November 27, 2009
FRITHA JENKINS, Community Ensemble Participant
It’s not the first time I’ve missed the mark and I have my doubts it will be the last. Having deposited the armchair, I step off the mirrored stage floor into the wings and turn to check. Locating a small piece of tape on a stage is proving harder than it sounds. I have just come from a quick lecture in the sky bar on neuro-linguistic programming for stage fright to which I arrived straight from work. I spent last night trying to turn the volume down on the Handel playing relentlessly in my head as I endeavoured to get some sleep. The lights from across the wings are blinding. I need a coffee and I want to sit down. I am wondering what I am doing here.
My mind flicks back to the first rehearsal day at the Coliseum. I bump into Deborah Warner whilst looking for the stage door down an alleyway.
me: Do you know where we’re supposed to be going?
her: Yes – we know exactly where we’re going!’
I find the stage door, following her simple directions. I enter the airless labyrinth which is the backstage of the Coliseum. I follow the signs reading, ‘Ladies Community Ensemble’ up, up and up again through narrow, close white corridors. Breathless I ponder my fitness levels and promise myself I will start running again regularly when all this is over. I briefly consider the disconcerting ‘Good Luck!’ accompanied by a thumbs up that the director gave me as we parted.
I change into my costume. Three people ask me ‘Is that your costume?’ and another, ‘they sussed you eh?’ I look at myself in the mirror.
I have lost track of time. The days are rolling one into another. Another rehearsal and an ethereal voice instructs big brother style over a microphone from the stalls where the director and production team have taken up a permanent residence. They resemble a tableau awaiting the last supper. We feel their presence. The hierarchy is striking.
‘and hold it there
I think we need you to linger just a little longer
yes if you just listen there please
if we can all just listen to the singer
don’t act, just walk on with the object and put it down – but give it some significance,
COMMUNITY where are you?
Philip, the community should be coming on by now
hold it there!
if you could just’
There is a beauty within the staging process. A constant state of flux exists. The community become pigments, sculptural forms placed, displaced and manipulated in search of the piece. Warner’s artistic vision is unforgiving.
Up in the dressing room we have been talking and talking. People’s lives are beginning to unfold in the sharing of stories. We are a disparate group brought together. There is richness and an honesty.
I’m sitting in the stalls watching. The chorus have a psychotic glint in their eyes as they sing Hallelujah.
The ensemble sit together and share a wonderful meal cooked by one of our group.
The chorus have stopped rehearsing Hallelujah. The tannoy sounds, ‘Ladies and gentlemen of the community ensemble you are released.’
We cut our separate paths. Into the London night.