Scouting York

The fog is down today, the sun a cold joyless distant ball at the back of the clouds, almost unrecognisable as the sun. Jack drove us to York through this apocalyptic haze. Time to see where we’ll be the week before Christmas.

It’s the newly refurbished Mansion House – home of the Mayors of York, overlooking the extremely busy and vibrant St Helen’s Square. This won’t be the first time I’ve run around that square in a nightie. There’s a lovely lamp-post. There are absolute bucketloads of bewildered shoppers to wish a Merry Christmas. But it requires a bit more courage than the current venue.

Sam, Jack, Brian and I built this Sheffield playing space into a huge empty hole. We rigged it up with all sorts of traps and lights and tricks. We managed to align it with a giant blackboard. We went drilling holes in flats and running wires through them, screwing rat traps to desks, taking the backs off wardrobes, turning chairs into stools, dragging in steeldeck to raise the audience, wallpapering and painting and tweaking and filling everything with smoke and lights and sound. We keep adding to it as we perceive a need. It’s just as much a growing part of the show as the show. In York we will lose the lot, but it’ll be replaced by a very real and striking room full of portraits of old Mayors. We gain a grand room, and all the things that that can bring to us for free. We lose the control we currently have over lighting and sightlines. We have to open doors with care but the doors are impressive. We can’t swing on the chandeliers, but we can use them instead of our spider festoons. We gain ridiculous unavoidable environmental pomp. Scrooge is going to have to be more pompous than ever before…

It could well be unwieldy, this York run, let’s face it. Even if it’s unknown right now. The fear is there’s a lot that can be shifted by the wrong busker in the square at the wrong time. I suspect it’s going to be impossible to avoid noise and light as we work. It’s down to Jack and I to abandon all of the things we’ve grown to love in Sheffield – the quietest space we’ve ever worked. To adapt, and to make a new show that fits this York space. No smoke, no mirrors. No silence. No darkness. Us. With that in mind we need sightlines to be ace.

At The Arts we had a terrible busker outside with a traffic cone. He would come and set up shop almost like clockwork in time for “Yet to Come”. He’d be there shouting “When the Saints Come Marching In” through his cone as Scrooge went inside himself. We will probably have to work out what to do with the buskers in St Helen’s Square in the two tender moments of past and yet to come. Then it’s just about how we adjust lighting states etc.

We are excited about it, this York run. We can let stuff go and have fun. Jack and I can make theatre anywhere now, and we’ll continue to do so. And we have SJ working with us, who is brilliant at all the things we aren’t. It’s the perfect triumvirate. I know that the three of us can solve all the questions that were thrown up today by our York site visit. We built this beauty into an empty Mothercare building in Sheffield and have had nothing but joy for weeks with one week to go…

I love York now after years of working there. I’ve had so many jobs up there over the years that it’s started to feel like a second home. I’m looking forward to a week there again. It’ll be a homecoming.

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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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