Saints and Sinners; the cabaret club that provided an insight on life situations and the choices individuals made. The pieces performed in the club reflected intentions of purity and evil. Personally, I found the club to be a place where I could wonder, listen, and perform for those who were still trapped in their choices and behaviours; providing the wisdom that they needed.
From the start of the project I was intrigued about how this would plan out. I was always interested and thoughtful about what our project would be called since I watched the performance of ‘Sugar and Spice’ which was the previous year’s final major project. Given the name ‘Saints and Sinners’ was a true blessing because once we were all notified of the title I was flooded with so many ideas about what we could include within the performance and ideas about production side of performance.
My first initial ideas were a little under thought and when I did my proposal with my classmates I felt disheartened and unconfident. The ideas arranged from a dance based on domestic abuse to tap dancing duets all under the theme of saints and sinners. I found a lot of the time when listening to other ideas that certain individuals didn’t understand the theme and so a couple of proposals for me personally felt a little miss matched and didn’t fit within the theme and what the rest of the year had come up with.
My first idea was a dance about domestic violence within the home which emphasised the integrity of evil. I decided upon this piece because I wanted to include the dancers within my decisions. As I class myself as a dancer I understand that it is harder to encourage the majority of people who are not studying dance to want to include dance pieces due to the lack of understanding the meaning of certain topics, styles and movement. Therefore, when I proposed that we included such a hard topic dance piece I knew the dancers in my year would have been on board and ready for the challenge. However, once the show had been finalised with all the pieces within the show, the reason that my piece wasn’t selected was due to having a piece in the dance show that is too similar and we want to be noticed by the audience for our variety. Wanting to intrigue the audience and surprise them with the pieces we choose I was okay with the decision and understood completely.
The second idea that I was contemplating whether or not to provide for the show was ‘Apples’ performed and written by Philippa Hanna. This piece of music has a western sound; based on the theme of wisdom and God’s word over our lives purely for protection. Having researched and watched video clips on YouTube about mashing songs together to create a memorable texture and individuality I thought that we could use that style in a way that suits us as a group. A way we could have managed this would have been to find two songs that we liked and fit with the theme, put them into the same key, change the lyrics up a little to fit our show a little more fluently and sing either as two large groups, two individuals or mix it up even further so we have lot of little groups where we could include different sections and riffs on top of the music so it is artistic for the audience to listen to.
My third and final idea was a song called ‘The Champion’ by Carman. I decided that I wanted to make these lyrics into a monologue. For an audience member, the song would be too slow and confusing. The Champion is all about the love of God and how he has already defeated the devil. The reason I chose this song rather than others based on the same topic was due to the perspective. It is focused around a boxing ring and the Lord and the devil are on this ring fighting against one another, but what the devil doesn’t know is that he has already lost. I chose Harry Ladell and Joshua Ely to perform this monologue if it was chosen to go in the show. The reason for my choosing of Harry is due to his tone of voice. There is a presence that Harry has when he performs and his diction is accurate. If Harry were to speak the audience would be able to understand every word that he is saying and understand the meanings of the individual words. On the other hand, I chose Joshua Ely because he is known for his comedic acting and I would love to have seen Joshua perform in a different light and give him this opportunity.
Ultimately, when the majority of my pieces were chosen in one way or another to go into the show I was encouraged and I was more excited about the commission and I took a lot of responsibility within the production as I felt obliged to do so. When I first witnessed the decision that the tutors had made I was determined that whatever happened and whatever was displayed on the paper I would commit and do all I could to make it my show; learning from my mistakes in the previous year and take on board the comments I have been given previously to grow and strengthen as a performer.
A lot of research was included for this commission task and instead of feeling like a chore, it was satisfying to find characters that were already made and alive in the industry that is similar to the character I was creating. The influence of Jessica Rabbit, Philippa Hanna, and many more characters as you will see within my research category has been a huge guideline for me as a performer. Without the research there would have been so chance I could have created such a realistic and interesting personality that Fern engaged with. Similar to me, there was a lot of times were I had to ask myself about how I would feel in that situation and quite frankly the majority of the decisions were based on what I would do. I decided to do this because I wanted the character to be different to me yet have similar characteristics so I could relate to her. As a bird’s eye view, now that the project has been finished I understand that this character process was long and hard however it paid off in the end and I am thankful to myself to keep going to conquer it. I also know that there were a lot of times when I wanted to give up with the whole idea and choose someone else to study for my character research but with all the motivation from everyone else who had created their own character I wanted to be a part of that creativity and now I can look back on a well earned show.
Overall, there were so many problems that were in need to be solved within this commission show. From the very beginning of the process there were strange arguments that arose that we needed to fix fast. One of the main issues for me a little further on in the project that I pointed out to the girls in the piece ‘Bring on the men’ was the backing track that had been purchased without the majority of the girls knowing. The backing track that was purchased was too slow and the instrumentals were a lot longer than the dancers of the piece had choreographed, this then caused a lot of friction between the girls and so what we decided to do was perform what we could to the new backing track with the dancers and the girls and then decide what to do. Once we played the track the girls who were singing found it really difficult to sing in time and some notes in tune with the track so therefore the plan was that when we practised, I would be singing it. Having a musical ear has its benefits and this is one of those opportunities I could help a group of people. There was still a lot of tension between the girls so I spoke to them all and we finally agreed that there wasn’t much we could do about it, it had already been done and therefore we will do what we can to move on from here. In season time one afternoon Faye and I decided that we wanted to re-choreograph the dance side of ‘Bring on the men’ so it would be easier for the dancers to pick it up in time for the show and there will be less tension. So without a shadow of doubt, Faye and I took this on board and choreographed the majority of the song in the two hours that we provided for ourselves to work on this. We overcame this issue over a week and so we were a little behind schedule in comparison to our action plans however in the end we had everything choreographed, learnt and dealt with a week or two before the show opened. There were many other situations like this throughout the project including, tuning issues with different people within the company; we overcame this issue by going through repeatedly the parts that the individual sings and personally I made a recording for those who were struggling to listen to when they were at home so it would be easier for them to learn from. Personally, one main issue for me that was a continuous strain was the meetings. We planned to meet every week in commission lessons in particular for catching up with what was going on and listening to other people’s opinions however every time there was a meeting there was always someone missing and even though we communicated via our Facebook page people seemed uninterested and were not bothered about the meetings and what were involved. If I could go back and do this again, I would definitely make sure that people understood the aggravation and ask them to avoid doing this throughout the rehearsal schedule because it was unhelpful frustrating for the people who were working hard. Other issues ranged from costumes that went missing, inability to choreograph certain sections of dances, Mic issues, headsets, lighting, set issues but nevertheless all of what seemed to be a catastrophe worked out well in the end. Overall, it couldn’t have been a perfect show due to the time limit and what we had to get done in a limited time frame. I am so proud of each and every one of those in year 2 who performed this and worked as a individual on their pieces, pairs and groups. Having had the decision of one of my classmates removed from the how as a contributed decision was really hard however this was the main obstacle I think for everyone and we all did fantastically well to continue with the show. Another decision that we all faced was removing or keeping the piece ‘Talking to terrorists’ the day of the terror attack in Manchester. As a whole group we felt as if we were already pushing the limits with the language and some of the pieces in the show and due to the tenderness we decided confidently that we would take it out. We didn’t want there to be an issue with offense or upset in places that weren’t meant to be and so we lost one of the pieces. Unfortunately for Lou and James that was their piece and so they had to think quickly about what they wanted to choose instead and decided upon a sketch about afterlife in Hell. It was a play written by Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Welcome to Hell’. They were extremely resilient and I absolutely loved their piece when it came on for the evening in the cabaret club.
As a whole, the performances on both nights were extremely different and I loved the atmosphere on both. At the start of the first show I was all nervous and I felt a little distant from my character Fern. However, once I set foot onto the stage I felt closer to her and I made little choices in my head about the way she would walk, how she would react to the ‘posh’ boys, who she was friends with, why she was in the club at this time. This all influenced me on how I performed across both shows. In comparison to both show individually on my pieces, ‘Angels and Demons’ the first night I felt as though I was just singing a ‘nice song’ and so I panicked when I had forgotten the lyrics however I covered this up extremely fast and the audience didn’t notice a thing. I am confident that it didn’t make a difference to them, on the other hand the dancers were a little confused by this but kept going and I was so grateful that they managed to keep going. For the second night I was focused on my character and I knew what she was singing and why she was singing it and I passionately sang the song with the whole song sung accurately which was really encouraging. For the second piece in Act One was ‘Bring on the men’. The first night that I performed this there were tiny elements that I did incorrectly which bothered me, however I have been working on my facial expressions throughout year 1 and year 2; especially in this rehearsal period and so my face took the attention away from what my feet were doing. It wasn’t anything major that went wrong, just a section where I interacted with Harry which could have been cleaner or footwork. As for the second night I felt a little more confident and the placement of my hands for the back drop on the chair, the interaction with Harry and all the tiny elements that bothered me were cleaned and I was so happy about it. For Act Two, there had always been little issues with either quick costume changes or volume but when the performance for shows one and two began we didn’t have any of these problems and I felt comfortable for both of them. My dialogue at the beginning of Act Two is the only part that went wrong in the second half of the show for both nights in my opinion. The first night I came into the club way too early and I just stood opposite Scott for a long period of time until I was able to walk into him to say my line which was highly embarrassing. As for the second night, I waited until the very last line that he spoke and walked briskly into him to heighten the scene. Hellfire dance routine, both of the nights that I performed this dance went beautifully. I absolutely loved dancing this dance and it wasn’t a shock to me when I had one line before it was my cue to go onto the stage. However, I did hurt my left leg due to falling onto it in character shoes in a rehearsal for ‘Bring on the men’ and so the first night was a little more difficult in that way but the audience had no incline about my pain and so I can confidently say that I got away with it. The second song I sing in Act Two, ‘Apples’ was my favourite out of the whole show due to how it fit with my voice, and it showed my progresses throughout the two years of singing lessons included harmonies that blended together with one another thanks to Bethany Barber who encouraged us. The first night we both sang beautifully however Sophia mixed up her verse with mine and so she started singing my verse and then reverted back to hers half way through which I thought was really clever. As for the second night this went really well and not a single word was misplaced or wrong, however to be really sceptical about it the timings were a little out due to being unable to hear Tom playing the guitar behind us. This was a technical difficulty which included the monitors throughout the staging which didn’t follow through the sound loud enough for us to hear it clearly. Rebel, the finale song was perfectly done for both the nights; knowing it was the last thing we would all sing together was heartbreaking and so we all focused on the words and sung it with passion and it was so motivating.
Overall, this project has been my favourite out of all the others that I have been a part of. Being a member of such a wonderful team and creating everything from scratch was liberating and I would do it all again if I could. However, I would have changed it slightly by the comments I have raised previously in this evaluation. If I were to describe the whole process and final shows in just one word it would be ‘beautiful’. I think this because everything worked out for the better in the end, we all worked as a group and the teamwork was the best part about it. We managed to create this amazing show in less than 10 weeks together and I am so proud of the outcome. Having the availability to focus on the set, lighting, marketing, sound, costume, acts, pieces and all the other individual parts that go into a show was breathtaking. I loved every minute of it and I loved hearing about how other people were getting on with their pieces and their ideas. This project has really enabled me to learn from what has been taught here at Conservatoire East in the two years that I have studied here. I have defiantly learnt the importance of organisation and preparation for deadlines. Without this learning curve I would struggle in the industry that I dream to one day be a part of. We have such a lovely year and I will treasure that for the years still to come.