It’s good to be back in town. Today I’ve been catching up with old friends, and have just spent a few hours with my partner in crime. Jack and I have worked together so many times over so many years that we’ve started to do it on purpose. I first met him in 2008, in a valley in Yorkshire. We were staying in a semi-derelict farmhouse, with a filthy pool full of newts out front, indignant chickens clucking in the garden and a permanently whistling faucet three foot from my bug-infested bed. I was Malvolio and he was Feste, which is a pretty good indication of how our on stage relationship works. It was a truly happy summer and led to many more. The show was promenade in the grounds of Ripley Castle, and it was the first of six summer shows that I’d do with Sprite Productions. Those hot months of summer became about the evening shows there, falling in love in the sunset, swinging round trees, rubbing mud in my own face, sprinting through greenhouses in a nightie, blowing bubbles, carrying sheep, feeding horses, laughing so much. Jack and I were in The Tempest and As You Like It together there. I carried on to do Comedy of Errors, Shrew and Dream. I still look back on those times with huge joy. It doesn’t feel like summer now if I haven’t done a Shakespeare somewhere. The Sprite shows were the start of a collaboration that took Jack and I across America with Much Ado About Nothing, and then to the West End, Above the Arts with Christmas Carol. Now we are going into business together, and we’ll be making a large scale Viking feasting skaldic poetic Beowulf show. It’s going to be epic, musical, physical, visceral, sensual. The two of us met this morning in Above the Arts to read the latest draft. We more or less had the space to ourselves at that time, so could make some noise. It’s in a really good place. We’re looking at ways of telling the story that are different and exciting. Watch this space.
The new Above the Arts space is excellent, and people need to know about it. While I was banging around in LA, the dusty room that we used as Scrooge’s Parlour on Great Newport Street was transformed into a gorgeous private member’s bar. It’s a great atmosphere, welcoming and fun and calm in the day. It can get vibey at night. And it looks superb. It’s easy to get free membership at the moment if you’re in theatre. And it’s the perfect central place to wind down after or wind up before auditions.
I’ve often wished I had a club in town and not been able to justify the membership fee. This is the ideal solution. Jack and I are done working, but I am off to BAFTA in a little while to watch myself playing the ghost of William Shakespeare. I am relaxing upstairs in my trusty three piece, piggybacking the free wifi to write this blog while unfamiliar luvvies talk shop loudly in the window bay, and the Immersive Ensemble occasionally has punters stumble up and awkwardly ask for the book keeper as a prelude to their next show. I love this crazy creative town and the self aware self deprecating crazy shy idiots that make theatre in it. Here’s to the next six years and more.