Tuesday, 28 April 2015

What I’ve Been Up To: Princess Ida

Right, it’s been a month and a half since my last post so I think it’s about time to get back on it again! Things got so hectic towards the end of rehearsals and the performances I was in during March and April, so unfortunately the blog had to take a back seat. So, I figure it might be nice to actually fill you in on exactly what it is that had taken over my life for 8 weeks!

I was in an operetta (like an opera/musical) called Princess Ida by Gilbert and Sullivan at the Finborough Theatre, London. Gilbert and Sullivan operettas have a major following so it was very exciting for me to get to be in another one 7 years after my first G&S, the very well-known Pirates of Penzance, up in NE Scotland. There had not been a professional production of Princess Ida in London for over 20 years, so Phil Willmott – very established theatre director and former artistic director of the Finborough – revised the libretto (all the dialogue and song lyrics basically), characters and general storyline to work for a modern audience (the show having not been that successful when it first came out).

Taken from the Finborough Theatre website, a very quick summary of our version of Princess Ida went like this:

Containing some of Sullivan's catchiest melodies and Gilbert's wittiest salvoes in the battle of the sexes, this sunny, funny musical comedy concerns the marriage of two royal babies.

It's twenty years later and Prince Hilarion is keen to be reunited with his now adult wife, the Princess Ida. Unfortunately her quarrelsome father has hidden her away in a women's only university where even the morning cock crow is managed by a talented hen.

So Hilarion is forced to don a dress and even wield a sword to win his wife.

Revising a G&S is dangerous in itself as there is such a following of G&S ‘traditionalists’ who like it done exactly how it was written, so we expected there to be very split feedback. To be honest, there were only a couple of reviews that were clear on the point that they didn’t like the revisions, but other than those, the feedback we got was incredible. All my friends who came loved it of course (they are slightly biased though!), and the reviews we got were mainly 4 stars, from even national papers like The Express and top theatre magazines like WhatsOnStage. As well as that, we’ve been nominated for 2 Off West-End Awards (a.k.a. ‘Offies’, which is the biggest off West-End awards in the country): Best Ensemble Acting and Best Choreographer. So that’s super exciting as well!

The best thing about this experience, however, was the group of people I got to work with. I don’t even know where to start… I made some fantastic relationships: life-long friends. It was like working with family or a group of best friends who I’d known for years. The show finished a week and a half ago (though it feels like a lot longer!) and I still speak to them every day. I feel so lucky and privileged to have gotten to work with such a lovely, talented group of people and to have had the wonderful experience I had. I sometimes have to remind myself that this is my job. What?! When you have so much fun, that’s very hard to remember.

Anyway, here are a few professional shots of the show. Credit to Scott Rylander.

The female characters started the show as Victorian servants (I'm on the left - very attractive ha!)
The formidable Simon Butteriss as Lord Gama
One of my favourite scenes: our first scene as the ladies united in a female university (I'm on the right)
When a few of the men first enter the university
Solo shot of me as Lady Beatrice, woop woop!
These men are going to be killed for trespassing, but I'm in love with one of them and another is my brother... hence the expression!
We will defend ourselves against the other men who come to fight us, but the prospect isn't tempting...
Defiance! We WILL fight them!! (Another favourite scene of mine.)
Of course it all works out well, we all pair up and enjoy a happy ending :)

And some photos from off-stage...

Photobomb = success.
The girls backstage.
Bridget (Ida), me (Beatrice), Georgi (Ada).

The servants and Ida!
They made me feel so special on my birthday (though I couldn't actually eat any cake until 2 days later because of Lent!) :)
Cast and MD's. The most wonderful people.

And that's it! What a random post. I hope you've enjoyed reading :) Do let me know if you'd like to read more about future productions etc - it's not really something I thought I'd ever go into detail on here, but I've quite enjoyed writing about it!

Wendy x