It’s the afternoon before our fourth preview of Hayton and while I plan to tell you about the first three (and the words total sell out will feature, probably in bold), before I do that I wanted to pay tribute to my colleague and friend, Robert Jezek, without whom this project simply would not have happened.
If you’ve read this blog from the beginning you’ll know that Robert appeared in the adaption of Casting the Runes which inspired Hayton on Homicide. He and I then sat down together to plot the new script scene by scene, and it was his enthusiasm for the result which encouraged me to take the risk of going ahead with an Edinburgh Fringe Festival run. But I didn’t know then that his support and encouragement and commitment to this project had only just begun.
He has contributed to virtually every decision made in the eight month long production process for Hayton. He has been available at all hours to offer advice – and the best sort, based as it is on his 30 odd years in the business. He has attended marketing meetings and design conferences, and willingly schlepped set, crew members and exhausted writer/directors to all corners of Cambridge and beyond. He has remained passionately commited to the project and to making it the best we possibly can do, and he has contributed his creative imagination and wonderful instincts to the shaping of every scene.
At the risk of sounding maudlin, I want to say to him, thank you, Robert. I appreciate it, so very much, and the production is the richer for it. In fact, so significant has his contribution been, he deserves a co-producer credit, which I hereby am formally offering him. It hasn’t always been a peaceful process, of course. My nickname for Rob is Bear, because he’s a big, huggy guy, and when he roars everyone hears it. And when he passionately believes in something, and gets his dander up about it, his normally soft and genial hazel eyes can flash a very disconcerting shade of Gollum green. Moreover, Rob and his family. including his amazing wife Jane, who designed the website, have sacrificed a lot for this production – as a working actor there are many more lucrative jobs he has had to pass by. But he has never complained, at least in my hearing, and never expressed anything but total committment, even in the face of some extremely stressful weeks!
Which brings me to the previews. It was Rob who initially suggested we pursue additional previews, beside the two I had arranged at the ADC theatre this week. We were thrilled to get two nights in Covent Garden at the Tristan Bates theatre, and even more delighted when our first night was a total sellout.
Nevertheless, the experience wasn’t easy – the studio theatre couldn’t provide the full range of lighting called for by the brilliant design of Rob Mills, and though he worked miracles with what was there we felt the lack. The theatre also presented logistical difficulties, in terms of getting set and cast to the middle of Covent Garden at a reasonable cost and without losing too many more years off our lives. The venue also presented us with the genuine Edinburgh experience, in that our get-ins and outs were very short and very hairy!! Still, our two performances went off without a hitch, and the audience response was very positive. I felt we were at 80 percent of what the show could be after our first two nights. And then came last night at the ADC. When I left home I knew we were doing well on ticket sales – we’d sold 195 of the 220 seats by 5.30. But when my friend Ros Connelly saw me in the bar and told me she’d just bought the last seat in the house, making that night a total sellout as well, my heart did flip flops. It was so exciting for me and the cast, and they rose to the occassion brilliantly. Sarah Kenyon gets better with every performance, and the audience instantly warmed to her delightful – and exasperating – Florence Hayton. Elizabeth Muncey appeared twice her actual (petite) size as the scary Madame Valerian and continues to find new riches in the character of Alice Kentwell. Mark Compton looks fab in his dark moustache and his calmness and consistency is reassuring to us all. And of course Robert shone in his best performance yet as George Hayton – intelligent, austere and rational – but with a very warm heart. Thank you to everyone who came – hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! And to those who haven’t seen it yet – at this writing there are still tickets available for tonight, but every time I check more have gone…so act fast!