Sunday, 4 September 2011

So long, farewell... - Week 6

            I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, did my morning press-ups and plodded to the shower. Monday definitely came around again all too quickly - despite my excellent efforts at resting on the Sunday passed.
            I ate, dressed, brushed my teeth and used the wonderful walk along the Eastbourne seaside to blow the many overlapping cobwebs from my mind. It's strange to think that we've only a week left here. I really have gotten quite attached to the place. The familiarity and easy, slow-paced nature of the town have been a lovely little tonic from the bustle of our great capital. I suppose, in a more nostalgic sense, I've been reminded of home.
            When I reached the studios, the cast swapped hellos and tales of our varying days off. The four of us that saw Saturday night into the early hours, giggled like school children at our antics and gleefully recalled the night's events to anyone that would listen. Al said that he doesn't remember it being as poetic as I described it in last week's blog, but admits that that could be tinged by the memory of being numb from the cold.
            Unfortunately none of them were in possession of my long lost pants. The stage door was also, without sign of them.

            As the other actors got on with the final scene of the play (skipping a few due to our beloved Arthur being at home opening his local fete) Seb, and I waited for our entrance. The schedule was rather off though and we ended up sitting about for a good hour and a half. I used the time to go through the script and check my lines. I found myself laughing as I uttered a line, to be echoed by Seb, browsing the web on his laptop, exclaiming at the prices of second hand caravans. By the end though, I realised, rather chipperly that I knew them all. Some, more secure than others, but some of the scenes we haven't even touched yet, so...

            When we were called in to join the scene, we moved at pace to get things set. As Al was in the scene, giving his Orsino, Chris was in the driving seat, directing. The end of Sir Andrew's life in the play is very sad. Having been fleeced by Sir T and ignored by Olivia, he enters the scene, in search of help for his dear friend whom - offstage in a phantom scene - has been battered by Sebastian (thought by everyone to be Cesario ((Viola))). After Toby rants at the congregation, Andrew caringly stands by him and says, proudly, "I'll help you Sir Toby, because we'll be dressed together."

            What happens next is the car crash of their relationship. Toby humiliates Sir A in front of everyone. He declares him useless, a "gull faced knave" and leaves him and the stage, with Andrew stood, a shell, with no one to turn to. He ends the play as he begins it - alone.
            It is with his exit, sadly, that the happiness of the play, flourishes.
            In the afternoon, Seb, Lucy and I worked with Craig on Act 1 Scene 3, as we haven't looked at it since the beginning of last week.

           In the evening, we all made good use of our free evening to do as little as possible.
            I woke, on Tuesday feeling far better rested. I was called in for some 'spear holder acting', playing as a Sailor in the background of the first Viola scene.
            Donovan has managed to find the two of us some last-minute digs for Bracknell which is a plus - we're not allowed to use the kitchen/or the washing machine - and have the pleasure of paying £95 each for the inconvenience. I'd love to say that I'll learn the lesson because of this, but, two previous tours have already proven that that is unlikely to happen...

            Over lunch, Shiv and I sat in her dressing room and listened to music. It's amazing how much time I find myself able to babble on about the musicians that I adore. Luckily, I was in similarly minded company.
            An hour of tunes passed, I went back to the house to catch up on the progress of the Libyan crisis. Nothing seems to have progressed much.
            I went over my lines for the afternoon's rehearsal of the first 'challenge' scene, where Aguecheek encounters a befuddled Viola. The scene turned out to be a challenge in itself. Mostly because of the fact that it's a very long scene and as with all long scenes, need a fair bit of prescriptive blocking.
            We also had to contend with the fairly common theatrical problem of curbing the script to suit our own means. Or - more specifically - adapting our version of the script to comply with the budget. The Original Theatre Company is not alone in this endeavour, and does remarkably well to hide the issue. For instance, in the scene, in an ideal world, every character would be equipped with swords, however, in our production, that simply cannot be the case, so we must adapt what we are doing in order to make the story work. Not always easy - but essential to our show.
            In the evening's show, we were playing to an again, increased percentage and were told at one point that we'd had 50+ walk-ups. This, alas proved false, but we were still playing to a lovely crowd and far more than were booked at the end of last week. It just goes to prove that word of mouth - even in the age of hyper dyper broadband and wibble wobble nano-tech - still counts for something.
            I went shopping on Wednesday. My sister and her boyfriend came to see the show in the evening and are leaving the UK next week to embark on a 10-month tour of the world. So, I thought it only appropriate to get them both a little something to take with them. I went into umpteen jewellers’ looking for the right thing before I found one of Eastbourne's only independent shops. I still had to contend with an incompetent saleswoman; "I need something durable. It needs to weather well and not be too flashy."
            "How about this nice glittery necklace...?"
            I found the right thing in the end though - a 'his' and 'hers' leather bracelet. I then spent the rest of the day trying to avoid the thought of having to actually give them to them.
            The matinee performance was again (dare I say it?) enjoyable and we were lucky enough to be graced with a fairly large, enthusiastic audience.
            My lines were however all over the place and I finished the show in a terrible grump
            I also spent the free moments of the show trying to finish writing a letter to the leaving two which I fear didn't help matters. Especially when crying in the dressing room before a scene...
            I met with them both after the show and took them down to the beach as we indulged in the matinee swim club. It was also Lucy's birthday, who came down to the sea to join us but (by the time I had arrived) had been in and already come out swearing never to step foot into it again.

            After the evening performance, we all met in the buccaneer for birthday drinks and spent the night celebrating in typical frivolity. Hopefully the birthday girl had a nice time. Especially after the rather prolonged 'surprise' birthday cake presentation...

            My sister (through my encouragement) enlightened the cast into her latest piece of travelling equipment; a 'she-wee'; a device that enables a lady to pee standing up (apparently some toilet's in the east are not to be trusted. It was worth hearing the explanation just to see the Cuckoo squirm.
            Ipso facto: I'm cruel.
            When we finally left the pub, I was faced with the goodbye to end all goodbyes.
            I didn't fare too well.
            That being said, it's not easy for a big brother to let go of his baby sister.
            Nor was it.
            Ell and Mike, I love you both and am going to miss you horrendously. You're going to have a ball though, so don't waste a single second!
            Thursday I woke feeling very puffy-eyed. All the weeping the night before, probably didn't help...
            I was tired and had a big day ahead of me.
            We rehearsed nearly every Sir T and Sir A scene, but spent most time working on the 'box-tree' scene. We made tons of progress on it. It is a scene that takes and would always take a lot of detail and rehearsal - which makes it very tough - but will end up being one of the best scenes of the entire play.
            Lucy Pankhurst (our choreographer) was also in to do more work on the movement pieces. When I got round to working with her it was towards the end of the day on the 'catch'. We were all exhausted, but, thanks to our resilient team of actors and Lucy's notable choreographic talent, we continued our work and made real progress on the stuff we already had.

            The evening show was tough. The audience was rather quiet and I was exhausted. By the sounds of things so was everyone else. I don my cap to Alastair, who noticing this, decided to push the following day's rehearsal's back till 11:00am, to give us a recuperative lie-in. Cuckoo, you did good. And we all greatly appreciated the gesture.
            You are still a Cuckoo though.
            I unfortunately didn't benefit much from the lie in and woke (in the middle of a dream involving the Original Theatre Company, a pantomime and Beyonce Knowles...) feeling even groggier than I did before. This was not helped by the first scene of the day - THE BOX TREE!!!
            Things went a lot smoother than they had done the day before and we also had the opportunity to realise the moments that we remembered and those that we didn't... No comment.
            We got through it though and got to the end of the scene able to breath a huge sigh of relief at the hurdle we've collectively jumped. Arthur in particular leaped his way over, nailing what is an enormous monologue.
            I was kept hanging round for a few hours in the afternoon, waiting to rehearse the final scene of the play, but alas, wasn't needed.
            I returned to the studios late in the afternoon for an ominously titled, 'Company Meeting'. It turned out to be nothing more than an admin session before we arrived in Bracknell and a briefing for our final night in Eastbourne, i.e. cleaning crap from the dressing rooms and organising our costumes in an orderly manner for Jess and the get-out.

            After the meeting, David, Shiv and I took advantage of the free time before the show and went for a bonus swim in the sea. The waters were calm, the sun, bright but accompanied by a gentle chilly breeze, which, collectively proved the perfect tonic for a day, pent up in a badly lit studio room. 
            On our way back to the theatre, we mused over the fact that after Saturday, we'd be land-locked until we returned to Eastbourne in November... This moment was promptly broken by us witnessing a woman in the front of a car, jingling a bell, for her parrot's amusement, in a cage, on her front passenger seat...
            Only in Eastbourne.
            The evening show was packed full. In large part thanks to Pete, who, noticing that we had a rather small audience booked, suggested that we invite a load of local charities with free tickets. It worked and we got a chance to perform to a theatre-full of very appreciative people.
            Mid-way through the show, there was a tannoy announcement from Garreth asking to keep the noise down in the backstage corridor. No one was in fact in the corridor. The guilty culprits were myself, Seb and Leo, trying to watch the England/Bulgaria game in one of the upstairs dressing rooms.
            We won.
            We were happy.
            We 'pubbed' it after the show.
            Before the matinee on Saturday, I leant a valuable lesson in life, compliments of Rachel 'Ducky' Donovan (that's right, Rach has an animal name too); namely, how to hang clothes on a washing line. She looked at me incredulously as I started pinning up my briefs and shirts - doing nothing out of the ordinary, I thought - and showed me how 'normal people' do it.

The touch tour getting hands-on
            I arrived at the theatre early in the afternoon to take part in a 'Touch Tour' of the set. It involved a group of deaf and blind audience members being taken around the set before the show to touch the props, actors and costumes. I can honestly say that it was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. The appreciation of such wonderfully kind people, for doing nothing more than meeting them and giving up a half-hour of our time was frankly humbling. I only hope that they enjoyed the show and thank them all for making my day that little bit more special.

            Just before 'the half', Chris collected us on the stage to give us our final notes before kicking off the tour. He gave out specific ones, but there was one that I found particularly good:
            "You all have to make allowances for the 10th member of the cast (the audience), who is unreliable and hasn't learnt their lines as well as you have."
            Brilliant and like all decent statements, says a thousand things in one.
            After the matinee, we had our final meeting of the Matinee Swim Club, with our largest contingent yet. (Hazel the dog included)
            We then performed our last show in Eastbourne.

            I'm going to miss the place. We've spent six weeks here now and had a bloody brilliant time. The theatre and their staff have been a joy to work with, and the sea - well - "I think I'm going to miss you most of all".
            We'll remember our time here very fondly and we're all looking forward to our return at the beginning of November, performing Twelfth Night.
            In the meantime... we have a tour to begin!


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