Preparing the 2012 season- and not so nice Nice

This year the three plays for the Festival are Richard lll, directed by Lindsay Posner with the extraordinary Jay Whittaker as Richard, As You Like It and Inherit the Wind, directed by Adrian Noble. I started work on them in late October, 2011, knowing there would be a big hiccup [there was] while I went to Nice to do The Abduction from the Seraglio for Opera de Nice, directed by Ron Daniels, of which more later – possibly, [it was not a fun experience, despite the beauty of both the town and the theatre]

 Actually, why not now? I need to scan in a few more drawings before I can complete the Globe blog anyway.
Here are quotes from some emails.
To Amanda, my agent.
The full story is too long for an email, but the situation at the moment is that the crazy beaurocracy of this theater. They have basically driven the excellent costume supervisor/head of costume out by heavy handed commissioning tactics, leaving her undermined. There is an awful lot of mad French pride going on with neither side wanting to back down. I’m going to have a go with the technical director in a bit, but it is very risky to be expected to get this thing on stage without a proper head of costume or assistant. Mmm.
To Jane Dodgson, Jan 9th
Nice opera is being very heavy going indeed. Frinton rep as run by a very dodgy  town council, one is initially blinded by the great beauty of the theatre [and the town] itself, but Eyes have been Opened! Thank God there are only 6 principals in Seraglio, doing Boris or Prince Igor would swiftly bring on complete nervous collapse.
 From Robert Drake…
“So nice to know we’re nicer than Nice.
Or perhaps we’ll put this quote on the production office door:
“…a haven of efficient tranquility…” – D. Clancy Steer”
Jan 11th 2012

”It really has been most peculiar here, it’s a lovely town, and the most beautiful late 19th C Opera House, but it hides a level of chaos and mismanagement quite unique in my long experience. I’ve moaned to you all separately so won’t go on too much, suffice it to say that yesterday evening we had a Technical Dress Rehearsal, in which the 60something costumes in the show were represented by 1 x1/3rd finished turban, [hastily covered by me with a bit of old chiffon to hide the fluffy padding] and a veil, o and a couple of pairs of shoes – and about 1/4 of the props.

And nobody seemed to care much or think it peculiar!! Aaaaagh

Ron, who had got in a strop because he didn’t like his lunch has been remarkably calm under the circumstances.

The new Artistic director isn’t here, he’s in Washington, or possibly Vienna, so there is no one actually in charge, and the head of costume made a bolt for London at the end of last week. Apparently Marseilles, another town hall run House, is worse.

Apart from that there have been some good moments. Jane Dodgson, [who thinks Nice is run by an especially incompetent cell of the Corsican Mafia] suggested that I visited the Chagall Museum -Where I spent the most life-enhancing 2 hours since I’ve been – it’s wonderful. It’s not that I’m was a huge fan of the paintings, though they do grow on you, they just shine with such light and goodness of spirit, and most unusually, the film that they showed In the museum was great, really interesting. What a lovely man! I was also much inspired that he was up ladders well into his 70s painting opera house ceilings and doing stained glass windows and huge mosaics. Died aged 97 at home in St Paul de Vence, paint brush in hand!

Also a fine sunset from the ruins overlooking the bay, then to a little baroque church in a side street which had the most spectacular nativity crib. Maybe 70 beautifully made little folk and animals, many of which moved. There was a man shoeing his donkey, another shearing sheep, a woman endlessly stirring her soup, sheep looking round, and Mary raising and lowering the Baby’s blanket, even a fish that popped out of its pond. Then a projected angel flew jerkily across the sky, pursued by the star. A delight, and I thought I had seen enough creches in that hilltop village to last a life-time. Discovered one St Rita, who is apparently handy to have on your side as she is patron of Hopeless causes and impossible cases. Don’t know if she carries much clout in the theatre though.

The band is in for the 1st time tonight, always cheering, and I have been promised quite a lot of frocks tomorrow. Mustn’t get too excited.“

To cap it all I re-damaged my already bashed knee. It completely packed up when in the Cocteau Museum in Menton – totally – no use at all. Husband and helpful chap carried, me to the front of the museum and I ended up being carted off to Menton hospital with 4 exceptionally  nice para-medics in an ambulance. Where The knee was xrayed and I was sent home with prescriptions for pain-killers a huge splint and crutches.
The rest of Maxwell’s time with me was memorable as the apartment was so noisy and uncomfortable that sleep was almost impossible. We were over an Irish Pub, where drunken folk roared round the street from 2am till 4, then the waiters in the restaurant opposite started clanking out the tables at 6.30, and soon after builders started drilling in the basement!
I can recommend traveling “disabled” though, people are so nice and helpful that it’s tempting to carry on when you’ve recovered.
After all that, the show was a great success…..

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