It’s A Wonderful Life blog – Natalia Campbell

Happy New Year to All! Natalia here, back for blog duty.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas.

There’s a lot to catch up on as we were performing right up until Christmas, during the Christmas holidays and just before and after the New Year.

Firstly, the good news: our production of It’s A Wonderful Life featured in Lyn Gardner’s top theatre picks in the Guardian this week.

Now, where have we been? Oh Yes, Kent: Faversham to be exact.

What a great place! We were greeted by the lovely Alison, promoter of the venue who made us feel very welcome. It was quite a big space so no problems with our tall lamp, but we did have some issues with our other lighting fixtures. I don’t want to give too much away for those yet to have seen the show but put it this way: they add a little special something that makes for a very realistic Bedford Falls setting.
For our lighting to work effectively we need lower ceilings and more importantly, places where we can actually hang the lights. We needed a bit of creative thinking to get around this and fortunately, the venue had some similar lighting we could use.

I have previously mentioned the individual characters we play but I haven’t as yet mentioned the other non-acting roles of the show. On a tour like this, everyone is hands-on. In practical terms this means that all company members assist in all get-ins (removing from the touring van all pieces of the set and going on to build the set in the space – putting up lights, placing props, costumes, chairs etc.), followed by the get-out at the end of the performance (dismantling the set and placing it all back inside the van.)

Mick and David do the lights, Jack and I put up the set. Together we all put out the chairs. Jack irons the shirts and cleans our shoes, and I organise and position the props. Sometimes these roles interchange but usually we work out the best way forward with Silky our stage manager, so as to get the very best out of each space.

Touring life isn’t for everyone. Some weeks, we visit different parts of the country daily and sleep in a different bed each night. There are pluses, though. For example, you get to visit some truly amazing places; places you would not normally get a chance to see. You also meet extraordinary people – popping into communities for one night and giving them an experience they will never forget does make you feel quite honoured. Thanks Alison for amazing dinner by the way.

That reminds me, I forgot to tell you that most of our lovely venue promoters make us a hot meal. Once we’ve completed the get-in and had a warm-up, we are given dinner. It’s truly lovely, as sometimes we are in the middle of no-where or are working to a really tight schedule. The home cooked dinner makes our day so much better so thank you to all of our lovely promoters.

Next it was on to Rexford, Nottinghamshire.

We were greeted with tea and cake when we arrived. Not a bad way to be welcomed after a long drive from Kent. Such lovely promoters too – a husband and his wife. Team Peter and Margaret have been doing this for a while and are very passionate promoters. A smaller venue than the night before but we played to a full house.
We managed to make the set fit snugly into the space followed by another glorious meal. You do sometimes have to stop yourself from eating too much as it does affect your ability to move and to sing well (note to self here.)

Next onto Rutland, Leicestershire. A fab hall, great crowd and a super dinner. We all started to feel very excited about Christmas at this point; especially seeing the lengths each community goes to make the night very special.

Then off to Granham and Castor, and then back to Surrey. Lovely audiences and we were all looked after very well. We also performed in a church instead of a hall that week as the acoustics sounded far better.

Just before Christmas Eve we did a company Secret Santa. Yes, we all did it – and we also each wrote a poem.

After our Christmas break we headed back to Kent and also ventured to Lyme Regis – which was particularly extraordinary. The venue was the Marine Theatre, right by the sea. When I say right by the sea, we couldn’t have been any closer unless we were sitting on a boat. It was truly an incredible sight especially as the wind was blowing so hard. It did make for a very interesting get in. We had to make sure there was an extra hand to help with the set, otherwise it felt like it could all blow away at any moment. We were very lucky to have Oliver on hand – the techie at the theatre to help us. Thanks Oliver, you were our angel that night.

Apparently at one point, the Marine Theatre was set to close down and be turned into flats but the community fought hard to ensure that this didn’t happen. The parallels between Mr. Potter & George Bailey in Bedford Falls seem particularly poignant. Thanks to the local community, the theatre continues to thrive today.

So that takes us up to the New Year.

Here’s to a fantastic 2016.

See you next week!

Natalia

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