Covid and Corvid are two very different things. Today I confused them while discussing a group of four old, influential men who would dress in black and wear masks to make them look like various types of bird – crow, jackdaw, magpie and rook. We were outside the Chichester Festival Theatre, at interval, and I was trying to explain the plot of the play The Taxidermist’s Daughter, to Mirinda. Every time I mentioned the Covid Club, she was confused. Reasonably so. Mind you, all four men had masks on.
It was the first inside performance we’ve been to since Diva’s Kabaret in Paris, back in February 2020, which is a horrid length of time to be without live theatre. Inside, at least. We have seen a couple of outside shows which have been brilliant but, given we love live theatre, two years is awful.
The play, adapted by Kate Mosse from her own novel, is, strangely enough, about a taxidermist’s daughter. And the taxidermist. It takes place in Chichester and Fishbourne and a small place called Apuldram which appears to have been washed away in a great storm. The play takes place in 1912. Apuldram is still there.
First, a brickbat.
We both thought the performances, mostly, were a bit flat. That could have been because it was the final matinée and/or because two of the actors had tested positive for Covid (not Corvid) and had to stay home.
Having been a performer, I know how difficult it is to replace actors at a moment’s notice. Not just on the understudy, though it is not easy taking over a role, but also the rest of the cast who are used to a certain set of rhythms.
However, the understudy who took over the role of Crowley Gifford (the taxidermist) was excellent. His name was not in the programme which means he was not in the cast. That makes it even harder. According to an announcement before curtain, he understudied all the male parts.
When Forbes Masson (what a great name) tested positive, Stephen John Davis took over. I don’t know how long ago this was. Then, today, Howard Saddler also tested positive, so Stephen stepped into the part of Gerald White as well.
Stephen has his own website, here. He is quite the accomplished performer. I can see him as Sweeney Todd. Not that he got to sing in The Taxidermist’s Daughter.
And speaking of the person in the title role, Daisy Prosper (another brilliant name) was excellent though I felt sorry for her having to go through the syrupy ending.
However, the real stand out of the cast was the superb Pearl Chanda as Cassie Pine. Haunting with a wonderful voice, she owned the stage every time she entered it.
I can’t not mention the staging, which was amazing. The rain effect was beyond real. I expected the cast to be soaked. And the sea rushing in was also extremely well done. The stage at the Chichester Festival Hall lends itself to imaginative design and this production went all out.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our day out at the theatre.
We followed it up with linner at the White Hart in South Harting (it was on the way home), which was another splendid excursion.
We’ll definitely be doing all that again.