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Frankly, my dear

An epic theatre moment in London

Atlanta is really burning. In London, the much-heralded musical of ‘Gone With The Wind’ is in its death-throes. The NZ$15m new stage work has lasted less than two months, which just goes to show how fickle the theatre world is as a creative medium. Success is not predicated just on investment levels.

Nor is it based on the names behind the work. Earlier in his career, director Trevor Nunn made humans into leaping felines in ‘Cats’, and had audiences around the world hearing the people sing in ‘Les Miserables’, the two longest-running musicals in history. He should know his stuff. But maybe audiences know better.

The other evening I caught up with a kiwi mate who is in London playing piano for the big shows the tourists queue up to see. The point of this story is that he and I were having a bite of fish and chips (hey — London) in the early evening before he was to take his gilded fingers to work playing Keyboard 1 at ‘Gone With The Wind’. (Note — Keyboard 1 is the one that you hear from the audience, the one that tinkles under the balladeer and makes you “feel something” when you are watching a musical at the theatre.)

Anyway, on this Monday night my dining companion was going direct to the theatre after our pub dinner catch up. The closure of ‘Gone With The Wind’ had been announced the day before. Death spiral. Millions of dollars down the drain. My mate had been dragged in to cover for the regular Monday night pianist, as it seemed everyone was abandoning the ship.

After haddock and chips, we stood up to leave the pub, and my old mate noticed several frantic messages from the Company manager on his phone. It appeared that curtain up was scheduled for 7pm and we were still in the pub at 7:15pm, my mate assuming the show started at 7:30pm. He ran.

Hours later, he called me to say that the start of the show had been “held for technical reasons”, which meant the audience was sitting there for an additional 25mins before the curtain went up. Now, the audience didn’t know the full reason for the delay, and still doesn’t. But the show was 3hrs 30mins at the best of times, and on this night was closer to four hours — which is a true epic. And it was in its dying days. This must have been excruciating to sit through.

Who gives a damn?

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