Howard Bamforth remembers when the fire alarm went off during a performance of Billy Budd.
Howard: Then the other standout production that I remember of Joseph Ward was Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. And oh my God it makes me cry to even think about that because I think I saw it twice, I must have done, because it was one of my favourite operas. The whole stage was full of young sailors. Of course there’s no women in Billy Budd. The stage had a complete ship and a full navy - it was quite overwhelming. And they had a wonderful young baritone to play the part and I’m sure I saw it at least twice if not 3 times. On one occasion just when Billy is in chains and singing his lament because he knows he’s going to be hanged and he’s wondering what it’d be like to go on to the water, what will happen. And he’s there in chains and the fire alarm went off in the RNCM theatre. It’s never happened like that before but I don’t know if Gerald and Joan were there – they probably were but I certainly remember it and the singing actor was doing such a wonderful performance, it was actually world class – and he just lifted his chains and threw them on the stage and walked off. He wasn’t chained to the floor literally because he had to get off but he went off in a huff and we all had to evacuate. We were outside for 20 minutes then we were allowed back in and they announced that they were going to start again from the beginning of that scene. The curtain rose and he was there waiting to repeat this wonderful aria. Can you imagine the standing ovation at the end of that. It was one of those things that I’ll never forget.