Archives For Leonard Bernstein

Candide in Cornwall

July 22, 2018 — 47 Comments

Bright and early Saturday morning on 14th July I met up with my friend and fellow cast member Rosie Clifford before embarking on a road trip down St Levan in Cornwall. The time flew by and after 5 hours we arrived at The Land’s End Vineries which was to become our home from home for the upcoming week. We shared our chalet with two orchestral members Lily Beatrice Cooper and Bjorn Kleiman, who were both delightful and charming housemates. The chalet that we stayed in took me back to a world without WiFi and little mobile signal, we even had to put a pound coin in the electricity meter. I quite enjoyed this weird aspect and will remember playfully working out how to use the meter with Rosie.

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Because we only had intermittent mobile service the four of us talked, laughed and bonded over great food, skilfully cooked for us by Bjorn who quickly became head chef of chalet 20. I was very happy to wash dishes, provide supplies and eat! It was during these periods of break (between and after the performances) that I learned that Bjorn organises a concert series in Sweden, Lidköping Music Festival which will have performances 5th-8th August. Lily will be playing cello and he will play violin there with other musicians. It sounded delightful and I wish I could be there to enjoy what I’m sure will be beautiful music.

The first day was long and tiring but the great atmosphere from the full cast, creative team and orchestra meant that we had a lot of fun. We began with a tech rehearsal in the morning at 10:00 then onto a dress rehearsal run at 2pm with me and then another dress rehearsal at 8pm with Lizzie. In the morning and afternoon, the sun was out and blazed during the rehearsals. This made the view of the Minack Theatre outstanding and rather breathtaking, with the crystal clear blue sea stretching as far as the eye could see behind the main stage. During the week we saw lots of wildlife such as seals enjoying the beautiful weather and even some fishermen and sun seekers.

However, this weather can cause a few issues to a performer, such as heat exhaustion and dehydration. Surrey Opera was at hand and offered wonderful advice throughout this process. We were encouraged to wear a lot of sun lotion, wear hats, shade bathe 😅 whenever off stage and drink plenty of water. It was quite tricky to get used to but by mid-week,  I started building up stamina for this style of weather.

We opened the show on Monday night which was a roaring success, and as the week progressed gags got lengthened and we crafted the action to suit the audience that we had in, for example, if they particularly enjoyed the slapstick comedy moments we would play these moments for longer and with greater enjoyment. Giles Davies was a real pro at this and taught me a lot about comic timing. I was so impressed that by the end of the run he could get two raucous rounds of applause for his comic death scene! I was really blessed to share the stage with such wonderful colleagues, everyone brought something extra special to the performance and it reminded me how important it is to treasure our individuality. Joanna Gamble, Tom Kennedy, Giles Davies, Brian Smith Walters, Rosie Clifford, Callum Speed, Tim Baldwin, and Lizzie Holmes.

With a special thank you to Stephen Anthony Brown who played the role of Candide so effortlessly, it was a sheer delight to perform alongside him.

Lastly, I must mention the amazing 18 strong chorus who put so much energy into each performance and huge respect to each of the 29 members of the orchestra who played with such emotion and skill.

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I enjoyed working with the fantastic Jonathan Butcher who directed the production as well as conducting it, a real multi-talented artist.

You can read a review of the opening night performance on the Minack Theatre website ( Link )

I was also very lucky to have my family travel down from Cheshire, Stoke On Trent, Glasgow, and London to come and support me. My parents, brothers, grandparents and future brother-in-law. Their support never ceases to amaze me and meant that my downtime felt like a holiday!

 

Rehearsals for Candide by Surrey Opera are now well underway. The scenes are starting to slot together like jigsaw pieces, and I’m looking forward to the coming week to finalise the blocking, (the setting of movements, character’s intentions and gestures) for the last few scenes.

It has been a real joy to explore the arc of Cunegonde’s growth through this process. She begins the operetta as the adolescent school girl, who is the daughter of a Baron and Baroness, she lives in a grand home surrounded by love and the comfort provided by wealth. Cunegonde is taught by Dr. Pangloss that ‘this is the best of all possible worlds’. A philosophy that the play questions dramatically throughout.

After Pangloss’s lesson, Cunegonde experiences the instant chemistry between her and Candide, which begins to bud and blossom into a sweet first love. However, the first love duet is quite humorous as they both list their desires for the future, without really listening to the other. If they had paid attention, they would have realised their dreams were quite dissimilar. If this was a different story, perhaps they would have had a discussion, found a comprise and lived happily ever after.

But sadly, that is not the case, this love story is interrupted by the horrors of war with their lives turned upside down, Cunegonde, now orphaned and without the means to support herself, is taken to Paris where she is shared between two men. Her innocence is quickly stripped away and she must learn how to survive using only her instincts, clouding the emotional heartache with her blinding optimism. These chaotic occurrences are interspersed with moments of hope each time her path crosses again with Candide. Unfortunately, time and time again she has to fend for herself and use her womanly wiles in order to survive.

Jumping to the end, in order to not spoil the plot too much. Just before the finale, Candide finds Cunegonde in a Casino in Venice, attending to the needs of the Male visitors and is appalled by what he sees. He asks in his aria if this is what he’s been fighting for and if her soul is dead. It is a heart-wrenching moment as Cunegonde decides whether to interject or if it’s better to stay silent knowing the awful situations she has lived through in hope that they would meet again and reunite their relationship. It is her strength at this moment that helped me to understand her character more deeply and realise the sincerity of her love for Candide.

It is a very complex story with multiple twist and turns, I do hope that I bring her character to life and do her story justice.  I can’t wait to work alongside my brilliants colleagues in the coming weeks as we finally get to perform at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall

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