Linda Wilson reminisces about her time with the original production of Joyful & Triumphant.
Whenever I’m giving a tour of Circa Theatre I’m often asked what my favourite production has been. The answer is easy: Joyful & Triumphant, which I worked on as Stage Manager, and which took over 5 years of my life from 1992-97. I’m delighted that it’s being re-produced to celebrate Circa’s 40th Birthday.
Earlier this week I watched the DVDs that Bruce Phillips (Ted Bishop) made of the various seasons and tours of that time, and it was lovely to see how gorgeous everyone looked and how cute the children were – my Nina, Jane’s Richard, Grant’s Sasha, Cathy’s Sam, Michele’s Florence, and my baby Maisie who was 8 months old on the London part of the tour. She is now 19 and works at the Box Office in between her studies.
I remember first reading the script on holiday in the Coromandel when it was still called ‘A Family Christmas’ – it was Ginette McDonald who came up with the final title – and I was captivated by the writing. It’s a perfect piece, spanning 40 years in a single Christmas day around a dining-room table. The room is decorated, the table set, the dinner served, then the pudding, and the dishes and decorations all put away. It was quite a business gathering together the over 200 props required.
Grant was the designer (as well as playing a sublime George Bishop) and he & I, in consultation with our wonderful director, Sue Wilson, decided that we would use Willow Pattern as it was used in Grant’s naughty drawing for the poster of Robert Lord’s China Wars. (A copy of the poster will be on display in foyer throughout April). So it is my china which once again graces the set. Grant provided several of the props himself, including the green Beswick vase – once again on loan from Ruth Jeffery, as is the copy of Percy Piwaka’s Christmas by Rose Bishop (designed by Torben Tilly). Dorothy McKegg loaned her cutlery, Christmas napkins and cruet set. A fresh leg of pork was roasted once a week, then reheated each performance to give the wonderful smell as the dinner was brought in, along with roast veggies, peas, gravy and a lovely big salad with tomato roses and sliced egg on top. None of it was eaten, but all cleared away at interval to make way for the pudding.
When we toured New Zealand everything was loaded into a truck – table, chairs, sideboard, Christmas tree, window seat, radiogram & props, and even all the lights. Travelling overseas was a bit different. We tried to source the larger pieces there, but we did take the window seat (made by Grant), which I have kept, and which stores my Christmas decorations. It’s being used again this time.
In London I bought a basket for the leg of lamb that Alice offers for one Christmas dinner from a little antique shop in Islington. Afterwards I carried it back to NZ on the plane along with 8 month old Maisie, and all her paraphernalia. This basket also makes an appearance, and I was delighted to see a similar one being used in one of the period Murder Mysteries on Sunday night TV (an Agatha Christie, I think it was).
I regretfully declined stage-managing this time around – too busy Box Office managing – but the task is in the very capable hands of Deb McGuire, and I know what she and the cast will be going through preparing and serving and cleaning up a Christmas dinner every day for the next 5 weeks. Good luck and best wishes to everyone!