Friday, 11 November 2011

Buxton Autumn

Buxton, meanwhile, is an old friend. I spent a week here in 2005 staying in the house of a woman whose mood swings were so extreme she must have been on HRT. Because there's so much to see, I've been trying to spend more than a few hours here ever since, without success, but at least this time we're here for two nights.
It does seems to be the land of oddball landladies, though. I'm staying with Carol, Anna and Helen in a lodge - a stately, slightly tired house a few minutes out of town. Our landlady has cleared out of the house entirely and is living in the caravan in the drive, which (in a note) she assures us is fine for her because "I have facilities under the verandah". There is also a pungent and delicious smell of frying smoked bacon in the lounge, the origin of which is a mystery.
Anyway, the thing Buxton is famous for is the water, and one of the great delights is filling your bottle at the free fountain which flows directly from the spring - slightly warm because of its volcanic origin.
A Victorian BYOB
I reveal this fact to Malcolm but, tragically, only after he has been to the Co-op to buy some water which has been dragged all the way from Scotland or France or somewhere even more distant. Oops. Shut ma mouth.
The Opera House couldn't be more different from The Landmark. Classic Matcham design, Victorian dressing rooms with elaborate ironwork and thunderbox toilets; and a perpetually manned (or rather womanned) Stage Door, it's a very traditional experience. The rake makes it difficult to maintain your balance as a horse, though, and in the fight call Alan nearly ends up in the pit. We muster 200 on our opening night but that contrives to feel a little sparse, it's such a big room.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


Ilfracombe is - like Huddersfield, Worthing and a few others on our roster - not a place I've not visited before and of course I have preconceptions about it. I'm expecting Weston-Super-Mare but instead I'm delighted to find Padstow without Rick Stein - working harbour, clifftop walks and an absolutely typical and very slightly down-at-heel hotel called the Carlton.
There's nothing conventional about the theatre, though. It's an extraordinary construction, inspired by the bottle kilns which fired the pottery made from the local clay and has the most amazing acoustic I've ever heard;as if the words are being lifted and gently sprinkled around the auditorium.
Madonna's bra, North Devon Coast-style...
I understand it had a bit of a difficult conception, this building, but it really makes a graceful and surprisingly comfortable addition to the landscape. From the warmth of the cafe you can admire the churning Bristol Channel and precipitous cliffs which face it. If that all seems a little tame though, there's an uncomfortable sight a short walk up the cliffs, where this lonely little monument stands:

I'm ashamed to say I can't remember her name, but she was only 14 when she fell.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Triumphant Return of Big Horse

Jamie's back at nearly full fitness. Our audience will therefore be split into those who saw Big Horse and those who saw the version post-injury-pre-recovery. Like Jeremy Northam taking over from Daniel Day-Lewis in "Hamlet", both good but different. The opinion of the cast is pretty united, although our chorus habits (which had developed during the absence) have needed more adjustment than expected. Still, it's good to have the big fella back again.
Since I last posted we've enjoyed some significant landmarks; our biggest audience (360 at Poole opening night) our biggest post-show audience (120 on the same evening) which was also our first one without Michael; and we could give out awards for most distracting ushers, loudest mobile etc but that would be cruel; not least because one venue sweeps the board in practically every category...