There are annual school productions and then there are LMS annual school productions...
We’ve all experienced that sweet tang of smoldering dusty gels adding shimmer to garish lighting washing-out already wobbly sets. We’ve all grinned through umpteen “Ah bless” moments prompted by precocious and/or so cute wannabes. Remember those suppressed giggles – not at the crucial punch line missed, but by the jarring prompt stage right, inevitably just a little more than a pregnant pause later, delivered so excruciatingly audibly, and with such sharp, exasperated pique. And not of course forgetting that dodgy piano accompaniment to Destiny’s big moment. School productions are always deliciously excruciating, easy to patronize – and loved beyond measure nonetheless. It’s the law.
And then there are the annual Lincoln Minster productions. Always anticipated. Always surprising. Always – frankly – so remarkably professional.
And with Cyrano de Bergerac they’ve pulled it off again. Surely far too ambitious, far too difficult? And yet it’s that full package again. Everything from the welcoming smiles on arrival, the first gasp at the set, the immediate anticipation that this one’s going to be special.
There’s an opening embrace of studio intimacy allowing no crudity in the remarkable set. There’s an unsettling unease questioning the practicalities of split-level sloping podiums. There’s subtle lighting prior to the necessities of pre-performance reminders – and within moments you’re off.
It’s an immediate immersion into everything wonderful about good theatre. Immaculate off-stage discipline. Every entrance a surprise of origin, or costume, or make-up, or all. Every emotion embraced, tugged and battered. No cheap resort to gimmickry in staging, lighting, sound, costume or prop – just teenagers, remarkable teenagers – your teenagers – delivering an experience that evolves and crescendos throughout the evening to leave you wrung-out and yet so utterly, utterly proud. How can ‘kids’ live, love, laugh, and lose within this totally different world with such utter conviction? Everything is, somehow, just right – and there’s just so much.
There’s difficult dialogue and a demanding emotional range – let alone French pronunciation, enunciation, projection, singing, playing, choreography, timing and blocking – enough to test Dame Judy. And fighting with real foils on those rises and slopes! And unashamedly risky comic lines Peter Kay would be proud of. And on. And on.
And without exception every cast member, every moment in that place, in that zone, never losing it for a moment.
And if that’s not sufficient, bring on Acts 4 and 5 – tableau, mime, passion, pathos and grief – enough to arrest breathing.
Now ‘edu-speak’ demands homilies on student involvement, inclusion, engagement, confidence, discipline, endeavour, commitment, team work, learning, understanding, empathy and effort – and all these and more are a given. But let’s just suffice to say on this one that Rostand would be thrilled.
Every year I wonder how it will be possible to surpass ‘the annual school production’. And yet every year …