I’ve spent so much of the past week thinking and talking about Lilia Litviak: Fighter Ace that writing more about it seems like treading over old ground. But still, it’s all over. Maybe three weeks’ of devising and rehearsals, plus learning lines and other organisational activities, all spread over several months, and it’s all gone in two nights.
Thursday evening we arrived at the Colston Hall early, wanting to get some more rehearsal in, knowing that we needed it. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go through the entire play, which meant that the first performance was our first run-through of the thing in the venue. Not ideal. Understandably there was plenty of pre-show tension and friction, but soon the audience was arriving, we’d done what we could and it was time to start.
It’s amazing how quickly the play’s over — I think it was running to about 1 hour 10 minutes in the end. As I’m only on stage for a matter of minutes it’s hard for me to tell how well either performance went. Most people seemed happy with the first night, although we knew it could be better — there were several fluffed lines and a few clunky maneouvres. Personally, I was frustrated as two of my scenes didn’t go quite right, one of which was my fault — unable to hear what was going on I missed my cue to enter, leaving someone stranded on stage alone for way too long.
Still, we were happy, and feeling hugely better about the whole thing than we had 1 hour and 10 minutes earlier. We knew we could get it done, and knew we could do it even better next time. Off to the pub.
Friday we only had a small amount of time to go through a few notes from the night before, and then we were ready to go. Well, I seemed to be rushing about sorting out some ticketing problems that left me feeling a bit flustered and less than ready, but that’s hardly going to jeopardise the play as a whole.
Even from backstage it sounded like the second and final performance was going better — everything seemed to have more energy and actors returning backstage seemed happier with things. Apart from a slight stumble over one of my lines (Jesus, Phil, you have 49 words in the entire play, you’d think you could get them right) everything went smoothly from my point of view, so I was happier too.
I must admit though, at the risk of being a killjoy, I didn’t find the performances as much of a climax as I had expected. This is probably because I’d been busier in rehearsals (operating sound, prompting, standing in for people, taking notes) than I was in the performance itself, in which I had very little to do. I’m hugely impressed with the women, who all had many more lines and much, much more movement to cope with than I did.
To be honest, over the previous two weeks I’d been worried it wasn’t going to work. I was so close to it all that I could only see what wasn’t working and I kept thinking about all the friends who’d paid ten quid and were going to give up their time to watch this thing. It’s so hard to step back a little and look at a play from a fresh perspective and tell if any of it works at all. However, from the feedback after the show, we must have done some things right as plenty of people seemed to have enjoyed it and even been moved. Of course, anyone who hated the experience may have left without saying a word, but I’m hoping they were few and far between.
It is odd to think it’s all over. It felt like we’d just got to the point of making everything work and we had to stop. For now at least. Huge thanks to those who came and lots of luvvy thanks and congratulations to the rest of the cast who made it all work.