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That’ll do June 23, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Law, Lovely people, Theatre, Uncategorized, University.
1 comment so far

It has been said among law students that, in an essay or paper marked out of 20, only God can get 20 marks.  His angels and archangels can get a maximum of 19, the lecturer’s lecturer can get 18, and the lecturer himself can get 17, so the best a student can ever hope for is 16 marks.

Got my results back today.  They’re not sparkling and wonderful.  They’re not even particularly great.  I probably couldn’t get an overly spectacular job with them (yet) but hell, they’re so much better than last year that I can’t bring myself to be disappointed.  I’ve scraped a 2:1 (if you round up by 0.3%, which of course I do) and because of what I got last year, and what I was honestly expecting based on how I think the exams went… I’m just unbelievably relieved not to have to resit anything in August.  I couldn’t be happier.  It’s odd, I’ve always been the girl who looks for A*s, who vies for a spot in the top three of a class.  Now I’m just happy to have scraped an average.

Anyway, I improved by nine percent this year, so it’s onwards and upwards, I suppose.

The last few weeks have been very busy: college ball, the D’Oscars (student theatre awards), A Chorus Line rehearsals 9 til 8 most days and then, of course, last week was production week!

So much fun.  The cast were spectacular, the music almost entirely hummable, there were some exciting bits from my point of view and I enjoyed almost every minute of it.  Although as far as I’m concerned, no cast will ever be as good at it now, and I’ve spent the days since with the main song running through my head.  It’s so scalp-tearingly catchy…

(The line is, “Loaded with charisma is my jauntily sauntering ambling shambler.”  Just try it very fast!)

Oh yeah.  And the mirrors.  Well they seemed like a very good idea until they actually got to the theatre.  Do not get me started on those mirrors.  But of course, you can’t do A Chorus Line without the mirrors, and they looked very good even if they were a royal pain in the proverbial.  Luckily, though, Lawyerly Housemate was the stage manager, which meant that they were in the best possible hands – although neither they nor we escaped without injury – and most importantly those best hands weren’t mine.  Joy!

I went to see His Nibs for a few days, which was a breath of fresh air.  I’ve been stuck in Durham for too long.  We drank coffee and went charity shopping and cuddled because it’s not been an easy, or a comforting term for either of us.  I spent a fortune on dresses and impractical shoes, and finished a shawl, of which I hope there will be pictures shortly.

Oh!  I tell you what I’ve missed out!  Just found the pictures for it: from the people who brought you rubber rings and broom handles paddling down the Wear, comes…

…Durham University Giant Chess Society.

How would I sum up my experience of Durham in one picture?  Probably something like this.  Silly hats and all.

Still, I’m tired now, and I’m missing home.  The end of term is full of people and very late nights, and while I am generally a great fan of both, it is all a matter of extent.

I’m planning to check out the new yarn shop in York (where Sheepish was) on Friday, and, of course, Duttons, under the pretense of a visit to see Captain Shakespeare and his new theatrical endeavours.  (Oh yes, and there shall be ogling of his theatre also, no doubt!)  It’s only going to be me, depending on when CS can get away from preparations (law of the universe: expect nothing from anyone involved in the theatre twenty-four hours either side of opening night) but you know… I might just dress up.


Notes on a Chorus Line June 7, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, Theatre.
1 comment so far

To be involved in any way with the theatre, particularly acting but also elsewhere, takes a certain type of person – the sort of person who is very aware of their own perceived strengths and weaknesses, what they’re good at, and where they’ve come from.  Not necessarily self-aware, particularly, but its the sort of thing that a lot of them seem to think about quite a bit.  I say they.  Obviously I’m including myself in this, at least a bit.

One effect of this is a vast swathe of plays written about the theatre.  Loads of them.  Everywhere.  From the Phantom of the Opera to Noises Off, people who perform are written, imitated and dissected by people who perform.  Essentially, actors, writing about actors, for actors.

Chorus Line is a textbook example of this, being entirely focused around actors during an audition, being insecure, singing monologues, and generally baring their souls about how desperate they are to get to the top and how they’re never going to make it.  It’s good fun.  It’s very good fun to watch, and hum, and clap along to but the people to whom it has special significance, who might say, “Oh, Chorus Line!  That’s my favourite play!” are actors.  You get the feeling, as an audience member, that it’s not really about you.  It’s not supposed to be.  It’s a manifestation of the truism that actors are eternally fascinated with actors.

Authors are eternally fascinated with authors.  Painters are eternally fascinated with other painters.  Anything creative and introspective necessarily means that you’re taking something inside you and putting it outside you, and that, for me, means that a lot of plays like Chorus Line are very interesting.  I’m not an expert on the significance or subtext in plays, and nor do I play one on TV, but I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to get engrossed in the plot and the characters and their motives so much as the actors, and what they think the characters say about them.  A lot, as it turns out.  The director more so.  The choreographer’s just having a whale of a time.

In the meantime… I haven’t really had time to stop.  Saturday was Grey Day, which was wonderful but I was at college at about 6am and got home about 3am after we’d finished clearing up.  A lot of people did a lot more hard work than I did, but it’s all cumulative at the moment.  I recovered from that on Sunday and was in rehearsals from nine o’clock this morning.  I’ve got a formal in half an hour – the first of three black tie events I’m going to this week.  There’s no time to slow down; I feel like I haven’t got exams out of my system yet.

This has helped:

Recognise that yarn?  It’s the Port Ludlow Sock, and I love it.  A simple, memorable six-stitch repeat.  Nothing too complicated or difficult or confusing.  I don’t have to carry a pattern around or count stitches every few rows.  I can just… knit.  Keep knitting.  I took it to Grey Day and turned the heel in the sunshine, with cider and friends and swing music.  It was wonderful.  Some people said that the stitch pattern might get swamped by the yarn, and I can see where they might be coming from but personally I think it’s worked really well.  I look forward to wearing them, and to them reminding me of the occasions I spent knitting them.

More soon, probably – it’s going to be a hectic week, though.  I have to be out of the house in five minutes.

Tap Your Troubles Away June 2, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Theatre, University.

Not so sure about the dancing (it’s the best recording I could find, sorry), but ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’, one of the big dance numbers from Mack and Mabel, has quite a lot of significance for me.  I stage managed the musical last year, and it always reminds me of some very strong feelings.  At the time, I was very sleep-deprived, I spent a lot of the rehearsal period without a voice, I was worried for my exams and had no opportunity to be on my own for a good month.  Not my roommate’s fault at all – events conspired, but I’m not very good at being with people for too long when I’m stressed.  I tend to need to hide, a lot.  Added to this, my grandmother was dying, and my whole family were running halfway across the country to look after each other.  She passed away on opening night.

Mack and Mabel was difficult for me, because it was the first thing I had stage managed myself, and it had a large cast, and a fair bit of tech, and I felt like I was on my own for a lot of it, with very little support.   The director and choreographer had very strong ideas about what they wanted, and the strong ideas changed roughly every half hour.  When we first plotted the lighting cues, there were sixty-seven.  By opening night, two days later, there were a hundred and thirty odd – and a good thirty or forty in ‘Tap Your Troubles’ alone.  For that reason, the song always speaks to me of ignoring everything around you, everything else you have to deal with and think about and react to, and just concentrating on one thing and not screwing it up.  Of course, I did screw it up, on multiple occasions, standing in my dark corner of backstage with my headset and my score and my pencil yelling “GO!” every other bar as a cue happened.  I am not an adrenaline junkie.  Mack and Mabel taught me the valuable lesson of acknowledging your screw-ups as they happen, but saving them for later.  It’s not the same as self-confidence, but it’s sure as hell just as useful.  On the last night, all the radio mikes that the major cast were using went down.  Luckily my crew were fantastic, and that’s something Mack and Mabel taught me too: if you pick up other people’s pieces, they’ll pick up yours.

I was humming this song earlier and suddenly I realised I’m feeling exactly the same right now: not sleep deprived, this time, and I’ve been able to hide, but I do feel right now like things are out of my control.  My last exam is tomorrow, and I don’t think they’ve gone well overall.  I’m in the library right now, long after most people have finished their exams.  My brain won’t give it a rest, and I know in the next ten days I have one 4am start and at least two more 4am finishes, as well as 9 til 7 rehearsals every day.  I’m looking forward to it all, but the next few weeks are going to be physically testing.  I am not looking forward to tomorrow afternoon, from 2.30 to 5.00, in the slightest.  I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to let go.

In two weeks’ time, I am going to be twenty.  I feel a lot older, sometimes, and sometimes I feel a lot younger.

This afternoon, my new needles, and the yarn for the cardigan, came in the post.  The yarn is beautiful.  I can’t wait to cast on something new, my fingers are itching to, but I’m not going to let myself until at least tomorrow afternoon.  Or, more likely, Friday morning – after all, friends don’t let friends knit drunk.

I feel like I’m reaching the end of something now.