After all the months of rehearsals, during which director and actors juggled their everyday work lives, personal lives, family crises, holidays, illness, other commitments, with the need to turn up every Sunday and often on a weekday evening, plus make time in their busy schedules for learning lines, my play’s run has become history. After the last performance it’s now been put in the memory box. Other events and situations, not least Christmas, clamour for attention and minds become focussed on the tragi-comedy of life rather than plays.
It began as a strange time in a world I knew nothing about, but I have been bowled over by the commitment of director, cast and crew, their professionalism, the reality of what can be achieved with hard work, a bit of begging and borrowing topping up a minimum budget, their sheer inventiveness at making audiences believe with a hint and one or two props.
I was fascinated to discover every performance was different. Audiences reacted in different ways. Some were volubly enthusiastic, laughing and chuckling from the outset. Others were more muted, keeping their appreciation till the applause at the end. Actors, too, performed differently, adding additional expressions and gestures to deepen characters as the tour progressed. Touring in a local theatre and village halls means acting on stages of varying sizes or none at all, with modular stages often having to be put together before the performance, then dismantled after to leave the hall clear for whatever group has booked the following day.
Where the seats were raked and the performance took place at ground level, the acting space was larger, giving more scope for movement and tussles between the three homeless guys. Picks had space to give full rein to his imaginary tank driving whereas on some stages his enthusiasm had to be curbed, though on one occasion he did step down from the stage and take action to audience.
The size of venues varies too, so actors often had to adapt their comings and goings to suit the position of entrances and exits, with some making removal of scenery from the stage more challenging. A few bangs told their own story. And then there was the question of dressing rooms for the cast. Even in recently built village halls, where most activities had been thought of and catered for, dressing rooms were non-existent, or storage cupboards for tables and chairs were offered. All these added hassles were accepted with equanimity by the cast. As long as a cup of tea was available, then much else could be overcome.
Some halls boast stage lighting and sound systems, but more often these have to be carted around. It took James our lighting man two hours to set up, ensuring no member of the public could trip on any equipment or wiring, and a considerable time to dismantle and heave all back to car.
Such performances are possible because of the combined effort of people who are committed, adaptable, knowledgeable, helpful, considerate, people who love what they’re doing and get a buzz from it, people who invariably have a great sense of humour to keep themselves and others going. Wonderful people who make the memory of my play’s performances something to cherish.