Homes from home (ii)

So, those good intentions of getting multiple posts up in Oxford failed to be made flesh. But we had a splendid time. Oh, we had a splendid time indeed. Oxford’s a terrific place and the shows generally seemed to go with a real swing. One day, whilst waiting to meet my cousin in Summertown, I bumped into two people who’d been at shows and, though I felt slightly guilty at my presence in their real world splintering their world of the play, it was really lovely to hear what they had thought of the night.

Now, with a week and a half left to go, I feel I can confidently state that this is the most exhausting play I’ve ever done. Though it’s more about ‘being’ a person than ‘performing’ anything, it’s far more knackering than hours of high energy singing and dancing. There’s the same oomph kicking about inside you but it doesn’t ever get to shoot out of the end of your fingertips, and this appears to result in an overwhelming need for at least 10 hours sleep every night. Though incredibly time-consuming, this isn’t a bad thing.

After these weeks of being amid the audience (six inches away, a lot of the time), it’s going to be odd going back to a stage and lights and other dividing apparatus. I’ve always been a fan of direct address and love seeing who you’re talking to and this show really allows you to ‘share’. When you spend a night gazing into the eyes of strangers, they end up feeling like friends, like you know them in some way, like you’ve made a connection. Not always and not with everyone, but often. That sounds bonkers, but it really does feel like that. You can see people laughing, smiling, thinking, remembering and well, you don’t do that with strangers.

Toaster update: the Dualit dominance has disappeared. For some reason, this makes me happy.

Homes from home (i)

o, we’re halfway through ‘Henry and Elizabeth’. I’ve been having some difficulties keeping in touch with the online world whilst on tour, largely due to my astounding ability to forget passwords… And, somehow, during the two weeks I’ve just spent chez moi back in the big smoke, when I wasn’t doing a show I seemed to be, almost exclusively, stuck on a bus. Ah, the joys of living in uncentral London. Anyway. Passwords, computer and internet access are all, at this moment, present and correct and so here I am, courtesy of the Oxford Playhouse’s wonderful wifi connection.

The past month has been, all things considered, darned marvellous. I am thoroughly enjoying being Elizabeth in a different home every night. Press night was slightly tricky, partly because we were in a rather shiny and beautiful bachelor pad and partly because, well, because it was press night and so therefore must be at least 30% below par. Nonetheless, we had decent, fair reviews, and, naturally, once the bizarre event of a press night was out of the way and we’d become embroiled in the far more normal activity of turning up at strangers’ houses and pretending to live there, the play began to work much more happily. There have been some lovely, gentle, fun nights, some tense, sweaty nights, and some nights where the dogs got a bit overexcited. More about the actual experience of performing (though this is not quite the right word, more anon) in this way later, but first – the homes!

Oh, we have seen such lovely homes! Shiny new Truman Show style houses in Milton Keynes, rambling country houses in the wilds of Teeside, chi-chi north London pads, cosy terraces in Northamptonshire. It’s fascinating being allowed a glimpse into people’s lives like this. Letting a theatre company into your own home is really quite brave – I mean, none of the hosts of ‘Henry and Elizabeth’ knows quite what we’re going to do, but they give us carte blanche to do it. It’s a very generous act, and I’m absolutely loving being allowed to spend evenings in the heart of other people’s lives like this. Every home is so different and yet, there are some similarities. Having to very quickly get the measure of how a particular home works is part of the fun of this show, and I appear to have developed a sixth sense for locating cutlery drawers, and built-in dishwashers can be identified at 12 paces. Still haven’t quite got the hang of Dualit toasters though. (And here’s an interesting fact for you: Dualit toaster ownership seems to be running at about 70% among those people who book theatre companies for home performance – so far. I’ll report back on this astounding statistic at the end of the tour).

We’re in Oxford now, for two weeks, so I’m rather hoping to get a few posts up over the coming days. I’ve not spent much time in this beautiful city before, but so far I’m loving it. (Gosh, I sound like a stuck record with all this exuberant enjoying of everything, but, hey, it’s not such a bad groove to be in). This may well offend all manner of people, but being here is a bit like being in Cambridge, but without the feelings of nostalgia. Very excited about the open-air swimming pool which is just down the road from my digs. Aiming to actually get in it tomorrow morning.

And now my battery’s about to give up, so I shall take my leave and go and get ready for tonight’s show.