Brave folk is a Nordic tale fizzing with humour about love, courage and knowing when to act. The company of five has recently finished their tour in which they performed in 22 venues across the UK. We caught up with Robert Durbin and asked him about his experience being on tour and being a part of Brave Folk.
Q1. Brave Folk originally toured as Yorgjin Oxo, how was it stepping back into the rehearsal room knowing changes would be made to make it Brave Folk?
Exciting! I loved our Yorgjin Oxo tour last year, but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to revisit a project. It was nice to know that we weren’t hashing out the same show, but rehearsing with care, and trying to making it a better show – which I’m confident we have done. Also, it’s always nice getting back in rehearsal room with lots of familiar faces, and some new ones.
Q2. How do you think touring to village halls and venues differs from performing in a theatre?
I think the main difference is that you are stepping into someone else’s community, with an audience that usually knows each-other quite well – so the company is very much the outsider!
It’s amazing how different audiences can be, depending on where you are in the country. You have trouble gauging that in a normal theatre set up. It’s so much more intimate and engaging rather than sitting back in the stalls watching a musical on the west end!
Q3. What challenges have you/the company faced during this tour?
The snow! Although, it did give us a few days to explore Newcastle, which was lovely!
Q4: What is your favourite memory from the tour?
Doing the show in a church in Cheshire. There are lots of religious images in the play,and to do it in that setting was really special.Apart from that, it’s a great bunch of people in the cast and I love getting to the pub with all of them after the show.
Q5: What was your biggest challenge in making Yorgjin come alive?
I actually think I have the easiest job in the cast with a huge amount of text and opportunity to really engage with the audience and make them warm to Yorgjin. He’s a funny, loveable dim-wit that falls from one unfortunate scenario to another, so I guess the challenge is keeping the audience listening so that they are totally rooting for Yorgjin at the end of the play. I also struggle with harmonies…
Q6: What advice would you give to an actor about to start their first rural tour?
Make sure you are comfy, and take a little pleasure with you from home – I always tour with my slippers!
I think the biggest thing to say is take advantage of being paid to tour the country – go and see the sights in your time off. It’s a great opportunity to see parts of the country you may not necessarily find yourself in. Get yourself out of your digs and go explore – Netflix can always wait until later
Q7: What do you like about going on tour with Farnham Maltings?
They really take care of you. The tour always makes sense in terms of where you are going to next, without having to travel long distances after shows. They make sure you are comfortable and if there are any problems with digs or a venue they are usually on hand to help out. It can’t be stated enough how this is an exception in this industry!
Gavin always chooses the most interesting and appropriate pieces for a Village Hall context, and he’s not afraid to challenge the audience with a different type of show, or subject matter. However saying that, the audience always have an uplifting experience.
Q8: Where did you stay whilst on tour and what did you do?
It ranges from Travelodge’s and BnB’s, to self-catering and every now and then you get hosted by some lovely audience members. It’s always good when you get a mix of accommodation!
Last year we stayed in Galashiels with two members of the audience and had great evening working through their whiskey collection. The show the next day was perhaps a little slower than normal.
Q9: What is the best feedback you’ve heard and how has that impacted you/the company?
Brave Folk is a unique experience, the audience are arranged around tables in the room and we tell the story in and amongst them. They are greeted at the door and given Marshlander tea, and ‘squelch crumpets’ before the start of the evening and are made to feel as though they are as part of the action as us. It’s very intimate and immediate.
The best feedback is when people appreciate this change from the usual form of theatre – and it surprises them in a nice way.
One lady in Cheshire was really positive about the show and was amazed how we ‘created so much, from so little.’ I think that really sums up what we are trying to do with Brave Folk, so that was brilliant to hear.
Q10: What is the highlight of your days when on tour and what makes an extra special evening?
The best days are when you don’t have to drive too far, you’ve had a good night’s sleep, the promoter is lovely and welcoming and the get-in is quick and easy – and the organisers provide some great food (which is most of the time).
I think the best evenings are when you have a large audience, who have had a few drinks and know each other. Everyone relaxes and warms into the show a bit quicker, and you get that little buzz from the audience reactions. Also, it’s always nice when you have a few children in the audience too – and if you keep their attention or make them laugh, you know you’ve done well.
Click here for remaining tour dates.