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.