oatcakes and pilchards. At least, those are the two items mentioned in the
libretto of Peter Maxwell Davies' opera The Lighthouse. As the Assistant Stage
Manager in charge of props, food preparation falls into my domain, but I'll
admit I did enlist the help of fellow ASM Ginger Castleberry when plating the
most pungent of the fish.
We learned from our British director Tim
Albery, British conductor, David Angus, and Canadian designer Camillia Koo that
oatcakes are a familiar sight in English and Canadian grocery stores, but they
were not as easy to find in Boston. A specialty shop in Harvard Square carried
some, but finally, our props master ordered the preferred brand online for us to
use for the show.
The creative team wanted to stay faithful to the story
and have the singers eat real pilchards (canned fish), so we brought a variety
of sardines to try. Packed in oil? Too messy. Packed in water? Just as smelly.
With mustard? Didn't help the appeal. After a couple rounds of deli meat cut in
strips stage management hoped would pass as pilchards, the winner was canned
chicken - a little bit flaky like fish and moist enough to be palatable for the
singers to eat between lines in the opera.
Wash it all down with water
dyed brown to look like tea (most performers don't like to drink caffeine during
a show), and you've got a balanced lighthouse meal. Don't forget to save some
for the rats!