After nine glorious days of (mostly) rest and relaxation, returning to the show is something of a shock to the system. Regrouping with the company, it feels like we've been apart an age and yet, conversely, barely any time at all. There are stories to tell, news to catch up on and tans to admire but once we're all gathered in the subterranean rehearsal space at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, it's back to the grindstone once more.
We begin the week with a speed-run of the lines. This is where we sit in a large circle and run all the dialogue from the show at slightly above show pace (given that we only have an hour to do it in!) as a way of refreshing our memories. It's quite a strange exercise as you really have to concentrate and yet it can be incredibly funny as the pace breeds mild hysteria. It's a fun way to break the ice and get the brain working, as it's evident from any seated speed-run how much you rely on the staging to remember your lines - movement and dialogue prove excellent bedfellows for memorisation
Lines run, we head into rehearsals and tech, with a few press photos and interviews on the way. This is Jonathan Wilkes' first full week on the show and as such it's the first time he's done a tech session with us. I think he's suddenly very grateful to not have to do these normally as they're pretty long and intense. There is much to soundcheck plus two new Little Jakes to rehearse in and the Churchill Theatre proves a slightly odd space sound-wise. This is partly because it's smaller venue than some we've played, seating 785 in comparison to the 3000 seats of Edinburgh Playhouse! Fortunately Alex, our intrepid Sound No. 1, is pretty blooming wonderful at making it all balance out - no easy feat when you're working with vastly differing spaces each week.
Tech done, we begin getting ready to kick off the week in style with our press night show. It's our first venue that's really close to London and as such this week will bring many of our family and friends to the audience. Many of the cast are even managing to commute, which is particularly nice after a holiday week. My first port of call however, before the make-up and pin curls, before the warm-up and corset, is to set up my dressing room.
This is a process of several stages. First off, I recover my 'personals box' and Mr Pink (my large suitcase) from where they've been placed after removal from the touring trucks. Depending on the size of my dressing room for the week, they'll either be given a spot or unpacked and tucked away to save room. Once into the room, I decide where my make-up station will be and get the iPad set up. To the strains of whatever is this week's music of choice (for Bromley it's a mixture of Mina Tindle, McFly, Pink and Eels - I'm nothing if not eclectic), I'll lay out my various kits (make-up, toiletries, medicines, side of stage necessities), light my candle for some Zen time, open a window (if there is one) and set the fan and humidifier going. Finally I'll stick up all my cards and letters, with pride of place going to a photo of my beautiful 2 year old niece Faye and the hand-painted cards my godmother Margaret sends me for the first night at every venue.
Given that four short days later I'll be taking it all down again, many people would consider this something of a Sisyphean task. Jonathan even timed my de-rig this week! Maybe it's because it's my first tour or maybe it's just that I like to feel at home, but spending the extra time and effort to properly settle in brings this nomadic actress an astonishing amount of joy. Sure it takes me longer to get unpacked and repacked, and sure I'm carrying around way more stuff than I actually need, but for a little piece of home wherever I go? That's priceless.