Building in the cold

It will take a long time for my feet to defrost.


I haven’t seen the light of day today, and fucking hell it’s been cold. We’ve been shut in a haunted warehouse with virtually no artificial light and absolutely no natural light, on a cold day, with no heating. The stone floors have been glacial. At one point I did a coffee run and everyone took their cup with both hands and brought it to their heart. They wanted heat from their drink. We were theatre-morlocks. The show itself will be warm and Christmassy. But right now we’re building, and because we aren’t paying we don’t need heat.

We have been repurposing random items of furniture and bolts of fabric. We’ve been humping great big ovens out of vans. We’ve been stapling lace to the ceiling, tacking wallpaper into walls, digging through bags of ridiculously random crap and emerging thrilled with black capes. We’ve been attempting to rig old school theatre tricks into a big wide warehouse space and learning as we try. I’ve been asked by the director not to spoil it by posting pictures of some of the stuff. Nonetheless, you know about the cast of my face. And it’s still not certain it’ll make the show. So I can tell you that it was really weird to be observed by my own moulded face as I went about my business.

The way in which things are disseminated across our industry is delightful. Our set is from Mike Leigh’s latest film (still in the edit), which gave employment to some good friends of mine. All this stuff got collected on a Mike Leigh’s budget – which isn’t huge for film, but it’s noticeable. Then it all has to go somewhere. Their set ended up in the hands of the Hammer Horror Immersive show. Again it gave employment to my friends. So already this furniture has allowed numerous friends to make stories. 

Now it’s repurposed for us. Some of it’s up in Sheffield for Neverland. Some is here – and today we turned a four poster bed into a bar without damaging it, using hard work, cable ties, clever carpentry and goodwill. Eventually all this stuff will go back to Hammer. And then to the next company. And so on. It’s in the theatre mix now. Far better to have it used and loved than in a Self Storage racking up costs. And there’s some brilliant stuff.

It’s really exciting that we’ve got our own space now for Carol – this big haunted warehouse. We can make what we want. It’s rare for the actors to be involved in the build, but this feels like the best use of our time – learning and making the space we’ll be playing. We’ve done it together two years running. We still have new material, but most of what we want to add is technical. It can’t be cemented until the build is complete. So better by far to be involved in the build because then we can feed directly into what we need while dressing bits ourselves, being there when the chippies have to make the call, understanding the limitations of the space.

Often in theatre you realise that the thing you have all imagined in rehearsal doesn’t work how you’ve imagined it because communication between the performance and the design team has been lacking. I’ve been on both sides over the years now. Today I’ve been design team. Tomorrow I’ll be a mixture of both. I feel responsible for the entirety of this show. I want it all to be lovely, and to have ownership over my work. I’d prefer to directly influence that than sit at home all weekend and then come in and complain that the doors don’t open the way I thought they would or whatever. Although admittedly yesterday I slept when I could’ve worked. But I was rancid.

While I’ve been writing this I had a hot bath and now I’m in bed early feeling toasty. Roll on tomorrow. Roll on December. Here’s a ticket link. I’m credited as Alexander Barclay. It’s a mistake, but I’m dedicating it in honour of the spirit of my mother, who never wanted me to shorten my name and would dislike that my acting name is Al. She made Christmas every year for me. I make Christmas these days in her honour. I’ll be picking up people who are stuck in London for Christmas at mine again. It’s become a tradition now. If you know anyone who is stuck in London, put me onto them.

Meanwhile, do come to Carol if you can afford it  If you’re a broke friend of mine, message me. The expense is the food, which is a proper Christmas dinner cooked by a masterchef winner. But I can bypass my fee and make it a bit cheaper. It’s worth messaging me.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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