This week's blog comes from the top of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. Well not the very top, not the stone itself, but one of the little rocky groups literally six feet away from it. The actual top is pretty dinky and currently awash with a group of Spanish tourists - it seemed rude to hog it for long enough to write a blog! We've been enjoying our second holiday week from Annie Get Your Gun and after doing all the necessary catchy-up type stuff - routine visits to the doctor, fun with the family, the unbearable agony of continuing dentistry - I've taken myself off to Edinburgh for a mini-city break on my own.
Edinburgh is essentially one of my favourite cities, I've played and visited the Fringe Festival a dozen or so times and I even chose here for university (before I deferred for a year and ended up becoming an actress). But whilst I know the city well in a general way, this holiday has been my first opportunity to explore it a little deeper, without the intense fear of a first-time traveller to somewhere unknown. And believe me I've had that fear a few times in the past! Over the last few days I have been the ultimate tourist. I've walked the city, toured the castle, visited the museums and watched the penguin parade at Edinburgh Zoo open-mouthed with glee. I saw one of my favourite bands, The National, play a gig at Usher Hall and on a whim went to the Festival Theatre to see whatever was on.
What was on, turned out to be Caitlin Moran. Caitlin Moran, voice of the modern feminist and journalist/writer extraordinaire. Standing on my seat in the auditorium, along with 1650 other woman and 39 men I hasten to add, shouting 'I AM A FEMINIST' at her behest, I was suddenly struck with how relevant this current plight for an equality revolution is to playing Annie Oakley. Annie Oakley, truly a woman living it up in a man's world, really is with me wherever I go. Buffalo Bill Cody was a staunch supporter of women's rights, and equality in general, and it struck me how sad it is that this was a relevant issue not only at the time they lived, nor also at the time the show was written 70 years ago, but also now. Today. In 2014.
Politics aside, this wasn't the only moment Annie infiltrated my holiday. In a more planned experience, I took myself off to Hopetoun House estate near Edinburgh for a clay pigeon shooting lesson with top clay shooter Stewart Cumming. Well, ordinarily the lesson would have been taken by Stewart, but he's off in Portugal at the moment at the World FITASC Sporting Clay Shooting Championships! (My timing is impeccable it seems.) Thankfully his father, Tom, stepped amiably into the breach and took me under his wing.
Whilst we had gun practice during rehearsals, one of the things I really wanted to do was go for some shooting lessons. However, time constraints being what they are there simply wasn't the opportunity to fit it in and, as we don't use live ammunition or even blanks in the show, an actual firearms lesson was one of the less vital luxuries of research that had to fall by the wayside. It seemed only natural then that, being nearby, I should try and fit in a lesson now so that I could honestly answer the question 'so how good a shot are you?' that many journalists frequently ask me at the moment.
As it turns out, I'm actually not that bad! In fact for a beginner, I'm bloody good. It's the first time I've ever fired a weapon of any kind and I think by the end of the class the clays were pretty scared of me and the over-and-under shotgun I was wielding. I think the production has at least given me a level of comfort in the handling of a weapon, although I use a long-nosed flintlock and a Winchester during the show. Feeling at one with the instrument seems pretty vital, but I think even Tom was impressed when my final shot struck home with a vengeance, despite my having lost the rhythm several shots before.
Now as I sit here on my final evening of holiday, taking in the beautiful surrounding vista, I contemplate the return to England and Annie Get Your Gun, with my gun recoil bruises and freshly freckled face. Bromley is our next venue, with Jonathan Wilkes taking the helm for his first full week as Frank Butler. I've missed everyone on the show to quite a surprising degree on this week away, but most of all, I've missed Annie. She's as much a part of me now, as I am.