GOD/HEAD at Ovalhouse

I’m delighted to be contributing a little to someone else’s work this week.

The ever-succulent Chris Goode is currently doing a show about doubting his atheism. It’s called GOD/HEAD and it’s a true story about God, neuroscience and, well, all manner of other things. This is the official blurb:

So there’s this writer.

Thirtysomething, gay, lefty metropolitan writer. Atheist, obviously. History of mental health problems, but those are all in the past.
Sure of himself and his world view. Comfortable in his assumptions.

And then one day, suddenly, without any warning…

There’s God.

In this brand new documentary piece, award-winning writer and storyteller Chris Goode explores the flipside of the familiar crisis of faith: what if there really is a God after all?

GOD/HEAD is a humane, candid, radically unsettling piece about the tensions between religion and neuroscience, and about the limits of language and the edges of desire.

Each night a different guest performer participates in the piece. I’m very excited to be the guest on March 1, so if any of you can make then, it would be lovely to see you afterwards! And, if not, there are plenty of other nights to choose from!

The piece is on at Ovalhouse at 7.45 Tuesday to Saturday from until March 10. You can book tickets via the Ovalhouse website.

Maybe see you there.

**Update** Well, I survived that, but it was an astonishing experience. Being on stage in a show, talking to the audience and not knowing what you’re going to be doing next is quite exhilarating yet simultaneously comforting; you’re totally in someone else’s hands and you simply have to open the envelope and follow the instructions, or answer the question, or build that card house, or read that bit of script – just do it there and then without analysing or fretting or thinking. Just do it. Honestly. Naturally, I managed to blubber at one point. Tsk. Chris admitted he’d put a box of tissues on the set thinking of me and one other guest (the lovely, and lachrymose-as-me, Maddy Costa).

Animals and accidents

In one of the radio interviews for ‘Henry and Elizabeth’, the presenter asked me if we’d had any accidents on tour, such as unintentionally walking into cupboards. We didn’t ever quite manage to do that, but there were, as you might imagine, quite a lot of funny incidents. Pets, in particular, provided great entertainment. There were numerous cats who wandered in to have a look at what was going on, especially in the bedroom scenes. We had a whole pack of little dogs in Saltburn-by-the-Sea who collectively decided to have a yapping frenzy during a very quiet, tense scene and then went completely, well, barking, during the party scene (party blowers drive small dogs loopy, we learned).  We also had a gorgeous chocolate labrador named Bonnie in Oxford, who, touchingly, came to comfort Henry or Elizabeth when they were having their slightly troubled moments. Another Oxford dog was such a large beast that its owner decided it might be best to keep him out of the play altogether. Boz and Dirk (that’s Philip Bosworth aka Henry and Dirk Hoult our super stage manager) caught a glimpse of him and confirmed that he was indeed the size of a bear. I didn’t see the creature in the flesh, but I did see his dinner bowl which looked more like a washing up basin. And I almost sat in his giant bed in the living room, thinking it was some sort of low sofa.

And then there was the Astonishing Talking Cat. This fine specimen of ginger tomness joined the cast at the home of David Prescott from the Drum Theatre in Plymouth and he was just astounding. I think David had been secretly rehearsing him for weeks. He leapt right into the role of Henry and Elizabeth’s cat, sitting on or beside one or the other of us, joining in with conversations with meows and purrs, and rolling over to be tickled at appropriate moments. An absolutely marvellous feline.

Another of the many things I learned from this tour (Dualit toasters don’t pop up, some fridges have child-locks on them, pepper grinders can be electronic etc) is that touch-sensitive bedside lamps exist. Jeepers. That was a shocker. Especially as sometimes it’s quite tricky to find exactly where you’re supposed to pat them in order to let there be light. There was one particular lamp in Clapton that I patted and prodded and stroked and pleaded with for almost all of our (unextensive) preparation time. I got there in the end, but heck, I think I’m a switch kinda girl at heart.

There was also a minor spot of accidental damage. In the Oxfordshire home of a lady whose fingernails and toenails were painted in rainbow colours, I spied, perched atop the boiler, a pair of pink rubber gloves, trimmed with fur and finished off with a big shiny diamond ring . Clearly, I had no choice but to wear them to do the dishes. So, Elizabeth washed dishes in these fabulous gloves, but when she tried to take them off, every time she pulled a rubber fingertip, the fingertip came off and the rest of the glove stayed on. The rubber had perished! Noooo! Poor gloves! So, lovely Oxfordshire lady with the rainbow nails, should you ever read this, please accept my apologies for destroying your glamorous rubber gloves!

Henry and Elizabeth – coverage round-up

So, here’s a quick round up of our reviews and other coverage, for posterity, the record or something.

Sam Marlowe in The Times

Lyn Gardner in The Guardian

There was a Sunday Times review too, but I’m struggling to get hold of it online, due, I think to the paywall…

The Oxford Mail preview (we had a wonderful time at Angela and Paddy’s home – thank you for having us!) and review.

BBC Devon gave us a smashing preview for our Plymouth run. And Mr and Mrs Meen (who had a glorious collection of animal-shaped doorstops) and their friends were a delightfully warm, high-spirited  audience with whom we had a terrific and memorable night.

We had a sweet mention from Chris Wilkinson on The Guardian’s Noises Off blog (at the bottom of the article, keep scrolling). Chris was in the audience at a show we did in Islington, a show that very much nearly didn’t happen because we couldn’t find the front door to the flat… And for some reason, the tour managed to land repeat mentions in Grazia magazine, which I think is a pretty major achievement in itself.

Claire Burlington and Philip Bosworth as Henry and Elizabeth

Claire Burlington and Philip Bosworth as Henry and Elizabeth

Coming soon, to a sitting room near you…

This summer, I’m off on a tour of the nation’s sitting rooms, kitchens and bedrooms.

The play is Henry and Elizabeth written and directed by the marvellous Chris Goode (he wot brought us, among many other unforgettable events, Hippo World Guest Book, a piece of theatre so unbearably funny and sad and magic that when I saw it I actually spent the whole time pretty much unstoppably snorting pure laughter and grief out of my nostrils in liquid form) and performed by the splendid Philip Bosworth and, um, me. And, potential comedy snot aside, one of the rather splendid things about Henry and Elizabeth is that it takes place in your own home. We’re touring the country – Northampton, London, Plymouth, Oxford, Stockton and environs, so if you fancy a Goode experience in your house, invite your friends and have a theatre party – up to 12 is fine if you have the space, and that works out at just a tenner a head. If you’re in London, then Chrisis the chap to contact, otherwise, booking is via The Royal and Derngate in Northampton, Plymouth Theatre Royal, Oxford Playhouse and The Arc, Stockton.

Frankly, hurrah!

Here’s the official blurb:
HandE1 A classic tale of love gone wonky, Henry & Elizabeth is a new production by home-performance pioneers Signal to Noise.

When hapless Henry is defeated by a simple repair job, and long-suffering Elizabeth finally snaps, it seems as though it might jeopardise their whole relationship. But are they really trapped in an endless circle of co-dependence and tit-for-tat niggling? Or can they find their way out of the loop to a happier and more magical future together? Henry & Elizabeth is a bittersweet, captivating comedy with a surprise up its sleeve.

It costs £120 to book a performance – get your guests to contribute, or invite them for free if you want to! Maximum audience size is 12, but only if your rooms are big enough, otherwise as many as will comfortably fit.