It's been a week of ups and downs. Literally. This week the Annie Get Your Gun team have been in the beautiful, and somewhat hilly, town of Great Malvern at the Festival Theatre. It's one of the smallest venues we play on the tour in terms of stage space and although we'd already had a rehearsal in anticipation of this, nothing quite prepares you for re-spacing a full show in limited tech time.
After the vast expanse of stages like Edinburgh Playhouse, playing on the limits of the Festival Theatre has meant we've all become much cosier this week. The wing space demands that you only ever walk in single file, meaning we're now super organised in terms of entrances and exits. Poor Leonie (DSM) had to call the show from a completely separate room and bits of the show couldn't even make it to the stage! Gone were the back cloths (as happened in Birmingham) but also cut were the curtain kabuki drops, whilst the cart never even made it to the shooting match! Although we did manage to lay down the entire floor, having thought we wouldn't be able to, we still weren't able to use the front four feet due to lighting rig restrictions.
All that aside though the show has benefitted from us changing it up a little. We've had to be on our toes and concentrate harder, a good thing when mid-tour complacency could set in. Having the audience that much closer, even in the circle, has also meant that we've felt more engaged with them, and they with us if the standing ovations received this week are anything to go by.
A closer company also means social activities have been at a premium too. The Festival Theatre is situated in a beautiful park and when the weather has been good enough, we've been outside playing frisbee and ball games courtesy of a trip to the local outdoor activity shop. It's a great way to expend some energy when you're on a post-show adrenalin high, although I don't think any of us realised how strong our competitive edges were until we invented a hybrid version of rounders and cricket! Fortunately a surprise cream tea laid on by Company Manager Kristi kept everyone on friendly terms.
There was also ample opportunity to get in some good walking too. The whole village is set on a pretty big hill, but looming over our dressing rooms were the Malvern Hills, the highest of which is Beacon Hill at 425 metres. Most of us took a day trip up there at some point but on Thursday night, because we're a little bit dippy, eleven of us decided to take a midnight hike up to the top! I mean, obviously, after five shows in three days that's precisely what you need.
Bananas, torches and water in hand, and following a quick (and necessary) reminder to take the keys for our digs, we headed up the hill. About 15 minutes in some of the boys decided it was far too warm for jeans and changed into their shorts, regretting it later when we hit the more grassy areas at the top and the nasty little biting flies who decided to have their own midnight snack on our bare flesh! 46 minutes after we set off we rounded the final corner to the stunning views of the Beacon. Spending a slightly chilly half and hour at the top, we star-gazed and took in the nighttime lights of the surrounding towns. It's a remarkable view in the daytime but there's something about the peace of night that lends it a magical touch. I'd highly recommend it if you have the time to go carefully and take ample precautions.
Now if we thought the way up was at a treacherously steep and sweaty angle, coming back down on the slightly damp underfoot surfaces was most certainly harder. We'd promised Kristi that we'd be super-careful - no-one wants to get injured on a cheeky nocturnal excursion - and did fortunately all make it down in one piece. The same cannot be said for me the following morning. On my way to maintenance physio for my shoulder, which takes a good hammering in the show, I managed to trip on a grate and then, I kid you not, five metres later took the spill of a lifetime leaving behind a chunk of my foot and knee on the pavement in the process. Fortunately I took away a cracking bruise or six to even the score, and a lovely gentleman was kind enough to set me back on my feet again.
If that weren't enough after the sprained thigh muscles of last week, that same day my injured foot was stood on (by accident), I ran full pelt into a piece of set during a quick change, slipped on the stage, was elbowed in the face and trapped my hand in a door! I actually checked the calendar to make sure it really was Friday the 1st not the 13th! But you have to laugh or you'll cry so injuries aside (and now broken phone aside too - but that's another story), the only way is up. In fact I may climb that hill again to make sure of it!