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Equus farce


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#21 Guest_Skylight_*

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 10:03 PM

The risk of getting something different from what you pay for is part of the deal when you buy a ticket for a live performance (check the words on the back).  I've often been to shows where the singer has had hayfever or a cold but carried on and shows where the singer or musician has substituted pieces in the programme for others due to lack of rehearsal time (again usually due to illness).  I've coughed up the cash to see Darcy Bussell and been presented with her understudy and I've seen the lead in a swashbuckling adventure perform sitting in a chair with a broken ankle.  And I've turned up to a cancelled Cecilia Bartoli show - twice.  Performers are only people; if you want a guaranteed finished product stick to pre-recorded material.    

And to those complaining that having an unrehearsed understudy is outrageous, when do you expect understudy rehearsals to take place?  Directors rehearse the show, get the show open then, when the production is set and everyone knows what they're doing, the assistant director rehearses the understudies.  There is no way to rehearse an understudy until the show is finalised and the show isn't finalised until it opens.

#22 JWC

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 10:22 PM

Well in that case they cancel - see Marius's 4.00pm posting - and call on their insurance to cover their losses. A couple of years ago in the Cottesloe an announcement preceded a performance I was at of Sing Yer Hearts Out For The Lads that one of the actors was ill and so was the understudy. A last minute replacement had been found from one of the other companies in residence who would read from the script. The difference was that we, as an audience, were given a choice to remain or leave and get a refund. Most stayed, myself included. Where was the choice on Saturday? They hadn't even had the sense to anticipate punters' annoyance and have a placatory strategy ready. Why should they worry when they've got a sure fire sell out on their hands?

#23 Change

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 10:23 PM

[quote name='Skylight' date='Mar 4 2007, 10:03 PM' post='3600'

And to those complaining that having an unrehearsed understudy is outrageous, when do you expect understudy rehearsals to take place?  Directors rehearse the show, get the show open then, when the production is set and everyone knows what they're doing, the assistant director rehearses the understudies.  There is no way to rehearse an understudy until the show is finalised and the show isn't finalised until it opens.
[/quote]

I completly agree with you but what we all forget, in my opinion, is that the majority of theatregoers have absolutely no knowledge of the inner workings of a production, nor should they. In the attempt to get people into the theatre, the marketing process has pretty much solely relied on star names, much to the detriment of the actual production. What we are in the midst of now - with Equus and SOM - is the fallout.  New ways to get to the audiences must be found so when a performer is 'indisposed' it doesn't have the weight it's having these days (i know its a difficult task - I work in theatre marketing).

#24 Matthew Winn

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 09:21 AM

QUOTE(Skylight @ Mar 4 2007, 10:03 PM) View Post
And to those complaining that having an unrehearsed understudy is outrageous, when do you expect understudy rehearsals to take place?  Directors rehearse the show, get the show open then, when the production is set and everyone knows what they're doing, the assistant director rehearses the understudies.  There is no way to rehearse an understudy until the show is finalised and the show isn't finalised until it opens.

Tough. The production has a duty to deliver an acceptable standard of performance, and someone who doesn't know the role fails to meet that requirement. Can you imagine any other business getting away with that approach? "We don't have anyone available who's capable of doing the job so we're going to give it to someone who can't do it instead. You lose. Deal with it."

The show is not fit to open until it's ready to deal with something like the loss of one of the cast. The audience has no choice but to accept the possibility that people will be off sick so why should it be OK for the show to take chances on the same thing? Yes, it is difficult to rehearse the understudies as well as the leads, but part of working is making sure you solve those problems instead of dumping them on to the customer. There's nothing special about the theatre: it's work, just like any other work. You give the customers what they pay for, not excuses why you can't.

(I'd like to make it clear I have no problem with understudies. Some of the best performances I have seen in my life have been from understudies. Looking at it from the point of view of someone with many contacts in the theatre industry I know it's difficult to rehearse understudies, but from the point of view of a paying customer I'm entitled to expect an understudy's performance to be every bit as good as that of the person they're replacing. I'm not paying for excuses.)
I have always hated eggs. I remember back when I was a sperm I tried to head-butt one. It did not end well.

#25 Blue

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 12:20 PM

I fully accept the use of understudies in all productions. In fact, some of the understudies I have seen have been better than the real thing. But what I would find alarming is for somebody to be reading from a script in a West End show. This is a major show and the production company has let down the cast.

#26 Guest_Skylight_*

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 01:05 PM

So what would you suggest, the show previews and opens, then closes for 1-2 weeks to rehearse the understudies?  Few shows could afford that financially so there would simply be fewer shows.  And what about shows that don't have understudies at all?  Would you stop them altogether?  The whole point with live performance is it is different from other areas of work because only one person is trained to do the role.  You can't just find a replacement like you can in other fields of work.  The management reserve the right to substitute where they want, when they want and how they want.  That's the contract you agree to when you buy the ticket.  If you don't like it don't make the contract.  

Change has an interesting point that so much focus has been placed on the "star" cast and this is the fallout.  There's probably something in that.  Would there have been as much outrage at an understudy reading if this was just another production?  No one seemed to complain when Nina was reading in the Court Seagull.

#27 curzon

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 01:35 PM

QUOTE(Skylight @ Mar 4 2007, 10:03 PM) View Post
The risk of getting something different from what you pay for is part of the deal when you buy a ticket for a live performance (check the words on the back).  I've often been to shows where the singer has had hayfever or a cold but carried on and shows where the singer or musician has substituted pieces in the programme for others due to lack of rehearsal time (again usually due to illness).  I've coughed up the cash to see Darcy Bussell and been presented with her understudy and I've seen the lead in a swashbuckling adventure perform sitting in a chair with a broken ankle.  And I've turned up to a cancelled Cecilia Bartoli show - twice.  Performers are only people; if you want a guaranteed finished product stick to pre-recorded material.
Bartoli has quite a reputation for cancelling. I went to Berlin to see her in recital with Barenboim only to find she had cancelled. Fortunately I got a ticket for a fab performance of Parsifal at the Deutsches Oper instead.

Sebastian


#28 Guest_Skylight_*

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 01:51 PM

QUOTE(curzon @ Mar 5 2007, 01:35 PM) View Post
Bartoli has quite a reputation for cancelling. I went to Berlin to see her in recital with Barenboim only to find she had cancelled. Fortunately I got a ticket for a fab performance of Parsifal at the Deutsches Oper instead.

Sebastian

She does doesn't she!  After cancelling a December show two years running at the Barbican it was noted that the third year there were tickets available.  I don't mind performers cancelling if they're really not up to anything but I'd much rather they carried on and substituted pieces or did a shorter show than cancel altogether if possible.  Audiences who book for those kind of things understand if a performer isn't at their best and as long as the communication is there they'll forgive the odd less powerful note.  I saw Juan Diego Florez at the Barbican this December and he had cancelled the same show at Carneige Hall a week before due to illness but decided to go ahead with the London show and I'm pretty sure all of us preferred to hear him at 90% than not to hear him at all.

#29 blah

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 04:32 PM

There's no excuse for not offering an option of a refund or of watching the show with understudy.

Also there is no excuse for the understudy not being ready - the actor/creative team/producers just got lax and thought that no one would be off so soon.  

In musicals they are prepared for understudies to be on during the preview period.

If this had been a scheduled absence you can bet the actor who is the understudy would be word perfect if not yet completly move perfect - but to have not even have learnt the script is just a failure of their responsibility.

#30 curzon

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 06:11 PM

QUOTE(Skylight @ Mar 5 2007, 01:51 PM) View Post
She does doesn't she!  After cancelling a December show two years running at the Barbican it was noted that the third year there were tickets available.  I don't mind performers cancelling if they're really not up to anything but I'd much rather they carried on and substituted pieces or did a shorter show than cancel altogether if possible.  Audiences who book for those kind of things understand if a performer isn't at their best and as long as the communication is there they'll forgive the odd less powerful note.  I saw Juan Diego Florez at the Barbican this December and he had cancelled the same show at Carneige Hall a week before due to illness but decided to go ahead with the London show and I'm pretty sure all of us preferred to hear him at 90% than not to hear him at all.
I missed the recital (evening work being an occupational hazard in theatre!) but saw him in the fantastic "La fille du Regiment". He and Dessay were both fantastic

Sebastian





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