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!

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.