Saturday, 23 February 2008

You don't have to be mad to be at ENO, but...

Rehearsal last Thursday (21 Feb) was another dismal, shuffling affair, with the chorus doing their famous impression of Jean-Dominique Bauby in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Nan looking desperate, so we won't dwell on that.

Instead we'll dwell on ENO's Lucia di Lammermoor, which is really rather fab; here's the review I wrote for the Sky Arts website. (This was the performance that made national news because one of the principals lost his voice after the first scene, and a bloke from the audience came up to sing the part from the wings while the hoarse bloke mimed.)

Anyway, I went with Abby, and it was the most enjoyable evening I've had there in ages. Usually, when I go with a Goldie to ENO, it consists of
(a) people I used to work with desperately trying to avoid eye contact with me, and
(b) me opening up two tins of cider and a packet of cheesy wotsits in that area downstairs by the loos, where you can stand by a big square pillar and put your drinks on a ledge.

Well, this time, it was different, because it wasn't just me. It was also Abby trying to avoid eye contact, with the various people she's done voice coaching with and suchlike. She was concerned about being seen furtively swigging my bottle of Chilean Cab Sauv, instead of paying nineteen quid a glass or whatever it is at the bar, and thought this might adversely affect her future. (Merely being seen with me, of course, does the trick effectively enough.) So we both ducked and dived round the pillar as voice coach after voice coach, and journo after journo, swanned past.

It was ever so exciting. Then afterwards we had a quick one in that little pub down the Dickensian alley (the Lemon Tree?), or perhaps two, and tried talking French.

And at last, some good news: I have a job. Only for a month, but it's at the National Gallery, so I should get to look at a lot of pictures of nude women. Shame they all died in 1532.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Recruitment Agencies: Useful, just not for getting jobs

Our Thursday staging rehearsals generally consist of us standing around knowing that whatever we're about to do will be wrong, and then getting shouted at. (Guys, this is all good practice for being married.) Don't get me wrong, it's rather fun, and is the most organised and pleasurable part of my week. Which tells you what a disaster the rest of my life is.

Well, no such luck last Thursday. It just turned into a music call. We all stood around the piano with scores and bashed through the church scene and its aftermath. This is the bit where I do my radicalising-imam thing, and soapbox the villagers into an attack against Grimes and Ellen. Which gives me the chance to do a lot of shouting, cursing, waving of hands and railing against the system. Recent graduates, this is all good practice for the experience of job-hunting.

Yes, I still haven't had any luck fixing myself up with any gainful employment since 21 Dec, despite being registered with about ten recruitment agencies. Honestly, they're all absolutely useless. Imagine the piercing intelligence of Jade Goody, the integrity of Heather Mills, the self-awareness of Michael Jackson, the ability to fulfill promises of Del Trotter, and the sense of humour of Margaret Thatcher, and you've got the average recruitment agency drone.

What happens is this. You see a job online. It suits you perfectly. So you apply for it. Ah, but you're not applying to the company. You're applying to the recruitment agency, who obviously are there to take a cut. What happens then is that you get a call from someone from the recruitment agency called Claire who suggests that you go in to their central London office and have a chat about your skills and requirements. So you take along your passport (to prove you're actually British and not an international spy) and chat to Claire for 45 minutes, who tells you at unnecessary length what a fantastic agency they are, asks you naive questions which are answered on the CV she claims to have read, and writes down copious notes in biro on her hardback jotter. Then you never hear from her again and she never returns your calls. Repeat ad infinitum.

Or is it me? Perhaps it's time to take a long, hard look in a mirror. Urgh. Actually this is what Nan keeps telling me to do. I don't like looking at myself. Apparently I'm doing the amateur thing of bobbing my head too much, leaning forward and straining from the neck, when I should be standing up straight and letting the body do the work. And I'm talking about the interviews with Claire here. With the singing it's even worse.

Still, all my job-hunting experiences have been useful for my Boles characterisation. When I want to vent spleen against Grimes and Ellen Orford, I obviously don't picture Mario and Abby, two of the most pleasant and talented people I know. (Er, that's meant to be a compliment, not a comment on how many people I know.) Instead, I picture Dave and Claire from the recruitment agency. It makes all that shouting a pleasure.

Of course, if you ARE from a recruitment agency and you're reading this, the above description doesn't apply to you. Oh no. Of course not. You're smart enough to have found this page, for one thing, and to have read it this far, for another. In which case, what on earth are you doing working in recruitment? Ah, but to change jobs you need... a recruitment agency to help you! Doh! I see your problem. Tell you what, if you fancy being surrounded by talented people for a change, come along to our rehearsals on Thursdays.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Well, last Thursday's rehearsal went comparatively well. That's a bit like saying Derek Conway MP is honest compared to his Italian or Nigerian counterparts, but at least it was something of an improvement, with quite a few people knowing several of their entries.

And there was plenty of entertainment. We were doing the Pub Scene where Bob Boles, viz me, gets roaring drunk and tries to chat up one of the Nieces. My efforts to portray the beaming pisshead caused a fair bit of amusement, possibly for my staggering acting ability, possibly for my staggering, or possibly just because of the novelty of seeing me sober pretending to be drunk.

We also did a couple of run-throughs of that pesky 7/8 round about Joe and his idiot son going fishing and, do you know, we pretty much started and finished in the right place. I'm beginning to think that we might just get through this opera without having to take down our Facebook pages out of embarrassment.

In the evening I went out to ENO to review their re-run of Anthony Minghella's Madam Butterfly. (You can read it on the Sky Arts website.) It's really rather good, despite the odd sight of Butterfly's three-year-old boy being played by a wooden puppet. Actually the puppet was one of the best actors on stage. That's meant as a compliment to the blokes working him, not a dig at the singers, who were jolly good.

Though I was a bit distracted by Ashley Holland's Sharpless, who was a dead ringer for Hale of 1990s TV duo Hale and Pace. I kept expecting him to break off into an aria about 'the Management', though of course Puccini didn't do comedy very well. A bit like Hale and Pace I suppose.

I went with Casey, who is doing the Butterfly/Suzuki Flower Duet later this year with Jenny somewhere for someone. So she could come along and make some notes. Casey is playing the very Niece that I slobber over in that Pub Scene; so she was remarkably composed, considering that earlier that very day I'd been repeatedly groping her in E flat minor.