The first 'leg' of our UK Tour of Annie Get Your Gun has drawn to a close at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. 6 cities, 51 shows, 255 knife throws, 459 stage kisses, 561 balloons popped and a remarkable 2703 shots later, it's no wonder that the whole company are relishing a week away with friends and family for some well deserved rest and relaxation.
Birmingham has been a pretty incredible week. The audiences have been really responsive and the fact that the house is close, meaning the audience are very near to the stage, certainly helps. With our band being onstage the unused pit in front of the stage at some venues can create a void of empty space that you have to work extra hard to get over in order to reach the audience. Not so at the New Alexandra. Even the circle is relatively near to the stage and this helps the entire production feel much more intimate.
Travelling around on the show has so far proved quite eye-opening for me, not only because I'm getting to play so many different theatres of dramatically different sizes and styles, but also because you truly get a sense of how different each city is in terms of their response to theatre in general. Every city has been wonderful but the reaction of each is almost like a fingerprint. It's unique to that particular place. Birmingham has been a city of loud response, Oxford loves puns (of which this show has many), Edinburgh likes to laugh, Sunderland save it for the applause, Stoke enjoys a big showstopper and Manchester is generally more excitable - especially as the 'Manchester Gets It First' initiative means they're seeing the show in the early stages, before it has a chance to completely settle in.
The theatres have been remarkably different too, both onstage and off. This week, the New Alexandra's smaller stage and wing space meant that there was only a foot at the back of the set and so the backcloths (apart from the final sunset) couldn't be used. Entrances and exits had to be adjusted slightly, care taken to not run into the still very effective black brick wall at the back and tweaks made to the backstage plots. It keeps you on your toes and if you have the capability to adapt, as we do, then the show is still as great as ever.
Birmingham has also proved a generous city. Throughout the week cast members have been in the audience at the end of the show collecting spare change for a local charity, the Acorns Children's Hospice Trust. Acorns provides care to children and young people with life limiting and life-threatening illnesses, as well as support for their families especially in bereavement. Like so many charities they are in desperate need of funds and it was so nice to be able to help them in their local theatre. I honestly believe that having the company shake the buckets helped us to raise more than if we'd just let the ushers do it. There's something quite powerful about being able to break the fourth wall temporarily and get amongst the audience. It's not something actors often get a chance to do, and there's a great sense of gratitude. We're grateful for having been made so welcome and the audience in response to that gives generously, so everybody wins. Whilst I don't yet have a final total, I believe it's a few thousand! That's pretty bloomin' special and we know it will be a much needed help to everyone at Acorns.
Our charity endeavours don't end there though. In three short weeks the Annie Get Your Gun girls will be racing around Hyde Park on our day off for the 10K Race for Life, raising money for Cancer Research UK. It's a cause dear to all of our hearts and as a bonus to hopefully making a nice little donation to a great charity, we're also getting super-fit and sightseeing whilst we train around the country! So whilst we may be on holiday for the next week, whilst we may be spread all over the world as we do so, each and every one of us will be strapping on her trainers at some point and clocking a few miles. Think of us and our sweaty summer slogging as you read this, and if you can please spare even a few pennies for either of these great charities, then click on the links below. Thank you.
Acorns Children's Hospice Trust in Birmingham https//:www.acorns.org.uk