I’m in a trail of happy people as we make our way through Notre Dame. 150 years ago this was in the middle of the biggest fenland in America outside of the Everglades. It was drained eventually for farming, but the wet air and the chirring of the treeborne insects helps connect me imaginatively to that time.
We have just emerged triumphant from the theatre. First night, at long last. We played to an audience that marked every moment, vocally joined us in the rollercoaster, laughed at the weird little gags we forced in, cared for the journeys of our unusual characters, got the show, got our gags and all stood up at the end, God bless them, and did the old standing O. American audiences, perhaps. But this difficult process has been validated utterly in one evening.
“We made this!” I find myself saying in the wings as we exit from the bowing, shot full to bursting with neat adrenaline, finally able to express the extent of it to the little portable village that we have formed.
Not many other processes can allow that feeling of “We made this” to be so owned.
We were given the means to make it. We were given time in a big room in Brixton. We were paid well. We were respected and trusted. We worked fucking hard. And now we have an uncut Twelfth Night, all parts played by this little band of five. And – thank God – it works and it works in detail. And it is incontrovertibly going to be a joy to do it for the next couple of months.
I barely had time to be nervous before the show. I’m having to make sure that lessons are well coordinated and spread evenly among the company, and that nobody is feeling worried about their work in workshops. It’s an aspect of this company that we are asked to teach all kinds of things in the daytime. Usually performative. Katherine is in tomorrow to teach confidence in public speaking to managerial students. I had to go in today to teach 21 people to improvise about climate change, and tomorrow I’ll be teaching about how to make verse work in your favour as a performer, and what it means when you shift from prose to verse. All grist to the mill for academics, all par for the course for performers conversant with the idiom. But that’s the joy with this company. You make a show with five actors that can fit in a suitcase. You fill all the roles that need filling. You create a company. You come together. Then off to Notre Dame, where you play to the home crowd and those of us who have never taught before get to break the back of the fear and responsibility that teaching carries.
Then into the world.
For now though, two more shows in Notre Dame. Chicago calling, and then Texas. My cowboy boots are sitting patiently in my hotel room for next week.