In the last three weeks I have seen more of the English country side than I have in all my twenty five years, and slept through acres more. On our quest to make French fun the cast and crew of Dreampark’s ‘Bienvenue a Paris’ have toured from Tunbridge to Taunton and from Illminster to the Isle of Man. We have eaten school dinners from a multitude dining rooms(not canteens; I was corrected by one receptionist) and erected our Tricolore flag backdrop in cramped primary school assembly rooms and fully functioning theatres. It’s been an absolute whirlwind, and I can honestly say that my first experience of touring has been utterly brilliant, if exhausting.
Now, I know I said what goes on tour stays on tour, but all I’ve done for the past three weeks has been this tour so… it’d be a pretty dull blog if I just told you what I’d eaten for breakfast (hot pot, as it happens!) Whilst in some ways the days seem to have got a little blurry and merged into one long van journey, there have definitely been some memorable moments over the last few weeks.
For one; being quite literally taken to one side, during a scene, five minutes into the performance by a teacher calling for a pause in the proceedings. The emergency, it turned out, was the mysterious disappearance of ten year eleven boys who were suspected of secreting themselves in the theatre. Premature intermission aside, the show must go on and not to condone skiving, but I do hope our performance was better then the double maths they should have been attending.
Having worked ever so hard at creating clearly delineated characters (imperative when there’s no guarantee your audience will understand a word coming out of your mouth) we became hoodlums and tourists, a slinky fortune teller, a flouncing TV presenter, a lethargic hippy, my favourite persona being a big, fat, bumbling policeman. I can especially after a hefty helping of sticky toffee pudding, create quite the pot belly and it went down particularly well with the younger kids. Three days into the show I was feeling inordinately pleased with myself as the children of Kent rolled in the aisles chortling at my ‘agent de police’. Heaven help me, I may have got caught up in the moment and played up to the audience… and then, hmmmm…. These do not seem to be friendly ‘oh yes, isn’t she a funny French policeman’ chuckles. No, these are… these are the guffaws of thirteen year olds who are…. Yes, pointing and laughing. At what!?!?
“Nice leggings!” came the cry from the back of the auditorium as I chauffeured our poor lost heroine around Paris in my imaginary police car.
For it transpires, that under the cruel stage lights, my trusty H&M rehearsal leggings didn’t leave much to the imagination. The humiliation was quite, quite mortifying. Just so you can really get a grasp of the extent of my disgrace; there are points during the play in which we… *can-can. *
And that was the day we learned that children, not yet beaten down by social customs and without the fear of making a faux-pas, don’t censor their reactions as the well-trained adult audience do. They are savagely honest in their response, and whether your leggings have gone see-through or your jokes are rubbish; they will let you know. This makes it all the more rewarding when they’re completely engrossed, or when they fight to join in, when they laugh out loud at your contortions: it’s completely honest. You do feel like you’ve earned it and it’s lovely.
Other tour related musings for the first time cast member of a TIE tour :
- Caffeine now has to be smuggled in to schools. A can of Coke is like gold dust and heaven help you if you ask for a coffee. Go prepared.
- Same goes for salt. Arm yourself. School dinners have improved but… best be on the safe side.
- Those ‘round the neck’ cushions you use on airplanes are all well and good, but if you truly intend to sleep your way through five counties there’s no substitute for a big fluffy pillow and a willing cast member’s shoulder.
- Each Travelodge is surprisingly individual. Look for the unique qualities in each… Durham’s Travelodge is my favourite. It used to be a train station.
And finally, if you’re lucky enough to work with a really lovely cast and a good man in the driving seat, there’s nowt like a good road trip.