Just when I think everything may be all right after all, the dress is an utter disaster in ways that even the superstitious part of me cannot accept. Wretched dress, glorious opening my arse. The set is too cluttered in Act I and looks vile; too bare in Act II and looks vile; so well-constructed and designed in Act III that Acts I and II look even worse in comparison. There is too much furniture in Act I and I got thoroughly bored in the wait to remove it all. The sofa is huge, hideous, and constantly in the way. It probably blocks the view of the dining table from the first several rows of the stalls, but thats of no import when the only important people, including the director, sit only in the dress circle or the boxes. Cornwell hasn't entered the stalls since yesterday morning. We barely have a big enough chorus to fill the stage in Act II, and while we have a chandelier, the "banquet table" is too small for the stage and the bench on which Rosalinde and Eisenstein flirt is too far stage left and would never be put in the same room as that chandelier. I can only hope it looks less threadbare from the stalls - it's a horror up close. It seems all the energy, or funds, have gone into the prison. How it is that we have a three-sided cage for a cell, with the rear being a fully constructed wooden back instead of a canvas drop as we have for the first-act drawing room and the ballroom? It's a beautiful piece of work - we must have bought it from someone. Has that awful drawing room comedy closed? Ideal Ignorance or whatever it was called? Perhaps its set was for sale. I liked that sofa.
I'll have to speak to Cornwell about it in the morning - he left with Dewing tonight, so there was no opportunity to say anything in a timely fashion. But something has to be done about that sofa.
I won't have any friends at opening who are not in the cast - this is rather unusual. Everyone is either working or out of town, which is lucky for them and I don't begrudge anyone success, but the last time I opened without a single friendly face in the audience was that panto last holiday, and that was by choice. I don't need the constant approval, but it is nice to have a friendly face in the audience who can say it wasn't as bad as you think, even when you both know it was. No family - Minnie and Frank won't come, and Gracie isn't allowed unchaperoned, and Sam is working nights for the next three weeks - and no friends. Unless Julian Howard does come, but that will be awkward, with his master and his lover both present. The whole thing will be awkward - Julian, Lowell, Thea.
And the worst isn't even the set. Steve Pettison is SM (stage manager, to you future civilian who hasn't tossed aside this record of the life of an Edwardian invert, never Victorian, thank you very much), and while ordinarily that would be a good sign, he's been given a couple of kids to assist him. And I do mean kids. The boy is pimply and his mouth hangs open every time he looks at Dostner (apparently I travel in the wrong circles because I'm not famous enough to inspire the kid's awe). The girl is the plain, efficient, silent type, the sort whom you can barely hear when they work the telephone exchange and are best set to arranging libraries and filing rooms, not at all suited to chastening the exuberant race known as actors. Both of them worthless.
We have managed to complicate an easy operetta. We have managed to make banal what is really a very modern story - look at how the woman is the one in control and the men in her life are juveniles even though her husband is greatly her senior in terms of years. Incompetant staff has ripped apart what Miss Poole undoubtedly meant as a compelling statement of and explanation for her marriage into something thoroughly banal and incomprehensible. Her Alfred may not even recognise himself unless we pull off a miracle tomorrow night. And I do not doubt that he will be there. But it is not our fault. It is not the actors nor the crew at fault here, but the production staff. We do what we are told, and we have been told rubbish. The right hand never knows what the left does, but it is not its job to know. It is the job of the brain to coordinate those actions.
Pettison. Cornwell is a joke. I'll speak to Pettison about the sofa tomorrow.
(as Mme B)
I'm holding off to give Slade and Julian a chance to figure their bit out. Expect the proper party post next week.