Two shows up and running now, and the third opening tonight: exciting and awful time. Exciting because the artists are at the starting gate, after all the preparation, the training and team building; awful because anybody can write or say anything they want, assuming that what they find to their taste or not to their taste is a reflection of technique (or failure of it) or understanding (or lack of it), or even moral intelligence (or want of it). At least that’s how it feels: hideously (and I do mean bristling) exposed, even for someone like me who is religious about not reading crits until time passes, and there is the chance to learn from them (or laugh about them).
I remember interviewing charming Rodney Miles for RTE (Irish) radio about how he came to be a critic. Typically clear sighted and self effacing, he said that he had no idea why anyone in the business would read reviews – as they aren’t written for them. Anyway, the first two have been stylish, I think, and there has been some terrific singing and playing. I am too close to see the rest. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a very different sort of show, and I’m optimistic: people seem to be well inside the show, and the design and movement make a poetic statement that is consonant with the music. Such a strange, stifled sort of piece: not ‘pure Kensington’, as Auden thought, but eloquent and ambivalent at the same time.
Yesterday I saw the first performance of The Starry Welkin (our new short opera for 4-8 year olds, skilfully composed by Kate Pearson) at Morningside Primary School in Hackney. Enchanting experience! Fantastic kids, with very clearly top-notch teachers, well prepared for the show – and then intense, lively performances from the 3 singers and 5 players from our company. Apart from watching the children’s animated expressions throughout, I loved the challenging, unpatronising score: proper art for young people.
The fact that the Northcott Theatre in Exeter has gone into administration consumes time, energy and spirit. We are due to give 6 shows on stage there next week, 3 of them sold out well in advance. It would cost the theatre (Administrator) nothing to go ahead with the shows – and of course we are taking a terrible risk that we will never be paid. But how could we not pay our artists, or break our trust with audiences in Exeter (built up with such effort over many years)? We live so close to the edge of our capacity in normal times, that this kick off to the tour is very, very tough. But hey, we are lucky to be doing this at all…