First of all, let me start by saying that I approached this year's play with a bit of resistance. Last year's 'Fiddler on the Roof' had left me so overwhelmed with praise for the pool of talent that is Elder Class. I went through the year, remembering a scene or singing a bit of a song almost every day, always making me smile. I also remembered the overwhelmingly positive comments amongst the audience - one regular theatre-goer said he considered it one of the best productions he had ever seen! This was a massive achievement to have the whole class acting together and singing together, covering all the roles (many with double parts). We had the first duet, the first stage kiss! They even had their own "Fiddler" for heaven's sake - how could they match that, I thought.
And on seeing the script this year, I was uninspired (although now I think I was simply lacking imagination and vision!) - it seemed a downright depressing read, the accents were strange, the characters all so flawed and not that easy to enjoy. What a contrast from the uplifting, hopeful charm of Fiddler! So I was unprepared for the experience of Thursday evening when, sitting in the front row, I was utterly drawn into this story and connected with these characters' lives. The play was extremely well cast and the actors put in very genuine performances. The intensity of the small cast working closely together meant that you could really connect with the emotions of the characters - whether it was Eddie's possessive frustration, Katherine's struggle for personhood, the anxious remonstrations of Beatrice, the social vulnerability of the immigrants, or the helplessness of Alfieri.- so much so that, by the final scene, I was actually moved to tears by the tragedy of the situation the characters were in.
I knew from seeing the Fiddler production how well the class works together on stage. The strong relationships among the class allow them to really gel, and to trust and support one another, and this shows in the dynamic way they inhabit their roles and the natural timing that they find on stage when working together. This time around, they not only worked as a team on stage, but also behind the scenes and in every department of production. I was so impressed by every detail that had been covered by the students themselves, from the brilliant set design and props to the very professional lighting and filming. They did their own budgeting, publicity and marketing for the play, as well as managing their own wardrobe. They even had their own catering department on both nights, offering a delectable range of really high quality refreshments, which made me feel like I was in the VIP lounge! This was also the first time a student has directed one of the school plays, so it was completely and utterly an Elder Class Production (someone copyright that, please!).
Well congratulations everyone - despite my prejudice, my doubts and my natural leanings towards musical theatre :), you made me love this play. I can honestly say this was the most professional production to date. I really can't wait to see what you do next year!
I know why my daughter says that Elder Class are her favourite "acting troupe". Yes, they are all fine actors. But more than that, they are a fine TEAM. Whether on stage or off stage, the Elder Class Clan is irreplaceable.