Monday, 17 September 2007

LTG Away Day

After all of last week's planning, on Saturday Team H&M made their way down the M1 to Welwyn Garden City and the Little Theatre Guild's inaugural New Writing Seminar. Keen to support everything being shown during the day, I made an early start and, together with KateD, hit the road shortly after 7am.

The Barn Theatre Auditorium

The sun shone on Welwyn's stab at Utopia, and the incongruity of a theatre in a suburban housing estate was matched only by its prettiness. A warm welcome awaited, along with tea and biscuits, and it wasn't soon until the first play began. Called "Dumbing Down" (with a proven pedigree and actually from 2005, so not exactly "new") the play about the state of state education set an unnervingly high benchmark for the day with its immaculate presentation and trio of great performances.

This was followed by "Arrivals", the first of four rehearsed readings - and its inappropriate use of the word "orifices". Honestly, no-one goes to the theatre to hear that shouted at them. Jesus...

As lunchtime approached, our tummies started rumbling and the others called to say they were nearly with us. So, our attention was taken away from the stage and put towards getting things ready for our performance.

When lunchtime duly arrived, so too did the first members of Team H&M. We were treated to a lively and entertaining address from playwright Steve Thompson, but not even this could stop the urge for our cast to head for a nearby KFC.

With everyone now back at the theatre, thoughts turned to our own performance and so we got to see very little of the other rehearsed readings. I did catch all of the 2005 play "The Regina Monologues" though, which had a very nice set but was only about as good as you'd expect half-a-dozen instances of self-pitying exposition to be.

Our Day in the Sun

Away from the darkness of the auditorium, Team H&M were enjoying the sun and being with one another as they ran their lines. In truth, this was the highlight of the day - the chance to be together, to be in a nice place and feel that sense of excitement again. Soon, costumes were donned, props readied and a final practise was taking place backstage.

In The Back of The Barn

At 5.40pm we were up, 70 minutes behind schedule.

With my diligently-prepared cue sheet shunned by The Barn Theatre's SM, I was operating the sound, which I hadn't expected. So, Team H&M Associate Member Paul kindly volunteered to do our pre-amble which I had written into the actual performance for myself to do. However, when I was told that I couldn't have house lights as I'd instructed, he remained in total darkness and despite his best efforts, our entrance wasn't quite as grand as I'd imagined.

But then our Groom ran on - and Hearts & Minds was back!

The team did a great job. We were all impressed with Tom especially, who had joined us and achieved so much in such a short space of time. I think we got more laughs than the rest of the day combined and I smiled throughout as I watched from the wings and enjoyed being in the company of these great people again - cast and characters alike.

One wobble occurred when the on-stage CD player broke. Of course, this was always the intention, but it actually broke forty seconds before it had been scripted to. Nevertheless, Team H&M covered and continued brilliantly. Bravo!

The day was, in theory, a good chance to showcase H&M and The Crescent, but it's hard to know what was achieved - or who the audience was. Being last on should have been a great climax to a day of support and unity, but with things running over an hour late, the crowd had dwindled. Worse, I don't think anyone involved in any of the other shows had stayed behind to support my script - even though I'd been there all day. Indeed, it was so sparse that no-one caught the bouquet - all of this was quite a change from our 100% sell-out record.

We were treated to a free drink and a bit of cheese afterwards, but there were only a few people left in the bar. That said, everyone was keen to know exactly why Dan had called the wedding off, so we certainly engaged those who had seen our 30 minute extract.

There was a lot of fun and camaraderie - this was what we achieved. But as an aspiring writer, I got little out of the day, other than a few snippets from Steve Thompson's lively speech (everybody at the Barn seemed to be called Thompson). I couldn't watch a lot of the other things because I was busy preparing ours, and of those I did get to see, what possible conclusions could be drawn - apart from not to ever use the word "orifices"...?

Ultimately, was there anyone in attendance who could take H&M on further or be interested in putting it on?

So, as we gathered behind the theatre to ceremonially let our balloons fly up and disappear into the sky, I wondered if this was the last we'll see of H&M too?

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