Thursday, 22 December 2016

Curtains - I 've looked at them from both sides now,

As many of you know, I was a ballroom dancer.  Not much use for curtains in my chosen art.  You need a spacious wooden, or even flagged floor (ie Matlock Bath) but no curtains open to show you to your audience.  They sit around you, often on all four sides, so you perform, aware that you can always be seen by someone.  Adjudicators in a ballroom dancing competition, stand along any one of those sides.  You cannot ever show a bad angle, a limp wrist, miss a pointed toe or an extended neck.  Someone will see you.  There is no place to hide.

Away from the ballroom, I loved to go to the ballet or the theatre.  Always thrilled by the wonderful curtains, with their promise of excitement.  The Nutcracker has always been my favourite ballet.  The combination of fun and Christmas and the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky, is an absolute joy.  I took my daughter to see it when she was little.  I hate ballets where beautiful characters die.

I love our local Grand Theatre and wish that my reduced income would allow more than a few visits a year but hey ho.  I have been very lucky. I sing with Musica Lirica Opera chorus and in 2014 performed on the Grand Theatre stage. Two years earlier, as one of a group of creative writers invited to commemorate the Centenary of some of Blackpool's magnificent heritage buildings, I was fortunate to have a backstage tour. 

The Grand is a national treasure: One of the few remaining Matcham designed theatres. The Gaiety in The Isle of Mann is another.  Matcham used a cantilever system in his theatres, eliminating the central pillars that obscured the view of the stage. I find it extraordinary to think that many years ago, the Grand Theatre in my home town was ear-marked for demolition, to be replaced by a Littlewoods store. Local people rallied round and formed a protest group.  They saved the theatre by a combination of sheer determination and donations. The Friends of The Grand are a credit to our town. But for their efforts, those beautiful turquoise velvet curtains may never have risen again.

My own performance at The Grand was a one-night stand, in a short tour of The Merry Widow that also included performances at Settle Theatre and Lancaster Grand.  It is so exciting to stand behind a stage curtain as the music begins and see all the people in the audience. I am never nervous. Performance runs through my veins like oxygen. It is exhilarating.  This year we have done it again.  Our 'Steam Punk' styled Die Fledermaus has shown at Settle, Thornton Little Theatre and Kendal Town Hall.  I aim to behind the curtain when it rises at The Charter Theatre, Preston on 13th January. Perhaps I will see your face when it does.


The poem was written for the Walls Have Voices project although not selected for the final publication.

A Grand Embarkation

With precious tickets tight in hand,
Come congregation to the fishbowl foyer,
They climb the gilded staircase, to the circle bar.
Glass clinks on glass, punctuating conversation
Until, summoned by a distant bell
They flow and filter into Matcham’s cantilever shelves.

Some shuffle, rise and fidget,
Slipping sleeves from shoulders,
Mumbling, couching, scrunching cellophane.
They sit: arranged like luscious chocolates,
In four layers of an ornate treasure chest.

Beyond the dulling safety curtain,
Black brick walls echo whispered cues and calls.
Steel taps syncopate on stone,
Sending shivers of anticipation down spinal stairways,
Rigging ropes pulled taut by muscled arms.
Drop the backdrop from the dusty rafters.
House lights go down in crystal chandeliers.
A hush goes up: A gasp in unison
As ghostly hand ascends from glowing pit,
The baton poised for down-stroke.  
Currents of warm melody flow like melting ice-cream.
Eyes fix on full moon light,
Centred on a turquoise velvet sea.
A cacophony of kettle drums Crescendo
as the overture concludes, audience and players 
embark on a thrilling voyage into imagination.

Thanks for reading.  Have a lovely Christmas.  See you in 2017.  Adele  



Barry McCann said...

Very enjoyable read, and a sobering reminder of what we nearly lost! Well done Adele.

Adele said...

Thanks Barry. Love The Grand.

Steve Rowland said...

I really liked 'fishbowl foyer', 'cantilever shelves' and 'spinal stairway'. Very good.