quarta-feira, 23 de abril de 2008

Happy days

I do realise that my writing tends to go on and on, so this is a short reflection. I have had some interesting times with actors and actresses due to my job of making props and special effects for theatres. Do any of you remember the late night television series that had has its theme a bellydancing lady engulfed in flames and a haunting music? well Peter Cook had a TV special in which he took the mick out of other programmes and I worked on one of these specials for Granada TV making a large rose which blossomed to reveal Peter inside, dancing girls spun and descended curved staircases and Beryl Read was flown over the top of them dressed in a bumble bee costume, the crazy part of the whole scene was the fact that Beryl read and Peter Cook drank like fishes, Beryl could down a bottle of cognac and Peter could smoke a full packet of cigaretes in a couple of hours, I do not know how these folks stayed alive. The other moment that sticks firmly in my mind was during the production of Happy days for the Royal Court theatre, I have worked on the same play four times and with Samuel Becket on each occasion. Whilst remembering the names of actors, directors and designers I was reminded of two occasions with Peggy Ashcroft and one with Billy Whitelaw on the set that I and David Lawes made for the show, I also made the special effect of the umbrella smouldering away in the heat to only leave 'Winnie' with the steel frame. I think the first time with this show it was directed by John Dexter or lindsay Anderson but I am not sure, twice with John Hall at the National and then with Sam at the Royal Court, Sam was one hell of a stickler for timing the play and in particular the burning (it at to smoulder without flames) of the umbrella, every night of rehearsals he changed the length of time for the umbrella to show smoke and burn, yes it had to show smoke, no flame and burn to nothing with out dropping any ash on to the bare shoulders of Peggy and Billy. The night of the opening performance with Billy Whitelaw, see photo, I arrived late to the theatre with the new batch of umbrellas and had to then get the umbrella to Billy who was already incased in the set, the route I took was under the set and up between the legs of Billy, not many can tell this tale. The curtain rose whilst I was under her and I had a long wait before being able to retreat to the wings. The umbrella used a battery to ignite the paper covering.
The photo of Sam reminds me of what adelightful person he was and good for a chat at the bar.

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