If performing on a West-End stage for the first time wasn't daunting enough, I had to perform to a sold-out auditorium of industry figures, theatre critics and honorary guests.
After hearing horror stories about press-nights, and how critics can make or break a show, I was left feeling pretty nervous about performing the principal role of Madeleine Forester (not to mention semi-nude) at the Charing Cross Theatre in 'Bel-Ami' by Alex Loveless.
My performance in the show is graded as part of my degree in Musical Theatre (BA Hons), from The London College of Music (UWL). But this wasn't just an assessment anymore. This was the real deal. A performance to be viewed by industry professionals looking to see a new musical at a West-End standard.
Wow; reality sunk in. I was petrified. After half eating a tub of 'Wasabi' noodles and doing countless breathing exercises I managed to distil the highly-concentrated adrenaline roaming through my body. In a last stitch attempt, Shelbie Stuart (the Actor playing 'Clarice') and I proceeded to pace along the backstage corridors, in role; with the aim of obtaining the elusive lower breath Musical Theatre students dream of. Or is that just me? This also provided a more engrossed level of characterisation. Preparing me perfectly for a secure, confident and driven performance, right?
Wrong. Despite these efforts, my knees decided to ignore my best wishes; resulting in a somewhat shaky start to say the least. I'm can only hope my trembling knees weren't as off putting to the audience as they were to me. I worked harder vocally and physically to overcome these pesky shakes.
Having such a sell-out crowd, hanging onto my last word (that's the hope anyhow!), I discovered new ways of communicating the material. Acknowledging that I was to be understood by such a large mass drove my characters intentions; altering my performance majorly. For the better, in my belief.
With a few technical hitches, for instance the sound stopping entirely for a little while... creating a bizarre and unbearably moment for all involved, especially the actors dealing with the brunt of the glitch on stage. The tension was building backstage at this point of the show. The probability of pausing the performers on stage, and the show itself, until the issue was resolved, was becoming more likely. The head of the College, Sara Raybould, passionately stormed backstage, prepared to freeze the action and remind the audience of the many 'press night technical hitches' that have taken place in the history of Musical Theatre. Despite her passion and preparation, the sound was restored within thirty seconds or so thanks to the efficiency of the crew. The longest 30 seconds of my life. Or so it seemed.
The cast and crew, by the end of the night, felt as if we'd survived some kind of traumatic disaster by simply carrying on with utmost professionalism. The culprit of the technical fault being the double bed being held backstage; causing the wires, providing all sound to the auditorium, being ripped from the monitors. Whoops - naughty bed. But hey! These things are expected. The rest of the show, from my perspective, went as smoothly, on a technical and performance level, as it could have.
As far as press nights go, it wasn't as daunting as I thought it would be. We had a great audience in, I could feel the buzz in the auditorium when performing. It was everything I hoped for and more. During the speech made by Sara at the end of the show, I felt very emotional. I realised the growth of the College and what we have managed to achieve over the last few years as staff and students of a developing degree. I am so proud to be a student at LCM, studying Musical Theatre. We may not be accredited, but we sure have the passion, tutors and talent to receive recognition from the industry. The cast really raised the bar last night, setting a standard for the course and the College as a whole.
The Cast and Crew of LCM Bel-Ami, watch this space.
Stay tuned for an insight into the rest of the run of 'Bel-Ami'.