Ever heard of a 24 hour musical? My first thought was a musical that went on for 24 hours. My friends were in DramaSoc’s ‘Jafar’s Turn’ and asked me to come, and I immediately thought – nah man, need my beauty sleep. Silly me. Turns out 24 hour musical just means that the cast and crew bring the whole musical together in just 24 hours! It’s not a lot of time, so mistakes are made and things go wrong, but it’s all in the name of fun and the audience enjoy it immensely.

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So much so, that I recently decided to get involved in DramaSoc’s annual 24 hour musical. This year, they were putting on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Being talented in neither acting or singing, I volunteered myself to help backstage.

The show was scheduled to begin at 7 pm on Thursday. As such, we assembled in the DramaSoc Theatre at 7 pm on Wednesday, ready to get started. Auditions had already been carried out and the cast were selected, however this was their first time seeing the script or learning the songs. When I arrived at the theatre, they were wasting no time, already in full swing learning their first big number. I had never been backstage in the DramaSoc Theatre before. There’s a number of offices and changing rooms, and then a workshop area where all the sets are made. This is where I would be spending my evening.

Before we could start, we had to clear out to the workshop to make space. We then got started making the backdrop. We drilled thin sheets of wood onto 2 larger sturdy frames, then propped them up and got to work painting them. For this musical, both boards were painted with large bricks to make castle walls. Two doors were made to fit between the walls, and over them was placed a stone arch to complete the scene. Next on the to-do list were props. We needed to build a giant wooden rabbit (to those who’ve seen the film, you’ll remember why), a school of fish, a cow, and some goblets (or ‘grails’, some might call them). The costumes were already put together, but on occasion some stray cast member would come in looking for various supplies to spice up their attire.

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We worked throughout the night to get everything done. Thankfully, a lot of people had volunteered to help out backstage, and we got through things very quickly. DramaSoc had access to the entire Old Student Centre for the night, and everywhere you looked various members of the cast were practising their lines, their dances, their songs. The orchestra had set up upstairs and were tirelessly going through new songs in an effort to memorise them overnight. DramaSoc ordered take-out pizza for everyone in the middle of the night to keep everyone pumped full of energy. In the early hours of the morning, everyone settled down to sleep on any available floor or sofas in the student centre. We got a few hours sleep before being woken up to go put up posters around campus.

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By 7 pm that evening, the sets were complete, and we all gathered in Astra Hall, where the musical was taking place. The cast were going over their lines for the final time, the directors doing a final run through, lighting and sound checking their equipment one last time. The backstage gang were busy trying to find somewhere to hide the grossly oversized rabbit, and finally we managed to shove it half-hidden behind some curtains under the seating. Eventually, the doors were opened to the public, and we settled in to watch the final result. The musical was a great success and the audience were in stitches – fair play to the cast and orchestra for learning their pieces so well and making so few mistakes!

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