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.