Readers, I write this extended blog with clumsy thumbs on my smart-phone notepad, in the back of the van, halfway between Leicester and Cumbria, and will lovingly transcribe it onto our Company Manager’s laptop upon arrival at the next Travelodge somewhere along the M6 (laptop of my very own please, if Santa happens to be reading this…)
Yup, you guessed it; it’s tour time again! I’ve been getting up at obscene o-clock in the morning, putting up a not so valiant fight against the Burger King, and have been washing my unmentionables in the sink. For the last few weeks we’ve been travelling from Canning-town to Cumbria performing ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with Chaplins. You know, what with this running streak of witch castings I’m doing my best not to get self-conscious - there must be something about me that screams haggard nag!
Having taken a spectacular tumble in November when I had a fight with a pavement, I’m lucky my Wicked Witch has any teeth! Though that may have been quite fitting, I’m not sure my commitment to character goes that far… A split lip, a black eye and a face X-ray later, I hobbled back into rehearsals (if that sounds bad, you should see the pavement- he’s still on the floor) and four weeks ago we started off. As the old adage goes; scabs or no scabs, the show must go on.
Oz is a great fun; I get to paint myself bogey green and spark fireballs from my fingertips should the flash cotton be willing. Having now grown accustomed to children pointing, screaming and running away from me on a daily basis, I now have to suppress my inner witch whenever we stop off at the Service Station between shows. People tend to get a bit funny when a strange green faced woman starts gurning at their children. Still, all in all people seem to feel that an adult in face-paint is an approachable one and comes with many a built-in icebreaker… “oooh… you look a bit off-colour”, “car sick, eh?” and my personal favourite; “you’ve got green on you.”
In Carol, I’m playing a very giggly Clara and running around as a highly obnoxious, infantile Ghost of Christmas Past and have discovered the comic possibilities of blowing a well-timed raspberry.
I’ve said on previous occasions, I get a real kick out of performing for kids. The joy of taking a show like this on the road is how it evolves with an audience, working with their responses and finding different moments to play and bounce off them. Carol was initially a trickier show, it’s wordier and requires a little more emotional connection from a young audience; so finding a lighter moment, a change of energy or the entrance of a giant turkey (!) can make sure they stay with you rather than drifting off into fidget-land.
With two different shows we’re kept on our toes, and performing two shows a day is definitely gruelling. We’re up before the sun is, travelling to the first venue, doing get ins, doing shows, get outs, travelling, then another get in, another show, another get out and then travelling onto the next Travelodge before crashing out and then…. well, you get the picture.
So as you can imagine, the tour van becomes something of a second home, and on that front we have absolutely lucked out; a nine-seater, replete with… drumroll please ladies and gents… a PS2 and fold down TV screens!!! DVD-tastic! Plus, with a separate cab there are no bits of the Emerald city sticking into your ribs and no need to fight for leg room with Paxo (who really is the most gigantic papier-mâché turkey you’re likely to meet). As a non-driving, non-Topgear watching kinda gal I have never been so impressed with a motor vehicle. Keep your sports cars. I want me a table with a drinks holder. God bless you Chaplins.
We’ve really have been having a fantastic time. Still, when you’re away from home and your creature comforts, working and living on top of each other can get stressful upon occasion and small problems can become magnified. For those of you grads who haven’t yet packed up your suitcase and hit the road, troupe SD1 and I have had a bit of a brainstorming session and come up with some basic touring tips.
Really take time to get the most out of having a director in rehearsals. You won’t have them on tap when you’re off on tour and a small niggle in the rehearsal room could become a major hurdle on the road
Know the measurements of your vehicle: we underestimated the height on ours and nearly took the roof off the van in a multi-storey car park in Birmingham. Nearly. We succeeded in taking out their CCTV wiring.
Make sure you understand what you’re signing up for and what you are contractually expected to do. If you signed it, be prepared for it.
Many hands make light work. Well, not light. But less.
Personal hygiene is not optional. It’s courteous.
Food-wise; survival instincts may tell you to take advantage of a hot meal whenever you can. Do this, but not blindly, make sure you are keeping track of what you’re putting into your body. A diet of service station food can be fatty and costly.
However long the tour is, take advantage of the fact you are performing. Keep trying to find new things. Unemployment could be round the corner.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of those around you, there’s probably a wealth of experience between the people in the back of that van.
Take responsibility for your mic; make sure it’s switched on when it should be and don’t start critiquing your own performance till you’ve made sure it’s off.
Keep the van as clean and tidy as you can. You’ll be spending more time there than anywhere else and you don’t want the lingering whiff of day one’s babybel hanging around on a long journey in week3!
Look after costumes and props.
Look after yourselves (and each other.)
Be appreciative of your driver.
With two more tour dates left we’re getting scarily near to our final destination and I’ll be hanging up my broomstick for this year anyway. And then… well, who knows. My 2012 is looking worryingly void of acting work, singing work, and well… any sort of work full stop. Excluding, of course, the hours I am going to need to spend in the gym getting rid of the Burger King gut which I suspect will not abide by the rule ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’!