Sunday, 29 April 2012

Stalking Horse

There's been some right odd happenings this week at the wonderful Belgrade Theatre. On Wednesday matinee there were disturbances in the auditorium resulting in shouts of "I'll smash your bloody face in!", closely followed by someone being ejected. A day later someone tried to invade the stage but was tackled by the FOH staff and removed, whereupon he said that he wanted to give one of the actors a present. He wouldn't be drawn on which actor and he refused to leave the present with FOH to be passed on.
And then Matt gets his stalker. Facebook really has taken all the tedious investigative part out of stalking - this fella just messaged with a fairly innocuous question, Matt replied and bingo! Half a dozen messages offering rides on the chap's horse asking questions about the meaning of ha-ha (as if it wasn't obvious enough from the show).
The worst that's ever happened to me was the hand-drawn picture that was sent to my agent, but that was rather charming if I'm honest. Anyway, I'm too old to get obsessional attention from people really, although perhaps I'll be the first person to get a silver stalker, you never know.  

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Boys

It's Stuart's birthday today. I expect birthdays are an odd thing when you're travelling (I wouldn't know - my birthday is always a few days after a tour finishes), not least because the only time when we're all together to mark the occasion is during the warm-up when it's not exactly logical to start eating cake. Logical or not, though, we do it anyway.
There's been an admirable restraint on the horse-related merchandise front lately. It was Jo's birthday a few weeks ago - a significant one between 39 and 41 - and not one pair of jodhpurs changed hands. I do think we're missing an opportunity here though, I mean Jameson whiskey is very nice and all that but there's a bottle of White Horse on the shelf just screaming to be bought.
Anyway, it occurs to me that I talk about these fellas a good deal but you can't put faces to them, so here's a picture of us resplendent in wife-beaters, auditioning for the new Yorkshire-based boy-band Vestlife.
from left - Malcolm, Jamie, Stuart, me and Matt. For shame.

Friday, 20 April 2012

There Was An Aul Fella From Oxford...

The road from Waterford is peppered with towns which are famous for one reason or another. Wexford and Cashel are where the cheeses come from; Tipperary is where the sweetest girl I know comes from; and Limerick is where the five-line poem comes from. Well, it may be.
 It’s definitely where Frank McCourt, author of “Angela’s Ashes” came from. I haven’t read the book or seen the film, but Lameys House, where rooms in the McCourt family home have been recreated by Onah Heaton, gives a strong sense of the incredible poverty and hardship of 1930’s Limerick. The building used to be the school where young McCourt studied until he was 13 - the walls are covered in maps where Yugoslavia is still a country; a dunce’s table faces the corner of the room; and a thin, springy can lies ominously on the teacher’s desk . As I leave Onah gives me a fragment of the building as a souvenir and I muse that, apart from the work, seeing gems like this is what touring is all about.
And that respectable middle-aged ladies say “feck” and awful lot in Limerick.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Among The Heathen

The trouble starts during the first half - a noisy radio playing the Irish equivalent of Radio 1 somewhere in the vicinity but so loud as to be clearly and irritatingly audible on stage. Malcolm, who's dialogue is most affected, soldiers on though. After a while I sense that we're not all on stage any more and I realise Jamie has gone off into the wings, and for a moment I wonder if he's been stricken by a stomach bug and been sick.
As we leave the stage after Big Horse we find there's a mechanic in the lane behind the theatre working under a car with a deafening radio playing, and he's completely impervious to any persuasion from Jamie, Stuart, me or ultimately Kate to turn it down. It's extraordinary. He just stonewalls us. Various strategies occur to us to silence this infuriating noise, from releasing the car jack to appealing to his pocket, all of which we discard and instead perform the second act with the disturbance. Oddly, silence falls shortly before the stable scene so Matt and Helen aren't forced to disrobe to the strains of Coldplay. Perhaps he has some artistic feelings. Or maybe his dinner was getting cold.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


We’ve returned to Ireland for a week, which involves ferries, rented cars and an awful lots of miles. It’s very odd being back after some time in the UK, and there are parts of Waterford which look almost like the continent so the effect is doubly disorientating.
Jamie and I have been here before with Abigail’s Party, and although the Garter Lane Theatre has to be the most hidden-away and poorly signposted theatre on this tour, it attracts a very respectable audience indeed. And not only that but responsive and warm. In fact if there’s one word which describes Irish audiences (in my experience) it’s warm. I meet a man in the supermarket the next day and he greets me like an old friend, completely wrong-footing me, until I realise he saw the show and wants to talk about it. At length. This willingness to engage in the arts spontaneously and regardless of environment is not uncommon, and it's a wonderful thing. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

What Might Have Been?

Richmond, where last night’s anaesthetic wine came from, is a really beautiful market town and having nothing really to do except go to another Travelodge later today, we go for lunch. Instead of lunch, we find the most gorgeous and oldest surviving Georgian theatre in the UK. The entire building is less than 9m wide and the interior is largely untouched, including some original paintwork and restored mechanisms for raising footlights and operating trapdoors. Apparently “Equus” was slated to play here today and tomorrow at some stage, and we can only imagine how extraordinary it would have been to work in this incredibly intimate space. You can literally reach the back row with a whisper.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Saddle Sore

There’s a freshness about the show since we got back after the Easter break. Not that it was getting stale, you understand, but after eight weeks on the road including 5 weeks in Ireland without any time at home I think we were all in need of a little R&R.
The Travelodge is a staple of the one and two night touring week, and before next week’s jaunt to Ireland we’re in four of them. We arrive at Scotch Corner in the late evening and, without being cruel, a motorway Travelodge is best taken with a substantial slug of wine so Fiz and I get some in before we check in. The lady on reception mistakes our arriving together for a more intimate relationship, but it takes us a while to catch on. This happens quite often, and the trick is to put the situation straight whilst not suggesting that the mistake is a ridiculous one. It’s a complicated manoeuvre. What’s more bizarre is that the receptionist’s FIRST name is Dineen, so if she and I were romantically involved she’d be called Dineen Dineen. This is, if anything, rather less likely than Fiz and I getting hitched.