RAISING THE CURTAIN #6: “I’m Putting Together a Team” by Olly Fry

Casting, as any director worth their salt will tell you, is crucial.

You need a group of people that share a common idea, a merry band of allsorts that
are willing to abandon Wednesday nights for several months to come to a normally
freezing Church Hall and remember pages and pages of “Right I have to go here, do
this blah blah”.
You need a group that ACTUALLY get on.
You need people that are free enough to do it.

And that’s before you actually believe they are right for the character.

In the shows I have done here, I’m pleased to say by and large, I’ve felt comfortable
with my fellow actors and known that the right people are doing the right parts just
right. Rightly so too as from an audience perspective you can tell instantly if the
chemistry on-stage is manufactured, it’s something you can’t replicate and something
you definitely need for a good quality show.

I’ve been there, crawling through phone contacts and Facebook messenger, putting on
my nicest and politest tones of “Yeah so…I have this show I’m thinking about and I
reckon you’d just fit thi….oh you’re next free in November? Ok cheers bye!”

It’s difficult. Actor’s I’ve known have told me how much they dislike auditions but
I’ve come to say it’s as much for the director as themselves. The director is trying to
see who goes with who and so I’ve felt always the pressure is off, if you turn up, do
what you do, you’ll end up with the right part for you…

The Amateur side of large casts and mostly everyone at least having an inkling about
whoever they are with has lead to some great stories and fantastic parties and
gatherings. If nothing else this should always be something you should tell people
about if they ever come and audition for you first time. It makes the whole process of
rehearsal/show/after show party/after-after show party/ Breakfast the following
morning of the after-after show party, nothing else then an absolute blast!

Socially its important as most large casts here on the Island tend to be a wide array of
ages, and has led to me being good friends with all sorts of people from all parts of
the Island. The scene always should be praised for its social inclusivity.

But to tell the tale, as it were. The play and story I’ve chosen this week remembers a
great cast literally thrown together by one of the Island’s pre-eminent thesp’s,
Patrick Barry.

Patrick gets most places on the Isle by day as a driving instructor, but it was on a crisp
February evening in 2014, inside that den of dissolution that is Wetherspoons that we
begin. Patrick, who I was out with along with some other acquaintances of the scene,
leaned over to me and mentioned he was working on a script, an adaptation no less, of
Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers…

patch
Patch … about to take the stage!

Now I love this book, completely without shame. The romance, the sword fighting,
there is no other book that has quite so muck buckling of…er…swashes. Also as a kid I remember flicking on the TV one day and seeing the famous 1973 Richard Lester
movie with Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch and basically the king of
bad-assery that is Christopher Lee.

The choreography is messily brilliant, the costumes are lavish, the comedy is about as
broad and camp as you can possibly imagine. It and its sequel have pride of place in
my DVD collection, please see it if you love a good weekend evening action movie!
Heck I can even quote it!

“Yes” I said… Patch may have just wanted to talk about it in passing but I didn’t care,
I was getting into this show. Either I was persistent or just plain annoying, either way
he reckoned I’d be right for it and said did I want to be the villain?….I think I hugged
him.

Turns out Patch had been brave enough to write a sequel from the ground up. Set
several years after the main stories, our play covered the chaos of the Frondeur
Rebellion and the power struggle over the Dauphin, played by a young Ella Gregory, the future King Louis the 14th dont’cha know (The Versailles one). As the bad guy D’Compte, I had the evil scheme of capturing the heir to the French Throne and placing myself on it instead, cue much moustache twirling and cape swishing. Stopping me were the Fantastic Four of Jason Harris’s suave Aramis, Pete Harris’s nuanced Athos, Stuart Egan’s life-loving (and very northern) Porthos and Patch himself as D’Artagnan, leaping around the stage with gusto and panache even as he said the fateful speech of….”Er What are my
lines again?”

Emily Scotcher played the mysterious double agent Maudaunt, so mysterious she
herself wasn’t really sure whose side she was on, and the late, great Alain Smith was a
superb Cardinal Richelieu, deftly handling the fourteen page monologues he was
given. The action jumped around the whole of France with everyone multi-rolling and
working hard to ensure the show would feel big and broad. Everyone was brilliant to a
person, dialogue wise and choreography wise, whether it being a perfectly timed kick
to the crotch, or someone being clothes-lined into a pile of dead leaves, or maybe
even just fighting a large woollen cape in fifteen mile per hour winds whilst still
maintaining dignity.

To list the rest of the cast would be extensive but it was a great collaboration of first
time performers, experienced hands and even a escapologist. Despite the fact
costuming and equipping a large cast in 17th century getup seemed a bit of a kerfuffle,
thanks to the kind efforts of several historical re-enactors in the cast, connections with
the excellent Apollo Theatre, The Costume Workshop and even some creative use of whatever we had lying around, we eventually had everyone looking superb.

We even managed to perform some top fight routines thanks to the skill sets of Patch,
Jason and local professional pirate/all round top bloke Mr Edward Nash. Between the
three of them, they turned a rag tag bunch of people wondering what the pointy end of
a sword did, into a fighting force that rolled, kicked, punched, pummelled swished
and clanged through several great action set pieces. All without breaking health and
safety policies…too much, the casualties we did have were few. One fake pigeon,
placed precariously in a tree on top of some explosives, alas poor feathered one, some
bruised “unmentionables” following an amusing game of Archery Space Invaders with arrows tipped with tennis balls, and my pride when doing a rather superb combat
roll to pick up a fallen pistol, I kept rolling right into a fence.

But outside all this high octane stunts and fighting was where the cast really did shine.
After rehearsing in the Scout hut in Sandown often the entire cast, mostly still in
costume, would descend en-masse to the local and over a pint or two recount the
funnies and faux pas of the evening. All lucky that, as a group, we had all come
together to make something and had forged some great friendships (even a future
marriage) along the way.

Now just so you’ve had a funny moment to read, we decided to hold one rehearsal
down at Fort Victoria, a beautiful summer evening on the beach with wonderful
people having an absolute laugh, capped off by the aforementioned Mr Edward Nash
deciding to show off his new musket by pouring a TAD more gunpowder into it then
he normally would. Needless to say there was a very loud BANG! Followed by Mr
Nash flying backwards, legs flailing, I would say a good ten meter flight, before
landing somewhat undignified in a crumpled heap, his face covered in black soot,
perfectly fine bar a little bit of tinnitus and essentially surviving re-enacting a Wile E
Coyote stunt.

10547412_275682495954641_1260054478485248931_n
Rehearsal at Fort Victoria

Needless to say we laughed, one large group of us. Great memories and great
camaraderie. It only leaves me to say to anyone wanting to join future shows on or
off-stage the fateful words of The Musketeers themselves…
One for all and all for One.

Olly Fry


This is the 6th in a series of “Raising The Curtain” posts, thank you Olly!

Please also do check out #7 in this series of blogs, where Maureen Sullivan also takes us behind the scenes of Adlib Theatre Company’s  “The Return of The Three Musketeers”.  For more pics of the production and behind the scenes, check out Adlib’s Facebook Albums!)

If you would like to share an Island theatre story, to reminisce, let us know. We look forward to sharing your contributions.

 

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