Monday, June 02, 2008

The Apprentice Concert Manager

With two weeks to go until our Hungarian Dances concert-of-the-book, I've somehow acquired a whole new respect for concert managers. Meanwhile I've got hooked on The Apprentice. So here, with apologies to Sir Alan Sugar, the BBC and the French language, is a little JDCMB take on the proceedings...

(Prologue: darkness: Jess asleep, feverishly tossing and turning...)

Voice-over: One book. One concert. One CD. One chance only. Four people are coming to South Kensington to make their dream come true: the awesome uniting of fiction and music. But to bring this dream to fruition, these artistic celebrities must learn to work together, even if they are married...

(Morning. Phone rings. Dishevelled Jess answers.) Disembodied secretary voice: Sir Alan would like you to meet him at Queen's Gate Terrace. The car will be there in half an hour.

(Queen's Gate Terrace: masterclass in full swing under the chandeliers).
Sir Alan: This beautiful salon is in the heart of musical London, two minutes from the Royal Albert Hall. You want to make a recording, but you need to raise some capital to back it. This place seats 110 people and offers a top-notch series of recitals and masterclasses. Here is your task: you're going to put on a concert. The one who makes the most money wins. Of the rest, one of you will get fired.

Jess, Tom, Philippe and Claire: Yes/oui, Sir Alan.

(Cut to: JDCMB home base: much activity, with Solti getting underfoot. Jess designing flyer on computer, Tom taking memory stick to Prontaprint.)

Claire: J'ai des concerts a Paris. A bientot!
Philippe: J'ai des concerts a New York. A bientot!
Tom: It'll soon be Glyndebourne.
Administrator: What a lovely idea your concert is. Have you decided what you'd like to do about catering?
(Fatalistic fanfare) Jess (shocked): Catering?!

(Music: signature tune to the latest Nigella Lawson series)
(Cut to: Jess in supermarket, selecting ready-made canapes. Cut to: Jess & Tom at home, eating them.)
Tom: Yuck.
(Cut to: Jess in Budapest, musing over menus and buying the Gundel Cookbook. Then discovering she got the wrong one and it's all in Hungarian.)

(Cut to: Jess at the gym. Enter Friendly Caterer on the next machine)
Friendly Caterer: We could do cold cherry soup in espresso cups!
(Dreamscene: guests tippling from espresso cups, spilling pink gloop on beautiful wooden floor...)
Friendly Caterer: Have you thought about Hungarian wine?
(Cut to: Jess bringing home Hungarian white wine from supermarket, sampling it, then doubling up with heartburn.)
Philippe: I 'ave to practise. A bientot!
Tom: I'd better learn those Bartok Duos.
Jess: At least I don't have to play the bloody piano.

(Cut to: Tom practising. Cut to: Philippe practising. Cut to: Claire practising. Cut to: Jess on phone to publisher.)
Publisher: Very nice, dear, sorry we can't help to pay for it. By the way, why is your next manuscript so late?

(Cut to: Jess putting a post advertising the concert on JDCMB. Cut to: email from famous singer requesting ticket. Cut to: date - 1 April.)

(Music: The Beatles, With a little Help from my Friends)
(Cut to: Tom wheeling and dealing around the Festival Hall, the supermarket, the train, Glyndebourne and the dentist. Cut to: concert bookings spreadsheet, numbers rising)
(Cut to: Jess doing mass emailing. Replies arrive: "great, two comps please.")
(Cut to: Jess on phone to Philippe, conversation inaudible but cartoon images flying around of weeping Pound signs being eaten alive by grinning Euros with blood-stained teeth.)
(Cut to: concert promotion in Hungarian Cultural Centre brochure. Cut to inbox: email arrives - in Hungarian.)
(Cut to: Jess rips up cover and experiments with different titles. English Dances. Italian Operas. French Letters.)

(Cut to: Philippe and Tom rehearsing Bartok Duos.)
Tom: Blimey, he's amazing!
Jess: So are you, darling.
Tom: I've sold loads of tickets. What about you?
Jess: Erm, I've sold some.
(Cut to email from famous singer, who is not an April Fool joke after all, requesting another ticket.)
Tom: I'm going to get that job with Sir Alan, and sod the rest of you! Just wait until we get into the boardroom...
Solti: Meow.
Philippe: J'ai des concerts en Afrique-du-Sud. A bientot!
Friendly Caterer: Is there anywhere to park in South Kensington?
Tom: Maybe we can sell copies of your book and make a donation to the project from the sales.

(Cut to: Jess on phone to warehouse)
Warehouse manager: Congratulations! The Hungarian Dances hardback has sold out.
Jess: But I've only got one copy left! And I'm going to have an audience of 100 people - and no books?!
Publisher: Very nice, dear. Rather than reprinting the hardback, we'll print the paperback early.
Jess: Oh, that's so wonderful of you, I'm terribly grateful, you are wonderful lovely people.
Publisher: No problem, dear. We should receive copies on 19 June...
(Cut to: Jess staring at concert date, which is 17 June. Cut to: Jess trawling Internet for cheap copies of own book.)
Publisher: We'll find some somewhere, don't panic... By the way, why is your next manuscript so late?
Jess (running in circles, flapping arms): Don't panic, don't panic! Help!
Solti: Meow?!

(Cut to: The candidates assemble at Sir Alan's office. Ominous woogly Apprentice music.)
Sir Alan's secretary: You can go through to the boardroom now. (Cut to: the boardroom.)
Sir Alan: Philippe and Claire, you're great musicians. You can go back to the house.
Philippe and Claire: Merci, Sir Alain. A bientot!
Sir Alan: So...Tom and Jessica...Today one of you will get fired. Who's sold the most tickets, Margaret?
Margaret: Tom has, Sir Alan.
Sir Alan: Tom, well done. How did Jessica bear up through the task?
Tom: Sir Alan, my wife means well, but to be honest, Sir Alan, selling is just not her cup of tea. She's only a writer. I've been left with doing all the hard work while she sits in her study making up stories. Everything that's been good in this task is down to me, and (sob) I have to play second violin on the night, too!
Sir Alan: Jessica, give me a good reason why I shouldn't fire you.
Jess (defensive): Sir Alan, I devised the concept, which is totally unique, I've made a four-page script out of a 400-page book, I worked out the programme as a team with Philippe, I've found a caterer who for an excellent price can transform soupy, stewy Hungarian cuisine into finger-food, I've found a good wine deal, and none of this would even be happening if I hadn't written the book. I believe at the end we will have a package that will be immensely attractive to the public. It has total artistic integrity. And only we could have done this - as the special team that we are.
Sir Alan (shaking head): And do you think you'd last even two minutes in my organisation? You haven't got a bloody clue. (points finger) Jessica, you're -

(Cut to: Jess sits bolt upright in bed, gasping and sweating: it was all a dream...)
Solti: Prr.

HUNGARIAN DANCES: THE CONCERT OF THE NOVEL is at 49 Queen's Gate Terrace on 17 June, 7 for 7.30. Booking details here.