‘For I Am A Pirate Swing’

Apologies. It’s been a whole week since I last posted, and the reason is I am so tired. I get in after rehearsal, make dinner and keep my eyes open for just about long enough to eat it before I fall asleep for the remainder of the evening. But it’s ok cos I’m ‘happy tired’. You know the kind of tired that comes from having a really fulfilling, productive day.

This week was our first proper week of rehearsals for our final show of third year, The Pirates of Penzance. Following it’s premiere in 1880, it has become one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular comic operas. Let’s just say that our version has a few little tweaks compared to the original… Would it really be a PPA show if we just did a nice traditional version (reviewers have described us in the past as ‘GSA’s frisky neighbours’)? The cast is split into three groups: The girls, the pirates and the police. I am in the police group who don’t enter until Act 2, but to our confusion our director didn’t turn around and say ‘Go home and have a week off while we block Act 1.’ Oh no. Enter the Pirate swings.*

And so I’m doing something I thought I had well and truly left behind me. I’m creating a swing bible. Cos as it turns out we’re swinging for both the other groups. Which, despite being a lot of work, is SO FUN. I’ve spent my week being a pirate (various different ones) and leaping about with the boys, and although it can be slightly stressful when you forget which boy you’re meant to be swinging, it’s still pretty awesome. Here’s where I could quite easily launch into a long monologue about why I wish more than anything that I could be a male in this industry, but I’m resisting because I feel like that’s a whole other blog post…

Being a swing can be stressful at times, but we’re staying cool, calm and collected because we have been trained to do this! It’s always weirdly surprising when you realise that things you did in your training were actually for a reason. ‘What do you mean!? That super stressful swing project we did in second year wasn’t just to make our lives more traumatic!?’ I promise it felt like it at the time. ‘You mean all those crunches we did weren’t just to kill 10 minutes of jazz? They were actually so that we could jump higher!? Who knew!’

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Speaking of which, special mention goes to my housemate and choreographer extraordinaire Honor O’Neill. Never at PPA, and most likely at any other drama school, has the choreography job for a show gone to a student. And she’s pretty amazing at it. I mean the choreography is great, but mostly she just deserves a medal for putting up with us. The thought of having to teach the rest of us a tap number tomorrow must be a pretty unsettling one (our year group and tap hasn’t always been the most harmonious pairing.)

We were told before going into this show to treat it as if it were our first professional job. We’re working with (fab) creatives who aren’t people we get to work with everyday, so it does kind of feel that way. We’re moving a lot faster than we have in the past; Act 1 was blocked in approximately 3 and a half days. I think the rest of the cast would agree with me if I said the transition maybe hasn’t been as easy as we anticipated, but I can already feel us becoming more accomplished as professionals. We expect more of ourselves. Which is tiring, but it’s also very exciting.

So if you like leaping boys, topsy-turvy hilarity, glorious singing, and a few surprises along the way, come and see The Pirates of Penzance. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hear some top Cs. Thankfully not from me. I’ll be on the bass line.

Keep reading.

Sophie

*A swing is a performer whose job is to play one or more roles in the acting ensemble of a show—usually a musical—when someone else is out. These dedicated professionals learn literally dozens of different parts or “tracks” (a series of minor characters played by a single chorus member in successive scenes). Source: TDF Theatre Dictionary

The Pirates of Penzance runs from the 9th – 17th June at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Tickets are available here.

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