Monday, October 01, 2007

Bastard Prompt

I received the following comment to my Musical Spectacular Post.

"At first I had concerns that the musicians may have drowned out the singers

Now that's close! Love the Witches song".

It occurs to me it is worthy of further explanation because it is not something you always anticipate on an expensive trip to the Theatre. I went to see the Musical South Pacific in London many years ago and was sitting in the front row towards the right. However, all of the Brass instruments were directly in front of us, giving a somewhat unnatural boost to the mix and rather swamping the strings & woodwind. Theatre sound people often get round this by entombing the musicians in the Pit (or sometimes putting them somewhere else entirely) and having a lot of small fill-in speakers along the proscenium edge to counteract the effect of the sound coming from the side.

Now in the days before technology, it was common to put the Stage Manager in the Stage Right corner rather than the normal Stage Left corner for this very reason- so that the act could be heard rather than the Brass. (Possibly there was the need for the Stage Manager to say something to the Musical Director in the event of something going wrong, the standard response was for the MD to say "Shipwreck Chorus Lads" and they would play a holding tune until further notice.) In Theatres, Stage (Actor's) Left Wing is always known as Prompt Side and Stage Right Opposite Prompt, even if the Prompt Corner is in the Opposite Prompt Corner. Many theatres have P.S. and O.P. directional signs backstage, although the less traditional ones have S.L. and S.R.

Now what do you call a Prompt Side that is on Opposite Prompt? Bastard Prompt. I wonder who made that up? Probably a very confused architect. (Some theatres have Bastard Prompts for architectural reasons rather than historic variety house reasons, the usual one being sod all room offstage downstage left).

A memory of a real shipwreck chorus just sprang into my head, from a 18+ Easter Holiday at Caister talent show many years ago when I was acting as Stage Manager. An appalling "Comedy" act was dying on his feet and was insulting the audience in between momentary flashes of potentially getting it together. Eventually the crowd had had enough and so had I. I said Shipwreck Chorus Lads to the Band and closed the Curtains. They knew exactly what I meant and played him off with... The Winker's song (Misprint) by Ivor Biggun. An excellent and inspired choice!


Lord Higham-Johnson said...

I'd give my hook to be a bastard prompt. Prompting bastards has always been my dream.

Shades said...

Is that not the Grand Poobah role? ;->