On Sunday, 3rd May 2015, our youth theatre group TheBYTE travelled to the Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton for their performance of The Boy Preference as part of the NT Connections programme. This is what happened...
07:57: Annette & I arrive in the van at Sandringham School to find car park gates locked. If this is the only issue of the day we'd be happy! But it is raining hard!
08:20 The gates of the car park unlocked and a flood of vehicles pile in, closely followed by our coach (Best Banter Bus)
08:30: We set off for Northampton - the cast with Lisa in the Best Banter Bus and Net and I in the van.
09:20 : Arrive in the van at Northampton, closely followed by the coach. It is pouring with rain as we unload for one of the oddest 'get-in's' around - into the foyer, up some stairs, down two flights of stairs with a 180 degree turn.
10:30 : Cast go off for a puppetry workshop and have a total blast! They thoroughly enjoyed making their newspaper figures. Here's something we can follow up in a masterclass, we think. Meanwhile in the theatre, Jack, Christabel, Tegan, Alex, Annette and I (with the support of resident techie and top bloke Andrew) attempt to rig a show that originally took around a day and a half to prepare in just one hour. Amazingly we get pretty close - even though neither of the specified lighting board were available and Jack has to reprogramme all the cues on his laptop. Had our flats been 1cm taller, they would not have fitted in. And the blooming sunflowers won't stick to the them for some reason!
11:45 : We start our dress/tech run. Soon run into time difficulties and go cue to cue. Crucially, with time pressure immense, we forget to plot the very last lighting cue!
13:15 : We continue 'snagging' over lunch.
13:45 : Watch Bedford Free School's performance of Remote. It looks as though they had some last minute cast issues which left two people reading from scripts. They do a sterling job in the circumstances.
14:45 : Into costume for our show. There is a strange calm and determination in the cast after Lisa explains to them this will be last time they ever perform this show which has become so special for them.
15:15: Our show begins. There are two audible gasps from the audience on our two 'reveals' in the first scene. This bodes well!
15:20: The second scene takes off. Wow! What happened there? I sit forward in my seat as I can see that they are really rocking. I get very excited...
15:25 - 16:10 ; ... and rightly so. The cast are delivering this show with new levels of focus and energy. Oh my days, what a talented bunch they truly are.
16:15: That last blasted lighting cue comes back to haunt us as the final reveal doesn't happen. But it really doesn't matter. Rapturous applause from the full house, including a really impressive number from St Albans who made the trip. Meet Paul, our NT assessor at the end and he seems to have liked the changes we put in - I am too emotional to hold a rational conversation. Backstage the cast are flying high. They know they've pulled off something special. There are quick hugs with parents before the next workshop.
16:30: Cast go off for an art workshop and are astonished when the workshop leader explains how she was inspired buy a trip to an Anselm Kiefer exhibition - the whole basis for our set and sunflower theme!!! Not sure she believed us when we told her. Very weird. In the meantime the 'get-out' is in full swing. This is where the stairs start to be a real pain! But within an hour, it is done and with the van safely packed, us 'support crew' have lovely 30 minutes sitting in the peaceful cafe chatting away about hilarious touring anecdotes, which is what you'll always get when you put thesp types together.
18:45: We watch the Castle Youth Theatre Company's production of Jamie Brittain's Drama, Baby. Our cast loved this show and thought some of the performances were very strong. I have to agree - it played better than it read for me. The CYTC cast did a very good, committed job and I liked the setting.
19:45: Pizza! Loads arrive and the cast fall on it like gannets. They have to eat quickly as the coach awaits outside.
20:25: Depart for home. Annette and I pass the coach on the M1 - much waving. Annette & I reflect that Best has brought together a truly lovely group of teenagers - talented, friendly, intelligent and totally devoted to each other.. sometimes we do things very right at Best. We give ourselves a virtual pat on the back.
21:15: Arrive back at Sandringham School and greet the returning bus which then goes on to Gina's to deliver the cast for a party - a lovely idea and we are so pleased they had the chance to let their collective hair down. As for Annette & I - home to a G & T and too tired to do anything.
02:30: Realise I'm still too buzzing mentally to sleep.
05:30: Start writing this.
06:57: Finish writing this.
There was one other possibly very significant and positive thing that happened during the day; perhaps the underlying reason I couldn't sleep. But let's leave that for another blog.
It was a challenging, exciting, exhausting and inspiring day, brilliantly hosted by Erica Martin and her lovely team at the Royal & Derngate. I certainly will never forget it and for the cast too the day (and their superb performance) will be a wonderful memory.