Wednesday, 13 June 2012

New Vic

Newcastle-Under-Lyme has been sitting in the programme like a beacon ever since the beginning of the tour - partly because it's our only two-week gig but also because the space is in-the-round - that is, a 360 degree audience experience. For 28 weeks we've been presenting this play end-on and inevitably there are different demands here, and that's why we're up a day early to re-rehearse.
Enough of that for the moment though. It's a very exciting place to be, this theatre. For a start it's a producing house, and they've just come down with their own production of "Far From the Madding Crowd", and there's all the remains of that show still in evidence, including puppet sheepdogs, discarded scripts and rustic costumes loafing around. Plus they're just going into rehearsal for another show, and the cast of three are getting to grips with the text, so there's lots of chatting over coffee during the breaks and so on.
It feels vibrant and involving and everything a theatre should be. The last time I had this experience was working on "Pera Palas" at the Arcola, where "The Silver Birch House" was in production during our rehearsals and club nights would happen in the studio downstairs. The cafe at lunchtime was a hubbub of creatives, with nervous actors awaiting auditons, designers with portfolios and funky haircuts, and directors maniacally gesticulating in the only way they seem capable of getting ideas across. A lot of wannabees used to show up at lunchtime - actors usually, networking madly and getting their faces seen in the vain hope of an audition or job. Great place to be.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Half Term and Three Quarters Done

I'm the only one in the company with children (except Fiz, and her daughters are both in their 20's) - and touring's not a natural environment for them, or a practical one with school. There have been some lucky coincidences with this one though - the Cork week falling on Spring half-holiday, the Easter week off coinciding with the holidays. And our split week in Wales and Chipping Norton means a family holiday can be cobbled together.
Today we managed to drop in on Fi and Kate at Brecon as they did the get-in with the resident tech crew, and since there's an almost limitless number of things to play with in the wings of any theatre, Jake and Molly find plenty to entertain themselves with whilst the work goes on, especially since one of the trophies removed from a recent theatre happens to be a rocking horse. This was, I think, an exchange for a life-sized cut-out of Sarah Michelle Gellar and I know which I would have preferred. As Sue keeps reminding me, though, it's not about me all the time. Jake has a great time showing the resident techies his Hero Factory model, and to be frank they seem just as interested in that than in rigging the show. Well, they are techies...

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Digging Deep

By the law of averages, sooner or later you're going to play a big hall with only a few people in it - especially if you're touring drama in tough times like these. Very occasionally the punters in a situation like that will pull through and actively enjoy the show, but often they won't be fully able to participate in it. Well, at least so the actors can hear them.
Such has been the case in Middlesbrough. It doesn't altogether help that the theatre's nowhere near the heart of the city, but one wonders whether that would have made any difference, as it's pretty much dominated by shopping centres anyway. We open to 33 and that's our biggest house. As I said, tough times.