We might complain about the heat, in the way we like to complain about everything, but this summer is the stuff of memories. These long bright possible days. Perhaps it helps that I’m spending many of them outdoors, under the sky, soaking in the heat.
I’m lying on a bank in the shade. Off to my right the actors are working hard in relentless direct sunshine. There’s no shade for them or for the audience. I remember days like that with FanShen, touring a short physical show, coming off sweating and elated, voice parched, deep tanned, knowing we’d be doing it again in a couple of hours. I haven’t seen this show yet. I was going to catch it now. But it’s so unforgiving in that heat that I’d sooner be behind this tree writing to you lot while they all sweat. I’ll catch it on Saturday in London. If anyone likes whimsy and Beatrix Potter, there’ll be a lot of both of those things. Bonnets and songs and beards and fun. They play for donations. And they play hard for them.
This morning we unpacked their set onto the grass of an amphitheatre just above Sheffield station. Now they are pinging out their voices to a knot of kids dosed up on sugar from lollies, with their parents either engaging with the show or taking the chance to catch up with old friends on this perfect evening. In about twenty minutes everyone will clap and then I’ll drive this van into the middle of the stage and we’ll shove all the random crap in the back of it, drive two hours, have a beer and go again tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Thursday, 12pm and 6pm, Sheffield. Then two shows in Burgess Park near Camberwell, in an old library. I’ve got nothing riding on this other than that I’m driving for it and I love the company. It’s just a load of good hearts with talent making things because they love making things. What other reason is there? And for me it’s another memory for the bank. Another reminder that I’ve chosen a life where this sort of thing is normal. I’m lying on a bank in the sun in Sheffield and this is my job.
And they’re clapping. That last song must’ve been the final number. The sound of clapping on the summer evening wind. Ooh it teks me back to when I were oop in Ripley. I’m going to amble over and be present so I can gather when best to break the magic with my stonking great silver van.
There’s something romantic about the whole process of breaking a set after the story is told and shoving it into the van. All these individual items on their own are unremarkable. But altogether, with the belief of the actors and the audience, they transform and take on significance way greater than their individual shape.
The actors have all gone to change in the back of my van because the kids don’t want to leave. I think it’ll be a while before I can load. I guess I’ll have to sit here in the beautiful sunshine waiting. After all, it’s my job…