs and watch TV before breakfast. I am giving you permission in advance to do exactly that.”

“But can I come in and whisper to you?”

“No, because whispering still wakes me up, and I need as much sleep as possible because I will be awake from the second I wake on Friday morning, until I am able to go to bed on Saturday night, because of the 24 hour musical.” 

So today is the beginning of that sleep-deprived period of my life.   Tonight at 7.30pm I will embark (no clues there, we’ve done sailors with white trousers) on the sixth 24 hour musical that I have been involved in.

For anyone out there who hasn’t the foggiest what I’m on about, let me explain:

Quite a few years ago, Husband of Mine was contemplating a job move. To Guernsey. As with the other of his potential job moves that have been contemplated over the years, my immediate thoughts turn to theatre – is there one in the vicinity of the said job location; will I find like-minded theatrical individuals who are prepared to throw everything into their hobby; are the groups that already exist in the area competent and unafraid to take a risk on shows that aren’t run of the mill G&S or Rodgers & Hammerstein (not that there’s anything wrong with either partnership, just not all the time).

So in my detailed research of Guernsey (and in case you were worried about my lack of interest, I did also research education and housing), I came across Guernsey Youth Theatre and the production that they were working on during that very weekend of my research in 2004 – Bugsy Malone – learnt and rehearsed in 24 hours without sleep for cast and crew alike.  Read more about GYT’s 24 musicals here – you can also find them on Facebook.

Brilliant! I thought.  I know who would be interested in a similar venture.   I have been in many productions over the last 20 or so years with a talented local director who loves, to the point of bordering on obsession, musicals. Director Who Thinks Life is a Musical is also a fan of short rehearsal periods and quirky ideas so who better to pit the idea of staging our own version of the 24 hour challenge to?  In the summer of 2004, I was in her production of By Jeeves, so mentioned the Guernsey set up to her one day in the pub.

The following Spring, the first 24 hour musical, to my knowledge, to be attempted in Sussex, emerged, blinking in wonderment like a newborn, into Sussex theatreland’s consciousness.  The chosen show was a closely guarded secret until 7.30pm on the night of Friday 1 April (April Fool’s Day – how fitting!), when Director Who Thinks Life is a Musical played the opening bars of – The Sound of Music!  Quickly, this in itself was revealed to be the April Fool – and after 24 hours of rehearsal, set making and painting, and a lot of laughter, tears and the inevitable ups and downs, we staged Hot MikadoFollow the link for a few photos – alas, not of me as I’m always the one with the camera – but believe me when I say I was definitely in it.

The rest, as they say,  is history.  Probably no one involved with this year’s musical knows where the idea came from; Director Who Thinks Life is a Musical has almost certainly forgotten that conversation with me back in 2004.  All credit to her though for making the idea into a reality, I’m just pleased (in a masochistic way) to have been a part of the first, and all subsequent 24 hour productions to date: Grease, Snoopy! The Musical; Dames at Sea; West Side Story and the as yet unknown musical for April 2010.

And so back to tonight’s reveal… which musical will it be this year?  A few clues or potential red herrings have surfaced in the past couple of weeks:

My costume list gives nothing away – jeans, trainers, a plain coloured top, black heels, white shirt and leggings.

But I have been asked for a dark coloured coat – specifically the one I borrowed from a friend for the final scene of The Memory of Water – a black swing style coat with a fur collar.

Someone else has been asked for a blazer.

Eight chairs.

It apparently contains some swearing.  I found this out some weeks ago, when asking if it would be suitable for Children of Mine to see.

And my hair in bunches – hmmm.

Only tonight will tell whether these were indeed real clues – albeit unhelpful ones.

A Fisherman’s Friend or a Drunken Sailor?

Husband of Mine bought me some mints the other day from Café Nero. He said he’d been on the look-out for small, flat mints for me for some time now, to refill a beautiful, but very thin, art deco tin that was given to me as an after-show present for a production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. It’s the kind of thoughtful thing he does well; seeking out things that I’ve mentioned in passing. Take The Monolith Monsters DVD, for example.

Anyway, the mints are thin enough to fit inside, so there I was last night shaking one out of the tin during the interval at the dress rehearsal for The Memory of Water. Now, mints might come in handy for this play, for obvious reasons in Act I; but are definitely a necessity during the interval to get rid of the nasty taste of the herbal tobacco that is in the roll-ups that are passing as our spliffs.

Charming On-Stage Lover asked me if they were Fisherman’s Friends, probably, I thought, fearing that I was germ-infested, but actually because he’d seen earlier on in the day that I’d become a fan of a Facebook group for Fisherman’s Friends.

Ah, but those little menthol lozenges are singular – Fisherman’s Friend – which probably refers to the fact that one can’t stomach more than one at a time. You can probably guess from that comment that I would never become a fan of original extra strong Fisherman’s Friend, singular.

No, the Fisherman’s Friends, of whom I have become just one of their 850 fans (and counting), are most definitely plural – a 10-strong group of male singers from Port Isaac in Cornwall who I saw on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning. They have been catapulted into the spotlight because of a £1m recording contract for their harmonic sea shanties and folk songs, with which they have been entertaining Cornish pub goers for the last fifteen years. 

Good for them, I thought, when I saw the interview. I hope their story will be inspiration for The Renegade Dogs, who last week returned, flushed with success, from their first proper gig at the village local.

I will be buying their music.  The Fisherman’s Friends, I mean.  Not The Renegade Dogs – I get that played to me live, for free, and pretty much on request. But I do want to get the music of Julian, John, Jeremy, Trevor, John, Billy, Nigel, Peter, John and Jon from Cornwall, as I am a sucker for male voices singing in harmony. I’ll also probably be buying it on CD, even though I have just read an article online that suggests that the only people who buy CDs in preference to downloading their music are the over-50s (and I’m not there yet).

There’s something satisfying about a CD collection particularly in the genre that most of mine fall into, namely musicals. Satisfying I suppose in the same way that folk of a different certain age reminisce about their collection of LPs and 78s. Where’s the satisfaction in owning just the digital music files to a musical without the associated blurb so often found bundled with the CD: lyrics, synopsis, director’s notes, cast list? Okay, so one could argue that it’s all available online, to look up at a moment’s notice. But it’s just not the same, is it?

Yet I’m not denying it is useful. Now that everything is online I was able to check instantly that thankfully the forthcoming CD doesn’t feature a Fisherman’s Friends rendition of ‘What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?’, although there is a YouTube clip of them performing this very sea shanty.  Husband of Mine has an as yet unresolved aversion to that particular song – he doesn’t know why he can’t bear it, but it sends a shiver down his spine if he hears so much as one bar of the refrain.

As a song, I’m rather indifferent to it really, I can take it or leave it.

But if forced to choose? I know I’d rather have my very own minty version of a Fisherman’s Friend than a Drunken Sailor.