Readers I apologise; I have been AWOL, with less emphasis on the ‘leave’ and more emphasis on the ‘working my behind off’. My behind and several pounds that the gym couldn’t get rid of but the stress of assisting on a fringe show did in super quick time.
Now, I’m the kind of girl that finds sitting watching the telly stressful unless I can do three other things at the same time. If I’m told to sit still and do nothing but “chill out” — well, I want to gnaw my own arm off and use it to do some very productive things. For example use it to batter the person that just told me to “chill out”.
I love being busy and the times when I’ve bitten off more than I could chew have been few and far between (hey, I’m a former fat child!) Nevertheless my friends, I’ve come pretty close to overload these past few weeks and have been suffering with the work equivalent of meat sweats.
Hiraeth Artistic Productions’ skinhead-inspired production of Titus Andronicus is now up and running at The Etcetera Theatre, Camden. And if I do say so myself; its ruddy awesome. Produced and directed by my dear friend and creative visionary Zoe Ford, the show is a collision of NFskinheads and Immigrants in a vengeful turf war which brings Shakespeare’s bloodiest horror hurtling into the 1980s. As the body count piles up with each passing scene there’s dismemberments, beheadings, rapes, murders and tears and depending on your sensibilities; a few laughs.
Unlike the actors, who are still slogging their guts out on a daily basis, now the show is open my workload has eased considerably and I am no longer waking up in the middle of the night worrying where I’m going to find a wheelbarrow of bricks or a severed hand. In case you’re wondering; the brick problem was resolved by some of my most focussed flirting with the builders across the road and the severed hand… well, it’s odd what some people have lying around the house.
With two pint-sized ladies at the helm, we have been wading through testosterone in the rehearsal room with two ballsy ladies and twelve newly scalped men in the cast. We did have a teeny tiny twinge of guilt about the scalping; particularly for our gorgeous Little Lucius, Michael Hanratty, who was boasting Pantene advert worthy flowing locks before we got our grubby mitts on him. Still, that’s committing to theatre and our boys have manned up admirably. And they look all manly and whatnot.
Though they’ve got less on their noggins, it’s a good job I’m a ‘hat-girl’ with the assortment of different hats I have been sporting. With a point based profit share system and a cast that defies the laws of space by squishing into the Etcetera dressing room, we were conscious on how many creatives we brought on board. So beyond official titles, between Zoe and I, we’ve been casting and scheduling, sourcing rehearsal venues and sourcing Rubik cubes, marketing and operating the lighting desk and general dogs bodying. To complete Team Titus we have a beyond-fantastic Costume team who have worked miracles to deck our boys and girls out in their Fred Perry T-shirts and red braces on a Doc Marten shoestring budget. We have a super-efficient Production manager, a bloodthirsty Fight Director and a Musical Director who’s got the audience’s feet tapping in nostalgic glee before we flip reverse their expectations and make them want to vomit in their mouths a little bit.
It is the inexperienced and ignorant actor’s delusion that they are the most important thing in the play. If it hasn’t been knocked out of you yet, it soon will — you ain’t! Still, there are those times, and I have been guilty of it, that you’re so wrapped up in whatever it is you’re doing that you don’t notice that props magically appear and sets magically pop up, and we don’t think about the hard work that’s gone into making them, or the logistics of getting the cumbersome sofa up the fire exit stairs (we had to take the hinges off the door y’all). I still know some actors who only clock the sound technician’s name when there’s been a mistake and the cue for the gunshot happens after they’ve already died. So, if the actor in me has learned something, it’s how important it is to appreciate all those people whose efforts mean that you get the applause at the end of the night.
I thank our lucky stars we cast such a delightful bunch of folk, who themselves have gone above and beyond the call of duty (and, may I stress, have always appreciated our hard work) and have with their talent created a show which is an absolute corker. In some ways it makes me sad that the proudest I’ve ever been of a production is one I haven’t actually performed in.
Maybe that’s because there’s none of that actor’s insecurity that creeps up and sometimes stops us from really enjoying our jobs. There’s no flagellation for me up in the lighting box pressing my buttons. I do it right or I do it wrong. There’s no need to curse the fact that I ‘wasn’t in the moment’ in Scene 3. If I’ve dimmed and faded and followed the book, I can say I have done my job. Which allows me to feel something nice: Just proud of the little family we’ve created and the epic show we’ve put on.
And that I am. As you can probably tell. So. As Richard Herring said (what’s that on the floor by your foot Gemma? Oh is that the name I just dropped….) “Go and see this if you get a chance. It’s very impressive….” Please do. And give me a wave in my box.