The last week has been a stressful one, partially kicked off by an inability to do my bloody laundry as the washing machine was eternally taken up with the clothes of my housemates. In a week of theatre submissions, direction and rehearsals, it was not what I needed at all.
Sunday morning I attempted to bake a birthday cake for a cast member. Cake, maybe dinner at local fried-goods pub Varsity, a good run; it felt like perfect chemistry for a morale boost after a few difficult weeks. But it wasn’t quite what we had expected. Sunday was a stressful day of everything colliding quite spectacularly. Needless to say, although the show looked great, it was a draining day for all involved.
This week, therefore, has been a weird one. Monday we did another run of the show, of which I was very proud. But as people had to leave as soon as they were done, the show petered out by the end of Act 3. However, it imbued me with hope. Light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, tonight, I sit here on a buzz from a really great run. It was emotional, hilarious, energetic and stressful. Dressed in our hoodies with the phantom of the V&A on Friday, it filled everyone with exceptional confidence.
I’ve started thinking a lot about Sondheim’s ‘Into The Woods’, which is a great show and a spectacular one to stage. As a result of, of course, being Mr. Vile Bodies, I therefore think about it in regards to Waugh’s novel. One of my favourite lines of the show is from ‘No One Is Alone’, the penultimate song.
Witches Can Be Right, Giants Can Be Good
You Decide What’s Right, You Decide What’s Good.
There is something unspeakably beautiful about the heroes of the play announcing that yes, sometimes the villains know best. The thing is, in Vile Bodies, often the most malign figures do. As Miles says at the end of Act 2:
I wish you didn’t admire us so much. It makes us so very hard to see we’re not worth admiring at all. Mrs Ape, Balcairn, Tiger… We laugh at them but we do it because if we dare to look at ourselves…
At the end of the day, sometimes you need to listen to bad people, because they have vital truths somewhere in there. It’s a weird moral to take from the play, and certainly not one to universalise. But I think its important to say; sometimes the virtuous are idiots, and sometimes bastards hold gems of wisdom.
As we reach the end of the process, I reflect back on what I’ve learnt (a great deal) and what I wish I had done different (probably a similar amount.) The show is far better than what I could ever have imagined, but I have a lot of development as a director. I need to learn to explore the themes and ideas more, whilst I am more of a creator of aesthetic and context. This will come, of course. I also ask myself if there are any favourite characters, scenes, or anything. No, I don’t know if there are. But there are things I know the audience may not notice which I love a great deal. One is ‘There Ain’t No Flies On The Lamb Of God’, of which I wrote the lyrics:
He smites them with his tail
And never are his dugs unsafe
Our God would never fail.
He cannot change his thoughts
He only thinks the things divine
All of our shoulds and oughts.
There ain’t no waves in the sea of God
It’s tranquil as the sky
And only when the sailors sin
Do sailors sink and die.
There ain’t no sins in the past of God
He has no wrongs committed
We needn’t recall anything
For there’s nothing he’s omitted.
There ain’t no sting in the bee of God
He only gathers dust
To make the manna the Israelites ate
For he’s a guy we trust.
There ain’t no stain on the shirt of God
He’s always fresh to wear
But quite alike to stains he is
Because he’s always there.
Everything’s changing. And I feel that if I don’t hold on, I’ll be thrown off like an old ball gown.
Archie darling… You can’t marry someone to remain in a social circle.
Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing?