Monday 4thJune came, the day that we had all been waiting for. After months of planning, rehearsing, and fundraising it was finally time to embark on the ‘Back of the Van’ tour! As we clambered into the van and pulled out of Oli’s drive, waving St Andrews goodbye, the prospect of what we are actually embarking on hit me. We’re spending the next two and a half months touring the UK and Ireland in the back of Vanny DeVito. Now, as you can imagine, such a daunting prospect initially induced a state of panic. Though this passed very quickly, as we sang along to ‘Queen’s Greatest Hits’ while sunshine streamed through the windows of the van. The thing that really makes this tour so special is that we’re all good friends. The fact that we have all taken on production roles means, not only are we all fully invested in all aspects of this project, but it has also allowed us all to get to know each other really well over the past 6 months and as a consequence we already feel like a slightly dysfunctional family. So, as we joined the motorway, any fear was calmed with the familiar feeling of being on a family road trip.
After a short travel stop in Glasgow to buy some last-minute essentials (which of course included snacks), we arrived in New Galloway for our first night in the van. New Galloway was a beautiful village, and although we were disappointed with the very early closing hour of its pub, it was a lovely place to spend our first night together.
Bright and early the next morning we set off for Newton Stewart, the first location on our tour. We were warmly welcomed by Sally the steward of the golf course where we were performing and set about erecting the tent. Thanks to all the tent-erecting practice we’d had over the past week as part of our pre-tour prep, we were able to put up the tent in no time. It’s also worth noting at this point that the ease of construction of the tent should also be attributed to the fact that we were not using a tent we had made ourselves, but a tent which has come from the fabulous Bell Tent Boutique. Once we had put up the tent and BoxedIn-ified it, yes of course there are fairy lights in the tent! We set off into the town centre to commence flyering for our shows. We met so many lovely, helpful people and this only served to emphasise to us why we wanted to bring theatre to communities like Newton Stewart.
The biggest challenge of tour that we were not expecting, however, was revealed to us on that evening after our performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Of all the difficulties we had planned for, we had overlooked one very, very pesky problem, midges. It was all we could do to avoid being eaten alive as we sat outside eating our dinner after the show. Although the experience for us was ‘thoroughly unpleasant’ to quote Oli Savage, we definitely provided entertainment for the rest of the campsite as we ran around trying to swat away the millions of tiny insects that were thirsting for our blood. Which for a touring theatre company is a small, very, very, slight silver lining.
The next day entailed some more flyering to drum up interest in our performance of ‘To the Ocean’. As we all took it in turns to spread the word, and with the tent already being set up, we were afforded some free time to explore the town. A definite plus of visiting rural locations is that it allows us to explore some beautiful countryside! A beauty which was highlighted by the sunshine. The weather also made the experience of flyering a lot more pleasant, and we were able to drum up a good audience for ‘To the Ocean’. It’s safe to say, however, that we all had favourite members of the audience for this show. The two dogs that came to watch us!
As we left Newton Stewart to return to Anwoth Campsite after the show, there was a palpable feeling in the van that we would all miss the little town that had been our home for the past couple of days. But we were also excited about travelling to our next destination. As I write we sit on the ferry to Ireland and all of the team (apart from Adam) have never had the opportunity to properly explore the country before, so we can’t wait to get there!