Once again I’ve managed to end up in a beautiful place. In the wilds of Wales, with a small group of friends old and new. “Have you got everything you need?” I have just been asked by lovely Phil. This is The Willow Globe. A third of the size of the Globe in Southwark, a tiny theatre made from a living willow tree. It’s beautiful here. And yes, I have everything I need.
My tent is behind the theatre, in a deep field of long lush green grass and occasional molehills. I think I might have enough to be comfortable and warm tonight, so I’m winding towards sleep. We are all sitting in a circle – I’m slightly offset – and we are just quietly talking, enjoying each other’s company in the falling evening light here in this thin place.
I’ve been here many times before, with many plays. Often in hastily assembled companies. Often in this state of mind where I honestly haven’t a clue what is going to happen tomorrow but it doesn’t matter. This is The Factory, once again. My little changing crowd of lovely unusual actor friends who do things when we can, still. And love it when we do. There are new players here again. There are people I’ve just met today for the first time, and tomorrow we are going to do a play twice on a living stage and then go home.
It’s restricted this time. Wales is very strict. We won’t have many people in the audience and we have to be very careful about all sorts of contact and so forth. But the fact is, we are doing a play tomorrow. We are trying to apply as much personal rigour as possible to a great big load of unknowns. We are making a story together.
It’s usually Shakespeare here, although we did do The Odyssey one year. Given the circumstances, we picked the low hanging fruit this year. Dream. You have to work hard to fuck up Dream. It’s why it’s the staple of the school drama circuit. It just works. It’s familiar, strange, swift and fun.
Sitting in this circle of actors I’m remembering the fellowship that has kept me slugging so long. I’ve known some of these guys for 20 years and more. Hard to think it’s that long now. Where did the time go? Well – much of it went on just this sort of thing. Beautiful geeky things with beautiful geeky people in lovely places.
“You forget that we were all kids,” says one old friend, as he reminisces about his shared time at college back in the early noughties. “I haven’t touched a willy for ages,” says another. I’m just here, writing to you, thinking how rare it has been this year to just sit in a circle and talk about nothing in particular. It helps us ground into ourselves these sillinesses. I’m going to join in for a bit and then fall asleep in my field.