Comparing professional with amateur…

Back in mid December 2012 I was told that the play set to start rehearsals after Christmas had fallen through and I could I step in?

My first thought was “YIKES!!!”

My second was, “BREATH!!! You’ve known this was a possibility for weeks, you’ve got a plan, set it in motion.”

That play was The Business of Murder by Richard Harris (no, not the actor, the screen writer/playwright). It went on stage in April 2013 and was a production I was very proud of, not least because of the short notice I’d had to actually get the pencilled idea moving.

You should have seen my delight when I got the email from my local theatre informing me that a professional production of The Business of Murder was on tour and was hitting their stage this week.

I HAD to go.

As you know, I am strictly amateur, this is something I do in my spare time, we beg, we borrow, we steal. I just HAD to snatch the opportunity to compare our effort with that of a professional production company and all the resources they have available to use.

So I went. Tonight.

First off, let me get the whining out of the way: the bloke sitting in front of me has to have been one of the tallest people ever, and would be stop shifting about? No! I don’t exactly call myself short – I’m 5’5” – but I had no chance against his height, so apologies to those sitting behind me, I had to shift about, too, or I wouldn’t have seen a thing.

Right, on with the important stuff: the play.

In a word? Cor!

The bloke playing Stone was completely mesmerising from start to finish – what a performance! Our guy, Jeff, did an amazing job, too, but much cooler and more calculating. This bloke went more maniacal, he had a definite screw loose.

Whoever decided to put Dee in that dress should be shot – awful shapeless thing, and the pattern? Don’t even! Bleurgh! (AND it clashed with the wallpaper which was impressive!) The actor, though, did a great job. She made her almost fragile, very freaked out. When our Rachel played Dee, she was more hardened. Interesting, I liked it.

Hallett was a little too two dimensional for me, I preferred our version. He was much more of a tough, jaded, crooked copper the way our Gethyn played it.

One big thing that surprised me was this:  In the script the bedroom is sectioned off using a screen that is supposed to reveal the room behind when light is shone on it. Jim, our set whiz, pulled this off wonderfully. We sought and purchased gauze and we played with lights and we got it to work. In this production they had the whole bedroom on display through out, and, to me, it took a lot of impact out of the ‘suprise’ moment at the end of act 1.

Also I was surprised by the number of muddled lines of sight. My seat was bang smack in the middle of the stalls but there were things I was meant to be able to see that I couldn’t because the sofa was in the way, or an actor did. I lost count of the number of times the actors cut across each other and muddied line delivery/impact because of it.

Near the end of the play there are 2 bits of violence, and we really went into detail with that. Caron, our fight expert, choreographed a little scuffle and researched stage blood and the end result looked great. In this production is was all bit something and nothing.

One final observation – I LOVED the clever use of the radio. Completely unnecessary but I wonderful way of emphasising to audience that they need to pay attention. Very clever, indeed.

Overall impression? I enjoyed it, lots to appreciate, slightly different interpretations. Lots of ideas to file away and borrow on other shows.  Yes, there was stuff I didn’t like, but we can all poke holes in each other’s stuff, can’t we?

It was well worth going, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was fascinating to see someone else’s take on a play I know so well… but it wasn’t as good as our version 😉