Open Umbrella in association with Apus Productions bring Protest Will Ensue to the Trinity Methodist Church for Assemble Fest 2015. Open Umbrella regularly take their community productions across the UK, and in this post Rachel Harris gives an insight into the world of touring.
The image of touring the country is a lot more glamorous in my mind than in actuality. As neither James or I drive, we take a wonderfully long and uncomfortable Megabus Plus journey down to London. Our Tour dates are sporadic in fact, this March marks the first date of 2015. I have mixed feelings about the show, it was created last August and surrounded with difficult professional challenges. Originally intended as a three-hander, we lost a cast member the week before our first date at Hull's Freedom Festival. Though initially hurt and panicked by this, I now see that the show works much better as a two-hander and is much funnier with me dragging up to play an American with a clip-on moustache. With touring dates you often hear about them at least six months in advance, so the anticipation and excitement starts then. Most of the venues we have played have never seen any of our work and we have never been to any of their shows. Outside of Hull my three favourite venues have been: Hutton Cranswick Sports and Recreational Centre, Upstairs at The Western (Leicester) and The Cockpit Theatre in London.
In Hutton Cranswick, the venue manager offered us free use of the bar before the show; safe to say we did not drink before but it was a kind offer. There was a sign in the green room (rugby changing room) asking southerners to make sure the heaters were off before we left. As a girl from Wembley I thought about taking this to race relations but realised I do feel the cold more than my northern counterpart.
James' parents drive down separately with the set and James' dad does the lights. They drive separately from us because James has manic highs and lows before a show so I am left to deal with these. Because there are often huge gaps between dates where we concentrate on other projects, the week before a show is full of line runs, which always go wrong, mainly because James is always thinking of different ways to make his characters funnier. I find his constant need to change my lines quite annoying and often don't see how it will improve the show, but I am learning that he is usually right and if he isn't he needs to give it a go. Turning up at theatres with James' parents is often amusing and not very rock and roll, most people presume we are brother and sister born to these pushy theatre parents. The truth is that we have been together since 2010 and have lived together since the second day we met. James in interviews often tries to say we are theatre's answer to Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks; this always worries me because they broke up and have had a strange working relationship ever since.
Creating work in Hull and touring it is great because Hull is the end of the line, the Humber Delta is creatively similar to that of the Mississippi raw and sexy with a make do and mend attitude. Taking this elsewhere is both exciting and terrifying; when you take your show to other places you are indeed ambassadors for Hull. I'm a native to Wembley, my partner James is a Hullensian. I fell in love with Hull slowly and now would never contemplate living in London. My parents are still there and we stay with them during London runs. The night we arrive my parents, who are of Irish descent, open up a variety of wines and spirits. James has been sober now for 102 days and I could not be tempted to anything more than a spritzer the night before a show. The show day itself starts as always with line runs, James does his usual distractions and we don't get through the whole script before the show. Then there's the get-in; James sits at the side of the stage strumming reggae versions of the show's songs and delegating, every time he is asked to help he always says he doesn't remember what chord follows the C7th in I Fully Intend To. I help his mum set props and James' dad is up in the lighting box, often not understanding how to use a dimmer switch. This is the way we like it. These tensions feed our onstage performance, and when things are harmonious and easy before the show we know all of the jokes will be mistimed and we will fall flat on our arses.
The Cockpit show goes well, James is buzzing in the interval as he has spotted his best friend from Hymers who now lives in Essex at the back of the auditorium, the perfect victim for the dodgy dart trick. Some lines are fluffed but this adds to the chemistry and we play the game. At the end of the show in the dressing room James prances about with his ukulele pretending to be in Def Leppard while everyone else hurries about packing up.
In short, touring is a treat, like paintballing or Lazer Quest. What kind of audience will we have? Who will enjoy our show? Will we have any complaints, about this not being what they expected?
I love not knowing the answers. I love the places we go. But Hull is where my heart is.