Shrewsbury School

A Week in the Life of Gus Haynes (O UVI)

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Gus Haynes played the role of Antonio in the School’s production of What You Will – which was staged for a full and enthusiastic audience at the Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music in London last weekend.

Gus had received some excellent press during the Edinburgh run.  ‘Gus Haynes as Antonio is sincere and faultless, and his vocal performance is possibly the best of the piece,’ wrote one reviewer. Whilst another described his performance ‘emotionally charged…. for once it didn't seem oddly under-developed. Gus Haynes's solo brought shivers to my spine.’

Here he describes what it was like to be on the road again.

Gus Haynes 'Antonio' in dress rehearsalDay One: 3rd January 2012
It was a year and a half ago that we first began rehearsing for What You Will, another Fanning and Moore musical, and their last collaboration, and it amazes me that even though it took virtually a whole term to get the first performances up to scratch, it only took three hectic days in Shrewsbury to do the same last week. It was particularly exciting to resume work on the musical after our successful (and stressful) stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, especially as I hadn’t seen much of the cast (those in last year’s Upper Sixth) since then. I travelled up from home in the morning through driving rain and gale force winds and was greeted by the familiar sight of Messrs Fanning and Moore directing practices that were already in full swing. It was wonderful to catch up and have a chat before Mr Fanning launched us into another round of singing and choreography, although I could tell that the director sensed a definite lack of focus - which there certainly was!

Day Two: 4th January 2012
Despite the fact that the first day of practice was beset by seemingly endless waves of giggles and tomfoolery, progress was being made, as we had all had the songs ingrained into our memories the previous summer before the Fringe; for most of us it was like riding a bike. However, there were a few new faces in the chorus and band, as well as the absences of others. Nevertheless, it was a joy to revisit the various shanties, sword-fights and heart-rending duets that What You Will brings. Having gained several five-star reviews from the Fringe, the solid professionalism of the production was bound to show up eventually, for fits of laughter still seemed to be somewhat prevalent; we were all striving to stave off the giggles every time the line “I exposed myself” came along! Fortunately a semblance of maturity began to form as we realised just how much pressure we were under. After all, this was the last Fanning and Moore production ever, and so we would need to dig deep in order to do those reviews justice.

Day Three: 5th January 2012
More giggles. They simply kept coming, an issue that was particularly serious as a camera crew had arrived to film a DVD of the musical. Fortunately Will [Hunter] had kept himself in remarkably good order, as it had been his 18th birthday celebration the night before, an event which, sadly but also sensibly, we were forbidden from attending - Mr Fanning’s orders! Although there were several different takes for various scenes, I hope that Moore’s music will be captured on the screen (if you’ll pardon the cliché) in as magical a way as it deserved to be, and we retired to Churchill’s, with instructions to take rest and be punctual for the coach to London at 11:30 the next morning.

Setting up in the Britten TheatreDay Four: 6th January 2012
The realisation that we would be performing in just over 24 hours’ time dawned on us as we stepped onto the coach bound for London, and after several rather uncomfortable hours, we arrived in Kensington at Baden-Powell House, where we would spend that night. After dropping our bags off at the hostel, we performed a rapid turnaround and marched straight to the Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music, where we were finally greeted with our venue. Despite getting lost several times in the labyrinthine depths of the Royal College of Music, and being daunted at first, several practices allowed us to become acquainted with the theatre and its new dimensions, and as the seemingly tireless technical crew had arrived there earlier, there was no need for another of the exhausting get-ins that had faced us daily in Edinburgh. We were set for our final dress rehearsal, which went altogether smoothly (although those mischievous giggles did make a brief appearance). With strict orders to comport ourselves with restraint that night, we retired to the hostel to get some much-needed rest.

Day Five: 7th January 2012
The big day had arrived, and after a breakfast of astronomical proportions I felt as ready as I would ever be for what lay ahead, and after evacuating the hostel by 10am we hastened to the theatre for some last-minute practice. After endless sound and lighting checks we were set to perform, and so after an emotionally-charged pep talk from Mr Fanning (although he probably wouldn’t want me to mention the tears that were shed) and an explosive warm-up from Mr Moore, we took to the wings and steeled ourselves for the matinée. The audience of 80 was smaller than those we had played to at the Fringe, but nevertheless it had to be one of, if not the best performance of What You Will we had done. Despite much applause and congratulations the trial was not over yet, and after a quick meal with the family (still with my make-up on so I caught a few odd looks), I returned to the theatre for round two. The adrenaline was now truly pumping. We knew that we were performing in front of a capacity audience, and nerves began to shred as the auditorium filled. With baited breath we huddled in the wings, the lights came down, the band began playing and we strode on for the first scene.

The performance was, from our perspective at least, flawless. I hope Messrs Fanning and Moore thought so too, as it was their last hurrah, the stunning conclusion to their tenure that has spanned almost twenty years! The comments after the show were utterly praising of Mr Moore’s composition and Mr Fanning’s direction, varying from wishes for a recorded album to a tour of the USA! As members of the cast, we felt enormously privileged at having been selected for the Fanning-Moore Hail Mary, and especially to have been able to perform in such a distinguished and exclusive venue. The 18 months we have spent on this masterpiece have certainly been an adventure, with friendships made experiences shared, and although he isn’t gone yet, we all wish Mr Fanning a very happy retirement! After he’s helped with the house play of course - his work is never done!

The Royal College of Music

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