Archive for March, 2010

Audition day – the fun starts

March 24, 2010

A room crowded with other shows’ props; a not-so-tuneful piano in the corner; a bag of coffee, tea, sugar and ginger nuts.  Yes, it’s another audition at our favourite theatre, the Rosemary Branch.  The manager Cec has been terrific in letting us have the space free (again), and hovers to see if we need anything.  She’d be an earth mother if she wasn’t so svelte.

Cec, I should explain, runs the best pub theatre in London.  And having spent 20 years doing the rounds of pubs which were only interested in making money out of lettings, where you were grudgingly tolerated with the minimum facilities possible to get away with, I can’t tell you how much it means to have a landlady who as an ex-dancer lives and breathes theatre, who will be your most acute critic but also your most creative supporter.  Need a set built?  Cec will find someone to build it.  Red sequined tap shoes?  She’ll find someone who’s got a pair. Lighting design, a director even…. She’s held more than one staggering production together simply by plugging the gaps in the visiting company.  I count myself lucky to be one of her regulars.

And we’re sitting in the rehearsal room looking at our watches and wondering when the first auditionee will turn up.  “We” being myself, as Producer and lyricist, the other Peter (Murphy) as composer and Michael Derrick as choirmaster and rehearsal/audition pianist.  The work – “Desire”, based on a book by Edmund White; our need – 12 male singers, four tenor, four baritone and four basses. 

We run out of things to say to each other.  The silence becomes oppressive.  Michael and Peter retreat into discussing the intricacies of the score.  Peter is wholly in love with his creation, and adores to talk about it, its intricacy, the thought that went into it.  This makes him a bad judge of what needs cutting, and we have a tug-of-love over two numbers which I think will be no great loss in terms of quality, and will make the show considerably slicker.  You can imagine Peter’s reaction if you think of telling a mother you’re going to kill and eat her baby.

We’re blown out by the first three auditionees.  More particularly, four actors have rung or emailed to withdraw, including two scheduled for the first morning.  Though they claim to have found new work, my cynical mind calculates that this is unlikely.  More likely is that they have found Peter M’s complex score too demanding for brains and larynxes brought up on Lloyd-Webber and Jerry Herman.  All actors are sluts, but they are also lying sluts.  (I mean this in a nice way.)  This pusillanimity has left our originally tight schedule as gappy as a street boxer’s overbite. 

One withdrawal however has left me more than a little angry as well as considerably disappointed.  Italo Londero (Italian, in London – do I detect a stage name?) has very striking D & G male model looks and, what is more, a strong true baritone voice; true, it’s a bit of a bull-calf bellow and the accent is pretty atrocious, but these things could be fixed.  However, (I quote from his email): 

“It s too orientated towards the gay community considering what I want for my career in the short term.  It deviates me too far from a character that I am developing for a concert tour.  I also don’t know what I could do with the experience later.”

So here is a gay man saying that the show is too gay for him because he wants to turn straight??  (Is this the character he is developing?  I try to imagine him rehearsing drinking 14 pints of lager after the footie, but I can’t leap that far).  Cos it’s no secret that he is gay – there’s a forum discussion for gay Chileans including him as a famous local gay.  (Chile?  Italy?  I haven’t worked that one out yet, but there’s no mistaken identity.)  What makes me angry is the idea that a gay identity is something you can put on and take off at will, like a pink bomber jacket.  Italo, I have to tell you, that closet door only opens in one direction, and once you are out, there’s no turning back. See text today - 23-03-10

We are a gay theatre company, and you have to ask what he was doing auditioning for us in the first place if he felt like that.  What did he think we’d put on?    Evita?  But we have never asked anyone whether they are gay or not, and this is the first time that anyone has ever suggested to us that playing gay characters with a gay company would be a bad career move.  You’d think we were dealing with Rock Hudson or Cary Grant here, not a handsome, multi-talented, multi-cultural male model in 2010.  But no, homophobia is alive and well.  And it is the homosexuals who are the worst homophobes, because they are doing the bigots’ dirty work for them. 

But no point in  regretting, because boys like Italo are not that uncommon, and there’ll be another one along in ten minutes, like a Number 78 bus.

 And here comes the first one – Fabian.  Pale, beautiful haunted grey eyes, nervous and a bit insecure vocally….  Let’s go, Michael. 

 What have you brought for us, Fabian?  Thank you.  Hit those keys, Michael.